nothing new about it...everything gone, well almost...wasted
or am i wrong...rightness runs away...life--creeping back into the crooks and crannies...existence seems futile...all seems vain...never say never though...something is happening, something will come soon
ready or not....everything will bloom again...the fluer d' lis is not dead...undone yet living by the lily of the valley...return home! run home...never come back...so long old freind or hello is yet to come...
is scriptural authority orthodox christianity?
We publicly repent of having forsaken opportunities to reason together with those who share our commitment to gospel proclamation yet differ with us on articles of the faith that are not essential to Christian orthodoxy.One thing I noticed in Article 7 is that the document had adamant support for Scriptural Authority. It reads, "...unity within the parameters of Scriptural authority..." and "...whose affirmation of biblical authority..." I began to think about this precept, and had to ask, is Scriptural Authority and all it entails (inerrancy and inspiration) "Christian Orthodoxy"?
I went and looked at a couple of early Christian creeds, namely the Nicene Creed and the Apostle Creed. Neither of the creeds mentions anything about Scripture, but rather basic Christian theology about God and his plan of salvation. The Nicene Creed reads,
I believe in one God, the Father AlmightyThe Apostles Creed reads,
Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds;
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God;
begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father,
by Whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man:
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried:
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures:
And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father:
And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose Kingdom will have no end:
And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life,
Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
And I look for the Resurrection of the Dead:
And the Life of the world to come. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,It seems that authority of Scripture was not included in Christian creeds or confession until a much later date. The cause if this was probably that Scripture was authoritative by fiat, but when people started questioning it, Scriptural authority started to appear in certain confessions particularly among Baptists
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
I personally believe in the authority of Scripture, but I am not ready to call it orthodox Christianity based on a historical perspective, in that it was not included in orthodox creeds and cnfessions. This is an argument from silence, so it is hard to say either way. This is beside the point, but the question Baptists have to address is are they willing to cooperate with a church or group that does not believe in Scriptural authority?
tags: Memphis Declaration, scripture, authority
10% to the cp?
First, it limits the candidacy of presidents. The presidency of the SBC is not for an elite few, but open to any person who is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, thus turning the Cooperative Program into a mechanism that could be used for political leverage. A candidate from a church that gives 12% would be "more qualified" for the position than one that only gave 10%. I don?t think giving is something that should be used for that purpose.
Second, it would diminish the importance of local church and would promote denominational functions. The SBC has been pushing for churches to give 10% of their undesignated funds to the cooperative program. Requiring high ranking offices to have such levels of giving seem to make denominational functions a high priority if the church wants to be a part of the denomination. This would ultimately diminish the local church and make the denomination more important, which could ultimately lead to a whole host of problems as noted in my last post.
Third, this could have a trickle down effect. If the president is required to come from churches that give 10%, then vice presidents, seminary presidents, trustees, missionaries, and other SBC representatives might have the same requirement. Along the same line of thought, it could happen that other requirements are placed on offices, like being a graduate of an SBC seminary, or being the pastor of a 1000-plus-member church, or something like that.
I think the hearts are in right place. The SBC wants to protect the Cooperation Program, which is the lifeline of the convention, but should never be done at the expense of cooperation or limit those who can cooperate. It seems like a contradiction
tags: Cooperative Program, SBC
4 reason for local church autonomy
1.) Local Church Autonomy prevents fundamentalism and liberalism from overtaking the convention. These two extremes are possible, and the balance of moderate churches and conservative churches helps keep it in check. If the denomination has the ability to determine doctrine from the top down, one of these extremes is destined to happen given the right amount of time. This is the case of so many other episcopal-type denominations.
2.) Local Church Autonomy allows for greater cooperation with SBC and non-SBC entities. If the denomination chooses who can and cannot cooperate with local churches, then it will indeed stifle cooperative efforts overseas and locally. This has been seen recently in West Africa with two IMB missionaries who cooperated with non-Baptist to plant a church. The church was not "baptistic" so the board nearly fired the missionaries. It should be up to the church to decide who they cooperate with, not the convention or its agencies.
