Send New Orleans: The Opportunity
The harvest is plenty as twenty-five percent of Louisiana residents live in the New Orleans region. Reaching New Orleans with the gospel would impact the entire state. This great American city has endured a tremendous amount of pain following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, yet it continues to boast a proud local culture that celebrates its uniqueness through food, sports teams, music, and regular festivals.
Though it is located deep in the South, New Orleans more closely resembles a European city than it does one in the Bible belt. There is a great Catholic influence, which often creates confusion between understanding religion and actually believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. As of 2012, over 900,000 people live New Orleans, yet we have only one SBC Church for every 8,011 residents. During our visit, our staff took an uncomfortable walk down Bourbon Street and felt like we were walking through Sodom or Nineveh. We prayed we would see the city the way Jesus would, and have great compassion.
In the face of a culture of lostness, the good news is that Southern Baptists are currently perceived mostly positively in this ethnically and religiously diverse city. This is largely due to the election of locally revered Pastor Fred Luter as the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as the outstanding response by the SBC to the disaster following Katrina. With such an opportunity to truly reach a city in desperate need of Christ, the time to act is now.
I am confident that NAMB has the right plan in place to push back the lostness currently stretching across this unique city. With more than seventy distinct neighborhoods for residents to claim as home, a parish-type model of planting a minimum of one church per neighborhood is what it is going to take to reach this city. One neighborhood at a time, we will push back lostness through healthy church planting and disciple making.
Land and buildings required to plant are rare finds in this dense and crowded city, and that is going to be a great barrier to this mission, especially in the necessary model of reaching over seventy neighborhoods. Abandoned church buildings, a common sight in the city, have great potential to serve as local catalysts to new works.
Sadly, it seems that many of these resources (both church buildings and baptist properties) currently remain untapped. On our recent tour, several of these abandoned churches were pointed out to us. We even saw one on Magazine Street, one of the greatest areas for local culture in the city. We were told that post-Katrina, the congregations formerly filling these buildings were sadly forced to vacate and the churches did not survive. The structures, however, remain.
I believe that if these historic buildings were utilized to build healthy churches once again, the investments made by generations of believers would not be in vain, and the city could see its greatest days ahead.
Send New Orleans: The Challenge
That sounds great, doesn’t it? Church buildings and baptist properties used by church plants from our own denomination to battle lostness in a Send city is a slam-dunk, right? It should be, except for the challenge presented by the New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA).
As proof of God’s continued work in this city, NOBA now owns several of these vacant buildings. Tragically, it seems the Association is not interested in using these properties as facilities for church planting, the reason given that they would rather sell the buildings in order to fund local social justice ministries.
While we should celebrate compassion ministries that show love to the city, the money invested in these ministries will be spent and gone for good. Allowing a church or NAMB to have the buildings will support an initiative whose legacy will last for generations. One would think that starting and maintaining healthy churches would be the priority for a local association, rather than social programs. In fact, new plants could oversee social justice efforts that operate as ministries of their own, allowing local churches to bless the neighborhoods where they are planted. This also would give them another avenue for effective evangelism.
Send New Orleans: Time to Act
Available space is obviously a massive issue for planting churches in New Orleans, and as a result, becomes a barrier to the forward movement of the gospel in the city. In several of the neighborhoods currently being targeted by Send New Orleans, baptist properties exist, buildings that are owned by the New Orleans Baptist Association. Are you scratching your head like I am? I know the people of the Association are good folks doing good gospel work, but this is unacceptable. Far too often, bureaucracy causes us to be timid in calling something as it is. Whether this is an issue of turf protection or something else, it must change as soon as possible. Let us pray together, and even demand for this to happen. I am calling on the New Orleans Baptist Association to donate those properties to NAMB. Let the process of reaching that great city with the gospel of Jesus Christ begin through healthy church planting. The plan is in place, it is time to act.
