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Archive for June, 2008

Asahel Nettleton, in his sermon Professing Christians Awake!  challenges us to consider what Paul meant when he commanded his Christian friends in Rome to wake-up from their spiritual slumber.  This sermon is taken from Romans 13:11.  In it he answers the question, “when does the Christian sleep?”  In answer to that question, he gives a three-fold answer, the first point of which I share below.

This sermon is taken from the book Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening, William C. Nichols, editor.  International Outreach, 1995.  Nettleton is of particular interest to me and I am considering doing my dissertation project on him.  He was a nineteenth-century Calvinistic evangelist who is said to have led over 25,000 sinners to faith in Christ.  He is best known for opposing Charles Finney’s “new methods” but leaves a much richer legacy than that alone. 

When does the Christian sleep?

“In general he desires his own case, and begins to consult that, when it comes in competition with duty.  Religion is the great business of his life.  It imposes on him many duties which are painful and crossing to corrupt nature.  Thus the fraternal admonition- exhort one another daily, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him is the command of God.  To neglect this and similar duties for fear of incurring reproach, is to indulge in spiritual sloth.  You may sit down and rest quietly if you will not disturb your fellow sinners around you with a sight of their sin and danger.  This requires no effort.  And here thousands resign themselves to rest.  Individuals or a church may close their eyes on the conduct of an offender and be silent, and this awful indifference to his soul assumes the name of charity, without lifting a finger to restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.  The slothful servant will ever consult his own ease by sinful contrivance to shun duty.” (pp 1-2)

I ask…are Southern Baptists awake today?  or sleeping through our spiritual duties?

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OK…forget for a moment that Dr. Chuck Lawless is ultimately the man who will grant me my PhD one day from Southern’s Graham School.  Forget that he is brilliant and very engaging on just about every topic a seminarian would care to talk about.  Forget for a moment that he is author of many successful books on various spiritual topics.

 

Forget for a moment that he grades my papers…  J

 

The other day he posted a challenging open letter to all young leaders here on his blog.  I believe that he is spot-on with what he says here and challenge you to check it out.  

 

Young leaders, of which I currently still consider myself (I am 33 and have pastored for over 12 years) are at a critical juncture in SBC life.  We have been leaving in droves for the last decade and we have even raised our voices in protest until we have been heard in SBC life.  Now we are being heard, and I ask “how will we respond?”   

 

 

I would really like to know for sure why we are losing so many young leaders.  I understand that many who are still in SB life are those who have grown up SB and have SB connections.  I think this is the bulk of our current “young leadership.”  I know that every seminary prof and mega-church pastor has their “entourage” of young guys who will sail through the ranks, and there are always the sons and sons-in law of those in high positions, but by and large, younger “non-connected” pastors are pursuing other alternatives outside the SBC.  I know a lot of the guys who are “connected” and they are great guys who really love Jesus passionately, but the SBC really needs to connect with a wider circle of young leaders if we hope to flourish in the coming years.  I respect those who choose to walk away and understand their reasons.  I still fellowship with many of these guys and appreciate their ministry.  I’m just not there yet…

 

 

So what is the reason young guys are leaving, and what is the solution to keeping our young leaders?  I think these are questions worth asking and finding answers for today.  I suspect that I know lots of the reasons already, but would like to hear from others on this issue. 

   

I believe that what we have in SB life is worth fighting to keep.  Read the challenge and prayerfully consider the words of a wise man.  The ball is in our court..

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In a nutshell, the existence of the CBF and articles like this one make me really glad I am a Southern Baptist.  If you haven’t read it yet, please take a moment to do so before reading on.  It is very telling.   

 

David Roach of the Baptist Press has written an excellent article here highlighting the presence of heretical teaching at this year’s CBF meeting.  I don’t use the word “heretical” lightly.  I don’t use it to describe just any difference of opinion within orthodox thought, but I reserve it for only the strongest misrepresentations of bliblical truth.  Though many readers will have critical comments about the BP and question whether or not this article is a fair representation of the CBF overall, if the substance of the article is true (and I believe it is) then there are some serious questions about the doctrinal integrity of the CBF.  In short, it appears that the organization is fostering the teaching of outright heresy.  Many have suspected this for years, but I cannot see there being any question about it after this.   

 

I said in my title that I am thankful for the existence of the CBF and I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but please follow my point.  For all of our in-fighting and problems as a convention, Southern Baptists should read this article and be thankful to God for a few things that this information brings to our mind.

