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Owning My Own Square Mile

Tim Brister —  January 17, 2013 — 9 Comments

My Block GroupAnd he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Acts 17:26-27

Last week, I talked to you my efforts this year to build a neighborhood in my city through Next Door. This is a heavy burden I have, one that I have not steward very well in the past. The verses above speak about God’s providence, namely that God determines our dwelling places. Have you thought much about that? Yes, you thought you live where you do because of the great deal on the house, the school district, the proximity to work, etc. But in and through all of these secondary causes, there’s a primary cause that you live where you do: God put you there.

And God’s providence is not without God’s purpose.

God’s purpose in Acts 17 is “that they should seek God…and find him.” So let’s put this together. God placed me in this particular plot on planet earth for the purpose that people should seek God and find Him.

And God’s purposes should become the passion of our lives.

If God’s purpose of providentially placing me in the city where I live so that people would seek God and find him, then it ought to be my passion to accomplish that purpose. God has a design. He’s being intentional and purposeful. When I embrace that intentional design, my response should be a passionate embrace and acceptance of the mission.

Simply put: I live where I live so that those without God can find life in Him. What difference would this make if my life really looked like that?

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It’s been about a month since my last BCT post, but I hope to resume regular posting on this series. One of the things a Blue Collar Theology believes in is equipping yourself theologically with good reference works. Over the past year, there have been some excellent reference works, and I thought I’d direct you to some of them. Here they are:

* Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament – edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson (creative and helpful resource)

* New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ – Tom Schreiner (excellent resource from top NT scholar)

* An Old Testament Theology: A Canonical and Thematic Approach by Bruce Waltke and Charles Yu (perhaps best resource on OT)

* Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism – edited by Robert Peterson and Christopher Morgan (coming in March)

* The Works of Andrew Fuller – edited by Michael Haykin (one-volume edition)

* Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views – edited by Bruce Ware (four contributing authors are Paul Helm, Bruce Ware, John Sanders, and Roger Olson; coming in March)

* Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters edited by Donald McKim (great resource to see how various folks in church history interpreted the Bible)

* Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, New Creation by Herman Bavinck (4th volume in this excellent series)

* Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper – edited by John Armstrong (four contributing authors are by Russell D. Moore, I. John Hesselink, David P. Scaer, and Thomas A. Baima)

* Koine Greek Reader: Selected Readings from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers – by Rodney Decker (new reader for on various Greek texts; helpful to stay fresh on reading)

* The UBS Greek New Testament: Reader Edition

* The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Wilberforce, More, Chalmers, and Finney by John Wolffe (third volume in a series; good resource on church history)

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Some of you may remember the little research I did on the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI) entitled, “The Fleecing of the SBC.” Well, thanks to the “wrap ups” by Baptist Press, I have been able to gather some more information on Southern Baptist state conventions. I be up front in saying that three things in particular interest me. First, how much money is kept within each state for their own purposes; second, how many churches and messengers attended; and three, what resolutions were passed. Let me briefly speak to each of these three to explain my reasoning behind this.

Regarding state convention monies, I believe that the SBC can do a better job with handling the Cooperative Program money, beginning with the state conventions. While it is a legitimate argument to question the necessity of state conventions, what is pressing even more is whether or not CP money is going directly to support local churches and missions rather than cash-swapping between state conventions and SBC entities (such as the NAMB). The SBC will continue to falter in her mission and fail in planting churches unless we stop the fleecing of the SBC which principally takes place within our state conventions.

Regarding the messengers and churches represented in state conventions, I am interested to know how many or what percentage are still attending these yearly meetings. What I am finding is more evidence of a post-denominational world where churches are looking for other means of cooperation and networking that is more affinity-based than structural. Furthermore, the decline in messengers and churches again begs the question of why we even have state conventions to begin with.