-Dean Inserra, Lead Pastor of City Church, Tallahassee
Update: B21 requested and is waiting for a response from the New Orleans Baptist Association.]]>
Our lives are a little bit like this. Although every “arena” in our lives should display our love for Jesus—whether we are eating, drinking, or whatever we do—there are a few key arenas that stand out above the rest (1 Cor 10:31). There are a few key arenas where our love for Jesus faces its greatest competition. So as you make your way through 2015, I’d like to offer 3 arenas to focus on showing your love for Jesus.
Show Your Love for Jesus Through Personal Bible Consumption and Prayer
It doesn’t matter if you have a “date night” every week, if there isn’t genuine, focused listening and talking, your marriage relationship won’t grow. Checking things off a list won’t grow a relationship, real communication will. And this isn’t unique to marriage. If you want to grow any relationship there has to be talking and listening.
The same is true with Jesus. If you say you love Jesus but you don’t consistently spend time listening to him through his word and speaking to him in prayer, you don’t love Jesus. Your relationship with Jesus won’t grow. This doesn’t mean you have to read the whole Bible through. There isn’t a verse in the Bible that says you need to read the Bible through in a year. I’d rather see people read Ephesians over and over all year than read 30 chapters of Genesis and never read the Bible again. Your personal Bible consumption and prayer life are a key arena to display your love for Jesus in 2015.
Show Your Love for Jesus Through Your Work
I knew Tom was a spy. At least, I thought I knew. Tom is the husband of Elizabeth Keen, one of the central characters on the show Blacklist—a show filled with spies. But it was difficult to know if Tom was a spy for sure. After all, he acted like a normal husband in a lot of ways. He had a job and a wife and friends.
But over time, we began to see actions that let us know that he was indeed a spy—he was controlled by someone outside of his immediate situation that impacted the way he acted. His devotion to another controlled his work.
Christians are called to work like that. Only, instead of being controlled by evil direct reports outside of our context, we should manifest the righteousness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and excellence that our real direct report—Jesus—values. Sure, most of the time there won’t be any difference between us and our co-workers, but over time our love for Jesus should become clear. The way you approach your work—whether paid or unpaid—is a great arena to display your love for Jesus in 2015.
Show Your Love for Jesus Through Your Money Management
One of the main ways private investigators help spouses catch their spouse cheating is through the finances. The reason why this is such a consistent part of a PI’s work is because it is such an accurate indicator of what our heart loves. Sure, many of us spend our money on similar expenses—housing, gas, food, fun. But amongst these cheating spouses there is usually a strange pattern of giving that gives their true heart’s affection away.
Similarly, the Christian’s spending habits should indicate a heart affection that seems strange—not because of some love affair with another person, but because of our love for Jesus. A Christian’s spending patterns should reveal obvious indicators of their love for Jesus and his ways in the world. Whether that is 10% of your pre-tax income or more, we’d be hardpressed to look at the New Testament (Acts 2, 4, Heb 10, 2 Cor 8-9) and come to the conclusion that we should give less than 10% of your income toward the advancement of the mission of Christ. The way you handle your money is a great arena for showing your love for Jesus in 2015.
How are you doing in these key arenas for love of Jesus? Are you making a strong performance? Is there evidence that you love Jesus more than acclaim, security, power, control, and your reputation? If you’ve failed at these, don’t walk in shame and condemnation. Confess your shortcomings and sins to Jesus, experience his forgiveness, and walk in the freedom he has purchased for you on the cross in 2015 (1 Jn 1:9; Rom. 8:1).]]>
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.
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So as you consider all the weight you want to lose, the debt you want to pay down, and the bible reading plans you want to dominate in 2015, I’d like to point your attention to three keys to a great 2015.
I went to my first Nashville Predators game the other day. And as much as I’d like to say otherwise, it was awesome. While you still couldn’t pay me to watch it at home, I’d pay to go to another game. Unlike football games, the action is non-stop. But like football games—and just about every other sport—the goal of hockey is immediately obvious to anyone in the building.
And as nice as it would be if this were the case in life, it’s not. The goal of life isn’t immediately obvious. The main goal that should direct all our tertiary goals in 2015 isn’t immediately evident.
