Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Polity Matters (Part XI): A Case Study in Membership Requirements

Today John Piper, senior pastor of Bethelehem Baptist Church, released a statement that the elders of the church are leading the church through a process that will culminate in a vote to modify the church's consititution and by-laws to allow:
the possibility that a person may become a member who has not been baptized by immersion as a believer but who regards the baptismal ritual he received in infancy not as regenerating, but nevertheless (as with most Presbyterians) in such a way that it would violate his conscience to be baptized as a believer.
The motivation for the amendment is that a vast majority of the elders believes that the requirements for membership at Bethlehem:
should move toward being roughly the same as the requirements for membership in the universal body of Christ. That is, we have come to the conclusion that it is seriously questionable to say to a person who gives good evidence of being a true Christian and who wants to join Bethlehem: you may not join.
What makes this amendment acceptable in the elders' view is that Bethlehem has recently adopted a more stringent statement of faith for the elders, which includes a specific affirmation of believers' immersion. I discussed a very similar statement made by John MacArthur in a previous post. MacArthur, however, was addressing signing a doctrinal statement, not the necessity of believers' immersion for church membership. One of the points I made then is that a polity that locates virtually all authority in the elders (as Grace Community Church models) permits greater doctrinal latitude for the membership. GCC's model is not what I believe the NT church models, but it does have that practical ramification.

There are two primary questions that I'm thinking about:
1) Does BBC's constitution require all constitutional amendments to originate with the elders? If not, this more permissive policy could potentially lead to an influx of members who would initiate an other amendment to eliminate the recently-strengthened statement of faith for the elders.

2) If it is a bad thing to set a higher standard for membership in a local church than God's standard for membership in a universal church, why would BBC want to set a higher standard for BBC's office of elder than God's standards in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1?

Qualifications for local church membership are not prescribed in Scripture. We have no hard and fast evidence that an official "church roll" even existed in the churches of the NT, although I do believe that a synthesis of several texts points toward some sort of accounting process. On the other hand, we can find no evidence in the NT of a believer who was not immersed. Believers' immersion is one of those doctrines that just seems pretty clear to me, but I understand that those who follow a traditional covenant hermeneutic are dissuaded by their rigid identification of the Church as the "new Israel." That's a long rabbit trail for another time.

For the best arguments available today on biblical NT church polity, just memorize everything at the 9 Marks web site. In all seriousness, some of the interviews in the audio section address this precise issue, and I suspect some of the articles do as well. I recommend them wholeheartedly.

You Might Be a Paleoevangelical If . . . (#7)

. . . you hear someone (who does not name names) talk about a recent guest on Larry King Live that conceded that Muslims may be accepted into heaven because of their sincerity, and you immediately speculate that it must have been Rick Warren, Billy Graham, or Deepak Chopra.

P.S. I don't think it really was any of these men.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Gospel-Centered Hurricane Relief

Dozens of organizations will provide hurricane relief in coming weeks and months, and I think that providing physical relief in this time of emergency is a demonstration of Christ-likeness. Meeting physical needs is surely one way to let the world know that we love them.

Still, we ought not forget that when Christ met physical needs, he also offered spiritual healing—living water, if you will. The food and healing was not always conditional on faith, but the offer of the gospel was clear. In coming days I hope to provide contact information for churches that are working to make their relief efforts gospel-centered amid the chaos. If you know of gospel-centered relief efforts in the Katrina-devastated area, please e-mail me at paleoevangelical [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Reflections on a Hurricane

I heard a news commentator say this week that you know it's going to be a bad day when you can stand on your front porch and watch Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel broadcasting a block away.

It is stunning to me to think that as catastrophic as Katrina appears it will be, the loss in human life will not begin to compare to the tsunami that struck Asia last December, and that tsunami will not begin to compare with the contents of the Book of Revelation. Still, I will be in prayer during the coming hours and weeks for the inhabitants of New Orleans and surrounding areas. I'll be praying specifically for these things:

1. That people in caught in this storm might recognize the awesome might and terrible power of our great God.
2. That He might demonstrate His grace by enabling believers in New Orleans to pour out the love of Christ on their neighbors.
3. That God might move in the hearts of believers nationwide to support New Orleans believers in their evangelistic and relief efforts.
4. That no preachers with a microphone might proclaim to know with certainty that the purpose of this hurricane is to pour a bowl of judgment on the filth of the French Quarter (Colossians 2:18b).
5. That God might demonstrate His grace by drawing people to Himself through this devastation.

