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.
Our second post is by Kevin Peck, lead pastor of Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX.
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.
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.]]>
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.
These panelists attempt to demerit the offering of Christian Hip-Hop artists by arguing how “worldly” these rappers are, that they’re desiring to draw attention to themselves (even if the lyrics are admittedly drawing attention to the person and work of Christ), disobedient cowards, immature in their faith and, by way of implication, untaught by the Word of God. Yet surprisingly, they have no Scriptural support to make such confident assertions, and they actually abuse the only passage(s) that they use. One brother referenced Romans 12:2 (which is a classic prooftext for these flimsy accusations). A plain reading of the rest of the chapter dissolves the very premise of such improper use. Paul is not concerned with if the readers look like Romans in form, but rather he seems concerned that they act like Christians by faith. This is just one of many examples of such brothers making statements that may sound biblical, but lack sound biblicism.
Maybe it would be good here to look at a couple passages that actually do deal with “worldliness” and deeds of the flesh. Now we would all agree that the bible is clear that we are to put to death what is earthly in us (As Colossians 3:5 words it), yet what are these earthly things? The list we find in Colossians 3:5, 8-9 plainly tell us what these earthly things are!
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Col. 3:5-10 ESV)
It seems to me that the things Paul is here telling us to put to death and put off are the very things that the wrath of God is coming on; ungodliness. These are things that do not reflect the character of God; the very things that actually go against the good rule of our God and King. So Paul here is arguing that if we have been raised with Christ we should not sin–because that goes against our profession and our identity as being hidden with Christ in God. But notice the list of earthly things: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness, anger, wrath malice, slander, obscene talk and lying! These are sins because the deeds of the flesh are rebellion against the law of God. But friends, also notice what is not in the list. Even when Paul is using clothing imagery to communicate being in Christ (the put off, and put on language Col. 3:9-10) he doesn’t actually EVER mention clothing! This surely would have been the perfect time for Paul to fill us in on God’s dress code for maturity. However, it seems to me that the dress code God is concerned with is not of articles of clothing but the attire of the heart. Our obedience is not in our fabrics and our linens but only our faith working through love (Gal. 5:6).
This is why, I believe, as he goes on to talk about what we are to “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”, we get more apparel of faith rather than “biblically” driven cultural taboos. Instead of being told to put on button-ups and caps facing straight forward, we are told to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Instead of being told what musical style to use, we are told what songs to use: psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Even in Galatians 5, we are struck with how obvious the deeds of the flesh are–not how open for interpretation they are! ”Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Gal. 5:19-21 ESV, emphasis added) The way the panelists were interacting with the biblical language of feeding the flesh and being worldly, it seems they would add beats, earrings and rapping right to the list! Yet clearly friends, God is not outlining music styles and non-sinful cultural expressions. Rather, He is outlining sin and rebellious acts, warning that those who do such things, “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21 ESV). To use the language of this text to demonize any culture is a horrible use of the Bible and seeks to imprison those whom the gospel has set free. When speaking on loving the world and indulging the flesh, the bible is not talking about neutral cultural preferences, but rather walking and indulging in sin against God. It is quite understandable why the opposing arguments are not presented from biblical exposition, but always from the random application of “biblical” pejoratives. I think this is because their arguments aren’t based on exposition at all. It is precisely because of a high view of Scripture and our commitment to its sufficiency that we not only reject these accusations as unbiblical, but we are concerned at the freedom with which Christian leaders are permitted to make such outrageous statements disguised as theologically anchored critiques. We are completely open to correction and critique from any Christian seeking to rightly apply God’s Word, but make no mistake- we do require a chapter and verse in context.