3.) Local Church Autonomy helps keep missions as a focal point of the church. Denominational missions tend to separate missions from the local church making missions into something the churches do. Churches don't DO missions--they ARE missions. If they two some how get separated, then the church is not fulfilling one of its primary focuses: to make disciples of all nations.
4.) Local Church Autonomy allows for disagreement, dissention, and change. Under denominational thinking, decisions are made by a select group of people and handed down to the local church. Anyone who disagrees is chastised or excommunicated. Local church autonomy allows churches and members to disagree with one another. If they feel the association needs to change, then it allows for a forum of discussion, debate, and learning, which ironically stems cooperation. When voices aren't heard because of the powers at be, then churches tend to split, causing schisms that stifle cooperation and ultimately the cause of Christ.
These are just a few points. If I sat around for a while, I could probably come up with a few more. Any additions to this would be appreciated.
tags: local church autonomy, denominations, missions
fundamentalism 2.1: a little ditty
Chuck Swindoll describes the Fundamentalist mindset in a little ditty that sums up the deep seeded problem of Fundamentalism.This would fall under fundamentalist who promote strict doctrine and separitism, or somewhere toward the middle of the gradient (doctrine + practice).
Believe as I believe no more, no less;
That I am right (and no one else) confess.
Feel as I feel, think only as I think;
Eat what I eat, and drink what I drink
Look as I look, do always as I do;
And then and only then I'll fellowship with you.
fundamentalism 6: conclusion
Secondary to the former, the other thing we can learn is that calling somebody a "fundamentalist" is really rather pointless. I think I have established that fundamentalism is at best a vague term used to describe a certain sect of people that have a high view of doctrine. The spectrum of fundamentalism is wide, and depends on whom you are talking to. To me, it has less to do with fundamentalism and more to do with name-calling. Rather than calling somebody a "fundamentalist", explain that person's viewpoint, ask questions, and seek clarity. Fundamentalist are stereotypically the ones who construct straw-men arguments. Calling people fundamentalist is hardly any different. Also, be prepared to be called a "liberal." These guys are the sworn enemy of fundamentalist.
tags: fundamentalism, name-calling
fundamentalism 5: seperation vs cooperation
After I wrote about the two extremes that can kill missions, I recalled reading some stuff in the Baptist Faith and Message on Cooperation that seemed to follow the same line of thinking as I do when I speak of the lowest common denominator for doctrine. Here is Article XIV of the BFM (emphasis mine):
Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ's people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.The SBC has prided itself on cooperation, and will cooperate cross denominationally so as long as it does not violate conscience or compromise loyalty to Christ or His Word. These phrases are somewhat ambiguous, but I think what it is saying is cooperation is ok if doctrine isn't placed aside, and in the case of the SBC, that would be the BFM.
The IFCA under section two of its doctrinal statement says:
Ecumenical Evangelism is that effort to promote the gospel by bringing fundamentalists into an unequal yoke with theological liberals and/or Roman Catholics and other divergent groups.While the language is a little more blunt that the BFM, It seems to be saying the same thing, although groups like the IFCA would consider people who reject dispensationalism liberal. I don't think that some fundamentalist and Southern Baptist are all that different in their approach, but the major difference is in how strict their doctrine is. The SBC doctrinal statement seems to be more compatible with a wider variety of churches while the IFCA does not.
tags: fundamentalism, separation, cooperation
fundamentalism 4: the lcd principle
I am a person who likes to read intent. I learn from what I have read, and apply it to my life and ministry. This is the motif of my blog: practical theology. Here are a couple things we can learn from fundamentalism.
There are basically two extreme both ending in the same results concerning fundamentalism. First, if you recall, fundamentalism was a backlash to theological liberalism. The fundamentalist I believe had their hearts in the right place when they decided to break away from the parent organizations, whatever they may be, because avoiding conflict lead to theological compromise. If this happens enough, all doctrine is thus eroded away, ultimately ending in some form of universalism, which kills missions.
