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‘Southern Baptist Convention’ Category

  1. How the Inspiration of Scripture Happened

    August 18, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Historic Christianity has affirmed that Scripture is a perfect revelation of God, lacking nothing, internally consistent, and accurate on all matters it addresses 1 (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Christianity has also affirmed that Scripture came from God through real human beings, subject to the same flaws common to all humanity save Christ.  How, then, in light of the involvement of imperfect humans can we believe in a perfect communication of message?

    On the methods by which God revealed Himself perfectly in Scripture through flawed human beings without using them as dictation robots Walter Kaiser says:

    As B.B. Warfield pointed out long ago, the pure light of God’s revelation will not be distorted by coming through such admittedly human channels, just as God’s pure sunlight is not bent and distorted by its being filtered through a stained glass window, for the originator of the sunlight is also the architect who designed the stained-glass windows.

    The preparation that went into the lives, experiences, vocabularies, and outlook of the writers of Scripture was enormously significant.  Thus, by the time they came to write Scripture, so authentic were the expressions that they used that any of us who might have known them prior to their writing of the text of Scripture would have instantaneously recognized that that is precisely how each writer spoke.  The idioms, vocabularies, styles, and the like were uniquely their own, yet the product was precisely what God wanted as He stayed with each writer in such a way that there was a living assimilation of the truth (1 Cor. 2:13) – not a mechanical dictation of the words, such as whispering in the writer’s ear or an involuntary movement of their hands as they automatically wrote.

    Article 1 of The Baptist Faith and Message (2000), titled On Scripture says it this way:

    The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

    Exodus 24:4Deuteronomy 4:1-217:19Joshua 8:34Psalms 19:7-10119:11,89,105,140Isaiah 34:1640:8Jeremiah 15:1636:1-32Matthew 5:17-1822:29Luke 21:3324:44-46John 5:39;16:13-1517:17Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11Romans 15:416:25-262 Timothy 3:15-17Hebrews 1:1-24:121 Peter 1:252 Peter 1:19-21.


    1. This isn’t to say that Scripture is without apparent errors or contradictions.  However, these are the fault of flawed human readers, not the Bible, and largely resolvable through correct interpretation.

  2. How Low Elevation Church Has Stooped

    February 20, 2014 by Jeff Wright


    Yesterday’s craziness surrounding the coloring sheet from Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church  shouldn’t over shadow the other news connected with Elevation – namely how they manipulate people into “spontaneous” baptisms.

    This second controversy is, in my opinion, far more dangerous.  I’ll quote from the article by WCNC Charlotte because they state well the problems with Elevation’s Spontaneous Baptism Resource Kit.

    The guide instructs, “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.” 
    “They had people in the crowd stand up who never intended to be baptized,” said James Duncan, a communications professor at Anderson University and critic of Furtick. “They were shilling for Steven and the intent was these shills stand up and everybody else follows.”

    Stuart Watson, the author of the article, continues:

    More stage instructions tell volunteers to go to staging rooms outfitted with towels, pre-printed t-shirts, sports bras, boxers, makeup remover, hair-dryers and flip-flops. Volunteers are instructed to “pick young energetic people” to go on stage first to be baptized and “not necessarily those who are there first.” 

    “Think of the room in terms of a NASCAR pit stop,” the guide reads. “Quick in and quick out.” 
    It takes “30 to 45 seconds” to baptize each person as church photographers snap photos. 
    More volunteers are told, “You are looking for one or two great stories in your group. When you ID those individuals, place a ‘black wrist band’ on them so that the video crew can interview them….”
    The guide then tells the “media team” to be “mining great stories and pushing them up to the video crew.” 

    An additional disturbing detail comes at the end of the article:

    Elevation Pastor Steven Furtick asked me for a face-to-face, off-the-record meeting with me to ask me not to run this report. I spent an hour on the telephone and two more hours in person discussing my reporting, his church and his concerns. 

    Pastor Steven said I have been unfair and this report in particular would hurt Elevation Church members. 

    Does Furtick think that he is free from the consequences of his and his church’s scandalous behavior?  What right does he have to attempt to shift blame onto the news agency for reporting what his own church has freely and publicly published?

    Let’s be clear – Furtick, along with any one else involved in created and pushing forward these events, hurt the members of Elevation church.

    The repercussions of this kind of manipulative, pre-packaged faux-Christianity are clear.  In no certain order:

    • The central rite of Christianity, baptism, is undermined entirely.  Historically, no outward event is of more significance to the Christian faith.  Here Elevation and its leaders have reduced it to a canned production, not substantially different from a flash-mob dance performance.
    • The credibility of the Christian faith and the idea of conversion becomes more laughable and seemingly hollow to a world already plenty skeptical about such things.
    • Other ministries, more legitimate in their efforts to faithfully discharge the gospel call, are cast in a shadow by these big-budget, high-production hucksters while precious resources that could be legitimately used to help people are sucked into the black hole of manipulative pseudo-ministries like the ones taking place at Elevation.


    I am confident that a good and sovereign God will have, from the perspective of eternity, called men and women to a saving faith in Himself at these Elevation engineered events.

    Make no mistake, that will only come to pass because His overwhelmingly powerful grace will do good to lost men and women even in the midst of the worst conditions.

    This reality – that people are likely actually converted – in no way overshadows that in the highest degree of likelihood the majority of those involved as “converts” will have been deceived and thus, humanly speaking, hardened to the gospel.

    Furthermore, any legitimate conversions arising from these highly engineered productions does not mean that the productions are justified.  This is a stain on the public reputation of the church and, through it, Christ.

    May God grant Steven Furtick and the people at Elevation responsible for this abusive behavior repentance.  May He also grant that those who have been manipulated to see through the facade of Elevation’s misconduct to the beauty of Christ in the authentic gospel.

    Even so, come Lord Jesus.

    Further Reading
    Pajama Pages (Linked to Above): How Steven Furtick engineered a spontaneous miracle

    Patheos: Steven Futick and the ‘Disneyfication’ of Baptism

    Zwinglius Redivivus – Elevation ‘Church’ – Just Another Cult and Furtick is Just Another False Teacher

    Truth Matters Blog: Mass Baptisms, Invitations, and Southern Baptists

  3. Congratulations to Jared Moore on His Election

    June 12, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    Just a quick post to congratulate Jared Moore on his election as 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Thank you to everyone who voted for him as well.


