Below is part 2 of Walter Price’s California Baptist State Convention President’s Address. Walter Price is the Pastor of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, California.
What’s At Stake?
Let’s remind ourselves what is at stake? Evangelism/Missions: We live in a state with almost forty million people who are more un-evangelized than many other countries even in the 10/40 Window. With only twenty-one hundred churches we desperately need to work together to increase our witness.
Education: Also, we own one of the greatest Christian universities in the world. We must be ever diligent to maintain CBU as a distinctly Christian university, confessional in its nature, with a biblical worldview. I love the fact that our university identifies itself as a Great Commission University. But, lest we ever forget, the Great Commission is about the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I for one, to my last breath, will strive to keep it true to its calling.
Compassion: Disaster relief; concern for the poor and hurting; these are the kinds of areas where so much more can be accomplished as a community of churches rather than individually. In each of these areas I would suggest that our focus needs to be less on what the state convention can do for our churches and more on what our churches, together, can accomplish through cooperation.
How should we respond? First, some wrong ways. In Isaiah 39:1-8 we have the unbelievably selfish story of Hezekiah. When the representatives of the King of Babylon came to offer gifts to him he took them into his treasure house and throughout the land and showed them all that he possessed. Isaiah came and asked him what on earth he had done. Then he prophesied that everything Hezekiah had, everything he had shown them, would be taken to Babylon along with his own sons who would become eunuchs there. Listen to Hezekiah’s response: “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”
Some in my generation seem to have the myopic attitude of Hezekiah. Just don’t inconvenience me. Let someone worry about it when I’m gone. The CSBC has worked great for a long time. Don’t worry, it’s fine. Legend has it that’s what was said about the Titanic, even after striking the iceberg.
Another wrong response: Sadly, there are those in our national SBC who are already publicly positioning themselves to oppose the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, without even knowing what the report will say. Indeed, it hasn’t even been agreed upon or written yet.
Often our polity is at one and the same time our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. It is strength when the various autonomous entities work hand-in-hand for the good of the Kingdom of God. But it becomes a deep weakness when cooperation devolves into competition, togetherness into turf protection and synergy into selfishness.
I’d like to paraphrase my text from 1 Corinthians 3:
1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,
3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
4 For when one says, “I am of the National Convention,” and another, “I am of the State Convention,” and another, “I am of the Association,” and another, “I am of the Executive Board,” and another, “I am of the Foundation,” and another, “I am of the University,” are you not being merely human?
5 What then are all these, Servants through which the churches do kingdom work as the Lord has assigned to each.
We are all Southern Baptists. And please don’t respond with another tired joke about Baptist bickering. The time has long since passed for us to be ashamed of that reputation. That’s one of the main reasons the younger group has no interest in showing up at these conventions.
We do not need a new program or new slogan. Slogans can be effective rallying cries. Programs can be useful tools. Slogans and programs might have their day once again. But now is the time for transformation. We desperately need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. My prayer is that God will do that. I do not presume to know the mind of the Lord. I can only hope and pray that He is not finished with us yet.
A New Way of Cooperation
On October 2, 2006, the unthinkable happened. “Charles Carl Roberts IV carried his guns and his rage into an Amish schoolhouse near Nickel Mines, PA. Five schoolgirls died that day, and five others were seriously wounded.” (Amish Grace, Kraybill et al, p. xi)
In the aftermath of that horrendous event there was talk of the school children and, indeed, the entire Amish community finding what psychologists call a “new normal.” When there is a catastrophic crisis nothing will ever be the same. The situation demands a new normal.
That’s what I’m proposing today–a new way to do cooperation. We must find a new normal. If we do not become pro-active in this endeavor, the crisis is coming, the iceberg is dead ahead. It’s not a question of if it comes but rather when.
In the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic some very disturbing facts came to light. Perhaps the most significant was that the ship was not designed to withstand the rupture of the watertight compartments below deck. From the moment the problem became known, the designers of the ship knew it was doomed. It will not be enough for us to simply change course to avoid the iceberg. We need nothing less than a redesigning of the ship
What is that new normal? What is the new way of cooperation? I wish I knew. I wish someone else knew. But I have yet to talk to anyone who seems to have the answer. What I am crying for is the conversation. I’ve tried to begin it this year. Every time I’ve had the opportunity to address one of our entities I’ve said the same things I’m saying today in abbreviated form.
