Baptist 21 is excited to announce that Johnny Hunt and Ronnie Floyd will be joining us at the B21 Panel Luncheon. They will join a very important conversation with Akin, Platt, Scroggins, Stetzer, Chandler, and Mohler about the future of the SBC and the Great Commission Resurgence.
This year’s SBC is being compared already to the 1979 Convention when the Conservative Resurgence started. That means it will be one of the most important in recent memory. This panel will discuss the most significant issues facing the SBC and our future.
We are delighted to have these two key figures in SBC life joining us. Johnny Hunt is the Pastor of FBC Woodstock and the President of the SBC. His leadership during his two years as President has been outstanding. He has boldly set the course for a Great Commission-focused future in the SBC. Ronnie Floyd is the chairman of the GCR Task Force. He has shown bold, wise, and consensus-building leadership in that role. Much of the GCR is the dream and vision of these two men and so we thought it necessary to hear from them.
Please make every effort to attend this event! This event will take place immediately prior to the selection of the next SBC President and the GCR Task Force Presentation.
When is the b21 panel: June 15th 11:30 am – 1:30 pm (during the lunch break of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando immediately following President Hunt’s address). Lunch will be provided.
Where is the b21 panel: The panel will be on site at the Convention in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), West Building in Rooms 311B-H
Who is on the b21 panel:
Why hold the b21 panel: This is a pivotal year for the SBC with the report coming from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. This could be a “tipping point” for our future. We want to have significant leaders help guide us in thinking through these issues.
How much is the b21 panel: There will be a $7 charge that will accompany registration for the event. This $7 will include lunch and books.
Possible Topics at b21 panel: These are some possible topics that will be covered. In addition, there will be a future blog asking for your questions as well.
This is going to be a key year for the future of the SBC. We urge you to make plans to be in Orlando for it. We hope this panel will provide an exciting venue at the SBC for you to connect with others, receive resources, and gain insight from key leaders. Please make every effort to attend and help us spread the word about this lunch.
Recently, I had the privilege of writing an article for “Outlook,” The magazine of Southeastern Seminary. The topic given to me was “what Young Leaders were doing well and not so well in pursuing a Great Commission Resurgence?” That magazine is now available, check it out here, with articles about Muslims in Amsterdam, technology and Great Commission work, Convergent Church, and 20/20 conference that featured Mahaney, Driscoll, Akin, and Brown.
So with permission from the editor I make available my article here.
“Youth,” the adage goes, “is wasted on the young.” Perhaps this aphorism is true – it is at least partly true, in that young people tend to be long on energy and creativity and short on wisdom and patience. It might even be possible, in a general way, to apply this sort of thinking to young leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.
To be sure, young leaders bring both positive and negatives to the table. Even a term like “young leader” often carries a great deal of baggage. The definitions of “young” and “leader” are certainly debatable. However, it is necessary to think through what younger evangelical and SBC leaders are doing right and what they may be doing wrong in the pursuit of a Missional Revolution. There are a number of strengths younger leaders can bring to a Great Commission Resurgence. I do not mean to insinuate that older leaders do not possess these traits as well. I am convinced we learned most of them from our Fathers in the Faith. This list also is in no way exhaustive, but I believe it gets to the heart of positive aspects younger leaders can bring to the table.
I. Energy and Creativity- It is hard to deny that many of the younger strain are very passionate and driven. The vitality of the young is certainly a strength. Younger leaders bring a fresh perspective and usually newer methods and ideas on how to reach the culture. They can certainly challenge an established crowd think through new and exciting methods, while helping to steer them from traditionalism (in the negative sense).
II. Theological Renewal- In many of the younger leaders I perceive a hunger for theological thinking and training. This seems to be spurred by the writings of men like John Piper, John MacArthur, and Mark Dever. Many younger leaders yearn to think deeply and think well. Many also want to discern what cultural traditions may have been handed down to us that are not biblical mandates. They seek to ask the question, “What does the Bible teach?” For most, a love for thinking and theology is attached to a passion for being faithful to the authority of Scripture.