  4. Jared Moore for 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention

    June 3, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    It is not every day that I take the opportunity to put a good friend in a tough spot but that’s just what I’m about to do.  Here we go.

    It is my intention to nominate my longtime friend, Jared Moore, for the position of 2nd Vice President at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Houston, TX.

    Our convention in these days manifests all the historic challenges presented by a body so diverse in composition, contrasting in perspective, and geographically diffused.  Added to these difficulties is the current quarrel between the neo-traditionalist and reformed polarities.  While none of this is a challenge to our Lord nor does it hinder His plans for His Kingdom one iota, on this side of the veil the problems loom large before our eyes.

    And here I am, trying to throw Jared further out into the fracas.  “With friends like these…”, right?

    My reasons for offering this nomination are simple and hardy.

    My friend Jared is a man of demonstrated Christian character, thoughtful Christian reflection, and devoted service to the local church.  I remember still the day I saw the change of regeneration evidence itself in my friend’s life.  At that time I recollect thinking I had never seen such an immediate and radical change in an individual life as I did in Jared’s conversion.  As nearly fifteen years have been added to that day I am happy to say the Lord has allowed me to see others whose conversion has been as profound as Jared’s but they are nonetheless extremely rare.

    I consider it a fine gift of the Lord to myself that he has allowed Jared and I to remain in one another’s lives over these years and I attest that the marked change manifested in my friend’s life has been matched by increasing measure of the fruits of the Spirit.  These characteristics are wedded in Jared to a penchant for careful Christian thought (evidenced by his academic career) and classic Protestant work ethic (revealed in his labors in ministry).  Downstream from these characteristics, I have often heard and read Jared point to the sufficiency of The Baptist Faith and Message to define Southern Baptists – a vital call in days of theological conflict.

    Jared’s years of service have been given to the out-of-the-way places which comprise the bulk of Southern Baptists historically.  Over nearly thirteen years and from Baxter, TN to Hustonville, KY (look those places up; not exactly the fashionable sectors to pastor in – I’m sure no one would consider them “strategic pulpits”) Jared’s life has been given to churches which those eager for fame and career advancement would consider too obscure.  I would personally like to see more of this kind of pastor serving in SBC leadership.  Jared fits that bill to a T.

    Finally, Jared is passionate about the gospel and committed to the Cooperative Program.  W.A. Criswell once said, “To lift Him up, to preach His name, and to invite souls to love Him and to follow Him is the highest, heavenliest privilege of human life.”  Jared’s ministry and mindset show he is committed to doing just this, both as the pastor of a local congregation and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The Cooperative Program remains the backbone of Southern Baptist unity and ministry; Jared is a vocal proponent of our CP and I trust his election would see Jared enthusiastically promoting this critical element of SBC work.  His church follows him in this commitment, giving 16% of their undesignated receipts to the CP and 2% to the local association.  I should probably note that I once fancied myself to be more knowledgeable about the workings of our convention than Jared.  Those days are over.  Jared’s interest in the SBC stems from his concern that the convention be growing toward greater and greater health.  This interest has manifested itself, in part, in acquiring knowledge of how the SBC sausage is made.  This concern shows itself particularly in connection with SBC Voices and I encourage you to familiarize yourself with Jared’s writing there before the vote comes.

    So there you have it.  I’m just mean enough to nominate Jared Moore for a demanding position serving the width and breadth of Southern Baptists as second vice president.  I hope you’ll be just mean enough to vote him in.  See you in Houston.

  5. Greear and Why It’s Worth Sticking with the Southern Baptist Convention

    February 9, 2012 by Jeff Wright

    I’ve appreciated J.D. Greear since I first came across his work in 2009.[1]

    His latest blog post is another example of how to reasonably think through the issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention in our day.  I think you should read the whole thing but let me pull out a section I believe is exceptionally helpful.

    The [Cooperative Program] finances the Southern Baptist seminaries, the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board, and other Southern Baptist mission efforts. The CP has enabled the SBC to do unparalleled things–for example, Southern Baptists have put more missionaries on the field (5000+, currently) and provided a more affordable, higher quality theological education than any other denomination. That’s what happens when 42,000+ churches contribute to a collective pot.

    Yep.  Greear goes on to [rightly] acknowledge the problems with the Cooperative Program, namely that too often the wrong hands dip in to the pool of resources that is the Cooperative Program.  However, Greear and his church see the value of the Cooperative Program as too exceptional to just abandon and thus have chosen to work for reform.

    To this I say a hearty Amen!

    I’ve long been concerned that my generation – the “young leaders/pastors” that it seems so many in the SBC are worried about loosing – are too self-centered to realize that abandoning the SBC – and thus the Cooperative Program – will result in a much greater decline in resources aimed at Gospel and Kingdom work (some lesser known than others) than could ever be replaced by forming new networks.  In 2010, after hearing the report of the GCR Committee, I wrote:

    I’m… realistic about my generation. I know the ones most loudly talking (and Tweeting and blogging) about being missional are the ones hardest to satisfy. Frankly speaking we’re arrogant, self-confident beyond reason, and iconoclastic to the core. [The suggested GCR changes] won’t satisfy the thirst of those who think they know a better way to support missions. I’m afraid that a significant percentage of them will head off in any number of directions not realizing that separate we can’t accomplish even a portion of what we could together. As individuals my generation thinks we are the next Luther, Calvin, Wilberforce or Spurgeon. Well, if not that then at least the next Driscoll. We never realize that we’re much more likely to be unknown than well known. I’m afraid this inappropriate self confidence will cause us to break apart the greatest system of supporting mission work that has been produced in the name of new ventures that won’t touch the significance of what we sacrificed to attempt them.

    I am just as concerned about this possibility today as I was two years ago.  May the Lord use J.D. Greear’s influence to preserve what my generation may not otherwise have the sense to guard.