We need the right people in place to lead the discussion and we need to bring the right participants to the table for the most profitable input. All of us need to be willing to see radical change. On a larger scale than just us California Southern Baptists we need to find a way to transform the entire fleet, that means national, state and associational, not just our ship. But again, our autonomous polity will probably prevent that from ever happening.
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting down with two different groups of young pastors in their 20’s and 30’s. To say that I was deeply impressed by their hearts and their insight is to make a gross understatement. But there was one particular moment in one of those meetings that stands out to me. I want to leave you with this thought.
I asked the question: “If everyone in a position of any kind of leadership in our state convention age 50 and older dropped dead today, what would happen?”
For a few moments there was an intense silence. Then one of the young men said very quietly, “Well, I guess we’d have to start over.” To which another responded, in an almost anguished tone, “If we wanted to.” And they all nodded their heads.
I beg you. Let’s give them a reason to want to.
Baptist21 would like to make you aware of the California Baptist State Convention President’s Address. The President of the California Baptist Convention is Walter Price (check out his blog). Walter Price is the Pastor of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, California.
Baptist21 was provided this transcript by Mark Rogers and will post it in full. Below is part 1 of Price’s Address.
Delivered by Walter Price at the California Southern Baptist Convention on November 11, 2009
I love the Southern Baptist Convention…. Sometime around the middle of January, 1947, I attended Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi, for the first time. I was born nine months later. Yes, I was a Sunbeam. Now, your age, will determine your reaction to that statement. Some will rejoice. Others will stifle a yawn. But in the words of Ulysses Everett McGill: I am bona fide (as a Southern Baptist).
I love the California Southern Baptist Convention….Through the ministry of a CSBC church this life-long Baptist boy was truly converted by the grace of our glorious God. The majority of my adult life has been as a part of the CSBC. I am a California Southern Baptist.
I love my Association….I’ve had some world class DOM’s in the Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association, brothers whom I love and deeply respect.
I love the California Baptist Foundation….Through the ministry of the CBF helping our folks with their wills and trusts over $3.5 million has been committed to Kingdom work through the FITP Church in Beaumont.
I love California Baptist University….Cut me I bleed blue and gold; I consider myself a walk-on alumnus. Three of my five children have degrees from this school. God willing the fourth will this year and Omega will next year.
I’ve said all that because it’s important that you know from whence I come. I am fully aware that some, perhaps many, will not like what I have to say today. I can’t help that. But I do not say it as an outsider. I have simply prayed for God to help me say what needs to be said and to say it with a humble and gracious spirit.
TEXT: 1 Cor 3:1-9 (stand and remain standing by ages from 65+ down)
In his challenging new book on spiritual disciplines entitled Soul Shaping, Jim Wilson tells the story of how the loss of one little key to a lock was a major contributor to the sinking of the Titanic. “Historical accounts say his superiors reassigned second officer David Blair, the owner of the key, to another ship at the last moment. In his haste to leave the ship, Blair forgot to give the key to Charles Lightoller, his replacement. Because Lightoller didn’t have the key, he couldn’t open the locker that held the ship’s binoculars. Without the binoculars, lookouts in the crow’s nest had to rely on their unaided eyesight to scan the horizon for dangers. Because they didn’t see the iceberg in time, they couldn’t warn the captain of the impending danger.” (Jim Wilson, Soul Shaping, p. 24)
So far in this convention you have heard some wonderful heart-warming reports of great ministry taking place. I am deeply grateful. In every way I affirm all that God is currently doing through us. But that is not my purpose today. Today I want to try to be somewhat prophetic. Our situation as a state convention is critical and we are partying on the Lido Deck. This is one man’s meager attempt to get out the binoculars.
Please hear my heart. I am not here today to claim the demise of the CSBC. It hasn’t happened…yet. What I am here to say is, ‘There’s an iceberg off the starboard bow and we better wake up.’
What is the iceberg? You already know. You saw it yourselves when I asked you to stand by age groups. The time has come for someone to sound the alarm. I do not purport to speak for the younger generation. They are eloquent in speaking for themselves. But the signs that I see are not encouraging. For all intents and purposes, except for a very few exceptions, we have lost those in their 20’s and 30’s.
If that statement causes you to react against them from under your gray hair, you are way off the mark. These young Baptists are passionate for the Kingdom of God. They are passionate to see people from every tribe and tongue and nation gather round the throne and worship our Holy God. Theirs is not a youthful rebellion. For them it is a matter of (and this is my word not theirs) stewardship. Is this convention the way that God wants me to invest my life, my time, my energy, my resources? I’m afraid many of them are finding little reason to answer in the affirmative.
