Bill Harrell has served as Pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, Georgia, for over 30 years. Over this period he has led this 200-year old church to quadruple its attendance, increase its membership by over 2,000 members, and begin hosting a region-wide “Strength for Today” television program. He has served in a number of positions in the Augusta Baptist Association, Georgia Baptist Convention, and SBC, including serving as the Vice-President of the Georgia Baptist Convention and as Chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.
SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?
Bill Harrell: If answered completely the answer to this question would require the space of the entire blog, but in short there are two main problems facing us. The first is the new, aggressive Calvinism which has emerged over the last twenty years or so. As I have stated before, I have no problem with a person being a Calvinist. I have had a numbers preach at Abilene over the years and count those people as close friends. The differences in our theological underpinnings have never been a source of tension between us. However, when there are those who have an agenda to change the SBC into a Reformed convention by using the Calvinistic theological model, then I have a problem with that. For a number of years there has been a plan to raise up an “army” of Calvinists in an effort to capture the SBC for the Reformed position. People will deny this and use all kinds of “doubles-speak” to talk around it but anyone who has been involved even in a casual manner knows this is true. And, at the present time, we are experiencing problems which stem directly from this effort. The growing number of churches which have been split or disrupted by this effort is evidence that something is amiss. I know that there will be a hue and cry about my stating this, but I am stating something that many others see even if they are too timid to call attention to it. If I had more space, I could easily develop my answer to a greater degree.
Secondly, I think that the contemporary worship model has taken us exactly where I and some others have said it would. Human nature being what it is, people always want something more “with-it” and “hip” than they had the last time. They will always be pushing the envelope to keep the excitement high and draw a crowd. This all got started with Bill Hybels and Rick Warren back in the early nineties and it has now reached ridiculous levels in many places. I think we must keep something very important in mind. In our worship we must always try, to the best of our ability, to mirror the image of what took place on the cross because what took place there was the most serious business in the history of the world. And, we can only be in our worship experience because of what happened there. Our worship should be oriented toward and energized by that event and not by what the world says we should do to get a crowd. From the cross, Jesus did not say, “it is finished now go have yourselves a good time.” He did not expect that we would use the trappings of the world to help draw people to him. I believe that many churches have totally lost their vision of who they are and what they should be doing. I am not saying that we should have long, sorrowful faces and sing dirges during worship. I think we should exhibit joy as we worship God, but we should not dishonor the death of Jesus on the cross by employing worldly methods to the extent that our human nature has led us to do. We are different and we should show the world we are different. We cannot win the world by being like the world and the contemporary movement needs to learn that lesson.
Monday Exposition Idea:
Love the Brotherhood
(1 Peter 2:17)
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.
Dr. Al Hood, Director of Missions for the Winston Baptist Association in Double Springs, Alabama, tells when he was a pastor they called on him to address a men’s meeting in the church in the following way, “Today we have Brother Hood to speak to the Brotherhood.” We learn from Scripture that the brotherhood is not just a group of men that meets to fellowship around the table.
Peter writes, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the King” (1 Peter 2:17). Our primary focus is on the middle sentence, namely, “Love the brotherhood.”
I. Love the Brotherhood Sincerely
The word sincere comes from the Latin words sine cera meaning “without wax.” People used wax to fill cracks in pottery to make it appear more valuable.
Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:22-25,
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (Romans 12:9-13).
Note to our readers: Many Christians – both Catholics and evangelicals – have expressed profound concern about the Obama administration’s decision to force employers to include abortifacients in all health care insurance plans (including those who have religious objections to being required to do so). Although the House of Representatives passed a measure to allow for moral exceptions to this requirement, the Blount amendment failed by just a few votes in the Senate this week. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, provides a Christian perspective and reflects on First Amendment rights to help our readers grapple with this important issue.
Let’s begin by making one thing crystal clear. The debate generated by the Obama administration’s requirement that virtually all health care insurance plans provide free contraceptives, abortifacients (abortion-causing drugs) and sterilization services is not a debate about contraception or “reproductive services.”
This debate is about coercion, not Catholics; conscience, not contraception; and freedom, not fertility.
We believe as Americans that every human being has a God-given right of freedom of faith and conscience. Due to our forefathers’ persecutions, persistence and insistence, this freedom is acknowledged and recognized in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The “free exercise of religion” goes well beyond the “freedom of worship” concept so often used today by those who fail to understand, or reject, the Constitution’s religious freedom protections. For them freedom of worship is restricted to church and home, to the space between your ears and the space between your shoulders. But free exercise of religion is far more robust and includes the rights to share one’s faith and to live out its implications in the social and economic spheres -- in other words, the freedom to exercise or act and the right not to be coerced. We must not stand by and allow our God-given rights to religious freedom, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, to be atrophied, confined and restricted into mere freedom of worship.
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.
Matt O'Reilly is Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Union Springs, Alabama, a Ph.D candidate in New Testament at the University of Gloucestershire, and Adjunct Instructor of New Testament Greek at Asbury Theological Seminary. Connect at www.mattoreilly.net or follow on Twitter @mporeilly.
New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg recently wrote on the different understandings of grace as irresistible as opposed to prevenient. After describing the difficulty that many have with “limited atonement,” namely that it means “Christ’s death went for naught for those who do not repent,” he goes on to suggest that prevenient grace may have a similar problem:
What if the problem with prevenient grace is parallel? Would God extend sufficient (but resistible) grace to those he knew would forever resist and reject it? Wouldn’t that just be a waste?
Blomberg is a fine scholar and has contributed in a variety of ways to sound biblical scholarship. Here I would raise a question, though. He seems to be speaking of grace as if it were a substance. It is something that God “extends,” something that can be wasted. Many of us often speak in such ways, and I would like to hear Blomberg discuss this more thoroughly. Grace is not a substance; grace is a person. There is no grace other than the person of Jesus Christ Himself. Salvation by grace means being joined in a relationship of union with Jesus such that all that is His is shared with those who are joined to Him. When we think of grace as a person rather than as some other sort of thing, it is difficult to make sense of terms like “waste.” Can a person be wasted?