The other extreme is the flip side of that coin, which is intentional separatism. Many fundamentalist groups pride themselves in their separatism, but separatism is just as bad as avoiding compromise. If it is allowed to perpetuate, schism upon schism will occur to the point that there is no cooperation. This too is the death of missions. There is no conceivable way that a single local church can reach the globe alone. Cooperation is absolutely required. If it does not exist, then missions will die.
Wade Burleson is right on his observations on narrowing the parameters for cooperation. It is going to the second extreme, and if it is allowed to continue, missions will die. If missions in the SBC are going to survive, then it has to strike a balance between the two. The principle I like to use is the principle of the lowest common denominator. This is a foundational set of doctrines that a group agrees so they can cooperate. For Southern Baptists, this should be the Baptist Faith and Message. This document by no means though is set in stone, and needs to be updated periodically to reflect the changing culture. The choice to cooperate is in the hands of the local churches because there is a bright-line. Certainly, some won't cooperate, but such a principle allows for cooperation without perpetuating either extreme, thus allowing missions to thrive.
lighthouse oh lighthouse
fundamentalism 3: evangelism
The groups whose adherents are most likely to possess biblical perspectives are also those whose adherents are most actively pursuing spiritual experiences. The churches where people?s beliefs have strayed farthest from the Bible tend to be those in which the people are least involved in religious and spiritual pursuits.Another study that compared the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to the Southern Baptist Convention shows that CBF churches ever since the split from the Southern Baptist Convention has steadily been declining. It takes 92 CBF members to baptize one person, while in the SBC, it takes 44 The CBF has often called he "conservative resurgence" in the SBC the "fundamentalist takeover". But the trends speak. The "fundamentalist" group is doing a better job of baptizing more than its progeny.
If anything, this should say something to fundamentalist who claim they are passionate about God's word, yet they are getting beat out by charismatics in terms of evangelism.
tags: fundamentalism, evangelism, doctrine
fundamentalism 2: definitions
Doctrine: These definitions leave out any kind of separatism from society, and have more to do with doctrine. Fundamentalism according to these definitions would include any organizations that defines fellowship based on doctrine.
Adherence to the theology of this movement (Fundamentalist Movement)
Self-described Christian fundamentalists see their scripture, a combination of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as both infallible and historically accurate. The New Testament represents a new covenant between God and human beings, which is held to fulfill the Old Testament, in regard to God's redemptive plan. On the basis of this confidence in Scripture, many fundamentalist Christians accept the account of scripture as being literally true.
Fundamentalists differ from Pentecostals in their strong insistence upon "correct" doctrine and often advocate separatism (which often also divides fundamentalists from each other) as opposed to the experiential emphasis of Pentecostals.Doctrine + Practice: Under these definitions, fundamentalism goes a step further, in that they will adhere to strict doctrine and practice a strict moral/purity code such that they shut themselves off from soceity in part or in whole.
We believe that all the saved should live in such a manner as not to bring reproach upon their Savior and Lord; and, that separation from all religious apostasy, all worldly and sinful pleasures, practices and associations is commanded of God.
A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.Doctrine + Practice + Militance: These definitions define fundamentalism as taking the two former groupings a step further, in that they lash out against those who don't agree with them. Not only do they define their themselves, they also define their enemies.
An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
I originally thought 3 concentric circles would be the way to go, but there is some gray here. Some of the speratist groups are not as strict as others for instance.
**Defnitions taken from Wikipedia, dictionary.com, and the IFCA's website.**
fundamentalism 1: foundations
The roots of fundamentalism came at the turn of the century in America when the United States was stuggling with the rise of modernism. Modernism brought a whole slew of new arbiters of truth that were replacing the Bible. For centuries, the gerneral consensus was that the Bible was God's authoritative word, and this went without question. The new authorties were science (in the form of evolution) and higher criticism, which began to question the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture as a whole, thus diminishing it to something less than divine.