Should fame be our goal? Happiness? Power? Family? Health? A lot of money? Companies in our culture spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to shape the answer you give to this question. The right goal of life isn’t clear.
That’s why the answer that Jesus gave to a group of Middle Eastern Bible scholars in the 1st century was so stunning. When Jesus was asked which biblical command out of the hundreds of commands was the greatest, without blinking, he said that it was loving the Lord with all of your being (Matt 22:36-37).
This means that all of those biblical commands to “do this,” “feel that,” “don’t do that,” and “believe this” should be motivated by a love for the Lord. The main goal of your life is to love Jesus as Lord.
Is that your goal? Are you focused on this goal? Your answer to this question isn’t some irrelevant “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin needle” type of answer. Everything’s at stake. Because if you miss the goal of your life, you’ll lose at the game of life. And that’s a loss column you don’t want to be in.
This past Fall, my daughter played what can loosely be defined as soccer. And every once and a while a girl would score on the wrong goal. Each time this happened, the cute kid was so proud, so confident, walked to their parents with such a sense of accomplishment. The kid felt so right, but was sooo wrong. But we all couldn’t help but smile with her.
It’s cute when this kind of thing happens to kids at soccer games. It’s gut-wrenching to see someone focus on the wrong goal with their life. Don’t miss the goal of your life that was given to you by the Creator of your life. Growing and expressing your love of Jesus is the right goal to focus on in 2015.
But you can’t just pursue the right goal of your life. You need to understand the greatest challenge to your goal. Godly intentions don’t equal godly results. If you try to pursue the right goal of your life without understanding the greatest challenge, you’ll miss it. And if you want to understand your greatest challenge, look no further than the Pharisees.
Do you think that Pharisees set out to be the bad guys of Scripture? Do you think that Pharisees memorized tons of Scripture so they could better oppose its Author? I don’t. But that’s what happened (Matt. 22:34-35). Their godly intentions didn’t equal godly results. Why? There is a subtle, deep sickness that marks humanity—sin—that derails the best of intentions.
This past Christmas we were so looking forward to time on my in-law’s farm. They have about a 100 acres on which to hunt, 4-wheel, feed chickens, and more. Plus, all of the cousins would be there. We were pumped.
And then one of the kids got the flu and derailed all the plans. By the time my sick kid and I got home from the doctor, everybody’s vans were packed and ready to go. I’ve never seen that group of people move that fast. Certain types of sickness can derail the best of plans.
That’s what happened to the Pharisees. And that’s the story of every person’s life. We aspire for noble things, but our best plans get derailed by a nasty sickness. Far worse than any mutating flu virus, sin infects all of our being—ruining our best intended plans.
Even if your final result is better than the Pharisees and your able to “move mountains” with your faith, if you don’t have love, you have nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). Understand your greatest challenge—your subtle, sin sickness.
3. CLING TO THE GOSPEL
When you set your sights on the right goal and you understand your greatest challenge, you’ll inevitably experience great despair—unless you believe the gospel. The good news of the gospel isn’t that Jesus came to command loving people to love more the next year. It’s not that Jesus came to command unloving people to love. It’s that Jesus loved us by living the perfectly loving life we wish we could live in 2015, and died the sinner’s death we should have died for our 2014, and was raised from the dead, defeating sin, death, and the devil. We receive the benefits of his loving work by repenting of our unloving, sinful ways, and trusting him as our Savior, Treasure, and Lord. And when we receive Him in this way, we receive His Spirit who empowers us to love in 2015 and beyond (Gal 5). The Spirit of God determines the right goal of the people of God. And when this happens, the love of the Lord becomes our goal with all of life for all of life in 2015.]]>
Have you ever thought it would be better to have lived during the time of Jesus? To have walked with him? To have seen him heal many people or feed the 5,000? As our hearts may long to have walked with Jesus many years ago, J. D. Greear reminds us that Jesus has a different, better plan for us. In his newest book, Jesus, Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You, Greear argues from the Scripture that it is better to have the Holy Spirit in us rather than Jesus beside us. He challenges his readers to know the Holy Spirit personally and to participate in mission in this world.
