Archives For Tom Ascol

Last night, I had the privilege of joining my church family in honoring Tom Ascol on his 25th anniversary as pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  The evening was spent with members sharing stories and testimonies of how God has impacted their lives through Pastor Tom, and I began it with a few words about the call of a shepherd, explaining how he has led our church through the years.  I provide them below because I know many of my readers know Tom from his blog, articles, books, or role as director of Founders Ministries.  I’m fortunate to know him as a fellow pastor, father in the faith, and personal friend.  

Honoring a Faithful Shepherd:
Reflections on the Ministry of Tom Ascol
on His 25th Anniversary as Pastor of Grace Baptist Church

If you were alive in during biblical times, there is one vocation that every person in the community would be familiar with. That would be the work of a shepherd. It is widely understood that shepherds were in many ways considered to be heroic men, known for their independence, resourcefulness, adaptability in severe circumstances, courage amidst all kinds of opposition, and vigilance to their calling. Their work required of them an intense capacity for attentiveness, self-sacrifice, and compassion. As a result, shepherds were looked upon in Scripture as an icon of leadership, and no doubt one of the reasons why Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd and of whom Peter called the Chief Shepherd.

There are many ways to describe the work of a pastor, but none are more comprehensive and clear than that of a shepherd. When a pastor is faithful to the people he is called to lead, he images forth the shepherding ways of God. Indeed, God Himself said, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 34:15). In the popular Shepherd Psalm, King David begins by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). So in a very significant way, God communicates his heart and ways with His people as a shepherd. That alone should alert us to the significance of the work, given to those who are called to lead by “shepherding the flock of God” whom Jesus purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

But what is it that encompasses the work of a faithful shepherd? Tonight, I want to briefly give you three aspects of a faithful shepherd in light of what this evening is all about. For 25 years, God has given us a pastor who has served this church as a faithful shepherd to the flock entrusted to his care, and tonight, I want to honor the man who has honored Christ and discharged his calling as a dedicated pastor, committed churchman, and stubborn herald of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of our beloved pastor, Tom Ascol, and though it pains him for us to draw any attention to him, we are going to do it anyway. It is fitting for us to honor and recognize what God has done in and through him.

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On Tuesday, June 23, 2009 Founders Ministries held their annual breakfast at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.  Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, was guest speaker and addressed the 200+ in attendance with a message from 3 John entitled “Creeds, Deeds, and the Great Commission.”  Akin concludes his excellent exposition with words of appreciation and caution for future partnership in a Great Commission Resurgence which I encourage all my Calvinist brothers to hear.  The breakfast concluded with by Akin answering a few questions, including one from Tom Ascol about working with non-Calvinists for the cause of gospel consensus and reaching the nations.

The audio and video was produced from my hip pocket – literally.  I ripped the audio from my Livescribe Pulse pen and the video is from my Kodak Zi6 handheld HD Camcorder.  This breakfast was a warm and rewarding time of fellowship, encouragement, instruction, and godly exhortation, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Here’s the MP3: Founders Breakfast with Danny Akin

Here’s the video:

Note: It is best to play and pause the video until the entire message is buffered for better viewing.

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Last week, Tom Ascol expressed his concerns about the vision of Baptist Identity and in particular, their rejection of theological triage using a chapel message delivered by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell on October 30, 2008 at SWBTS chapel.  The message Dr. Yarnell preached was entitled “The Essentials of Christianity” (MP3) wherein he argued that a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ renders theological triage untenable because every doctrine pertaining to the Lordship of Jesus is inherently essential.

Within hours of the publishing of Ascol’s post, the Baptist Identity bloggers were in an uproar, calling Ascol names and demanding a retraction and apology.  Additionally, within 24 hours after his post, Dr. Yarnell teamed up with Robin Foster of SBCToday to write a six-page response (PDF) spinning the same language of “theological maturity” and verses Ascol used in his post (Philippians 3)–a paper Foster claims to have started “earlier this week.”  With both the serious and sophomoric responses received, it is important to consider the substance of what is at hand in this matter.