    [1] If you see weird formatting on those posts please accept my apologies. Our site was compromised by a virus the year they were written and the clean up process left us with some odd changes to those posts.  I’m in the process of getting it all reworked but haven’t gotten to those Greear posts yet.


  6. Remind Me: Why Lifeway?

    February 8, 2011 by Jeff Wright

    The “Briefing” section of the most recent Christianity Today contains a blurb regarding Lifeway Christian Stores’ decision to stop labeling books by authors of questionable doctrinal perspectives as part of their ‘Read with Discernment’ program (the CT article specifically mentions Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Brian McLaren, and William Young as examples).

    Being someone who tries to stay apprised of issues connected with the Southern Baptist Convention (with which Lifeway is affiliated) I was surprised to find that such a program had ever existed and that I hadn’t already heard it was being dropped. I don’t think the fault is entirely mine; having worked for Lifeway in Knoxville, TN I can attest to the fact that in the years I was in their employ the ‘Read with Discernment’ program was never mentioned in any staff meeting or corporate literature I can remember (by comparison, the corporate emphasis on suggesting additional items at checkout is still fresh in my memory). I know that no labels were ever attached to any copies of Miller’s Blue Like Jazz or Bell’s Velvet Elvis but McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy was available for special order only.

    Very telling is a quote from Chris Rodgers, identified in the article as Lifeway’s director of product standards and customer relations, identifying the labels as “kind of irrelevant.” I’ll just be honest: that kind of language from Lifeway leadership makes me (a local church pastor who is already pretty miffed about Lifeway’s lack of attention in the area of doctrinal fidelity) question how relevant Lifeway is to me as a consumer – both personally and on behalf of our church.

    The same article cites a blog-posted criticism of Lifeway by Christian artist Shaun Groves who calls out Lifeway on an obvious hypocrisy on Lifeway’s part in choosing to sell books that are doctrinally shaky but label them for special attention: “…instead of refusing to sell [doctrinally questionable titles], Lifeway chooses to profit from what it alleges to be heresy(ish).” Although I suspect Groves and I might be on different sides of the issue as to whether or not Lifeway should carry such products I think he’s directly on point here. As an employee the same issue galled me.

    Again, as a consumer, I’m struggling to see any reason to continue doing business with Lifeway. The prices are obviously more expensive than Amazon and the move away from even token attention to doctrinal fidelity removes any convictions I might have about doing business with an explicitly Christian retailer (as I have regarding buying directly from Westminster Books or Crossway) leaves me wondering exactly what would compel me to buy a title from Lifeway.

    I realize that being competitive in a marketplace where Amazon and Wal-Mart gobble up business like Baptists at a KFC Buffet makes Christian retail a hard niche to fill anyway. I would suggest, however, that becoming more inclusive and less doctrinally committed is precisely the wrong way to go. If I don’t have any greater doctrinal affinity with Lifeway than I do with Amazon why not save myself the difference in cost of purchase? The counter might be that Lifeway allocates some proceeds to Christian missions. My answer is I support missions through my local church and I do so with partners of a like perspective on doctrinal issues. I don’t need a bookstore to be my missions department. I do need one to filter and distill the broad range of Christian products available into a best-of assortment that I can discerningly sort through.

    As such I’ll continue avoiding Lifeway stores (assuming I won’t be beset by an overpowering need for Scripture Mints or Praise Ponies) – excluding the campus bookstore at Southern Seminary in Louisville – and will be even more loathe to recommend shopping there to my church members. On the other hand I might be convinced to spend more of my money at a Lifeway were I confident the chain had assembled a team focused on providing the very best of available Christian content (or at least one that screens out the worst of the worst like McLaren with something more vigorous than a must-special-order policy).

    Being all things to all people worked for Paul’s ministry but I suspect it is a bad business model for a denominationally affiliated Christian bookstore.

  7. Wisdom for Pastor Search Committees

    January 6, 2011 by Jeff Wright

    For some time now I had been kicking around the idea of writing something to help guide pastor search committees because, at least in my Southern Baptist circles, there seems to be a dearth of resources that present Biblically guided wisdom on how to go about the process.  However, before I was able to write something up along came the January/February 2011 9 Marks E-Journal with a section on search committees written by Dr. Dever that covers almost everything I would want to say with greater eloquence than I could muster.  Nonetheless, I have a few thoughts to add (mostly in terms of emphasis) that will follow Dr. Dever’s material.

    – – – – – –

    What’s Wrong With Search Committees? Part 1 of 2 on Finding a Pastor
    By Mark Dever

    Some very godly folks serve today in such committees around the country, and even around the world, giving freely of their time to help their congregation find a new pastor. The decision is a momentous one for the sake of their church, and therefore those on the committee give their time prayerfully and with a sense of a being given a sacred privilege. Thank you to those who have approached this task lovingly and dutifully!

    But here’s the problem: if churches were healthier, we’d never need to call together such a committee. The last guy would have helped the elders to make sure that this was taken care of before he left. Indeed, the last guy would have realized that one of the most important parts of his ministry in a church is ushering in his replacement! Failing that, the elders of a church still should still have taken the lead in ushering the church toward choosing a man who meets the biblical requirements and deftly handles the Word.

    Sadly, too many pastors and elders have failed to discharge this crucial responsibility, and so congregations have been left with no choice but to create a committee. But this is like making the teenage son and daughter parent their younger siblings because mom and dad are absent. The teenagers can get the job done, and how grateful we are for them. But they inevitably do the work with a limp because they lack the natural resources and advantages of the parents.

    Let’s consider some dangers and pitfalls that may await the average search committee. Then in the next article we’ll consider why the church’s elders, including the outgoing pastor, are best suited to leading the search for a pastor’s replacement.


    1) The basic problem. The basic problem with search committees is that they are typically built to do the wrong thing. They’re built—again, typically, not always—to represent different portions of the congregation in the process of finding a pastor. So you get some women on the committee to represent the women’s perspective, men to represent the men, young and old to represent different ages, the businessman, the deacon, the musicians, and so forth. In other words, search committees are built to put the principle of representation to work. And it makes sense that corporate-minded, democratic Westerners would think this way, doesn’t it!