In Part One, Greear exposes the lie that it would be better to have Jesus beside us now. Really. Yes, the Christian faith unquestionably relies on the person and work of Jesus. Yet, Jesus himself told us that it is better for the Holy Spirit to come. Greear reminds us, “Jesus claimed that having the Holy Spirit in [his disciples] would be better than having him beside them” (25). Tracing this instruction from Jesus, Greear emphasizes our responsibility as believers to walk in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is to know the Word because we cannot know the Holy Spirit apart from the Word. The Spirit speaks through the Word, and we know the Spirit by the Word. He rightly claims, “While pursuing one without the other leads to spiritual ruin, pursuing one in the other leads to power and life” (29). In the remainder of Part One, Greear shows how God’s Word and the Spirit work together. To do so, he explores such themes as mystery in the Holy Spirit and clarity in the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit in carrying out the mission of God, and the promise of greater works in the power of the Spirit. Yet, he also calls to our mind a sobering truth: God doesn’t need us. He can accomplish his purposes without us. Yet, in his grace, he chooses to use us to be fishers of men. This grace serves as our motivation to proclaim the gospel to all peoples.
In Part Two, Greear explores what it means to experience the Holy Spirit, providing six defining characteristics. First, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit begins with the Gospel. As one grows deeper into the truth of the gospel, a glorious result is receiving further direction and understanding from the Holy Spirit in living for the glory of God. Second, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the Word of God. The Scripture is our most reliable guide for knowing the will of God, and we are guided by the Spirit to rightly understand his Word. Third, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our giftings. Greear argues that you cannot fully walk in the Spirit unless you are familiar with and are using the gifts he has given you. The Spirit has empowered us in specific ways for his mission. Fourth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the church. This comes primarily through preaching and words of wisdom and knowledge. Fifth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our spirit. God works in our affections, convictions, desires, and minds to move us to obedience and to actively participate in his mission. Sixth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our circumstances. Our experiences can lead us into all kinds of conclusions, but we must use the other means of knowing the Spirit to rightly understand our experiences.
In Part Three, Greear offers direction in pursuing the Holy Spirit. At times, we may feel as if God is silent. This doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Greear encourages us to look to the Scripture and remember that silence is a way in which God works in our lives. We must remember to walk in faith! This is key to pursuing revival from God. Revival is not found in some innovative technique. Rather, it is grounded in the proclamation of the gospel, prayer, repentance, and yearning for the Spirit. Greear calls for us to pray. We have been given the Holy Spirit. Now, we need to ask him to move mightily among us. This only happens through “persistent, faith-filled prayer” (206). In concluding the book, he offers another reflection on the gospel. He points to the overwhelming theme in the Scripture: the Spirit is given to us for purposes of the gospel. As such, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to accomplish his mission through us!
Overall, Jesus, Continued promises to be a fruitful tool in the life of the church. The pages are filled with Scripture, and his instruction is much like his sermons and other books—challenging, humorous, encouraging, corrective, and motivating. As a pastor-theologian, Greear does not simply offer a “twelve-steps” solution to experiencing the Holy Spirit. It is theologically driven and biblically grounded. In a time when the Christians need great wisdom and instruction from the Lord due to the changing circumstances in America and across the world, this book will serve the church well in understanding and knowing the Holy Spirit.
About the Author:
J.D. Greear serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He has a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he is the author of Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim (Harvest House 2010), Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (B&H 2011), and Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (B&H 2013).
Well, the ordinary cat is out of the bag.
In January 2015, my new book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, will be released. I hope to encourage ordinary people like you to do the ordinary things with gospel intentionality for the good of a broken world.
In Acts 17, we see a picture of obedient followers of Jesus who were described by city officials as those who “turned the world upside down.”