Religious Discrimination and Christian Textbooks

Al Mohler posts an interesting blog entry about discrimination by the state of California against some familiar names in Christian textbook publishing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"You Won't Meet a Liberal Dispensationalist"

So said Al Mohler on yesterday's "Ask Anything Wednesday" radio program. He was responding to a question about the difference between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. (I really am loving this podcasting thing, by the way. Perhaps I should post links for my daily routine sometime soon.)

Mohler considers himself a Covenant Theologian, but he admits that he doesn't fit well into either box. My analysis is that he likes the CT forest but many of the Dispy trees. He specifically noted some OT prophecies related to the land and Israel and, of course, baptism.

For those of you who have been taught to think of Dispensationalism as a pejorative term for backwoods, anti-intellectual, Scofield Bible-thumpers, this is a gross misconception.

Many Dispys do live in or near large cities.

In all seriousness, broad-brushing Dispensationalists with anti-intellectualism is about as fair as a stereotypical college mascot like the Fightin' Irish, but that's another post. Check out Alva McClain's Greatness of the Kingdom for a good example of Dispensational scholarship. It does not satisfy all my questions related to hermeneutics and biblical theology, but it offers a more consistent hermeneutic than the arbitrary spiritualization of texts that seems so common to CT.

Here's a related question that I ponder from time to time as I read. Is it possible to be a Traditional Dispensationalist, a Progressive Dispensationalist, and a New Covenant Theologian simultaneously (without the presence of internal inconsistency or substantial irrationality)? I may well be missing something, but as yet I have not found them to be mutually exclusive.

You Might Be a Paleoevangelical If . . . (#6)

. . . you ponder whether it is worse for religious leaders to say dumb things about the Bible or dumb things about assassinating foreign leaders.

I suspect that there is less reward and greater risk to the name of Christ when we abandon the text and spout our personal opinions.

On a related note, should shepherds be known for their original or creative thinking? Or should we be recognized for our ability to regurgitate God's truth? (Hmmm . . . Graphic ideas for book titles are running through my head all of a sudden.) I wonder if it is wise for people whose gifts are honed to teaching God's truth to venture into the realm of independent thinking and pontification. The fact that we may able to gain an audience and a bit of credibility does not imply the capacity to speak prudently when we depart from the authoritative text.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

There's a Price for Freedom—a Price Some Are Willing to Pay


That statement is the last line from the trailer for The Great Raid. I watched the trailer today after listening to Al Mohler's radio show from yesterday in which he described the courage, sacrifice, and heroism of 120 U.S. Army Rangers sent to rescue 500 American soldiers in a WWII Japanese POW camp in the Philippines.

The Department of Veterans Affairs tells us that we bury 1,000 WWII veterans every day. That means that every two days more WWII vets die than have been killed since 2001 in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Sixteen million men and women served in that war.

In the past 18 months I've attended the funerals of two of these WWII vets. One was my grandfather; the other was the gentleman who sat in the pew in front of me in church for the past three years I've lived in North Carolina. Mr. Walker passed away just two weeks ago, right around the 60th anniversary of Japan's surrender.

I realize this post isn't about a core Paleoevangelical principle, or perhaps gratitude ought to be. Multitudes gave their lives—more than 400,000. A few lived with the horrific memories of what duty demanded of them. The cable documentaries of the Hiroshima bomb drop offer a stark reminder of that fact.

The vets you and I know have been channels of God's grace that gave us life and freedom. We have little time left to express our gratitude to them. For that matter, there is no good reason for us to postpone showing our respect and gratitude to veterans of more recent conflicts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Quotes Round 7

It will take a herculean effort to get this one. I'll settle for the historical context.
How dare you support men and institutions who deny your Lord? How dare you keep fellowship with the enemies of the cross of Christ?

