Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: Baptist Identity? WHAT Baptist Identity?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Baptist Identity? WHAT Baptist Identity?

There seems to be a lot of stuff flying around about discerning what the "Baptist Identity" is, and to define it so we can tell it when we see it. I honestly don't understand why people are trying to do that.

Unless I DO understand it, in which case I REALLY don't understand it. Uhhh .. unless I understand THAT, too, which would be really sad.


Before I joined the SBC, I figured Baptists were folks who believed the Bible, thought it was inerrant, believed that Baptism by immersion was the appropriate response to salvation, and that was pretty much it. But then, I got a copy of the BF&M ... the 1963, not the commie pinko 2000 version ... and read it. And, after reading it, I came to the conclusion that I'd been pretty much right. Well, other than the fact that, what the BF&M didn't say, shifted the matter into a whole different gear ... one of much, much more responsibility on the believer to know scripture and to grasp the realities of salvation by faith. And also one which called for more of a personal relationship with a Living Lord. Much more than I'd ever heard of, as a Presbyterian or Methodist.

So .. what's going on now? Maybe some Suits in the Towers have finally figured out that what I knew as a Presbyterian and Methodist, about being a Baptist, is all most Baptists know about being Baptist. And they may be right about that. I've asked a lot of church members about the BF&M and have YET to have anyone in the church tell me they'd read it. A few said they'd "seen it" and many more said they'd "heard about it".

When I read the Old Testament, I see a nation that mostly strayed away from God ans was called back to repentance and right standing by God's chosen Prophets, Priests, etc. Well, as the New Testament Israel of sorts (Check Galatians 3:29 for definition), maybe we're like that now. Maybe most folks aren't ever going to really "get with it" in the church. Maybe leadership has gotten so accustomed to "believer/priests" who don't act like it, that we've reverted to more of an Old Testament model of the church, than a New Testament model of the Body of Christ.

So maybe leaders do have to step up and refine and re-define and narrow the guidelines to bring the Body back where they think it ought to be. I don't know, but I figure there's a good chance that the church never did look like what the "definers" have in mind that it should look like now.

Things DO look different in a rear view mirror, you know.

In Dr. Paige Patterson's recent response to the flap about the declining numbers, he said two things that really resonated with me. One was this: "We lie to ourselves and to the world to count people as "members" who no longer have anything to do with our churches."

WOW. That's enough to explain a WHOLE lot of things, right there. Has anybody read this before: Proverbs 12:22: Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight. (KJV)

If we really believe the Bible, then we have to believe that our representation of 16.5 million members is an abomination to the Lord. And how much blessing do you really expect Him to pour out on a group that, for two years, has refused to even admit, much less address, a purposeful misrepresentation that God describes as an "abomination"?

The other thing Dr. Patterson said might be responsible for the decline in numbers, was "anemic preaching in our pulpits". If we do in fact have anemic preaching, might that account for people who join our churches according to our rules, and then, for the most part, drop out? Could it be that such anemic preaching might also bring the church membership to look pretty much like unchurched folks (i.e: divorce rates, etc)? Somehow, some way or another, folks don't seem to be getting the message.

As an old insurance salesman, I learned one point that might be apropos here: when someone says "The price is too high", they're really saying "The value is too low". In other words, if they don't want to pay the price of a life of devoted service to Jesus, if they don't want to tithe, if they don't want to take part in the work of the church, if they don't want to get into the word as they should, what they're really saying is ... I don't see the value! And where else can the cause of that be, than what Dr. Patterson referred to as "anemic preaching"?

Where else?

I don't know ... maybe things do need to change. Maybe parameters to need to be narrowed. Maybe we need to toss out the Calvinists. Maybe we do need to disfellowship folks who speak in tongues.

Maybe we need to do away with Baptist identity altogether.

If we do, that'd sure be the way to do it.



At 3:11 PM, May 16, 2008, Blogger CB Scott said...

"Commie pinko 2000 version"

I had to stop reading for a while and laugh.

That is the neatest thing I have read all day.

:-) :-)


At 3:13 PM, May 16, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


That's one of my old "buzz phrases" but I'm having second thoughts. I think you have to be old to know what it means any more...

At 1:53 PM, May 17, 2008, Blogger Scotte Hodel said...

Then it's official; I'm old.

This "Baptist Identity" discussion brings to mind a song Peter Gabriel sang when I was in high school:

"You look like we do
You talk like we do
But you know how it is ...
You're not one of us!"

Anemic preaching is an excuse from looking in a spotty mirror - we only see a caricature of ourselves. Jack Deere wrote in one of his "Surprised by ..." books that, prior to being disqualified for IMB service (hah!), he was on staff at a church that determined that they had the best Biblical preaching in the town. He's embarassed by that now.