    There’s nothing wrong with incorporating the interests of different kinds of people, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. The most important criteria which the people responsible for nominating the next pastor should meet is an ability to represent not the interests of different kinds of people but the ?interests of the Bible, if I can put it like that. This group needs to understand the Scripture well—how to ?rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)—so that they will prioritize what Scripture prioritizes in looking for a pastor. Yes, these individuals should be interested in finding someone who knows how to love and serve men and women, young and old, and every other group in the church, just as Paul instructs Timothy about how to love different kinds of people in the pastorals. But this group must approach their job asking first what Scripture says. And then they should have the pastoral wisdom and experience necessary for differentiating between those candidates who meet the biblical criteria in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional fashion.
    Since the committee’s search engine uses the wrong principles, it’s more likely to hobble along, stuck with the following problems that produce a limp:

    2) Undue influence from outside denominational leaders. If your church belongs to a denomination where the authority of Scripture is under attack, consider very carefully the interests that denominational leaders have in making sure you get a pastor who’s acceptable to them. They may have unsavory theological or political reasons to want to install certain people in your congregation, and they can exercise undue influence on committee lay people who humbly want to defer to ?the professionals.?

    Will the influence of denominational leaders always be bad? Certainly not! But as a congregationalist I believe that those men who have been given a specific biblical charge to lead a congregation—the elders—are at least less likely (and maybe I’m being idealistic!) to be susceptible to unsavory outside influence.

    3) Wrongly-guided members of the committee. Sometimes members of the search committee are the biggest hindrance. This is more likely to occur when the committee is not chosen fundamentally to represent the Bible’s ?interests. Sometimes a church will have a businessman who wields great influence in the church. More than once I’ve heard of such men who basically set out to ?hire a preacher for their church. Such people view the church as their own private property. Too often committees can be dominated by such folks, rather than being led by the elders (Heb. 13:7, 17).

    4) A suspicion of pastors. Some of you may feel uneasy about pastors leading in finding good successors because it could seem like giving the current pastor too much influence. Maybe you view the interim time between pastorates as time for a congregation to catch its breath, or be rejuvenated, or recover, or whatever may be the need after the last pastorate.

    But what if the pastorate has gone well? Is it proud of the elders (along with the senior pastor) to try to serve the congregation in one of the most monumental decisions it will ever make? I’d say just the opposite. I’d say it’s part of their very job as elders! And keep in mind 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13!

    Finally, it’s the present leaders who will be in a good position to harvest and apply lessons learned during previous pastorates.

    5) A beauty pageant mentality. Too often search committees will look at a number of different candidates, rank them, and conduct a kind of pastoral skills tournament, all while sincerely wanting the best for their church. But does our church really need to have a good pastor who is better than other good pastors? Wouldn’t we really be better off simply looking one brother at a time for someone who could serve us well? We don’t want to turn our search process into a kind of pastoral beauty pageant.

    Consider how a man looks for a wife. He doesn’t line them up, glance over their resumes, and then compare them to one another. Through natural relationship networks, he gets to know them one at a time. He takes time to know a woman’s character. Why should finding a shepherd to lead and feed God’s people be treated with care?

    Admittedly, elders can approach a pastoral search as if it were a beauty pageant too. But hopefully, as elders, they will know better!

    6) Risk aversion, which prioritizes experience over character and giftedness. Search committees tend to be too risk-averse. Again, the very nature of the committee is to represent the congregation, which means they’re designed to look for a candidate that pleases the congregation. And the only way to satisfy everyone—often—is to find the middle-of-the-read, milquetoast candidate.

    Most commonly, committees prefer experience over character and giftedness. It’s true that young men tend to have great acuity, but poor depth perception. They see truth sharply (and often accurately) but don’t have experience in knowing how to implement things well. But that’s not true of all of them. And a humble character which seeks wisdom from older, godly men is a sign of a good leader.

    God raises up young men who watch their life and doctrine closely and are gifted to teach his Word publicly. Hire them when they’re a cub. Let them chew things up around the house for a while, and you’ll have a lion that loves you for life! Young pastors make mistakes. But young pastors—if they’re called and equipped by God—can stay for a long time, and have deeply fruitful ministries for decades. Committees, frankly, just don’t have this long-term perspective.

    7) An inordinate hunger for résumés. Search committees also tend to have an inordinate hunger for résumés! They’ll take hundreds! But wouldn’t it be easier and more immediately productive to get a single reference from a trusted pastor? If there is no one in your congregation suited to be a regular teacher of God’s Word in every-Sunday preaching, then find a church you like, with a pastoral ministry you like, and approach that pastor for a suggestion. Pursue that person until you are certain he would not be good. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy.

    Now, elders looking for a pastor can be resume-happy, too. But again, the elders—as men chosen to lead a church because they can ably teach the Word—should know better. On the other hand, the very business-like premise of a search committee veers them toward vetting résumés.

    8 ) Patterns of secrecy. Often search committees travel with some secrecy to other churches, hoping to observe a pastor in his natural habitat (his current church) in order to see how he operates, all unbeknownst to his present congregation with whom they are worshipping.

    One of my favorite memories is, one Sunday morning in the service, asking a visiting pulpit search committee to stand so that we could pray for them. Don’t worry; I had told them I would do this, though they didn’t believe me!
    I also remember talking to one search committee about various folks they were considering—each of whom were flourishing in their current churches—and asking them to consider carefully why they would ask them to leave such flourishing ministries.

    Such committees should understand that this kind of ladder-climbing really tempts some men in ministry. But why do we think God loves our congregation more than the one whose pastor we would take? Why would we be so secretive? Does this suggest that something may be amiss? Do you know where your pastor was preaching last weekend? What does this suggest about how this potential pastor might treat your congregation one day?

    9) A fixation on credentials. Search committees also tend to require credentials. And this makes sense: They don’t know the person and want some validation of their abilities. Degrees provide a commonly accepted currency of pastoral proficiency.

    But again, what may commonly be the case isn’t always the case. Such artificial criteria for sorting through the volume of résumés can hide choice servants of God. While I generally encourage young men to train at a seminary, some of the best pastors I know don’t have MDiv’s.

    Mark Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, where he arrived as a young cub and chewed things up for a while.