2. The Confusion Surrounding Culture
One of the most alarming things for me about this conversation is the obvious prejudice and cultural elitism that is given a pass. The opening question of the panel is undergirded with offensive language that I don’t even think people were aware of. I have heard Christian leaders talk about those within the Hip-Hop culture in such a degrading way that it blows my mind that these ideas and individuals haven’t been opposed to their face! We speak of individuals in the Hip-Hop culture using categories that would never be applied to any other cultural group because it would be considered shameful. Yet why is evangelicalism so silent in condemning such prejudice? These brothers are taking their personal cultural prejudices and saying that they are God’s. But Praise God that He is not like us! I have both my ears pierced, regularly wear a snapback hat sideways, listen to AND make raps about King Jesus and have to try extremely hard to have a whole conversation without using some form of ebonics. Friends, are THESE indicators of immaturity? Are THESE the fleshly habits God is telling me to mortify since I have been raised with Christ? Are THESE the fruits of worldliness that Scripture warns me of? Of course not! And if you are tempted to think otherwise, it may be an indicator that you are operating with some cultural prejudice that may not be carefully sifted through Scripture and may even be oppressive to your brothers and sisters in Christ that are of the Hip-Hop persuasion (or any other cultural affiliation).
Now I am all for a critical assessment of things. Let’s open up the text and chop it up! There are many in the Christian Hip-Hop movement that I personally disagree with concerning philosophy of ministry and how the glory of Christ is stewarded in our culture. However, to make arguments about dress, artistic preference (i.e. beats, and rhythms, melodies), musical style and other neutral cultural identifiers as if God is making them is ignorance at best, and shamefully arrogant at worst. Must the Africans put down their vibrant drums as they sing their doxologies? Why must the Hip-Hoppers turn down their beats to do the same? I fear my brothers who would lobby for such monocultural expressiveness envision a monochromatic assembly gathered in glory all wearing button up shirts, sweater vests and calmly singing to an organ. I envision something quite different, but alas, all is conjecture. We know that in glory there will be representatives from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9), so we should expect those representatives to be giving glory to God in their respective tribes, languages, peoples and nations even now. This screams of diversity and differences that should be filling up with praise to God for His glorious grace and the manifold ways we should find it. Care and charity must be given here, as we seek to better understand each other and stir one another up to love and good deeds. Above all, in our efforts to protect the glory of God, we must be careful to not cloud it with our own ideas and obscure it.
3. The Clouding of the Glory of God.
The biggest thing at stake here is obviously the glory of God. From what I can tell, our brothers who are so vehemently opposed to Christian Hip-Hop are so because they deeply care about the glory of God. They fear the Lord, they love Him and do not want His name or glory profaned. And we are certainly brothers in that! When I look at these men, I see brothers who have probably been walking with the Lord longer than I’ve been alive and from whom I could probably learn much about pursuing holiness and growing in godliness. I would love to have such a conversation and relationship. However, I also see error. The glory of God is to be displayed and protected in accordance with God’s Word–not our intentions and personal preferences. Otherwise, what we end up protecting is not God’s actual glory, but the glory of God according to us, which isn’t glorious at all. This should give us great pause and meditation, cause us to tremble before His Word and to stand firmly against anything contrary to it. Before we know it, if we are not careful, by being careless with the Bible we could end up clouding the very glory of God we are intending to display and make clear. This is a danger I am sure the brothers on this panel wholeheartedly agree with.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In an effort to forward the conversation, I have a few encouragements for my brothers and sisters who may think differently than me on the Hip-Hop issue.. For those who find themselves filled with zeal for their Father’s house and opposing Christians in the Hip-Hop culture, I have 3 suggestions that I think may go a long way:
soli deo gloria,
a.k.a. God’s Servant
1) Sufficiency of Scripture – The most disappointing and ironic part of the discussion was that the scriptures were hardly mentioned. Now, the panelists spoke often of the sufficiency of scripture and its implications for musical worship. However, only once did a panelist make a passing quote of a scripture and never was a passage or reference explicitly mentioned. In fact, the panelist who posted the video clip on his blog spoke the most of sufficiency but he never mentioned a scripture. It’s extremely disappointing that a group of men that advocate the sufficiency of the scriptures so harshly critiques this genre without consulting the scriptures to do so.