On the other hand, a different source of our problems may be addressed by a comment a missionary in Mexico once told me. I'd gone there to volunteer for Bible studies, etc., but when we got there there was a snowstorm. (They get them in central Mexico about 1ce each two years.) He quickly put together a kitchen for free food in town, then sent out teams on a bus to outlying areas to give out food, clothes, Bibles, and free medical checkups.

He took me aside and said, "People get excited about signs and wonders, but this is the nitty gritty of being a missionary."

I heard him preach at church: it was certainly not anemic, but he also recognized that there was more to reaching people's hearts than words.

At 12:24 AM, May 19, 2008, Blogger I Mitchell said...


I'm sending you an e-mail about Dr Charles Stanley and the Lamb's Book of Life Sermon preached this past Sunday.

Wayne Smith

At 10:38 AM, May 19, 2008, Blogger Monte Erwin said...

Some observations I've made:

1)I don't understand why we cannot see that there is movement and progression all throughout the OT, that project the coming New Covenant. Although unchanging in His very nature and character, God's Spirit is fluid and not static. It's only when we see Him as static instead of fluid that we resort to a narrowing process. Instead of moving with Him, we fight against Him. Instead of progression there is regression. Is this how Baptists want to be identified? We can argue all we want that some gifts went out with the apostles, but if the Holy Spirit chooses to implement and use these gifts at any time, He has the power to do so.

2) I hear all this talk about what we need is solid gospel preaching from our pulpits. Has anyone figured out that the world no longer cares what happens within the four walls of our church buildings? We've been perhaps preaching to the choir for years. Is it any wonder that we're in decline? Does anyone hear he crickets chirping? The fact is, our pulpits need to be moved from in here to out there. If people are no longer attracted to our "come and see" tactics, then I think it's high time that we became really creative to take the message to them. In essence, isn't that what Paul did? When the Jews would not hear the message, he turned to the Gentiles. Nowhere do I find that his message was confined to a pulpit behind four walls, but was as free-flowing as the Spirit Himself. I don't know that the message from our pulpits is so much what matters. The mobilizing of our people may be the key. Perhaps one day S. Baptists will awaken to discover what it truly means to be the church--out there--not just in here.

At 9:01 PM, May 19, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


I don't necessarily disagree, but I think weak preaching IS a big problem. Preachers are supposed to preach to the choir .. the people IN the church. THEY are the ones to do the work of service, coincident with being built up .. edified .. by that sound preaching.

Weakness in preaching in the pulpits leads to weakness in the witness of the people out there where the work's to be done. And I think it IS a problem. How else would we get so many "members" who just don't care?

Maybe the reality of the flawed concept of tying to get lost people to come to church is now being amplified, in preparation for the end times.

At 7:14 AM, May 20, 2008, Blogger Monte Erwin said...

Good point, Bob. I do somehow wonder if our people are in a mood to hear preaching that motivates and compels. I came from a church in Okla. where the preaching was solid, but the people only became offended by compelling words. I guess it made them feel guilty, although that was not the pastor's intention. He wanted to motivate them, as well as all the staff.

I'm in a different church setting now. There is solid preaching every week. But we only have one full-time paid staff position, and everyone else is volunteers. It's interesting to see what happens in a church when it doesn't have an entire staff who "do the work we've hired them to do, that we don't want to do." The entire thought and ethos is completely different. I guess what I'm saying is that we haven't done a very good job at raising a generation of the church. Instead, we've raised a generation of spectators who come to church each week, expecting to listen to good preaching (or... maybe not), but are never expected to do anything with what they receive. For one thing, our words and our actions are completely different. Our pastors may be preaching compelling gospel messages, and yet, we continue to hire a complete staff to do the things that maybe we're not willing to do ourselves. I know this is a sweeping generalization, but having been on a church staff, I have lived this experience, and I've seen this played out in more churches than not. Can't tell you how many business meetings I've sat through where I've heard the words, "Well, that's we hired our staff to do."

No argument against good, solid preaching. I just wonder if this, alone, is the answer. I think it's going to require some structural changes in our churches as well, in order to get us up off of our cushy pews and out into the world to be effective New Testament Christians. But, hey, you and I can talk about this over lunch sometime!

At 8:07 AM, May 20, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


Given the religious "climate" in the book of Acts, I think those followers had to be what they were. The Pharisees and rulers wouldn't let them be just anything they wanted. It took too much devotion for "casual Christianity" to suffice.

Maybe a problem now is we can be any kind of believer we want, as long as we believe.

At 10:02 PM, May 20, 2008, Blogger Ken Hearn said...

While the body of Christ should function "in one mind and one accord". I see some organizations' body that look like Joe Cocker singing "With a little help from my friends"(see youtube). Making an attempt to DO something, but your not exactly sure what it is.


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