Has The SBC Succumbed To A Laodicean Worldview?

This is the question that Douglas Baker asks in his blog post dealing with the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, the SBC, the Cooperative Program, and the local church's responsibility in the Great Commission. We'll find out the answer on June 15-16.

Here's a piece of the post. Be sure to read it in its entirety.

Certainly, the missional understanding of what money given by the church is to accomplish is ultimately the prerogative of each local congregation. Nevertheless, few Christians across the modern evangelical spectrum ever even think about leaving the comforts of home to relocate to a dangerous field of service. If the statistics are accurate, it takes nine Southern Baptist congregations to produce one International Mission Board missionary. This amounts to little more than financing a fantasy and naming it missions.

Every person born again by the Spirit of God is a missionary. The only remaining question is whether one will go or send. Those who send, however, are not to be simply occupied with their own interests—totally disconnected from the mission of God. The center of God’s will for every Christian is that they live radically dangerous lives for Jesus Christ. When the vine of the church is healthy and growing, immediate concerns and pressures give way to long-term investment; mere management recedes and ministry takes the lead—not administry, but ministry with real people outside the Baptist bubble.

The Great Commission Resurgence was originally conceived as a church-based call for reform—a way to refocus the Cooperative Program and strengthen it for decades to come. It has descended into the depths of political partisanship and childlike bickering to such a degree that ministry partnerships across the SBC are obviously viewed more like political structures with special interests vying for their share of control. Unless a new vision like the trellis and the vine takes over the denominational infrastructure, the Southern Baptist Convention could eventually cease to exist —cannibalizing itself through hubris.

Perhaps that is the will of God. Christian martyr Jim Elliott once said, “American believers have sold their lives to the service of Mammon, and God has His rightful way of dealing with those who succumb to the spirit of Laodicea.” Has the Laodicean worldview finally overtaken the SBC? June 15-16 will reveal the answer.

God's Voice In a Volcano

From the latest newsletter of Shepherd Press:

Humans have problems seeing the implications of their own actions. We frequently try to solve one problem and inadvertently create other, unintended problems. One classic example is the introduction of Kudzu vines in the South to combat erosion. Today, over two million acres of forested land in the Southern states are covered with the Japanese import. The University of Florida says that “Kudzu will grow over anything in its path (other plants, buildings, road signs) and eventually kill other plants it covers because it blocks out sunlight. Kudzu will also girdle stems and tree trunks, break branches, and uproot trees and shrubs through the masses of vegetation produced. Kudzu has been reported to grow roughly one foot per day once established.” This certainly qualifies as an unexpected consequence! This is what humans, with good intentions often do.

God, however, is different. There are no unexpected consequences to his actions. There are no random happenings. He has no "oops" moments. So, when God purposed for a volcano in Iceland to begin a series of eruptions this month, he was not at all surprised or chagrined that the ash clouds billowing upward from the volcano would disrupt travel in Northern Europe and America. Indeed, thousands of travelers have been stranded, business appointments delayed, and weddings rescheduled. The finely pulverized ash not only diminishes visibility, but also can damage jet engines. Air traffic was scheduled to begin being restored Tuesday, April 20, but today’s eruptions have put those plans in doubt.

You may recall that in an earlier newsletter this winter we looked at Job 37:5-7:

God's voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.

He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,'
and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.'

So that all men he has made may know his work,
he stops every man from his labor.

While this volcanic event is not snow, the voice of God is certainly thundering. The power unleashed is beyond our comprehension. And like the snow, this volcanic ash falls to the ground, disrupting travel. Many who made what they thought to be definite plans have been frustrated and forced to take refuge in airports. God has once again stopped a large cross section of humanity from its labor.

The question still remains, what will we learn from God’s intended consequences? So far this year God has used huge snowfalls, earthquakes and one little-thought-of volcano to bring man’s labors to a halt. As the hurricane season approaches, there is a real possibility that just one moderately large storm could dramatically alter life on the East Coast of the United States. Imagine a series of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes all occurring within days of each other. Such a combination would disrupt life and work for millions.

How do you think people would react to such catastrophic events? Would you expect the news networks to call for people to consider the glory of God and his awesome power as the reason for such events? Might we perhaps consider repentance, instead of only crying out for relief, as an appropriate response to the power of these events?

No, I don’t think we would expect such a response from the news channels. But how about such a response from the church? Surely, God’s people would see such a string of events for what they were? Or would we? God has called us, his church, to be salt and light in a dark world. We live in a world that continues to believe that it can do as it pleases, disregarding the Living God of the Bible. If we are to have an impact for Christ, we must have the highest regard for God—for who he is. It is his voice that thunders from the volcano, from the storm and from the earthquake.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!


The Danger of Assuming the Gospel & How To Know If You Are Guilty of It

From Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living, and Speaking the Gospel by J. Mack Stiles:

Losing the gospel doesn't happen all at once, it's much more like a four generation process: the gospel is accepted, the gospel is assumed, the gospel is confused, the gospel is lost.

How do you know when your church is beginning to assume the gospel? Stiles answers when you no longer hear the gospel.

Here are some introspective questions to determine if your church/you are on the road to losing the gospel:

Was the gospel in the sermon Sunday morning?

Could the uninitiated hear that sermon and come to real faith in Christ?

Are gospel principles governing organizational decisions?

Do you hear the gospel in people’s prayers?

Does your fellowship encourage you to say the gospel? And then is it more than just a memorized sketch? Sure, it may follow the form of “God, Man, Christ, Response,” but is it in people’s own words?

