I guess I am still pondering the sermon that Dr. Albert Mohler gave at this years FBC Jacksonville Pastors Conference. It is one sermon that made me reflect on my own ministry. I also picked up Dr. Mohler’s book on preaching, He Is Not Silent. I highly recommend it for anyone engaged in the preaching ministry. It is not a step by step procedure on how to do expository preaching, but a theology of expository preaching. It is a proper grounding in my humble opinion. In it he states:
“Rarely do we hear these days of a church that is distinguished primarily by its faithful, powerful, expository preaching. Instead, when we hear persons speak about their their churches,they usually point to something other than preaching. They may speak of its specialized ministry to senior adults, or its children’s ministry, or its youth ministry. They may speak of its music or its arts program or its drama team, or of things far more superficial than those. Sometime they may even speak of the church’s Great Commission vigor and its commitment to world missions – and for that we are certainly thankful. But sadly, it is rare to hear a church described first and foremost by the character, power, and content of its preaching.” (Mohler, 78-79)
Later, Dr. Mohler points to Paul (Col. 1:25) and relays Paul’s claim that he had been given his ministry “to make the word of God fully known.” As Dr. Mohler states, “The central purpose of Paul’s ministry, indeed the central purpose of every Christian ministry, is to make known the Word of God.” (Mohler, 79)
How do we make God’s Word fully known? For Dr. Mohler and other people like myself we believe it is done primarily through expository preaching. But wait, what is expository preaching? Many definitions are out there and I have heard many state that they are expository preachers, yet when it comes time for them to deliver the Word, I hear everything but expository preaching. Allow me to offer my humble opinion in this smörgåsbord of definitions. Expository preaching can be defined as: text driven preaching that seeks to expound on the central idea of the text and further clarify that idea with the following and or surrounding verses that support it. It also seeks to illustrate and apply the text so that the listeners can grasp what God has conveyed to the original listeners and ultimately have His Spirit carry that meaning to those who are listening today and apply it to their lives.
The focus of preaching should not be preaching that is based on the “felt needs” of the congregation, because, as is claimed by Dr. Mohler, “… the sinner does not know what his most urgent need is.” (Mohler, 20) The preaching that a Great Commission Resurgence needs is preaching that proclaims the full counsel of God which leads the listener to being confronted with the Gospel. Ultimately, it is to the Lordship of Christ through His Word that the church must submit. A church, a ministry, or a movement cannot discover what Jesus would have them do if they are ignorant of His Word. Nor can a Great Commission Resurgence be faithful to the Lordship of Jesus if it glosses over portions of God’s Word because those doctrines are felt to be secondary in order or moralistic in nature.
The Great Commission Resurgence needs an embracing of expository preaching. Without it, we are in danger of not fully making known God’s counsel as found in the Bible. Our pulpits should be known for dynamic expository preaching. Without a return to this, seeker friendly/emergent type preaching will lead our churches in becoming further atrophied and ignorant of their strongest weapon: the Word of God. A Great Commission Resurgence without expository preaching is a movement without the Lordship of Christ.
In an online article published by the Southern Baptist Texan, Dr. Patterson was given an opportunity to answer some of his critics. In this article, he was clear to define himself as not “Landmark,” but “convinced Baptist.” To read the article in its entirety click here. Below is an excerpt from the story.
“As pastors begin to retire and all us old cats die off, beware of what is happening,” Patterson said. “We have so emphasized church planting – and we’ve been pretty successful with that – that what we don’t have in our seminaries are people who are interested in going into FBC Navasota, Texas, or wherever it may be, and see that those too are God’s sheep, and that they need a pastor also.” The convention needs pastors for smaller, existing churches, he said.
Church planting is an additional area that would benefit from a return to Baptist roots, Patterson added, indicating his concern that partnerships be clearly defined with other Great Commission Christians who are not Southern Baptists.
“There a lot of things that we can do, even with others who aren’t Great Commission Christians,” he said, referring to standing against abortion or for family values with Roman Catholics. “[However], I am constitutionally opposed to doing church planting with anybody other than Baptists. Baptists are paying for it so it ought to be a Baptist church that is planted. That ought to be true in Kenya, and it ought to be true here; it ought to be true everywhere. If we’re going to pay for it, and we’re going to put the people out there to do it, we ought to plant Baptist churches.”
Anticipating this his view might be mischaracterized by some as that of a Landmarker, he refused the title.