That doesn’t mean they don’t want to cooperate. They love the way we do missions, real missions, not the labeling of anything that moves as missions. They love our cooperative approach to education. They long to stand alongside others in compassion and social justice ministries. But they don’t want to be a part of what to them appears to be a bloated, wasteful bureaucracy.
We have bemoaned the absence of the young crowd for years now. The discussion in the hallways, bookstore and exhibit area has often centered on this concern. We have said we need to get them involved. But what we have most often meant by that is we need to get them involved to do things the way we’ve always done them. I think I can safely say to you today, they are not interested.
Another very subtle nuance to what I hear from the next generation is the object of their focus. When they do discuss the future of what we are doing in a positive light; when they do offer insight and hope into how the ship might continue to sail, their primary interest is focused on the long term of the national SBC, not the State Convention. We should pay attention.
Here is my prediction: First, without radical transformation soon, within 15-20 years (optimistically) the CSBC will be either extinct or impotent. We will be, at best, a loosely knit convention of various ethnic associations. I am in no way being critical of ethnic associations. They are already here and are doing wonderful things for the Kingdom. If anything, we should learn a lesson from them regarding our Baptist polity, and that is that it’s okay to have an Association based on something other than geography.
Secondly, without radical transformation, the Cooperative Program, as we know it, will no longer be a viable tool for cooperative Kingdom work. Some will accuse me of criticizing the Cooperative Program. They will be incorrect. I am deeply indebted to the Cooperative Program for many things in my own life. I love the genius of the Cooperative Program. But my indebtedness to and love for the method is not the issue. The issue is whether those who are coming behind us believe that this is the best way to use their time and resources. If they do not, it will die a natural death and it probably won’t be slow in the greater scheme of things.
Previous Sermons in the Series:
Part one of this series: (Lordship of Christ) – Philippians 2
Part two of this series: (Gospel-Centeredness) – Matthew 4
Part three of this series: (Commitment to the Great Commandments) – Matthew 22:34-40
Part four of this series: (Inerrancy and Sufficiency of the Bible) – 2 Timothy 3:14-17
The recording for part five is not available.
Part six of this series: (A Commitment to Biblically Healthy Churches) – Matthew 16
Jon Akin sermon series through the Axioms of the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration continues with Axiom 7, “A Commitment to Sound Biblical Preaching.” He has been taking his people through Bible texts that relate to the different Axioms of the GCR and showing why the local church should care about the GCR. In this sermon, Jon Akin takes his people through Acts 18.
Axiom 7 of the GCR States:
VII. A Commitment to Sound Biblical Preaching. We call upon all Southern Baptists to affirm and expect a pastoral ministry that is characterized by faithful biblical preaching that teaches both the content of the Scriptures and the theology embedded in the Scriptures. (2 Tim. 4:1-5)
Biblical preaching is central to building healthy churches that pursue healthy agendas within the context of a healthy Convention. We need a new battalion of well trained pastors who preach the whole Bible with clarity and conviction. Authentic preaching must develop systematically the Bible’s theological content. It should understand both the Old Testament and New Testament to be Christian Scripture that together communicates one grand narrative about the world’s creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, with the person and work of Jesus Christ as the climax of the Bible’s storyline.
We also believe that genuine preaching is more than mere Bible teaching, no matter how orthodox and articulate. Healthy preaching should apply biblical truths in a way that makes unchanging truths relevant to contemporary believers. It must also be gospel preaching that pleads with men to be reconciled with God and expects the living and powerful Word of God to produce results and usher in conversions. It must be preaching that convicts sinners, encourages saints, changes lives, and glorifies God.
My previous post dealt with the need for our churches to kill the “fuzzy gospel” – the imprecise understanding of Christ’s work on the cross being meant only to save the sinner rather than sanctify the saved as well. Here are five practical ways that I believe we can kill the “fuzzy gospel” in our ministries:
Look in the Mirror
Let’s not assume that the problem is entirely “out there.” We each need to ask ourselves a difficult question: “do I really understand the gospel with excellence?” Have I preached as a functional moralist who communicates that we are saved by grace, but sanctified by good works?
One of the major turning points in my life was observing the willingness of men I admired to confess that they didn’t always have a robust understanding of the gospel in their own ministries. Their willingness to repent and continue learning despite years of success challenged me to examine my own inadequate understanding of the gospel.
