Saturday, May 31, 2008
Tomorrow, we'll be specifically looking at the first seven verses of the book. We'll be asking questions about the purpose of Proverbs; what it is mean to be, and what we can learn from studying it. It will be a foundational look at the importance of Proverbs.
The Book of Proverbs is both practical and theological. I think it will be a good study and an important one for us, and hopefully, it will send us into studying the book even more closely. See you in class tomorrow!
Friday, May 30, 2008
I say that to say this: I wasn't around for the Baptist battles of the last three decades. I've read a lot about them, but I know that I can never get a complete understanding of them because I wasn't there. Even if I'd been around as a child, I'd probably understand a little better, but alas, I was going to church with baby baptizers (that was just a little dig in case anyone in my still sprinklin' family is reading this - I love you guys).
Nevertheless, I think I might have a different perspective because I wasn't in the middle of everything growing up. I've watched what things have been like over the last couple of years very closely and very quietly, and I think I've discerned a little bit about what the lay of the SBC landscape looks like right now. So without further ado, for the few of you who know even less than I do about all of this, here's my take on what the different SBC factions look like.
Old School Fundamentalists - This is a small group, and getting smaller every year I think. These are the King James only, hymn and Southern gospel-only, frankly known much more for what they're for than what they're against, types. I would be very careful to label any particular person a Fundamentalist, because it has become such a pejorative term in most circles. Not all people who like the KJV or hymns or Southern Gospel are Fundamentalists. I think this group has always been a part of the convention, but I really do think it's getting ever smaller.
Traditionalists - This is where I think a good portion of the older part of the SBC is. They make up the people who've really been the backbone of the convention for the last three decades. They believe the Bible, they like things done formally and traditionally, they're probably heavily involved in the culture war, they're most likely Republicans, and they're serious about evangelism. They're probably very much revivalists, and they believe strongly in personal witnessing. They also likely believe strongly in a Baptist identity, holding very closely to a set of ideals about what the Baptist church is supposed to look like. I think a fair number of people in my church would fall into this category.
Contemporarians - These are people like Rick Warren, Ed Young, and Andy Stanley, who are trying some different things to try to reach people. It may be as simple as contemporary music; they also likely don't dress up quite as much for church. They've adjusted their methods for the society around them. They've also been criticized by many who say they've adjusted the message also. Hence, I think many of them have pulled out of active SBC life, and are going their own way. While they might still be a part of the convention, they are not as active on the political side of it. I also find a goodly number of people like this in my church.
Calvinists - This is a growing and controversial group in SBC life. I'm not sure I'd call myself a 5-pointer, but my soteriology has drifted pretty far in a reformed, Calvinist direction over the last few years, and I'm a big believer in God's sovereignty when it comes to everything, salvation included. The Calvinists are growing especially in the younger age groups, 40 and below, as they've been influenced by people like John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Al Mohler. They've been subject to some pretty harsh rhetoric at times, but frankly, I've seen many of them give it right back. But this movement is growing; I know several people who would call themselves reformed in my church, and some who I think are moving in that direction.
Charismatics - I hesitated even to put this category in, because I don't think there are really many dyed in the wool, classic charismatics in our convention. When you use that phrase, a certain kind of Christian tends to jump into your head; tongue speaking, prophecy giving, faith healing, and the sort. The issue of tongues has recently become a big one in SBC life, specifically the idea of private praying in tongues. I know there is a small, but significant portion of people in the convention who practice this, and that's probably who the charismatic group consists mostly of. I am not including in this group all of those who believe that spiritual gifts are still gifts for today. I think you'll find people like that in almost every group in SBC life, though some are more cautious about it than others. I think my church might have a Charismatic or four in it.
Emerging - This is another I hesitate to add, because I know that there is so much controversy surrounding the emerging church right now. The emerging have a lot in common with the Contemporarians, in that they're trying to to contemporize the church for the culture we're living in right now, but they're trying to do it for a more post-modern culture. That has it's problems because many post-modern folks don't really like absolute truth. I don't think people like that would feel comfortable in the SBC, and I don't think the Emerging church folks in the SBC are like that. But I know a couple of churches that I'd probably call emerging; they're meeting in homes or coffee houses, doing some different kinds of things to reach the culture. I would say the ones I know have their theology on pretty straight though.Big Tent Baptists - These are the people who fall into any of the above categories, who are kind of tired of all of the fighting. They don't like what they see as a narrowing of the parameters of what it means to be a Southern Baptist. They think if you can affirm the SBC statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, that ought to be enough. They see room in the convention for the fundies and the five pointers and the charismatics and the tie-died shirt wearers, as long as they affirm the authority and inerrancy of God's word, and interpret it in a way consistent with the BF&M.