In reaction to this, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (now the PCA) published a pamplet called that outlined the "five fundamentals" of the Christian faith. These are:
- Inerrancy of the Scriptures
- The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus
- The doctrine of substitutionary atonement through God's grace and human faith
- The bodily resurrection of Jesus
- The authenticity of Christ's miracles
my last SBC rant (for a while anyways)
Trying to discern what it means to be Baptist based on a set of confessions can be a daunting task, because each confession is written with certain presumptions and in a cultural context. Some of the earlier confessions didn't have to deal with modernism for instance, while the later ones did. Certain confessions are highly defined, such as the Second Philadelphia Confession, and others are rather pithy, such as the Sandy Creek Confession. The objective of this exercise was to gather a cross section of confessions that have been important to Baptists sense the 17th century and find the common threads through all of them. After reading the confessions, six areas came to mind. Each area will be discussed more in detail, but briefly, the areas are the inspiration of Scripture, the authority of scripture, a Trinitarian view of God, Substitutionary Atonement view of salvation (salvation by grace through faith), believers baptism, and local church autonomy. These six categories were placed vertically on a grid, and the each confession was placed horizontally across the top. Then excerpts or summaries from each confession were placed in the cells. The purpose was to give an overview of these 6 areas based on the confessions.
The first area reviewed was the inspiration of Scripture. Earlier confessions didn't really have much on the inspiration of Scripture. This to them went without question. The Standard Confession of 1660 didn't include anything about the inspiration of Scripture. The later confessions Such as the New Hampshire Confession and both Baptist Faith and Message documents did include a definition of inspiration. They all include the statement, "written by men divinely inspired." The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message adds to this saying that it is "God's revelation of himself to man." These statements on inspiration were probably included because the rise of high criticism that called into question inerrancy and inspiration of scripture. For Baptists, it is important to recognize all of Scripture as divinely inspired because it is seen as the authority. Authority will be discussed next, but if Scripture is not the literal word of God in that he inspired it, then it merely a religious document crafted by man, and is no more important than the confessions themselves.
The second common thread in all the confessions is the Authority of Scripture. The earlier confessions were writing primarily diminish an authority outside of te Scriptures themselves. When discussing local church, the Philadelphia Confession, which was based heavily on the Second London Confession, speaks against any authority other than Christ, and say the Scriptures should be the authority and believed because they are the Word of God. The Baptists in England had come out of the Anglican church which had a top down form of government and used things other than Scripture as the authority. The Baptist opposed this and were radically dedicated to doing church according to Scripture only. The later Baptist had a different battle, and as mentioned dealt with the rise of modernism, which is reflected in the latter Baptist faith and messages. The 1925 Baptist faith and message includes and entire article on science and religion primarily addressing evolution, but the overriding implication concerns the supernatural versus the natural. This 2000 Baptist Faith and Message excludes this statement. Many modernists saw Science, not the Bible, as the arbiter of truth. The conflict is still no different in that it is a human source of authoritative truth as opposed to divine. All the creeds agree that the Scriptures are the standard for faith and practice. They each differ on how they saw it, but the manifestation is still one in the same: Scripture is the regulator of doctrine and practice.
The last four areas really are a manifestation of the first two sense Baptist takes the Bible seriously. The Trinitarian view of God had been the orthodox view of God since the council of Nicea in 325 where Unitarian views of God were rejected. The battle wasn't settled at Nicea because Unitarian views of still exist in sects of Christendom such as the Jehovah Witnesses and the Unitarian Church. Baptists have traditionally held this view in order to maintain orthodox views of Christianity, and include it their confessions. The Baptist did deal with it at points in their history, particularly in England where some seemingly Baptist groups rejected the deity of Christ (cite notes). In modern times, the Baptist separate themselves from Unitarian Universalist groups and ecumenical groups that will not endorse a view of God such as this.
