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.
Recently, there have been two articles of note in Southern Baptist Press. The first is an interview with Pastor Johnny Hunt about the Great Commission Resurgence. He covers some controversial topics, such as: why a GCR, why so much “push back” from Baptist state executives, a GCR motion for the Convention in Louisville calling for a task force to study the GCR, his frustrations with some critics of the document, and why other denominational leaders names are absent. This is a necessary read.
In addition, it was announced yesterday by BaptistPress that Dr. Kevin Ezell, pastor of the Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, will be nominated as President of the Pastor’s Conference at this year’s convention.
Hunt says GCR was needed ‘shock’ to ‘adrift’ SBC: SBC president confirms intention to seek re-election
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS (FBW) – The Southern Baptist Convention is a ship “adrift” and so low in the water that it “probably” needs to rid itself of some unnecessary “cargo” to “float and be healthy and strong again,” SBC president Johnny Hunt said in a May 13 interview with Florida Baptist Witness.
Confirming his intention to seek re-election, Hunt said his recently released “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence” declaration offering a 10-point plan for rekindling fervor in SBC life for Jesus’ missionary mandate was a needed “shock” to the unhealthy denomination in spite of the “ruckus” it has created.
…Noting much of the “push back” on the document has come from state convention executive directors who saw the declaration as an attack on their ministries, Hunt said he has spoken with many of those leaders and he agrees with Union University president David Dockery that all “partners” will be needed for a Great Commission Resurgence.
“We’re all partners – all of our state guys, associations, we’re partners. I think when it’s all said and done it will show them in a greater light to a younger generation and to any that would cast doubt on the faithfulness of the denomination,” Hunt said.
Hunt confirmed a motion will be offered at the SBC annual meeting in Louisville next month directing him to appoint a task force to study the GCR declaration and bring a report and recommendations to the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando.
Expecting the task force likely will be comprised of 12 persons, Hunt said although he is not ready to name specific persons he would appoint to the “very fair committee,” the types of people he anticipates naming would include leading pastors, a state convention executive director, a seminary president, and a college president – without speaking exhaustively of the potential make-up of the group.
…Hunt expressed frustration that those who are concerned with certain wording in the document did not give him the “benefit of the doubt.”
“Why is there so much – and maybe there is a better word, but I feel sometimes – so much distrust in this Baptist family? That’s why I think we need health that only God can give,” Hunt said.
Imagining an alternative way critics of the GCR declaration could have responded to him, Hunt continued: “So much distrust to believe that someone that has led a church, started a lot of churches, given a lot of money and been a friend to all – why is there such distrust? Why couldn’t we say, ‘I want to ask him about a couple of those words because I know him enough, know his heart enough, that we’re brothers.’ But it’s almost like it sets us aside and at odds with each other at first run of the document, instead of just saying, ‘I want to get clarity on that. Maybe there’s something I haven’t seen.’”
Noting that the local church is “king” in Southern Baptist life and each of the spheres of denominational life – associations, state conventions, national entities – are answerable to the churches, Hunt said, “It’s sort of like I almost feel like I have to ask permission to ask a question about the agencies I support. That gives me major, major heartburn.”
…”I would like to see churches give more money than ever before. But as it gives it, I would like to see bureaucracy ceasing to grow so much larger,” Hunt said, describing a future scenario in which a state convention would determine that it has enough funds to do its ministry and can give more beyond its state.
“I hope it would come to the point they say, ‘You know what, we don’t need to grow the bureaucracy any larger. Let’s just send that money on.’ I’d like to see that happen in a greater amount,” Hunt said, quickly adding there may be some state conventions that need the assistance of other state conventions.
Although acknowledging the GCR declaration was reviewed before its release by certain SBC agency leaders and megachurch pastors, Hunt said he did not regret not involving some state convention executives in the drafting and review process because it’s a pastoral effort.
Asked about several high-profile SBC leaders who have not endorsed GCR, Hunt said he met with Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former SBC president, and had a 40-minute telephone conversation with Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee and former SBC president.
Patterson, Hunt said, thought the declaration was a “great document, but I leave it to his conscience as to whether he would publicly sign it.”
Although Hunt and Chapman had a “very commendable time of sharing,” Hunt said they saw the matter differently, perhaps because “he’s sitting as an executive director and I’m out there with the pastors every week,” adding that Chapman is “certainly … with pastors a lot, too.”
Hunt said he was surprised to learn in some research he did after the release of the declaration that Chapman made a call for an “overhaul” of the denomination similar to GCR in an address some years ago at Union University.
In light of that call, Hunt wondered why Chapman would not support GCR.
“Is it more about who says it? I don’t know. But I mean, what’s the difference in him saying it,” Hunt said, adding that he thinks such a declaration should come from a local church pastor, like himself, rather than a denominational executive.
Ezell to be Pastors’ Conf. nominee
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Kevin Ezell, senior pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference during its June 21-22 meeting in Louisville, Ky., a former conference president, Hayes Wicker, announced May 14.
