Baptist21 is pleased to offer the full collection of Jon Akin’s sermons through Proverbs. Inspired by his PhD dissertation, Jon walks through the book of Proverbs verse-by-verse and theme-by-theme, offering a Christocentric interpretation of the text and practical application to our lives today.
In these sermons, Jon examines how the Proverbs are linked to the law and eschatology. Solomon is obeying Deuteronomy 6 in Proverbs as he teaches the law to his son, for it is only through faithfulness to the Torah that the Messianic kingdom will be established (Deuteronomy 17). Therefore, the proverbs are not generally true bits of advice; they are promises that always come true sometimes now but always later. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Proverbs and is therefore the wise Messiah who brings the blessings of wisdom to the world (cf. Isaiah 11).
Dr. Akin’s sermons through Proverbs are an invaluable resource in discovering Christ as the center of Proverbs. These sermons were delivered in 2012 and 2013 at Fairview Church in Lebanon, TN. Find these sermons on our resource page: www.baptisttwentyone.com/baptist21-resources/
In this post we will be extending the final installment of Jonathan Leeman’s breakout session at the Virginia Baptist Convention entitled “So is the ‘Baptist’ Brand Really Worth It?”
We at B21 hope this series of posts has been helpful to spark thoughts and conversations about the importance of Baptist distinctions in the contemporary church culture.
How can we both emphasize Baptist distinctions of regenerate church membership and congregationalism while appropriately supporting the gospel work of non-Baptists?
I’m not sure who first said it, but I like the proposal that we who belong to different denominations should keep the fences between us clear, low, and shake hands over them often.
Yes, at first glance, the world will see division simply based on the church signs of “First Baptist Church” and “First Presbyterian Church.” But if they bother to look any closer, they should also see plenty of hand-shaking, love, and partnership in the gospel.
So how do we work against an unhealthy tribalism?
1. Recognize that different kinds of cooperation allow for different levels of agreement. I won’t plant a church with a Presbyterian, but I’m happy to evangelize with him.
2. Pray for other churches (of multiple denominations) from your pulpit. Whoever is leading the pastoral prayer on Sunday morning in our church always prays for other gospel-preaching churches, including other churches in our city, including churches of other denominations, including bigger churches! This helps to kill the ungodly competition and turfiness that is so common among pastors and churches. Their success in the gospel is our success in the gospel. We’re all playing for the same team.
3. Read non-Baptist authors, and recommend and sell good books of non-Baptist authors.
4. Attend non-denominational conferences like Together for the Gospel.
5. Discerningly support non-denominational evangelistic work.
6. Occasionally invite non-Baptists as guest preachers.
A final thought: the less we emphasize and even idolize certain cultural distinctives of the Baptist brand and identity and the more we emphasize the Baptist doctrinal distinctives of believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, and congregationalism, the more impact we can have across the various evangelical tribes. My church does not belong to Acts29 or the Willow Creek Association; it doesn’t use the language of “purpose-driven” or “missional”; but I do think churches who identify with all those tribes will be more obedient to the Bible, more internally healthy, and better witnesses to the non-Christians around them by practicing believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, and congregationalism.
Bottom line: the contemporary world of marketing is all about getting your brand right, and everyone wants to brand themselves. Therefore I do think it’s good to refer to ourselves as “Baptists” even on our church signs, if only of the sake of truth in advertising. That said, let’s make sure it’s the smallest word on our sign, and let’s instead do the subversive thing by pointing people to what the Bible says about these few, simple doctrinal distinctives.
In light of the recent launch of Ministry Grid, B21 will be running a set of three posts from different voices in the SBC on the importance of raising up leaders in the local church.
Make a Disciple, Make a Leader
“Every problem we have is a leadership problem.”
While certainly reductionistic, this phrase has been a mobilizing anthem and defining conviction for engaging the mission of God at The Austin Stone. Over the last ten years, we have encountered countless barriers to advancing the gospel, many seeming insurmountable. While we trust Jesus to accomplish His work, we have found that God’s answer is usually found in new leaders being raised up. While many churches will spend hours and hours designing and developing new strategies and tactics for solving the problems of ministry, we have found a very simple solution to most problems.
We develop leaders and leaders solve problems.
No matter how big the problem, no matter how monumental the task, God has consistently shaped history using human leaders. Broken…of course. Flawed…absolutely. Weak…you bet. Still, these people, despite all their shortcomings, are called leaders. So how do we make a leader for God’s mission?
If you want to solve a problem, make a leader. If you want to make a leader, make a disciple.
As the missional landscape grows in complexity, the fundamental method to engage mission and make leaders does not. Discipleship is God’s plan, plain and simple. For all the conferences, books, and blogs about developing leaders, the fundamental way that God makes leaders for His mission is through discipleship.
