In a letter from the Elders they describe the purpose of the conference:
“The goal of the conference is to bring together like minded people for encouragement, training, education, and fellowship. This is the first of many events that will be hosted by Henderson Hills. We feel led to invest in other pastors and leaders now so that they can be better leaders in the future.”
Schedule – Saturday, November 6th
11:30 Lunch (cost is $10 per person for those eating lunch)
12:30 Why Do We Do Things that Way? The Gospel and Baptist Identity – Nathan Finn
1:45 Panel Discussion – Nathan Finn, Daniel Akin, Dennis Newkirk, Nathan Akin
3:00 Close (dinner on your own)
5:30 Marks of a Great Commission People – Daniel Akin
Nathan A. Finn
Nathan Finn currently serves as Assistant Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author or editor of numerous publications on topics such as Baptist history and theology, missions history, and general church history. Nathan is married to Leah and they have three children. Nathan frequently blogs at his personal website nathanfinn.com and the Southeastern Seminary faculty blog betweenthetimes.com.
Dr. Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Also a prolific author, he holds degrees from The Criswell College (B.A.), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and the University of Texas at Arlington (Ph.D.). Akin is married to Charlotte, and they have four sons and 6 grandchildren.
Henderson Hills says of these two men:
Both men are from Southeastern Baptist Seminary, one of the fastest growing seminaries in the nation. Both are experts in their field: Missions and Church History. So, Learn what’s currently happening in Baptist life from two that are involved.
Dennis Newkirk is Senior Pastor/Elder of Henderson Hills Baptist Church
Nathan Akin is College Director at Open Door Baptist Church, Liaison to the Churches for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Co-founder of Baptist21
B21 would like to invite you to attend this conference – REGISTER HERE
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary recently held a panel discussion on the topic of the Generational Divide in the SBC. The panel consisted of Danny Akin, JD Greear, David Nelson, and Nathan Finn. This panel discussion covers some very important topics. This panel discussion may be seen as quite controversial, but it is a must view.
Some of the topics included:
Some of the questions posed:
1. How can young SBC’ers pursue holiness, while abstaining from alcohol, but at the same time not being legalists?
2. Why should young SBC’ers stay in the SBC, especially when it is frustrating to plant churches because of the red tape at the state and with NAMB, and there is less with an organization like Acts29?
3. What can young Calvinists in the SBC do when so many are being passed over by local churches because of their Calvinism, should they really commit to the SBC if they do not feel a part of the family?
4. What does the bible really say about homosexuality and how do we respond in a pastoral way?
5. What do you think is the heart of the issue of this intergenerational challenge, who are the stakeholders and what is at stake?
The following continues the discussion on the reasons younger pastors are choosing to disengage from our convention. Please See Part 1 here
II. Some are not creating a compelling vision for those they pastor
“Simply put, the current generation of engaged Southern Baptists have not replicated their denominational involvement in the rising generation. There are notable exceptions: I think of seminary-sponsored Convention classes and internship-minded pastors like Johnny Hunt and Mark Dever. But as a general rule, the over-40 crowd has had little success in convincing the under-40 crowd that attending a denominational meeting is worth their time and money.”
Pastors have either done a poor job or not perceived the necessity of teaching their people about the importance of a convention such as ours. Many have not recruited, prayed for, or raised up other pastors who understand the depth and history of the SBC. Our history is rooted in men and women who have labored to plant churches, train pastors, send missionaries, and go to the ends of the earth. Our legacy demands that we continue the vision given to the disciples by Jesus in Matthew 28 and Acts 1. We must paint a clear and compelling vision of what being Baptist should look like in the twenty-first century for the younger generation. Finn goes on to add:
“The Conservative Resurgence will be shown to have ultimately been in vain. What a tragedy if a generation gained control of the SBC only to watch the next generation of conservatives decide the SBC isn’t worth having control of. And lest you think I am exaggerating, trust me when I say hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear a student or pastor friend make this type of comment.”
In our minds, this is an absolute travesty, especially in view of so many other denominations that have moved left. We do believe the SBC is worth having “control of”, and we hope that many of our brothers of like-mind, heart, and age will see this worth and help us talk about how to move forward with this goal. We desire to be part of younger Baptists that cast a bright vision and future for the SBC, a vision that puts away petty arguments and irrelevant political ambitions. This vision and mission we hope is for cooperation, missions, and church planting. It is a vision for the Nations to bow at the feet of Jesus.