Oh, listen to his call! Who is on the Lord's side? If He tarry a little while longer you will find that you must either follow this solemn call of God or go along with the apostasy.

You Might Be a Paleoevangelical If . . . (#5)

. . . you are compelled to squash the part of you that wants to fall on the floor laughing at the thought of an MTV Video Awards Bible study.

Sometimes you get less than what you pay for—even when it's free.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Read This Instead of PDL

Like Tim Challies, I'm looking forward to reading The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. Unlike Tim, I didn't get a preview copy, and I probably won't be able to dive in until after this semester of seminary, which for me starts tomorrow. His preview will have to suffice for me for now.

If there is anything said on this blog about the church that resonates to you as true, I highly suspect that you will appreciate this book. If you don't find anything here that seems true, read the book anyway; you might change your mind. Dever's writings and ministry have had a substantial impact on my view of the church. He doesn't deserve all the blame for my oddities, but my contact with his books, Leadership Interviews, and church have confirmed that my understanding of biblical teaching on the church is not wholly eccentric.

Perhaps I should mention, in order to convince any pragmatists out there, that some of those ideas even work.

Friday, August 19, 2005

No Higher Calling

Some thoughts came to mind when I had the opportunity to give honor to one God's behind-the-scenes laborers today.

I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from that there is "no higher calling" than being a pastor/evangelist/missionary. Although I am undescribably grateful for the people God enables for these vocational ministries, I don't think the term "calling" is a wise choice of vocabulary, but that's another post.

What is more deeply concerning is the common suggestion from the pulpit that some form of preaching ministry is more important or elevated or significant than the work that a godly layperson can accomplish for the Lord in a life of non-vocational ministry. (Maybe it is our way of salving our consciences for paying many vocational ministers a pittance.) As the son of godly laypeople and a co-worker during the past ten years to dozens of such godly servants who will never participate in preaching ministries, I find these suggestions . . . well . . . not very wise or biblical. Other terms might be more accurate and descriptive of my unspoken opinions, but maybe discretion is getting the better of me today.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Common Excuses for Perpetual Disobedience to Scripture

"At the end of the day, we're going to come out in the same place."

"I see it as a wisdom issue."

"That's just going to play itself out differently in every church."

"Ultimately, we are going to have to agree to disagree."

"I really think we're arguing over semantics."

"That's just your interpretation. Good men disagree on this point."

"We've always done it that way."

"The kind of change you're talking about is going to take time."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Your Conduit to Reagan MP3s

I thought I might eliminate the middle man and offer direct links to some must-have Reagan speeches in MP3 available at AmericanRhetoric.com.

The "Evil Empire" speech at the National Association of Evangelicals Convention

The D-Day 40th anniversary speech at Pointe du Hoc

The "touch the face of God" speech after the Challenger disaster

The Brandenburg Gate speech ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall...")

The farewell address

Graham and Racial Integration

I have blogged more than once about what other people have written about Billy Graham's influence on the theological decline in evangelicalism. I've also criticized his bold statements about the condition of the late John Paul II's soul.

Then in the comments to a recent thread where we were speculating on whether Ligon Duncan, Jesse Jackson, Bob Jones III, and John Piper might have ever been in the same place in Greenville, South Carolina, at the same time (they share it as their hometown), a commenter wondered if a pre-1957 Graham crusade might have provided an opportunity. I doubted that these events were integrated in the South at that time.

Well, not even 48 hours later I find reason to believe (and I wasn't even looking) that I was dead wrong—assuming that Bill Clinton is a reliable source. In this monologue about an article he wrote in The New Yorker magazine, Peter J. Boyer relates an anecdote from a conversation he had with Clinton about their memories of attending Graham crusades as young people. Clinton's memory is of being struck by the racial integration of the crowds at a crusade he attended in Little Rock as a child. Graham had actually refused to conduct a segregated crusade. The BGEA website says that Graham visited Little Rock in 1959 and 1989, and Clinton would have been 12 or 13 in 1959.