This is not a perfect list of all the factions; I am sure there are more. Furthermore, there is a lot of cross-pollination between the different groups. Some Traditionalists are Calvinists, and some Calvinists are Charismatics, and some Charismatics are Contemporarians, and some Contemporarians are Big Tenters. I don't want to hem any one particular person into any one particular group unnecessarily. But as best I've seen over the last several years, this comes pretty close to covering all of the groups that are presently part of SBC life.
Now, it's very easy to say that the Fundamentalists want to kick everyone else out of the convention, and the Traditionalists are stuck in the past, and the Contemporarians are compromising the Word of God, and the Calvinists are going to hurt the cause of missions, and the Charismatics are going to cause chaos, and the Emerging folks just want to be able to drink beer and cuss, and the Big-tenters are going to cause us to drift toward liberalism. I've heard all of those arguments made in the past. I frankly don't buy them. I think there is a place for everyone inside the convention, and keeping each of the groups around kind of balances one another out. I personally can find agreement with most of the groups over some of their big issues, though I probably have most in common with the Calvinists and the Contemporarians (both sides might tell you that's impossible, but oh well.)
The point is, with all of these factions, it's easy to see why there is generally a fair amount of infighting and disagreement. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, you know, iron sharpening iron and everything. These disagreements have been around for years, but I think during the convention they'll mainly just kind of boil beneath the surface. But it's certainly more public than it used to be; with the Internet age we now live in, arguments seem to be louder now. That will be the subject of my final post on the SBC.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
For the most part over the last thirty years, the conservative power structure has nominated one person, and that person has pretty much been coronated the President. There have been a few competitive races, but most of the time, the person the conservatives wanted became president. It gave us presidents of such renown as Charles Stanley, Adrian Rodgers, and Jerry Vines. In many ways the Conservative Resurgence produced a slew of well-know, conservative, godly, Biblically based men as President.
But two years ago, something different happened. There were three candidates for the position, all conservative, Godly men, and two of them came from the old guard. The third, Frank Page, won the election on the first ballot. Dr. Page has served honorably and ably as president for the past two years now. (I have a slight connection to him. I was a member of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, the church he pastored before he took over First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina. We weren't there at the same time, but we are both former members of Warren. So there.) I like Frank Page a lot. I think he's been a breath of fresh air, not quite as strident sounding as some of the former presidents, though his beliefs are equally as conservative.
The SBC president typically serves two one-year terms before moving on, so this will be Dr. Page's last term in office. That sets up what is likely to be one of the wildest presidential elections in some time. So, I will try now to break down said election, in as simple a way as I know how.
Here are the candidates and a little bit about them, in alphabetical order.
Frank Cox - pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. In a normal year, it's likely that Dr. Cox would have been nominated, and that would be it. He has strong conservative credentials, pastors a large church in the heart of SBC territory, and has the backing of some well known people. He will be nominated by a man who is no stranger to my church, the well-known evangelist Junior Hill. For that reason alone, it's likely that he will have some strong support among people in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. He has his own campaign web site, FrankCox.org.
Wiley Drake - the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Beuna Park, California, and easily the most colorful of the candidates. I understand from reading about him that this guy has a heart of gold, and has quietly done a ton of work to help the poor and underprivileged in his community. But he's going to be best know for being the guy who for sponsored the ill-fated SBC boycott of Disney World, and a couple of years ago presented an unsuccessful resolution calling for parents to pull their kids out of public schools. He currently serves as second vice-president of the SBC, a largely ceremonial position.
Johnny Hunt - pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia. Again, in any other year, Hunt would have been a guy running with very little opposition. He's a well-known pastor of a mega-church in the middle of SBC territory. He actually toyed with the idea of running two years ago, but backed out at the last minute. Hunt has been active in trying to develop young leaders, through his Barnabas-Timothy conferences, and has planted 78 other churches, including a couple of them in Las Vegas.