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Last week, I shared my take on Baptist Press throwing Mark Driscoll under the bus, including the underlying factors that come into play.  One of the main factors was the competing visions of the SBC.  On point five, I wrote the following:

There are two competing visions for the SBC going on right now: the Great Commission Resurgence under the direction of Danny Akin and David Dockery headquartered at SEBTS, and the Baptist Identity Movement under the direction of Paige Patterson and Malcolm Yarnell headquartered at Southwestern Seminary.  Prior to the Annual Meeting in Indy last year, the Baptist Identity boys were blazing the Internet with series of blogposts talking about Baptist distinctives and in particular “ecumenical compromise.”  From the Annual Meeting forward, however, the Great Commission Resurgence has won the day, leaving the Baptist Identity crowd in the wake full of a separatistic, landmarkist agenda.   Having Driscoll (and Mahaney) who do not share the same ecclesiology and distinctives lead Patterson and his camp to consider the actions of Akin and SEBTS as Baptist compromisers.   The BP article on Driscoll is an indication, in my mind, of an attempt to discredit the leadership of Akin and undermine the Great Commission Resurgence movement in the SBC.  Fortunately, most Southern Baptists are not buying it.

Last night, Tom Ascol wrote a very important article about the future of the SBC in relation to these two competing visions.  In it, Ascol explains the DNA and direction of each group and why he has firmly place both feet with the Great Commission Resurgence (as have I).  Towards the conclusion of his article, Ascol writes:

As a reformed, Southern Baptist pastor, my feet are firmly planted in the GCR camp. I believe that it is time for Southern Baptists to come together on the basis of our commitment to the gospel. I believe that where this solid, authentic commitment exists, we can find ground for cooperation and fellowship that will enable us to serve the purposes of God better than if we hold each other at arm’s length because of suspicion, fear or disdain.

I invite both my Calvinist and non-Calvinist brothers and sisters to join me in encouraging and working for this kind of future in the SBC. Let’s work together to come to deeper understandings and applications of the gospel. We may disagree at points, but such disagreements, if handled with gospel grace, can work to strengthen our grasp of divine truth rather than to further divide us. That is my hope, and that is my prayer.

Whether you are a Calvinist or not, we can and should all heartily say “Amen” or “right on” or “Boom” (depending on whatever generation you are in).  Let us get on with the glory of the Gospel–living it out in our lives, our churches, and in our world.

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Timelines and an organized list of events can be helpful to see how things evolve (or devolve), so I thought I would provide a play-by-play run down of the events that have transpired (and will continue to transpire) since the John 3:16 conference, and more particularly the revival of the charge of hyper-Calvinism by Dr. David Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Here’s the rundown thus far (I will be updating this regularly in the future).

1.  [11.07.08] David Allen gives his message against limited atonement at the John 3:16 Conference wherein he charges James White (among others) as a hyper-Calvinist.

2.  [11.07.08] James White offers and immediate response while in the UK evangelizing Muslims.

3.  [11.07.08] Phil Johnson, author of the “Primer on Hyper-Calvinism“, comes to the defense of James White and refutes the charges made by David Allen.

4.  [11.08.08] Tony Byrne (YnottonY) storms the blogosphere as Dr. Allen’s apologist.  Eventually it was revealed that Byrne drafted the chart distributed at the conference and was influential in both the 34-page response by Allen to the Building Bridges Conference as well as the presentation on limited atonement.  The extent to which Allen’s presentation and thinking has been influenced remains uncertain.

5.  [11.09.08] Timmy Brister provides a compilation post of live-blogging entries along with some noteworthy items from the John 3:16 conference.

6.  [11.17.08] Gene Cook interviews Tony Byrne about his chart and understanding of hyper-Calvinism on the Narrow Mind.

7.  [11.24.08] David Allen responds with his reasoning behind the charge of hyper-Calvinism and James White (very similar to what Byrne had already been arguing).

8.  [11.24.08] James White responds to Allen’s “false accusation” on the AOMIN blog.

9.  [11.24.08] Tom Ascol addresses the widening of the divide in the SBC as a result of (1) Lemke’s article, (2) Allen’s PDF review, and (3) the John 3:16 Conference.

10. [11.26.08] Phil Johnson addresses (again) the issue of hyper-Calvinism, refuting point-by-point the argumentation by David Allen.

11. [11.26.08] James White responds to Phil Johnson’s refutation of Allen.

12. [11.26.08] James White addresses Allen’s historical sources for his presentation.

13. [11.26.08] The “open letter” by David Miller was published along with Jerry Vines’ response.

14. [11.28.08] R. Scott Clark, a non Southern Baptist and professor of Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary, chimes in on the shared rationalism of both hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism.