III. A Missionaries’ Mindset- Many of the younger leaders employ what can be called a missionary mindset, in that they display great concern for the souls of the lost and use their energy to share the gospel. These young leaders are prepared to go to the tough places and initiate new ministries. Although, the word “missional” is not popular in some circles, many of the young leaders believe it simply means that you should possess a missionary mentality, regardless of the context in which you find yourself. There is much to be commended in this outlook. This mentality has captivated younger men; it is driving them to be church planters nationally in difficult places and it will lead them to be church planters internationally in unreached places. It is also exciting to see that there is no dichotomy for many of them between theology and mission. They are concerned both with mission and with theological/practical preparation for that mission. In my judgment, this flows right out of the Conservative Resurgence. Programs like the “2+2 program” display this, where those who hope to be in a cross-cultural mission setting see the need to be prepared for that context. This mentality is completely consonant with a Great Commission Resurgence and makes me excited to be on a seminary campus, like Southeastern.
IV. Expectancy- At times I and others have written and lamented the decline of younger men getting involved in SBC life; I think for good reason. However, it is difficult to understand that trend when you live on the Southeastern Campus. I am surrounded by men who are passionate to be church planters nationally and internationally, and many are committed, at least for now, to being part of the Southern Baptist Convention. If the SBC is infused over the next decade with hundreds of seminarians possessing a missional attitude and serving the tough places of America and the unreached places overseas, then it will be hard to be pessimistic about the future. The younger generation is driven by this expectancy of a Great Commission Resurgence and the spreading fame of Christ. In many ways, it casts a shadow over the negatives and declining membership in SBC life. Many in this generation carry a mindset similar to William Carey, a Baptist in a previous generation, “Expect great things, attempt great things.” I, for one, think great days lie ahead because of the brothers I meet on this campus every day.
However, there is also the possibility of a downside. Some major dangers for younger leaders cast doubts as to the effectiveness they will enjoy in the future. If these pitfalls are not overcome, the above positives will serve little benefit to the young leaders.
1. Pride and Ageism (The following section is borrowed heavily from Scott Wilson’s article at Baptist21entitled “Is there Ageism in the SBC?“) - Pride and Ageism go hand in hand. All men struggle with pride, but especially younger men. There is a tendency to buck authority and accountability, and thus the danger of being driven by fame. There is a temptation to view your new and fresh ideas as the only ways to “do” ministry, while casting a negative glance at the work of older pastors, men who have been serving faithfully for decades. I am afraid that we are in danger of being myopic, something some young leaders accuse of the older generation of. If we see our “way” of ministry as “the” way, then we risk placing our preferences and ministries on equal footing with scriptural authority, much like we sometimes claim of the traditional methods. We carry the danger of being “ageists”, seeing older ministers as irrelevant and bothersome. We must avoid our culture’s tendency to cast a negative eye on our elders; this is a place for us to be counter-cultural. I think Scott Wilson said it best when he said, “has our generation become so arrogant that we think we have nothing to learn from those who have been in ministry for forty years, while we have been in ministry for two? We have only just begun to suffer for Christ; they have much to teach us, if only we would humble ourselves long enough to listen. Young believers and young pastors need to seek out older mentors, realizing their need to learn and grow. ”
2. Follow through- A danger accompanying younger energy and creativity is a lack of reliability or work ethic. Once the freshness “wears” off, will the younger generation have “stick-to-itiveness” in their ministries, or will they walk away and fade away into obscurity?
3. Capitulation to Culture- In an attempt to be missional, the danger is that we will take on the irredeemable qualities of the ambient culture. In an attempt to be relevant to culture, there is a danger for the young leaders to surrender those biblical truths and spiritual formation that separate us as followers of Christ. Some sectors of the Emerging Church already evidence this capitulation. Some men who are labeled as “culturally relevant” and in touch with the postmodern ethos have abandoned orthodoxy. We also see this in some so-called “Younger Evangelical Leaders.” At times, because of pride, they play to an audience that they should not “play to” when it comes to social issues that have never been consonant with Scripture. Either that, or they seek to be so culturally relevant that they let precious truths of the faith slide. If we do capitulate to culture, we will not be “relevant” to culture. A Great Commission Resurgence is relevant because it gets to the deepest need of mankind. We must not become driven by cultural relevance. Instead, we must be compelled by the authority of Scripture and a hope to see the glory of Christ invade this world. Otherwise, we will cease to be “relevant”.
