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.

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Robin Foster

Tim

I got that sermon on video. It is a reminder to me that we have a powerful legacy of men who have gone before us.

I appreciate Dr. Vines’ words here. I agree with him. Don’t give a paltry percentage and expect to have a say so in steering this convention. I say that the backbone of this convention (those who run 200 or less in attendance) sacrifice of their own meager means. It is a shame that they have been left out of the GCRTF. I believe the recommendations would have been different if we were allowed to help in the process. More attention would have been given in helping the local church in reaching their respective communities for Christ.

Christiane

“Don’t give a paltry percentage and expect to have a say so in steering this convention.”

Are you saying that ‘money talks’?
I agree that ‘giving’ is a sign of commitment, but is it the ONLY sign?
Suppose a Church gives something MORE valuable than money: suppose it contributes from among its pwm people to the mission effort?
Some Churches have active mission programs in their communities, to help broken people to come to Christ for healing. Is their ‘example’ not a contribution to the SBC?
Some Churches have schools for the young and for high-school aged children. Is this not a form of ‘contribution’ to the future welfare of the SBC?

I think perhaps that the emphasis on money does not include a recognition of all ‘the gifts’ and of the extent of the commitment of Christian people to the work of Christ among Southern Baptists. If the SBC were to honor that spiritual commitment, it might make a great difference in bringing people together who have felt marginalized by the emphasis on materialism. Something to think about, nothing more.

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Tim Rogers

Brother Robin,

Thanks for the words. You are correct, we need to include those faithful to the word of God in churches of all sizes.

Christianne,

First, no one is saying that money talks. Second, your argument is one from ignorance. In SB life we have a say over how money is spent. It is our responsibility to make certain the funds are spent to bring Glory to God. Third, with that said, we do no remain quiet while those giving a token amount determine where the funds are directed. It is not that the token/paltry amount is all they can afford, it is about the token/paltry amount being enough for them to say they support the CP. This is the meaning of the “paltry” amount.

Blessings,
Tim

Les Puryear

Christiane,

No, it’s not “money talks,” but “cooperation talks.”

Tim,

As you know I have had my differences with Dr. Vines over the years but this is one instance in which I can say, “Well said, Dr. Vines!”

Les

Robin Foster

Tim and Les

Thanks for the back up. I will agree with someone who said that dollars send missionaries. But the genius of the cooperative program is that as small churches sacrifice, we pool those offerings together to send more than we ever could on our own. Remember, there wasn’t a lot of mega churches around in 1925 and the program was developed to accomplish a great work out of many small, but sacrificial contributors. Today, according to Les’ research, 86% of the churches of the SBC are still considered in the small category. Therefore, the Cooperative program still benefits us. Many megas don’t see the benefit of cooperation in that manner because they can send and fund their own missionaries. Many of the megas have budgets bigger than some state conventions! So for them the cooperative program does not fit their needs, yet it greatly fits the needs of churches like ours. To designate a separate giving avenue will move us backwards to a pre-1925 era where giving was not maximized to its greatest benefit for the small church.

Matt Brady

Tim,

I love your word pictures, but whether it’s true or not, I hate to even think about anyone treating Dr. Vines as a crazy uncle rattling chains in the attic. The only metal Dr. Vines rattles is the proven armor of a most chivalrous Christian soldier who has been faithful in battle after battle. Whether one agrees with his opinions or not, his words are certainly worthy of note, and we ought to give pause to consider them.

By the way, if my memory isn’t failing also, the ugly comments toward Dr. Vines that were yelled from someone at the 2006 SBC were as he was stating his opinion against making the CP percentage a litmus test for leadership. I think he was right.

I also agree with you, Robin, Les, David, etc. that the CP is vastly superior to societal giving. I have not led our church to give any less than 10% to the CP, but I also realize that, as in the case of liberalism which Dr. Vines mentioned, there can be times when circumstances warrant giving less through the traditional route of the CP. I don’t want to cast stones at those who may indeed have legitimate reasons for giving in a way that reflects low CP percentages.

David R. Brumbelow

Jerry Vines is one of the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. He believed in inerrancy when inerrancy wasn’t cool. He was a member of the SBC Peace Committee, and later of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 Committee. A former SBC president, he is one of the most respected preachers in America. I appreciate how he just as graciously spends time with small church pastors, as with the pastors of our largest churches.

Get his sermons and books. Use them as a resource when you prepare your sermons. If you have half a chance, go hear Brother Vines preach in person.

