Holly and I spent the past three days in Louisville at the SBC Pastor's Conference and Annual Convention. Thought I would share a few thoughts from the week. First of all, we are aging, not old by any means, but definitely reminded of the progression of the aging process. I was reminded by this by how worn out I am from walking country mile after country mile to and from the parking lot and up and down the convention halls over the last few days. Also, when you reconnect with someone you used to teach in youth group who is now working on their M.DIV, you are vividly reminded that while you are not old, you are aging.
It was great to get away for a few days and hear some great preaching and to be refreshed. I was somewhat discouraged after the Monday afternoon session of the Pastor's Conference. I was disappointed because once again the longest and loudest standing ovation, up to that point, was for a politician and not a preacher (I know Mike Huckabee is technically a preacher in that context and a former pastor). I have nothing against Mike Huckabee. I actually am rather fond of him and think he would make a phenomenal president. And he gave a very good speech concerning the state of our nation and the things we need to do to turn it around.
However, as when past politicians speak, it seems that our convention has a history of getting "fired up" more about what we are to do rather than what Jesus has done. But then Monday evening came and David Platt stepped up to the platform and preached one of the most amazing Christ-centered, Gospel-focused, Word-driven, Great Commission messages you will ever hear, and without hesitation, the entire hall stood up and applauded loudly, much more so than for Mike Huckabee. You must hear that message. The Church must hear that message. You can purchase it through the SBC Pastor's Conference for one arm, two legs, and seven of your fingers. =) All seriousness aside, the Pastor's Conference has got to lower their prices. In an age when so many pastors, churches, and other ministries are making their resources so easily available and most of the time free of charge, charging $9 for one cd and $17 for one DVD message is outrageous.
Tuesday, the first day of business, began somewhat discouraging. The morning session stood out for unfair and untrue representations made by Morris Chapman concerning certain theological positions within the convention. The afternoon session was marked by resolutions that were unfortunate and somewhat embarassing. Alvin Reid correctly writes:
We are a family, and all families have odd members. Some motions today were bordering on the ridiculous. Someone hated on the Holman Standard Bible; some wanted to investigate Drs. Akin and Stetzer and me; and at least three people really hate Mark Driscoll. We have a wonderful convention that allows any messenger from any church in the whole denomination to stand up at a mic and say things. Like the uncle at the family reunion you really did not want your fiance to have to meet when you were young. But we are a family and we should love one another. That is part of why I love being part of something so large–it can also make such a great impact when we all come together.
However, once Tuesday evening finished, it was indeed potentially a monumental week and shift within our convention. The motion came to the floor concerning the commissioning of a Great Commission Task Force by the President of the Convention. This task force surrounds the recent call to a Great Commission Resurgence in our Convention. Much debate has surrounded these issues leading up to the convention concerning theological agendas and other motives. Dr. Al Mohler, spoke for the resolution eloquently and passionately. This was followed by a motion against the Task Force with again straw men arguments and unfounded and unfortunate charges against certain theological camps. Then Dr. Johnny Hunt's predecessor, Dr. Frank Page, stepped to one of the mics to speak for the Task Force. And once again I was so encouraged and so proud of Dr. Page's humility and courage. In such a spirit of Christ, Dr. Page admitted that he probably was more theologically aligned with the gentleman speaking against the motion that Dr. Mohler, but that this Great Commission Task force and a Great Commission Resurgence was bigger than those issues and something that needed to be done. Wow! I have to admit that I did tear up. While, I am more aligned theologically with the soteriology of Dr. Mohler than that of Dr. Page, I was so very proud to be a Southern Baptist in that moment and to see the winds of change blowing.
The motion for a Great Commission Task Force was overwhelmingly passed--roughly 95% to 5% and with that vote the Convention it seemed at least began to get on the right track. It was like a train going down the one track, but then the conductor flipped the switch and redirected it to another tract and that tract was the focus of the accomplishment of the Great Commission. It is just beginning, but praise God it is a beginning!