“Dr. Ezell is one of our finest young leaders and is biblically authentic and incredibly innovative.” (Hayes Wicker)
“He is a stellar example of the ‘new breed’ of balanced leaders.” (Hayes Wicker)
“He is a change agent who is not content with ‘business as usual’ but is proactive and bold. I thank God that he has not made an omission of the Great Commission.” (Hayes Wicker)
Wicker said Ezell’s heart for missions encompasses his birth in Germany into the family of an Air Force dad; two children from China and Ethiopia among his five children; and his leadership in a “A Million for Missions” Highview initiative for global outreach.
“Since the start of Ezell’s pastorate at the church in 1996, Highview has nearly tripled its worship attendance and doubled in Sunday School.” Wicker said.
Chip Evans (church’s administrator) said “Highview funded a number of local missions efforts, but that the majority of the funds went to plant churches in Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York City, Boise, Indianapolis and Cleveland. Highview also directly funded international mission work in Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Peurto Rico, Zambia, North Africa, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, India, Asia and the Philippines.”
Ezell is the first announced nominee for the Pastors’ Conference presidency.
This series will be divided into three sections with many posts in each section. Each section will be offered with biblical, theological consideration. The first section will touch on our past. There are many things from our SBC history and heritage that we are grateful for and have learned much from. We are indebted to godly men and women who preceded us. These men and women made difficult decisions in difficult times. Our forefathers fought for missions and denominationalism, and they blazed new trails for cooperation in the cause of the Great Commission. We have learned from them, and we need to continue to learn from them. They laid a solid foundation for their children and grandchildren that does not need to be re-laid. Baptist 21 simply proposes to build on the foundation godly men and women already established for us and our children. We believe their vision for the SBC is what the SBC needs now, and we need to refocus on “propagating” the gospel!
Part of that foundation was laid in “The Battle for the Bible.” The heroes who fought that battle were men like Paige Patterson, Judge Pressler, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, many other leaders and thousands of grassroots Baptists who continued to show up because they held a conviction that theological orthodoxy should be restored. We are grateful for these men and women, and much of what will be said in every part of this series will come from what we have learned from the godly 1st and 2nd generations of the Conservative Resurgence. In the Conservative Resurgence men fought to return the convention to the inerrancy of the Bible and theological conservatism. In part the battle was won in that our institutions returned to orthodoxy, and our convention produced a solid confession of faith around which Baptists can agree and partner together (the BF&M 2000). The importance of the BF&M 2000 cannot be understated. We have a biblical and theological consensus around which to cooperate that says who is “inside” and “outside” the tent. However, the battle over God’s Word will continue in every generation, and that is why we must continue to be characterized by solid theology. Therefore, this section of the series will attempt to underline and explain the distinctives that characterize Baptists, distinctives handed down in our heritage by faithful exegesis, theological reflection and perseverance. These distinctives, and not extra external criteria, should determine our faith and practice as Baptists in the 21st century. Some of these will include: the inerrancy/authority of the Bible, recovery of the gospel, recovery of expository preaching, the priesthood of the believer, the right practice and importance of the ordinances, church polity and autonomy, regenerate church membership, church discipline, confessionalism, our historic commitment to mission, and theological education among others.
The second section will deal with the dangers of the present hour (see previous post). It will attempt to analyze what the dangers are, where they come from, how they threaten us, and how we can respond. These dangers will include: cultural compromise, traditionalism versus relevance, lack of discipleship, watered down preaching, arrogance, whining, mission strategies and methodologies, bureaucracy, etc.
The third section will deal with a future path that might set us in the right direction. We want to walk this path within our theological consensus. This future calls for a refocus on the primacy of the local church. We need to recapture a vision of the local church as the body Christ commissioned to raise up ministers, train them, use them to plant churches, and send them to the edges of the globe. The SBC entities do not replace the church; rather they come alongside the church. This refocus on the local church will hopefully mean greater and more strategic partnerships between healthy local churches and SBC entities. This future calls for some reform of the bureaucracy of the SBC. It will focus on things like the future of preaching, fellowship and discipleship, engaging our communities with the gospel, domestic church planting and SBC entities, foreign missions and SBC entities, reform of the Cooperative Program, theological education, and battles over methodology among others.
We offer this series in humility, realizing we do not have all of the answers. We offer this series hoping to be sharpened in our thinking in these areas by dialogue with other Southern Baptists. We pray that God will allow greater cooperation among a greater number of churches that are theologically grounded in God’s Word and on fire to win the world to Jesus through the planting of churches locally, nationally and internationally.