Making disciples and leaders for the mission of God always begins, continues and ends with the gospel of Jesus. The primary content of discipleship is the Scriptures which unpack the gospel. The context of discipleship is relationship. That’s right, the good old-fashion, life-on-life, person-to-person, dirty, messy, teaching-people-to-obey-all-that-Jesus-has-commanded kind of discipleship. It’s not edgy, but it is true
We make leaders by making disciples.
The more I study God’s Word, the more I am astounded at what Christ did through the leaders He trained. What God did through twelve men in just one generation is profound. You take out Judas and it’s only eleven! Not many leaders can boast the ministry success of the twelve. Yet, when I look closely at Jesus’ method for training twelve of the most successful church leaders in history, I am perplexed at the simplicity of His methodology.
Jesus invested in a few to reach the many.
Are you investing in the few to reach the many, or are you investing in the many to reach a few? Do you focus your attention and resource on discipling others to become leaders or do you continue to pour time and energy into the crowds alone?
Like Jesus, we must be committed to disciple a small, identifiable, accountable, and devoted group of potential leaders. Large events, books and even sermons are certainly useful, but if we are to make leaders for God’s church, we must train others like He did. There is simply no short cut. The content without the context is weakened and dangerous. In fact, leadership education outside the context of discipleship often produces pride, arrogance and independence. When leaders are discipled, however, they learn first to obey Jesus. When this context is combined with the content of Scripture and the wisdom of other leaders given as common grace, it produces the kind of leader who biblically, skillfully, and gracefully solves even the biggest problems faced in ministry.
For many of us, the problems we encounter in our ministries seem impossible. The challenges appear insurmountable. The burdens are hardly bearable and have no end in sight. How can all of this be solved? Has God given us insight into the solution? The answer is plain in the life of Jesus.
Develop leaders by making disciples.
There is no better strategy for leading the church to health than to make disciple-leaders to join you in leading. Many leaders in the church have never intentionally engaged a distinct group of potential leaders in discipleship. For others, it has been far too long. Let me encourage you; there is no better time to start or start again than now. Your ministry depends on it.
While content is not enough, it is necessary.
In fact, one of the most important tasks in making a leader is filtering content to those you are developing. Recently, I have connected with those building Ministry Grid. Ministry Grid is an online tool that offers a helpful way to bring good content to bear on your discipleship group. Ministry Grid was built with disciplining leaders in mind. It is designed to help leaders make leaders by leveraging great content for transformational relationships.
KEVIN PECK has been the Lead Pastor of Austin Stone Community Church (Austin, TX) since 2004. His primary role is to lead and develop elders, deacons, and other leaders. He serves on the Advisory Council for Ministry Grid.
In this post we will be extending the third installment of Jonathan Leeman’s breakout session at the Virginia Baptist Convention entitled “So is the ‘Baptist’ Brand Really Worth It?”
Question 2: Why should we emphasize congregationalism? Again, we should for three reasons. It’s biblical. It helps Christians to partake of their gospel work. It strengthens the church’s witness.
Congregationalism is biblical.
First, congregationalism is biblical. Who does Jesus task with excommunicating the unrepentant man in Matthew 18? Not the pastors. Not the deacons. He tasks the church.
Same thing in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul doesn’t tell the leaders to hand the man over to Satan. He tells the church.
And in Galatians 1: who does Paul say should stop allowing the false teachers to teach a gospel other than the one he preached to the church? Is Paul writing to the pastors, telling them to get the false teachers out of there? No, He’s telling the churches.
That brings us to the second reason we need to emphasize congregationalism…
Congregationalism helps Christians partake of their gospel work.
It’s the job of the whole congregation to guard the what and the who of the gospel. Church membership is an office. It’s a job. And every one joining your church should know that they now have a job to do: to guard the what and the who of the gospel. What is a right profession of the gospel? And who is a credible gospel professor.
That means, church leaders, you need to equip them to do their jobs. You need to make sure they know the gospel well.
It’s strange to me how even Baptists are sort of reluctant about congregationalism. I get this because there are so many bad examples of it. But again, that’s like saying there’s bad examples of marriages. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And that’s where I’d point Baptists even to the PCA, who has congregations vote on their pastors, or even the OPC who has congregations vote on excommunication!
When you take the vote or governing authority out of the hands of Christian, you weaken the Christian and you breed Christian nominalism. I don’t have historical studies to prove this. But I think a casual look at church history would suggest that the further you remove authority from the hands of ordinary Christians—whether from a world-wide episcopacy based in Rome or Constantinople or from the state churches of Europe—the more you tempt people to nominalism (yes, I know there are other problems with Catholicism concerning the definition of faith).
Non-congregational polities—elder or pastor rule—effectively fire Christians from the job responsibilities assigned to them in the gospel. Do you want to cultivate a culture of discipleship in your church? Do you want to fight against Christian nominalism and Christian complacency? Then don’t fire Christians from the jobs, but keep people in their jobs by training them in how to do their well.