2) The Implication that the Bible exhorts or endorses certain styles while condemning others – Several times it is alluded to that there are styles (in particular Hip Hop was mentioned) that are not “honoring to God” or they are distracting. Now to be sure there are certain things that would probably be tough to sing corporately, but this panel was ruling this genre out altogether. I believe the onus must be on these panelists to argue that the Bible commends or endorses a certain style and rules out other ones. For instance the Bible often mentions music and musical instruments, some that seem to imply there is quite a bit of beat to them (though we weren’t there so we cant know) in places like Psalm 150:3-6 which states, “Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” In addition, David commends this in 1 Chronicles 15:16, “David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.” These are just a few of the many biblical texts that mention music and musical instruments without making a comment on styles. Again the onus is on these panelists to make a compelling argument from the scriptures as to why certain styles are out of bounds and if they are going to make this argument they need to at least use some scriptures to do so. Instead to bolster their arguments they make assumptions that the beats of rap songs distract from the message. In addition, they seek to bolster their argument by saying a good musical genre for the Christian should be memorable and rap fails at this. I think this argument actually works against what they are trying to argue because rap (due to the beats) is very memorable which is why I know of parents who use Christian hip hop to catechize their children because it is so memorable and rich theologically. Finally, some of the panelists use the cultural milieu that Hip Hop came out of to argue against Reformed Rap. A couple of quotes from Ed Stetzer’s Calling for Contextualization, Part 7 to address this argument and its irony:
“Of course I think it’s kind of strange to say, “I don’t believe in engaging culture or contextualization” while wearing a suit that became popular 50 years ago, singing music that became popular 100 years ago on an instrument that became popular 300 years ago on furniture that became popular 600 years ago.”
“Much of what you do in your worship was controversial or considered too far at some point in the past. Just music alone is enough to help you think through some of the issues. Can we sing songs not in the psalter? What about musical instruments? That was hotly debated a few hundred years ago, and of course, many Christians were against it. And once you okay musical instruments, which ones are acceptable? Reading how the church has handled the issue of culture historically will help you think through your own church and culture issues (and music is just one easy to see example).”
3) The Assumptions and accusations about the motives and intentions of Reformed Rappers – Finally, and probably the saddest aspect of this panel, are the assumptions and accusations made about the intents of the hearts and motives of reformed rappers. They are called cowards, those who capitulate to the World, attention seekers, and those who seek to serve their own flesh. This aspect of the panel was very discouraging and almost enraging as these brothers slandered brothers by making assumptions about their hearts and their motives. Though it is clear that are times to judge fruits, these panelists should consider the warnings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 that pertain to judging hearts and motives: “In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” It is disheartening to see that not one of the panelists thought these assumptions and accusations were out of bounds!
My hope is that my reformed rapping brothers will keep on rapping and giving the church rich theological songs that exalt Christ, edify the saints, and engage unbelievers. And my hope is that there will be more conversations on this topic where light instead of heat rule the day. And most of all I hope the scriptures are central to those conversations and not on the periphery.
Note: There will be a follow up post to this blog from Brian Davis who is a Christian hip Hop artist named God’s Servant. Brian is currently a church-planting intern with us at Imago Dei and is planning to plant in Philadelphia. In addition, Brian completed the internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
And to get a taste of some Christian Hip Hop check out his song, Worthy is the Lamb
Click here to view the embedded video.]]>
Our first post will be by Dr. Thom S. Rainer, President & CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, author of I Am a Church Member
Keys to Increasing Unity, Health, and Effectiveness in the Church
In a recent non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked pastors and church staff to respond with the biggest challenge they face in ministry. One of the issues noted was leadership development. This quote, expanded from its abbreviated Twitter form, is representative of the feedback I received: “We miss too many opportunities in ministry because we don’t have enough leaders ready.”
Regardless of the terminology you use, whether it’s “training” or “leadership development,” there’s a great deal of ambiguity with all of the thoughts and opinions floating around in the church today. Leadership development is critical for the health, unity, and effectiveness of the church, but it has become unclear as to what the best option is and what people mean when they use those terms.
Too many have gotten away from what Scripture shows us on the topic:
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:11-13, HCSB).
From this passage, we can learn three important lessons about training in ministry.
Scripture is clear: as pastors and church leaders are more involved in training others to do ministry, there will be greater unity, health, and effectiveness in the church.