    – – – – –

    As quickly as possible, a few points of emphasis related to what Dr. Dever said based on my observation and experience with the search committee process.

    1. Be Careful What you Look For – Dr. Dever noted that we tend to have a fascination with credentials and recommendations from prominent leaders outside the church.  This looks like finding someone with a certain percentage of church growth in their most recent church, someone serving on the staff of First Baptist Big Shot under insert-name-of-prominent-pastor, or someone with this or that specific degree and this number of years experience in ministry.

    If you have experience with pastor search committees you know how common those types of criteria are amongst those looking to fill a pulpit.  Common though they may be they should be properly identified as the fruit of a bad assumption, namely that the church is supposed to generate criteria by which to evaluate a candidate for ministry.  The reason that is a bad assumption is that God has already directed His people in this matter.  God’s requirements for Pastors are (summarized):

    – Strong character
    – Loyal to his wife and family
    – Wise, self-controlled, hospitable, and able to teach
    – Not subject to vice or desirous of conflict
    – Free from the love of money
    – In control of his household
    – A mature believer
    – Of reasonably good reputation amongst non-believers
    – Committed to expounding the full counsel of God’s Word

    You can see God’s criteria most clearly in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  What God has said represents the sum total of what qualifies a man for ministry in the church.  God doesn’t need our innovations or additions (had an M.Div been a proper requirement for the office God would have mentioned it).  To go beyond what God has required is as dangerous as (and closely related to) acting as if He had never said anything at all.  This leads me to my next point of emphasis.

    2. Be Careful Where you Look – if one takes seriously the first point – that God has given us all the criteria we can operate from when looking for a pastor – then you realize very quickly that God’s criteria demand a familiarity with the person’s life.

    This familiarity with the candidate’s life is precisely the thing that a resume cannot communicate.  Yes, resumes contain references that can be contacted in order to ask about the issues of the candidates’ life.  However, references are hand-selected by the candidate and thus are not a good source of objective data about the information God has indicated is of utmost importance.  As a result the resume system should be largely abandoned, at least for those who are so removed from the church’s local community that evaluating the resume in light of the candidate’s conformity to God’s criteria cannot be evaluated reasonably well.  This will take us to my final point.

    3. Be Careful Who you Look At – So if resumes from far off aren’t a legitimate means of finding viable pastoral candidates what is?  Dr. Dever recommends contacting one trusted pastor and starting there, dealing with one candidate at a time.  While that is certainly a more reasonable method than the resume system I think his other suggestion – to look within the congregation – is the most helpful (and the one most consistent with the Biblical data and practice of the early church).  I believe candidates from within the congregation are perhaps the most consistently overlooked pool of potential candidates in the current Southern Baptist climate and yet I am confident that it is this group that should be the first consideration when looking to fill a local congregation’s pulpit.  There are a number of reasons for this:

    – The church is hoping for a super-pastor or, at least, the next super-pastor.  There is all kinds of wrong thinking here.  One, it assumes that a prominent pastor is what God has prescribed for that church.  Two, (and this is more dangerous) it assumes that there is something to the person (or personality) of the pastor that drives ministry success.  Three, it assumes that the next prominent pastor is outside the congregation.
    – The church looks too critically at candidates within their congregation.  There are flaws that are evident within young men in the congregation.  However, there are also flaws – flaws the congregation cannot see – in the men sending their resumes in from hundreds of miles away. The more dangerous is the latter in that the church won’t be able to evaluate those flaws until after the pastor is hired.  Dever’s advice to let a young minister to make mistakes is the healthier route to pursue when it comes to dealing with flaws in the candidate.

    What should be done if, after diligent search is made, a legitimate candidate cannot be discerned within the congregation?  Find candidates from existing connections in the church and/or churches of like faith in the immediate area.  Ask the congregation for recommendations of people they know personally.  Contact healthy local churches in the nearby area and ask about potential candidates within their congregation.  Better to take an outsider from 20 miles away (that can be more easily evaluated in light of God’s criteria) than one from 250 miles away.

    Bear in mind too (as additional incentive) that a pastor from within the church, within the same area, or with existing ties to the congregation will be much more likely to stay for a long tenure than a candidate who comes in from outside; those who move in are more likely to move out.

    Reading the entirety of the 9 Marks eJournal would be helpful to any search committee.

  8. Thoughts on the GCR Final Report

    May 4, 2010 by Jeff Wright

    Here we are. Southern Baptists have been on a very long trip from last year’s annual meeting to May 3rd, 2010 – the date of publication for the final report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. As a Convention we find ourselves a little over a month and 1/2 from our next annual meeting at which we will act as a body on this very report.

    What the GCR task force has produced comes to us in a fairly timely fashion, giving us more than 40 days to chew on, discuss, and debate the document that so many are hoping will reorient and revitalize our convention around the gospel and our responsibility to make disciples of all nations.

    Here’s my .02 contribution to the conversation (and I’m sure the actual value is far less than that sum).

    1. I was glad to read the GCR report’s explicit statement about the central importance of the Cooperative Program in fulfilling the Great Commission: “The greatest stewardship of Great Commission investment and deployment is giving through the Cooperative Program.”


    My church is small, out of the way, uninfluential, and far from wealthy. Left to our own devices we’d barely be able to contribute to the work of a single missionary, let along broadly participate in world-wide mission work. Yet through the Cooperative Program we are connected with a global missionary endeavor that multiplies our contribution exceedingly. I’m thankful for the Cooperative Program and remain convinced that it is far and away the best system for participating in missions, regardless of the size of the church involved.