Regarding resolutions, I want to know what state conventions find important. Now, what is interesting is that these resolutions are non-binding on local churches, so they really cannot have effect or be enforced. So what is the purpose of resolutions? A consensus statement perhaps? In addition, are state conventions trying to impose restrictions or standards upon local churches, thereby threatening their autonomy? Again, the negative work of resolutions raise the issue of whether state conventions are really serving any purposes at all (other than encouraging people to leave the SBC).

Now granted, I know that there are many important ministries sustained through state conventions (such as children’s homes). However, I am concerned that there is a duplicating of efforts and implicit hierarchical superstructure that has developed an unhealthy bureaucracy in the SBC. So now that I have told you my rationale, let’s take a look at some of the statistics.

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Facts.

That’s what Stetzer’s research showed in his recent presentation at the Building Bridges Conference. Every student of church history and Baptist history knows that the charge of Calvinists not being evangelistic or committed to the Great Commission is easily refutable, but alas, the caricature has remained among many who do not want to reckon with it. So it goes like this:

Explain the biblical doctrines of grace and how they fuel missions and evangelism, and if they do not listen, take two or three witnesses from church history with you, and if they refuse to listen, then bring them before the facts and empirical data of sociological research.

So here’s the facts of the recent study done by Stetzer and LifeWay Research:

1. Nearly 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates now serving as church pastors identify themselves as Calvinists.

2. In the last year of the study, 34 percent of those serving in SBC churches identified themselves as five-point Calvinists.

3. Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.

4. 27 percent of 1,234 recent seminary graduate respondents serving in SBC church leadership positions “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” that they are five-point Calvinists, while 67 percent affirmed that God’s “grace is irresistible” and 58 percent said they believe “people do not choose to become Christians, God chooses and calls people who respond to him.”

5. Calvinistic churches, though they baptize fewer persons each year, have a “baptism rate” virtually identical to that of non-Calvinistic churches. Baptism rate is the number of annual baptisms relative to total membership, a statistic used to measure evangelistic vitality.

Now, before any of my Calvinist friends think we are off the hook and free from the inevitable attacks from anti-Reformed stalwarts in the SBC, we need to realize that our current commitment to evangelism and missions is simply unacceptable. I agree with Stetzer who says,

“Regardless of whether Calvinists are having a lower number of baptisms and a smaller attendance or baptizing the same in the baptism rate, the reality is none of these baptism rates or growth numbers should make any of us happy.”

To my Calvinist brothers, if we do not share the gospel to others as a dying man to dying men, imploring them to flee to Christ in repentance and faith on a regular basis, then it doesn’t matter how many points you hold to when you miss the main point of the gospel. It is not in the presence of Calvinists or Arminians that we live, preach, and share the gospel but rather Him who will judge the living and dead.

To my non-Calvinist brothers, there is much more to be done in our churches than to be telling people that Calvinists don’t believe in evangelism and missions. There are as many (if not more) anti-evangelism non-Calvinists as there are Calvinists. We need to get beyond these baseless and inaccurate attempts to demonize and marginalize Calvinists in the SBC.

The bottom line is that the gospel is not normative and central in our lives as it should be, and that goes for all of us. I will be the first to get in line and say that I am not as broken for the lost as I should nor am I as consistent in sharing the gospel as I should. From the looks of it, none of us have any ground to stand upon. Again, hear Stetzer reflecting on this reality:

“At the end of the day, Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike in our churches are failing to engage lostness in North America. This theological discussion has to lead to missional action and that missional action needs to cause Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike to love each other and to encourage each other and to provoke one another on to love and good deeds.”

Let us pray for one another, that we would take seriously the charge to deliver of first importance that which we also received – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us display to the world know the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord and Treasure. And let the love which we have received from the Father through the Son be the distinguishing mark of our lives, in how we treat one another as well as how we minister to a Christless world.

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Papers and Projects

Tim Brister —  September 16, 2007 — 3 Comments

Things are really starting to pile up this semester in school.  Attempting to finish strong, I am taking five classes this semester which also includes four papers.  As you can expect, blog frequency will likely taper of a little, although I do plan on sharing some of my research and everyday thoughts.  Right now, I am averaging 12-15 posts a week, which will decrease to around 7-10 posts a week.  Blue Collar Theology, book previews, and the other staple posts such as quick hits and potw, should remain consistent.

