Saturday, May 09, 2009

My Thoughts on the SBC

I was asked by Tim Rogers to share my thoughts on the SBC. I am sincerely humbled by his request. My thoughts are inexhaustive, limited, and most likely erroneous because of my human frailty and subjective perspective. Nevertheless, I share.

Currently, I believe there are two competing views of who Southern Baptists (SB) are or should be. The first is ecumenical. It apparently desires to see SB as some Baptist-Charismatic-Presbyterian-culturally accepted hybrid. Those who hold this view would have few issues with SBC employees teaching a private prayer language to new converts or teaching 3 offices in the church (rather than the two specified in the BFM 2000) or teaching that the consumption of alcoholic beverages for recreational purposes is not inappropriate behavior for a follower of Christ.

The second view is distinctively SB. We who fall into this camp would struggle with giving up our distinctives in order to increase our numbers. We find it arduous, based upon the Great Commission (GC), to release even the tertiary teachings of Christ. We would assert that the GC doesn't end with leading others to Christ (something both camps affirm) but continues with "teaching them to observe ALL things I have commanded you” (not just the primary and secondary but also the tertiary). To distinguish between the primary, secondary and tertiary teachings of Christ and then to refuse to teach the tertiary seems difficult for many of us to swallow in lieu of the GC.

I acknowledge I seem to have conflated primary, secondary and tertiary "theological concepts" with primary, secondary and tertiary "teachings of Christ." However, I would contend that our theological concepts are teachings from Scripture and thus the teachings of Christ. I think we can agree that not all "theological concepts" are clear in Scripture (i.e. tribulation views). Yet, through certain resolutions and doctrinal confessions SB have consistently voiced what they believe to be teachings of Scripture, however tertiary they may be.

I further suspect many SB find themselves not so easily classified into either of these camps, nevertheless, I do believe these are the two diverging views. I am persuaded both camps share a genuine desire to reach the younger generation of SB who have been turned off both by the politics and the bureaucracy of the convention. I am even more confident all SB desire to see the lost reached for Christ.

I have encumbered myself to now explain how to reach a post post-modern generation of SB. I am of the opinion that they will not be brought in via another fight over what is and is not tertiary. I do believe, however they will be attracted to sincere (not pseudo) care for one another and a true passion for lost souls, as well as an opportunity to participate.

Thus, before restructuring our convention perhaps we might consider restructuring the convention schedule. I imagine a vast majority would receive having 2 hour slots for business, enthusiastically. Give us time to debate, discuss, amend and vote. Railroading turns off this generation. They seem to disdain the concept of the major decisions of the convention being decided by a select few before the convention begins. Let them have a voice on the convention floor. Further, I believe 2 to 3 hours of open-mic testimonies and prayer requests would be loudly applauded by this younger generation. They are into the REAL. A spontaneous heart-cry is heard much more acutely than a rehearsed performance. Give them opportunities to share of those whom they saw come to Christ this year, give them time to brag on Jesus, give them a chance to ask for prayer. Then listen as they break into spontaneous worship and praise of our God. Watch as they wrap each other in love. And join them as they glorify our God with the passion of youthfulness.

Finally, I assert that seeking unity amongst SB is more important than “change” but less important than doctrinal purity. Thus, I would love to see a movement, which focused on the unity that those of us who affirm the BFM2000 share. While “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence” is a well-written and well-received document, one need not read far on the signature page to realize there are Resurgent and SB leadership names missing. Hopefully, through phone calls and meetings this can be resolved; however, without some defining (at least privately) I fear many may struggle to sign it (see bpnews); and yet, if the defining is public, some may remove their names.

In light of this, I assert what is common knowledge: the Great Commission was not given to the SBC but to the local church. Thus, I believe a GC Resurgence will not begin in the halls of the convention center but in the hearts of local congregations. Therefore, I humbly submit some thoughts that might help unify our convention while solidifying a passion for the fulfillment of the Great Commission through our churches:

1. For both pastors and laity to purpose to pray daily for the salvation of lost souls, not just locally but globally (perhaps using a tool like www.operationworld.org).

2. For pastors and laity to pray for their neighbors and family members who may not know Christ. Asking God to open the door of opportunity to share the gospel of Christ.