To turn the world upside down, you don’t have to be a megachurch pastor, or have an impressive platform. You simply need to live on mission – in word and deed – within the ordinary rhythm of life. We need millions of ordinary, genuine followers of Jesus to live with gospel intentionality daily, not 20 more conference speakers.
This kind of life might not seem spectacular or sensational in the eyes of some, but from a Kingdom perspective, it truly is extraordinary.
The book will be available nationwide on January 1st, 2015. You can pre-order a copy today through one of the retailers below (or check with your favorite retailer):
Everyone is not called to live in a mud-hut in India. Some are. We should celebrate and support those that are. But what about the rest of us? What should we do? I hope that this book will help see the significance of the ordinary, mundane, and trivial. God really does use ordinary people like us.]]>
In August, Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white policeman, in Ferguson, Missouri. Tonight, we learned that the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson on any charges related to the event.
In the months since the shooting, the world has watched closely to see how America faces its racial issues. We may wish we lived in a post-white/post-black world, but recent events affirm that we do not.
While we may never know all the details of what went down in Ferguson, we do know that black Christians and white Christians interpret these types of situations very differently. According to a recent CNN poll, “Fifty-four percent of nonwhites––including blacks, Latinos and Asians––say Wilson should be charged with murder, while just 23 percent of whites agree.”
So inside the church and outside the church, it appears that black people (and other minorities) and white people see events like the tragedy in Ferguson from totally different perspectives.
As a pastor of an intentionally multiethnic, multiclass church, I believe Jesus’ church can bring healing to the deep wounds in our country by being a testimony of how the cross and blood of Jesus can bring about reconciliation and justice.
What if black and white Christians, as well as other minorities, were members of multiethnic churches instead of segregated ones? Nearly 90 percent of churches in America are homogenous, meaning one ethnic group makes up more than 80 percent of the church. Sometimes geographic demographics cause this, but often it is a choice we make to remain segregated as Christians. For example, churches are 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods they are in and 20 times more segregated than the schools that are near them.
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together? We could move towards being one (John 17:21, 23).
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together?
In the first century, the churches the apostle Paul planted had their own version of ethnic strife. In Christ, former enemies became co-worshipers in the same multiethnic local churches.
What if black and white Christians shared life with each other in a local church community and heard each other’s stories and walked in each other’s shoes?
“For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:14–16, NLT).
This reconciliation is not just for first-century Jews and Gentiles. It is for all humanity. The reason the church is segregated is that we don’t believe deeply enough in the power of the cross. It seems to me that Christians seem to not really believe that the cross of Christ has anything to do with racism and injustice.
But the gospel-reality is that “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:16, NLT)
Put. To. Death.
Be an Ambassador
Do you wake in the morning with a sense of urgency every day? I hope you do. As the firestorm in Ferguson reveals, the stakes are high. Listen to Romans 5:10–11, ESV,
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Outside of association and allegiance to Jesus, humanity is an enemy of God. This is why ambassadors of Jesus wake knowing deeply that our time, talents, and treasure are to be leveraged so that God’s enemies can be reconciled to him through Jesus. Reconciliation means that through Jesus, enemies of God become friends of God. It also means that in Christ we are unified into one body, a new man (Eph. 2:15).
When you signed up to follow Jesus, he gave you the ministry of reconciliation. Your life is a bridge over which people walk from death to life.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:18–21, ESV).
God has entrusted you and me, his church, with the message of reconciliation. Are you giving that message away? God pleads with people to become his friends through our lives.
Are we only sharing that message with people who look like us or have the same socioeconomic status we do?
There is a hurting world that needs to know Jesus became what God hates most––sin––so that they could become what he loves most––his children. When we sit in segregated churches we loudly proclaim that we love some of his children more than we love others.
For all eternity, followers of Jesus will enjoy Jesus and each other. But we will not share the message of reconciliation. There will be no need to. But there is a need today! That’s why Jesus left us here as his ambassadors to announce that the kingdom of God has come and that salvation belongs to our God.
So are we just going to scream “Racism” and “Injustice” from behind our segregated church walls, or are we going to start building multiethnic communities that embody what God’s desire is for the world to be.