The fourth area where all the confessions will agree is on the substitutionary atonement view of salvation. This view says that became a man and died on the cross in the place of men in order to atone for their sin so they might live eternally if they just believe. Each confession expresses the view using slightly different terminology, but in essence all are saying that it was Christ work on the cross that paid for sin. The Standard Confession seems to allude to a ransom view of salvation, but also mentions propitiation, which would imply some form of substitution, in that Christ died in order to pay a debt owed by someone else. The act of Christ was an act of grace. There is no other way nor is any additional grace needed in order for salvation to be complete. There haven't been many battles fought over this view of salvation mainly because it was a product of the Reformation, where the Reformers rejected the notion of additional grace being imbued by the church. The concept of "Sola Fida" (faith alone) was established by Martin Luther, which the Baptists adopted in their confessions. The Campbellites in America rejected faith alone as being enough to save a person when they said that salvation is needed in order to receive remission from sin. This adds to faith being just enough. Baptist don't view baptism as a sacrament, but merely a symbol of what is happening in the spiritual life of an individual.
The namesake doctrine of the Baptist is believers' baptism, which is the one doctrine that separates Baptist from other groups that would agree on all other points of doctrine except this one. All six confessions referenced say baptism is believers only in water without a question. The Standard confession qualifies "Baptize" saying it is the English word "to dip", which strongly implies immersion. Immersion is mentioned explicitly on all of the other cited confessions, and in water in the last three. The Philadelphia Confession and the Standard Confession go to great lengths to debunk infant baptism, and even goes as far as to say it is unscriptural. The church, as they note is made only of baptized believers and nothing else. To say otherwise would be doing an injustice to the Bible. Baptists have always been somewhat at odds against most mainline denominations concerning baptism. For the most part, Baptists are the only denomination that exercises believer's baptism where it is merely a symbol and not done done on infants. Two major controversies come to mind concerning baptism and the Baptist. The first was with sucessionism, in that every Baptist had to be baptized by a Baptist. Any other baptism outside the Baptist church was unacceptable (class notes). The other controversy with the (as fore-mentioned) Campbellites who insist that baptism is necessary for the remission of sin. This is not the view held by Baptist, who believe it an outward symbol of an inward change.
The last of the 6 areas gleaned from the confession concerns local church autonomy. The earliest confessions don't explicitly call local church, "local church" but if one reads these confessions, he or she can see that the form of church polity these churches are suggesting is local church autonomy. They draw a line between the "invisible" and "visible" church, and reject any form of church headship other than Christ. The invisible church is all those who believe, and the visible church are those who meet together to fulfill the functions of a church. The Standard Confession and Philadelphia Confession strongly reject church hierarchies because both these documents were written by churches that spawned from the Anglican church, which has a visible head and many strata of authority. The Baptists have always gone to great lengths to insure that local churches remain autonomous. The later confessions had to deal with Landmarkism, which was an over emphasis on local church. They made local church so strict that any form of cooperation, such as in missions societies and conventions was strictly forbidden, and lashed out against such groups.
These six pillars are a very high level view of what Baptist hold near and dear, and each confession reflects each period's struggle to maintain these six areas. These areas are by no means definitive, but these represent the major distinctions that make a Baptist church a Baptist church.
Ever since the demise of the Baptist in England and the Baptist in the American in the North, the premiere Baptist group has been the Southern Baptist Convention. Two of the selected Confessions were crafted specifically to serve as confessions for the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention in the Uinited States is comprised of thousands of churches representing millions of Baptists. The Convention was organized in 1845 with the stated purpose of doing missions, and the first two boards that were organized were mission boards to manage missions in American and abroad. The first confession didn't come until 1925 at the same time the Southern Baptist Convention established the Cooperative Program, which is a cooperative effort in the Southern Baptist Convention to fund missions locally and around the world. Ever since it's organization, the Southern Baptist Convention has seen growth and has taken on a corporate structure with multiple braches and large, bureaucratic entities. These entities thrive in a modernist frame of mind that likes structure, however, there are winds of change blowing right now.
Perhaps the primary issue for Baptist in the future will be regarding politics. More and more people are gaining a distrust for political machinery. There has been a lot political manipulation that has gone on in the Southern Baptist Convention and some of it has been less then wholesome. Some see politics standing in the way of missions. It is probably not possible without authoritarian rule to have a system that does not have politics, but the challenge will be is to figure out how to minimize politics so that it doesn't stand in the way of reaching people for Christ. Many churches want to abandon the Southern Baptist Convention because of the ongoing bickering matches. Wade Burleson feels that the Southern Baptist Convention is worth saving and is a great mechanism for doing missions. The solution may lie in Steve McCoy's suggestion from a bottom up approach to influence. Rick Warren, who carries great clout in Southern Baptist Circles now change the minds of a number of peoples not by campaigning, but by fulfilling the Great Commission in Lake Forest, California. His influence has change the way a number of people do church now. This may be the way to invoke change without political manipulation.
