This is the sixth part of my continuing effort to weigh in on the Great Commission Resurgence interim report that was given in Nashville on Monday, February 22nd. My assessment will consist of three subsequent parts over the next few days.
The fourth component of the report is far narrower in its scope than the previous components and seems to be the only one that proposes direct ministry changes to the Executive Committee. This proposal continues the theme of decentralization that is seen throughout the report, but does so in a much more consistent way. As a general rule, I prefer decentralization because it moves the decision making process closer to the people who implement those decisions.
I am, however, having difficulty pushing past the rhetoric in this component to see what potential impact it will have. I fail to see how a marketing campaign (on any level) will bring the spiritual change necessary for individuals within a local manifestation of the body of Christ to treasure Him above their possessions. There is a fatal theological flaw to a marketing based approach to stewardship, in that it never fails to treat the primary issue as a money problem. The Southern Baptist Convention does not have a money problem. Neither do any of our local churches. Money is just a small symptom.
The problem lies in the fact that we treasure things (including buildings, budgets and baptisms) more than we treasure Christ. The fact that, “the average church member gives only 2.56% of their income away,” says less about stewardship than it does about lordship. Shifting marketing responsibility from the Executive Committee to the State Conventions will do nothing to solve that problem. Neither will, “Preach[ing] a series of messages on biblical stewardship annually.” Banging a topical drum might produce temporary reform, but that temporary reform has the potential to come with the added baggage of psychological (as opposed to spiritual) guilt, manipulation, pride and self-sufficiency. The fact is that God is not needy. He will accomplish more with humbly sacrificed lives that He ever will with pledge cards and stewardship campaigns—whoever promotes them.
This is the fifth part of my continuing effort to weigh in on the Great Commission Resurgence interim report that was given in Nashville on Monday, February 22nd. My assessment will consist of several more parts over the next few days.
While the second component dealt exclusively with the North American Mission Board, the third component concerns the International Mission Board. By the tone and tenor of the report, NAMB is broken, but the IMB only needs tweaked. In fact, the task force is recommending an expansion of the IMB into NAMB territory. Their proposal is to, “Unleash the International Mission Board upon American soil to reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographical limitation.”
If one has ever interacted with immigrant groups within our borders, this move only makes sense. Many times they retain their culture, language and customs while living in America. They also retain significant ties to their homelands. This seems to be a sound strategy to reach those people groups effectively and efficiently, however it will be interesting to see how immigrant church plants will be handled. The next post will consider the fourth component.
This is the fourth part of my continuing effort to weigh in on the Great Commission Resurgence interim report that was given in Nashville on Monday, February 22nd. My assessment will consist of several more parts over the next few days.
The second component moves from philosophy to practice. It speaks of the necessity to reinvent the North American Mission Board. Reinvent is an applicable word, because what will emerge from this will bear little resemblance to what currently exists. The task force is recommending that NAMB will be primarily a church planting organization. It will decentralize into up to seven regional offices assumed to have regional foci. Many things are introduced in the report that will have to await the details for final judgment, such as the cessation of reciprocating funds to state conventions. I wonder how this will impact small conventions like West Virginia’s. My initial impression is that support will continue, but with far less state autonomy. That point was driven home by the report’s emphasis on project driven funding and the repeated references to accountability. That seems to run counter to the stated and much-needed goal of decentralization. Also running counter to the idea of decentralization is the highly centralized plan for church planting. The report endorses the creation of the Leadership Center of North America. Details of this entity are not given, but the generalities are troubling. It will have the purpose of assessing and equipping church planters. Does that not go against the stated primacy of the local church? Should not the local pastor be the primary assessor of a potential church planter? Additionally, how will this leadership center equip church planters that cannot be better performed by our seminaries and our state and local associations? If one of the primary stated objectives of this component of the GCR is to decentralize NAMB, this is a huge step in the wrong direction with the chief consequence being the choking out of our state conventions. If that is the plan, then state it openly in the report. If that is the most effective way to reach the lost for Christ in North America, then so it shall be—say it openly and convince me. But political obfuscation does nothing to move us in the right direction as a convention. As it stands, I have serious doubts that regional NAMB offices will be more effective at assessing, training and equipping church planters in Southern West Virginia than people who live here.
This is the third part of my continuing effort to weigh in on the Great Commission Resurgence interim report that was given in Nashville on Monday, February 22nd. My assessment will consist of several more parts over the next few days.
