Category Archives for Interviews

An Interview with Bill Harrell

March 6, 2012

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.
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An Interview with Kevin Apperson

February 14, 2012

Kevin Apperson began North Las Vegas Baptist Church in his living room in 2003. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from UGA and his MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Elizabeth have five children, the youngest of which has Down Syndrome.

SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?

Kevin Apperson: I see several issues that are, and will continue to be, hot-button issues within the SBC. I think that any one of these may be very divisive in the ranks of the SBC, but I also believe in the old maxim that it is “better to be divided by truth than united in error.” In no particular order, here are the issues that I see:

  1. I am afraid that our SBC churches and institutions may be practicing the Great Omission as they seek to perform the great Commission. Matthew 28:19-20 gives us a clear mandate to go into all the world with the gospel AND teach the people ALL THINGS that Jesus commanded. In other words, Jesus seemed to say that salvation through faith in Him was absolutely necessary, but that growth/maturity/sanctification should accompany this salvation. I see a trend in many churches of all sizes in minimizing holiness and accommodating worldliness all for the supposed purpose of sharing the gospel. The book of James tells us that whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. This teaches that our churches should not seek to emulate the carnality of this world in which we live. I have been disappointed in the seminary in which I serve in promoting a man like Mark Driscoll as one who should be emulated by our young pastors. I am disappointed when I see so much emphasis on a carnival like atmosphere as the church goes to extremes in pushing the sex envelope with risqué language that promotes more worldliness than holiness. Salvation is not the end point in the life of the Christian but rather the beginning point. In our quest for seeking the salvation of the world, we have forgotten God‘s command of seeking purity within our lives and abstaining from the leaven that corrupts. The leaven is being accommodated in areas within the SBC, and it takes just a little to do a lot of damage.
  2. The theological understanding of those whom Jesus died for will continue to be an issue. There is a significant difference in understanding the nature and character of God when one approach says that Jesus died for all, and another approach says that He died for a select group known as the elect. I believe that a great majority of Baptists have what I believe is a correct soteriology in confessing that Jesus died for all, and that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Those in the reformed camp believe in a God who was graceful to save some, but who did not make salvation truly possible for the rest. This issue will continue to divide Baptists.
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An Interview with Wade Rials

February 7, 2012

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.
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