4. Isolationist Attitude- In some sectors of younger leaders there also seems to be an isolationist mentality that says, “I will go plant my own church and do my own thing.” They are suspicious of accountability, do not like the methods of others in a convention, and are unhappy with some other (often minor) aspects in a convention. This results in a number of them leaving. The exodus of young leaders from the convention is potentially damaging to a Great Commission Resurgence, and these younger leaders will not be as effective in pursuing a Great Commission Resurgence on their own as they thought. The younger generation needs to step up and be men; we do not need to abandon cooperation because some in a convention criticize us, do not invite us to speak, or because the convention has imperfections. Instead, we must realize that we will be stronger together and more effective through cooperation. A Great Commission Resurgence is not to be undertaken alone. We do not need to “stick our noses up” toward the very convention that paid for our education, in many cases delivered to us the gospel, and taught us to trust the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Instead, we should be prepared to do the hard work of being involved and then let our voice be heard. This will not happen overnight. However, as a band of brothers who are like-minded, let’s stay, serve, and then speak. Instead of leaving, younger leaders should pursue the benefit of cooperation toward the end of a Great Commission Resurgence.
5. Neglect of the Spiritual Disciplines- Finally, I think many of these failures occur because we neglect spiritual formation. We are so indoctrinated with being on mission that we forget the immense importance of “the character” of the man on mission. It is not enough to be on mission and relevant to the culture if we are not grounded enough to recognize what is redeemable and what is irredeemable in the ambient culture. This takes a man of great discernment, and sadly, many of my younger generation cannot be categorized as possessing this discernment. We are younger and that simply means we still lack much of the wisdom and maturity of older brothers in Christ. If we are so concerned with culture that we neglect protecting our own souls, we will not be the missionaries we are called to be.
In the end, a Great Commission Resurgence, a Missional Revolution, whatever you want to label it, is the goal. It is the natural outgrowth of the Conservative Resurgence launched in 1979. The goal is the fame of Christ spread to the peoples of all nations. Younger leaders must seek to avoid the pitfalls that come from being young; we need to immerse ourselves in Scripture, its disciplines, and the counsel of older, godly brothers. We must continue to pursue a missionary mentality, understand the danger of a life lived apart from Christ, and we must not back down from being passionate about sharing the glories of Christ for the fame of Christ. What I am hoping for, especially among our Southern Baptist brethren, is a multitude of foot soldiers in a Great Commission Resurgence, an army set to war for the fame of Christ, even as we pray the prayer of the saints throughout the ages, “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
Recently I read Dr. Mark Dever’s “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.” I hope to provide a brief summary of each mark that Pastor Dever sees as vital for the healthy church and then think through practical ways to make this mark a reality in our churches. I hope that you will join the conversation as we think through healthy Baptist churches in the 21st Century.
Mark One: Expositional Preaching
With the close of his life coming quickly, the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy that his ministry be marked by one thing above all others, “preach the Word.” Pastor Dever sees this mark of the church as the most vital, understanding that if we get this one right the others will follow. Essential to the health of the church is the expounding of the “Word of God.” Dever points out that God always uses his word to create a people for himself. Dever says that expositional preaching is “preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture. That’s it” (40). In addition, he makes clear that if a pastor does not preach expositionally he will never preach more than he knew at the beginning of his preaching life. Scripture is clear that we are “dead” men walking and yet only through the hearing of the Word can we be made alive. Is there anything more important than this? Next, the word is the food that conforms us to the image of Christ. Therefore, if we want to see real change in the lives of those around us we must not be so arrogant as to think it can come from our “words”, instead we must be confident that God has spoken and only through his word can people be radically transformed. Therefore, if we really want to see something great happen in our day, the exhortation of the Apostle cannot be improved upon, “Preach the Word.”