You strengthen a soldier not be letting him stay back in the supply tent, but by pushing him out onto the bridge and telling him to guard the bridge. So you who are pastors should be saying to your members, you’re responsible to guard the what and the who of the gospel. If I as you pastor compromise the gospel, fire me. If member 362 starts living in unrepentant sin, and brings shame on the name of Christ, that’s your responsibility. So get to know your fellow members now.
Congregationalism is not about arguing over the color of the carpets, or requiring the pastor to get congregational approval if he wants to buy a new photocopier, or putting microphones in the aisle during members meetings so that you an publicly oppose the pastors. It’s about the congregations having final say in matters of membership and discipline (Matthew 18) as well as in doctrine and who the pastors are (Galatians 1). Otherwise, members should learn to submit to their leaders (Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 5, Acts 20).
Congregationalism strengthens the church’s witness.
Finally, congregationalism strengthens the church’s witness. When you have a church filled with people who know how to clearly articulate the gospel, and who know it’s their responsibility to guard and protect one another in the gospel, what do you have? A strong and healthy church, whose members are better equipped to share the gospel with their non-Christian friends and neighbors.
Christians don’t think, “Hey, my pastor’s job is to share the gospel, so if I can bring my non-Christian colleagues to the church service, he’ll here the gospel!” No, they know that it’s they’re job to know and to live and to share the gospel.
All in all, I believe a congregational church that equips the saints for the work of the ministry, and for guarding the what and the who of the gospel is a church with a brighter and healthier witness.
Brothers, the Baptist distinctives of believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, and congregationalism are not essential to salvation, but they are importing for guarding what is essential. The Baptist distinctives are not the glistening diamond of the gospel, but they are the platinum prongs which hold that diamond in place.
Jesus took them seriously. We should take them seriously.
Guest Post by Brian Davis: Brian is a Christian Hip Hop Artist who goes by the name God’s Servant. Brian is currently a church-planting intern with at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and is planning to plant in Philadelphia. Brian also completed the internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
Like many, I was shocked by the recently released panel from the NCFIC on “Reformed Rap”. I wanted to chime in on the dialogue and offer some thoughts- both as an individual that is sympathetic to the panelists’ theological bent, as well as one who is a Hip-hopper culturally. There seems to be a lack of people who identify with both worlds, so I figured I would cast my lot in the pile. I hope it is helpful to the conversation.
I do want to preface by saying that I think these brothers are probably very godly men. While I haven’t heard of all of them, I have heard of some of them and their reputations are those of men who love the Lord, His Word and His church. My response is aimed at interacting with the thoughts they shared, not to make statements about the men themselves. I am sure this video is not reflective of the state of their godliness or the best barometer at assessing their lives–lives which are probably marked with decades of faithfulness to our Lord. I want to honor these men in the Lord, thank them for caring about the glory of God and share my thoughts to hopefully aid in future discussion towards unity in the body.
With that being said, I can’t help but lament how careless these brothers were in their language, and how revealing it is of a cultural elitism that is far too welcomed in Christianity and made at home by some of our leaders. When speaking of Christian maturity, we do not bring up the prevalence of the fruit of the Spirit in peoples lives, or their rootedness in the Word of God and how firmly they cling to the gospel. Rather, we reference sideways hats, music styles and earrings, as if that is somehow a good measurement of maturity from God’s point of view? Where is that in the bible?! We would all do well to do as these brothers suggest- adhere to every word we find in Scripture to ensure our worship is acceptable to God. However, the converse of such an admonishment is that we must be equally careful not to add to God’s Word in our efforts for purity in worship. By neglecting the former we end up like Nadab and Abihu; by neglecting the latter we end up like the Pharisees.
In an attempt to respond to some of the principles presented in the panel, I thought I would take a slightly different approach. Rather than going argument for argument (there have been several responses done in that format), I thought I would select a few key issues surrounding the conversation and try to interact with them. It seems to me that the issue in this debate (which is no new debate at all) is the mishandling of the bible, the confusion surrounding culture and the clouding of the glory of God.
1. The Mishandling of the Bible
The words of the psalmist echo in my mind here, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word” (Psalm 119:9). What a comfort this is! The Bible is a blade to cut through all speculation with a two-sided edge. On the one edge, it cuts down the careless heart that recklessly wanders into the presence of a Holy God. On the other edge, it cuts away the legalistic heart that would require something of a worshipper that God does not require in His Word. Some of the biggest straw men arguments that I hear lobbied against Christian Hip-Hop accuses those within the culture with phrases like “worldliness”, fleshy/flesh feeding, carnal, immature, etc, Now, while this sounds very God honoring and considerate (and I believe the brothers who make these accusations intend to be), it lacks exegetical integrity and hermeneutical care as it rips biblical phrases out of their contexts and seeks to apply them in ways that cannot be biblically sustained. For instance, to insinuate, as this recent panel did, that Christian Hip Hop is bad because God doesn’t just care about what’s being said but how it is being said and that anyone who holds to the sufficiency of Scripture should agree… is quite simply, ridiculous.
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