Category: SBC Issues

Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 1: Attempting to Analyze What Actually Happened

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 1: Attempting to Analyze What Actually Happened



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


News stories from the Western Recorder, from Associated Baptist Press, and Baptist Press reported last week that the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky chose to deny membership to Pleasant Valley Community Church, purportedly in part because of the strong Calvinism affirmed by Pleasant Valley Community Church. In this article, I want to suggest my best guess of the factors which led to this decision. In Part 2 I want to suggest what could be some implications of this decision for other churches and associations in the SBC.

Some Important Caveats

These are some wise dictums which we should normally heed as guidelines for wise living:

Dictum 1: Don’t get enmeshed in other people’s fights.

Dictum 2Don’t speak about things about which you have little knowledge, because when you open your mouth you’ll reveal your ignorance.

I’m going to risk cautiously disobeying these wise dictums in order to comment on the denial of the application of Pleasant Valley Community Church to join Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky. (I could note that many blog commentators frequently violate both of these dictums). So let me do so with these important caveats:

(a) I do not know anyone on either side associated with this event, nor have I spoken with them personally or communicated with them. The only thing I know comes through published reports and commentaries, and a couple of conversations with persons closer to the situation who have communicated with some of the persons involved. I have not read all of the documents associated with the event. So I am writing based on the limited published information I have seen, along with some hearsay evidence. That’s not very strong evidence in a court of law or in the scholarly world, and as a former journalist I would not publish such unconfirmed opinions as a factual news story. So what I am sharing is just my opinion or speculation based on my best understanding of the limited information I have.

(b) I am not a member of a church in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association, so I have no real standing in this discussion. This is their decision, not mine. I am simply commenting on the event as an outside observer.

 

With those important caveats in mind, I will share my perception in this Part 1 of the root causes of this event. As I best understand it, there are two primary contributing causes that led to this event – one more theological in character, and the other more attitudinal in nature. At this point, I am more interested in describing the perceptions involved than the realities involved – that is, I’m attempting to understand what perceptions may have led to this decision.  I have no way of judging the accuracy of those perceptions. Perceptions aren’t always the same as reality, but they do impact reality. Again, I want to be very clear that some of this at least to some degree speculation on my part, based on the available evidence. Then, in Part 2, I’ll suggest some implications of this decision in other associations, and propose a way that might help avoid repeated occurrences of similar events in other associations.

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Ten Trends Impacting American Churches (Part 2)






By Dr. Randy Stone, Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of the Doctor of Educational Ministry Program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary


For Dr. Stone’s discussion of the first five trends (Church Size and Time; Institutional Internalization; Crisis in the Clergy; Dropout, Disillusioned, and Disengaged Christians; and Search for the Supernatural), see Part 1.


# 6 — Evangelism Explosion (…Not !!) Christians like to get together…with one another. We like to “Rally to Worship” but distain “Reaching the World.” The passion and urgency, once primary characteristics of the evangelical church, are all but gone. Fear is the new emotion of the church. Church growth is now collecting the disgruntled members of a neighboring congregation. We rely on transfer and biological growth rather than regenerative growth to sustain our churches. The New Testament church was known for their unwavering witness of Christ.

# 7 — Celebrity Pastors Replacing Congregations. Decades ago, churches were known for their geographic or sociological identity. Neighborhood churches were meeting significant social, spiritual, and educational needs within the community. Pastors had positive relationships inside the community but depended on the laity for program and ministry leadership. Now it seems pastors, rather than the people, are the face of the church.  Church attendees seek out celebrity pulpiteers. High profile pastors as well as television and radio preachers have become the primary spiritual leaders for many disconnected and disenfranchised members. With the rise of the celebrity pastor we often see a congregational dependence.  Congregations expect the pastor to “draw” new people to the worship services with sermons. A personal responsibility to share their life and faith is abandoned.

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Ten Trends Impacting American Churches (Part 1)






By Dr. Randy Stone, Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of the Doctor of Educational Ministry Program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary


The following list was assembled not as a detailed research project, nor was it the product of a survey of the largest churches in America. This list is merely the simple observations of a single staff person. Through conversations with colleagues, countless conventions, and tireless training events, I have surmised that the following are true. You be the real judge. I welcome your opinion.