When he speaks, if you are wise, you will listen closely.
David R. Brumbelow

Dwight McKissic

Robin,

How much money or what percentage should a church give in order to have a voice in our convention?

Dwight

Robin Foster

Dwight

I never claimed that no one should not have “a” voice in our convention if you meet the requirements for being in friendly cooperation with the SBC. You know my phone number if you wish to discuss this as friends.

Robin

Robin Foster

Dwight

I’m sorry, after reading my response it seemed a little too short between friends so allow me to clarify a bit. There is a difference between “steering” the convention and having a voice. While I believe that all should have “a” voice, I also believe that those who do sacrifice greatly to the cooperative program should have a greater voice than what they have now.

Christiane

Do we give for the missions in order to gain anything for ourselves?
How strange that sounds. Somehow, if you could ‘word’ this in a way that the AMOUNT of money or the PERCENTAGE given does not impact the INFLUENCE factor, it would look less like influence was being ‘purchased’.

I know that I am in ignorance. And there is nothing for it, my state of ignorance is ‘a given’. :)
And I don’t mean to cause problems, please know that.
But somehow, is there a way that the wording could be changed to reflect the influence of Our Lord and the Holy Spirit as the primary motivation for donating, rather than the motivation being ‘the amount of steering power at the Convention’?

I think a different wording might work for you much better.
Just a suggestion.

Robin Foster

Christiane

It is not about getting something. It is about changing a method of doing missions that benefits 86% if the churches who would do considerably less on their own. That 86% has had no voice in the changes proposed. If the changes are made, 86% will see their contributions have less of an impact because the door will be open to societal giving.

Robin Foster

BTW, societal giving does not benefit the local church by means of the impact they can have in cooperating with other churches.

David Campbell

Christiane,

I also speak from ignorance concerning issues regarding the SBC. I’m the same kind of baptist but have been a part of a congregation that produces missionaries and educates via collaborative, institutional efforts outside the direct local church authority, but under an authority of churches. I’m about to join a Southern Baptist church I’ve been attending, and have been researching a little about how the convention works. Provided my pastor believes I have legitimate reasons, and thinks I will be biblically and spiritually fed, I’m gonna ask him for a letter and his blessing. It appears SBC entities are autonomous, but are, by proxy, under the authority of churches via elected representatives. The love of money is the root of all evil, but money itself is a tool to be used in God’s service. Though autonomous….they are funded by the churches….and guess what…MONEY TALKS….if these entities want money for God’s service…they better act according to the wishes of the congregations….if they fail at this…they will be hindered financially until ultimately replaced. MONEY TALKS AND TALKS AND TALKS…I think put your money where your mouth is….is quite fitting here…

Matt Brady

Christiane,

Just to add to David’s comments about Baptist polity… I don’t think that anyone here is advocating simony. Think of this conversation from a Baptist polity point of view. At least among these brothers here, this discussion is not really about influence and position so much as it is about responsibility. In Baptist polity, we are not only responsible to give, but also to manage what is given. We do not give to a heirarchy which then takes over and manages the money. In Baptist life, each church through its messengers is responsible to help guide the convention. All of these men here are simply seeking to fulfill their responsibility to help steer the ship. Some of us may want to turn it a few degrees more to the right or the left than others, but the heart of these men is not selfishness, but simply a desire to steer the sheep down the center of God’s will.

Tim Rogers

Christianne,

First, I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back with you. My wireless card went out and I have just gotten it back.

Let me help you with your understanding of this debate. Your comments reveal a debate of ignorance because you do not seem to understand.

As SB we give to a cooperative effort. Within that giving we give up some of our autonomy for the sake of doing more together than we could do individually. Thus, when we look at cooperative giving it defines our commitment to cooperation. The cooperative amount is not based on actual $’s as much as it is %’s. You may hear the statement; “not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice”. For example, a church giving $50,000 of a $1 million dollar budget is certainly giving more dollars than a person giving $25,000 of a $250,000 budget. However, their sacrifice is not even close to the same. Why? The $50,000 represents 5% of their budget while the $25,000 represents 10% of the $250,000 budget. You see where the sacrifice for those giving less $ is greater?

Thus, we are saying sacrifice is a greater indicator of cooperation than gifts.

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers

Brother Matt,

Let’s take this conversation to another level. You said; “each church through its messengers is responsible to help guide the convention.” Do the messengers vote their consciousness or is it the consciousness of the church the messengers vote?

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers

Brother David C.

Allow me to add one more point to your statement.

Though autonomous….they are funded by the churches….and guess what…MONEY TALKS….if these entities want money for God’s service…they better act according to the wishes of the congregations….if they fail at this…they will be hindered financially until ultimately replaced.