 

First, we should be thankful for and reaffirm the importance of the key principles of the CR (conservative resurgence).  Now if you have read any of my previous postings or know anything about me personally, you will know that I am critical of a number of things concerning the CR.  I question whether or not the methods used during the heat of the CR were always proper.  I also question whether or not the CR corrective movement is currently seeking to carry things too far in SB life through continual narrowing.  But one thing that I cannot question at all is the emphasis of the CR to bring Southern Baptists back to a fundamental understanding of orthodox Christian faith as presented in the inerrant, infallible Word of God.  We should thank God that today we are truly holding to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”  As Dr. Mohler pointed out during his SBTS report this year at the convention, we should be thankful that as Southern Baptists, the things we are debating include regenerate church-membership, missiological methods, and a firm stance against same-sex marriage rather than the deity of Jesus Christ as presented in the Word of God. 

 

I am glad that true theological liberalism was rooted out of our seminaries and institutions.  I am thankful that today, as a doctoral candidate at SBTS, I am being taught by those who affirm without reservation the deity of Christ and the inerrancy of the Scriptures.  Shouldn’t we be thankful for that at the very least? 

 

I mean, for heaven’s sake, Killinger was standing at a meeting of Baptists and questioning the divinity of Christ and the divine nature of the gospel of John!  At times, I have been mildly sympathetic to the cries of many CBF supporters as they lamented the “takeover” by the CR guys, but I cannot in good-conscience be much sympathetic to any group of Christians who allow this kind of rhetoric to transpire at a national meeting without voicing serious opposition and denouncing it outright.  If someone had presented such heresy at a SB meeting, I am sure that many voices would have arose and denounced it as outright heresy and pointed out that it in NO WAY represents the doctrinal leanings of our convention. 

 

As of tonight, in spite of my efforts to find any, I have not found any official statements from CBF leadership denouncing Killinger’s propositions.  Though I may still have my critiques, I thank God for the CR.  (*note: in fairness, if any readers find an official pronouncement from CBF leadership, please send me a link.)

 

Secondly, this article helps to put true “liberalism” into perspective for us SBs who spend so much time fighting among ourselves.  It seems that anymore, the “L” word is tossed around to describe basically anyone who is somewhat left of one’s own position.  It’s funny how “liberal” is used to define anyone who is to the left of where you are at personally on the “liberal to conservative” spectrum.  This becomes very subjective, very dangerous, and often very unhelpful in our argumentation.  This article helps us to recognize that true liberalism is that which seeks to undermine the very foundational elements of the Christian gospel according to the inerrant Word.  As Machen argued long ago, theological liberalism results in a new religion that is not even recognizable as orthodox Christianity.  (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, 1923)

 

A “liberal” is not necessarily someone who ordains female deacons.  A “liberal” church is not really one which holds open communion as opposed to your church which holds “closed” (or close, depending on your terminology) communion.  A “liberal” is not someone who uses the HCSB rather than the ESV or NKJV.  A “liberal” is not even someone who holds a different view of accepting members in to their congregation (immersed, of course!) than you.  Even if you disagree with some of these positions, it is hardly fair to accuse someone who subscribes to the BFM and affirms the inerrancy of Scripture as a “liberal” just because they disagree with you on such issues. 

 

 

This article helps put into perspective that which the apostle John referred to when he wrote in 1 Jn 2:22, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. At its heart, true “liberalism” in the theological sense, seeks to unseat Jesus Christ from his rightful place as God incarnate, the eternal Son who came as redeemer and rose as Lord of all creation.  To be sure, there are other theological areas which liberalism seeks to attack, but we must be careful about attacking other BFM-affirming Southern Baptists as “liberals” simply because they disagree with us on some secondary or tertiary issue (I know…the Baptist Identity guys will hate the fact that I believe any doctrines are secondary or tertiary, but that is an argument for another day!).   I have personally heard and read the use of such language to describe other cooperating Southern Baptists.  It is very convenient to use, because it has a way of rallying immediate sympathy to one’s cause, but it is simply not accurate.  This article reminds me to be careful and reserve the use of the term for those who truly deserve to be called theologically “liberal.”   

 

So in a nutshell, I am glad that I found this article and came to read about this gross misrepresentation of Christian doctrine at this CBF meeting.  It helped me to chase away my gloomy, pessimistic tone towards all things Southern Baptist and remember, once again, that there is much to be thankful for in Southern Baptist life today.  We may have a long way to go before we right the ship again, and there is still much need for humility, repentance, and correction, but at least we have a solid foundation from which to build.  And gathered around the fellowship of the Word of God and the person of Christ, we have a fellowship with other believers that is strong and hopefully determined to stand against false doctrine of all shades, so that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is trumpeted throughout the world. 