1. Church Size and Type. Churches are making decisions concerning what type of church they want to be . . . Supersize or Boutique.[1] Churches are mimicking business models. Just as businesses are choosing to specialize only in selected merchandise, a number of churches are directing their focus so that they may be good or the best at a few things.[2] Once refined, they often “franchise” to additional locations. Other churches are choosing “to be all things to all people.” This model requires massive staff, organization, facilities, and of course, money. Both approaches seem to work. Big and small churches are healthy and growing, while at the same time, midsize and neighborhood congregations are disappearing. Incidentally, reports are that . . . 80 percent of Southern Baptists attend churches with more than 1000 in worship each Sunday, about 7 percent of the 45,727 congregations in our denomination.[3]

2. Institutional Internalization. The mission of the church has been lost. For a vast majority of churches, the overwhelming goal of the local congregations seems to be “preservation of the institution,” rather than the “pursuit of the mission.” The energy and resources of the churches have been increasingly directed to staying alive or preserving status quo. In the last 50 years the number of churches has increased by 50 percent while the number of baptisms has plateaued or declined.[4] Church splits and starts seemed to have weakened congregations as the evangelistic zeal has faded.

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Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations (not Confirmation)

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Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations (not Confirmation)



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Introduction/Summary

This series has attempted to delineate historical doctrinal differences between Baptists and Presbyterians. Most of the nine points I have addressed were explicitly held by the Particular Baptists in contradistinction from the Presbyterian or Reformed theology from which they separated themselves. These, then, are distinctively Baptist beliefs. The first Baptist distinctive I addressed was a cluster of interrelated beliefs — soul competency, priesthood of all believers, and religious liberty. The second Baptist distinctive addressed was the age (or state) of accountability; the third Baptist distinctive I addressed was believer’s baptism (or “the gathered church;” and the fourth Baptist distinctive was baptism by mode of immersion, the fifth Baptist distinctive (in contrast with Presbyterian Calvinism) was baptism and the Lord’s Supper as symbolic ordinances, not sacraments; the sixth Baptist distinctive addressed congregational church polity (in contrast to Presbyterian elder rule); the seventh Baptist distinctive, examined the autonomy of the local church and how it is not a hierarchical denomination; and the eighth Baptist distinctive, I described the two scriptural officers (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon) and how they are not three (Pastor/Bishop, Elder and Deacon). The ninth and final Baptist distinctive that I will discuss is the importance of human freedom at conversion and how that undergirds the rationale for decisional conversion offered through gospel invitations.[1]

Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations

One basic fault line between most Baptists and Presbyterians regards the ability of sinful humans to respond to God.[2] The BF&M repeatedly affirms human freedom to respond and to make decisions. The “future decisions of His free creatures” are foreknown by God;[3] and God’s election to salvation “is consistent with the free agency of man.”[4] Persons are created by God “in His own image,” originally “innocent of sin” and endowed by God with “freedom of choice.” Even after the Fall, “every person of every race possesses full dignity.”[5] Salvation “is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” In regeneration the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus,” and repentance “is a genuine turning from sin toward God” and faith is “acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.”[6] The picture that emerges from the BF&M is that while sinful humans certainly cannot save themselves by any combination of good works, God requires persons to utilize the freedom of choice He created within them to respond to His gracious offer of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.[7]

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The SBC Name Change: Why and Why Not



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


As was announced in a recent “breaking news” story in SBC Today, Bryant Wright, President of the SBC, announced to the SBC Executive Committee last Monday evening that he has appointed a task force to consider the merits of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention, and make recommendations to him about a possible name change. Response to this announcement was rather passionate. Just in response to this article in SBC Today and on my personal Facebook page, there were over 100 responses about this issue. People do care about the name of the SBC.

What are the reasons given that we should or should not consider a name change for the SBC? I’m going to try to give a balanced presentation of the rationale both sides of the argument (pro and con) give for their position, and then make some suggestions in case the decision is made to change the SBC’s name. The reasons given for a name change are more centered on a single issue, and the reasons given against a name change are more varied — and hence there are more of them, but one should not necessarily assume that because more reasons are given that they are all of equal weight. However, these reasons against a name change should be dealt with adequately for a name change proposal to go forward. Each of us must weigh the strengths and weaknesses of this possible proposal, either for or against a name change. Because any name change proposal would require the majority vote of two consecutive SBC conventions, this decision (up or down) heightens the importance of churches sending messengers to the 2012 SBC Convention in New Orleans and the 2013 SBC Convention in Houston, at which this issue will be decided.

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