15. [11.28.08] Justin Taylor provides information to answer the question, “What Is Hyper-Calvinism?”

16. [11.28.08] James White plays the testimony of Thomas Dickerson who was “saved out of Calvinism” (to the applause of the crowd) and responds both to Dickerson’s mysticism and the panel’s reaction (YouTube video).

17. [11.28.08] Malcolm Yarnell, after having left nearly a dozen comments on Ascol’s post, takes his partying agenda elsewhere.

18. [11.29.08] James White addresses Allen’s treatment of the “double payment argument” and John Owen (YouTube video).

19. [12.01.08] David Allen writes a “rejoiner to Tom Ascol” regarding his recent blogpost.

20. [12.01.08] Bart Barber attempts to explain what this “fighting about John 3:16” is all about.

21. [12.01.08] Wade Burleson explains that the antagonism against Calvinism is further evidence of the narrowing of parameters in SBC life.

22. [12.01.08] James White interacts with Jerry Vines on John 3:16, especially “whosoever will” (YouTube video).

23. [12.01.08] Tony Byrne lists the six arguments Allen uses for calling James White a hyper-Calvinist.

24. [12.02.08] James White addresses specifically the charge of hyper-Calvinism and universal saving will according to David Allen and Tony Byrne on The Dividing Line (YouTube video).

25. [12.02.08] Steve Camp responds to the charge of David Allen that he is a hyper-Calvinist.

26. [12.02.08] Quincy Jones shares the news that there will be an open forum at SWBTS with Dr. Allen to discuss his recent involvement with Calvinism on Thursday, December 4, 2008.

27. [12.03.08] James White addresses Tony Byrne’s comment on Brister’s blog where he argues seven points for clarification.

28. [12.03.08] Tom Ascol offers a response to David Allen and his previous rejoiner, revealing Allen’s logic, and addressing the example Founders Ministries has of standing against hyper-Calvinism.

29. [12.04.08] Ed Stetzer responds to David Allen’s critique regarding NAMB/LifeWay Research on Calvinism

30. [12.05.08] Timmy Brister writes about the charge of hyper-Calvinism by anti-Calvinists and how they are ultimately after Founders Ministries and Tom Ascol.

>> Last updated 12.06.08 <<

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Last week, I directed you to read the words of Voddie Baucham on the anti-Calvinism in the SBC. This week I want to turn your attention to the response of Tom Ascol who addresses three recent happenings: Steve Lemke’s article in NOBTS journal (which I have addressed), David Allen’s 34-page review of Building Bridges book, and the John 3:16 Conference. Ascol has not, to this point, responded to the escalating rhetoric and tactics of the anti-Calvinist movement in the SBC, predominantly located within SWBTS, NOBTS, and Jerry Vines and Co.  Some of the notable points by Ascol include:

1.  The “study” which Lemke again quotes to argue that Founders-friendly churches was not only methodologically flawed, but, should the same standard applied to the churches Lemke himself pastored, they would be in worse shape than the Founders churches.  The same goes for David Allen.  Perhaps a “study” should be done on the churches pastored by “seminary administrators.”

2.  Allen criticizes Building Bridges for partnering with Founders Ministries because it was a non SBC entity, while, within weeks after publishing this article, partners (and participates) with a conference that is a non SBC entity (Jerry Vines Ministries).  The ability of Allen to discredit himself is no less alarming than his hypocrisy on this point.

3.  Allen is deeply concerned about Dr. Nettles article “Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist” while apparently not concerned by the dozens of denominational “servants” telling churches why your next pastor should NOT be a Calvinist. Different standards for different people.

4. David Miller, a conservative statesman and evangelist in the SBC, attended the John 3:16 Conference and shared his disappointment to Jerry Vines in a letter, part of which was summarized in Ascol’s article.  Miller writes,

“The brethren (presenters), not only contradicted each other but themselves as well” while building “straw men” and “knock[ing] them down with Scripture verses taken out of context…with measured sarcasm and no small dose of arrogance.”

Ascol concludes with a personal appeal for gospel-centered consensus by Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike while distancing from the agendas that seek to divide and create factions in the SBC.  He concludes,

Now is the time for Southern Baptists of all stripes to stand up and hold those who misrepresent brethren with whom they disagree accountable for their words and actions. Speak the truth in love and leave the consequences to God. The anti-Calvinists (as opposed to non-Calvinists) are becoming, as one seminary student put it recently, “increasingly irrelevant,” especially to younger SBC leaders. While they are writing and preaching to themselves, more and more Gospel-centered Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike are showing a genuine willingness to link arms in order to move forward to make disciples of the Lord Jesus.