I’m thankful for the courageous local churches in Ferguson who are calling for peace and reconciliation.
Church, this is a pivotal time in history. Will we rise to the occasion?
“General William Tecumseh Sherman got it wrong. Peace is hell. In war people think about the country. In peace all they think about is themselves,” said war veteran and wartime president of the United States, Harry S. Truman. From 1979-2000 the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) fought a battle for the heart and soul of the world’s largest protestant denomination, which is commonly referred to as the conservative resurgence (or fundamentalist takeover from the liberal side of the conflict).
The battle for the Bible extended well beyond the borders of the SBC, but the fiercest battles raged within the denomination. I fear Truman’s observation is proving correct in the SBC. The denominational struggle in the SBC produced unity among a broad and diverse group of SBC theological conservatives. The conservative resurgence SBC leaders put biblical gospel fidelity and the future of the SBC ahead of personal preferences and differences. But over a decade after the symbolic final victory of the resurgence at the 2000 SBC annual meeting, the harmony among SBC conservatives seems to have lessened. At least from my vantage point, we conservatives seem far more willing to fight and nitpick each other.
In 1979, the SBC annual meeting took place in Houston, Texas and Adrian Rogers, a theological conservative biblical inerrantist, and the greatest SBC preacher of this era, was elected president of the world’s largest protestant denomination. I was an eleven-year-old child at the time whose biggest concern was playing Dixie Youth baseball for Blue-Gray Civitan Club in Montgomery, AL. I was oblivious to the seismic shift that was taking place in Houston as Southern Baptists returned to their conservative biblical roots. Ten years later, by God’s grace, I became a Christian and identified myself with the people called Southern Baptists.
Adrian Rogers’ election in 1979 marked the symbolic beginning of the conservative resurgence in the SBC (1979-2000). Rogers election was followed by an unbroken succession of conservative presidents who have unapologetically championed the inerrancy of the Bible. The SBC president has the power to appoint those who serve on committees, who nominate the trustees of Southern Baptist entities, who are then voted on by the elected messengers of the SBC. Thus, in two decades, the denomination was transformed and returned to its biblical roots. Paige Patterson, one of the heroic architects of the conservative resurgence, explains that the victory was made possible by the grassroots polity of the SBC, eloquent pulpiteers who led the cause, unity around the reliability of the Bible, fervent prayer, and abandonment to the task (Paige Patterson).
Soon after becoming a Christian in 1989, I began sense a call to preach the gospel. My sense of the call was confirmed when I was licensed to preach at Green Valley Baptist Church in Hoover, AL in April 1994 and then ordained to preach at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL in October 1997. I provide this biographical information because I am what I call a conservative resurgence tweener. I have one foot in the conservative resurgence generation and one foot in the post-resurgence generation.
I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a M.Div. in 1994. I arrived shortly after the trustees fired theologically moderate president Russell Dilday. The first SBC annual meeting I attended was in Atlanta in 1995. I heard R. Albert Mohler deliver the convention sermon, “What Mean These Stones?” (Joshua 4). Mohler articulated a clear, uncompromising theological vision for Southern Baptists with which I thoroughly resonated. It was then I decided if I pursued doctoral work I would attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under Mohler’s leadership. I completed a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary in December 2011. In 2000, I was appointed by SBC president Paige Patterson to serve on the credential’s committee for the annual meeting in Orlando, which revised the Baptist Faith and Message. Appropriately, the Baptist Faith and Message revision committee was chaired by Adrian Rogers and marked the symbolic closure of the resurgence movement.