 

As for the CBF as an organization…all I can offer are my continued prayers.   

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I said earlier that I hoped each year to come home from the SBC with a handful of free books worthy of mention.  This year was no disappointment.  I listed six freebies earlier (SBC Indy Wrap-up, 1, see below).  In the end, I added seven (7) titles to the earlier six for a total of thirteen (13) free books from this year’s convention!  Hallelujah!  The other seven are listed below.

Curtis Vaughn, Commentary on James. Cape Coral, FL: Founders, 2003, 128 pp. $8.99.  I got this one (of course) for free at the Founders breakfast (btw, check out Bro. Redmon’s sermon over at founders.org…definitely worth it).  If this commentary is anywhere near as good as Vaughn’s on Galatians, then it is a keeper.

Ministerial Tax Issues, by Guidestone, 2008, 24 pp. Booklets of this type are invaluable for every minister.  It may not be the most exciting reading, but I am thankful for those who keep on top of this kind of info so that I can rightly “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…”  If you are a pastor, you should call them and get this sent to you for reference and study (1-888-98-GUIDE).

Daniel L. Akin, Five Who Changed the World: What will you do with your life? Wake Forest, NC: SEBTS, 2008, 100 pp, $5.00 (at least I think I saw them being sold for this at Lifeway?).  This is an inspiring little booklet that is based on a series of sermons preached by Dr. Akin which examined the lives of five influential Christian servants who gave their lives to the great commission.  Each servant is paired with an appropriate scripture to maintain the expositional character of the sermons.  The individuals profiled are William Carey (Matt 28:16-20), Adoniram and Ann Judson (Rom 8:28-39), Bill Wallace (Phil 1:21), Lottie Moon (Rom 12:1) and Jim Elliot (Psalm 96).  Most of these are heroes of mine.  That, along with the fact that I really love and admire Dr. Akin has me very interested in reading this book.  My guess is that it is intended to help along the “Great Commission Resurgence” which I will support wholeheartedly.  Any booklet that can help us return to our Great Commission focus will be welcome in my library.

William Fay, The Sin of Silence. Lifeway’s Holman Bible Outreach division (www.holmanbibleoutreach.org), 36 pp. This little booklet appears to be an indictment of the lack of evangelism and outreach in our churches and a clarion call for churches to wake up to the task of evangelism.  I welcome that.  Also, I love Share Jesus Without Fear as a training tool and am interested in anything Fay writes.

David Dockery, Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society through Christian Higher Education. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2008, 214 pp., $19.99.  I literally couldn’t believe that these really nice books were being given out at the Union booth.  I even asked to be sure I could have one and was told it was OK.  The book is a special red-bound edition embossed with the Union logo on the front.  I think I know where my kids are going to college now…kudos to the Union folks for giving this one out.  I know nothing about this book yet although the ToC are very intriguing.  I have an upcoming PhD seminar in higher education and hope to keep this jewel tucked away until then. 

O.S Hawkins, More Good News for Great Days, Guidestone, 2008, 141 pp.  This is obviously the follow up to Good News for Great Days, a collection of transcribed sermons by Hawkins dealing with different holidays and observances throughout the year.  The earlier book was helpful and I have often referred to it as holidays approached.  I am sure this one will be helpful as well for addressing New Year’s Day, Palm Sunday, Easter, Communion Sunday, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Stewardship Sunday, World Missions Day, and Christmas Eve (this is the actual list of sermons from the book). 

Wyman Lewis Richardson, Walking Together: A Congregational Reflection on Biblical Church Discipline, Leader’s Guide. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2007, 100 pp.  This too was given away at the Founders’ breakfast and looks like an interesting resource.  In concert with this year’s focus on regenerate church membership, the workbook is timely.  It is an actual workbook for church leaders to teach through and give church guidance to recovering the biblical teaching of church discipline.  The chapter titles include; To Be a Congregation: Who/ What Exactly Are We? (1), Rethinking the Familiar: The Painful Joy of Allowing the Bible To Speak (2), Jesus’ Plan for Prodigal Members (parts I-V, including “Loving Enough to Speak,” “Widening the Circle,” “Involving the Church,” “Excommunication,” and “Restoration and Fellowship Renewed.”) all followed by Being the Body: Where Do We Go From Here (8).  I will be reading this for sure sometime in the near future.

