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.
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.
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.
February 9, 2012 by Jeff Wright
 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.
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.
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.
THE DANGERS AND PITFALLS OF SEARCH COMMITTEES
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.
August 9, 2010 by Jeff Wright
I was assigned a comparison of two Baptist confessions of faith for which I chose the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith and the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message. Length constraints prevented a fuller treatment but what I was able to get on paper reveals a similar genetic strain in the two confessions addressing a world that had changed much in the 92 years between the authoring of the two documents.
The document which history has come to know as the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith was commissioned on June 24, 1830 by the Baptist Convention of New Hampshire and accepted by the same on January 15, 1833.1 In 1853 Rev. J. Newton Brown, secretary of the American Baptist Publication Society, added two articles (8, Of Repentance and Faith and 10, Of Sanctification) and included it in The Baptist Church Manual. This version was widely embraced and became “almost the sole Confession used [by Baptists Churches] in the North, East, and West [regions of the United States].2 In 1925 the burgeoning Southern Baptist Convention called upon theologian E.Y. Mullins to draft a confession for the new denomination. He looked to the confession of the New Hampshire Baptists to lay the foundation for the new confession he would submit to Southern Baptists to embrace as their theological center.3
That the Baptist Faith and Message 1925 (hereafter referenced as BFM1925) depends on the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (hereafter referenced as NH) is obvious upon even a cursory reading of the two documents side by side. Two of the NH articles4 are reproduced word for word in BFM19255. Additionally, no less than five additional articles from NH appear with only slight modification in BFM19256. Finally, the BFM1925 follows the NH arrangement of articles exactly for the first eleven articles as well as thirteen of the first fifteen articles in the BFM1925. Even the respective articles in the two confessions that demonstrate a marked difference often contain similarities in phrasing7. In light of these similarities the reader should consider NH and BFM1925 as related documents that suggest developments in Baptist thought over approximately a century.
As mentioned previously, two articles from NH are copied entirely by BFM1925. Those two, addressing the doctrines of scripture as well as repentance and faith, indicate that over the approximate century between the composition of the two documents Baptist thought had changed very little if at all. Both confessions clearly state a commitment to the authorship of Scripture by God, refer to the Bible as “a perfect treasure”, and express a commitment to Scripture as “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.” Clearly those Baptists who affirmed the NH and the BFM1925 intentionally marked themselves out as a people of the Book.
Similarly, the articles addressing the doctrines of repentance and faith express a unified understanding of these linked doctrines as both “duties” and “graces” accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit supernaturally leading to an acknowledgment of and reliance on Christ as “Prophet, Priest, and King.” We see here a mutual commitment between the NH and the BFM1925 to the inter-relatedness of God’s activity with man’s response as well as a clear expression of Christ’s three offices.
While the similar articles in NH and BFM1925 lack a complete word-for-word reproduction in the latter confession there is nonetheless evident correspondence between them. Beginning with the articles on the way of salvation we see a great deal of overlap. In these particular articles the most significant differences is the inclusion of the phrase “who by the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary” in BFM1925. This phrase, alien to the NH, might possible represent an intentional doctrinal emphasis for Baptists in the days of the framing of BFM1925 in which many of the traditional doctrines of Christianity were being challenged by Modern Biblical scholarship.
The next similar articles in NH and BFM1925 are those that articulate the Baptist understanding the freeness of salvation. In these articles the most significant change is the exclusion in BFM1925 of the NH phrase “which rejection [of the Gospel] involves him [the sinner] in an aggravated condemnation.” BFM1925 suffers from the exclusion of this phrase as the NH word communicates a clear Biblical truth8.
A third similar set of articles in NH and BFM1925 are those that speak to the Baptist understanding of a gospel church. The difference between the two is the inclusion of the phrase “seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth” in BFM1925. Considering that BFM1925 was used as a unifying confession for the birth of a denomination the reader can understand that the shapers of BFM1925 wanted to be explicit about the need to take the gospel to the world.
