Saturday, April 25, 2009

COULD IT BE........

..... that what's thought of as a "Great Commission Resurgence" would actually be a "Great Evangelism Resurgence"?

It seems to me that the great commission was to make disciples. Discipleship. And I have to ask how good we, as Baptists, are at making disciples.

Our church has gotten pretty good at discipleship training .. we typically have nearly as many "seat sessions" .. people there, counted individually each time we have a meeting ... in discipleship training as we do in Sunday School (generally regarded as an indicator of how many were in church).

It occurs to me that the biblical model is to follow Jesus when God brings you into the flock. It also occurs to me that our emphasis ... "priesthood of the believer", anyone? ... has been for US to knock on doors and invite them in, and then leave it to the new member to get involved in actually becoming a disciple.

So then ... is it going to be ...

  • We bring them in, and God disciples them.... or
  • God brings them in, and WE disciple them?
I heard Mark Dever talk about Church Discipline, in Greensboro (if I recall correctly). He said the model has been we need to keep the front doors of the church open, but close the back door ... too many folks join the church, take their seat, and then drop out . Mark said maybe we had it backwards .. maybe if we shut the FRONT door, opened the back door, and then taught the folks inside how we should REALLY live ... if we did that, then maybe when we opened the front doors up, the folks outside would know something worth doing was going on inside, and would want to be a part.

I believe his point was that we cannot teach people how to live their faith, without church discipline. Just this past Thursday, Dave Ramsey said it's the fear of failure that drives people toward excellence. WELL ... and this thought just now entered my brain-space .. with our doctrine of eternal security, and its prominence in Baptist life, I don't see where there is any "fear of failure" among baptists, particularly not out there in the pews where folks like me and Peg live.

Hmmm .. I speak from ignorance. I don't know what a Great Commission Resurgence looks, taste, smells, or feels like. But I sure hope it's about making disciples, and not about beating our folks over the head to do more of what it was that got us where we are, in the SBC, today.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Hate To Say I Told You So......


But I just listened to the latest saga (and I read it online) about the beleaguered U.S. auto industry. I feel for all the workers, but the UAW is responsible for a lot of the "legacy costs" that are going on, so I guess the workers must indirectly shoulder their part of the deal.

But it took me back 18 months to a post I did about Haiti, the Auto Industry, and the SBC. It's here, if you'd like to read it.

Gee. I just read it. I also read Ed Stetzer's latest, about the continuing decline in the SBC.

Hmmm.........

(I told you so!)

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Death Penalty: good .. bad .. ugly..

"Let's do it!"

They did it, and a few minutes later, Gary Gilmore died.

That happened Monday, January 17, 1977, just a few months after his conviction for murder. As I recall, it was the first execution after a moratorium, and it made news on that front as well as the fact that his had been a notorious trial.

The execution sticks in my mind particularly well, as the announcement was the first thing I heard when I turned the TV on that morning. I'd traveled to Minneapolis the evening before, and when I switched the TV on, that's the first story I heard on the Today Show.

I had a peculiar reaction, for a fan of the death penalty. I was saddened.

He was a heartless killer and notorious in his own right. Sure, he had a terrible childhood and all that, but he certainly fit the definition of someone on whom the ultimate penalty should be imposed.

But I was sad. And it surprised me, that I was.

Lying on the bed, watching the TV, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that my natural man would have reacted more akin to "cha-CHING...", but that morning, I also realized that anyone's death is a sad matter. Plus, the supposition was that Mr. Gilmore was not saved, which is sad in heaven; and what's sad there should be sad here.

I think that was the morning when I might just have become more tuned in on seeing things as God sees them, than the way this sinful old flesh does.

Why bring this up now? Simple ... the Birmingham News, yesterday, carried a report of the execution, the previous evening, of a convicted murderer. Complete with picture. And that brought back the distant memory of Mr. Gary Gilmore, and my awaking to the sadness of his death that morning in Minneapolis.

The story, yesterday, told of the execution on Wednesday night of Jimmie Lee Dill. Seeing his picture there reminded me he was a man, a son and perhaps a brother. And since his crime was about 20 years ago, he was likely not the same man, in one or more ways, he was when he committed the crime all those years ago.

I got the same feeling yesterday, that I did in the Minneapolis Holiday Inn, over 30 years ago.

I know capital punishment is Biblical. It may not be much of a deterrent, but I've heard experts say that deterrence does not stem from the punishment itself, as much as from the certainty of punishment. But, as my Dad said in a letter to the editor .. which I happened to see a few months ago while scanning all his papers into my computer .. the application of capital punishment to a criminal at least deters that criminal from any further infractions.

Still, I am saddened. And perhaps I should be. Vengeance is the Lord's, not mine, and it would be hard to teach that if I were to take person satisfaction in it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quite a Day....

From this week's lesson:

Some basic thoughts about the Easter:

1) This is the basic High Holy Day for Christians.


2) On the Saturday after the crucifixion, it was ALL on the line. Go/No Go. End of story. Or beginning. No other choices.


3) Jesus was dead. Powerless to intervene. Otherwise He would not truly have died. If He could have done anything about it after His death, then death would have not been meaningful.