Les Puryear - pastor of Lewisville Baptist Church in Lewisville, North Carolina. In any other year, a pastor like Puryear wouldn't even consider running, much less be considered a real contender. Puryear has been pastor at Lewisville, a church of about 200, for about three years. Usually, a small church pastor wouldn't even consider running, but he's gained notoriety for his Small Church Leadership Conference earlier this year, and for hosting one of the more popular SBC blogs, "Joining God in His Work".
Bill Wagner - former SBC international missionary and current president of Olivet University International in San Francisco. Wagner is also the unpaid pastor of tiny Snyder Lane Baptist in Rohnert Park, California. Wagner was, I believe, the first candidate to announce, and the first ever to have his own campaign web site, WilliamWagner.org. Wagner has also proposed a 10-point "Contract with Southern Baptists," with what his plans will be if he is elected.
Avery Willis - Executive Director of the Inernational Orality Network, and also a former SBC international missionary. Willis is probably best know for a creating the Master Life discipleship materials while he was a missionary in Indonesia. Lifeway has translated that program into more than 50 languages, including English, and it has been used by many people over the years to learn and grow in Christ. Not being a long-time Southern Baptist, I had never heard of it, but apparently it was very popular and effective.
As far as which way this one is going to go, I have to say I have no idea. Hunt and Cox will have a lot of support among the traditional, old guard SBC'ers. I'm sure both would be fine presidents. If I was at the convention, I would probably lean toward Puryear, because I've read his blog and can appreciate the work he's doing. But I'm not sure who I'd vote for. The guy I liked the most, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, dropped out of the race after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.
I have linked to each of the candidates Baptist Press articles announcing their candidacy, if you want to read more. This year is certainly going to be interesting.
Coming up next: the different factions that make up SBC politics right now.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
As best I can tell though, the action on the floor is only the culmination of much behind the scenes work and back room wheeling and dealing. The SBC is a political animal, Christian or otherwise, and politics is a big part of what the annual convention is all about. The conservatives in the convention were known for years for having pre-convention meetings in hotel rooms to decide how they were going to nominate a presidential candidate, and last year some well known bloggers got together to get the now-infamous Garner Motion passed. For more on that, you can click on this link.
On the floor, there will be several things going on. Here's a partial list:
1) Presidential Election - I'll have more on that in a day or two.
2) Resolutions Debates and Votes - I blogged last week about one of those resolutions, the Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership.
3) Reports from Southern Baptist Entities - The presidents of all of the SBC's seminaries will tell us what is happening there, as well as the heads of SBC entities like the North American Missions Board, the International Mission Board, and Lifeway.
There will also be lots of preaching and praise and worship of the Lord. It should be an interesting couple of days. You can follow it all live on the SBC's web site - http://www.sbc.net/.
Coming up next - a look at the candidates for SBC president this year.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
This year's meeting will likely be one of the most interesting ones we've seen in many years. First of all, it comes not many weeks after a report by Lifeway found that the convention is actually declining in membership for the first time in years. I'm sure there will be much talk of that during the meeting. Secondly, there are six, count them, six, men running for the office of President. That might not have ever happened. I think it's a sign of a lot of new ideas out there, and a bit of splintering into several different factions within the convention. That splintering may or may not be a bad thing.
If the SBC is going to survive and thrive for years to come, I think this year may be one of the crucial years, not just for the annual meeting, but for all Southern Baptists, that we decide what we are going to do to properly reach the world. I don't know what the SBC's future is. I personally don't like everything that goes on within the convention's leadership, or within many of the individual churches in the convention. But I know there are a certain few things I can expect when I go into a church that affiliates with the SBC. I know it will more than likely be conservative, believing the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I know what it's basic theology will be, though I also know that there is a fair amount of variation across the spectrum. I also know that at least some of the money I give in the form of my tithes and offerings will go to help pay for missions, both nationally and internationally. So for those reasons alone, I like the idea of the SBC, though in it's practice I sometimes find myself frustrated.
Over the next few days, I'm going to discuss some of the specifics of the convention: 1) how it works, at its very basic form, 2) the presidential election and the particular candidates, 3) the different factions that seem to be making up the convention right now, and 4) how blogs have lately formed the debate in the convention.
