Archives For Southern Baptist Convention

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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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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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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You may not be Southern Baptist, and you may not be from the state of Alabama, but if you’ve got a moment and care about the Great Commission Resurgence, I like to offer a few thoughts.  I am one of those boys born and raised Southern Baptist, and for 20 of my 31 years of life, I was an Alabama Baptist–one saved (1987), baptized, licensed (1997), educated (University of Mobile, 1997-2001), and ordained (2001) in Alabama Baptist churches.  As a college student, I traveled and preached in numerous Alabama Baptist churches, and my childhood pastor (Fred Lackey) was two-time president of our state convention.  While many 20 year old guys were defeating the latest video game, I found myself debating old, bald-headed CBF dudes on the convention floor of our state convention annual meeting about inerrancy.  I suppose I could bore you with more stories, but I share this because, while I was born and raised Southern Baptist, I grew to become a Baptist by conviction and appreciation of our rich confessional and missional heritage.

Although I am no longer an Alabama Baptist (I pastor in sunny South Florida in a county where evangelicals comprise less than 5% of the population), I still try to keep up with all that is happening back “home.”  In recent months, I have come to see that, under the direction of its editor, Bob Terry, The Alabama Baptist has become a significant factor in opposition to the Great Commission Resurgence.  Consider the steady flow of articles, beginning from early March of this year:

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Morris Chapman has served as President and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention since 1992.  During the 17+ years that he has served in this position, he has undoubtedly done some great things for Southern Baptists, and his role in advocating the Conservative Resurgence is one to be remembered, including being a past president of the SBC from 1990-1992.  However, Chapman’s actions over the past couple of months have spiraled downward to a point where many Southern Baptists are deeply concerned about his actions, not the least of which are the following:

1. Within a few weeks after the formal and public announcement of the Great Commission Resurgence document, it was being reported that Chapman was having serious disagreements with the two leading architects of the GCR–Johnny Hunt (president of the SBC) and Danny Akin (president of SEBTS).  At one point, Hunt wondered if the differences were because “he’s [Chapman] sitting as an executive director and I’m out there with the pastors every week.”  At this point, the Chapman and the GCR was no private or personal matter, and Chapman was just beginning his counter-GCR campaign.

2. Two weeks later (a month after the GCR document is released), Morris Chapman utilizes the denominational online “news wire” of which he is CEO to publicly express his grievances over the GCR document, in particular Article IX (for a detailed response to Chapman, check out Tom Ascol’s interaction).  At this point, Chapman had clearly positioned himself with an opposing vision than that of GCR advocates.  Ironically, the second reason why Chapman did not sign the GCR document was because of his belief that it would cause division, which leads to the third development–SBC Louisville.

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Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with 13 brothers along with Dr. David Dockery to talk about the gospel, SBC, and the future.  I was really excited to see what was originally a meet up with some old friends turn into such a fruitful and encouraging time of gathering a solid group of guys with Dr. Dockery to share our hearts and speak candidly about  important matters ranging from burdens to blessings.  As we began talking, I realized that I should be recording some of the comments of my brothers, and I only captured the last four, namely Ben Dockery, Nathan Akin, Trevin Wax, and Jedidiah Coppenger–concluded with a strong word of encouragement by Dr. Dockery.

The restaurant obviously was not well lit, so the video quality leaves something to be desired, but nonetheless, I thought I’d share a portion of last night’s discussion as each person took a moment to answer the question, “Why are you hopeful, or, what do you find encouraging right now about the SBC?”

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