We offer this series recognizing that this is a dangerous time for the SBC. Mark Driscoll explained in a recent message the 4-fold process of a movement. A movement is when God does what he always does (i.e. salvations, churches planted, ministers trained, etc.) but in greater numbers and at a quicker pace. The second step in the process is organization because the movement can get out of control, so some organization is necessary. The third step is institution. The movement moves from organization to institution. The institution exists, unfortunately, NOT to sustain the movement but rather to preserve the institution. That process finally leads to the fourth step, which is museum. A museum is where people talk about the “good ol’ days” and how much Jesus used to do here. It would seem that the SBC is in danger of moving from institution (which we are now) to museum. We offer this series with the greatest of excitement, expectant that the SBC can be reinvigorated to reach many with gospel now and in the future. That is quite simply all we hope for. Dr. Danny Akin concluded a paper entitled “Answering the Call to a Great Commission Resurgence” by saying, “I believe our Baptist Fellowship is big enough, in all the right ways, to have room for William Carey, Andrew Fuller, Luther Rice, Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, John L. Dagg, Basil Manly Sr. and Jr., Lottie Moon, and Annie Armstrong. I believe it is big enough to include Al Mohler and Paige Patterson, Voddie Bauchman and J.D. Greear, Adrian Rogers and Timothy George, Jerry Vines and Mark Dever, W.A. Criswell and Hershel Hobbs, Buddy Gray and Johnny Hunt, Andy Davis and Steve Gaines, Danny Akin and Tom Ascol.” Baptist 21 hopes that the SBC will be big enough for and celebrate those who agree on the gospel and seek to make the King known in the 21st century and beyond.
“Baptist21 exists to contend for ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). We embrace our past, believing this faith has been proclaimed in our Southern Baptist heritage. We work in the present, believing the Kingdom effectiveness of Southern Baptists will be in proportion to our fidelity to the Gospel. We cooperate for the future, believing the only hope for the people of the world is the Gospel of King Jesus.”
In keeping with this statement, we seek to honor one of the great leaders of our past and present. This week Baptist 21 was blessed to interview Dr. Paige Patterson, the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Patterson is well known in Southern Baptist life for his leadership in the Conservative Resurgence and in charting a new direction for SEBTS. We are grateful for his leadership and recognize that if it were not for him we would most likely not be studying in Southern Baptist institutions. There is much that can be written about Dr. Patterson (it is our hope at some point to do a spotlight blog on him), but recently he came to my mind as I was speaking with a friend of mine about church planting. We were talking through some questions of ecclesiology and missiology in light of church planting. It hit me that if it were not for the conservative resurgence many of the questions that we were asking and that young seminarians are working through, would not even be in discussion. The discussions might then encompass the documentary hypothesis, women as elders, or the ordination of homosexuals as opposed to how to best reach the culture for Christ. My friend’s reply was one of gratitude as well and he intimated that we will be held accountable for how we handle this new and positive direction that we as a convention have inherited. I agree with what some others in the blogosphere are saying that we would never have been able to talk rightly about a Great Commission Resurgence without the Conservative Resurgence, but I think it even goes further than that. We would not be working through matters of ecclesiology, church planting, or soteriology on our campuses and our blogs if it had not been for the Conservative Resurgence. The return to the Bible in our academic institutions has led to a multitude of healthy conversations about theology, missions, ecclesiology, and church planting. We are indebted to men like Dr. Patterson and I am grateful that he, like Luther, was willing to say, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” We are delighted that this week’s highlight of the Baptist 21 podcast is an interview with Dr. Paige Patterson.
Some of the questions Dr. Patterson answered include:
Quotes from the Podcast:
Benefits of denominations- “There is no way any of us can do all that is involved in our Christian commitment alone… it is always going to happen whether we call it a denomination or something else”
Challenges for the SBC in the 21st- “The single largest challenge invariably has to do with success, when you succeed you are already in trouble… we’ve become complacent and we believe we have done this do to our cleverness or the fact we more right than this group or that… at the risk of sounding more Calvinistic than I am known to be, I would say it is all by the grace of God”
Focus on in the 21st- “I believe that our generation, I’m speaking broadly there, broadly enough to encompass a young man like you and an old codger like me, we have to got recover our walk with God… I’ve got to the point now where I wish every young minister would memorize the book of Proverbs”
“We’ve got to decide whether we believe hell is real… I think we all confess we think hell is real we don’t live like it”
Conservative Resurgence- “What convinced me we had to do it was being a little bit of church historian, I had read carefully Spurgeon’s ‘downgrade controversy’ literature and had observed in church history that nothing ever drifts to the right, everything drifts to the left”
“(I thought) you can just leave and go be an independent Baptist, that was an option, less costly, but that means abandon all the assets of our fathers and all hard work they did”
Dr. Paige Patterson is truly a giant on whose shoulders we stand. It is to our hope that you will listen to this interview and be challenged and encouraged. It is to our profit that we can hear from a man that has stood faithfully in that line of saints from the apostles until now. It is our hope that as we learn from his example and that we to can stand in this line of faithful men and in turn be stewards of the grace that God has bestowed upon us as we seek the best manner to pass on this faith to future generations.
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