Those of us in the SBC tweener resurgence category tend to have good friends and ministry associates in the older conservative resurgence generation and in the younger post-resurgence generation of Southern Baptists. I claim no unique wisdom on SBC life, but perhaps providence has afforded those in my group at least the benefit of a unique perspective. The older generation conservatives identify with the words of great SBC preacher RG Lee who was reported to have said, “I was Baptist born. I was Baptist bred. And when I die, I will be a Baptist dead.” The younger millennial generation (born between early 1980’s and 2000) of Southern Baptists are generally theologically conservative, but along with their generational peers, they are inherently suspicious of formal institutions (Pew Research). It is the difference between a generation who paid their bills by check via the US mail and a generation who has never written a check.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not trapped in any particular generation. In every generational culture there are things that are in line with the gospel and things that are out of line with the gospel. Christians ought to have a healthy respect for the past but also an eagerness about the newness of the present and future. I recently saw a Christian leader who posted a tweet about good old days in 1964 when The Beverly Hillbillies was the top rated TV show and then asserted that we need revival. I wonder if it ever occurred to him that for African-Americans, 1964 was not the American good old days, and that we needed revival then to face down the wicked codified institutional racism—a racism all too evident in our SBC churches of the 1960’s.
Every generation has unique strengths and unique challenges. No one should expect a newer generation to sound, look, and approach issues exactly like the older generation. Rather, the hope should be that the newer generation would be faithful to and rooted in the same bedrock truth. Older Southern Baptist resurgence conservatives who look with skepticism at zealous but slightly different younger Southern Baptist conservatives are despising the fruit of their own labors. There is an amazing energy to preach the gospel, plant churches, and reach the nations with the gospel among the post-resurgence generation, and it is matched with robust conservative theological commitments.
With the condition of our seminaries before the resurgence and the current precipitous cultural decline into moral anarchy, this present army of young gospel warriors is a miraculous blessing of God on the sacrifices of the resurgence generation. Not only are our seminaries strong and vibrant, but now with NAMB led by Kevin Ezell, ERLC led by Russell Moore, and IMB led by David Platt, these entities are all energizing and exciting younger post-resurgence conservatives. The differences in style and theology that separate older resurgence conservatives and the younger post-resurgence conservatives are no greater than the differences that existed among conservatives who unified to fight for the heart and soul of the SBC and are all within the pale of historic Baptist orthodoxy. No father should have the unreasonable expectation that his son will be an exact duplicate of himself; however, every father should be overjoyed if his son embodies his core values and convictions.
Young, post-resurgence Southern Baptists who look at older Southern Baptist conservatives with little respect are spending an inheritance bequeathed to them and acting as though they earned it for themselves. Post-resurgence conservatives tend to take for granted the SBC they presently enjoy. It is tragic ecclesial narcissism when someone benefits from the post-resurgence conservative SBC reality and is nourished by our entities and institutions with no sense of indebtedness and loyalty. I would urge younger conservatives in the SBC to take a few moments and read, “‘Once There Was a Camelot’: Women Doctoral Graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1982-1992, Talk about the Seminary, the Fundamentalist Takeover, and Their Lives Since SBTS,” which documents in the words of students who attended just what the culture at Southern Seminary was like prior to the conservative resurgence in the SBC.
If it were not for the sacrifices made by the conservative resurgence generation, the post-resurgence younger conservatives would not be walking the halls of our seminaries and discussing diverse conservative understandings of salvation, ecclesiology, and culture. If the battle for the Bible had not been won in our denomination by the resurgence generation, we would not hear discussions of neo-Calvinism and the SBC traditionalist statement among the post-resurgence students in the halls of our SBC seminaries; we would overhear discussions of the importance of Deutero-Isaiah in teaching us about our Mother-God and how hopeful she is about future. That fact ought to shape how we think about differences we have with other SBC conservatives, genuine and important differences, but ones that do not compromise our shared gospel mission.
Chronological snobbery is prideful self-righteousness whether it comes with skinny jeans and an ESV or with a suit and a Scofield Reference Bible. Post-resurgence conservatives should not live every day as if there was no yesterday. Resurgence conservatives should not live as if yesterday is all that matters today. The gospel liberates us from gaining our identity by denigrating others and liberates us to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). The way forward is for all of us to remember that this in not a time of peace. As I have heard Russell D. Moore say, “The Great Commission is not a public relations campaign but a call to spiritual war.” Let’s not think of ourselves as we face spiritual battle. Let’s think of the kingdom of Christ and the outpost of the kingdom—the church of Jesus Christ.