Quit Assuming People Get the Gospel
Just like we can’t assume that we get the gospel, we also can’t assume that our people get the gospel either. We often think that people have gotten the gospel and are ready to move onto something more complex in the Christian life because they have spent years, or even decades, in the church.
But can your people share their faith without relying entirely on a memorized presentation? Do they believe that they’re more loved by God because they attend church without fail and tithe? Do they understand that their sin is a gospel problem and not simply a “work harder at it” problem? If every Christian is to be Christ’s ambassador, challenge people to understand the gospel well enough to be an effective missionary for him.
Preach the Gospel the way Scripture does
It should astound us how often Paul speaks the gospel in his letters. He saw the issues that churches faced as gospel issues. When calling the Philippians to unity, he crescendos with the cross as the ultimate motivation to be unified for the gospel (Phil 2. 1-11). When telling the Ephesians about Christian marriage, he didn’t give three practical tips for making submission work, but instead calls for husbands to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). The gospel was the lens through which Paul understood the whole of the Christian life, and this was manifest in his writing and preaching.
Never tire of preaching the cross, no matter the biblical passage. If we are preaching through an epistle, preach the gospel with the same frequency and specificity as the text. If we are preaching one of the Gospels, realize that all four head to the same glorious finale. If we are preaching the Old Testament, remember Jesus’ hermeneutics lesson on the road to Emmaus that the entirety of the Old Testament is about Him and His gospel (Lk. 24). A Jesus-less sermon is not a biblical sermon.
Counsel the Gospel for all of Life
When I began understanding the gospel’s impact on the whole of the Christian life, a new question entered my counseling conversations: “how do you think the gospel speaks to this problem?” If a believer is asking my advice on some issue in his life, I’m helping him work through the practical nature of how the gospel speaks to this matter. It’s one thing to make a blanket statement that the gospel is for all of life, but it’s another to work people through those implications to help them see this for themselves.
We must help the man with the constantly nagging wife recognize that his love for her is not conditional on her behavior, and that he cannot remove his affection because she’s complaining yet again. He must see that he is to demonstrate the unconditional love of the gospel in his marriage, and recognize just how ugly he has acted toward the Savior who has refused to let him go. The woman who still carries the guilt from aborting her child a decade ago must know the sufficiency of the cross to cover her sins, and that God is not pleased by her perpetual shame, but rather desires that she would understand the magnitude of redemption. The gospel speaks into the entirety of life—become well-equipped at pouring God’s grace through Christ onto all of your counseling conversations.
Live out the Gospel’s Implications and Invite Others to Observe
I hope that I have not given the impression that if one can rattle off impressive theological keywords like “imputed righteousness” then that person gets the gospel. He may or he may not. As we begin to grasp the impact of the gospel on the whole of our lives, we must invite others in to observe how it impacts everything that we do. Allow people to see how the gospel determines the way you treat your wife and discipline your kids. Overtip the waitress who did a poor job at your lunch meeting, making this a glimpse into the gospel that tells us that we are not accepted because of our performance, but rather in spite of our failures. Make your life one where you are intentionally discipling others by living out the gospel. Be deliberate in communicating that it is this that rules all that you do. The best means of killing the “fuzzy gospel” may be to simply invite others to see how the gospel transforms every area of our lives, speaking both to our successes and failures.
Check out some of the recent blogging @ “Between the Times.”
The most recent series is entitled “The 21st Century SBC: Seven Crucial Aspects of our Mission.” Another series to check out is Danny Akin’s “Dispelling Myths Related to the Great Commission Resurgence.” These blogs are a must read for those concerned about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Below, Between the Time’s Bruce Ashford has provided baptist21 with a short description of each post in the “The 21st Century SBC” series and a link to those that have already been posted. Head to Between the Times and join the conversation.