The second issue for Baptists is going to be surrounding authenticity and experience. Postmodern thinkers are often willing to abandon pluralism for something they feel is authentic, with the emphasis on feeling, not head knowledge. They want transformation, not just intellectual ascent. This usually comes through experience, not through didactic lesions or formal training. Structured learning has been the norm in churches from at least the past two or three hundred years. Many postmodernist though want to learn from experience that is not artificial and want to belong to a community that is honestly seeking truth. Churches have to learn to communicate and probably emphasize the love Christ has for people and show that through lives radically devoted to God because of what he did for men on the Cross. Baptism will be not something that is done lightly, but should carry the significant spiritual weight of its implications. Those who call themselves Christians can no longer be good Christians by checking off lists, but rather by being devoted to Christ in ever aspect of life. This isn't that far removed from what drives Baptists separate from the churches they came from. The challenge to Baptists is going to be how they address this issue through restructuring church ministries not for the sake of restructuring, but for the sake of authentic transformation that teaches good doctrine and promotes radical commitment to God and the Scriptures.
A third challenge for Baptist is going to be pressures over denominational loyalty and local church autonomy. This is already being seen in issues surrounding Wade Burleson and the like who feel the denomination is handing down doctrine to the local church by the entities, not the churches, defining what is acceptable baptism. The issue could mushroom into a much larger one. Many feel that the Southern Baptist Convention has become exactly what it was trying to prevent itself from becoming, and that is a hierarchal denomination. Many church leaders came up in Southern Baptist Churches, were educated in Southern Baptist Seminaries, and have worked in Southern Baptist Entities for years. They have a strong sense of denominational loyalty because of this. If a church were to feel that it was time to cut ties with the Southern Baptist Convention as many are feeling, yet the staff are devoted loyal to the convention, this will create tension between where allegiances lie: the denomination for the local church. If the pastor is truly loyal to Baptist teachings, then he would have to side with the church, and not split the church over denominational loyalty. Joe Thorn is already dealing with this issue as he addressed it on his blog.
celebrate 613 commandments day!
he will require...
the song of the chior...
is unquestionably the norm...
shivers and quakes....
caused by the storms...
my hope is etherreal...
my vision unseen...
my future seems a whim...
my faith but a dream...
BUT IT'S REAL i TELL YOU!
SO So so real...
for now i will kneel
What if you were a pastor of a small Southern Baptist church in a county seat town in the middle of Ohio. Recently, you've been sensing that your congregation feels somewhat isolated from the town around them because Southern Baptist generally don't cooperate cross-denominationally. Being in the Mid-West, there aren't that many Baptist churches around. There is one about 20 miles away in the next small town over, but it is an independent Baptist church. Your congregation wants to get involved doing ministry in the community, but they also feel like they'd be compromising there Southern Baptist ties because the churches don't agree with their's on every point of doctrine. Feeling like an odd ball, the congregation starts a movement to cut ties with the SBC in order to cooperate with others that are not SBC churches. As a pastor, you went to an SBC seminary, you started the church with SBC support, and you go to great lengths to ensure that the church supports the Cooperative Program. What would you do? Agree with the congregation, and severe SBC ties, or tow the denominational lines in spite of what the congregation wants to do? Or would you do something else?
denominations part 2: the sbc
This post is sort of an extension to my last post in a way, because it does talk about denominational issues, although this post will address the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) specifically. I refer to the SBC as a denomination primarily for reasons of semantics, but to me it is not really a denomination based on the way I define it. I generally think of a denomination as a corporate entity with a top-down approach to church government with multiple layers of leadership and tightly controlled churches, such as the United Method Church, the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, or the Presbyterian Church (USA). These would be denominations in my way of thinking. The SBC is not because the convention (theoretically) has no control over local congregations, nor is there multiple levels of leadership beyond the church leadership. In conversations with SBC officers though, I got hissed at for not calling the SBC a denomination, but a convention. So for reason of conversation, I will call it a denomination. But like I said in my last post, if the SBC can be a denomination, then anything cooperative, formal or informal can be a denomination.
