With my semi-retirement coming up, I have been reflecting on the journey God has taken me on. In 1973, when I was 22, First Baptist Church of Wyaconda, Missouri, called for my ordination.
In those days, ordination was taken seriously, and a church would only call for your ordination if you had demonstrated real evidence of God’s calling on your life. I don’t mean to downplay modern ordinations, but it seems to me that the church is ordaining people as fast as the copier can print. I am of the old school that says there should be a period of testing and examination of those who feel called.
I also understand the struggle of that calling. It is hard to tell if the feeling you have in your heart is from God or the hot sauce at Senor Fajita’s restaurant. In either case, you need the Lord.
Back in those days, ordinations were far and few in between. I was nervous about the whole process. On the Sunday of my ordination, the church set aside an entire afternoon to examine my doctrine. A chair was placed in the center of the platform, and the auditorium was full of ordained deacons and pastors from all over the county. I took the hot seat, and the examination began.
The first question they asked was about my testimony and how I came to saving faith in Christ. I told the story of how I was lost, without hope and unable to save myself. I told of how I called upon the shed blood of Christ to cleanse me and asked Jesus to become the Lord of my life, promising to follow Him the rest of my days. They asked me to quote Scriptures to back up each of my points.
Another man stood up and asked me to testify about how God called me into the ministry. I told the story of how I was going my own way when God tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear that he wanted me to preach the gospel. (I left out the part about the hot sauce; these were very serious men.)
Still another man asked me to explain what my spiritual gift was and how it had manifested itself in my life. Again, I responded with Scriptures and testimonies of God using me in teaching for the church.
For the next three hours, I sat there, sweating, as they grilled me on every possible doctrine: salvation, justification, sanctification, the Second Coming and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. These men were just warming up. Even though many were laymen, they knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards and could preach the gospel at the drop of a hat.
They were almost through when one of them had another question for me: Would I always preach in a Baptist church?
“No, sir,” I said simply.
There was a collective gasp and a rustling in the pews as they turned and looked at each other. Did they hear correctly? In their mind, I had just gone from being a Baptist to Badtist.
The man who asked the question looked stunned. “Maybe you didn’t understand. Will you always preach in a Baptist church?”
Again, I answered simply, “No, sir.”
“Where do you think you’re going to preach?” he asked.
I explained to him that my calling was not to be a Baptist but a defender of the truth, preaching hope to the lost, those in need of a Savior. I would preach “in season and out of season” (1 Tim. 4:2). If no one came, then I would do what the Lord said in the book of Luke: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled” (Luke 14:23, KJV). I told him if God allowed me, I would keep going until I had preached to the uttermost parts of the earth. “Yes, I am a Baptist, and I will probably be asked mostly by Baptists to come and preach,” I explained. “But if God opens other doors, I will step in and proclaim His Word.”
After I finished, the men dismissed themselves to convene a council to discuss my answers. It seemed to take forever, but after an hour, they came out, laid hands on me and presented me to the church. I was glad it was over. And almost 45 years later, I still feel the same. The author of Acts says it best: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, NIV).
[This article was first published here at SBC Today on April 9, 2011. It highlighted the groundbreaking “shot heard ’round the SBC” when Dr. Brad Whitt wrote an article expressing how marginalized and irrelevant many Traditionalists feel in today’s Calvinist-led Southern Baptist Convention. Six years later, not much has changed.]
In the first three parts of this article, I have been reflecting on Brad Whitt’s article “Young, Southern Baptist, . . . and Irrelevant?,” which was published and discussed widely in state Baptist papers, various blogs, and Facebook discussions. Whitt’s response to these many comments has now been posted on his blog, which he entitled, “The Challenge for Contributing, Committed Southern Baptists.”
Whitt’s article obviously touched a nerve in Southern Baptist life. I described it as one of the deepest fault lines in the SBC – between what Whitt suggested were those who have a “high Baptist identity” and those who have a “low to moderate Baptist identity.” I tried to flesh out this distinction in the first section of my post (Part A). I then described several other interconnected fault lines, particularly the small church/megachurch fault line, in the second section of this post (Part B). I made the case that these partially overlapping fault lines are disintegrating the “center” of Southern Baptist life, and that splinters or a split within the SBC fellowship seem almost inevitable.
In the third post (Part C), I attempted to describe two possible futures I see for the SBC, which I believe to be the only viable options. In Way One, because of our fallenness “in Adam,” the only way to unity and peace is through division. I also likened it to a Baptist Babel, in that we are being divided into camps speaking different languages. Obviously, I do not regard this as God’s ideal. Today I will propose the second alternative, what I am labeling the “in Christ” option: Unity through Cooperation.
[This article was first published here at SBC Today on April 8, 2011. It highlighted the groundbreaking “shot heard ’round the SBC” when Dr. Brad Whitt wrote an article expressing how marginalized and irrelevant many Traditionalists feel in today’s Calvinist-led Southern Baptist Convention. Six years later, not much has changed.]
In the first two parts of this article, I have been reflecting on Brad Whitt’s article “Young, Southern Baptist, . . . and Irrelevant?,” which was published and discussed widely in state Baptist papers, various blogs, and Facebook discussions. Whitt’s response to these many comments has now been posted on his blog, which he entitled, “The Challenge for Contributing, Committed Southern Baptists.”
Whitt’s article obviously touched a nerve in Southern Baptist life. I described it as one of the deepest fault lines in the SBC – between what Whitt suggested were those who have a “high Baptist identity” and those who have a “low to moderate Baptist identity.” Attempting to describe this real but somewhat difficult-to-define fault line, which involves a cluster of theological/ecclesiological/methodological issues but may be primarily more a matter of ethos, was the subject of the first section of my post.
I also suggested that the “Baptist identity” fault line is just one fault line in Southern Baptist life. In fact, there is a series of other interconnected, partially overlapping, and partially converging fault lines in the SBC – smaller churches vs. megachurches, anti-GCR vs. pro-GCR, majority Baptist theology vs. Reformed theology, advocates of associations and state convention vs. detractors of associations and state convention, Cooperative Program as a high value vs. Cooperative Program as a tertiary value, etc. An eruption in one of the fault lines sets off shockwaves in each of these other interconnected fault lines. In the second section of this post, I attempted to unpack another of these fault lines in SBC life, and one that is sometimes overlooked – between the smaller churches and the megachurches.