3. For pastors and laity alike to become more purposeful in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

4. For pastors to continue to call out the Called.

5. For pastors and laity to give sacrificially to missions.

6. For ALL convention messengers to begin praying as to how our convention could be better structured to help the local churches fulfill the Great Commission. Asking questions like: How could the IMB/NAMB be better structured to help local churches organize mission trips? How could state conventions be encouraged to distribute even more funds to our missionaries and church plants? How could our seminaries and the IMB/NAMB help local churches train and send out missionaries where the missionaries are led by God to go, rather than where we tell them God is leading them to go? How could the IMB/NAMB better assist local churches in planting churches both locally and globally? Perhaps a committee could be appointed to explore such and bring recommendations for discussion (appointing a committee seems very Southern-Baptistic).

At some point we will need an open dialogue as to the future of SB. Does it entail a blurring of our distinctions? And if so, how blurred are we to become? If, in the future, the convention leaves me, so be it. But, for now, I would prefer unifying like-minded SB (those who affirm the BFM2000) before discussing a convergent hybridization with non-Baptists. In other words, I would opt to get our house in order before we invite others to dine with us.

May our Lord bless us as we seek His Glory.

***This article was written last week and published here Sunday night. Since that time the GCR has added a FAQ section which I am hopeful will unify us more. Kudos to the framers of the GCR.

32 comments:

Tim Rogers said...

Dr. Reynolds,

Great ideas. I especially like the idea of an open mike testimony time at the SBC. Also, your thoughts concerning the GCR Declaration are insightful and ones that need to be heeded by the originators of the declaration.

Thanks for allowing us at SBC Today to present these thoughts for you.

Blessings,
Tim

Chris Johnson said...

Dr. Reynolds,

You are so very right...that it is the local churches that establish the viability of a SBC, and it is those local members that must seek the unity of the Spirit.... and it is those local members that must work hard to know right doctrine.

The BFM2000 does give a very high level view pointing to the Word,... where we find the right doctrine.

Thank you for your insights,

Blessings,
Chris

brad reynolds said...

Tim - Thanks. I too would love to see open-mic testimonies. I think it would enrich our convention and be a testimony of our love one for another.

Chris - Right on!!! Oh, that we would teach biblical doctrine more and more in our churches.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Reynolds,

I am posting anonymous since I do not have a blog or website.

As a young pastor for only eight years I totally affirm your blog on the GCR Declaration. It is the responsibility of the Church to complete the Great Commission. I love the SBC but I believe the SBC should be there to encourage and assist the Church in achieving this goal, not directing and steering the Church in such efforts.

Tyler Johnson

brad reynolds said...

Tyler
Agree Totally:)

Pastor Mike said...

Good stuff Brad...glad you're back. Hopefully I will get to see you some during my DMin seminar in 2 wks.

Bro. Robin said...

Brad

Great to see you back.

Tyler

Such wise words.

brad reynolds said...

Mike - Let's get some coffee in two weeks:)

Robin - So good to be back:):)

Bobby Capps said...

"I am of the opinion that they will not be brought in via another fight over what is and is not tertiary. I do believe, however they will be attracted to sincere (not pseudo) care for one another and a true passion for lost souls, as well as an opportunity to participate." - Amen

Steve Davis said...

Interesting column. Was curious where exactly in the Bible I can find the "tertiary teaching" of Christ concerning "consumption of alcoholic beverages for recreational purposes." Looked in John 2 but didn't see it there. Also wondering when you think the SBC should kick out the churches who have elders.

brad reynolds said...

Bobby - Amen and amen

Steve - let me recommend some reading on the following posts concerning alcohol:

http://guardian-ministries.blogspot.com/2006/07/dr-richard-lands-article-on-alcohol.html

http://guardian-ministries.blogspot.com/2006/07/dr-rogers-dr-criswell-studies-on.html

http://guardian-ministries.blogspot.com/2006/07/alcohol-abstinence-bias-or-biblical.html

(sorry I am not tech savvy enough to figure out how to use tags)

Concerning elders, I shall assume you are distinguishing between elders and pastors, if so please don't misunderstand me. I have never advocated "kicking out churches with elders." Some might argue that some of the strongest churches in our convention are Presbyterian in their ecclesiology, however, the BFM2000 is clear.

Would I state all SBC churches should affirm it as their statement of faith? NO!!! The convention should never tell churches what to do - I totally uphold the autonomy of the local church.

Hope that helps - have a blesses evening my brother.