4) Since He has said He would die, and then return, if He had not been resurrected, He would have been a liar. His role and His importance would have been disproved.

5) Since He DID rise again, and since it was beyond His “bodily power” to do so, then God must have done it.


6) Since God raised Him, then God validated, or verified, all that Jesus had said. And all that had been said about Him, in prior scripture.


7) It is thus the resurrection, which we celebrate today, that gives our religion its power, its certainty, its conviction.


8) Every one of the Apostles to whom Jesus appeared, died for the cause. They would not have done that for a lie.


9) The guards were bribed to tell the “kidnapped body” tale. You bribe people to tell a lie, not the truth. It was plain, thus, to the guards (and the chief priests) that Jesus had risen. It is typical of God that even those with the most to lose, prove God’s plans and His statements.

Yesterday, all those years ago, must have been quite a day .. the day it was all "on the line" .... but Sunday was even better. It's the day God proved it all to be true, since He raised Jesus!

Can I get a "HALLELUJAH"?

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Say It. But Do We Mean It?

"Teach the whole counsel of God".

Right. I think we should. I just don't think we actually do.

Coming from the Presbyterian and Methodist Denominations, I'm a bit familiar with both sides of a lot of issues. The sorts of issues that form the basis for a lot of the disagreements I see here in blogdom, as well as elsewhere. And I also would observe that all of these shall we say controversies arise in areas in which both sides are standing on the Bible as their basis for their beliefs.

Of course, each side emphasizes, in their teachings, those things which undergird their own "peculiarities"; I never heard a lot about free will in the Presbyterian Church, nor have a heard a lot about election and predestination in the Baptist Church. But both the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Baptist Faith and Message, cite specific scripture as the basis for every point that they make!

NOW: the fundamental Baptist distinctive (that's what Herschel Hobbs said, anyway) is the competency of the soul in religious matters. The priesthood of the believer. And if that's the case, it seems that authentic faith comes when the whole counsel of God is preached .. is taught .. with equal fervor, leaving the interested learner to decide for himself, the nuances of his faith.

I heard a long, long time ago that young people, who grew up in the faith, had to internally "reject" the faith they got with their pablum and their pacifiers, and adopt the faith for themselves. If we believe in the competency of the soul, wouldn't we want to teach all these nuances we see in the Christian faith?

I have heard a lot of Baptists say they're Baptists by choice, but I wonder if their exposure to other expressions of Christian faith has been principally through the barbs and jabs they've heard Baptist preachers throw in the direction of those with whom they differ.

Honestly, the only other faiths I've heard taught or preached in an SBC church were Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I don't argue with that, as an educational opportunity to help the members deal with folks of those faiths, but I don't hear a lot about other mainline religions, in the Baptist Church, from knowledgeable, gifted and studied people who do a good job of biblically defending their views .

In other words: we do a better job teaching our people how to defend themselves against somebody making headlines or knocking at their door, than against the Calvinist with whom they carpool.

I wonder just how informed a decision most Baptists have made concerning their faith.

In my own case, I want to know what I believe. When I am teaching, and the lesson material makes a point which isn't in the scripture, I want to tell the class what is in the scripture! And I want to know if it varies from traditional Baptist beliefs, as if it does, I want to give both sides of the argument (so to speak). See .. I heard a long time ago that "Which side you take in most arguments depends on which set of proven facts you ignore"; I think that thought applies to Spiritual things, too. And, unless you look educationally at all scripture .. including the passages that the Calvinists lean on, as well as us Baptists' favorite stuff ... you're going to be ignoring some of what the Bible says.

The other facet of this, which I've observed, is that most Baptists I know of don't really know what it is Baptists believe. That may well be true in the other denominations of which I've been a part, but I didn't know it at the time, and I still don't. I just remember studying what we believed, as a routine thing, especially while in the Presbyterian denominations.

Baptists tend to live on what I see as the conclusions of others.

Examples: almost everyone I meet knows we believe in eternal security, the Trinity, that Baptists don't drink, and that gambling is bad. But, when questioned about where the Bible says those things, they usually don't know any scripture that actually says so. But they've heard those doctrines preached, the conclusions from scripture of many generations before, so they know them rather than the scripture.

That simplicity of knowledge .. and I know our faith must be like that of a child .. but the author of Hebrews certainly was plain in his instructions to get away from the milk and get on to some serious meat of the word .. that simplicity may be one contributing factor in so many people checking in, joining and then checking out without leaving, so to speak.

My personal opinion is as I expressed in San Antonio in 2007; that the strength of the Baptist Faith is in the simplicity of our consensus statement of faith, and the freedom we have thereunder; indivisibly linked to the competency of the soul and its resultant burden on us to know what we believe. Yet so very few Baptist church members seem to know what the BF&M says.

Perhaps it ought to be different. Perhaps we ought to look past the personality of the preacher, the friendliness of the people, to what we actually believe and where it is that we ought to serve. After all, Christianity isn't about finding a preacher or a congregation or a place that we like.

It isn't about us at all. And perhaps if we studied it, really studied it, it wouldn't be. And unless we do, we're going to be condemned to a lifetime of unknowingly ignoring one or another set of proven scripture.