Dr. Johnny Hunt's leadership of the Convention has been so needed and so welcomed. He has modeled a spirit of cooperation for the Gospel that should be followed accross the board. He has reached out to build many bridges and is being used of God successfully in that endeavor.
One final word and then I will close with a few reflections from others. I cannot say how proud I am of my Seminary President, Dr. Danny Akin. The courage, humility, and conviction which He has shown in the past year has been remarkable. Praise God for placing someone like him to lead Southeastern and to be a leader in our Convention as well.
Here are some thoughts from others:
Finally, who cannot be encouraged to see the number of younger Southern Baptists who participated in the convention this year? As I listened to some of them preach, lead dialogues and describe God's work in their lives and minstries, I could not help but be energized. Under the grace of God, the future looks bright for Southern Baptists and I am very hopeful. God has raised up exceptional leaders for such a time as this and seems to be stirring the hearts of more and more among us. So I leave
motivated to keep pressing on in working for renewal in my own life and congregation as well as trying to encourage others along the same path. Louisville
As I said last night, the SBC is turning. The torch has been passed to a younger generation of leadership. We are headed to more grassroots involvement and decentralization (I hope). Many are still understandably skeptical, but I refuse to live my life in a constant state of cynicism and criticism. I am going to go out on a limb here, have some faith, and believe that God is working to raise up something beautiful in the SBC among all those who will choose to obey and cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Many churches are going to die in the next 10 years, but many more will live and thrive. I believe that there are good days ahead for the SBC IF we return the mission to the local church and IF the local church engages with the mission that God gave her and IF the SBC really exists to assist the local church in carrying out her mission. Basically, if we would stop fighting, repent of our sins, unite around the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ, partner together in MANY different ways and networks to advance the gospel locally and globally, and be the people that God has called us to be, then there are many bright days ahead and God will do amazing things.
In a recent interview, Dan Phillips answers the question, "What is the biggest problem facing evangelicalism today and how should we respond?"
Here's the very true answer he gave:
Here's exactly what I think it is: failure truly to understand, believe, embrace, and live out a robust conviction of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. I see that as the common theme behind the various church-growth fads, the Emerg*** movement, crippling forms of mysticism and charismaticism, and pulpit ills in general. We don't really believe Scripture is enough. It must be supplemented with techniques, programs, experiences, exercises, entertainment. The Reformation put the pulpit (for the preaching of the Word) at the center, and we're working hard to move it aside and replace it with a thousand and one distractions. "Preach the word!" Paul cried to Timothy as he finished his own course. God grant us ears to hear, greater hearts to grasp, bolder lips to proclaim, and stiffer spines to stand on the Word alone.
One of the truths connected to the Gospel and foundational to understanding the goodness of the Good News is the sinfulness of man. We are dead in our sins and trespasses before God. There is no saving good in us at all. We are incapable of doing what God commands us to do because we do not desire to do it and cannot. We are helpless and hopeless.
I saw this truth in my 3 year old, Alexa, last week. Her and her older sister had gotten into a spat. Evidently Alexa had hit Annika and Annika was crying about it. I did not see what happened and so I was interrogating them both to try and find out who the guilty culprit was. Annika insisted that Alexa had hit her. I asked Alexa if this was true and she shook her head indicating, "No."
So, I kept asking them both and Annika kept insisting on the fact that Alexa had hit her and Alexa kept denying it. Finally, I asked Alexa if she was telling me the truth and that I wanted her to tell me the truth.
Then, in a frustrated tone, Alexa said, "I can't tell the truth."
"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8:7-8)
You hate to see the evidences of sin in the lives of your children, but it is encouraging to see God's Spirit working to help your children see and feel their own sinfulness. For that is required for the Gospel to indeed be Good News.
Christianity Today has a great article concerning the hoopla over the John & Kate Plus Eight drama that is painfully unfolding before the eyes of millions. The article addressses the inconsistencies in our evangelical faith as it relates to our ethics and the shortcomings of our "holiness." Here are some interesting excerpts, but be sure to read the entire article here.