The forth similar article in NH and BFM1925 are the ones that address the subject of the righteous and the wicked members of humanity. The key difference in these articles is the addition of the phrase “and will be made manifest at the judgement when final and everlasting awards are made to all men” in BFM1925. What is clear to the reader of NH and BFM1925 is that the shapers of BFM1925 wanted to add an overt eschatological dimension to their articulation of these doctrines.
The final articles in NH and BFM1925 that show themselves to be different yet highly correspondent to one another are those that address the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It appears to the reader that the adjustments to NH found in BFM1925 are a matter of updating language for readability rather than any adjustments in doctrinal articulation.
The first dissimilar articles in NH and BFM1925 are the second doctrinal headings in both confessions and address the doctrine of God. The dissimilarity is a matter of language more so than content. Specifically, NH contains a much more robust articulation of Trinitarian doctrine than the abbreviated statement in BFM1925.
The second dissimilar article in NH and BFM1925 are the articles that touch on the fall of man. BFM1925 is again more concise in its articulation of this doctrine and, appears to the reader, to convey much of the same content as the NH yet in fewer words.
The third dissimilar article in NH and BFM1925 are those that communicate the doctrine of justification. Here again BFM1925 less expansive and in this case brevity compromises the strength of the latter confession. BFM1925 omits the NH articulation of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, a doctrine that is crucial to a Biblical understanding of salvation.
The fourth dissimilar articles in NH and BFM1925 are those on the subject of grace in regeneration. The difference in length here is negligible but the weight of content is found in BFM1925 as the latter confession specifically articulates the truth that believers “become partakers of the divine nature9.” This truth is regrettably lacking in NH.
In the fifth dissimilar articles in NH and BFM1925, those addressing God’s purpose of grace, the difference is largely one of perspective. The longer wording in NH focuses on the outward effects of grace in a changed life as well as the need for individuals to make certain the presence of God’s grace in their lives. Interestingly, both confessions encourage “the use of means in the highest degree” to appropriate grace, a phrase that will reappear in the next dissimilar articles.
The articles articulating the doctrine of sanctification in NH and BFM1925 contain similar elements yet differ significantly. The reader immediately sees that the NH clearly links regeneration to subsequent sanctification. Both of these articles encourage the use of means in sanctification but where as the NH spells out several means10 BFM1925 is content to emphasize only one: the Word of God.
The dissimilar articles in NH and BFM1925 speaking to the doctrine of baptism perhaps reflect the change in context between the authoring of the two confessions. When NH speaks to baptism it includes the reference to baptism as immersion of a believer “with its effect in our death to sin and resurrection to life.” When BFM1925 approaches the same subject there is a specific identification of the act of baptism as “symbol.” The reader might be lead to wonder, from these two reasons, if the framers of BFM1925 were sensitive to religious streams that teach baptism is a necessary component of salvation, a doctrine that a reading of NH apart from historical and doctrinal context, might be seen by some to encourage. Both confessions agree clearly that the Lord’s Supper is a commemorative act.
The final dissimilar articles in NH and BFM1925 are those that address the doctrine of the Lord’s Day. Both confessions agree that the Lord’s Day celebration is a commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. An interesting difference is the Sabbatarian emphasis in BFM1925 regarding the observation of this day. Although NH identifies the Lord’s Day as “Christian Sabbath” it advocates only the avoidance of “sinful recreations” whereas BFM1925 doesn’t use the phrase “Christian Sabbath” but does advocate “refraining from all worldly amusements” when observing the Lord’s Day. The reader must keep in mind, however, that the framers of NH might very well have meant the same thing in their use of the phrase “sinful recreations” that the framers of BFM1925 did when they wrote “worldly amusements.”