So unless there was a change in Graham's integration policy during the 50's, I was wrong to suggest that his crusades were segregated. It is easy for paleoevangelicals like me to take shots at Graham's choices (with good reason, I believe), but he was far ahead of his time on this point (as Piper [1] chronicles [2]), and my respect for him has increased with this knowledge.

On a related note, you may want to check out the article about Graham in The New Yorker (apparently unavailable online except to subscribers). See Kevin Bauder's new blog for news and discussion about it.

And finally, some of you will appreciate this. Boyer says about Franklin Graham, "His sword is really of a much sharper iron than Billy's."

P.S. I use the term "crusade" under protest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A/V History Resource

I just found out about a very cool website, AmericanRhetoric.com. It contains links to thousands of transcripts, MP3s, and videos of significant historic speeches. So far I've been concentrating on cleaning out the Reagan archives, but I expect eventually to enjoy selections from A.W. Tozer and Al Sharpton as well.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Quotes Round 6

Concerning the purposeful omission of hell and wrath from his preaching and his uneasiness with the subject in general, this man said:
Terror never brought a man in yet.

On Justice Sundays

Tom Ascol's new Founder's Ministries blog is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. Although I am interested and fairly involved in politics, I have great appreciation for his comments on Justice Sunday II.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Evangelicalism Divided: A Story Without Heroes

Evangelicalism Divided by Iain H. Murray is the best depressing book I have ever read. Even though we all know the skeleton of the story, reading about the theological demise of mainstream evangelicalism in the past half-century feels like a fresh kick in the gut on every page. I know the latest chapter of the story better than the first few, but I still found myself hoping that some champion would rise from the ashes to win the day. I was not pleasantly surprised. Besides Lloyd Jones' futile attempts to curb the enthusiasm for diluting the gospel, and a smattering of present-day combatants like Wells, Sproul, and MacArthur, Murray's survey of the landscape finds little ground for optimism.

Since I've read and blogged about Wells recently, I should mention that I was struck by one comment from Murray that seems as though he may disagree with Wells' argument that the way we think is profoundly affected and even determined by our culture. Murray says,
The decay of Christianity in the west in the twentieth century is not the result of sociological and secular pressures. Spiritual decline is not a mystery which Scripture leaves unexplained. It is a result of the presence of falsehood where there should be truth.
So to Murray, the bogeyman is not technological modernization and secularism. The theological decline is the chicken that laid the egg of modernism. Murray's chapter on "The Silent Participant" is a much-needed reminder of the spiritual nature of this warfare and the demonic initiative behind compromise.

Murray also cites an unexpected comment from J.C. Ryle, whom I need to learn more about. Ryle, commenting in Charges and Addresses (pg. 297) on the improbability of the union of the Protestant denominations and the monstrosity of reunion with Rome, says, "Keep the walls of separation as low as possible, and shake hands over them as often as you can."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Journal on the NCAA and the Irish

At least when I take ideas from the Journal, I give them credit. But if they got the idea to talk about Notre Dame from me, I'll take it as a compliment. Here's Kenneth Woodward's echo of my NCAA rant:
Here's a suggestion: If the NCAA and other latter-day Puritans are concerned about social prejudice, they ought to investigate Notre Dame. Surely the name for its athletic teams, the Fighting Irish, is a slur on all Irish-Americans. The label derives from anti-Catholic nativists who reviled the poor and mostly uneducated Irish immigrants who came to these shores in the mid-19th century--a drunken, brawling breed, it was said, who espoused the wrong religion. When the fabled Four Horsemen played football for Notre Dame, the team was called the Ramblers. In 1927, the university officially adopted the Fighting Irish, thereby transforming a pejorative nickname into something to cheer about.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Quotes Round 5

This should be a fun one. The immediate context is a question about what kind of stupid stuff the interviewee has done in his or her life.
That's between me and God. . . . It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity. . . .The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. . . . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven. . . .

Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: He was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says, No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: 'I'm the Messiah.' I'm saying: 'I am God incarnate.' . . . So what you're left with is either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. . . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that's farfetched.

Lying to Defend Abortion Industry Profits

I'm reminded of the 1992 Clinton campaign mantra: "It's the economy, stupid."

Read today's Wall Street Journal editorial from Manuel Miranda, including some startling comments from Senator Orrin Hatch, Al Mohler's analysis and summary of related articles, and see the disingenuous NARAL ad.

When Cartoons Teach Paleoevangelical Principles

Great thoughts from Tim Challies (and Hank Hill) on modern youth ministry.

Dan Cruver on Discipling Young People

Listen to one of the best explanations of the why's and how's of a God-centered approach to discipling children that I have ever heard. Read more info about Dan at his blog, Eucatastrophe.

Peter Jennings' Farewell Thoughts on the News

Jennings' death came as a surprise to me. I never watch network news, but somehow I had missed all other discussion of his illness. I did catch an MSNBC retrospective on his career after his death. These were the closing words from Jennings himself, apparently from not too long ago:
There is no one absolute truth for all people. Everytime I hold a coin, I want to look at the other side.
There is honest journalism in that statement, but there is also a startling reflection of the spirit of this age. How appropriate that the era of long-term, iconic anchormen comes to a close with a denial of the idea that they ever spoke anything that was distinctly true.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I'm Fightin' Mad as a Brave Warrior Irishman




No, I'm not a Notre Dame fan. But I am a redheaded, fair-skinned, blue-eyed guy with more than a few drops of Irish blood in me.

And I'm offended.

Perhaps you've read about this new NCAA ruling that prohibits the use of American Indian nicknames and mascots in NCAA postseason games so as to avoid negative stereotypes. Never mind the fact that the Seminole tribe in the state of Florida supports the Florida State nickname. And never mind the negative stereotypes propagated by the "Fightin' Irish" nickname and mascot. Why isn't the NCAA looking out for my demographic? It's all this readhead can do to control his temper.

But it did give me the chance to blog about Notre Dame. Hopefully the Paleoevangelical jinx that has fallen on Barry Bonds and Phil Mickelson due to my previous posts about them will land with equal weight on South Bend. If ND loses its first three I'm dedicating a whole week to the University of Michigan.

By the way, would this be a bad time to suggest it's high time for Baptist high schools and colleges to drop the "Crusader" nickname? I can't think of much that is more ridiculous than wanting to identify ourselves with Roman Catholics who want to kill Moslems.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bread and Circuses

Where would the gospel be without "a good show?"
Many evangelical churches see 13-year-old hearts and minds as the ultimate battlefield in the culture wars. If Jesus is competing with 50 Cent for the soul of today's youth, megachurches like Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, are making sure the Lord is not outgunned. Their junior high worship area features a million-dollar sound system and mammoth movie screens that play to an audience of as many as 1,000 teenagers on Sundays. Prestonwood's executive pastor, Mike Buster, makes no apologies for the slick production values. It takes a good show to expose kids to the good word, he says, because there is so much competition from what he calls a "perverted" teen culture in the U.S.
[Quote is from page two of the Time article.]

P.S. Anybody want to argue that Awana bucks and other such children's church gimmicks are anything more than a poor man's version of Prestonwood's approach?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Reflections on a Supreme Court Nomination

On Thursday news broke that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts willing contributed time (pro bono) to a gay rights case that produced a landmark ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the gay lobby. Read the original article here. (It may be a free registration situation. I'm sure similar articles are available elsewhere online as well.)

Over the next couple days I engaged in an e-mail exchange with a friend who follows such things more closely than I do. Yesterday we talked for a half hour or so. After we hung up, I realized that we were largely talking past each other. He was essentially saying, "Give Roberts a fair chance." I was saying, "Roberts was a bad nomination."

After reflection, I think both positions are valid and tenable. Roberts may well be a true conservative. We should probably give him a chance. I'm guessing that he'll make a pretty decent justice.

But that's the problem. We're guessing.