That concludes the list of this year’s bounty.  I’m not sure the free-book load actually justifies the gas-money and hotel fees for the four days I spent in Indy, but when combined with the convention itself, the pastor’s conference, the fellowship, the worship, the business, and all the other free swag, it helps to build a pretty strong case for why young guys should attend more conventions!

See ya’ in Louisville on 09!

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This year’s SB Convention has come and gone without nearly as much fanfare and controversy as I expected.  I am now back home, settled in, preparing for ministry in my home-church, and reflecting on many things that I walked away with from this year’s SBC.  I make the following observations, and please remember…these are merely my personal opinions:

 

High Points:

 

First off, the best thing about this year’s convention for me was the time spent with my wife.  She is my best friend and my greatest companion.  She is also a source of great strength and spiritual wisdom for me.  She also makes me look really good.  I wish more men would go to the convention with their wives rather than forming or joining with some “entourage.”  I really think the time alone with our wives in a spiritual setting would be a great thing for more of us.  The entire trip home (from Indy to SE KY to pick up our kids) was spent with my wife and I doing some SERIOUS spiritual reflection.  We discussed many things about ministry and our personal spiritual lives; thoughts that were provoked by happenings and observations made at the convention.  We honestly discussed our individual and corporate failures as people and as a family.  Many tears were shed and we prepared ourselves for much spiritual change when we got back home.  We have begun a journal chronicling the things from which we need to repent as well as documenting the things that we need to change in our lives and our home.  We recognized pride, cynical attitudes, unforgiveness, compromise and a lack of passionate family-worship as some things that need to change.  We are working together to take our relationship, family, and personal spiritual-lives to new heights.  Pray for us. 

 

Second, although Dr. Hunt was not the candidate I backed personally, I do believe that he will be a great leader and unifier for the SBC over the next 2 years.  I believe him to be a man of God more concerned about the future of Kingdom-work than he is his own reputation or building his own private kingdom.  He is passionately committed to bringing along the younger generation and I believe that he will invest much of his energy to that noble end.  Though he personally disagrees with (my) reformed theology, I do not believe he will make it his agenda to root-out the Calvinists.  On a personal note, after the elections on Tuesday night, I was walking from the convention hall to the exhibits when I noticed some friends and stopped to converse for a moment.  There, wandering around the halls, without an entourage or any “handlers” was Dr. Hunt, all by himself.  He drifted right up to our group of young seminarians/ green-pastors and warmly introduced himself to each one of us and joined in the conversation.  Prior to this encounter, I had made a cynical comment to a friend about the presidential election being a “popularity contest.”  After meeting Dr. Hunt, the Lord convicted me about this comment, and I later confessed it and repented of such a hard heart and quick-tongue.  I had no reason for offering such a foolish comment except that I didn’t get my way, but Dr. Hunt’s kindness and presence totally disarmed me and forced me to re-evaluate God’s choice of leadership.  Dr. Hunt, if you ever read this (which I seriously doubt), I want you to know that I apologize for saying such stupid things and will pray for you regularly as our leader.  I have hope that you will continue to advance our convention toward unity and a true “great-commission resurgence.”  

 

Speaking of which, I totally agree with the language of Drs. Lawless, Dockery, Akin and others concerning a “great-commission resurgence.”  It is the only hope for our future as a convention and pray that others will get a hold of this idea and make it their driving ambition for the future of SBC life.  It’s time for the petty politics and division to end and for us to instead focus on doing the work of the Kingdom.  We agree on enough to separate us from the vast majority of the world today, now let us take what we agree upon and get busy making disciples.  

 

I was very encouraged by the membership resolution, and pray that we will genuinely seek to regain this very important principal in our churches.  Thanks Tom Ascol, for your work and persistence in urging us to “repentance.”  

 

Also, there was some very good preaching this year that was void of the pride and arrogance of our past.  It is high-time that we as SBs stop telling the world what we are against, and start telling them what we are FOR.  Also, it was nice to feel that we were being called, convention-wide to repentance and brokenness.  Maybe this should be next year’s theme again.  I still say that MacDonald brought an amazing sermon and I loved his urging us to repent right there in the convention hall.  Not being a good Southern Baptist, I guess that James didn’t know that he wasn’t supposed to do that during a pastor’s conference!  But he just gave an invitation to repentance right there.  I pray that there were many besides myself who were literally on their faces before God doing business about their own lives and ministries.

 

I’m excited about NAMB’s “GPS” initiative.  Anything to stimulate personal evangelism is needed in our convention.   

 

The IMB is absolutely the most amazing missionary organization in the world.  I literally wept through almost the entire presentation Wednesday evening.  I love Jerry Rankin.  And I love our missionaries.  They are truly great men and women of God.