I thought I share some of the papers and projects I am working on, given that I will be posting excerpts and aspects of my research.  Here are my four papers:

PAPERS 

1.  Church Planting Case Study – This is a paper dedicated to my research and analysis of a recent church plant.  Because I have not received confirmation from the church which I will be studying, I will not comment further. (Intro to Church Planting)

2.  Edwards v. Finney on Revival – This is a thesis-driven paper where I will argue that both Edwards means and ends of revival are true to the nature of God and salvation and biblically faithful.  As you might expect, this is a somewhat polemical paper.  In addition to their understanding of revival, I hope to examine in particular detail how each counsel sinners and follow-up on new converts.  (Intro to Church History II)

3. Exegetical Study of Zechariah’s Night Visions – Some of you might recall that I taught through some of Zechariah 1-8 earlier this past summer.  It was a really enjoyable study, and I am hoping to build on that by writing an exegetical paper focusing on a redemptive/historical framework and hermeneutical horizons of these eight visions which carry several biblical themes.  (Biblical Hermeneutics)

4. The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Unevangelized –  This will by far be the paper I devote most of my attention to this semester (see projects for reason why).  This is a position paper where I will be examining Clark Pinnock’s pneumatological inclusivism (Arminian/Open Theist), Terrance Tiessen’s accessibilism (Calvinist), and Amos Yong’s pneumatological theology of religion (Pentecostal/Charismatic).  I will offer my critiques of each position and present the exclusivist/particularist case for the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.  Issues involved include are Trinitarian (especially economic/immanent Trinity, filioque, perichoresis, and Spirit-Anointed Christology [kenosis]), soteriological (covenant, atonement, revelation, regeneration, grace, and calling), interreligious (cosmic spirit, imago dei, universal presence/salvation, church/kingdom identity, and missio dei), and biblical (theological method, Spirit in OT/NT, continuity/discontinuity, and already/not yet).  Obviously, I will not be able to cover these issues in a short position paper, which leads me to my projects. (Systematic Theology III)

PROJECTS

1. Systematic Analysis of Inclusivism – During the course of my time at seminary, I have been researching the issues which I believe are “first-order” or greatest threats to orthodoxy and/or the gospel.  This has lead me to take up the issues of pluralism, universalism, and inclusivism.  I have written several papers on inclusivism, focusing on revelation, saving faith, theological method, and now Holy Spirit.  My goal is to write a paper on every major area of systematic theology (e.g. theology proper, revelation, saalvation, eschatology, et al) on inclusivism and compile them into a book-length project.  This project is rather long-term, but I believe the time and work invested is certainly warranted.  I hope to have it completed in 2-3 years.

2. The Forgotten Henry – I already gave you the heads up on this project, so I will not say much here.  I am really looking forward to tackling this study in the next 1-2 years as I have already completed 75% of the research, bibliography, and organized an outline of the project.

3. 2008 Band of Bloggers - Some of you may remember that I organized a fellowship called “Band of Bloggers” in 2006 which was in conjunction with the first Together for the Gospel conference.  This is the first time I have publicly mentioned next year’s fellowship.  I and a small team of others have been planning for about six weeks and are really excited about it.  Last time I had only three weeks to put it together, so it is nice having eight months instead!  Stay tuned for more info on this project.

4. Miscellaneous (Smaller Projects) – Some other projects I am working on is posting my other drafts on “Dortian Calvinism” in response to Dr. James Leo Garrett’s articles in The Alabama Baptist.  I have a total of 12 in the series.  Another project is a study of the various church planting models (Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, NAMB, etc.) and developing a church planting strategy.  Lastly, I am hoping to juxtapose and examine the latest statements/confessions focused on the gospel, viz. The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration (1999), Together for the Gospel Statement (2006), and the Gospel Coalition Confession (2007).

Any of these particularly interest you?  Discuss on the blog?

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