Furthermore, do you see it in their actions? Is the gospel lived out?

Is membership based on a true commitment to the gospel or just because someone wants to join an organization—or maybe write an expose?

The healthy evangelist is asking these questions and looking for answers so as to guard the gospel. Here is the critical test.

Could you have preached that sermon if Christ had not died on the cross?

Could you have developed that leadership principle had Christ not been crucified?

I’m not saying be impractical—the Bible has much to say about being practical—but make sure that the practical is tied to the message of Jesus. Otherwise we are on the road to an assumption that will lose the gospel.


Hearing & Seeing Two Different Things

From Jonathan Leeman's The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love:

"Christians profess belief in the gospel. Their symbolic burial and resurrection from the waters of baptism indicate that they mean to take up their cross and follow their Lord, but the very ethic of their commitment-less love does not provide them with the opportunity to fulfill these professions with their actions. These sheep are so poorly taught and so imbued by the secular culture's commitment-less conceptions of love that a man's conscience is barely triggered (if at all) when he turns to his wife and says, 'Honey, I'm tired of this church. Let's look elsewhere.' As she quickly agrees and they lightly depart, they fail to recognize their breach of the new commandment Christ gave to his church--'love one another as I have loved you'--even though they may affirm this commandment in their minds. The world at large then looks to the Christian church and hears about 'Christ's love,' but it sees nothing different from what it's already known, because our commitments to one another are chap and easy. So why would the non-Christian bother (unless he's entertained)?"


Content With Being the Dick Cheney of T4G

I guess all of us who cannot attend T4G this year in Louisville have to be content with being the Dick Cheney of T4G ;)

Play the Security Card. It’s simply not safe for everyone important to be in one room. Instead, you’re home or at an undisclosed location. Say everyone gets a stomach virus – God forbid – and can’t preach this weekend. Who is Bethlehem Baptist going to call? Probably you. It’s a good thing you didn’t attend.

Yes, this makes you the Dick Cheney of T4G. Live with it.

Still Funny & Still True


As Times Get Harder, Jesus Gets Sweeter--In Honor of My Granddaddy

This was originally posted four years ago, shortly after my Granddaddy's death. Today is the 4th anniversary and I miss him, but I still adore the goodness of God even in the midst of the sorrow.

April 11, 2008

Sarah Edwards was the wife of the great pastor/theologian Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards died from a smallpox vaccination. Sarah wrote these words to their daughter shortly after the death of their husband/father:

“My very dear child! What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore His goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and He has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards.”

I adore the goodness of God in all the years that he gave my granddaddy to me and my family. I do hurt at his death. I hurt in a way I have never hurt before. It's a hurt that seems to cut both ways. In a sense, you want it to go away or ease up. But, in another way--just as fervent--you don't want it to leave because the depth of the hurt is an indication of the depth of the love and I never want that love to be minimized or forgotten.

However, even through the hurt I do, by God's grace adore the goodness of God that we had my granddaddy for so long. I adore his goodness in using my granddaddy to bring me to faith in Christ and for setting such a marvelous example of a loving grandfather and faithful pastor. Granddaddy wrote in one of his sermons, "As times got harder for Paul, Jesus got sweeter." And it was so with my granddaddy as well. The harder things got, the sweeter Jesus was. He did not articulate it maybe the same way I do, but he treasured Christ in and through all things. He loved his family. I adore the goodness of God in giving me and our family our Granddaddy for so long.

I adore the goodness of God this past week as well in the prayers and kind words of church members and family and friends. I adore the goodness of God in being able to be a small part of my Granddaddy's memorial service, which was spectacular. I adore the goodness of God of being able to weep with my family and to do so as a family. I realized or was reminded this week of just how much I love my family and how much I want to show that more from now on.

One of the most cherished graces of God to me this past week came the day of the funeral. The family time for visitation was from 10-2pm. I was in the church with some other family members: my mom, two uncles, grandma, and other family. I had purposefully tried to not see my granddaddy at the visitation the night before or at the funeral home on Saturday. I just didn't want to remember him that way. But it was inevitable that I would see him sometime in the week. I did several times. I found myself looking at all the flowers that had been sent and I began to weep and tried to hold it in and just let it out quietly. My uncle Larry noticed me and came to my side. He came to my side and put his arm around me and hugged me and let me weep on his shoulder. It may not have been special to him, but it was a priceless gift from God for me.

Our family has wept and we will weep. I don't know if I realized just how much I loved my Granddaddy. I do now--now that I know he will never call me again on a Sunday night to ask me how my day went or he will never say again to me on the phone, "Can I do something?" which meant he was about to pray with me. I'll never again here him say, "You tell Holly and the girls that some crazy guy said hello and that he loves them." He'll never ask again, "How's the boss?" which meant, "How's Shadow doing?"

But in and through all of those "never agains" God is good and kind and right in all that he does. One day, because of the work of Christ in the life of my granddaddy and in my life, we will see each other again and I know that when we see each other, he will give me a great big ol' bearhug just like he gave me as a little boy and we will adore the goodness of God in the face of Jesus Christ forever and ever.


Thankful For God's Wonderful Surprise

The Silence of God


It's enough to drive a man crazy; it'll break a man's faith
It's enough to make him wonder if he's ever been sane
When he's bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the heaven's only answer is the silence of God

It'll shake a man's timbers when he loses his heart
When he has to remember what broke him apart
This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not
When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God

And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they've got
When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
'Cause we all get lost sometimes...

There's a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold
And He's kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He's weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that He bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God