There are a total of thirteen articles unique to either NH or BFM1925, three exclusive to NH11 and ten exclusive to BFM192512. The reader of NH and BFM1925 ultimately concludes that these distinct articles do not represent a deep doctrinal difference (in fact the two documents as a whole are largely in harmony) or as advocating different views of polity but rather see them as expressions of differing generations intending the documents for different purposes. It is more reasonable to delineate nuanced theological issues like NH Article 12 Of the Harmony of the Law and Gospel when the confession is used in the context of the local church. On the other hand, including articles that set forth positions on peace and war (Article 19 in BFM1925), education, (20), social service (21), cooperation (22), and evangelism and missions (23), makes much more sense in a document that will be used to bring a denomination together around a common confessional core. Rather than seeing NH and BFM1925 as forks in a river we should instead see them as generations in a family13, one older and one newer but retaining a high degree of correspondence.
1 W.J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (n.p.: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911), 300.
2 McGlothlin, 300-301
3 Michael Edward Williams and Walter B. Shurden, eds., Turning Points in Baptist History: A Festschrift in Honor of Harry Leon McBeth (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2008), 295.
4 Articles 1, Of the Scriptures and 8, Of Repentance and Faith
5 Articles 1, The Scriptures and 8, Repentance and Faith
6 NH Article 4 Of the Way of Salvation / BFM1925 Article 4 The Way of Salvation; NH Article 6 Of the Freeness of Salvation / BFM1925 Article 6 The Freeness of Salvation; NH Article 11 Of the Perseverance of Saints / BFM1925 Article 11 Perseverance (equal in content; updated language being the only difference); NH Article 13 Of a Gospel Church / BFM1924 Article 12 A Gospel Church; NH Article 17 Of the Righteous and the Wicked / BFM1925 The Righteous and the Wicked
7 Specifically NH Article 9 Of God’s Purpose of Grace / BFM1925 Article 9 God’s Purpose of Grace and NH Article 14 Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper / BFM1925 Article 13 Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
8 See Matthew 10:15 and Luke 10:12
9 See John 3:3-8 and 2 Peter 1:4
10 “…the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and prayer.”
11 Article 12 Of the Harmony of the Law and the Gospel, Article 13 Of Civil Government, and Article 18 Of the World to Come
12 Article 16 The Resurrection, Article 17 The Return of the Lord, Article 18 Religious Liberty, Article 19 Peace and War, Article 20 Education, Article, Article 21 Social Service, Article 22 Co-operation, Article 23 Evangelism and Missions, Article 24 Stewardship, Article 25 The Kingdom.
13 It is somewhat curious that NH does not contain an article correspondent to BFM1925 Article 18, Religious Liberty as religious liberty has historically been recognized as a Baptist distinctive. The curiosity, is not, however, enough to view the two confessions as deeply or fundamentally opposed to one another.
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 havenâ€™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 arenâ€™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. Mohlerâ€™s motion. An estimated 95% of messengers â€“ including those from different generations, theological positions, and cultural backgrounds â€“ jointly expressed their commitment to a more efficient vehicle for fulfilling the Great Commission. At this yearâ€™s Pastorâ€™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. Mohlerâ€™s motion hasnâ€™t brought Stetzerâ€™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 GCRâ€™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.
This yearâ€™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. Mohlerâ€™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. Mohlerâ€™s influence only grows in the SBC; I canâ€™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 â€œyoung leadersâ€ (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 didnâ€™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 doesnâ€™t understand that leadership is first and foremost earned.
Dr. Danny Aikenâ€™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. Mohlerâ€™s motion rather than lowering himself to the level of his opponents. Dr. Akin also found time to participate in the Founders Ministriesâ€™ Breakfast, the Baptist21 Panel, and the second 9 Marks @ 9 session. I personally appreciate Dr. Aikenâ€™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 booksâ€¦oh, the books! You really couldnâ€™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 â€œthe spirit of the ageâ€ 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 â€œsuspiciousâ€ of creativity. His point was that for many of the young pastors, ministers, and laity gathered at Baptist21â€™s discussion â€œcreativityâ€ 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 â€“ not to mention the church in which the discussion was being held when Dever made his comment â€“ 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. Huntâ€™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 â€“ and succeeded I think â€“ 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. Huntâ€™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 â€“ Dr. Dever, Dr. Akin, Tom Ascol, and Dr. Haykin â€“ which is always thrilling for me. Iâ€™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) â€“ 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 yearâ€™s convention.