    2. One of my concerns about how the SBC allocates funds going in to the Louisville was the relationship between the NAMB and the IMB regarding spheres of responsibility. I was primarily concerned with overlap; it appeared to my Southern Baptist eyes that in the domestic U.S. a great number of people were employed between the two entities working overlapping jobs. It is encouraging to see the GCR put in print what common sense should have dictated all along – namely that the IMB would partner or cooperate with the NAMB in reaching unreached people groups within the boarders of the United States. Having read the final GCR report I see that there is language speaking to ways in which the NAMB and IMB should be directed but I’m concerned that the language remains vague to the point that I don’t see anything practical that will remove the overlap between the two agencies (and the resulting inefficient use of funds). To my eyes the GCR focuses primarily on the NAMB, less so the IMB. I’m quite fine with that if the proposed system is the best way to utilize Cooperative Fund money. What I’m not clear on is who does what and why. For instance, if the NAMB is going to be the agency charged to “implement a missional strategy for planting churches in North America with a priority to reach metropolitan areas and underserved people groups” what do we then anticipate when we read later that “[The IMB] has the charge to develop strategies for reaching these unreached and undeserved people groups around the world” which is followed by “We need to allow the IMB to utilize those skills and that knowledge within North America as well.” Even more confusing, the very next sentence declares that it “makes no sense to duplicate this effort and work with an artificial separation of mission.”

    How can we charge two entities to reach underserved people (the same terminology use for both the NAMB and IMB) and no create overlap and duplicate effort? Since I don’t imagine the NAMB will just close down because the IMB is freely operating in the U.S. and I assume that, continuing in operation, the NAMB will also continue to participate in missions in North America – you know, reaching unreached/underserved people in the U.S. – I can see no reason that inefficient overlap (and even competition) won’t continue.

    Yes, I realize that the GCR report says “[The NAMB] retains the leadership mission of reaching North American with the gospel” but what does this really mean, practically speaking? The ideology of the GCR on the NAMB and IMB relationship is fine but in the absence of specific parameters for this relationship I don’t anticipate much change taking place.

    3. The GCR reproduces our current myopic emphasis on planting new congregations as the solution to any and all problems. Let me say up front that I’m in favor of planting new congregations… where they are needed. I am adamantly opposed to planting new churches in areas well saturated by established churches that aren’t being utilized to their fullest potential. Until language is in place encouraging the implementation and revitalization of established churches in a given area as a priority equal to or – *gasp* – even greater than planting a new congregation we’re going to be unnecessarily locked into a one-size fits all approach that isn’t wise or efficient. Revitalizing existing churches will require dollars, just like planting new ones. As long as a financial commitment to implementing reinvigorated established churches is missing from the GCR (and by extension the SBC) we aren’t going to have a resurgence of the great commission.

    4. The GCR began as a grass-roots groundswell to see a greater investment of Cooperative Program resources invested in spreading the gospel worldwide. The perception is that the SBC is more bloated bureaucracy than missions agency, a situation that led many to question whether or not the SBC was more of an aid or hindrance to the Great Commission. In response the best and brightest amongst us were appointed to a year-long task force that would address and trim the fat from the SBC so that our denomination would be refined into a lean, mean, gospel-sending machine. And what now do we see as the product of our efforts at missional reformation? If followed the GCR taskforce will lead the SBC to increase Cooperative Program to the International Mission Board (and, implicitly, foreign missions)…

    1 percent more than current levels.

    The sound effect in cartoons when something disappointing happens sounds something like Wahmp-Whamp-Whamp-Waaaaaah. It is hard not to hear that sound effect in your mind when reading the final recommendation. Someone said this works out to an increase of $3 Million dollars which sounds much better than 1 percent but I have strong concerns about whether or not this is enough.

    One, the question about whether or not the 1 percent increase is enough rises from the need. You can read the GCR report for yourself for an accounting of all the unreached people groups with no exposure to the gospel or the scores living in our own borders who have never heard the gospel. The need is great. I’m not sure that a 1% increase – even if it represents $3,000,000 extra dollars going to the field – is enough to meet the need.

    Two, I don’t know if 1 percent is enough to satiate the court of public appeals. The GCR is supposed to be a REVOLUTION, man. It was going to trim out all the excess – kill the bureaucracy and oust the bureaucrats.

    But on paper we get 1%.

    Look, I’m a realist. I know that a ship as large as the SBC takes a loooooong time to turn. I realize that some of our members, particularly those who have been in SBC life for many years, need and deserve a bit of time to adjust. I can see that the GCR is a necessary first step, an articulation of ideology that will guide further action. I also realize that even small budget percentages in an organization as large as the SBC amounts to drastic real-world differences.

    However, I’m also realistic about my generation. I know the ones most loudly talking (and Tweeting and blogging) about being missional are the ones hardest to satisfy. Frankly speaking we’re arrogant, self-confident beyond reason, and iconoclastic to the core. 1% won’t satisfy the thirst of those who think they know a better way to support missions. I’m afraid that a significant percentage of them will head off in any number of directions not realizing that separate we can’t accomplish even a portion of what we could together. As individuals my generation thinks we are the next Luther, Calvin, Wilberforce or Spurgeon. Well, if not that then at least the next Driscoll. We never realize that we’re much more likely to be unknown than well known. I’m afraid this inappropriate self confidence will cause us to break apart the greatest system of supporting mission work that has been produced in the name of new ventures that won’t touch the significance of what we sacrificed to attempt them.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    In Louisville I voted for the GCR taskforce and I’m glad I did. While I have concerns about the impact of the final report I stand behind what the GCR report represents. I only hope we have enough time to work out the bugs in the process before we kill the golden goose.

  9. Reflections on SBC 2009

    June 29, 2009 by Jeff Wright

    The 2009 Southern Baptist Convention was the most edifying denominational convention I have ever attended. I came away more encouraged and optimistic about not only the SBC but the state of the local churches tied to the SBC than I have in either of my previous conventions. With that in mind here are my thoughts on what took place in Louisville .

    I. The Great Commission Resurgence

    If you haven’t read the GCR document please take a moment to do so. In all honesty I initially paid little attention to the GCR buzz, thinking that it was likely the most recent example of denominational falderal that generates much noise but little impact. Thankfully I was wrong. Again, read the document. What is there in the GCR with which to disagree (assuming you aren’t a denominational cog working a redundant job that might get axed)? If the local churches of the SBC and the national Convention itself follow this paradigm we are looking at a future of greater emphasis on spreading the Gospel, greater cooperation between churches/pastors/generations, and greater health across the board. No, that future is by no means guaranteed. In fact, it is still very much up in the air (because of the if qualifier two sentences prior). Still, the Convention is now aimed in the right direction. Could you really say that leaving San Antonio/Greensboro/Indianapolis?