Chris Johnson said...

Brother Steve,

It appears to me that Brad is passionately "for" having more men in leadership, not less. The SBC, and really the rest of the world is short in that respect already.

I believe that Brad is simply saying there are (1) leaders and (2) servants in the church that are meeting the qualifications (1 Timothy and Titus) to do either of those services.

Blessings,
Chris

Steve Davis said...

I just found it odd that he picked three things to show who "real" Southern Baptists are, and none of them can be confirmed in Scripture. (Jesus drank wine at parties, Paul had a "private prayer language" and, well, it seems the distinction between elders and deacons is quite clear in the NT.) My biggest issue is it seems there are a certain group of SB's who are just spoiling for a fight at every turn. If it's not these three things, it's having and "official" (though again not confirmed in Scripture) preaching style. I'm not saying "why can't we all just get along?" I am saying if you're going to define Southern Baptist outside of clear biblical teaching, you can't help but be divisive, and sure as heck can't say we are "people of the book."

brad reynolds said...

Steve
I am sorry for not clarifying my position. I would not use these three items as a litmus test for "REAL" SB. In fact, I don't believe it is our place to determine an individual's competence either for the SBC or church membership. I would leave that to the local church. And if a person belongs to a SB church than I shall assume he/she is SB.

I would expect, however, for EMPLOYEES of the SBC to conform to its resolutions and the BFM2000. THEY ARE PAID BY SBC MONIES. We have the right to say we expect our employees to be Baptist not Charismatics or Presbyterians (with respect to tongues and ecclesiology).

I think you will find that our (SB) historical distinctives, as voted on by our conventions, affirm who I believe SB are (not individually, but as a WHOLE, as expressed in our resolutions and confessions). However, that does not mean that someone who disagrees w our resolutions or confessions is any less a SB or has less of a vote.

I wish we could sit down over some coffee and visit. I think you and I find ourselves in the two camps I mentioned, let us disagree, but do so in sincere Christian love, my brother.

Steve Davis said...

I'm sure we'd get along fine. I guess I'm just raising my standard concern. It seems any time someone from an official SBC position (seminary esp) gives the "Let's unite around the essentials" speech, he always has to include an attack on people who don't toe the line on a few non-essentials. (Witness Danny Akin's otherwise excellent GC Resurgence message, in which he felt the necessity to add a "pox on their houses" section on people who don't use his favorite preaching style.) It's hard to get excited about calls for unity when every one contains a dagger, usually aimed at my back.

Chris Johnson said...

Brother Steve,

Brad has stated an important point… that we, as SB supporters, are “somewhat” aiming in the same direction. The SBC is a free association unto cooperation and a political arm of the local churches. Since the SBC is not “a church” in and of itself, it is important to remember that “it is not a church”. The church is where God has vested His power, not the convention. So, if anyone is involved in supporting the SBC, then he or she must be willing to be patient with things that are political in nature, not necessarily biblical at times.

I don’t think anyone is aiming a knife at your back, in fact the convention allows you the platform to correct the bad policy if you so desire. Yet you must realize that the policy and the policy makers at any current time will tilt the table in their direction…so it will often and most always is an uphill climb to beneficial change, even when needed.

But this is always clear for the church….Appointing qualified leaders (1 Timothy 3:1-7), praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), and being filled with the Spirit and not drunk with wine (Ephesians 5:18) are things that the church is actually empowered to live out and seen in biblical doctrine. Be encouraged!

Blessings,
Chris

brad reynolds said...

Steve

I like to say I am a follower of Christ (as such I join all followers of Christ to build the kingdom and can cooperate to some degree in doing so).

I am also an evangelical (as such I can cooperate even more w evangelicals).

I am further a Baptist (as such I can cooperate even more with those whom I share these distinctives).

I am further a Southern Baptist (as such I can cooperate even more with those who share SB distinctives).

I hope that helps - it is not that I dislike Presbyterians at all, in fact I love the late D. James Kennedy; rather it is that I can cooperate more fully with those whom I agree with more fully - I am sure the same could be said of you my friend.

Drew Pearce said...

Does anyone else think it's ridiculous to tie alcohol consumption and private prayer languages to ecumenicalism?

brad reynolds said...

Drew
Welcome. I apologize for not making the logic more explicit.

I did try though. If you will notice my second paragraph - I mention making SBC ecumenical and then immediately define it.