“Landmarker: no – convinced Baptist: yes,” he said. “I’m not Baptist because I grew up in that. I’m Baptist because that’s what I believe – what Baptists believe. And I think we are in very grave danger of squandering that which our Anabaptist forefathers and what our English Baptist forefathers and what our forefathers in this country bled for and often died for – and that is absolute religious liberty, absolute separation of church and state, and most important of all – the concept of the believer’s church.
To be honest, I cannot answer that question fully. In fact, our movement is varied among people who do differ on tertiary issues, but believe (according to Dr. Mohler’s theological triage) secondary issues that define us as Southern Baptists do matter in areas of planting churches. With all that said, while I don’t believe I can fully define this movement, I do know what the Baptist Identity movement is not. It is not any one person or web site. So, for those who may try to define it as either SBC Today, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), Peter Lumpkins, Bart Barber, or any other array of persons individually or entities corporately, they will find that strategy lacking.
Also, the Baptist Identity movement is not anti-Calvinism. If that was the case, SBC Today would not have a five pointer (Scott Gordon) or a four pointer (Robin Foster) as resource managers. I might also add that SWBTS has more Calvinists on staff today than when I graduated with an MDiv in 2002. In fact, when I was a student at SWBTS, Calvinism was routinely treated as the wicked stepchild of the SBC by some of the professors. While I might step out on a limb here, I do believe that Baptist Identity is anti hyper – Calvinism which diminishes the proclamation of the gospel to all people everywhere.
In general within the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Identity movement adheres to the confessional statement of faith for Southern Baptists, the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). Also, there is a vision that many have adopted for Baptists called, “The Fifth Century Initiative” (FCI). In this FCI there is a clear vision of directives that made Southern Baptists a viable conduit of God’s grace since 1845. It is a call to once again focus on those directives so that the Glory of God can shine in a new and magnificent way as we begin this fifth century as Baptists.
What about the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR)? I believe that most if not all who are part of the Baptist Identity movement are primed and ready for any movement that enables the Great Commission to be accomplished in ways to reach the most people with the Gospel and build New Testament churches around the world. In fact the FCI has a section that deals with the Great Commission:
The Pursuit of the Great Commission: New Testament congregations are a construct universally relevant to all people, cultures, and ages. Southern Baptist congregations must visit afresh the Divine imperative to reproduce themselves throughout the world, embracing new opportunities to engage the task with greater vigor than ever before.
The goal of any GCR should be to help birth self perpetuating churches that engage in the global effort of the GCR. I personally appreciate Dr. Danny Akin for initiating this GCR concept in an effort to go the next step from the conservative resurgence that brought our convention to doctrinal accountability and fidelity to God’s Word. Any GCR that seeks to make disciples through the planting of local New Testament churches must be in agreement on the purpose and workings of a New Testament church. Without an understanding and unity in matters of Ecclesiology, the GCR is negatively affected and will ultimately lead to an adverse witness to the world around it.
In short, while I cannot fully define the term or movement, suffice it to say that Baptist Identity is an effort to pursue the Great Commission by joining with like minded confessional Baptists who desire to see God glorified in all the world.
While attending the FBC Jacksonville Pastor’s conference, the events of last week have weighed heavily on my mind. Namely what our site, SBCToday, should be about. The resource managers have primarily taken up the cause of the nearly forgotten doctrines concerning Baptist ecclesiology. Because of this, some have referred to us as “Baptist Identity” (BI), “neo-Landmark/Landmark,” or “fundamentalist” while sometimes adding “spooky.”
Frankly, last week Friday and most of Saturday, I was not keeping up with the blogs, yet through the preaching of God’s Word at the conference, God was dealing with me in how I represent His Word on the blogs. For what am I willing to suffer in the proclamation and upholding of His Word? This question was driven to me as Dr. Mohler preached from Colossians 1:19-28. Dr. Mohler’s point was that that we are “called,” men of God, not men working in a profession. This calling requires us to uphold the Word of God and suffer if we are called to do so in the proclamation of the truth. Essentially Paul was willing to suffer for the sake of the church to fulfill the Word of God.
It is my opinion that over the past couple of weeks, my name has been suffering for something that does not equate for what Paul is calling us to suffer. Though I believe I have done nothing ethically wrong in my blogging activities last week, I did in fact abandon my primary purpose of proclaiming the wondrous biblical truths of God and in articulating the overall situation Southern Baptists are facing. There is a systematic diverting of attention from doctrinal fidelity by the Southern Baptist (SB) ecumenist. This is being done by aligning oneself to the lowest common denominator for cooperation, a false redefinition of terms, and a pragmatic approach to missions cooperation.