Anyone who has served any length of time in ministry knows this. But as we researched this issue in local congregations, we uncovered a sobering reality:
While pastors affirmed their critical role in training others to do ministry, almost three fourths of these pastors had no plans to do so.
For most pastors, the reasons for this gap were simple: they either didn’t know how to take the next steps, or they didn’t feel like they had the time to do so.
At LifeWay, we are making this issue a major priority. We see a great opportunity to provide almost unlimited training in this digital age that could not be done in years past. So LifeWay is launching an affordable and convenient tool for both church leaders and those being equipped.
We call this training tool Ministry Grid (http://www.ministrygrid.com/). Its web-based platform allows you to assign video training and track the progress of users in your church or ministry. You may choose from over 1,500 videos or utilize Ministry Grid’s customizable features by uploading your own videos and turning off any unwanted content to suit your team or church. With both web and mobile apps, Ministry Grid gives your leaders access to training and allows them to be equipped to do ministry at anytime and anywhere that is convenient to them.
Ministry Grid was also developed in conjunction with the leaders who will be using it. We conducted panels and research to provide clarity to leadership training, and assembled an effective training model we believe is applicable to any church. It covers three main components: skillful training, facilitated by godly leaders, when people realize they need it.
First, skillful training impacts the head, heart, and hands (Acts 2:37). Skillful training evokes the passions and desires God has placed in the hearts of individuals as well as gives them practical methods to accomplish the tasks set before them. This may be training on deep spiritual issues or on more practical things like how to train parking lot attendants.
We reproduce who we are. Therefore, training must be facilitated by godly leaders. It’s not about programs and platforms or an information dump. Leadership development cannot be digitized. Training is most effectively accomplished through relationships.
Finally, people are most impacted by training when they realize they need it and when the training is applied specifically to their unique context. With Ministry Grid, when new leaders start asking questions, a coach can immediately assign the proper training in response and debrief with the leader at a later time.
With Ministry Grid, you will bring clarity to a very confusing conversation and precipitate growth at every level of leadership within the local churh]]>
Why Should We Emphasize Believer’s Baptism and Regenerate Church Membership?
Question 1: Why should we emphasize believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership? We should for three reasons. It’s biblical. It helps Christians to grow in holiness. It helps the church’s witness.
Regenerate Church membership is biblical.
In Acts 2, the crowds asked Peter, “What must we do to be saved?” He said, “Repent and be baptized.” And so throughout Acts we see people repenting, believing, and then getting baptized. Even the passage of the baptism of the jailer and his whole family in Acts 16 refers to the fact that they all heard the word first (verse 32) and that the whole family had come to believe (verse 34) prior to their baptism.
Of course, the record of believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership in the New Testament rests comfortably within the Bible’s larger movement from the old covenant to the New Covenant. Think of how God found fault with the people under the Mosaic regime. And so he offers a new covenant, one in which, as he promises through Jeremiah, “I will put my law within them. I will forgive their iniquity.” And “they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.
Moving from the Mosaic to the New Covenant, in other words, is not about moving from corporate to individual, or from obedience-required to no-obedience-required. It is about moving from a covenant in which Israel’s obedience and life together depend upon their own strength to a covenant in which their obedience and life together would depend upon God’s Spirit: from “Circumcise your heart” so that you obey (Deut. 10:16) to “God will circumcise your heart” so that you obey (Deut. 30:6).
And this has huge implications for how we “do” church. It means we should take care who receive as members. In many circumstances, we should require people to go through membership classes. In a world with many different versions of Jesus—a Mormon Jesus, a Jehovah’s Witness Jesus, a Muslim Jesus—I want to make sure you and I are talking about the same Jesus. So I’m going to offer a membership class where we talk about our church’s statement of faith, for instance, just to make sure we’re talking about the same Jesus.
I’m also going to make sure we’re not just inviting people down the aisle and letting them join on the spot. I’m going to do a membership interview first, where I ask questions like “How did you become a Christian? Have you ever been disciplined from a church? And most crucially, what is the gospel?”
