Recenty, Jonathan Akin and I (Ronnie Parrott) had the opportunity to sit down with Scott Thomas, Director of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and one of the pastors at Mars Hill Church in Seattle Washington. Acts 29 is a network of over 200 churches with a goal of planting 1000 more in the next 10 years. Scott is heavily involved in the approving of new Acts29 church planters and pastors.
In the interview, Scott talks specifically about Acts 29′s strategy of reaching men, what they look for in a model planter, how they keep churches gospel-centered, and thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention. Scott was very gracious, kind, and encouraging to Jon and I throughout our time together. He was also kind enough to sit and talk with us for thirty minutes following our interview. We truly enjoyed our time with Scott and we believe you will enjoy his interview.
Scott Thomas Interview
Check back in the future for more Podcasts and details about two upcoming events from b21: Missouri in March and Orlando in June.
J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of the Summit Church, a rapidly growing church of over 3,000 members in Raleigh-Durham, NC. J.D. is committed to the local church and to church planting, having undertaken the goal of planting 1,000 churches in the next 50 years. Currently, they have 12 plants around the world, 7 of which are in Muslim contexts. He has authored a number of publications, including the forthcoming Breaking the Islamic Code. He has a Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and has recently been named to the recent Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Baptist21 is grateful for the ministry of J.D. and are very thankful that he has taken the time to sit down with us for a podcast interview. J.D. is a model for our audience and a man that we can learn a lot from.
Interview Questions :
Note: This interview came pre-convention
Guest Blog by Steven A. McKinion
He is the Associate Professor of Theology and Patristic Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught Theology, Church History, Hermeneutics, and Historcial Theology classes at Southeastern Seminary. Dr. McKinion’s area of specialization is Patristic Theology. He holds the following degrees: B.A., Mississippi College; M.A., University of Mobile; Ph.D., King’s College, University of Aberdeen.
Second generation conservatives who have been addressing the trend of many 3gens to question the value of the bureaucracy of the SBC recognize that these 3gens are not asking for a seat at the SBC table, they are instead just leaving the room when they hear those around the table disrespect them, belittle them, or, even worse, talk about their own positions, power, or prominence. These 3gens think they have too much to do in their own churches to spend their time trying to earn some “right to have their voice heard” in the SBC.
Seeing the many current 2gen leaders are interested in keeping 3gen Southern Baptists within the SBC, I would like to identify four misconceptions about these 3gen Conservatives:
3gens want to run the SBC. It is a myth that 3gens simply want to run the convention. Such a misconception is the result of not only a misreading of what 3gens are saying, but a complete misunderstanding of the importance, or lack thereof, of the SBC in the weekly ministries of these leaders. While many younger SB pastors want to have titles in their state conventions or be invited to speak in revival meetings at other churches, the 3gens that I have been writing about could not care less about having a role in the SBC. Obviously, there are exceptions, but the 3gens I teach and hear from are not looking for positions or influence within the convention. In fact, the reason why so many 2gens have begun to take notice is because these younger pastors do NOT want a place at the SBC table. They don’t want to be trustees, revival speakers, or have meaningless titles in the state conventions. Instead, they are wondering what in the world their state conventions do that is of Great Commission value. The reason they are partnering with church planting groups like Acts 29, is because its networked churches actually succeed. The model of church planting, including on-going cooperation and partnership, works better to start biblical and Baptist churches than other models, including many of those within the SBC. Because many 3gens think the SBC bureaucracy is bloated, it is foolish to think they would want to run it. I think one cause for this misconception is that those who either already have power in the convention or the 3gens who want one day to have “earned” that power, fail to realize that not every one thinks SBC power is valuable. Such myopic thinking about the value of what one possesses often can lead one to project ones own ambitions to others.