 

I appreciated the Executive-committee’s much deserved attention to the problem of sexual-predators.  I applaud them for their efforts thus far and pray that we will continue to work together to develop databases and networks (top-down) for dealing with this evil.  For once, the world will sit-up and applaud our efforts instead of dogging on us for avoiding this defining issue.      

 

Low Points:

 

In my estimation, there is still far too much “politicking” that goes on at these events.  Most messengers spend the majority of their time going in and out for the “important” votes.  Literally thousands of msgrs left almost immediately after the presidential vote, and I am told that MANY simply left and went home after the vote.  Sad indeed.  We need the worship and sermons to bring us together spiritually, but still, many simply ignore this aspect of the meeting.  

 

Attendance was embarrassingly low.  I know…I’ve heard all the arguments about gas-prices, location, flooding, etc… but if we keep on at this rate, there will be almost no representation from our 42,000+ churches at future conventions.  As an example of how paltry attendance was, in the 2nd VP run-off election on Wednesday morning, only 807 votes were cast!  That’s right…807 votes to elect an officer of the “largest Protestant denomination in North America.”  807 votes out of 7,300 (approx) messengers.  Last year, there were only 8,600 in San Antonio (for the guy who kept insisting to me that there were “over 10,000, I’m sure,” in SA, all I can say is… I told you there weren’t!).  I pray that this trend would reverse.  I also hope and pray that there will be increased initiative to allow online voting and participation in the convention.  I’ll venture to guess that that would increase our messengers by at least 500-1000 messengers per year.

 

The Gaither Vocal Band is great…but what the heck was with that first song, “Somewhere between Jesus and John Wayne”?  I could literally hear the laughter and groans from many theologically-minded pastors ready for serious repentance and brokenness as they listened to this song.  Didn’t match the tone of the conference and though I love GVB, whoever selected that song should be whipped with a wet noodle.  🙂

 

Business observations:

1. Motion presented to prevent entity-heads from serving as president of SBC.  I don’t know about how I feel about this one. I need some time to think about it.  But I do predict it will be discarded.  I believe it has been offered before and failed.

 

2. Motion to unseat any messengers from female-led churches. Are there seriously any left?  Why not leave the 2 of them alone, they’ll quit attending soon enough.  This is just the kind of fodder that the secular press loves.  They’ll print a headline “SBC Rejects Churches Led by Females,” as if no-one knew where we stood on this one.  But it just seems unnecessary to me.

 

3. Motion to reconsider the SBC’s relationship to the BWA.  I hope this one gets attention.  While we need to consider how strongly we support the BWA and any organization, I think it was a mistake to cut off all ties to the BWA, which, to the world, just makes us look like we are further attempting to isolate ourselves from the world.  At least remaining in fellowship gave us a voice to cry out for change in the BWA. 

 

4.  The motion to ban the HCSB was just hysterical. 

 

5. Ben Cole’s motion for standardized reporting from the seminaries. I hope this one gets attention too.  It is literally too difficult to decipher these reports from the seminaries.  Although I suspect that Ben’s interest is in just what the real numbers for SWBTS really are and why that seminary seems to get the fattest allotment of CP dollars each year (from what I read), I would still like to see reports that I can understand.    

 

6. Barrett Lampp’s motion limiting entity-trustees to seven years of service.  Another motion that I would like to see implemented or at least brought to the convention floor.  We need wider representation and a stop to the practice of appointing the same people over and over again to trustee posts.  Those days need to pass and we need wider representation.  Frank Page began the process with this year’s appointments and I hope the trend continues, resulting eventually in such a guideline limiting nepotism in the appointing process. 

 

7. Finally, I loved the two motions to attempted to save us poor-students and pastors money, but knew they would both end up on the scrap-heap.  One motion asked for seminaries to charge the same for online classes as on-campus sections, something I would have loved when still an MDiv student.  The other called on the Pastor’s Conference to provide sermons at a reduced cost.  But alas, both were pitched, and they should have been under parliamentary procedures, but it didn’t hurt to dream for a while!

 

That’s about all I want to say about this year’s SBC.  Overall, I think it was a great convention that will lead to greater days for the SBC.  I went with a positive spirit and left with one.  I saw lots of friends and met many new ones.  I met some “bloggers” and conversed with some folks I previously knew by reputation only.  One of the greatest things for me personally though, was the fact that I actually attempted to have a better spirit towards others this year.  I admit that I haven’t always been very positive at these meetings and often my snipping and cynicism have made me less than positive to be around.  As stated in an earlier post, I am working hard to repent of such attitudes.  This year, I actually smiled and talked to people I might have previously avoided.  I conversed with many people that I might have normally criticized.  And I actually attempted to build bridges with many whom I knew I had differences with. 