    The GCR managed to not only provide a healthy way forward for cooperating Southern Baptists but also revealed the unity that already existed in the convention but went unseen. Years of disagreements between Calvinists/Non Calvinists and Old Guard/New Leaders gave the impression that our convention was divided theologically and generationally. That impression was wonderfully swept away when the yellow ballot covers were raised to ratify Dr. Mohler’s motion. An estimated 95% of messengers – including those from different generations, theological positions, and cultural backgrounds – jointly expressed their commitment to a more efficient vehicle for fulfilling the Great Commission. At this year’s Pastor’s Conference Ed Stetzer spoke of the great need for Southern Baptists to practically express here on earth the unity that we already have in Christ. While the vote on Dr. Mohler’s motion hasn’t brought Stetzer’s call to completion it was an appetizing taste of what he had in mind.

    My church still receives most of their denominational news from me. Because of my ignorance of the GCR’s significance our members were unexposed to the GCR document as well as what it represented for our denomination. Imagine my joy as Sunday night (when our messengers traditionally report to the congregation) our church members expressed excitement over the ten articles of the GCR. Even more, a discussion about how our church can be more active and efficient in our missions giving spontaneously developed. Talk about a happy pastor. If something like what happened at Welchland Sunday night takes place in other churches around our Convention I have no problem saying our best days are yet ahead of us as Southern Baptists.

    II. Leadership

    This year’s Convention also benefited from the leadership of fresh voices from within the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Dr. Al Mohler is, of course, the head of a vitally important SBC entity. The value of his leadership within the SBC and Evangelicalism cannot be over estimated nor is it particularly new. However, it was his action as a messenger from his local church that brought to life the most significant change I have witnessed at a national Convention. Furthermore, his participation in the Baptist21 panel discussion was both gracious and prophetic (more on that to come). Dr. Mohler’s explicit instruction to those in favor of the GCR before the vote and his Twitter comments following the discussion of the motion (in which some Calvinist-straw men were stuffed and flogged) engendered a peaceful yet direct approach to steering the SBC in a more healthy direction. My hope is that Dr. Mohler’s influence only grows in the SBC; I can’t imagine a man more qualified for the task.

    One anecdote about Dr. Mohler: at the Baptist21 panel, facing a group who could be described as “young leaders” (young, anyway) Dr. Mohler spoke gently yet prophetically. Dr. Mohler reminded those assembled that if you want an opportunity to lead you then need to put yourself in the environments where opportunities to lead present themselves. A simple statement perhaps but needful for the audience. Dr. Mohler didn’t show up one day at Southern and become President. Rather he labored there for years, even in obscure positions (I think he said he spent a year as an R.A. doing nothing but filling out forms), before eventually earning his opportunity to lead. Mohler told us that no one likes meetings but you have to go to them in order to be available when opportunities to serve present themselves. I found it a very helpful check to a prevalent attitude that doesn’t understand that leadership is first and foremost earned.

    Dr. Danny Aiken’s contribution to what took place at the 2009 SBC cannot be overstated. If you follow the timeline you will see that it was Dr. Aiken that gave voice and direction to the grassroots movement calling for reform in the SBC. His labors in crafting and promoting the GCR funneled the energy of all those dissatisfied by the lack of efficiency within SBC agencies a healthy expression. Furthermore, he conducted himself as a true statesman in dealing with the accusation and innuendo raised during discussion of Dr. Mohler’s motion rather than lowering himself to the level of his opponents. Dr. Akin also found time to participate in the Founders Ministries’ Breakfast, the Baptist21 Panel, and the second 9 Marks @ 9 session. I personally appreciate Dr. Aiken’s work to reconcile the Calvinist and Non-Calvinist camps within the convention. Blessed are the peacemakers and Danny Aiken is a peacemaker. South Eastern Seminary is in good hands.

    Dr. Mark Dever is obviously a man with influence that goes beyond the Southern Baptist Convention. This is seen not only in his work with 9 Marks but particularly in Together for the Gospel. I appreciate very much that Dr. Dever took the time to make the trip to Louisville as well as invest the time there with events as rich as 9 Marks @ 9. The discussion sessions and following Q&A times were as interesting and edifying as anything else that took place in Louisville. And the books…oh, the books! You really couldn’t get in the vicinity of a 9 Marks guy without having a book stuck in your hand. This strategy, generous to a fault, spreads the influence of 9 Marks far and abroad. Kudos to Dr. Dever for his involvement with SBC 2009.

    Two anecdotes about Dr. Dever: (1) During the first 9 Marks @ 9 session Dr. Dever opened with a call to those in attendance to decide if they would remain faithful to a Biblical ministry of instruction which relied on the text or capitulate to “the spirit of the age” that called for visual learning. Considering that the pastors gathered for the session are facing just such a pressure to leave Word-based ministry I appreciated Dr. Dever drawing attention to the issue. (2) At the Baptist21 panel discussion the subject of theological/cultural blind spots (example: Jonathan Edwards, a great man of God, owned slaves) came up, particularly how to avoid them. One of the things that Dr. Dever mentioned was the need to be “suspicious” of creativity. His point was that for many of the young pastors, ministers, and laity gathered at Baptist21’s discussion “creativity” as a category is not often examined critically. We tend to think of creativity as sanctified entirely when, as Dr. Dever pointed out, the fact that fallen people are the ones doing the creating means we must be discerning about creativity. Considering how fascinated my generation is with creativity – not to mention the church in which the discussion was being held when Dever made his comment – this was a prophetic check.

    Dr. Johnny Hunt performed wonderfully not only at the annual meeting but through his entire first term as President. When I first heard that Dr. Hunt was elected I confess I was troubled, suspicious that his election was evidence that the good-ol-boy network of Southern mega church pastors was being continued. I also expected Dr. Hunt’s presidency would serve to deepen the divide between Calvinists and Non-Calvinists in the SBC. I am so very thankful that I was wrong. Dr. Hunt worked hard – and succeeded I think – at bringing together the various divisions in the SBC. His partnership with Dr. Aiken in promoting the GCR brought about momentous change toward the good. His reaching out to Dr. Akin and Tom Ascol helped bridge the divide between Calvinist and Non-Calvinist and Dr. Hunt was even so kind as to buy lunch for the young SBCers at the Baptist21 panel. Dr. Hunt wisely worked in specific and practical ways to bring relational healing to the SBC. God has been glorified and served in Dr. Hunt’s work. May his second term be as productive as his first.

