Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A quick word on Tuesday at the SBC

No real time to blog while here, but let me say how what a victory yesterday was.
Despite several discouraging motions and one address that was less than unifying, the overall tenor of the Convention has been one of optimism, unity around the gospel, and a willingness to work together and make needed changes in order to see a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists.

The SBC voted to appoint a Great Commission Task force. That may mean nothing to many readers that are not up on, or even concerned about, SBC politics. Let me say this. Yesterday was a a major victory for cooperation, for unity around the gospel, for unity among older and younger evangelicals, and for the Great Commission. The results have been immediately obvious. There are more young pastors at the annual meeting than I have ever seen. Messengers who differ on many tertiary issues are unifying around the gospel. Most of all, I am seeing an optimism from my peers that I have not seen nor even expected for many years.

The future looks bright in the SBC!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Take-aways from the Pastor's Conference

As always, I leave the pastor's conference with a few points to ponder and on which I will be reflecting when I return home.

Here are a few of the salient points I gleaned from the Pastor's conference:

Ed Stetzer – God has already made us ONE, we just have to live it out.

Francis Chan – Do I really want to know the will of God? What would God do with me right now if he had complete control of me?

David Platt – Will we retreat from the mission of God or will we give everything for the sake of the gospel?

Johnny Hunt – Is it possible that Southern Baptists have lost the capacity to believe the miraculous? (esp. in terms of fulfilling the Great Commission)

Mark Dever – We need to recover the corporate nature of the church – we must worship God ourselves, but not by ourselves.

Monday, June 22, 2009

On the Great Commission Resurgence document -- Four axioms that seal the deal for me

This week, the Southern Baptist Convention will be voting on whether or not to adopt the Great Commission Resurgence statement as the official position of the SBC. While most of the brouhaha has been over axiom nine, I believe the entire document is important. All ten axioms address issues that are pertinent to our Convention and which affect the spread of the gospel by those who cooperate as Southern Baptists. I look first to my own life and ministry and in voting for the GCR, commit with my fellow Baptists in all ten of these areas. Among the ten, however, four axioms seal the deal for me.

Axiom #2 – A commitment to gospel centeredness. I think too often the church has lost the centrality of the gospel message to all we do. To often we have made traditionalism on the one hand or innovation on the other become the focal point. At the same time we have focused our message on pet doctrines, felt needs, cultural woes without making the gospel the center-point of all. It is the gospel that changes lives and must return to the center of our lives and ministries if we are to have an impact for the kingdom of God.

Axiom #5 – A commitment to a healthy confessional center. At the heart of this axiom, is a commitment to end the bickering about tertiary issues and get about the business of partnering for the gospel. The most obvious of these disputes is on the issue of Calvinism and the fighting that has seemed unending between those who affirm the “doctrines of grace” and those who oppose Calvinism. Already, we have seen growth in this area leading up to this Convention. As a pastor of a church in which half its members are reformed and half or not, I have already experienced the ability of believers to unite around the gospel and its proclamation while remaining in cordial disagreement about this tertiary issue.

Calvinsim is not the only issue at stake, however. While the debate will continue about what issues are secondary and which are tertiary (see Mohler’s theological triage paradigm), affirming the GCR document will show a commitment to work together even while we sort out these issues. That goes for me, for example, in the case of being strongly against the IMB personnel policies while continuing to be an avid supporter of the IMB and Lottie Moon. More could be said about this, but axiom 5 is a move in the right direction toward cooperation.

Axiom#8 -- A Commitment to a Methodological Diversity that is Biblically Informed. To me, this one should be a no-brainer, but for all our talk of methodological diversity, we are too often in the practice of questioning and criticizing the practices of others on non-biblical grounds. We ought to focus, instead, on our own particular context and the continuing process of developing new biblical and contextual methods for reaching the nations. I am in agreement with Ed Stetzer who recently quipped, “Southern Baptists will be on record affirming methodological diversity … If only we would will listen to that call...”

Axiom #9 -- A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure. Much has been written on this issue, so I won’t belabor the point, but I support Axiom #9. There has been much debate on whether this belongs in a Great Commission document, and I for one believe it does. Southern Baptist Great Commission work is based on cooperation and that cooperation is based on our Convention Structure. We should be in a continual evaluation of our structure to be efficient and effective stewards of God’s resources. We should not be afraid to restructure, remove bureaucracy where it exists, and yes, even downsize our state conventions to move to 50/50 split of CP funds.

Well, I have to be off. Preaching Conference starts in an hour and I haven’t yet finished my coffee. If you are attending the SBC, please be informed about this document and then support it when it comes time for a vote. If you are not attending, please pray for the SBC and its messengers as we together decide on this and other important issues.


p.s. For further reading, among the many commentaries and opinions available on the Webb, Nathan Finn has offered an excellent series of blog posts on the document.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thoughts about SBC "Good old boys"

Today, I had a conversation with a good friend about Convention politics and his perception of a good ol’ boy’s network. Here is a brief synopsis of my opinion on the matter:

The commonly referred to “good ol’ boys network” is largely a myth. In my opinion, such a perceived network is usually nothing more than godly men and women who, through experience and relationship, have learned to trust one another and know one-another’s character. If you are not involved, no such relationship, knowledge, trust and confidence occurs. Even if you are involved, considering the vast number of participating Baptists, you may not be asked to serve as a trustee or officer of one of our entities. If you are not involved, you can be assured that you won’t be. In the process of selecting leaders, occasionally, nepotism may occur. Granted, effort should be made to include a wider group of people. Sure, there are sometimes cases when politics get a bit dirty and responses are less than Christian. Still, I submit that such cases are not the norm and are in fact rare. Most often, rather, men and women are selected because of prior knowledge of that person’s life, work, and character.

Think about it for a moment. If you were asked to serve on the nominating committee of your state or the SBC and submit names for consideration, how would you go about it? Would you sit down with a list of names you don’t know, of people who have been uninvolved, and begin calling around to learn about them? Or, would names naturally come to mind of men and women with whom you have prior experience, whose character you know, whose doctrine you trust, and whom you think would do a good job? If the latter, why should you object if others in such a position do the same?

Just a few thoughts.