How to Practically Implement this Mark in your Church:
First, seek out other pastors and preachers that do this well. There are many good ones to check out in this area. Men like John MacArthur, John Piper, Allister Begg, Mark Driscoll, David Platt, and James Merritt are excellent expositors to check out. Also, Dr. Mohler’s Powerline, Danny Akin’s website, and Russell Moore’s Podcast are excellent resources for the pastor who wants to improve as an expositor. Listen to these men, read their transcripts, and seek to work through verses of the scriptures the way these men do. Second, a preacher seeking to be a better expositor could attend one of the six SBC seminaries, the Olford Institute, or a plethora of conferences given throughout the year. In addition, preachers can read books like Ramesh Richards “Preparing Expository Sermons”, Haddon Robinson’s classic “Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Sermons”, or consult Calvin’s Commentaries to improve as an expositor of God’s Word. Finally, and most importantly, you must see the vital nature of this mark of the church. If we want to see renewed evangelism, discipleship, mission, etc. then it will come from right knowledge and action shaped by God’s Word working in our lives. This is a call to teach the Word and allow IT to mold and break the lives of our people. The call of the Apostle still rings true, “Preach the Word.”
I would love to hear from you. How would you go about making this a staple of your church? And does it really matter?
Make sure to read Dever’s “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church“, it is an invaluable tool for ministry.
Historically speaking, the question of whether or not inerrancy matters has been a significant one for the SBC. Unless the reader is new to the SBC, he or she will be aware that this very issue was pivotal in the battle for control of the convention in the last quarter of the twentieth century. While there were many other issues involved, and while there are exceptions to the following statement, those in the conservative and moderate camps (in the battle for the convention) can be generally classified as those who arrive at different answers to the inerrancy question. Conservative leaders strategically lighted upon the inerrancy issue, speaking and writing about its importance to lay Southern Baptists. This issue, perhaps more than any other, awakened a grassroots movement among Southern Baptists; Baptists began to show up in greater numbers at the annual convention, casting their votes for SBC presidential candidates who believed the Bible was the inerrant Word of God. If the reader will allow this grossly over-simplified historical retelling to continue, the plan among conservatives was that the newly elected conservative (and inerrantist) SBC president would make appointments which would lead over time to theological change at the level of our denominational entities (particularly at the six Southern Baptist seminaries). As history has demonstrated, this plan to recover our historical, biblical roots and preserve our convention’s theological heritage worked. All six Southern Baptist seminaries now teach their students that the Bible is inerrant and are sending out pastors, church leaders, and missionaries who are conveying that message to the people with whom they serve. Sadly, this could not have been said of all six seminaries in the years before the “Conservative Resurgence” took place. Of course, those on different sides of this issue have different feelings about this change in the convention. While some approvingly refer to this time in SBC history as the “Conservative Resurgence,” others, with a note of mournful disappointment, call it the “Fundamentalist Takeover.” [Just so there is no confusion, this author calls it the “Conservative Resurgence,” thinks the question of inerrancy is, to borrow from Judge Pressler, “A Hill on Which to Die,” and is eternally grateful to those who fought to keep our denomination from taking the path of theological liberalism tread by so many others]. No matter your position, what has taken place in our convention is a matter of historical record. Those interested in learning more about the “Conservative Resurgence” can do so by reading any number of books on the subject (see below for a few examples).
This way of understanding the question “Does Inerrancy Matter?” isn’t actually the point of this post. This post is not written with the goal of convincing non-inerrantists to switch camps and take an inerrantist position “because inerrancy matters.” I am writing to conservatives. I am writing to those who would affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I am writing to those who would say wholeheartedly “Inerrancy does matter!” And I am asking you the question, “Do you live like it matters?” I am convinced that if it really did matter to us like we say it does, we would do some things differently. I am convinced that we as Southern Baptists are not living, teaching, preaching, and worshipping like inerrancy matters to us.
