Today we’re honored to share with you a post written by our good friend David Worley. Known affectionately around the SBC blog world as “volfan007,” David is the pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in Greenfield, Tennessee, where he’s served for 3 years. His wife’s name is Sherrie, and they have three children: Ben, Ginger, and Cody. David has pastored Churches in Tennessee and Mississippi. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, and the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee.
I’m fully convinced that some people in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in our day are absolutely afraid of not being big. Some SBC people are absolutely scared of declining membership. I’ve been saying for years that some of the leading people of the SBC are more interested in the 3 “B’s”…Baptisms, Budgets, and Butts (or “backsides,” for those with more sensitive ears), than with faithfulness and worship and sound theology. All they’ve cared about for years is how many baptisms did your church have? How big is your budget? Have your finances grown? And, how many backsides are sitting in your pews? Attendance at your church? How many do you have? How many did you have when you first got there? How many are coming now? How much have you grown?
It is our great privilege at SBC Today to share with you a post from guest author, Mike Madaris. Mike pastors Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Green Cove Springs, Florida. He has been ministering to God’s people there for three years. He is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with an MDiv in Biblical Counseling. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, for eight years, and they have two children, three-year-old Morgan and the next little Madaris is on the way.
I have been a part of the SBC all my life, and one thing I have noticed is that there is, seemingly, a great emphasis placed on “position” within the convention. Men of all ages scramble for “position” within the political arena of the SBC. I have noticed this even more so in the last few years of ministry. “Young” ministers are demanding their place at “the table” of the SBC.
I was at a meeting yesterday, and a former pastor in Texas was leading the discussion. During our time together he gave us two questions to ponder; one of them being, “Who am I?” He said that answering this question is one of the most important things we, as Christians and ministers, have to answer. I believe he is right.
Is our identity found in what church we pastor? Is our identity found in what position we serve our great convention? I do not believe this is where we truly find our identity, although many seem to think so. I believe we find our identity in a person and a relationship with that person.
One of the keywords of the Bible and of the Christian life is the word “new.” The Bible speaks of a new heart, a new spirit, a new creature, a new covenant, a new birth, a new man, a new life, a new Jerusalem, and many other wonderful new things. The Bible paints beautiful pictures of these new things to help the reader understand what God has for us. One of those beautiful pictures is found in John 15:1-11. In the passage the reader finds Jesus sharing with his disciples the dynamics of the relationship they are in, and in clarifying the importance of that relationship, he uses the illustration of the branch and the vine.
I will not discuss here the four “new” things Jesus presents to the believer in the text, but I do want to highlight the first “new” thing. It is the “new” position in which the Christ follower finds himself. Six times in the first seven verses, Jesus uses the phrase, “in Me,” to describe the new position of the Christian. Herb Hodges says, “Jesus uses the word ‘in’ about thirty times in chapters 14 and 15, and it reaches its pinnacle of use when he uses the preposition with the personal pronoun ‘Me.’” They are two small words, but when combined they become the resting place of the souls of men.
The phrase “in Me” is found throughout the New Testament. Over and over again Scripture tells us of our “new” position, in fact the Apostle Paul uses this phrase 164 times in his epistles. God is trying to get a point across. The believer is to find himself in his “new” position.
Every person on earth is seen by God in one of two positions according to I Corinthians 15:22. The only two possible positions in which a person can be found is in Adam or in Christ. No person can be in both positions. It is an either/or proposition, and both carry extreme consequences. Herb Hodges states, “To be ‘in Adam’ means that you fell into sin when Adam fell into sin, you became lost when Adam became lost, and came under the judgment of God when Adam did. It is a matter of position.” Scripture goes on to allow us to examine what is entailed in the “new” position of being “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1; II Cor. 5:17).
The world has a standard of success. It is, seemingly, found in the clothes one wears, in the house one lives in, in the car one drives, in the place one vacations, in the salary one is paid, and so many other things. There are some within our convention who believe that to be successful you must lead a large congregation, to be respected you must serve as a trustee of some board, and the list goes on. But are these things the measure by which godly success is determined? Are these the things that are held in high esteem by our “Commander-in-Chief,” by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? I believe the answer is an overwhelming no from the throne of grace and from the pages of Scripture. Faithfulness, obedience, relationship, service and humility are the elements of success in the kingdom of God.