Each entity is now a “sole member” of the Southern Baptist Convention. Thus, the entities follow the directives of the convention as members.

Blessings,
Tim

Matt Brady

Tim,

Thank you for your correction. It is duly noted and appreciated. We are messengers and not delegates. What I was trying to point out with that badly worded sentence was our responsibility to not only give but also to govern, and the authority to govern starts with the messengers from the churches.

I know that you want what is best for our cooperative efforts and not personal aggrandizement. I just thought it needed to be pointed out that the discussion of strong CP suuport was a matter of responsibility and not selfish ambition, at least not with the commenters in this comment stream. :-)

By the way, even though I have bantered with you about the whole Great Commission Giving idea, I concede that you may very well be right. But then there is part of me that likes the idea of a church being able to strongly support a national convention with which it agrees while lessening its support of a state convention which has no strong doctrinal perameters (like the Baptist Faith and Message).

Tim Rogers

Brother Matt,

Conceding to my point….Let’s make note of this date. :) Seriously, I do not see anything wrong with what you wrote. I was merely pointing out that messengers vote their own conscious. However, the debate rolls forward on that point. If a messenger is from a dually aligned CBF church does that messenger vote his/her convictions, which may be at odds with the church, or does he/she vote the convictions of the church, which may be at odds with his/her personal conviction? This is one that I have gone back and forth on.

As to the Great Commission Giving aspect of the GCRTF report, I do not feel that we are that far apart on our assessment. Being from a state convention that just recently removed our giving plans that addressed the CBF, I can understand churches giving around the state convention to the SBC. I remember hearing one pastor debate this on the convention floor. His point was we had churches giving to CBF through the state convention and it being counted as Cooperative Program giving. He was giving straight to the Executive Committee in Nashville and it was not being counted as Cooperative Program Giving. It was a great point as the CBF did not give any funds to SBC causes while the EC distributed his direct funds to the various SBC entities.

When I was coming along my dad taught me to do some work on car motors. There was a GM motor that was known as a “4 bolt main”. Don’t ask me what all that means, I was just taught how to tear it down and put it back together. I just use the name of the motor to tell you I have a “4 bolt main” concern with the GCG. My first bolt of my main concern about the Great Commission Giving aspect, is it yells “societal giving”. Yes, it is true that we have given directly to International missions through Lottie and North American missions through Annie. We have also funded students and given straight to the seminaries. However, everyone has always recognized that as a church’s personal prerogative and everyone understood it was not cooperative giving. My second bolt of my main concern has to do with reason many are pushing this. We are being told that if there is not “recognition and celebration” of these gifts then we will lose people. Are we to understand that if we do not begin recognizing those who are giving funds they will cease to give them? Look, I can understand a lost person in the community giving a large donation to the church to fund a recreational ministry and we needing to recognize the gift. But, we are dealing with Christians giving to fund missions. Are we to understand that if a Christian gifts a mission project we are supposed to recognize it or that Christian will leave us? Whatever happened to Matthew 6? I will have to agree with Dr. Vines in his OP “And God bless you as you go.” (Not you Matt because that is not what you are saying) The third bolt of my main concern is the rhetoric coming from the GCRTF. We are told that they are pushing the CP and that they desire to maintain CP as our primary source for funding missions. However, this article tells a different story. According to the article, the only reason to support CP is to get an education without owing debt when you get your degrees. However, if you really desire to do missions, then Great Commission Giving is the way to go. That entire article undermines everything the GCRTF has told us. My fourth bolt of the main concern is the name used to describe the giving apparatus–Great Commission Giving. By using that title it says that all other giving is not “Great Commission”. Not only that, but the task force has now defined Great Commission Giving as funds only going to Southern Baptist causes. Are they telling us that Samaritans Purse doesn’t do Great Commission Work? Are they telling us Project Angel Tree does not do Great Commission Work? Are they telling us that a local churches desire to fund the local soup kitchen is not Great Commission work? Great Commission Giving is defined by the GCRTF, which also goes against the Core Value of Local Church. By the GCRTF naming this offering they just said the Local Church that funds something outside of Great Commission Giving is failing in their responsibility to present the Gospel.

Brother, I know there are somethings we are at odds about in this report. However, I also know that this report is not going to cause either you or me to break fellowship. I plan to enjoy this convention with you and your family. Oh, did you get the kids registered as messengers? Because, I know that I can sway their votes. :)

Blessings,
Tim

Matt Brady

Tim,

Seriously, I thought it would be a great teaching experience for Lydia to be a messenger. Besides that, I know how she would vote :-), but alas, Beth persuaded me to wait. Besides, Lydia does so love the children’s conference each year.