Let me mention three key areas where I think we can do a better job of demonstrating that inerrancy matters to us and is indeed “A Hill on Which to Die”:
(1) Personal Bible Reading—We say we have a perfect Bible, with God as its ultimate author, and yet the number of those in our convention who have actually taken the time to read this perfect Bible in its entirety is relatively few. Does this fact jive with our belief in inerrancy? If it’s not perfect, maybe there are some parts we should skip? But if it’s perfect, and if 2 Timothy 3:16 is true and every single piece of Scripture is beneficial for us, then how can we not read it all? Yet many who take an inerrantist position on Scripture have read each volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy many times over but have never taken the time to read through the Bible even once. While our copies of Harry Potter have well-worn pages with tattered edges, our Bibles are in mint condition from want of use. Which book on our shelves does this practice suggest is the perfect one?
(2) Scripture Memory—The Bible we believe is perfect is filled with commands to hide God’s Word in our hearts. Even apart from such commands, since we believe that every verse in Scripture is intended for our spiritual well-being why would we not want to have as much of the Word as possible memorized? Yet I fear that accurate statistics on scripture memorization in the SBC would be even more alarming than statistics on Bible reading. Pastors, try this out in your next worship service. Ask every person in the congregation to rise. Then ask them to sit down if they cannot quote one verse (with its reference) for every year they have been a Christian. See how many you have left standing. Most likely, you will only have a handful for every hundred believers in your church. What does this say about how important we think our perfect Bibles are? Apparently we believe that since the Bible is perfect, it is perfect-ly fine for us to look up every verse we need when we need it.
(3) Preaching—How can a Southern Baptist congregation, that presumably believes in a perfect Bible, tolerate a sermon which barely mentions the Bible? I have heard, and heard of, Southern Baptist preachers constructing entire messages around the latest Christian book they’ve read or the latest forwarded email they received in their inbox. How did we as a convention get to a point where, in any of our churches, such behavior passes as “preaching” in any sense of the word? Preaching, as understood in Scripture, takes the Word as its subject matter. “Preachers” are tasked with explaining the meaning of Scripture so that their hearers can apply the Word to their lives (e.g. Neh 8:8). While this task of “explaining” will include the appropriate use of illustrative material, the subject matter of the sermon is never in doubt—it is the Word of God. Preaching anything but the Bible expresses either the height of arrogance (“I have something more valuable to say that what God has said”) or laziness (“It is easier to read this email and talk about it than to actually study the Scripture and find out what it says”). While this is a topic too large to expound fully at the close of this post, I would submit to you that expository preaching best matches a stated belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. The preacher who delivers an expository sermon in effect says to his hearers, “We have been given a perfect Bible. I don’t need to add anything to it; I just need to explain it. I will let the God-given text of Scripture determine my main point and my preaching outline (my supporting points). Why would I think I can organize this material any better than God and try to preach this passage some other way?” Sadly, while many in our denomination label themselves “expositors” their preaching could not be called “expository” by any conceivable definition. It is not enough to call yourself an “expositor;” you must actually “exposit” (uncover, lay bear) the text during your message to merit that self-designation. [For more on the connection between inerrancy and expository preaching, consider: John MacArthur, Jr., “The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy: Expository Preaching,” in Rediscovering Expository Preaching, John MacArthur, Jr., ed. (Dallas: Word, 1992): 22-35.]
The battle our theological fathers fought for inerrancy was a difficult one. We should not give away the fruit of their victory so easily. We should continue to fight for inerrancy, because it really does matter—without a perfect Bible, we have an unsure epistemological foundation for our faith. But we must also live as if inerrancy matters. We must live under the realization that because the Bible is the inerrant Word of God it has absolute authority over our behavior as individuals, families, and churches. God has spoken to us and we are to listen and obey. We should read the Word, memorize the Word, and preach the Word as if we believe we have a perfect Word from the Lord—because we do!
–Scott S. Wilson
Recommended Resources on the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC:
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