President Bush promised during his campaign to appoint justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. That statement was as significant for what it didn't say as for what it did. Notice that Bush didn't say Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist. I'm convinced there was a reason for that choice. Although Rehnquist is a conservative, he's a bit softer than Scalia and Thomas. Bush knew that his religious conservative base would not respond as positively to a Rehnquist-style nominee as to a Scalia/Thomas nominee.

Here we are a year later. What did we get with the first appointment? Someone we don't really know. Someone we are guessing about. Someone who clerked for Rehnquist, not Scalia or Thomas. Someone who has made strong statements on some issues but is unclear on abortion and gay rights, the two issues that are undoubtedly the hottest of the hot buttons to the religious conservatives.

I'm going to argue, however, that no one should be ticked off at Roberts for this situation. He is who he is (whoever that is). In 3–5 years we'll know much more about that. If I had to guess right now, I would guess that he will be pretty similar to Rehnquist. Give him a chance to prove that.

If there is anyone with whom conservatives have reason to be disappointed, it is the President. Why? Because he's given them no reason to think that he kept his promise. Because appellate court justices Michael McConnell and Mike Luttig have demonstrated reliably conservative viewpoints through their opinions. Because Bush chose the guy who would be easily confirmed. Because by choosing a white male with his first appointment he essentially eliminated any possibility that McConnell or Luttig will ever become Supreme Court justices. Because all conservatives can do today is guess and hope.

Bush knows many things I don't. I hope one of them is that Roberts is a conservative, originalist ideologue. I hope that I am compelled ten years from now to write him a letter apologizing for my bad judgment. I suspect that I won't.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Drinking from Wells: If a Paleo- Recommendation Wasn't Enough

Ligon Duncan also recommends David Wells' No Place for Truth. Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Jackson, Mississippi, is a name worth knowing. You can become a little more familiar with his theology and personality by listening to interviews of him concerning Church and Culture and Worship.

Polity Matters: Part X

Whether you love or hate Tom Ascol's theological persuasions, I hope you can appreciate his call for meaningful church membership and his honesty about the meaninglessness of membership numbers as an indicator of church health or denominational strength.

Parts One and Two of his "Honest Statistics: A Large Convention of Small Churches" are both incisive. Likewise, Jim Eliff's article, "Southern Baptists, an Unregenerate Denomination," is just brutally honest, scathing, and necessary.

I know that many Paleoevangelical readers, like myself, are not Southern Baptists, but I suspect many of us can find parallels in the churches we know well. But what are we doing about it? Wednesday Al Mohler commented near the end of his daily radio program that without discipline the church "eventually ceases to be the church. It becomes a voluntary association. It becomes a social club with a steeple." I think we all know intuitively that he's right.

Check out a series of articles on church discipline that Christianity Today published here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Piper on Why You Shouldn't Be a "Piperite"

I realize this isn't the authorial intent, but the dispensationalist in me sees a . . . "principle."
If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancĂ©, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come—“things which eye has notseen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview, and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.
Read the full text of yesterday's "Fresh Words" from Desiring God Ministries.

I like to hear positive reviews of my preaching as much as anyone else—probably more than most, to my shame. But the thought that struck me more directly than usual not long ago is that all the preacher does is explain God's truth (duh). I didn't create the truth or even discover it (duh). The sermon does not belong to me (duh). (Well, the bad parts do [big-time duh].) Anything that is true or right or helpful or beautiful is a gift from God to all the hearers—not owned in any fashion by me more than by anyone else.

Piper is a gifted writer and speaker, but more importantly, he is a gifted communicator of God's truth on matters that are at the very heart of the gospel. But the truth does not belong to him. The gospel does not belong to him. The gift of teaching belongs to him only in the sense that the vineyard belongs to the one responsible to care for it and cultivate its fruit. Keep falling in love with Yahweh, not with Piper (or any other minister of the gospel, for that matter). I'm convinced he would be the first to agree.

Soli Deo Gloria.