In the comments of his article, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell has responded (eight times) to Tom Ascol, mostly pertaining to his admission that Servetus was a Baptist (when he was not).  The conversation is worth reading.  More later.

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The Southern Baptist Founders Conference – Southwest begins today and will continue through the weekend (see schedule).  Executive Director Tom Ascol will be speaking four times on topics including “Church Discipline & Church Growth,” “Biblical Church Membership,” “The Emergent Church,” and Ephesians 4:1-16 (others will be speaking as well).  The conference is being hosted by Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.

Andrew Nicewander will be live-blogging the conference, so I encourage you to check out his blog.  Also, I see that Tom is being tempted to Twitter his way through the weekend as well.  Finally, you may want to check out the live-streaming of the conference via UStream.  First session begins 3:30 p.m. CST on Thursday.

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100%

Tim Brister —  August 24, 2008 — 5 Comments

That was the report we received at the conclusion of this evening’s service when Tom Ascol (our senior pastor) returned from Alaska.  When asked how he feels in relation to his health prior to the lightning strike, he responded that he feels 100%.  We praise God for the way God has been answering the prayers of so many people.  I wanted to pass along this good news to you as I know that many of you have been praying for Tom. He will continue to rest for the rest of the month with his scheduled sabbatical, but I look forward to laboring alongside him in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ as God continues to give us grace and strengthens us for this good work.  Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement over the past six weeks!

You can read more of Tom’s recent travels in his most recent blogpost.

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Moving In, Praying On

Tim Brister —  July 31, 2008 — 6 Comments

I want to first apologize for not having provided any updates in recent days.  Since my last blogpost almost two weeks ago, I have spent less time on the computer and internet since I have been blogging three years ago (for good reason, of course).

If you have not been made aware, Donna Ascol (Tom’s wife) has posted a lenghty update on Tom’s health over at Tom’s blog.  As I mentioned in the comments of the last post, I do not think that Tom’s original post reflected the severity of the lightning strike, and the impact was not fully experienced until several days after his own personal reflections.  To catch everyone up, Tom has met with several doctors, including a cardiologist and neurologist, who both have given promising reports and expect a full recovery.  However, due to the fact that so few people have survived lightning strikes, there is apparently little reliable research or support to determine the intensity or extense of Tom’s recovery.  It could take anywhere from three weeks to three years (or more).

The Ascol family has been resting at the home of some friends in Michigan for the past week where they have been able to enjoy some sweet times of family worship and relax in the serenic countryside of the rural north.

I don’t know of a pithy way of describing the progress of Tom’s physical condition.  There are days where Tom is beginning to return to normal activities, such as walking, exercising, and sleeping (all of which, I would argue, we take for granted).  Yet there are nights where Tom is awakened to horrible nightmares and dark thoughts, and there are days that succumb to the unpredictable pain and discomfort of nerve regeneration and disorientation.

While the Ascol’s will be arriving back in Cape Coral by early next week, Tom is scheduled to speak at a conference in Alaska shortly thereafter.  Please continue to pray that God would give Tom strength, wisdom, and patience as God confirms His work in Tom’s heart, body, and life.  I hope to provide more updates as necessary in the days ahead to keep everyone informed on Tom’s progress.

Last Sunday, I preached on God’s providence and our pain, focusing on two main points: (1) God is sovereign over all the circumstances that bring pain and suffering to our lives, and (2) God is intimately working in and through such circumstances to do us good and advance His glory.  I concluded with the evening message dealing with providence and prayer.  Starting this Sunday, I will be preaching on the prayers of Paul for the churches as we (GBC) are currently in a two-month season of praying about church planting plans in SW Florida.  I am really looking forward to this series of growing in our devotion to prayer as well as learning about what to pray for when it comes to God’s work in the hearts of His people and the outworking of His redemptive mission in the world through His church.