The definition I used as a handle to discern what causes schisms denominations, to recap, was over issues of faith and governance. I want to extend faith to include doctrine, and governance to include practice. There is a lot of overlap between doctrine and practice. It is hard to speak of them without really considering the other, but for simplicity sake, I will speak of them separately.
The traditional conflicts in the SBC have generally all been matters stricly concerning doctrine and not about practice. The publication of the commentary on Genesis that denied the event as be history saying that Abraham didn't actually hear from God and that he was following a cultural norm was challenged because it made the Bible non-literal. The conservative resurgence that caused a systematic take over by conservatives of SBC was to oust those who thought more liberally than the current SBC'ers. All this and more deal with doctrine, not methods. It seems that the contemporary issues concerning church planting deal with practice, which is being questioned.
Joe Thorn rhetorically asks the question, "When would we leave the SBC?" He answers, "When the Convention gets in the way of our work; when the SBC is working against our goals, vision, and theology," He does mention theology, and says that "fundamentalism chokes the missional life out of our work, or even as people who want change distract us from the most critical issues by focusing on political tug of war." He seemingly calls the conservative thinking of the SBC and its entities "fundamentalism." The term is vague at best, because it can incorporate doctrine and practice. For the most part, the SBC would agree with fundamentalist Baptist groups on most points of doctrine. The differnces between Southern Baptists and fundamentalists is that fundamentalists don't just lay out the grounds on which we will cooperate, but they go further by painting other groups as the enemy, and label them "liberals" or something like that. I am not denying that this happen in the SBC, and I would be fool if I did deny it. But I'd say that the majority of the SBC doesn't do this, and in fact wants to cooperate, but a few apples spoil the bunch sometimes if we allow it. This brings me back to the original observation then. It's not a struggle over doctrine, but a struggle of practice, and Joe thus hits the nail on the head with politics.
Steve McCoy builds the case, saying:
"Here's the big problem for me. Gaining influence through being better pastors and missional churches (my hope for us) and wielding political power (votes and forced change) are two ways to bring convention change. I don't question that. What I do question is the kind of change each brings, and the kind we should seek.
Being missional will lead to influence and then we can use that influence to bring internal change (convinced hearts), the political way will only bring superficial change (convinced by force)...If we really are about MISSIONS, then we must be about the big picture and lasting, internal change rather than over-reacting.... I think the reason political power is even on some minds of YL's (Young Leaders) is because we know a lot of rooms will be full of YL's in Greensboro. I think it opportunistic, and it will backfire."I think Steve thinking is right on concerning the Young Leaders. I have said it myself time and time again that grassroots level movements are the way to go in today's cultural, and grassroots level movements change hearts while political movements force change. I can't think of a better case and point than Rick Warren (gasp) and how he influences the denomination. His peers for wanting to plant a church in Lake Forest, California that was non-conventional and non-traditional scoffed Rick Warren in the early 80's. Now, he and his cohorts are the poster-children in churches across the nation. Churches are buying into their motifs wholesale, even big traditional mega-churches who 20 years ago would have laughed him out of the convention hall. Times are changing though, and the purpose-driven motif is waning. People are beginning to question its authenticity (McNeal and Barna to name a few) and effectiveness. The "missional church" movement is pioneering new ways to reach people with the gospel, and picking up where the purpose driven model leaves off.