 

And you know what?  …It didn’t hurt at all.  In fact, I think it made me a better man in the end.  I might just try to stick with this new attitude.  I am learning that building bridges is far more productive than burning them, or blowing them up.    

 

  

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Overall, today was a very encouraging and blessed day.  The tone of the pastor’s conference was different than it has been in past years.  The theme of brokenness, repentance and the need for revival was evident in almost every sermon, prayer and song.  It seems that there is a pretty common consensus among SBs at the pastor’s converence that there is a problem and that we need some change and some real revival from God. 

My brief wrap-up of the pastor’s conference includes the following observations.  In the spirit of keeping my tone positive and fulfilling my earlier promise for a “new agenda,” I will refrain from any critical comments or jabs (though I could level quite a few) and instead focus on the positive, because there was plenty of that.

Notable sermons from Monday (I was not present Sunday night, I arrived in my hotel at 8:30, too late to make it to Sunday night).  In my opinion, the most noteworthy sermons of the day were:

1. Dr. Jimmy Draper:  He spoke bluntly and passionately about the need for changed hearts, minds, and attitudes in the SBC.  He pulled no punches, speaking to the “older” generation about their shortcomings and challenging the younger with the great need for repentance and renewal.  He emphasized our sinful pride in becoming arrogant as a convention and relying on our numbers, resources, programs, and political clout.  He also presented some great historical information about the nature of revivals, reverting to a definition of revival that is clearly “pre-Finney.”  I know this because in my doctoral pursuit, I have given quite a bit of reading and study to revivals and revivalism.  Before the days of Finney, evangelicals believed that revival came solely from God and could not be forced by our own manipulation or by “doing” certain things to make it certain.  After Finney, evangelicals in the US largely developed a view of revival that was more man-centered than God-centered.  Dr. Draper spoke in terms that evidenced his (as he said) immersion in the subject for the last few months.  He firmly believes that conditions are right in our culture for God to send revival, and Dr. Draper’s case is well-thought through and fairly convincing.  I thought his sermon was great and worth hearing.

2. James McDonald: By far the most moving of the day for me.  McDonald speaks plainly, bluntly, and forcefully.  Speaking from 2 Cor 5, he made the case that the greatest need of individuals, churches, and yes, even denominations, is REPENTANCE.  He called the individuals present to actual repentance right there today in the auditorium, and from what I could tell, many dozens of folks were on their faces, some on the floor, right there in the aisles.  Even among the most skeptical of us, who can say that there is anything wrong with this as a starting point for our convention?  This sermon is definitely a keeper, and I will be getting it for my collection. 

3. Jay Strack: I didn’t know what to expect here because I am not all that familiar with Dr. Strack, however his sermon was one of my favorites.  He very forcefully, and with great personal passion, challenged the “older” generation of the SBC to start caring about reaching and discipling the younger generation.  He used the model of Moses and Joshua and demonstrated how Moses prepared Joshua, but then Joshua failed to successfully disciple the next generation of leaders.  Dr. Strack did flame bloggers pretty hard near the end of his sermon, saying some stuff that I thought was a little over-the-top, but this is an otherwise very good sermon that should provoke lots of thought among our convention. 

Disappointments:  Dr. Stuart Briscoe could not be present.  I was looking forward to hearing him. Also, the Tony Dungy appearance, though a nice-effort to make up for the Briscoe cancellation, was kind of anti-climactic.  He literally spoke for like 5 minutes…and that was it.  I was a little disappointed and wanted more.  Did you know that Dungy is overseeing games and recreation at his church’s VBS this year???  Guess he is more than just a “public” Christian.

Other Highlights:

1. Great conversation with Dr. Adam Greenway and his wife.  This was the first time I have gotten to really talk with Dr. Greenway and it is important for me to get to know him because he is my PhD advisor as of last semester.  I was very impressed with his friendly and open spirit and the depth of conversation that we shared.  I look forward to working more with him in the future.

2. I personally met one of the “big, bad, bloggers” of the wicked blogosphere who has a very big name, and among many, a very bad reputation as a “trouble-maker.”  You know what???  He was one of the kindest, most gracious and welcoming individuals I have met in a long time.  It just goes to prove that although you may not always agree with another’s views, you can still be friendly and have a friendship with them.  Disagreements do not have to mean bitterness among brethren.  We talked for quite a while and he shared with me respectfully and like we were old friends.  I hope to get to know him better in the future.