If we’re going to affirm the doctrine of believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership as biblical, then we need to take care to ensure that we’re only receiving believer’s into baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
It also means our churches need to recover the practice of church discipline. For too long, we have idly stood by and let hypocrites and heretics discolor the reputation of Christ in the community, because we didn’t love them or the broader community enough to excommunicate them so that (as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5) they might turn and be saved.
This brings us to a second reason why we should emphasize believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership.
Believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership grow the church in holiness.
If you don’t know 1 Corinthians 5, take a look at it this afternoon. Paul tells the Corinthian congregation to excommunicate a man who was involved in flagrant sin, and he tells them to do it, first, so that the man by be saved. Then in verse 6 he says, “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” The man is living like a non-Christian. He’s unrepentant about it. Stop affirming him as a Christian by leaving him on your roles. Not only are you lying about Christ, you are letting the bad yeast work through the life of the congregation. You’re letting weaker sheep be led astray.
You see Paul say something similar in 2 Corinthians 6 and 7 where he tells the people not to be yoked together with unbelievers, but to come out and be separate, an argument he concludes in 7:1 by saying, “let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
When we blur the line between the church in the world, when we call non-Christian children a part of the church, when we declare people members of the church simply because they are a citizen of the state, when we follow the pragmatic ministry philosophy of telling people they “belong” before they believe, we actually harm the church. Not everything done in the name of inclusiveness is loving.
A Christian should understand that to belong to a church means something. It means he has been converted and regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God. It means he’s called to a life of continual repentance. It means that God is actually in the process of changing him. It means his life is now to be spent putting off the old and putting on the new man. When we bring non-Christians into the membership of the church and participation in the Lord’s Table, we undermine all this, and turn Christ’s grace into something cheap and powerless.
Believer’s baptism and church membership strengthen the church’s witness.
Not only that, we undermine the church’s witness, which is the third reason we should emphasize believer’s baptism and church membership.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership help the church to remain salty, that is, distinct. It helps the church to remain a light on the hill. Do we do this perfectly? By no means. That’s why we gather around the preaching of the word. That’s why we practice church discipline informally and privately, as well as publically and formally.
Blurring the line between the church and the world is not only unloving toward the Christians in the church and harms their growth, it’s unloving toward the world and it hides the light. The world should be able to look to the church to see the promise of something different, the hope of a better individual and corporate life, where enemies love one another and turn the other cheek, a place where you ask someone to go one mile with you and they go two, where you ask to borrow their tunic and they give you their cloak as well.
Regenerate church membership helps the church’s witness not just because all these people are living cleaned up individual lives by not sleeping with their girl friends. They’re living a different kind of corporate life together. They have lunch on Sunday after church. They actually talk about the sermon. They show one another hospitality through the week. There’s a culture of discipleship.
Listen to Jesus in John 13: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Stay tuned for the next segment where Jonathan talks about the importance of congregationalism.]]>
So is the Baptist brand really worth it? This is a question I first asked in 1996. I had just moved to Washington, DC in 1996 and had begun looking for a church. I hadn’t attended church since leaving home for college, but I had grown up with good evangelical parents, mostly in non-denominational Bible churches, and so I knew it would be good for me to get back into church. A friend recommended Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I tried it. Liked it. And decided to join.
The pastor and I walked down to Subway for a membership interview, and on the way back I asked him, “Why do we have to make such a big deal about being Baptist?” I felt more like a Northern evangelical, and not like a Baptist, much less a Southern Baptist. And so it was not clear to me why the pastor and the church as a whole would make such a big deal over what I perceived to be it’s sectarian denominational distinctives.
I think my 23-year-old attitude is fairly typical today. It’s hard enough to hold onto the gospel as culture grows more and more antagonistic to Christianity. Should believers really emphasize those secondary doctrines which divide us like church government and the ordinances? Let’s talk about what it means to be a Christian, right?