It is no secret that American cultural is increasingly becoming more postmodern. Postmodern thinkers don't generally like huge corporations or bureaucratic entities, both of which the SBC and its entities are. Postmodern thinkers generally like to be hands on, and participate in the work that they are endorsing. This flies in the face of things like the Cooperative Program which people give to and never really see anything other than maybe an occasional missions brochure. They never actually see the workers they are supporting. Postmodern thinkers generally like to avoid conflict because of pluralism and relativism. There are no absolutes, so nobody gets in fights. Struggling over faith and doctrine seem pointless then. Who cares of you are liberal or conservative? To postmodernists, this gets in the way of progress. All this brings me full circle back to politics, and will address church planting networks.
Steve McCoy calls this new era "post-denominational." Increasingly, churches are beginning to look elsewhere other than the SBC as a way to fulfill it's missional calling. The question that Joe Thorn started with this stems from this thinking when the perception is that the SBC no longer aligns with the vision, theology, etc. of a church. Going back to what Joe Thorn said, the SBC sometimes gets bogged down in a political tug-of-war, which is where the frustrations can arise. Steve McCoy also offers the following:
Imagine this. What if some of us were to start and/or join stronger, local, post-denominationally minded networks that envisioned a whole new future for the SBC as it relates to evangelicalism. If many of us worked in this direction we just may have the footing in 10 years to shed old systems for better ones, and it may happen much more naturally than if we tried to use votes and power to change things. It certainly would be healthier.My initial response to this thinking was, no, it won't work, but the more I thought about it, the more I think it will. I think there is genius in Steve's thinking, especially concerning structures and systems in change. One thing I certainly believe in, and I am affirming is smaller, grassroots type work, and if these networks are the solution to the problem, then I am all for them. But I do have some reservation.
My first reservation is that church planting (strictly speaking) is not all there is to reaching people with the gospel. One church that comes to mind that reaches people with the gospel in a method that is not church planting is First Baptist Church of Leesburg, Florida. These guys have their "ministry village" which is a complex that offers a host of social ministries that are not connected to church planting. These ministries (or missions if you prefer) reach out to people in need, and the church should always be at the forefront of meeting needs. After Katrina hit, I was amazed how the grassroots aid, as chaotic and disorganized as it was, effectively ministered to those in need. It shocked the heck out me when a independent fundamental Baptist church teamed up with a charismatic church to set up a evacuee camp in Louisiana. I was there working with the camp on my own fruition as a Southern Baptist along side charismatics and fundamentalist. It was the church, not the government, who responded effectively to the call, and God has equipped is to do this, and we cannot deny this end of our mission. God has called us to do this and do the church planting as well in order to spread the gospel.
My second reservation is that the networks should not replace the SBC, and honestly I think they should support the SBC. Wade Burleson who has been at the forefront of criticism from various people at the IMB, says,
The SBC already has a mechanism in place for reaching a world in need of a Savior --- the International Mission Board --- and it would take at least a century for another evangelical missions sending organization to duplicate what the SBC is already doing. There are some who seem to be saying, "If I don't like what the SBC is doing, I'll just leave." I would propose that the SBC is in need of people who will tough out the bad times, be faithful in the rough times, and in general, give their finest efforts to better the SBC.I couldn't agree more with Wade's remarks concerning the SBC. He is speaking in reference to the International Mission Board, but I think it could be extended to the North American Mission Board as well. NAMB has hit a few snags recently, and maybe has had a rough decade, but just because it has not be performing at top notch doesn't mean it should be abandoned and left for dead. Marty Duren, editor of the "SBC Outpost" blog recently posted a question about what would some people do if they were to be elected as president of NAMB. A number of people posted different suggestions, a common thread through them all was that people would make name more focused on planting quality churches in strategic areas, working much like church planting networks do. I would add to that they continue the social ministries they do such as shelters, port ministries, construction ministries, and others. It could be that NAMB facilitate these networks, rather than being a network itself or something along those lines.
Ir is a crucial time for the SBC: do we continue to do things the way they have always been done, do we abandon the SBC for smaller, more localized ministry, or do we somehow revamp the SBC to allow churches to continue to cooperate in spite of the politics. I think the latter is the way to go. As I said in my last post on denominations, politics is the cost of cooperation. Wherever people are, politics are going to happen. It is unavoidable. Change, however can occur if people are willing to work with the SBC and stay true to the course.
takin' a hike