3. I got to see the great Jeff Walters and discuss his recent, disastrous post on the topic of cicadas in the SBC…

4.  I saw Dr. Paul Chitwood and spoke with him for a few minutes.  He was very friendly and gracious as always.  My wife and I are praying for him tonight.  Dr. Chitwood is a very impressive young leader with a great responsibility as the new IMB BoT chair.  To be leading in such difficult times is difficult I am sure.  I hope others will pray for him and his leadership.

5. The Missional dinner at Bucco de Bepo’s was really nice.  That restaurant is AMAZING and the food was some of the best I have had in a LONG time.  The room where the meeting was held was about the size of a matchbox and there were probably over 100 people in there.  To say the least, it was tight.  The interaction with Kerry Shook and the other pastors was very informative.  After listening to them for a while, it is clear to see that these guys are philosophically MILES apart from where the “old school” SB guys are at.  I really admire the missional guys and pray that their tribe will increase.  I have never really followed Shook’s ministry too closely although I see him on TV all the time.  After tonight, I think I will pay more attention to his ministry.  He is an impressive man, and his “1-Month to Live” emphasis is very thought-provocative. 

On a final note, let me say that I LOVE the city of Indianapolis better than any other convention city in many years.  It is clean, very friendly, and full of restaurants, shopping, hotel-accomodations and walking-space.  People on the streets actually talk to you with interest about the “big convention in town,” and every restaurant, shop and hotel I have been in to has treated me like a prince!  The convention center is wonderful…very compact yet adequate.  You don’t have to walk ½ mile to get from the exhibits to the convention hall.  There’s much more I could say, but I just think it is a great city and hope we come back here soon!  Next year’s meeting place will not be as nice.  I lived in Louisville for 3 years, and I LOVE the city, but the downtown will be really tough for hosting the convention…mark my word.  Oh, and I hope I never have to go back to San Antonio…way too hot and abandoned…but I digress.

FREE BOOK COUNT:  6

Paige Patterson, Thomas White and L.R. Scarborough. Calling Out the Called. Ft. Worth, TX: Seminary Hill Press.  37 pp. A brief book challenging readers to consider what it means for God to call one in to ministry.  A helpful collection of articles. 

Thom Rainer, Danny Akin, Chuck Lawless, Jeff Iorg, and Jerry Rankin. Great Commission Resurgence. 2008, Lifeway.  63 page booklet containing a collection of articles challenging SBs to re-focus their energies on the Great Commission rather than continuing in the downward slide of politics, dissension and in-fighting.  Dr. Lawless is one of my favorite writers and people in general.  He is my academic advisor and will ultimately be the one to grant me my PhD.  I know his heart for the great commission and know that he is a uniter, as are the other authors.  I hope this book resonates with thousands of SB pastors.

Journal of Evangelism and Missions (J.E.M.) Spring 2008, vol. 7.  Topic: Beyond conflict to church-growth.  This journal is one of my favorite.  At home, I have all 6 previous volumes.  It is scholarly, practical, and very contemporary in its addressing of issues.  I highly recommend contacting Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary and subscribing if you don’t already get this journal.

Theology For Ministry. Another MABTS journal, but this one is new to me.  November 2007 topic is “integrity in ministry,” while the May 2008 topic is “contemporary movements in American Christianity.”  The topics interest me immensely.  Glad I got these for free.

Scott Dawson, The Complete Evangelism Guidebook: Expert Advice on Reaching Others for Christ. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008).  This was an amazing book to get for free!  Truth is, I already have a copy and have read many of the chapters.  They are brief, but very helpful and very biblical.  When offered a free copy, I took it so that I could pass it along to someone else who can use it.

BEST EXHIBIT BOOTHS…

1. SBTS…of course…

2. The IMB booth…It is so awesome to stand and just talk to some of the reps at this booth.  They have such a passion for reaching the world…

3.  Cedarville College’s breath-mints are nasty-HOT…stay away from those boogers.   

That’s tonight’s wrap-up…I hope for more interesting info tomorrow.  I have to get up in six, short hours to go the Founder’s Breakfast, so I better be off…         

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Tomorrow, my wife and I and our youngest of four children will be heading out for Indy for the 2008 SBC.  Hopefully, we will arrive in time for the pastor’s conference on Sunday night.  I truly hope that this week will be an encouragement for all who attend.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am committed to open dialogue and healing within the convention right now.  I don’t want to see further division, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t expect just that to happen.  