How does one come to be successful according to the standard of Christ? There are two significant answers in my opinion: 1) answer the question “Who am I in Christ?” and 2) obey the command of Christ in John 15:4 which says “Abide in Me…”
There is so much talk today about bringing reconciliation to the SBC, but I do not believe it will happen as long as those who make up the SBC try to “find themselves” in any other place than in Christ.
Dr. Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and current president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, has recently published The Vanishing Church: Searching for Significance in the 21st Century. It is published by Hannibal Books, and is available from, among other places, Amazon.com. We are grateful to frequent guest contributor Dr. Bart Barber, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, who has provided our review:
The first decade of the twenty-first century has included a renaissance among Southern Baptists in the area of ecclesiology. It is too early to determine whether this renaissance will outpace competing factors to become the defining mark of Southern Baptist life at the beginning of this millennium, or even whether it will emerge from its infancy to become a powerful influence in the life of our churches, but at this moment more Southern Baptist authors and pastors are writing more, preaching more, and doing more to shore up our ecclesiology than at any point in my lifetime, the lifetime of my parents, and the lifetime of my grandparents. The genre has included works written by and for the academy, such as John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches; and Thomas White, Jason Duesing, and Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches. Works such as R. Stanton Norman, The Baptist Way: Distinctives of a Baptist Church, have represented efforts by members of academia to provide primers on ecclesiology to those outside their guild. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has hosted a conference regarding “The Mission of Today’s Church,” resulting in a book by that title, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is now hosting annual conferences on Baptist Identity for theologians of both the professional and the armchair variety. Any discussion of this category would be remiss in passing over the works of Mark Dever, whose ministry and writings are both academically rigorous and practically oriented.
As important as it is, academic work alone will never succeed in restoring vigor to Baptist ecclesiology. Ecclesiology is, after all, the doctrine of the church, not the doctrine of the seminary, and in a Southern Baptist church the coin of the realm is good preaching. For our churches to find their way back to a biblical concept of the church, their pastors must learn to see the doctrine of the church in the Bible and learn to preach it with conviction and power.
Dr. Fred Smith, Associate Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, has penned, at our request, a response to a recent post on another blog. We are grateful to Dr. Smith for his work on this article.
by Dr. Fred Smith
Associate Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA
The recent SBCImpact article, “My Pilgrimage,” attempts to offer a testimony in “contextualized form” designed to appeal to Muslims. The anonymous author of this piece admits that some of the terminology “may not be everyday language for many readers.” Indeed much of what he writes is startling, even if it were biblical.
However, this author, in his zeal to contextualize the truth, sacrifices way too much. The ideal of contextualization is to present the gospel in terms which the hearers will understand and so be able to make an informed decision about trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The challenge of contextualization is to find a way to do this without changing the basic message. Unfortunately, this author, an IMB Missionary, crosses that line. He moves from contextualizing to changing the gospel message itself. The end result is a false gospel, not merely the “old message in a new form.”
The following post was written for SBC Today by Ben Stratton. Ben has pastored Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky since 1998, and currently serves as pastor of the Farmington Baptist Church in Farmington, Kentucky. He is a graduate of Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College, and is working toward a Master’s Degree at Murray State University. He and his wife Becki have two children.
On June 24, 1851, a group of Southern Baptists meet at Cotton Grove, Tennessee and passed the Cotton Grove Resolutions. These resolutions helped to begin the Landmark controversy among Southern Baptists. On one side were men who held strongly to landmarkism such as J.R. Graves, J.M. Pendleton, and A.C. Dayton. On the other hand were men who strongly opposed the Landmark movement such as J.L. Dagg, R.B.C. Howell, and J.B. Jeter. Yet what is interesting is that while these men disagreed on the validly of landmarkism, they were all in total agreement in their opposition to open communion. This was virtually the unanimous position of Southern Baptists in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.