3gens want their voice heard by SBC leaders. It is believed by some that younger SBs want a seat around the SB table where they can have input. This is a misconception, much like the former myth, that is based in the false belief that 3gens want their voice to be heard. They not only are not looking for a seat at the table, they are not even interested in being in the boardroom. Again, there are obvious exceptions, but the younger SBs who are the interest of 2gen leaders are not looking for a hearing. In their minds, the discussions in the SBC boardroom are about how to rearrange the chairs on the Titanic, quite useless. They do not have an interest of determining who the next president of the SBC will be, or what friends can be appointed to trustee positions, or how they can be invited to speak at another church. In the minds of 3gens, they want to be busy in their own churches rather than trying to control other churches. Now, whether their assessment of what 1gen leaders are doing is itself a misconception is another topic, and an important one. But to think that under 40 SBs are simply looking to have influence in the convention is a grave misunderstanding of what these 3gens are saying. Such a misunderstanding is often rooted in an arrogance regarding the positions one already possesses rather than any evidence that someone else is aspiring to that position.
3gens don’t love the SBC. What is the SBC? Technically, it is a brief business meeting once a year. Churches who pool their financial resources to support agencies, boards, and commissions (the IMB, NAMB, six seminaries, the ERLC, etc.) are allowed to send messengers (not delegates) to this business meeting for the purpose of appointing trustees to operate those agencies on behalf of the churches. But the SBC is more broadly the associative relationship of those churches that goes beyond fiduciary cooperation to a share set of beliefs, values, and distinctives. The SBC is a massive network of missional churches.
In my experience, the younger generation loves the mission of the SBC. The beliefs, values, and distinctives of the network of churches are shared among the various generations, including the 3gens. But at the same time, they question whether the bureaucracy of the convention is accomplishing its intended objective, which is to be a cooperative missionary effort. The 3gens I have observed love the seminary where they were educated and love the IMB and perhaps NAMB, but outside of those agencies they appear ambivalent. They may be mistaken to be ambivalent, but their love for the work of the convention should not be hidden by their lack support for all of the boards.
3gens don’t respect the CR or 1gen leaders. From observation it is more accurate to say that many 3gens do not know the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence. There may be practical reasons for this (e.g. Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt are on iTunes for free, while other sermons must be purchased), but it is also the case that many 3gens believe, perhaps mistakenly, that 1gen leaders do not value them as partners in the work of the convention. 3gens do not think their “forefathers” are not wise, they simply do not know them.
What complicates the matter vis-à-vis the relationship between some increasingly prominent 3gens and the SBC is the lack of direct influence by 1st generation leaders on 3gens. In part two of the series, I enumerated some ways I think the CR continues to influence younger SBs, but that influence has been indirect, mediated through leaders such as Johnny Hunt, Danny Akin, and James Merritt. There are exceptions; for example J.D. Greear’s PhD work was supervised by Paige Patterson. By and large, though, 3gens have sermons from Platt, Akin, Hunt, and Driscoll on their iPods, and not sermons from Vines, Patterson, and Rogers.
I don’t know all the reasons for this lack of exposure. Perhaps the second-generation influencers have been quicker to take advantage of newer media such as podcasting and social media. Many younger SBs, and their pastors, do not subscribe to tape ministries, but to podcasts. They rarely listen to over-the-air radio, and almost never to Christian radio. If they hear a John MacArthur sermon, it is because they downloaded it. John Piper was one of the first of their influencers to leave the expensive medium of radio for the relatively inexpensive one of the internet.
Perhaps 3gens have deliberately rejected the direct influence of 1st generation leaders for cultural reasons. They reject suits and ties as mandatory dress, and think the first generation places too much emphasis on certain apparel (fairly or not). They don’t think mandatory abstinence from beverage alcohol is fundamental to cooperation, and think the prior generation makes too much of this. From my experience, these leaders do not imbibe, but they also don’t think prohibition of such beverages is necessary. But cultural differences seem, in the end, to be of little consequence to the lack of direct influence of 1gens on 3gens. Culture seems to be a red-herring.
