In the last two posts, I mentioned a few of reasons why I love state conventions and what I’d like to see state conventions change. But change is hard. Yet, there are a few reasons why I think at this time state conventions are in a position to make more drastic changes than they could in the past.
I love the SBC. I’m all in with the SBC. That’s why I hope and pray the SBC will make drastic changes for the sake of the kingdom.
As mentioned in the last post, over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to talk to non-SBC pastors about moving their church to cooperate with the SBC for the advancement of the gospel. Not all of them have locked arms with us, but several have. Inevitably, in every conversation—no matter the state—the largest stumbling block to partnering with Southern Baptists is the state convention. In the last post, I mentioned a few of reasons why I love state conventions. In this post, I’ll mention a few ways people—who I agree with—wish state conventions would change. Every pastor I’ve ever talked with about this has voiced these concerns. Perhaps they’ll stir some helpful conversations.
I love state conventions. We give to the CP. I go to the state convention. And I’d love to see these changes made. I know it will be difficult to do so and that some would consider these drastic changes. But I think there are a few key reasons why leaders who are able should consider making these drastic changes. I’ll mention them in the following post.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several non-SBC pastors about partnering with the SBC for the advancement of the gospel. Not all of them have locked arms with us, but several have. In just about every conversation—no matter the state—the largest stumbling block to partnering with Southern Baptists is the state convention. Many times, it is the reason why a like-minded pastor will not partner with the SBC.
I know that state conventions, like any organization, need to make improvements. I’ll mention a few suggestions in the following post. But I also think state conventions give us a number of reasons to love what they’re doing. So I thought I’d mention a few of the things I’ve told those non-SBC pastors.
These are a few of the reasons I love state conventions. These are a few of the reasons why some non-SBC pastors have become SBC pastors. While I’ll mention a few changes I’d love to see, I want to be sure that I celebrate the grace of God evidence in their midst.
What would you add to this list?
The heart of Baptist 21 beats to a Christ-centered rhythm. We love Jesus and we long to see “all things united in him” (Eph 1:10). This longing to see all things united to Jesus, of course, includes the way Scripture is read. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. That’s why we are excited to see the publication of Jon Akin’s “Preaching Christ From Proverbs.” Please read the excerpt below and grab a copy of the book:
Several years ago I received the golden opportunity of going to dinner with a scholar who is basically the yoda of Christocentric interpretation. Other students and seminary professors were there as well, and after dinner, our host indicated that we could now ask questions of this renowned scholar. I was in the process of doing my doctoral studies on the Christocentric interpretation of Proverbs, so I was extremely excited because not only was this man a guru on the topic of Christ-centered interpretation, but he had done extensive work on Proverbs and the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. So, when it was my turn I asked, “I get the big picture stuff about how Proverbs points us to Jesus, who is the wisdom of God. But, as a Pastor trying to do expository preaching, how do you week-in-and-week-out preach Christ from the Proverbs? Practically, what does it look like in the details of the text?” He sat still for several seconds, and then he replied, “Well, it seems to me that in 1 Corinthians that Paul calls Jesus ‘the Wisdom of God,’” and then he nodded his head and said, “next question.”
Needless to say, I walked away from that encounter still confused about how to preach Christ from the Proverbs. Proverbs is an interesting book when it comes to how preachers approach the task of preaching it. Lots of preachers love preaching Proverbs because they love the practical, earthy advice about daily life in the book. These pastors desire to give practical how-to sermons to their people with tips on how to manage your money, or be a better spouse, or control your tongue. Many pastors love Proverbs because they feel it avoids “deep” theology and gives people what they really need, practical tips for daily living.
However, other preachers see Proverbs as a challenge and shy away from preaching it. The expositor is leery of Proverbs because it does not lend itself to verse-by-verse preaching. After chapter 9, the book seems random and A.D.D. Proverbs also presents challenges to the gospel-centered preacher because it seems moralistic. The very reason that drives some preachers to love it, it’s earthy tone, causes other preachers to avoid it because they do not want to give a new legalism with a set of tips (aka rules) on how to be a good Christian. To gospel-centered preachers it seems that Proverbs is about moral or practical tips for living daily life that are abstracted from Christ. Are the Proverbs simply the Israelite version of “Dear Abby?” Is Proverbs simply about giving practical advice that we are to follow? Where is Christ in all of this?