As for your bolts of concern, I agree with all of them although I don’t see the fourth one as a major issue. I don’t see the point of the SBC keeping records of anything our churches give outside of SBC causes. Furthermore, some churches could give to less honorable causes than Samaritan’s Purse and count it as Great Commission Giving.

As for the linked article, I think I am still considered a younger pastor, and I am wholeheartedly in agreement with you. I tire of hearing how we must change so as to keep younger pastors happy or to keep left leaning pastors happy, or to not offend the winebibbers, or any other group. I always thought our goal was to please God. Is our goal simply to fill a broad tent with a large number of people or is it to build a house that is pleasing to God and allow Him to give the increase whether great or small?

I greatly empathize with the brother you mentioned who was giving straight to Nashville with a desire to support the SBC. The reporting of our giving ought to reflect his church’s sacrifice to the SBC level of the Cooperative Program as opposed to the giving to liberal causes which has been celebrated in our past reporting process. Those who give directly and sacrificialy to the SBC should not be treated as unwanted step children while those giving to causes that are outside the perameters of the BF&M are applauded. Granted, I have some reservations about the Great Commission Giving category, but I think the GCTF report, as a whole, has a lot of great recommendations that are a big step in the right direction.

Matt Brady

Tim,

I just realized I completely ignored your question about messengers voting their conscience. I think the messenger should always vote their own conscience rather than trying to guess what the will of the church might be. The church should be aware of this when they vote to send messengers and therefore should take heed in who they send.

Louis

There are so many things that could be said about this post and the comments.

First, I have long reminded folks that the SBC Consitution and Bylaws contain the only requirements for messengers and for those serving on committees. The BFM being the doctrinal confession comes right along with that. I am not for changing these things, formally or informally.

Second, the SBC has benefitted greatly from leaders whose CP giving was less than standard. Adrian Rogers and Bellevue are great examples. The CR would have never succeeded if a “CP only” mentality had ruled the day. The moderates tried using that, but the conservatives of that day were wise enough to avoid that kind of mentality.

Third, I agree that there would be some cases where a low giving percentage would indicate a lack of love for cooperating and the SBC. Cerainly we would not want people on committees and such who really had no affinity for the Convention. But can’t we separate such persons from churches whose budgets and histories might be different? A young church, for example, that has recently constructed a building. Wouldn’t it be normal for many, but not all, such churches to have budget challenges that other types of churches do not have? It seems to me that what we really ought to be against are people leading who really don’t love and are not invested in the SBC. We should not be against leadership from churches simply because their giving percentage is low. That, alone, is not the entire story.

Fourth, I agree that the SBC should not be counting gifts to non-SBC related ministries. I thought that the amendments to the report took care of that.

Fifth, the mandated allegiance to State Conventions is not possible in some states (as noted above) and is not logical anyway. Churches that give directly to the EC are not engaged in societal or designated giving. They are just giving directly and not through the State. We give that way. It’s not because we don’t like the State. But we do not like 65% of our money being taken by the state. I do not think it is appropriate or logical to punish a church that gives MORE to the SBC by giving directly to the SBC. Nashville has never chided us for sending our checks there, nor have they sent them back. And the SBC has benefitted because we give that way. But this is not counted as “CP giving.” My father in law asked why our church gave so little money. When I told him what we sent directly to Nashville, he understood.

I do not believe that the adoption or rejection of the report is the main thing. I believe that churches are going to continue to do what they are doing.

The question is whether the SBC is willing to acknowledge the variety of giving to SBC causes that exists in the convention or whether the SBC will try to coerce churches to certain giving patterns by restricting participation by those churches who give less or differently than others.

I do not think that this is a wise course. I believe it is better to lead by example and encouragement and listen to those who may have objections rather than to force churches to behave a certain way.

This may be what younger pastors are reacting to. Jimmy Draper traveled around the SBC trying to encourage young people to get involved in leadership. I believe that he did so because he saw a need. I believe that he was right in his perceptions.

I do not believe that the SBC acknowledging all gifts to the SBC, whether given through the states or otherwise, would be a good thing. It would not hurt the SBC. It will not destroy cooperative giving. It will only signal a willingness to acknowledge what people are doing that actually does benefit the SBC. The refusal to do that may communicate to others an unnecessary rigidity and desire to control that will not be attractive or helpful to cooperation, even though it may not be intended that way.

Thanks.

Louis

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