    III. Personal Conversations

    This last heading has little to do, really, with the formal Convention but rather took place around it. Still, it was one of the richest aspects of my time in Louisville. I was able at various times to connect with family (Chase and Cheryl Vaughn), old friends (Matt and Julie Sliger, Steve and Gretta Weaver, Tim Ellsworth, Scott Lamb), and new friends (Brad Vincent). I also was able to meet and/or shake the hands of some of my heroes – Dr. Dever, Dr. Akin, Tom Ascol, and Dr. Haykin – which is always thrilling for me. I’m not far from carrying an autograph book really.

    IV. Special Activities

    I would like to say thank you to:

    1. Founders Ministries (particularly Tom Ascol) – I hope that you were able this year to enjoy the fruits of your patient work within the SBC. I know that not everyone associated with your group has conducted themselves in a peaceful manner and you have been hit with guilt by association. I know too that you have represented the best of the historic Reformed tradition within Baptist life and history. Again, I hope you enjoyed this year’s convention.

    2. Baptist21 – Thank you. Thank you for the forum, thank you for the pre-convention promotion of important issues, and yes – thank you for the books. That was a great panel and I hope the men you chose to set on it (well, except for that guy who pastors Sojourn) continue to gain a broader and broader hearing.

    3. 9 Marks – Thanks to you as well for much the same reason as Baptist21. Thanks for being at the SBC, thanks for getting your materials into so many hands, and thanks for providing not only discussions and Q&A sessions but also for giving access to the men who were involved in the 9 Marks & 9 sessions.

    V. Going Forward

    Some bullet points I think are worth discussing as Southern Baptists go forward from their most recent national Convention:

    * All of the good associated with the GCR won’t mean anything if the vision it presents doesn’t settle in to the local churches of the SBC.
    * Much was made in recent days about how little of what is dropped in the offering plate actually makes it to the International Mission Board. True, refining the National Convention will do much to rectify this problem. We need to also remember that our State Conventions represent an equally great drain on Cooperative Program giving. The work of reform must be done in our state conventions as well – not to do away with them (at least in my opinion) but to work for similar efficiency in the state institutions/agencies as well. If you are serious about getting money to the mission field you will be active in your state convention, bottom line.
    * I don’t know if the pandering to “young leaders” is all that healthy. I heard or read much pleading for young pastors not to leave and great expressions of thankfulness that so many of the younger generation turned out. Being 27 I still fit somewhere in the “young” demographic of the SBC and I know that my generation tends to be self-important and more than a little arrogant in regards to our ability to do ministry. While I agree that the SBC doesn’t need to loose this age group I am suspicious that hearing how important we are might actually make us think we are important.
    * I think that on the whole our Convention understands the importance of planting churches, based on the amount to talk and publication church planting generates as well as the amount of money being spent in this area. I think that perhaps it is time to begin talking about the importance of revitalizing established churches as equally important to the kingdom. I also think it is high time that NAMB starts putting money into this endeavor (perhaps starting with churches having less than 100 members).

    VI. Books

    I thought some of my fellow bibliophiles might be interested in seeing what books I accumulated at the SBC (with no cost to myself I might add). Those I have to thank for the book are bracketed.

    Baptist21 – What does it mean to be Baptist in the 21st Century? [Baptist21]
    Danny Aiken – Five Who Changed the World [Baptist 21]
    Hayken, Duke, Fuller – Soldiers of Christ [Founders Ministries]
    Mark Dever – What Is a Healthy Church? [9 Marks]
    Mark Dever – 9 Marks of a Healthy Church [9 Marks]
    Mark Dever – The Deliberate Church [9 Marks]
    Mark Dever – Twelve Challenges Churches Face [9 Marks]
    Mark Dever – By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life [9 Marks]
    Mark Dever – The Gospel & Personal Evangelism [9 Marks]
    Ed Stetzer – Comeback Churches [Baptist 21]
    Johnny Hunt – Building Your Leadership Resume [Baptist21]
    Christopher Bass – That You May Know: Commentary on 1 John (NAC) [Founders Ministries]
    Al Mohler – The Disappearance of God [The Legacy Center]
    Al Mohler – Atheism Remix [The Legacy Center]
    Al Mohler – He Is Not Silent [Baptist21]

    I also landed the latest issues of the Founders’ Journal and Table Talk Magazine (courtesy of Founders Ministries).

    Now quit acting like you don’t have any good reasons to come to the Southern Baptist Convention. If for no other reason come for your library.

    VII. Other SBC 2009 Reflections

    Denny Burke
    Tom Ascol
    Alan Cross
    Timmy Brister
    Greg Gilbert
    Alvin Reid
    Shawn Bergen
    Danny Akin

  10. SBC 2009 Buzz

    June 26, 2009 by Jeff Wright

    Denny Burke has poisted his recounting of the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention. If you are interested in such it would be worth your time to read.


    3. SBC Leadership. Johnny Hunt’s leadership was phenomenal. He has led the effort to unite Southern Baptists around the GCR vision, and it would not have happened without him. Also, he bought lunch for the hundreds who showed up at the Baptist21 event, and he showed up to greet us. There is a whole new constituency of younger Southern Baptists who are now looking to Johnny Hunt as one whom they can trust and whose leadership they can follow.

    One messenger told me that he has a man-crush on Danny Akin. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that Danny Akin’s GCR vision has inspired an entire convention to unite around the gospel and to rethink how we are doing what we are doing. Akin is a bridge-figure in Southern Baptist life, and it’s hard to imagine how the GCR coalition could have come together without him. Also, he has the courage of his convictions, and many Southern Baptists have taken note.

    Dr. Mohler was the right man to make and defend the GCR motion. His remarks were right on point, and I can’t imagine a better spokesman for the cause. He knocked it out of the park. Without Dr. Mohler’s strategic leadership, I’m not sure that this would have gone as well as it did.