Archives For SBC

In recent weeks, I have found myself reflecting quite a bit on the past 15 years of my life. I am not exactly sure why (perhaps it is because I have been an adult for almost 50% of my life?), but as I shared with a college-aged student yesterday, there is no way I could have mapped out the course my life has taken.

When I came to embrace the doctrines of grace, I did not enter the typical “cage stage” that people talk about. For me, the sovereignty of God was my lifeline. Either God was in control of every detail of my life for my good and his glory, or I had really no point in believing or living out my faith. In a short period of time, my world was rocked time and again.

In my first position at a local church, I served with several of my roommates and friends, all who came to embrace the doctrines of grace at some point in that journey of college life. While I was the least Reformed at that point, I guess you could say I had the roughest experience. My tenure at the church did not last long as I was physically threatened while being “kicked out” (not excommunicated but threatened to leave) by the senior pastor and education pastor (who called me “Absalom” and verbally assaulted me for 3 hours). That’s not the way you want to begin a lifelong call to gospel ministry to say the least. What happened in those early days were formative moments that would mark my life forever, and I am profoundly grateful to God for the brothers He placed in my life.

Over time, all of my brothers from those college years went their separate ways. We represented, I suppose you could say, the early stages of the young, restless, and Reformed movement. In the following years, the debate over Calvinism would hit a feverish pitch, mostly with charges that Calvinism stifles missions/evangelism and kills churches. This blog was very involved in the early years of the debate to offer rebuttals to many of the critiques that were leveled against Calvinists in the SBC, and it is without question that people loved to debate Calvinism (my stats were way higher then than they are today).

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Yesterday, I provided 4 reasons why David Platt should be the next president of the IMB. Within a few hours of posting that article, it was announced that he was indeed elected to this position. News about his election reverberated across social media to the point that his name was trending nationally on Twitter. I tried to keep up with several of the responses to the breaking news, and you can find those highlighted responses and articles at the bottom of the right sidebar where my twitter “favorites” can be found. But of all the responses I am most desiring to hear is the men and women who are on the front lines with the IMB giving their lives for the unreached peoples of the world. What do they think of David Platt as their new president?

This morning, one of my dear friends sent me this note (unsolicited by me). He has served with the IMB for nearly a decade and is a strategy coordinator who working among unreached peoples of South Asia. As you will see, he has actually worked with David Platt there. I asked for his permission to share this publicly (name and located removed of course), and he was glad for me to share this with others. I hope you are as encouraged by it as I am.

Hey Tim,

I appreciated your article about David. We have been blessed over the past few years to have him come and work along side our teams in [South Asia]. Through these encounters with him I have learned all the things you highlighted. His books have challenged us and his willingness to get in the trenches with us has blessed us. For these reasons we have prayed for years that God would lead him to lead us as our president. The news from yesterday of his election brought tears of joy and a renewed excitement for the future of our organization.

While we are excited about David being president, we are more excited about what this means for the 1.2 billion lost people in our country who desperately need an advocate like David to challenge the body of Christ to wake up and in joy sacrifice to make Christ know. I hope all is well with you and your family. We pray for you often.

Blessings in Christ,

May God indeed use David Platt to awaken us to the plight of those desperately need Jesus!

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It is no secret around SBCers on social media that IMB trustees are planning to (if not already) vote on who they believe should be the next president of the International Mission Board. And it is also no secret that David Platt has been a top candidate for the position this time as he was the last time the position was available a few years ago. There are some who are not happy about Platt’s potential nomination, and they have voiced their reasons why they feel the way they do. I would like to offer an alternative argument on what I do believe David Platt is the best candidate to lead Southern Baptists most important agency (IMB).

1. CHARACTER

If you spend any time with David Platt, the first thing you realize is that guy is genuinely humble. As prideful human beings, we are fairly discerning to spot false humility. However, as the Lord has continued to give David influence in the evangelical world, it seems that God has also given David increasing self-forgetfulness as well. This is a rare thing in our evangelical celebrity age, and I believe this to be the first and most compelling reason why David should be considered for the position. He is not overcome with power or position. He is not lifted by the praise of men or brought low by their criticisms. He is marked by a life of otherness that makes everything about him attractive to those who know and love Jesus Christ.

2. COMPETENCY

David has demonstrated an extremely high level of competency on the key areas surrounding this position–namely, head, heart, and hands. He has one of the sharpest minds in the country with a rigorous commitment to Scripture. His knowledge of God’s Word and competency in handling difficult ecclesiological and missiological issues are paramount in global missions and engaging the unreached peoples of the world. When it comes to his heart for the unreached peoples of the world, David is a man with fire in his bones. You cannot hear him speak without being warmed by the heat that flows from his heart. We need a leader who will light a torch under the glacier of the SBC to melt cold hearts to embrace the mission Jesus has given us. When it comes to his hands, David has invested his life in some of the hardest places of the world. He does not merely talk about it. He’s been there. He has experienced the plight of the poorest of the poor. He has preached to those who have never heard. He has and continues to train dozens of men and women to live cross-culturally. And he is aggressively leading his church in exemplary ways on what a Great Commission Church looks like. Whether head, heart, or hands, David Platt, in my opinion, is without comparison in the SBC.

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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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It seems that everyone is getting into hip hop these days, including students in Nathan Finn’s seminary class at SEBTS? Single seminary fellas, behave yourselves. And step up your game.