I've admittedly become fairly intrigued by SBC politics lately, though I also know that my knowledge of it is still limited. Whatever I write will only be good for the uninitiated. If you know much about the SBC, it probably won't be of much help to you. But if you, like me, are new to the inner workings of the convention, it might be of some help. We'll just have to see.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Here's the bottom line: the old self is radically depraved, unable to see or understand or please God. Through a miracle borne by God himself, the Christian's eyes are opened, his understanding is enlightened, and his desires change. That change is so radical, so miracoulous, that it can only be described as becoming a completely different person. The new self might look like the old self, but it's heart and it's mind and it actions are very different.
Any questions about Sunday? Anything that stuck with you or went unanswered for you? Please feel free to ask your questions here.
I hope you're having a great Memorial Day. I got a rare day off, and we've enjoyed it thouroughly.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
We have to be people committed to truth in every way in our lives. We have found the truth of Jesus; it has been revealed to us by a miraculous work of God, through Jesus' death on the cross. And that ought to make a difference in our lives.
I hope you'll take a look at the 4th chapter of Ephesians today or tonight, specifically verses 17-25. That will be the focus of tomorrow's lesson. Look specifically for the difference the truth makes in people's lives.
I look forward to seeing everyone there tomorrow. And that is the truth.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
As some of you probably know, my church, Northcrest Baptist Church, has about 3,000 members, but we rarely have more than 1/4th of those members in attendance. You may not know that the deacon body has begun a program to try to get a handle on that. Over the next several months, we're going to try to visit all of our non-active members, and call them to become active. In the process, we hope to find out who is going to other churches and who has moved to other cities and who's just not going anywhere anymore. I think it's going to be very productive, and I'm very pleased that our leaders have decided this is important. Hopefully, in a few months, we'll have some formerly non-active members active again, and have a smaller, more accurate role. If you go to Northcrest, take a moment to thank Kevin Hatcher and Bro. Charles for pushing this.
I have signed my name on to support this resolution. You can do so by clicking on this link, if you'd like: Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership. If you look down into the comments, you'll see that Rick Warren, the pastor at Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose Driven Life," has also signed on his support.
Below, you'll find the complete text of that resolution, by Dr. Ascol.
Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership
Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried" (Article 1); and
Whereas life in a local church should be characterized by loving discipline as the Bible teaches in passages like Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5 and Titus 3:10-11; and
Whereas the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,266,920 members in Southern Baptist churches; and
Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and
Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle as described in Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message; and
Whereas the significance of believers' baptism tends to be lost when churches that practice it fail to exercise loving care for all their members; therefore, be it
RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further
RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further
RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement our Lord's teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further
RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally
RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Not that there aren't some catches. Reed's third birthday will fall during the trip, so Crystal is a little disappointed about that. We'll have to have his birthday two days after it actually happens, when we get back from the trip. I really don't think he'll know the difference, though.
But it's going to be great to get to get away from everything, just Crystal and me and about twenty other people. We're hopeful there might actually be some younger people on the trip. We're also hopeful we'll get a good bit of time to ourselves, but hey, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to free vacations.
For a look at what the vacation will be like, you can go this link: "Railroading in the Rockies". Oh by the way, you can still book until later this month, if you happen to be interested.
Also, on my previous post about yesterday's lesson, Julie asked some provocative questions. I think it would behoove you to add your two cents there by commenting. I'm going to wait before I give my opinion, because I want to here what others might have to say. Later.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
"Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!"
This morning in class, it was all about joy. Finding true joy, fighting for real joy, and teaching people to search for true joy. The fact of the matter is that real faith and real joy are linked inextricably. You can't separate them. Faith without joy is like the sun being out but it still being dark. When faith is real and true and Christ-centered, it produces the best kind of joy.
That is why it incumbent upon us to heap up large amounts of joy. We ought to always be in pursuit of joy. And finding that joy means removing the things that prevent us from seeing God the way we ought to do it. The thing we didn't touch a lot on today is the fact that God is the giver of joy; and we must recognize that all our work to find joy is actually done with the strength of God working in us.
That's why I like the words to the hymn "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee." It's set to the music of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Listen to what he says in the last two lines of the first verse.
"Melt the clouds of sin and sadness." - It's sin that keeps us from the joy that faith brings, and it's only God who can purge of us that sin, melting those clouds away.
"Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day." - God is the only one who can give true, lasting joy, and that joy comes from being able to see him better; hence the need for more light.
Spend some time meditating on the fight for joy this week, and start stalking it, like a lion stalks his prey. Make the pursuit of real, lasting joy, your main pursuit.'