The first component concerns developing a convention-wide missional vision that parallels Matthew 28:19-20. I am glad that this is the tack they took. It has never made sense to me for churches to build elaborate mission statements that sound nothing like the mission statement Jesus already gave us. From the missional vision statement, the report lists and explains eight core values. Christ-likeness, truth, unity, relationships, trust, future, local church and kingdom. The fact that the task force felt these to be necessary underscores the dire situation in which we find ourselves. The core values listed are clear, biblical and should ideally be completely unnecessary to address. Throughout the report’s introduction and first component, I was impressed by the task force’s repeated reference to the primacy of the local church. The next post will consider the second component.
This is the second part of my continuing effort to weigh in on the Great Commission Resurgence interim report that was given in Nashville on Monday, February 22nd. My assessment will consist of several more parts over the next few days.
The strongest part of the report was the introduction. It conveyed an attitude of humility and called for convention-wide repentance. It acknowledged our full dependence on God and recognized Jesus’ love for the local church. The report was very clear in stating that the focus of ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention is not the convention—it is the local church. All Southern Baptist entities, whether local, state or national, exist to serve the local church. That is biblical, Baptist and historically Southern Baptist. The introduction did a fine job in bringing the real problem into focus. As Southern Baptists, our problem is not budgets or boards or bureaucracy. Our problem is that the vast majority of the world is lost and have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our problem is that, although we are the largest and richest evangelical denomination in the history of the world, we are failing in our mission to accomplish the Great Commission. The task force recommendation to better facilitate the accomplishment of the Great Commission includes six components. The next post will consider the first component.
Like every other Southern Baptist with a blog, I am going to weigh in on the Great Commission Resurgence interim report that was given in Nashville on Monday, February 22nd. As is to be expected from an initial, interim report, there are many questions that remain unanswered. It is my prayerful desire that those questions will be answered satisfactorily in the final report, scheduled to be released on May 3rd. My assessment will consist of several parts over the next few days.
First, I must divulge my opinions concerning the need for a Great Commission Resurgence and what I think it should entail. I voted for and wholeheartedly supported the appointment of the committee to examine the structure and bureaucracy of the Southern Baptist Convention. Over the years, like all other large organizations, the SBC has trended toward becoming bloated, unbalanced, myopic and self-important. Even though those are harsh words, they are not meant maliciously. Despite those weaknesses, I believe that as a denomination, Southern Baptists love Jesus and desire nothing more than to see His gospel proclaimed to everyone. The Conservative Resurgence and Baptist Faith and Message 2000 have re-set our feet on solid theological ground. This Great Commission Resurgence has the potential to re-set our feet on solid, efficient missiological ground. Judging by the overwhelming vote at last year’s convention, Southern Baptists recognize the need. I understand and support the need to restructure, streamline and focus our convention for the purpose of facilitating a Great Commission Resurgence. The question is, How? That is what the GCR Task Force was charged with determining. On Monday, they revealed their interim report. The next post will consider the introduction.
The first words Jesus spoke from the cross were words of forgiveness. Have you ever wondered what that really means? This message looks at the depth and bredth of the forgiveness that Jesus offers. Click to listen or use the player at the bottom of this page to download.
The godless professor smiled at the photo of Lenin hanging next to the door and then stepped up to the pitcher of water sitting on a table. He pulled out a packet of powder, and as he slowly poured it in, the water turned red.
“This is the whole miracle,” he began his lesson. “Jesus had hidden in his sleeves a powder like this and then pretended to have changed the water into wine in a wonderful manner. But I can do even better than Jesus; I can change the wine into water again.”
He pulled out another packet of powder and put it in the red liquid. It became clear. With another packet, it became red again.
One of the students sat at his desk, shaking his head, unimpressed. Finally, he challenged the professor: “You have amazed us, Comrade Professor. We ask of you just one more thing—drink your wine!”
The professor chuckled and said, “This I cannot do. The powder is poison.”
The Christian replied, “This is the whole difference between you and Jesus. He, with his wine, has given us joy, whereas you poison us with your wine.” The professor angrily stomped out of his room and had the student arrested and thrown in prison. But news of the incident spread very far and strengthened many in their faith.
The enemy’s promise of an easy exchange is a lie. Most department stores have a user-friendly return policy that allows customers to exchange their purchases in order to be satisfied. People stand in line to swap a smaller size for a larger one or one color for another in hopes that it will make them look thinner or prettier or just plain happier. Likewise, many people in life are standing in line, God’s truth in hand. They are told to swap God’s truth for anything, and it will make them satisfied customers. We always end up disappointed in the end. God wants you to see through the enemy’s lies. Hold on to God’s truth—at any cost.