Sure enough, if you look around the Christian landscape, there seems to be a decline in membership or at least identification with traditional denominations, whether Episcopalians out on the theological left or Southern Baptists on the right. Instead, young pastors and planters increasingly identify themselves and their churches with networks and associations held together by theology, by charismatic personalities, or by philosophies of ministries. Here I’m thinking of everything from the Willow Creek Association, which is a loose network of churches who all share Willow Creek Church’s seeker sensitive approach to ministry, and to Acts29, which is a church planting network emphasizes Reformed theology and a missional methodology. And when was the last time you heard someone name a new church with the word “Baptist” in it?
Beyond these formal networks the evangelical landscape seems to divide into various tribes, each tribe defined by its own conferences, favorite conference speakers, authors, publishers, and parachurch ministries who host booths at those conferences. Just think of names like Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Tim Keller, Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. You get the idea. You’ll find different clumps of churches and pastors surrounding men like these and their conferences.
And the differences between these men and their tribes is part theological emphasis, part philosophy of ministry, part posture and tone toward the culture and cultural-engagement. And I’ve said nothing about ethnic-based church associations or the friendships formed between urban prosperity gospel churches.
These kinds of theological and philosophy of ministry questions are important. For instance, a pastor and church’s stance on Reformed or Calvinistic theology, whether for or against, will have dramatic implications for that church’s ministry. Or in deciding how to build our church life together, as well as to reach our community, do we look only to the Bible, or to the latest marketing surveys, or to the nudging of the Spirit on a prayer walk? That’s an important practical question.
And since it’s the answers to these types of questions that are defining different clumps of evangelicals, how important is it that we hold onto our Baptist distinctives and Baptist brand? I mean, I certainly have more in common with the conservative Presbyterian or Methodist who affirms the gospel and preaches the Bible as true than I do with the liberal Baptist who does neither. So what is the Baptist brand worth?
Well, in answer, as a “brand,” as that word is typically used in contemporary marketing circles, it’s not worth much at all!
In other words, we don’t need a sub-culture defined by a certain way of dressing, a certain way of speaking or spiritual phrases that mark us off from other group, a certain style of music; and certainly we don’t need a self-congratulatory, inward looking, back-slapping culture that makes any non-Baptists who wander into our churches or conversations feel like second-class citizens. I remember hearing one speaker at a Southern Baptist Convention about a decade ago say, “As goes the Southern Baptist Convention, so goes America. And as goes America, so goes the world.” We don’t need that kind of parochialism. I’m an American and a Southern Baptist, and I’m grateful for both. But Jesus doesn’t need America. Jesus doesn’t need the Southern Baptist Convention. He tells us that Hades will not overcome the church. Hades might overcome America and the SBC. We’ll work against that, but let’s keep things in perspective.
So is the Baptist brand worth holding onto as a cultural phenomenon and something that I should identify with as a point of pride. No. Being identified with Christ is my boast and primary source of identity.
But are Baptist doctrinal distinctives worth holding onto? Absolutely! And to be clear, what the Baptists contributed to the Protestant Reformation was not a doctrine of salvation. We have Luther to thank for that. And it was not a doctrine of God or a doctrine of Scripture. Baptists said good things on these topics, but we didn’t contribute anything unique here to the larger Protestant and evangelical fold.
Rather, the Baptist contributions lie in the realm of ecclesiology: who exactly is the church, and therefore a worthy recipient of the ordinances? The Baptists were the first to emphasize that only believers were worthy recipients of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and therefore only regenerate believers constitute the church, not believers together with their children, as the Presbyterian book of church order will say.
The independence of each local church and the final rule of the congregation was not unique to Baptists. They shared it with the Congregationalists. Nonetheless, with as few Congregationalists as there are today, I think we can essentially call it a present-day Baptist distinctive.
So should we continue to promote regenerate church membership and congregationalism? Yes. Absolutely. What’s more, because the Baptist doctrinal distinctives of believer’s baptism and its corollary regenerate church membership as well as congregationalism are biblical, we should work to promote them across evangelical tribes. Whether you read the books of Andy Stanley or John Piper, or attend the conferences John MacArthur or Mark Driscoll; whether you’re a Calvinist or not, a ministry pragmatist or not, I think you should be a Baptist and a congregationalist.
In the next three posts we will look at Jonathan’s answers to three questions:
(i) why should we emphasize believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership?