Charismatics (at least one practice they are known for, which historically SB have not been known for, is PPL). Culturally accepted (at least one practice the culture has accepted which the SBC has historically not accepted is social drinking).

Hope that helps and again I apologize for not being more explicit.

Steve Davis said...

I guess I have a problem with making "distinctive" something that isn't biblically supportable, but falling back instead on the "Historical Baptist Distinctive" label to justify it. I mean, one of the SBC's (admitted) historical distinctives is racism. To me, the purpose of the conservative resurgence was to raise up the Book, not codify some people's preferences. Especially when every time I turn around, a seminary is "discovering" one more thing that is suddenly necessary to be a true SB. (I'm expecting that any day now a leader at one of the schools will announce that multi-site churches aren't "true" SBC.) And back to the three "Baptist Distinctives" that were claimed in the original column, two of the three are not part of BSM 2000.

brad reynolds said...

Steve
If by biblically supportable you mean not mentioned in the Bible, than we agree. If however, you mean that the church at Ephesus did not have some distinctives which the church at Corinth did not share than that of course would be an argument from silence to say the least.

Further, the closer we are theologically - the more we can cooperate - see my above comment to Drew.

Concerning Racism being a distinctive I have never seen it in any of our confessions or resolutions. We did apologize for our participation in affirming slavery but I don't think you could argue that it was a distinctive.

Concerning alcohol - we have repeatedly (over 40 times) passed resolutions on such. Concerning PPL you are correct we have never passed a resolution to my knowledge nor have we needed to - it is not who we have been.

Thanks again for your Christian participation here.

brad reynolds said...

Thus, we are not "adding" anything New to the convention - we are who we have always been.

selahV said...

Dr. Reynolds, "Thus, we are not "adding" anything New to the convention - we are who we have always been." AMEN! selahV

Steve Davis said...

"Thus, we are not "adding" anything New to the convention - we are who we have always been."
Ah, we've always done it that way. Great way to cut off all discussion and make sure we don't debate what the Bible actually teaches. And everybody can tell you it's a great sign of organizational health. Somebody pass me a hymnal and a KJV.

brad reynolds said...

Steve
If I have offended you with any comments please forgive me - I am trying to keep this Christ-like, as if I were talking to Christ Himself.

I in no way desire to cut-off discussion. In fact, I always want to discuss with those who have differing views provided we are both willing to change our views when confronted with Biblical truth.

I used the word "adding" in reference to your perception that every time you turn around, a seminary is "discovering" one more thing that is suddenly necessary to be a true SB.

My point was that we are not adding new things to become SB - rather we are being who we have always been.

Having said that any true believer must come to the point of saying our authority is Scripture not tradition or this world's philosophies or even our own thoughts and feelings. Thus, if the SB has been wrong on something than of course we correct it Scripturally.

But the idea that there is some group in the SBC that wants to narrow our parameters is at best an errant assumption.

Chris Johnson said...

Brother Brad,

I think your right that SB’s do not necessarily want to narrow,…in fact I would say it is better to clarify or refine. The SBC has become ambiguous over the years, which is a natural thing when a lot of money and more bureaucracy are added to any function. And it is also the reason that I am vigilant toward a better understanding of the local church, especially in the realm of any perceived resurgence. Changed hearts reveal resurgence, not conventions…. So it is extremely important for the convention to refine and remain diligent to the local churches and not excited to fulfill the pragmatic expectations of the marketing culture.

It is not the accumulated wealth of the convention that God uses… it is the heart of each and every member that by faith has given resources in cooperation forming the mission to live and go (Acts 2).

Blessings,
Chris

brad reynolds said...

Chris
Point taken - the local church is the center of our Lord's activity - the local church is His Body.

Steve Davis said...

Brad,
I really can't know your heart but I assume your motives are pure. So, maybe just take this as a gentle admonition from one who knows less than you do.

I joined the SBC about sixteen years ago and genuinely want to remain. However, it seems every time I read a column or hear a sermon about inclusiveness and "getting along to advance the GC", the author/speaker feels compelled to slam one of the groups with which he does not agree.