Today is the 17th anniversary of the time when Miranda and I ran through the gate of Keesler Air Force Base. I was driving our little Ford Escort as fast as it could possibly go and refused to be deterred by the young Security Policeman with the M-16 strapped to his shoulder who was guarding the gate. Although undeterred, I did have the wherewithal to roll down the window and shout at him as we flew past. In the mirror, I caught a glimpse of the man’s face going pale as my words registered in his brain: “WE’RE HAVING A BABY—NOW!!!” Amazingly, we survived the ordeal, made it to the Keesler Medical Center just in time, and within a few minutes, I was holding our new, beautiful, precious baby girl.
Although it seems like just yesterday, that was 17 years ago today. She is still in a hurry to get where she wants to be and is more beautiful, smart, talented, graceful and tenderhearted than ever. And she is still my baby girl. Happy birthday sweetheart—Daddy loves you!
This is the first message of a new sermon series in the book of Philippians titled, "Impossible Joy". Do you need to experience true joy in your life? Then join us as we explore this great book of joy in the midst of impossible circumstances.
Does life ever seem frustrating? Does it ever seem like all the money you earn goes into a wallet with a big hole in the bottom of it? Does it seem like your life is busier than ever but you have less to show for it? If that describes your life, then this series of messages is for you. The series is titled, "Think About It," and is taken from the tiny Old Testament book of Haggai.
Simply click the links in the player below to listen or download each of the four messages in this series.
In the Cambodian jungle, Haim and his family were given shovels and told to dig their own graves. They were hostages of the Khmer Rouge who considered Christians “enemies of the glorious revolution.”
The soldiers allowed Haim and his family to kneel, hold hands, and pray. Haim then urged the soldiers to repent and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The soldiers were puzzled by the compassion in his voice in the face of death.
As he spoke, one of his sons jumped up and fled into the woods. The soldiers started after him, but Haim stopped them. His calmness convinced the Communists to see what he would do.
While his family knelt with the soldiers’ guns trained on them, Haim stepped to the edge of the forest. “Son, can stealing a few more days of life as a fugitive in that forest compare to joining your family here around a grave, but soon free forever in paradise with Christ?” After a moment, there was a rustling of some brush as Haim’s son tearfully walked out and knelt down with his father.
Haim looked at the soldiers, “Now we are ready to go.”
But none of the soldiers could pull their triggers. Soon, however, an officer came by who had not witnessed the boy’s return, scolded the soldiers as cowards, and killed the Christians.
Some families are known for being extremely close-knit. Others pride themselves on being extremely wealthy. Still other families point to their extreme busyness for significance. While God can use these other things, his idea of influence is very different. What makes a family useful in God’s kingdom? Extreme obedience. It’s not the size of a family’s minivan that counts; it is their commitment to Christ. God designed family as a place where parents lead by example in order for children to learn how to obey Christ. While Haim’s scenario is unique, we can be just as obedient in our own situations. How would you characterize your own family’s commitment? Whose family is an example of an extreme family?
It seems as if I am inundated with statistics nearly every day. Statistics on the breakup of the family. Statistics on divorce. Statistics on the number of unchurched people in my community and in my state. Statistics on the decline in baptisms. And then there are the secular news polls that flood the airwaves. Approval ratings, healthcare polls, numbers of unemployed people, foreclosures—statistics are so prevalent that they have become nearly invisible to me. Except for the one I just read—fifty-one percent. That one shocked me. In his book, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University Kevin Roose quoted the one statistic that completely shocked me. On page 9 he wrote, “One recent study showed that 51 percent of Americans don’t know any evangelical Christians, even casually.” Let that number sink in for a minute. That means that over half of America does not have an effective Gospel presence in their lives. Sure, they probably have access to TV preachers and radio ministries, but access to media ministries is far different that actual contact with an actual Christian.
So, what does that mean? First, it means that I am really out of touch. I assume that every place is like my place. The place where I live has churches on every corner, sometimes two or three. Many are dead or dying, but the fact is, they are there. Very seldom do I meet a person in my area who will openly deny Christ. Some will acknowledge that they aren’t saved. Many claim to be saved based on an experience as a child, but show absolutely no evidence in the way they live their lives. But the idea that someone has had absolutely no contact with an evangelical Christian in my area is totally foreign. Living and ministering in an area like this has blinded me to the complete ineptitude of our greater witness.
So, the next question is what has been our greater witness? How do people who don’t know us view us and what has shaped their views? Apparently, by at least the 51% who don’t know any of us personally, we are viewed primarily as a right-wing political movement. We are seen as gun-toting, gay-hating, misogynistic tea-partiers. Amongst those who don’t know us, we are immediately recognized for those things we are against. It is no wonder that evangelical Christians are viewed with such vitriol and distrust.