The Most Misinterpreted OT Passages: 2 Chronicles 7:14
“We need revival!”
I have grown up in the SBC, so one sermon that I have heard loud and clear for three decades is the need for revival in our nation. Pastors at conferences and in churches have analyzed the decay of our culture and then they have given the solution: “What we need is revival – another Great Awakening!” Many of these sermons have inspired me a great deal. I certainly do want a Great Awakening in our nation – and in all nations!
Does 2 Chronicles 7:14 map out a plan for revival in America?
One of the key passages pointed to for this revival call is 2 Chronicles 7:14 where the Lord says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” There it is, a word from God that if America will repent then God will bring revival to our land, it is said.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is not about revival from the moral decline of America
This is an incorrect interpretation of this verse. Let’s walk through the passage in its proper context.
The context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows that this verse is about Israel
One big rule for interpretation is “context is king.” We must look at the context of the verse to see what it actually means. You’ll notice in my citation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 above that it starts with a lower case “i” rather than an upper case because it’s not an isolated verse but rather part of a larger sentence that starts in verse 13. And these two verses (2 Chron 7:13-14) are part of the even larger section of chapters 6 and 7. What is that larger context? Solomon has just completed the building of the Temple in Jerusalem and prays a grand prayer of dedication in chapter 6. Then in chapter 7 Yahweh appears to Solomon at night and begins to speak to him, referencing Solomon’s prayer that acknowledged the Temple is a place for repentance, forgiveness and restoration.
Solomon’s prayer indicates that when Israel sins against God and God judges Israel as a result with drought, or famine, or exile, then Israel will pray toward the temple in repentance and receive restoration. We know that Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6 and Yahweh’s words to Solomon here in 2 Chronicles 7 are connected because Yahweh uses the same language of the heavens being shut up (2 Chron 6:26; 2 Chron 7:13). Here in 2 Chronicles 7, God reemphasizes Solomon’s prayer that foretold Israel will sin and be judged, but that forgiveness is available if they will repent (2 Chronicles 7:12-16) and all of this is linked to atonement (7:12).
Who is Israel? It’s not America
So, 2 Chronicles is not a promise to the United States of America; it’s a promise to God’s people – Israel. Now, that raises a question for New Testament believers who interpret this passage: “Who is Israel?” Theologically, there are about 3 key positions that people take in answering this question: 1) National Israel: the promises to Israel in the OT will be fulfilled in the future with national Israel. 2) The Church: the promises to Israel are fulfilled spiritually in the church. 3) Christ: the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ who is the True Israel and those who are united to Him by faith also receive the promises. I don’t want to get into all the particulars of these theological positions, but suffice to say that none of these options includes the United States of America.
Let’s rejoice in the promise of restoration through repentance
As a NT Christian interpreting this passage, 2 Chron. 7:14 seems more akin to 1 John 1:9 than as a promise for a new Great Awakening. Instead of being a promise about national revival in America, this is a promise to the church that when she is in sin and repents, through Christ’s atonement God will restore the church (see the letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation).
For some people this reality may be upsetting and troubling. For those who equate Christianity with American patriotism, this will no doubt create animosity. But, for redeemed Christians in the New Covenant community, this truth should bring comfort that despite our sin we have a merciful God who forgives and restores.
Do I want revival in America? Absolutely! Do I pray for revival in my city? Yes! But, I want revival in all nations through the Great Commission. I just don’t think 2 Chronicles 7 gets you there. And, more than that, my primary identity isn’t as an American – as much as I love my nation. My primary identity is in Christ and His Church. We would do well to ask ourselves the question, “If God chose to bring revival to Iran, India, and Pakistan rather than the United States of America, would we rejoice or get frustrated?” Wherever God chooses to restore and revive among our brothers and sisters globally let us rejoice!
Stay tuned for the next installment!]]>