Finally, a quote from our man C.S. Lewis on joy and the pursuit of it:
"(O)ur Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Pursue the right kind of joy, the living water, drank from cisterns that will not break.
If you have any questions about what we talked about today, please feel free to post them, and we'll discuss them. Have a good week.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
UPDATE- We have solved our frog problem. If you'd like to know what we did, go to this post. Frog Update
Okay, so I'm pretty frustrated right now. This is the third night in a row that I'll have had to try to go to sleep with the sound of croaking frogs right outside my window. I mean right outside my window. For those of you who've never been to my house, our pool sits right beside the master bedroom. Well, every once in a while, we get frogs in that pool, and it's nearly impossible to get them out. It's especially bad right after a rain. Those frogs are already croaking right now, doing their annoying little mating calls, taunting me, forcing me to consider once again leaving my nice warm bed for the smaller, harder guest bed on the other side of the house. That's the only way I've been able to get any sleep the last two nights, and I'm pretty fed up with it.
I'm looking for help here. Anyone got any ideas as to how to get rid of these things? Crystal can't sleep in the spare bedroom; she's allergic to something in there. So these frogs are affecting my marriage! She's threatened them with a knife, but it hasn't worked so far. They're pretty good at hiding, and then hopping away once they're found.
Oh, to be 2. Reed doesn't even notice the things. He sleeps hard every night, never noticing or complaining about those evil amphibians.
We'll do the dance again tonight, I'm sure. And they'll win, chasing me away from my bed and my wife once again. So I'm pretty desperate. Someone, anyone got any ideas?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I don't normally do this, but this week, I'm going to stray a little bit from the book. I'm doing it for a good reason, so stay with me. Last week, when we discussed Moses' speech to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, we also discussed the command he gave them to love God with all their heart and soul and strength. We talked about how that was the key to every thing else. Obedience to all other commands that is not predicated on a love for God is worthless and dead. That's why it's the first and most important command.During said discussion, Juliet asked how we properly taught that in the church; how preachers and teachers properly made people understand that the rules are there, and they are there for a reason, but that they're not there for us to try to follow on our own strength or through our own wills. So this week, I hope to explore that topic a little bit. I don't think we'll come up with an exhaustive answer, but I do think we can have a good feel.
We'll be looking at one verse of scripture specifically, and others generally. So if you get a chance, read 2 Corinthians 1:24. It's a fairly obscure verse stuck at the end of the first chapter of 2nd Corinthians. If I were to give a title to the lesson, it would be, "Not Lording Over Your Faith, But Working With You For Your Joy." Read that verse, and think about that phrase. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them. See you Sunday.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Here's another problem: I have a natural inclination for sarcasm. That sometimes makes my sincerity suspect, even among those who know me best, even when I'm trying my best to be sincere. I know I have no one to blame but myself for that, though.
I said all of that to say this: I want people to come to Jesus, to get saved and have eternal life and feel the joy that comes from having relationship with God. I want people to know what it feels like to go from being God's enemy to being his friend. Even as I try to figure out how to be a better evangelist, I have a desire to see people coming to know God. That's why I named this blog "A Good Infection."
Anyone who's read much C.S. Lewis probably knows this phrase. He coined it in "Mere Christianity," to explain how the faith is spread from one person to another. It has proven to be quite infectious over the centuries, you know. So my journey right now is to try to figure out how to best spread it in a society that is all too often hostile to it. That will probably be one of the more prominent things I'll be discussing on this blog in coming days. Any ideas are appreciated.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I'm not sure I should even be a blogger. Let's be honest; I'm not really hurting for an outlet to be heard. Several thousand people a day hang on my every word for 30 minutes. (Okay, that was a slight exaggeration.) But I frankly don't need more attention. (My wife will agree with that, for sure.) I also have the added specter of being a journalist. That makes me have to be more careful about sharing opinions, because my reputation for objectivity is still important to me.
Nevertheless, here I am, blogging away. I hope this blog will be a chance for me to share my interests; I'm sure I'll talk theology, church stuff, family stuff, sports stuff. Those are basically my interests. From time to time, I might share a pithy antecdote from work, but I have a feeling those will be rare. We'll see.
I hope that this blog might be an outlet for my thoughts, and a chance for input from others. It's easy to get insulated in your own little world; your small circle of family, friends, and co-workers. Maybe this will help me expand that circle a bit. We'll see how it goes.