The 21st Century SBC: Seven Crucial Aspects of our Mission
This introductory post states that Southern Baptists are more than merely an indiscriminate collection of congregations who practice believer’s baptism by immersion. We are distinctively Baptist churches who cooperate because we believe that our mission will be more effective if we combine our efforts rather than if we “go it alone, and the success of this cooperation depends, in part, on these seven aspects of our mission. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/10/29/the-21st-century-sbc-six-crucial-aspects-of-our-mission/
Aspect 1: A Mission Revealed in the Scriptures
This post argues that the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy are foundational to our missional cooperation. Without a sure word from God, we will soon lose our mission. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/10/30/aspect-1-a-mission-revealed-in-the-christian-scriptures/
Aspect 2: A Mission Based upon God’s Mission
This post shows the interrelation of three golden biblical threads: (1) God’s mission, (2) the church’s mission, and (3) the church’s cross-cultural and cross-linguistic mission. To ignore any of the three threads is to distort our mission. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/02/aspect-2-a-mission-based-upon-gods-mission/
Aspect 3(a): A Mission Focused on the Nations (An Awkward Tension)
This post speaks to the uneasy tension arising at the intersection of three facts: (1) God’s global and pan-ethnic intentions, (2) God’s declaration that salvation comes through Christ alone, and (3) the reality that there are upwards of 2 billion people who have never heard the gospel, while our network of SBC churches have the resources to reach them. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/03/aspect-3a-a-mission-focused-on-the-nations-an-awkward-tension/
Aspect 3(b): A Mission Focused on the Nations (Five Clear Challenges)
This post offers five clear questions the SBC will need to answer (continually) as we move forward. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/04/aspect-3b-a-mission-focused-on-the-nations-five-clear-challenges/
Aspect 4(a): A Mission Focused on this Nation (Confront the Brutal Facts)
This post argues that the SBC needs to confront the brutal facts: while the USA is increasingly diverse, the SBC remains a mostly middle-class, mostly-white network of mostly-declining churches. We need to change the way we preach and minister if this is ever going to be corrected. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/05/aspect-4a-a-mission-focused-on-this-nation-confront-the-brutal-facts/
Aspect 4(b): A Mission Focused on this Nation (Multi-Faceted, All-Encompassing, Church-Centered
This post argues that we must seek to glorify Christ (1) in every dimension of culture, including the arts, the sciences, and the public square, (2) not only in suburbs and rural areas but also in the big cities, (3) not only in the South but the Northeast and West, (4) not only to the middle class but to the poor and the elite, (5) and that all of these must center on church planting, church renewal, and cooperation. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/06/aspect-4b-a-mission-focused-on-this-nation-multi-faceted-all-encompassing-church-centered/
Aspect 5(a): A Mission Driven by Biblical Theology (Revelation, God)
This argues that we must have a theologically-driven missiology. The post then proceeds to show how the doctrines of God and revelation apply to actual ministry methods. It speaks about knowledge gained from non-biblical sources, and argues that a robust doctrine of God keeps from unbridled pragmatism. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/09/aspect-5a-a-mission-driven-by-biblical-theology-revelation-god/
Aspect 5(b): A Mission Driven by Biblical Theology (Christ, Spirit, Man)
This post shows how (1) the doctrine of Christ teaches us how to preach, (2) the doctrine of the Spirit teaches us about church planting, and (3) the doctrine of man teaches us how to minister to the whole man at all levels of his being, including the spiritual, moral, rational, relational, and creative/imaginative. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/10/aspect-5b-a-mission-driven-by-biblical-theology-christ-spirit-man/
Aspect 5(c): A Mission Driven by Biblical Theology (Salvation, Church, End Times)
This post shows how (1) the doctrine of salvation teaches us how to minister to Muslims and idolaters, and keeps us from magical/mechanical views of salvation (2) the doctrine of the church reminds us not to forsake the primacy of the local church, to be careful about what we count as a church, and who we count as a church member. http://betweenthetimes.com/2009/11/11/aspect-5c-a-mission-driven-by-biblical-theology-salvation-church-end-times/
Aspect 6(a): A Mission Centered on the Gospel (Factionalism, Non-Fellowship, Theological Triage, Liberalism, Fundamentalism, Calvinism, Contextualization) – LINK NOW AVAILABLE
This post speaks about the dangers of liberalism, fundamentalism, and factionalism. It speaks about unnecessary infighting, and about using “theological triage” to help sort out controversies.
Aspect 6(b): A Mission Centered on the Gospel (Spats, Straw Men, Infighting) – LINK NOW AVAILABLE
This post speaks about essentials, non-essentials, and methodological disputes. It is premised upon the belief that our infighting often distracts from, and contradicts, the proclamation of the gospel.
Aspect 7(a): A Mission Based on Local Church Initiative (National Convention, Seminaries, IMB) – LINK NOW AVAILABLE
This post argues for the primacy of the local church, over entities, institutions, and associations. It raises some questions and makes some suggestions about the future direction of the national convention. the seminaries, and the IMB.
Aspect 7(b): A Mission Based on Local Church Initiative (NAMB, State Conventions, ERLC, Local Associations)
This post raises some questions and makes some suggestions about the future direction of the NAMB, the ERLC, state conventions, and local associations.
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