Regardless of the lack of direct interaction, in the end, the third generation is very much like the first generation. Theologically they are conservative inerrantists. They are committed to practicing Baptist distinctives, both broadly and more narrowly conceived. They preach the Gospel with fervor. They call sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus. They hate sin, but love sinners. They preach and practice missions at home and abroad. In all these ways, and more, they are the legitimate heirs of resurgence leaders.
So have the third generation conservatives who are enthusiastically supportive of the Great Commission Resurgence leaders such as Hunt and Akin rejected the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence, either consciously or unconsciously? I think they have not. Rather, they are the fruit of the CR. While 3gens may be a generation that knows not Patterson and Pressler, they are nonetheless the legacy of those great leaders. Some under 40′s will attend conferences where the speakers are predominately 1gen leaders. Other under 40′s will prefer conferences where 2gen leaders are the speakers. But both groups of younger SBs are the fruit of the CR.
Henry Chapin (for one generation) and Ugly Kid Joe (for another) recorded a popular song entitled, Cat’s in the Cradle, about a man whose busy-ness keeps him from time with his son. The failure of this man to be a good father comes back to haunt him later when his grown son is not interested in time with his elderly father.
An assessment of the breakdown in the relationship between 1gen and 3gen SBs would be fascinating, and is, I think, important, though beyond my scope here. But the lack of knowledge of 1gen leaders should not be read as a rejection of these men or the resurgence for which they fought. My paternal grandmother died a few years before my birth. I have no knowledge of her, obviously. But my lack of familiarity with her does not mean I disdain her. I do not invoke her name in conversation, but the older I get the more I become aware of her influence in my own life through my father. He doesn’t tell me to exhibit the positive characteristics from my grandmother’s life, I simply do so because he has influenced me. I never knew my grandmother, but her influence persists. Many 3gens have never met or even heard some 1gen leaders, but the influence of the CR persists in and through the ministries of 2gen leaders like Johnny Hunt, Danny Akin, and Thom Rainer (and many others). Although the legacies of certain men may not remain, the legacy of the CR certainly does.
Within the current call for a Great Commission Resurgence lives the legacy of the Conservative Resurgence. Young Southern Baptists who desire to see men, women, and young people around the world hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, become disciples of Jesus, and then grow to be disciple-making disciples are acting consistently with the ultimate aims of the CR. Even more importantly, the call of the GCR to organize the ministries of the SBC and her cooperating state conventions around the mission of the Gospel is at the heart of the call of conservative SBs who desired a renewal of the Convention for the sake of the Convention’s mission, not the Convention’s structure.
We think that the following audio and video resources are worth checking out.
The opening video is to the recent debate aired on Nightline entitled, “Does Satan Exist?“, check out the rest of the video at the Nightline Website. The rest of the sermons, lectures, and interviews come from the Acts29 Boot Camp in Raleigh, the 20/20 Collegiate Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminar, Southeastern’s Chapel, and random Sunday sermons.
Nightline Debate on the Existence of Satan
ACTS29 Boot Camp- Raleigh, NC 2009
SEBTS 20/20 Conference- The Gospel Comes to Life
Nathan Finn’s recent post entitled “The Southern Baptist Generation Gap,” deals with the issue of the lack of younger Southern Baptist messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It is very clear there is a lack of participation in pastors who are under the age 40. This is one of the reasons we started Baptist21. We love the Southern Baptist heritage and the Southern Baptist distinctives. We believe the SBC has issues, as any group of sinful human beings does. We believe that the SBC is quite possibly the best, and perhaps the largest, organized attempt by a multitude of churches to reach the world for Christ. We believe, with some reform, the SBC could be more effective and successful than it already is. We are grateful for the cooperative program and the opportunities it allows: Theological Education, Pastoral Training, Church Planting, and World Missions. We believe that together we are more effective than apart. We believe the SBC is worth fighting for because when we fight for the Convention, we are fighting for a host of people who are serving Jesus Christ in fields across the world that are ripe for a harvest.