I realize that the Bible consistently declares that followers of Christ will be reviled and rejected by the world. But it also clearly states the reason why. We are to be rejected by the world because we have clearly communicated the Gospel to them and they reject us for the same reason they reject the Gospel. We are not to be rejected because of our outspoken political stances. Should individual Christians vote to stop abortions? Yes. Should we vote to stem the tide of the homosexual agenda? Of course. But is that what we should be known for?
Evangelical Christians should be known as people of the Book. We should be known for the way that we try to love people to Christ. We should be known for the way we loudly and boldly proclaim the Gospel with the quality of our marriages, our parenting, our community involvement, our compassion, our friendships, and yes, even our verbal witness. After all, Jesus did not say that they will know we are His disciples by our voting bloc. He did not say that they will know we are His disciples by our firm stance on conservative social issues. He did not say that they will know we are His disciples by our ability to run through a Gospel tract with dozens of complete strangers. No, Jesus said that they will know we are Christians by our love. And how can we love people if we don’t even know them? Fifty-one percent of the population desperately needs to get to know us.
After a long hiatus, I am once again posting theological articles over on Deep Riches. Essentially, these articles are brief essays that I have written on various theological topics that I plan on posting each Monday. Remember that the Bible is the only infallable source of truth. As you read these essays, I encourage you be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and check to make sure what I write is in line with Scripture. Feel free to leave a comment. I do moderate comments, but I'm not just looking for people who agree with me. My only criteria are that your comments have to be germaine to the topic at hand, they must be civil, and they must be intelligible. If I can't understand the point you are trying to make, I probably won't embarass you by posting it.
This week's installment of Deep Riches is the subject of Knowing God. Is there a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge? Is there a dichotomy between the two? Read and enjoy--and think on these things!
Before burning at the stake for teaching the Bible, Dr. Rowland Taylor wrote these beautiful words:
“I say to my wife and to my children, the Lord gave you to me, and the Lord has taken me from you and you from me: Blessed be the name of the Lord! I have ever found him more faithful and favorable than is any husband or father. Trust in him by means of our dear Savior’s merits: Believe, love, fear, and obey him. Pray to him, for he has promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall eternally live and never die. I go before, and you shall follow after, to our eternal home.
“I say to you my dear friends of Hadley, and to all those who have heard me preach, that I depart from here with a quiet conscience concerning my teaching, for which I pray you thank God with me. For I have, in keeping with my little talent, declared to others those lessons that I gathered out of God’s book, the blessed Bible. Therefore, if I, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you another gospel than that which you have received, God’s great curse be upon that preacher!
“Departing from here with sure hope, without any doubting of eternal salvation, I thank God my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ my certain Savior.”
Can you recall your most memorable childhood teacher? Perhaps it was a certain perfume she wore. Maybe it was the peculiar way he smoothed his bald spot. Something about the person remains in your mind. However, when we grow older, we value teachers for different reasons. We recall what they taught us—lessons we’ll never forget. We’ll always remember the one who first taught us God’s Word. We cannot afford to forget the basic truths our teachers shared with us about God’s love and his salvation. When someone else comes along in the name of enlightenment or academia, God’s truths will protect you and help you recognize falsehood. They are more than mere memories. They are your most valuable possession.
The people of Hadley begged Dr. Rowland Taylor not to go see the bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor. They knew the bishop was furious at the teachings of Dr. Taylor.
For nearly twenty years, the English Bible had been legally distributed in England. Dr. Taylor had simply taught all those in his church to read the Bible for themselves and to follow its teachings. In contrast, religious leaders under the brutal rule of Queen Mary I called for strict adherence to the customs of the church.
After being insulted and accused by the bishop, Rowland replied, “I am a Christian man. I have not blasphemed against the church. In fact, by your own charge, you are the heretic. Christ died once and for all for the sins of mankind. It is sufficient. You and your traditions can offer nothing more.”
For the next two years, Dr. Taylor was a prisoner. When he learned that he would be burned at the stake outside Hadley, he leaped for joy. He was not concerned for his safety. Instead, he rejoiced at the thought of traveling through Hadley and once again seeing his brothers and sisters in the faith.
Dr. Rowland Taylor was martyred in the winter of 1555.
Love is spoken in many different languages. People need to hear love in their own language in order to recognize it. Some husbands serve their wives breakfast in bed to demonstrate their love. Still other spouses need a thoughtful gift in order to hear “I love you” loud and clear. Greeting card companies hope we’ll say it with words. Jesus, however, says that his love language is obedience. That is how we express our love to him. When we obey him, we show that we love him. Taylor was martyred for teaching his followers to speak Jesus’ love language. He taught them to read the Bible and obey its teaching. Show Jesus you love him, and honor Dr. Taylor’s memory today.