I joined with the other men at SBC Today to bring awareness to the almost forgotten and severely neglected theology of Baptist ecclesiology. If anything, I wanted to be a part of the grass roots movement to help Southern Baptists journey back to their biblical heritage concerning matters of the church.
With this endeavor in SBC Today, I have frequently used a term called “ecumenical” or “ecumenist.” While some have dismissed using these terms as being unhelpful, by using them in the context of Southern Baptists, I have understood it and applied it in three ways:
1. Those in Southern Baptist life who are ecumenical are those who seek to cooperate using the lowest common denominator. Not only in Southern Baptist life is this a movement, but it is also in the wider evangelical community. The recent evangelical manifesto proved this as the document itself abandoned inerrancy as a distinctive for evangelicals. In the SBC calls for cooperating on the essentials of the Gospel is the mantra. After the 2007 SBC Convention in San Antonio the Garner motion was an effort of the ecumenists to keep SBC entities from making decisions beyond the doctrinal limitations of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). The ecumenists saw the BF&M as a “maximal document,” limiting the trustees to doctrines only addressed in the BF&M. In other words, the trustees could not fully fulfill their mandate as agents of accountability of the SBC. Fast forward to today. No longer are calls given by the Southern Baptist ecumenist to keep the BF&M as the limit of doctrines that are necessary for cooperation. Now the caveats have increased and the ecumenist desires to cooperate solely on the “essentials” of the gospel as long as those essentials remain in a state of flux so that no one is eliminated from their tent of cooperation. The belief in a regenerate baptized (immersed) church membership no longer matters. The ecumenist wants to work with the paedobaptist or sprinkler whether they were baptized as an infant or not. These issues are not of great concern to the SB ecumenist and do not impede cooperation for them.
2. Those in Southern Baptist life who are ecumenical wrongly redefine terms in order to evoke action towards their cause. Terms have been used to invoke fear among various groups of Southern Baptists. “Fundamentalist,” “spooky fundamentalist,” “Landmark,” “neo-landmark,” and “avant-garde self-styled defenders of Baptist Identity,” have been used against confessional Southern Baptists. Recently the issue of closed verses open communion took front stage. Those who believe that a church should allow, at a minimum, only those who are saved and baptized by immersion to participate in the Lord’s Supper were called “neo-Landmark.” Yet, by this post here, it was shown that those Southern Baptists who practiced this are abiding within the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message. Those who accuse confessional Southern Baptists as neo-Landmark are themselves outside of what Southern Baptists officially believe. The aforementioned terms have been wrongly used to describe those who are Baptist Identity.
3. Those in Southern Baptist life who are ecumenical focus more on pragmatism and cultural preference (or feelings) rather than Biblical principles in forging their worldview. For instance, one may not want a woman to pastor their church because their discomfort “is personal and cultural – and not Biblical.” But when an autonomous state convention of cooperating churches, because of biblical beliefs, decides to disfellow themselves from a church that has a woman for their pastor, the convention is scourged on blog posts saying that it is unfair for a state convention to hold, in particular, those biblical beliefs not only in doctrine, but also in practice. Autonomy is only held in cases where it benefits the ecumenist. The state convention of cooperating churches, for the ecumenist, is not autonomous in this decision, yet through out Baptist history, there is example after example of associations and conventions who have operated as an autonomous body of churches that did not allow themselves to compromise their doctrines by one church’s decision to act independently of the confessional belief of the body. To claim that cooperating churches in a state convention cannot act autonomously against one aberrant church is weak if not illogical to say the least.
The ecumenical reformer understands certain truths from God’s Word to be stumbling blocks to cooperating with others. Where the doctrine does not pragmatically fit, it must be removed. We see this time and time again in the seeker sensitive or emergent church movement that is creeping into our convention. Don’t misunderstand, doctrine is not unimportant to the ecumenical reformer if it aids their cause, but when it is perceived to being a stumbling block, it must either be removed or avoided because it takes away from the pragmatic benefit of cooperation.
There is no doubt that a movement is afoot to make doctrine of secondary importance behind the shortsighted pragmatical benefits one perceives. When inerrancy (truth without any mixture of error), believers baptism by immersion, and the Lord’s Supper are considered tertiary doctrines that should not impede cooperation in a convention, association, or network of churches, then those who are not ashamed of the doctrines that make us Baptist must speak up and “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”