Last Friday, we finally closed on our home.  That evening the truck arrived, along with over 50 people from Grace who gave up their Friday night to serve us in bringing in our belongings.  One of our neighbors came by and noted the massive amount of help and said, “Usually when people move into a new town, they don’t have any help.”  I replied, “Well, these are folks from our church.”  After exchanging a few pleasantries, she concluded, “Well, it is evident that you are loved very much.”  With a smile on my face, I shook my head in agreement as she departed.  It was then that the words of Jesus echoed in my mind, “By this the world will know that you are My disciples, by the love that you have one for another” (John 13:34-35).  I am grateful that such love was visibly and tangibly expressed to my neighbors in the early hours of our new home/gospel outpost.  🙂

I want to express my thanks and heartfelt gratitude to all you who are and continue to pray for Tom, the Ascol family, our church (Grace Baptist Church), and myself.  The immediate demands of preaching and teaching along with other matters of pastoral care and planning continue to challenge and stretch me in ways I never imagined, and I am excited about the deeper levels of desperation and dependence I have upon Jesus, that His Spirit would use me, I pray, to serve God’s people and preach His gospel.  May He own His gospel, His church, and me so that there would be more worshippers who love and praise the name of Jesus.

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NOTE: For regular updates on Tom Ascol’s health condition, please see the comments section of this post.

For the past week or so, I have been wrestling where to go with the blog in writing series as well as keeping up with Blue Collar Theology and the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge (among other things). One of the desires I have is to share with you the journey I have been on that has taken me from a full-time seminary student/part-time 3rd shifter to full absorption into gospel ministry in the local church. All but the last two months of my blogging tenure has been spent in a seminary environment, and as a result, a considerable number of people who read my blog are fellow seminarians who will likely be serving in a ministerial context of some sort. Perhaps my journey, and retelling of some scenes along the way, could be profitable not only for the seminarians who are also making that great leap but also for the churches who would be receiving them.

But due to God’s providence, I have been led to a point where I understand that the place my blog is supposed to go is nowhere. At least not for the time being.

Many of you know already about the situation with Tom Ascol, whom I serve alongside here at Grace Baptist Church. Allow me to give another brief update on his condition. The last couple of nights have afforded Tom greater lengths of sleep time, which has been really good. However, the process has continued to be incredibly painful. The nerves in his body are beginning to regenerate at various parts of his body, and when they do, it is like great jolts of pain shooting to that area. So for instance, at one moment it could be his ankle, then later his hip, and a moment later his arm. It cannot be predicted when or where those jolts of pain come as the nerves regenerate, and so at any moment, things can turn from a moment of rest to restless pain. As I mentioned in the comments of my earlier post, the doctors are giving promising reports, expecting Tom to make a full recovery. But it will take time, and it will demand a change of pace and a season of rest. Please continue to pray for Tom and the Ascol family as I know they are really grateful for your support and prayers.

As you might imagine, Tom will not be able to receive email or phone calls for the immediate future. While I encourage you to comment and share your thoughts and prayers either in the comments here or on Tom’s blog, I do ask on behalf of Tom and the family that calls and emails be left to matters of necessity. I will be receiving all of his email, so I will be sensitive to respond to all matters that merit his (or his family’s) attention. I do ask that, given the circumstances, grace would be afforded to myself and others who will be attempting to administrate these tasks in a timely manner (he receives quite a bit more email than I do!). For all you Facebook users, you can also leave a message on his wall, or perhaps you could catch Tom twittering in the days ahead (though I would not expect him to).

Next Sunday, I will likely be preaching to our people on “God’s Providence and Our Pain” as I think it would be appropriate that we hear from Scripture on what God is doing here and how we can respond in faith to our loving and faithful Lord. If I may ask, please pray for me in the days ahead as well. I will be preaching and teaching 13 times over the next six weeks will be quite demanding, especially for a young novice like myself. 😉 Much of that will be a series on the prayers of Paul for the churches he planted–seeking to know what specifically Paul prayed and how prayer impacts church planting. Lord willing, our church will begin the early phases of planting a church about 45 minutes east of where we are located.

Lastly, we are finally at the point of closing on a home here and are expecting to moving in at the end of this week. This is a big praise, but the season of living in suitcases in homes of members has been immensely rewarding and encouraging. I know Nolan will look forward to having his own room! 🙂

As a result of all that God is doing here and the circumstances I find myself, (immediate) future blogging plans will be kept to updating you on the situation with Tom’s health and perhaps posting some stuff I have benefited from in my study. I embrace with joy the plans the Lord has for me in serving His people and look forward to allotting the overflow to spill out here. It is a privilege for me to serve God, His church, and our beloved pastor, and I thank you again for remembering us in your prayers.

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