As we look to the Bible, we see quite clearly that Proverbs is not about skill for living life abstracted from Christ. Instead, the Bible says that the point of Proverbs, just like all of the OT Scriptures, is to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim3:15). And, the Bible says that Proverbs is profitable “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). So, according to Paul, the purpose of Proverbs is to save and sanctify those who hear it. Those who hear the Proverbs will be saved by Jesus and made like Him!
And yet, many preachers are skeptical toward preaching Christ-centered sermons in Proverbs. One of the popular places for opponents of Christocentric preaching to look for evidence that one cannot preach Christ from all of the OT is Proverbs! They claim that attempts to preach Christ from Proverbs are contrived and do not deal appropriately with the text. So, the question remains, “Can we preach Christ from the Proverbs?” If so, how?
Jon’s new book, “Preaching Christ From Proverbs,” will “explain how a preacher can preach Christ from the Proverbs in such a way that our unbelieving hearers will place saving faith in Jesus and our believing hearers will be made like Him. It will walk through the main features of Proverbs and explain how to preach the Proverbs in a Christ-centered way.” You can get this important work here.
Oxford University is concerned about pork. They wrote that writers should avoid mentioning “anything else which could be perceived as pork.” And while it is certainly good and loving to try to avoid unnecessarily offending each other, the timing of this adjustment is a bit curious. Why after hundreds of years of publishing did Oxford University press decide this was the time to make that specific adjustment? Coming in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy by a violent group of Muslims, it isn’t hard to see why Oxford might make this move for Muslims, while forgetting a wide range of other religions’ preferences. Violent Muslims are striking fear in the hearts of their neighbors.
But violence isn’t the only action that produces fear. A fire chief in Atlanta was fired for his views on sexuality, even though he was said to have never discriminated against anyone. Bakers and florists are being forced to provide services for weddings that they believe are wrong. College student ministries are being removed from campuses because of their views on sexuality. Even here in Nashville I’ve heard stories of employers asking their employees their views on sexuality.
It would be easy for Christians and people of good will to act out of a fear of their neighbor—whether it’s a violent Muslim, a religious liberty hating American, or anyone else that might seek to do them harm. It would be easy to live a life in a constant state of fear that there might be some misstep that could cost you your reputation, your job, or your life.
But does anyone want to live in that kind of world? Does anyone want to live in a world where that kind of fear is the norm? I don’t. A world where fear reigns is a world were creativity, beauty, truth, and goodness disappear. It’s a world where the unique gifts and skills that each person has to offer are missing. It’s a world that doesn’t achieve greatness. It’s North Korea.
But a life motivated and controlled by a fear of our neighbors isn’t the only way to live. There’s an alternative. We can choose to love our neighbors, opening ourselves up to whatever may come. We can choose to create a world where love reigns. Because when love reigns, creativity, beauty, goodness, and truth flourish. But in order to love in this way—to create this world—we’ll have to access the unique resources offered in Christianity’s gospel.
In short, a fear of neighbor can only be overcome when our fear of death is overcome. As Christians, we uniquely believe that our Savior defeated death through his substitutionary death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. We believe that he now freely offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to a world that can receive this gift by faith. When we receive this eternal life we don’t have to fear our neighbor—even if death makes it to our front door—because we believe our Savior will undo any terrible act done to us. In Christ, death becomes a comma, not a period. Our best life is on the other side of the grave and it’s eternal.
Christians are uniquely equipped to create the kind of world we all want to live in because we are able to deal with this ultimate fear—the fear of death. In Christ, the fear of death is overcome which enables us to overcome fear of neighbor. This frees us up to love our enemies, to give our lives to creating a world where this kind of love reigns supreme, and to create the conditions needed for creativity, beauty, goodness, and truth to flourish.
If there’s no Christian God, then there should be great fear. After all, in this view your life is only in your own hands or the neighbor that intends to surprise you with great harm. Those that would intimidate your life control your life because there’s no God big enough to control them or undo their horrible acts. So fear is the rational response of those that don’t have a God powerful enough to raise them from the dead.
Let’s not live that way. Let’s not create that world. The world needs love, not fear. Only Christianity has the resources not to fear even the most fearful situations—the possibility of death. Why? We believe in a God who promises to raise us from the dead. Let’s not flinch, and let’s not hate in the face of intimidation. Let our fearlessness in Christ drive us to love our neighbors, whether they take our jobs or kill us for cartoons.