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A lot of folks in the SBC who have been paying attention to the long-standing Calvinism debate have been anticipating the formation of the Page Peace Committee. Dr. Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee of the SBC, announced earlier this year that he was planning to form a “consensus accord”. In May, he explained:

“Given the depth of the fracture lines around the issue of soteriology across the Convention, I sense a need to assemble a representative group of Southern Baptists who can hammer out such a consensus ‘accord’ that will enable the majority of Southern Baptists to work together for the Kingdom purposes which initially bound us together, an initiative I plan to announce at this year’s annual meeting.” (emphasis mine)

Sounds like a great idea. When I heard this, I too went to the SBC Annual Meeting with high hopes and encouraged my Calvinist brethren to work for a Great Commission consensus. While the battle lines had already been drawn, several months prior to the annual meeting, the largely anti-Calvinist crowd had loaded ammunition, so it seemed, and fired away with dozens of blogposts up until the week when we came together. By the time we met in New Orleans, it became clear that the messengers of the SBC had no desire to continue the bickering and infighting, soundly rejecting any attempt by motion or resolution to continue the blustering actions of a few on the blogosphere. Page was one of several voices setting the tone of the convention hall, as the Baptist Press liveblog recounted:

Executive Committee President Frank Page delivered the EC’s second report. Page addressed the issue of Calvinism, saying, “Calvinism is an issue amongst us.” He added, “I’m not a Calvinist … but a lot of our people are.” Page said he is concerned that there are some non-Calvinists who are more concerned about rooting out Calvinists than they are about winning lost to Christ. On the flip side, Page said he is concerned about Calvinists who view those who disagree with them as unintelligent. He referenced the panel that will “chart a way” forward for both sides, but Page did not announce any members of the panel. The two sides of the issue have walked arm in arm for the Great Commission for years, Page said, and should continue to do so. (emphasis mine, see also the BP story on Page’s address)

The big takeaway from New Orleans was to be the developments of Dr. Page’s “peace committee” (or advisory group) and what exactly this new group would seek to accomplish. Yesterday, the names and intentions of this group was announced through Baptist Press. The purpose of the group, according to Dr. Page is:

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Jerry Rankin, former President of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently wrote about the perceived unity in the SBC. I think he expresses a legitimate concern for those of us wanting to genuinely cooperate together despite doctrinal differences. Rankin wrote:

The updated Baptist Faith and Message 2000 would supposedly be the definitive statement of faith around which all Southern Baptists could unite. But apparently that is not sufficient. It is not enough to subscribe to the BF&M; if you do not interpret soteriology as I do your doctrine is not only suspect, it is dangerous to the SBC. There have been motions at recent conventions implying calvinists need to be ostracized from the convention.

There is little to commend unity among cookie-cutter conformists. Unity is significant only in the context of diversity. We are a diverse denomination ethnically, generationally, and in church size and forms. And, yes, there are variations in how Baptists understand and interpret matters of faith while holding to the same common foundational doctrines.

Why is unity an illusion? Because there are those who don’t really want unity; they want conformity to their way of thinking. We have an unfortunate record of alienating those who don’t agree with us, no matter how trivial the differences in our viewpoints. Some will remember as the conservative resurgence gained traction a number of moderate leaders drafted proposals for reconciliation for working together. Sadly, they did not realize no one was interested in conciliatory outcomes. The movement gained control by marginalizing and pushing out the moderates. Some would insist the same strategy is needed to produce the pretense of unity around an even narrower perspective of doctrine and ecclesiology today. (emphasis mine)

As for the former head of the largest missions sending agency in the world, Rankin knows the potential impact such narrowing conformity might bring on a Great Commission Resurgence. Indeed, he could speak firsthand of the number of missionaries who are confessionally Reformed and serving among the least reached and hardest places of the world. Nearly ever missionary I know serving with the IMB would be marginalized in the SBC if some, demanding conformity to their narrowing of parameters (or beyond the BF&M), would win the day in the SBC.

Fortunately, I believe there’s a new majority forming in the SBC intolerant of the attempts of a few (mostly online efforts) to, as Rankin puts it, ostracize Calvinists from meaningful cooperation around the Great Commission and confessional consensus (BF&M). He is right to assert that unity is significant in the context of diversity, and within the BF&M, there is allowed for a various theological convictions while at the same time acknowledging there is much upon which we can agree and work together. Here’s to hoping for significant unity through a shared commitment to stand on the inerrant Word, preach the unadulterated gospel, and love the lost for the sake of Christ and His glory.

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Dr. Tom Nettles was the speaker last week at the 2012 Founders Breakfast (at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the SBC). The title of his message is “The Southern Baptist Convention: Retrospect and Prospect” and I highly recommend it, especially in light of the current discussions about “traditional” theology in the SBC. The first half of Nettles’ provides numerous facts, figures, and direct references to pastors, churches, and institutions who held Reformed doctrine prior to the new traditionalists, while the second half focuses on the chiastic structure of SBC history. It is a fascinating look at the ebb and flow of theological trajectories, and the last nine minutes of the talk gives you Nettles’ direct interaction with the current attempt to marginalize Calvinists in the SBC.

To listen or download the audio, click here.
Also, be sure to check out the new book, Whomever He Wills, edited by Dr. Nettles and Matthew Barrett.

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