Archives For Southern Baptist Convention

In October 2006, Dr. Jerry Vines preached a series of sermons at First Baptist Church, Woodstock entitled “Baptist Battles.” The four main battles which comprised this series were the battle over Liberalism, Pentecostalism, “Libertinism” (alcohol), and Calvinism. To use the term “battle” might be edgy rhetoric for Southern Baptists since the Conservative Resurgence (post 1979 era), but for the sake of this blogpost, I will concede to that term for the purpose of argument.

Dr. Danny Akin shared in his convention address last week what was a fear of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, namely that those fighting the legitimate battle for the Bible would eventually go back to the barracks and turn on one another (with fighting in their hearts). Perhaps there has been no greater evidence of this reality than that of the “battle over Calvinism.”

I am one who grew up in the middle of this battle. My first four years of ministry witnessed a surge of Reformed theology in college (1997-2001), followed by four years in the revivalist/anti-Calvinist culture (2001-2004). The third set of four years was spent at Southern Seminary when the term “young, restless, and reformed” generation was coined (2004-2008). In fact, in many ways my journey biographically was a microcosm of the larger narrative such that Collin Hansen (who wrote the book) shared a portion of my life story in his book. The fourth set of four years has been as a pastor of a confessionally Reformed church (2008-2012), where I continue to serve today.

As I mentioned in my reflections on #SBC13, the tone and conversation regarding Calvinism is perhaps the best it has been since I’ve been involved in Southern Baptist life. I took some time to reflect on the past 15 years, and I thought I’d share my big picture take on the “Baptist Battle of Calvinism.

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Dr. Frank Page (and Executive Committee of the SBC),

I want to thank you for the excellent leadership you have demonstrated in representing Southern Baptists. Through your intentional efforts and direction, I believe a new tone has been set for meaningful cooperation among all Southern Baptists that speaks well of the love of Christ and for one another. You have modeled this as SBC President and continue to as President/CEO of the Executive Committee.

There were times in the past where I had little desire to hear the reports from the Executive Committee, but I can gladly say that is no longer the case. The work you have done has given me reason to be proud as a Southern Baptist and hopeful for the future (being 34, I hope to be around for a long time!). You said something in your report that I’d heard before but never really considered very deeply. You said, “The headquarters of the SBC is not Nashville but every local church of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

As I thought about that and the current annual meeting schedule, I noticed that there was little if any opportunity for Southern Baptist to hear reports from SBC headquarters (local churches). I’m very glad to hear of what God is doing in our various entities and organizations, but as a convention of cooperating churches, I did not hear of what God was doing through our local churches (headquarters).

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Reflections on #SBC13

Tim Brister —  June 13, 2013 — 19 Comments

It’s been a while since I posted on Southern Baptist life. It is not that I have become uninterested in all things SBC but that my blog focus has focused mostly on the gospel and church-related issues. I’d like to offer a few personal reflections for what they’re worth as I know many others will be doing the same in the coming days.

Changes from 2008-2013

I have been attending the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention for 5 years, which is not a long time. Yet, there is much that has changed in this short period of time. In 2008, there were numerous motions against Acts 29, Mark Driscoll, and Calvinism. In 2013, not one motion or resolution was against Acts 29 or Calvinism. In fact, NAMB and Acts 29 were on the same IX Marks stage encouraging one another in planting gospel-centered churches. AND the Calvinism Advisory Committee produced a healthy and constructive document which has changed the tone of the convention regarding this controversial issue. Instead of talking about one another, Calvinists and non-Calvinists are talking to one another and standing shoulder to shoulder (differences notwithstanding) in a spirit of voluntary cooperation forwarded by meaningful theological consensus.  In fact, I did not hear one derogatory statement about Calvinists the entire time in Houston (Louisiana College excluded). These changes are no small thing.

Additionally, the two leading topics last year were the name change/descriptor and the “Traditionalist” statement. Interestingly enough, I did not hear one reference to either of them this year. The term “Great Commission Baptist”, for all the attention it drew last year, did not merit a passing nod on the platform (or in any of the auxiliary conversations/discussion). The Traditionalist statement, which was an attempt to give positive description to the term “non-Calvinist” has not garnered support or convention attention outside the SBC blogosphere. Like the Memphis Declaration and Joshua Convergence of 2005-2006, it appears that this will not have enduring significance.

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I used to blog about the Southern Baptist Convention quite a bit. In recent years, I have tried to focus on practical issues of church life from a theologically driven focus. Nevertheless, given the significance of this past week, I’d like to jump into the SBC blog world again and attempt to contribute a few reflections and anticipations.

NEW LEADERSHIP

I am very glad that the election of Fred Luter as the first African American President of the SBC was not overshadowed by the theological controversies swirling around on the internet. The moment when we all stood in affirmation and celebration of his election was a powerful moment. I don’t know how anyone could have not been emotional gripped by providence and the present recognition of history being made. As I type this in my NOLA hotel room, my wife and I just returned from a tour of the city.  One of the significant and recurring points the guide made was the slave quarters and how they lived in this city. Learning how prominent slavery was in the history of this city (and our country) makes me all the more appreciative of God’s work of repentance in the SBC.

Along with Luter as President, I am very encouraged by the election of Nathan Lino as First VP and Dave Miller as Second VP. Over the past four years, I have been a part of a “young leaders” meeting where, in 2008, I first met Nathan. He is an experienced church planter, whose church just celebrated their 10th anniversary. Nathan has a wonderful, gracious spirit and evangelical commitment to work together with Southern Baptists who may not agree with him on various theological issues but nevertheless are unified in the gospel and the Great Commission. Nathan and I have discussed this week how we can work together to forward a new narrative of healthy, robust discussion as brothers who see differently on various issues but have a transcendent love and determination to not allow the differences keep us from linking arms and hearts for reaching the lost, whether they are across the street or across the world. Hopefully, you will hear more about that in the future.

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It’s been quite a long time since I blogged anything about the Southern Baptist Convention.  Early blog readers will remember the days when SBC issues were a regular item here.  It is not so much that I am uninterested in what is taking place in the SBC as much as it is a desire for me to be more of a contributor in what I do than simply what I say as a commentator.  Having said that, I hope the stuff I am writing now about the gospel, mission, church planting, etc. would be considered edifying to anyone, but especially to my Southern Baptist folk.

But alas, this is the week of the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I am unfortunately not in Phoenix, AZ where the mass of polo shirts and comb overs are converging.  Given the significance of this week in SBC life, I thought I’d post ten (random) personal thoughts about the SBC for what it’s worth.

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