An Interview with Bob Bixby: God Focused Training Conference Speaker

Conducting this interview with Bob Bixby was fun, but it was certainly more than that. It was personally challenging. The pull quotes at the beginning (below) cut to my heart. A thought that distinctly crystallized in my mind during the hour was that if there is hope for the Church in this age, that hope will be manifested in churches—not organizations, ministries, or movements. I know that is far more obvious than it is profound, but it is just way too easy for me to lose sight of that truth. Here are some of Bob's sound bites:
Being God-focused is actually a work of grace. It's not a work of decision.

I don't think these people can come to a God-Focused Conference and think they can walk away with a program unless they come prepared to be repenters, and cry out to God to start working in their souls.

And what I hope to encourage young pastors or youth pastors is, "Change your mindset from being an activities director to being a shepherd of their souls."
It has been interesting to see registrations pick up in the past couple weeks. The geographical distribution is amazing, and some of the encouragement from registrants has been overwhelming. My favorite is from an associate pastor who was so amazed to see someone training youth workers to emphasize God-centered preaching rather than wowing kids with games and gimmicks that he pulled the entire church staff into his office to show them the website.

I hope to meet some of you here this fall.

P.S. In case you missed my earlier post about my interview with Frank Hamrick, the driving force behind this conference, you can listen to it here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Memorable Snippets from Last Night's Reading

From Dr. Steve Lemke's article cited in my post here yesterday:

Slavery to tradition:
Just the fact that there was some question about this long-standing evangelistic tradition [invitations] was troubling enough for me.
Argue the point if you want, but because we've done something for 150 years makes untouchable?

Irony:
There is always a danger of convention executives and staff forgetting that they exist not to direct the churches of the SBC but to serve them.
Like when seminary provosts take shots at Founders churches?

Comedy:
This is the first generation in which 1st John, 2nd John, and 3rd John have had more impact on Southern Baptists than have our denominational leaders and denominational publishing house (I refer, of course, to John MacArthur, John Piper,and John Maxwell).
And that's a bad thing? I mean, 2/3 ain't perfect, but it's an improvement.

Quote Guessing Round 4

If this guy is right, 21st century Calvinists are waaaaay too nice.
But lest I should really be an occasion of injury to some persons, I would here give notice, that though I generally speak of that doctrine, concerning free will and moral agency, which I oppose, as an Arminian docrine; yet I would not be understood as asserting, that every divine or author whom I have occasion to mention as maintaining that doctrine, was properly an Arminian, or one of that sort which is commonly called by that name. Some of them went far beyond the Arminians; and I would by no means charge Arminians in general with all the corrupt doctrine which these maintained . . .

. . . And, on the other hand, though I suppose this notion to be a leading article in the Arminian scheme, that which, if pursued in its consequences, will truly infer, or naturally lead to all the rest; yet I do not charge all that have held this doctrine with being Arminians. For whatever may be the consequences of the doctrine really, yet some that hold this doctrine may not own nor see these consequences; and it would be unjust, in many instances, to charge every author with believing and maintaining all the real consequencs of his avowed doctrines . . .

. . . [T]hat particular Arminian doctrine which [the well-known author of an essay] maintained is never the better for being held by such an one; nor is there less need of opposing it on that account; but rather is there the more need of it; as it will be likely to have the more pernicious influence, for being taught by a divine of his name and character; supposing the doctrine to be wrong, and in itself to be of an ill tendency.
It occurred to me that I should clarify the google rule. Google however you want without googling the text of the quote. That should be a reasonable approach.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What I'm Reading Tonight

I hate to blog about something before I read it, but I'll be working too late in shipping tonight (it's a good problem for this time of year) to read and write, and I'm sure this exchange will be at the very least an interesting read:

1: An article by Steve Lemke of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on "The Future of Southern Baptists as Evangelicals"

2: Commentary on Lemke's article from SBC President Bobby Welch in "Calvinism and Christ's Great Commission"

3, 4, and 5: A series of responses from Tom Ascol, Executive Director of Founders Ministries, the SBC fellowship that calls for a return to the SBC's Calvinistic roots

Then I'll sift back through another book I'm reading to find the quote I want to use for "Round 4" and then maybe dive into the next chapter.