(ii) why should we emphasize congregationalism?
(iii) How can we do both of these things without being tribalistic, but appropriately supportive of the gospel work of non-Baptists?
It’s finally here. Whether you have been waiting with baited breath or this is your first time hearing about it, Ministry Grid is set to launch on Tuesday, November 12th. We are excited about this dynamic platform for training the church. We believe it will provide unprecedented opportunity for churches to develop leaders and servants in every area of ministry in the local church.
Ministry Grid bases their entire ministry on the vision of Ephesians 4:11-13:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . .”
Their vision is to see churches built up and equipped to do the work of the Kingdom, and they have provided a unique and unparalleled resource to do this.
WHAT IS MINISTRY GRID?
Ministry Grid is a customizable platform designed to help churches develop all their leaders, no matter which area they serve in. Ministry Grid makes training leaders simple with content available to leaders anytime, anywhere, while giving pastors unprecedented control and insight into how their people learn. Launching with more than 1,500 training videos for pastors, staff, volunteer leaders, and every-day church goers, Ministry Grid covers (or will cover) every topic a church needs from the parking lot to the pulpit.
HOW DOES MINISTRY GRID WORK?
Ministry Grid’s Learning Management System enables your church to customize training to fit the unique needs and goals of your people. Select built-in tracks, choose from Ministry Grid’s 1,500+ video sessions, or add videos to create your own customized training. With tracking and administrative tools, Ministry Grid allows leaders to assess an individual or group’s skill level, assign training content, and view progress. It is accessible from computers, tablets, and smartphones with a native app that allows offline training, so users can train anywhere, at any time.
WHAT DOES A LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM DO?
While video training itself is not a new concept, it has historically lacked a way to manage and track a user’s progress. A Learning Management System like Ministry Grid’s allows you to assign content and track the progress of every person using Ministry Grid in your ministry or organization. Ministry Grid’s Learning Management System gives unprecedented insight into how training is taking place, allowing you to easily view a group at a glance or see an individual’s progress, provide accountability, and measure effectiveness. Ministry Grid comes with built-in training tracks and assessment tools that can be customized according to your needs. You can also build your own.
WHO CAN USE MINISTRY GRID?
Ministry Grid is for the entire church, with pricing based on your church’s average weekly attendance. Content is organized into four areas of development—pastoral, church staff, lay leader/volunteer, and personal development—with a wide range of topics videos averaging 15 minutes in length. Ministry Grid works with churches of any size, and because you can upload your own content, there’s no limit to how you can utilize the platform. Ministry Grid is also perfect for organizations and non-profits that are developing Christian leaders on matters relevant to their ministry.
WHAT MAKES THE MINISTRY GRID PLATFORM SO SIGNIFICANT?
Ministry Grid is unprecedented in terms of the quantity, quality, and range of training content available. Every aspect is customizable according to your church’s needs, including the ability to skin the site with your own colors, drop in your logo and church branding, and upload your own content. You may also choose from Ministry Grid’s 1,500+ video sessions or disable access to content not relevant to your assigned users. No other training platform comes close in its ability to perfectly fit your specific needs.
CAN I USE MINISTRY GRID ON MY MOBILE DEVICE?
Yes. Ministry Grid features apps for iOS devices and Kindle Fire. The mobile app allows people to watch training content on the go. You can even download content to your device to watch when offline, and connect your mobile device to a project—perfect for churches that do not have wi-fi access readily available. The Ministry Grid app is a free download, but requires a Ministry Grid subscription to use.
B21 is excited about this ministry and it’s potential to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Pray about how your church can be involved and feel free to pass the word along to other local churches for the equipping of the saints and the glory of God.
For more information visit Ministry Grid’s website.
Here are the details:
When: Monday, October 28th – Appoximately 12:15 – 1:15 p.m.
Where: Cross Church Pinnacle Hills in the Surge Room.
Topic: A Conversation on Gospel, Church, and Mission
Cost: Dr. Sonny Tucker, president of ABSC has covered the cost of the lunch. It will be provided only for those registered.
Each attendee will receive the following books:
REGISTER NOW BY CLICKING HERE!]]>