What Makes Small Churches Great Churches:
Pastor Bill has made it to another December business meeting. As his church wades through the regular items on the agenda: approval of the minutes, treasurer’s report, written reports, oral reports, old business, and finally new business, he begins to feel his normally dry palms get sweaty. Pastor Bill knows in just a few moments he will be asked to leave so the church can discuss his salary for the next year. He will be ushered out and sent to the education space to await the decision on his compensation package. With this being his 6th year at the church of just under 100 in attendance the process of the church discussing his position without an avenue to speak for himself still rattles him. He has taken the time to examine why the church has been unable to break the 100 barrier. Oh, they passed it a few times but for all too common reasons slid back below the 100 thresh hold. One year they lost their beloved music director. Another, a couple families got upset over something he said from the pulpit. Another talk spread of him being unavailable to certain families because he didn’t make it to the hospital on one occasion. Then, he would never forget the class that refused to multiply into two because the teachers liked alternating every other month. Now the class has dwindled to fit in the room it once was outgrowing.
As Pastor Bill headed to the education wing, he knew someone would raise the question of the lack of numerical growth and tie it to the effectiveness of his ministry. He could answer what happened to each family that was not there but knew that wouldn’t satisfy the grumblers. Sometimes, Pastor Bill wondered if he should apply for any church with over 100 in attendance just so he could feel what it was like to pastor a bigger church. Other times he figured God knew best and/or maybe there was a deficiency in him that kept God from blessing the church with growth.
Wade Rials has been the Senior Pastor of Thorington Road Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama since 2008. He earned a bachelor degree from the University of Mobile and his MDiv from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. You also can follow his blog at Wade’s Thoughts.
SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?
Wade Rials: As a convention, we are divided, fractured, and splintered. If Calvinism is mentioned, an alarm is sounded and we all stand to attention, pick sides, and take up arms. It is not my responsibility to determine what makes a good “Southern Baptist,” but the issue itself is not going away. It seems that there is a lack of clarity over what defines us. The great question that I see on our horizon is the unequivocal need to articulate clearly who we are.
This articulation will allow us to define expectations. Questions such as, can we (are we willing), as Southern Baptists to unite under an umbrella that includes a wide spectrum of systematic theologies? If so, how big is the umbrella? Is there a percentage expected to be given to the Cooperative Program? What role should the Cooperative Program play? Should denomination leaders pass a “litmus” test in order to serve? This process will bring pain, but currently we are going through the motions carrying on as if all is kosher, holding bitterness and resentment towards others. Rather than deal with our differences openly as gentlemen, we get in theological huddles and thank “God” we are enlightened. The conversations on the convention podium are nice and unifying but they do not correspond to the conversations in the hallways.
Quite honestly, our denominational politics has great similarity to the children’s game musical chairs; everyone wrestling to have a seat and not to be the proverbial last one standing and left out of the loop. Our churches, in many ways, are experiencing a Great Commission Resurgence. Unfortunately, on the denominational level it looks more like a Great Convention Restructuring than any type of resurgence. Now more than ever, we need a denominational statesman to emerge who has extraordinary leadership capacity. He must force us honestly to admit and converse on the issues before us.
Monday Exposition Idea:
By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
“God’s tender heart must often ache listening to our sad, complaining cries”, writes Mrs. Charles E. Cowman (1870-1960). She continues,
Our weak impatient hearts cry out because we fail to see through our tear-blinded, shortsighted eyes that it is for our own sakes that He does not answer at all or that He answers in a way we believe is less than the best. In fact, the silences of Jesus are as eloquent as His approval and His way of providing a deeper blessing for you.
She concludes in another place, “Oh, if only we would worry less about our problems and sing and praise more!”
Although this psalm begins with questions, “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1), the translators and editors of the New King James Version have called “A Song of Confidence in God’s Triumph over Evil”. After reading Psalm 10 and other psalms, I am reminded of the following words attributed to Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”
In Psalm 10, David, the psalmist, portrays wickedness in high definition. When we see wickedness in this way it is easy to lose heart. While wickedness is the focus of Psalm 10, we must not lose our focus as believers.
How did the Arminian and Calvinistic beliefs help shape the doctrine of salvation in the Southern Baptist Convention today? The Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has published its most recent edition of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry (JBTM), on the theme of “Calvinist, Arminian, and Baptist Perspectives on Soteriology.”
In the first part of this edition of the journal a panel of scholars examine the work of one of Baptist’s earliest theologians. Last spring, the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry sponsored a panel discussion on Thomas Grantham’s View of Salvation. The keynote speaker was Dr. J. Matthew Pinson, President of Free Will Baptist Bible College, who presented his paper, “Thomas Grantham’s Theology of the Atonement and Justification.” The panel respondents were Rhyne Putman (PhD Candidate, Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary), Clint Bass (D.Phil, Oxford), and James Leonard (PhD Candidate, Cambridge).
In the second half of this edition, four scholars discuss various aspects of Calvinism and Baptist soteriology. Dr. Kenneth Stewart makes an historical examination of the doctrine of regeneration from the Reformation to the nineteenth century. Heather Kendall builds a case for biblical storylines in relation to salvation. Dr. Glen Shellrude addresses issues surrounding traditional Calvinistic readings of the New Testament. And Dr. Eric Hankins proposes a middle path between Calvinism and Arminianism.
This edition also features ten book reviews and, in “Reflections,” a tribute to Dr. Alan Day.
Click on the link to access the complete new issue, or click on the articles and reviews below to read individual articles or book reviews.
by the Contributing Editors of SBC Today
This is a list of recent blog posts which we found interesting. That we found them interesting doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with or endorse the ideas presented in the posts, but that we found them to be intriguing and thought-provoking. (They are listed in no particular order of interest). Please post your comments to discuss any article that strikes your interest. If you have recent blog posts to nominate, please send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org.