2. Baptist21 â€“ Thank you. Thank you for the forum, thank you for the pre-convention promotion of important issues, and yes â€“ 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 â€“ 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 wonâ€™t mean anything if the vision it presents doesnâ€™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 â€“ 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 donâ€™t know if the pandering to â€œyoung leadersâ€ 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 â€œyoungâ€ 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 doesnâ€™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).
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 â€“ 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 â€“ What Is a Healthy Church? [9 Marks]
Mark Dever â€“ 9 Marks of a Healthy Church [9 Marks]
Mark Dever â€“ The Deliberate Church [9 Marks]
Mark Dever â€“ Twelve Challenges Churches Face [9 Marks]
Mark Dever â€“ By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life [9 Marks]
Mark Dever â€“ The Gospel & Personal Evangelism [9 Marks]
Ed Stetzer â€“ Comeback Churches [Baptist 21]
Johnny Hunt â€“ Building Your Leadership Resume [Baptist21]
Christopher Bass â€“ That You May Know: Commentary on 1 John (NAC) [Founders Ministries]
Al Mohler â€“ The Disappearance of God [The Legacy Center]
Al Mohler â€“ Atheism Remix [The Legacy Center]
Al Mohler â€“ He Is Not Silent [Baptist21]
I also landed the latest issues of the Foundersâ€™ Journal and Table Talk Magazine (courtesy of Founders Ministries).
Now quit acting like you donâ€™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
June 13, 2009 by Jeff Wright
Ah yes. A thoughtful modern-day Reformed Baptist converses with a thoughtful Missional proponent. It is immensely edifying just to listen to their two perspectives interact. Hopefully the third part will be up soon.
June 8, 2009 by Jeff Wright
More goodies for the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention:
The fine folks over at Baptist21 are hosting a panel discussion Iâ€™m highly interested in. Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Daniel Montgomery, David Platt and Ed Stetzer will “celebrate what we are doing well in the SBC and how to change what we are doing poorlyâ€ as well as taking part in a Q&A session. While I am always interested in hearing from these gentlemen (particularly Dr. Dever) I am particularly excited about the opportunity to have some of the brightest minds in the SBC address the SBC-related issues which burn brightest in me little heart. I thus submitted several questions:
- When will the SBC begin investing resources (financial, manpower, etc) in smaller established churches?
- Is there any substance to the idea that the current emphasis on church planting in the convention concurrently devalues established churches?
- Does the current emphasis on church planting in the convention send a message to young pastors (and lay leaders) that working in established churches is less desirable than ministry in new church plants?
- In an age where established churches are viewed a stuck, stubborn, and/or largely unwilling to make the changes necessary to fulfill The Great Commission what is the SBC doing to remind our younger leaders that working for reform within those churches is important?
So what are you waiting for? Sign up. Turn in your questions. If you donâ€™t have anything to ask then do me a favor by copying & pasting (or modifying as you see best) any of my questions then submitting them yourself (thus increasing the likelihood they will get some run at the panel discussion).
Baptist21 has also posted an excellent article on why attend the Southern Baptist Convention. My only regret is that this didnâ€™t come out about 3 months ago so I could email it around to my pastor friends (who at this point havenâ€™t made plans and wonâ€™t be doing so or have made plans to spend the time elsewhere).
Finally, TowersOnline has the one-stop primer on the SBC. Again â€“ useful for all those friends who know there is such a thing as the Southern Baptist Convention that their church is a part of but beyond that it is kind of fuzzy. It probably would be worth printing and sticking on the church bulletin board as well, just in case any church members are lost in the same fuzz.