This post is intended to interact with Nathan Finn’s article, continuing the conversation on why there is a generation gap, proposing possible remedies for the gap, and casting a vision of what could come from closing the gap.
Why is there a Generation Gap?
We must answer the question “Why don’t younger pastors attend the Convention?” This list contains Nathan Finn’s reasons as well as some we have added, and we acknowledge that it is not exhaustive.
While many of these should be discussed, and at some point we hope to address them, at this time we will only deal briefly with two.
I. Some are disenfranchised, rightly or wrongly, by petty arguments, overly political ambitions, and traditional, non-gospel centered issues.
We must recognize up front that any group of people cooperating together for a common purpose and goal will have a political dimension. The question will be whether our political dimension will be petty and ungodly or gospel-centered and godly. Finn writes:
“I often wonder what role “fighting” plays in our generation gap. How many over-40 conservatives disengaged once there were no longer many moderates to fight? How many over-40 conservatives pulled out because they were tired of fighting moderates? How many over-40 conservatives quit attending because, once the real moderates were mostly gone, some Southern Baptists started inventing some new “moderates” so they could still have someone to fight? And since more than a few of our present squabbles are at least to some degree generational battles, here is the money question: how many under-40 conservatives never became involved because they suspect that many of the over-40 conservatives don’t really want their involvement (though their CP dollars are of course welcome)?”
We believe that Finn’s perception of the “under-40 conservatives” never getting involved because the “over-40’s” do not really want their involvement is partly true. There seems to be a growing division in our denomination. One side says, “the younger, postmodern generation is tainted with a fluid view of sin, therefore we mustn’t let them challenge, nor effect change in our denomination”, while the other side says, “our world is constantly changing and the way we go about changing culture and reaching people for Christ must be willing to change and adapt to be effective in our world.” Whether the younger generation perceives this rightly or wrongly, the perception is there and if many of the older generation want an SBC for their great-grandchildren, they must be the ones to reach out. We, as younger men, must also challenge younger men not to evidence so much immaturity and haughtiness as if we have all the answers. We need older men, and older men could benefit from younger men as well. This is part of the beauty of cooperation. Nevertheless, there seems to be a rift developing between these two sides, and we are now seeing young pastors who look at their ministries and say “I don’t have to deal with the pettiness, political ambitions, and traditionalism that is not gospel-centered to change the world for Christ.” Why should they waste their time in a denomination that in some circles reject them because of the way they do ministry, the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, and the people that influence them?
Case in Point: Baptist Press on Mark Driscoll
The recent article by Baptist Press on Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle is an ironically timely illustration of this trend. Mark Driscoll’s track record over the last 10 years is staggering: 8,000 attend his church, 7 campuses, hundreds of churches planted through Acts 29 (with a 100% success rate), etc. Driscoll’s heart to reach as many people as possible for the glory of King Jesus is clear. What is also clear is the influence he has on millions of believers and especially young seminarians.
Some in our denomination believe that God is doing great things through Driscoll and that connecting with such a leader is beneficial for those training for ministry, young pastors, and even for current leaders in the denomination. Others have distanced themselves from him because of past occurrences of sin that, for some reason in their minds, can never be forgiven and still stain his current biblical, theological views. Not only have they distanced themselves from Driscoll, some have attacked his Acts29 network (like Missouri), and others have been critical of those who have allowed him to be involved in our SBC entities.
The article in the Baptist Press criticized Driscoll in an inaccurate and unfair way, and it gives an illustration of why some in the younger generations disengage. These kinds of things only aid their decisions to leave. Bombing raids on Gospel-centered brothers (who are not the enemy) turn many of them off. Baptist Press and others continue to castigate a man who has repented of past sins, and we as redeemed sinners must believe that the Cross takes care of sin. We should value repentance, not ignore it. We also continue to berate a man who preaches more gospel-centered sermons in a week than most pastors (including much of the SBC) preach in a year. We acknowledge that Driscoll is by no means perfect, nor is he always accurate. Some of what he does and says is edgy, radical, and stirs up controversy, but most of the time his approaches are not unbiblical. We in no way intend for this to be an endorsement of all things Driscoll, but we do believe he is doing valuable gospel work and he is not the one we need to launch our grenades on. We think that Dr. Alvin Reid’s Twitter comment says it well, “listen to his podcasts from SEBTS and decide for yourself if he’s friend or foe.”