In your case, you could have said, "One group believes that some topics which are traditionally outside the SB purview, such as {insert list here}, should be open for discussion and individual determination. The other group (to which I belong) is uncomfortable even bringing those discussions to the table." Then I would have been able to read the rest of the column with openness. Instead you chose to categorize the group to which you do not belong as "some Baptist-Charismatic-Presbyterian-culturally accepted hybrid," a phrase loaded with potentially offensive language. (My preaching has never been called "culturally accepted.") When you followed that by referring to your own group as "distinctly SB", you succeeded in casting all even-marginally-dissenting views as outside the camp.

Likewise, when Danny Akin gave his GCR message (an admitted topical message) he felt compelled to take about five minutes to slam everyone who preaches topically, using strongly-loaded language to drive home his point that while his official statement may allow for diversity, that diversity is actually heterodox in his SBC.

I don't mind disagreement, otherwise I wouldn't be here. But every time SB officials (and seminary profs) insist on marginalizing those who differ from them, more and more people who could be bringing vitality and passion to the SBC choose to take that passion somewhere else.

Chris Johnson said...

Brother Steve,

For about 40 years I have been part of and supportive of the SBC in some form or fashion. I would encourage you to look at the opportunities for bringing exhortation and correction where needed, but even more than that providing excellent discipleship to your leaders. The history of the SBC seminaries is a good example of change from one extreme to the next….so there is no way to control the extremes and it will continue to oscillate,…so it is important to understand that sometimes we get the practice of discipleship a bit backwards. Seminaries can be extremely good and extremely bad, depending upon the teachers…so it is up to the local churches to be the nurturing, discipling, training, and maturing members of the body of Christ. It is only in the local churches that restoration (Matthew 18)can occur and training can be optimal. The seminaries, even with all the accumulated wealth of knowledge, lack the ability to restore when necessary as the church, and thus lacking the power to truly disciple as the local church has been empowered to do.

I love seminaries by the way…. I tap into a couple of the SBC seminaries and three or four others outside of the SBC for specific use….and they have been very beneficial.

So again, I would encourage you to work hard at the local level to raise up men that will lift holy hands to God (1 Timothy 1 &2)….and cooperate with us in the SBC to join in the efforts to refine, define, and work for the glory of God through cooperative missions,…as you are probably doing already. But, it will take a great deal of patience when dealing with the corporations of the SBC which are ultimately removed by some extent from the local churches.

Blessings,
Chris

brad reynolds said...

Steve

You have been in the blog world for a while and so you know that as far as blogposts go, this one is tame.

Further, I said what I believe to be the case concerning the two competing views - I also said many would not find themselves in either group. Moreover I defined in the column what I meant by the terms I used.

I don't certainly am not trying to marginalize my friend. I sincerely hate that the language was offensive to you, but it is the way I see the SBC which may very well be erroneous.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a blogger account either but here goes.

Part of the problem with our SBC is that we have begun to think of ourselves as a denomination. I realized this when I overheard some people discussing whether they considered themselves Southern Baptist or not. "Well, I could be because I believe this part of the BF&M, but maybe not because I don't believe in this part of the BF&M."
Southern Baptist is not something that you are or are not. It is a convention to which you associate or not. If you choose to associate with the SBC, perhaps you could label yourself "Southern Baptist" if you choose to. The BG&M is an informational and instructional instrument to help us understand what the consensus of the association is. Contained in it are statements that you either believe, or you agree to disagree with if you want to associate with the convention. It is not a dogma. You do not "become" southern baptist by a confession of the BF&M. There are those who would like to make the convention into a denomination by insisting that one believe in or not believe certain "dogmas". Calvinism, private prayer language, congregational rule, are not and should not be part of the BF&M unless we want to disassociate or associate with one of these particular belief systems because we consider them issues that we cannot agree to disagree about. If these issues do not stand in the way of the purpose of the SBC, then we can agree to disagree with them. There is a problem when some leaders in the SBC begin to insist that these issues qualify or disqualify someone for association when the BF&M makes no such statement.

Philip Kissinger

brad reynolds said...

Philip
Your analysis of how the convention operates is correct. Excellent words.

However, I know of NO SBC leader who even believes total agreement with the BFM2000 qualifies one to be associated with the SBC, much less other issues.

What most SBC leaders affirm is that one must agree to the BFM2000 in order to be PAID by SBC funds and they also agree in a Trustee system whereby Trustees are entrusted.

At SE we stipulate a dress code, no consumption of alcohol by students or faculty, and we also stipulate faculty sign the Abstract of Principles as well as the BFM2000.

Hope that helps
BR