 

 

For what it is worth (especially for my church members who visit this blog) I make the following statements:

 

1. I will vote for Les Puryear for president.  Many say he cannot win, but they said the same about Frank Page two years ago.  Also, I believe in voting by my convictions, not according to who I think is likely to win; that’s just not democracy.  I support him for a number of reasons that exceed the current IMB discussion.  I believe that we must continue in the pattern of going outside the “inner circle” candidates.  Without being negative or antagonistic, it is true that a very small circle of control has exerted itself for a long time in the SBC.  I believe that with the thousands upon thousands of churches represented by the CP in this new “information-age,” we need to be more diverse and go outside the “inner circles” for leadership.  That is…if we hope to survive into the future.  I also like the fact that Les is a small-church pastor with a missional heart.  Again, we need more representation on this front. I like Les’s support of the “repentance” version of the membership resolution.  Furthermore, I like Les’s reformed soteriology and his irenic spirit.  I believe that he would do much to bring folks together.  I like his candidacy for the same reason I liked Mr. Smith going to Washington  (Jimmy Stewart, not Brad Pitt)… I don’t believe democratic bodies can survive long if they are run by professional politicians.  By the way, I don’t know Les at all, and he doesn’t know me, so I am not necessarily influenced by personality here. 

I will also vote for Bill Henard for First VP.  He is a great pastor and a Kentuckian (even though a transfer)…nuff’ said.   

 

That said, I will not be at all upset if Dr. Bill Wagner wins the presidency.  If it goes to a runoff with him involved, I will cast my vote for him for most of the same reasons.  If Johnny Hunt wins, I will not be totally disappointed either.  I think he is a great man and a powerful leader who will serve as a uniter on many fronts. 

 

2. I hope that the current IMB-policies debate comes to the floor.  I think that the best thing that could happen would be for the convention to speak to some of these issues.  That would be much more convincing for me than simply hearing from Board members.  If the SBC as a whole wants to change its stance on baptism and PPLs and incorporate it into the doctrinal statement, then that would give some closure on this issue.  I believe that healthy debate is a win-win situation.  

 

3. I am looking forward to the Founders Breakfast although I hate the thought of waking at 6:00 AM.  I have been to three of these previously, and they never fail to encourage me.  Tom Ascol has always taken time to talk cordially to me and I look forward to meeting him yet again.  

 

4. I am looking forward to the missional dinner on Monday, and hope that there is some real networking that takes place.

 

5. I am very disappointed that so many guys will not be going to the convention.  I read this on so many blogs and hear it in so many conversations with other pastors.  They are upset about how things are, and they want change, but they do not make it a priority to attend the convention.  I understand all the arguments as to why they cannot (gas prices, vacation time, bi-vocational, etc…) but at the end of the day, it still does no good to voice your opinion on a blog, even to the point of endorsing a candidate, and then ending it with “but I won’t be there because….”  The CR worked precisely because people sacrificed and attended the conventions.  They were that committed to righting the ship of the SBC.  For the future to be bright for our great denomination, I believe that “young leaders” especially (if they are really at all concerned) should attend and have a voice at the conventional level.  It’s not about being noticed, for I have attended every convention since 2000 (except Arizona) and still no-one knows who I am, but I am there participating and “in the know” as to what’s happening, raising my ballot and knowing the issues. 

 

6.  I am anticipating with great excitement some great “last-minute surprise” whatever it may be.

 

7. I am bursting with excitement about the free books that I will come home with. I always manage to scavenge a dozen or so free books at the SBC.  What can I say…I’m a free-loader!

 

8. I will stay all the way through the end on Wednesday night.  I hate it that so many leave so early and then miss the IMB presentation, which I consider to be one of the most important reasons for going. 

 

9. I hope to be able to meet face-to-face so many of the bloggers who write about SBC issues.  In person, I think that we will find that we have much more in common than we differ on.  This electronic medium has a way of de-personalizing so much of the debate and making us all feel like enemies instead of brothers and sisters in Christ, striving for the same things.   

 

10.  Most importantly, I am excited to be spending a few days with my wonderful wife.  Having four children, it is usually difficult for us to spend any time alone, much less in a spiritual context, but this week, the grandparents are keeping the “three pigs” (those are our three oldest kids!) and we are only taking 9-week-old Lucas.  It will be nice to enjoy some meals and coffee together with the most beautiful and patient woman in the world without having to take kids to the potty or break-up fights or un-plug wedgies!

 

Hope to see you there!  Look for me…I’ll be the short, stout guy with a buzz-cut, a handsome baby-boy and a beautiful wife!

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