This BP article gives a direct picture of what some in our denomination want to convey to those who may be influenced by men like Mark Driscoll. It seems that they are sending the signal “if this is you and your influenced by him, then change or stay out.” We at Bapist21, along with several “older-40” pastors and leaders in our denomination highly disagree with this inaccurate portrait of Mark Driscoll and ask that you stay in our denomination and let your voice be heard. We desire to affect change in our denomination and the world by remaining focused on what matters: “Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The reason we are willing to learn from someone like Driscoll is because we believe he shares this common vision with us and we hope you do as well.
Some Interactions with Quotes in the Baptist Press Article:
We are not even going to address the journalistic nature of this article, though others have. We turn to their thoughts.
“This graphic, found on Driscoll’s blog, warns that the material is not suitable for minor readers. However, there is no warning that such topics should be discussed only within the confines of marriage.”
It is wrong-headed to say that these topics should only be discussed in the confines of marriage; they must also be discussed with those that are moving toward marriage. That would include most of the congregation, though language should be tempered as appropriate for different ages. We need to be honest about these issues because this is what the younger generations (and everyone in the world) are talking about. If we can discuss these things anywhere it should be a church setting. Some people in your churches will not have parents to cover some of these issues and the church should recapture its authoritative role in instructing its people, not peers or a Google search.
“Schleuter also castigated Driscoll for linking the blog to a website, christiannymphos.org, which features articles on how a Christian wife can turn herself into a dominatrix, the glories of an-l and or-l sex, and the use of sex toys.”
We wish that Baptist Press had felt it necessary to post the disclaimer that Driscoll does with his link to this site.
“At a time when American young people are hit in the face with graphic sexuality in every facet of our culture, the church should be a safe haven where the sacredness and privacy of the act of marriage is respected by pastors,” Schleuter said in a press release. “Those with sexual issues need to receive private counseling — not sex seminars in a church auditorium.”
We would argue that Pastor Driscoll respects sexual issues more than many do, he at the least wants to help guide his congregation to a biblical view of sex. He never espouses premarital sex of any kind. He is intensely biblical in his view on sex and Schleuter is partially right, the church should be the safe place to discuss sex, which is what he was doing.
“For generations, Christian pastors have managed to convey the Scripture’s teachings on fornication, adultery and the beauty of sexuality within marriage without sullying and cheapening it” Schleuter added.”
This is the most ironic quote of the article. Is this why the church’s record on sexual issues like premarital sex and divorce is in lock step with the culture? The divorce rate inside of our own churches is extremely high, which shows there is a lack of accurate preaching on the subject of sex and marriage. This is one of the reasons we are grateful that pastors are beginning to cover tough topics; this should have always been the case.
“He (Driscoll) has simultaneously embraced the spirit of the age when it comes to his treatment of sex. In the process, he is pornifying the church and only adding to the moral squalor of our culture.”
Driscoll is engaging the spirit of this age, not embracing it. He is trying to help in an area that has spun out of control in our culture and in most of our churches. He is trying to redeem a gift from God. The Church is absolutely the place to do this.
If you will listen to Driscoll and read his books you will see a man that has a keen eye for the culture and how to address it biblically. It is our hope that we will figure out who the true enemies are. If we will not, as another blogger said to me, we will “continue to hear the splash of young seminarians jumping overboard.” We fear that this article is indicative of why the generation gap continues to grow.
N.A. and R.P.
Part II of this blog will be added tomorrow
Other Responses to the Baptist Press Article:
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