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‘Baptist Issues’ 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. Christian Parents the Reason for Religious Decline?

    April 10, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Ours is not the first Christian generation to bemoan the decline of Christian faith in our days.  I suspect we could learn a good deal about our own troubles from the generations of believer which have preceded us.  One of those, the earliest English Baptists, propose a reasonable cause, at least in part, for the decline of love for Christ.  Despite the strangeness of the spelling I believe we can learn much from this short selection from the 1677 introduction to the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith.


    And verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of Religion in our day, which we cannot but touch upon, and earnestly urge a redresse of; and that is the neglect of the worship of God in Families, by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. May not the grosse ignorance, and instability of many; with the prophaneness of others, be justly charged upon their Parents and Masters; who have not trained them up in the way wherein they ought to walk when they were young? but have neglected those frequent and solemn commands which the Lord hath laid upon them so to catechize, and instruct them, that their tender years might be seasoned with the knowledge of the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures; and also by their own omission of Prayer, and other duties of Religion in their families, together with the ill example of their loose conversation, have inured them first to a neglect, and then contempt of all Piety and Religion? we know this will not excuse the blindness, or wickedness of any; but certainly it will fall heavy upon those that have thus been the occasion thereof; they indeed dye in their sins; but will not their blood be required of those under whose care they were, who yet permitted them to go on without warning, yea led them into the paths of destruction? and will not the diligence of Christians with respect to the discharge of these duties, in ages past, rise up in judgment against, and condemn many of those who would be esteemed such now?

    We shall conclude with our earnest prayer, that the God of all grace, will pour out those measures of his holy Spirit upon us, that the profession of truth may be accompanyed with the sound belief, and diligent practise of it by us; that his name may in all things be glorified, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

  3. 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

  4. Stay Credo My Friends

    February 19, 2014 by Jeff



    HT: Jared Myers

  5. 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.


  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Comparing Baptist Confessions

    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.