Old Preachers Never Die (Update)

June 1, 2010

That was the title of Dr. Jerry Vines last sermon at FBC Jacksonville.  As he walked out the back door of that grand sanctuary you can still hear him saying, “old preachers never die”. (I must have been dreaming and that is what I get for relying on my memory.  Just received word from both Dr. Vines and his son Jon, “Old Preachers Never Die” was not his last message at FBC Jax.  It was “Glimpses of Glory”.  Sorry for the mix-up and I will be more careful not to rely on my memory.) Dr. Vines has been our retired Southern Baptist Statesman that most seem to treat as an uncle.  Some treat him as a beloved uncle.  They only desire him around when they need to present a loving attitude.  While others treat him as the crazy uncle that was locked away in the attic.  Their attention is directed toward him when his chain rattling upsets the guest. Dr. Vines has worked tirelessly and cooperatively trying to give advice when asked and calling our convention leaders to accountability when they began down a different route.  His style is one of graciousness and integrity.  His heart is for the lost and his desire for Southern Baptist to win them was seen as he was one that placed his ministry on the line to see the convention turned back to an inerrant Scripture that would bring about sound doctrine to our entities.  He has taken the hits and he has endured the unkind words and disrespect.  It was in the 2006 convention that someone yelled something disrespectful of him and it surprised many that witnessed it.  However, to my knowledge, Dr. Vines has never spoken a word about it.

I have been praying for sometime that we would see someone step forward and call the convention back to a balanced approach.  I have a post I wanted to place here today concerning more of my thoughts about the GCRTF.  However, after reading Dr. Vines article I feel our readers would benefit greatly from his thoughts today on balance.  It seems that we have seen the pendulum swing full force from the side of cooperation to the side of independence.  Well, the time has come to call our attention to the swinging of the pendulum.  This call comes from none other than Dr. Jerry Vines as he calls us to balance.  His latest blog article is copied in its entirety below.  You can link to his latest blog Blessed Are the Balanced. I encourage you to go over and speak a word of encouragement to him.  I believe he has stated it well and I pray that others will step forward to speak words of wisdom to our convention.

My friend Warren Wiersbe said to me several years ago: “Blessed are the balanced.” I’ve thought about that statement quite a bit.

There is a tendency for us all to get out of balance. And the younger we are, the more we tend to extremes. I know that was true for me. At times my passion outran my understanding. I was sincere, but hadn’t lived long enough to have a more complete picture. I don’t claim to have the complete picture now. But, I have come to believe that balance is important.

Blessed are the balanced in preaching. You can get so caught up in one theme of Scripture that you exclude other themes.

I heard about a preacher who got hung up on the account of the woman at the well. He was speaking on Numbers 22:21, “Balaam…saddled his donkey.” He said, “First, I want to speak  about the usefulness of donkeys. Second, I want to speak about the details of ancient saddles. Then I will close with a few words about the woman at the well.”

Preaching through Bible books helps the preacher to stay balanced in his preaching.

Blessed are the balanced in preaching.

Blessed are the balanced in doctrine.

There is a beautiful delete tension between many Bible doctrines. In Scripture our finite mind encounters the infinite mind of God. We surely understand we can’t have complete comprehension.

Take Divine sovereignty and human responsibility, for instance. Both are taught in Scripture. Systematic theologies leaning too far in one direction to the detriment of the other get biblical truth out of balance. Neither extreme Calvinism nor extreme Arminianism represents biblical theology.

Blessed are the balanced.

Blessed are the balanced in church ministry.

The New Testament makes it clear that churches aren’t to focus on either local or global ministry to the exclusion of the other. The New Testament pattern isn’t either/or but both/and.

As a lifetime Southern Baptist I think we are in desperate need of some balance these days.

I believe strongly in the autonomy of the local church. No central authority over a church dictates to it. No convention can tell a church how to conduct its ministry, to develop its programs, or how to give its money. Each church congregation makes those decisions under the Lordship of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. But, I do believe it is important for churches to cooperate with one another in carrying out our Lord’s command to witness to the whole world, from our local “Jerusalem” to the global “ends of the earth.”

Blessed are the balanced.

There must be some balance in how we use our funds. Obviously we can’t carry on our local work without using much of our tithes and offerings there.

The local church should constantly evaluate the need for and necessity of some of its buildings, staff and programs. We must also be mindful of the opportunity to share with other churches of like faith and order in local, state, national and worldwide causes. If you are going to be part of a convention of churches, you should have some kind of financial commitment to it.

If you want to be independent and do everything as a local church, fine and God bless you. But, if you are part of the Southern Baptist Convention, there should be some kind of financial involvement there.

If you want to be a part of the leadership, setting the course of the SBC, you should lead in financial commitment. A man in your local church probably won’t get placed on the finance committee if he designates $50,000 a year to the music ministry (maybe led by his son!), but only gives $500 annually to the church’s unified budget. He’s free to give his money that way. But, I doubt you would give him the opportunity to make decisions affecting how the bulk of the church’s money is used.

Blessed are the balanced.

During the years of the Conservative Resurgence I was criticized for my church’s low percentage of giving to the SBC’s cooperative program. I just took the criticism and didn’t get mad about it. The issue of liberalism was the primary impediment.

Many of us said, “We don’t want to support the liberalism.” As we began to resolve that issue, the record will show my church steadily increased its gifts. I feel you have to put your money where your mouth is.

Now we hear the criticism, “We don’t want to support the bloated bureaucracy.” Well, I’m sure there is enough bloat in our Convention, entities, delete and yes, our churches, to go around.

Examine? Sure.

Eliminate all the bloat we can? Yes!

But, blast and blame? No.

It just boils down to this: If you intend to be a Southern Baptist, work through the system to bring about the change you desire. It won’t happen over night.

The SBC boat is a big one and doesn’t change course quickly. It took ten years for us to utilize our trustee system to address the problem of liberalism. If you aren’t willing to take the time and the SBC doesn’t fit your idea of what a convention of churches should be, then seek another. And God bless you as you go.

Blessed are the balanced.