We know that the over/under 40 distinctions are not so clearly drawn and it is not as though we have all the answers, we write this mainly hoping to encourage our peers because we want to be a part of this, and we think this is worth being a part of. At the same time, we hope that we can show some that entrench in non-gospel centered fights that this will turn away many of our peers.
Remedies for the Generation Gap
This generation gap needs to be remedied. We agree and stand with Finn’s assessment of the state of the younger generations. He states:
“Some already think the Convention is a dinosaur that just needs to go extinct, especially a number of folks in the under-40 crowd. Maybe they are right, but I am not ready to give up on the denomination just yet. I still think God has something for us to do as a Convention of autonomous churches. I continue to hold out hope that our best days lie ahead and that (Lord willing) my children and grandchildren can be a part of a great heritage of Baptist Christians who have been mightily used of God. I hope you will join me in my mission to convince younger conservatives that the SBC is still worth it. And let’s all work especially hard to make sure it is.”
This last sentence is key. We need to make sure that this is worth fighting FOR. We need to acknowledge as well that some of the younger generation’s criticism stems from a lack of humility and an arrogance that is not helpful or right. This issue is two-fold: 1) some in the “under-40’s” must submit to our denomination leaders, not be proud or haughty, let their voice be heard (by showing up), and affect change from the inside out through their Christlike, gospel-centered character and example; 2) some in the“over-40’s” must learn to drop their political agendas, petty disagreements, non-gospel centered religious traditions, and pride in order to give a fair hearing to the next generation that God is raising up to carry the torch of the SBC into a new world and culture.
We have come up with a few thoughts on how to fix this generation gap (though again not exhaustive). Here are the remedies that we suggest could lead to a cure for the generation gap in our denomination, and we hope this will ensure the SBC legacy, influence, and mission to go forth:
A Vision of What Could Come from Closing the Gap
We stand firmly on the fact that our denomination is by far the largest missions sending agency in the world. We literally have thousands of missionaries across the world who are sharing the name of Jesus with people of all nationalities and all languages as you read this. There are men in New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and other cities in America who are laboring for the gospel. We know that our tithe dollars are going to fund these pastors and churches so that they can effectively minister to those in need. We have six seminaries that as you read this are training pastors, missionaries, church planters, and leaders across the globe for gospel work. Our denomination pours your tithe dollars into these entities in order to further the gospel around the world.
While we know that not all may be running as effectively or to the highest capacity as they could or should be, we understand that our attempt is bigger than anything else going. We as a younger generation have a great opportunity, if we will humble ourselves and rely on the Spirit, we can be a part of making lasting impact through a group of churches cooperating together for the mission of King Jesus.
The SBC should be willing to adapt because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake. We know that a strong vision of all the peoples of the world hearing the name of Jesus and having the opportunity to commit their lives to him is worth laboring and partnering for. One of the bright spots is that many who are going through Acts29 right now are Southern Baptist. So younger men, there are many of like-mind, do not lose heart because if we cooperate together eventually we will through our vote alone be able to influence the denomination.
In addition, there are older men in key leadership positions within our convention that agree with us and cast this vision, let’s attach ourselves to them. At the same time, we hope, though others have already argued otherwise, that Finn is not right and that there are not those looking for war and pursuing because all they know is a fighter’s mentality. That will be harmful to the future of the SBC and that will turn many young pastors off, do not attach yourselves to them. Historically, our focus (SBC) has been good and right. We have been a people who seek to have healthy local autonomous congregations. We have been a people who seek to provide great theological education at reduced rates. And we have been a people that have been about mission, this is encapsulated in our first document “By organizing a plan for eliciting, combining and directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the Gospel.” We meant that then. We hope we do now.
It is our goal that over the next few months we will begin laying our potential vision of what being Baptist will look like as we continue into the 21st Century. Stay tuned….
N.A. and R.P.
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:
The First Baptist Church of Durham hosted a conference last week entitled The Politics of Jesus. Here is an excerpt describing the questions addressed by the conference:
The modern church finds itself riddled with internal contradictions between the teaching of Jesus and politics. The demands of caring for the poor, the elderly, and children fiercely interact with the issues of war, economics, abortion, and homosexuality. Christians of all denominational associations struggle to construct a comprehensive and biblical view of the state without compromising the content of the gospel. Does the Bible offer any help when dealing with issues of politics? Did Jesus speak directly to matters of government? Can theological conservatives be socially active without compromising evangelism? What can Christian history teach the modern church about the political future?
Speakers and Topics:
Andy Davis – Babylon: An Ancient Assessment of a Present Reality
Greg Thornbury – Marriage: If Not Sacred – What?
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