from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

Archive for the category “southern baptists”

Does It Matter What They Think?

Some interesting statistics from a recent study by LifeWay Research.  Not sure if the findings are good or bad.  Perhaps the most significant finding is this:

In fact, two-thirds of Americans are without strong feelings in regards to all the Christian faith groups included in the survey with a third or less either very favorable or very unfavorable to them.

What do you think?  You can read more about the study here.

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Leisure Suits in Church

I remember the 70s and my Dad’s leisure suits.  He had a brown one, and green one, a rust-colored one, an off-white one, a black, a royal blue one, and at least one navy one.  And the wild-print shirts that went with them…humm.  It was all very fashionable back then; he was one sharp-looking guy.

But that was then and this is now.  One day the leisure suit may come back in style, as most things do eventually, but so far they are still quite laughable to look at.  So are some of our methods of doing church in an attempt to spread the gospel.

Tony Morgan speaks to this issue in his book, The Leisure Suit Trap.

Some churches are still wearing their leisure suits…Though they may have had a season where their kingdom impact was expanding, things have slowed down or started to decline. They know something has to change, but many times they’re unwilling to change.

Morgan explains these churches may be a hundred years old or merely a few years established.  They defining factor is they are stuck in methods that no longer work to reach the people around them.  Maybe the demographics are their area has changed or just society in general.  Instead of changing their methods to reach through these changes, they keep waiting for people to change and come back to them.

It doesn’t work that way with fashion, business, or church.  And our mission is much too important to be so stubborn.

How Important is Theology?

Here’s a quote from an interesting article from Dan Reiland a couple of weeks ago – Arguing Theology.

If people are saying yes to Jesus, experiencing genuine spiritual conversion and changed lives are obvious, it’s hard to argue about that regardless of your theological bent or bias. If a church is leading people to Jesus and lives are changed based on biblical truth, I’m a fan of that church, regardless of their theology.

I don’t know if Reiland had any particular situations in mind when he wrote this.  It could be applied to some of the criticism given to certain popular Pastors and churches around the country.  It reminded me of an incident in my own denomination a few years back, so I might add that it also isn’t helpful to pull dedicated missionaries from the field because they have experienced spiritual things that don’t line-up with the denomination’s standard doctrine.

Pray for Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas

Image via Wikipedia

He pastors the largest church in America with an attendance pushing 50,000, twice that of the second largest church.  His TV broadcast is worldwide, and he continues to write one best-seller after another.  His influence is a force to be reckoned with.

He is also the most criticized preacher of our time.  My sympathies have gone out to him on many occasions.  He has since changed or better stated some views, but continues to speak irresponsibly.  I honestly believe he means well.  I do not think he is intentionally misleading thousands, perhaps millions, of people.  But there comes a time when one must be responsible in studying and understanding the Truths they preach.  “To whom much is given, much will be required.”

While those who have a clearer understanding of Christianity have an obligation to set the record straight, I wonder sometimes if they aren’t spending too much time being critical and not enough time praying for Osteen.

As stated above, this man has tremendous influence.  Continued criticism will come off like a critical spirit to many whether they support Osteen or not.  It is much like nagging, and nagging usually achieves the opposite results that one wants.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t rebut the inaccurate statements of Osteen or any others.  We just need to make sure we are praying twice as hard as we are criticizing.

All the criticizing in the world will not change Osteen or give him a better understanding of God’s word; only God can do that.  Address your concerns appropriately.

Southern Baptists Have a Vision Problem

Southern Baptist president Johnny Hunt spoke to the annual convention this week. Here are some excerpts from Christianpost.com

Titling his message “The State of the Southern Baptist Convention from Where I Sit,” Hunt cited a passage from Revelation and indicated that many have become apathetic, indifferent and have lost enthusiasm.

“You can walk to the pulpit, you can lead the music, you can teach a Sunday School class and the attitude is ‘I’ve been there and I’ve done that.’ There’s no tear in your eye, there’s no fire in your soul, and there’s no anticipation after delivery,” he said.

Unfortunately this is true of Southern Baptists and other denominations and churches. I’ve gone through my own personal crisis with it. What do we as the church do? How do we turn things around? How do we become real again?

Technical Thoughts on the Future Church

Cynthia Ware posted an article this week on “10 Challenges Facing the Church in Cyberspace.” Here are the ten points she lists.

  • Accept the Virtual World’s significance (MySpace [and Facebook are] the most visited site on the Internet)
  • View online expressions of Christianity as valuable extensions of real world faith
  • Embrace the opportunity for Church without borders (time, geography, etc.)
  • Welcome the presentation of God’s Word in the vernacular of current culture
  • Respond to the globalization of the planet with hope not cynicism
  • Develop and maintain an online presence purposefully populating cyberspace
  • Establish virtual outposts for evangelizing, preaching, equipping & training
  • Create interactive portals for experiencing Church (streaming media)
  • Practice spiritual disciplines in the global online conversation
  • Encourage strategic investment in the iGeneration
  • It is more challenging for some than others to think outside the box and our realm of knowledge, but in order to succeed, we must understand that we can’t always do things the same way we did them “back then.” Speaking from a Southern Baptist perspective, Sunday School, WMU, and organs are not biblical doctrines. There may, and perhaps has, come a time when better methods need to be used to fulfill the great commandment. Churches must not only accept this but embrace it or they will eventually die.

    A New Evangelism Method

    Mark 7:36 “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.” Several times Jesus told people he healed not to tell anyone. The result was always the same, summed up best here in v 36. What if we started doing this in church today? You know, telling everyone NOT to go out and tell people what God has done for them and how he saved them and turned their lives around? The Word would probably spread far and wide faster than ever. Hmm, I should write a book or at least package a new evangelism program for Southern Baptists.

    Southern Baptists Decline and Evangelize

    Southern Baptists have seen three consecutive years of declining baptisms, and 2007 had the lowest number in twenty years. Outgoing SBC President Frank Page stated at the annual meeting this week that the blame doesn’t fall on any particular group but on each individual person.

    Convention messengers, representing local SBC churches, are considering a 10-year evangelism initiative as a response to the decline in order to reach more for Christ. I haven’t seen what this initiative involves, and I certainly don’t mean to criticize it, but I wonder if we aren’t missing the point. We can talk about Christ and invite people to church until we are blue in the face, but if they don’t see Him in us, what’s the use?
    I agree completely with Page’s comments quoted at Christianpost.com

    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see every Southern Baptist church involved in intentional evangelism, soul-winning and yes, baptizing record numbers of persons?” Page posed. As many Southern Baptists have encouraged in recent years, Page called the denomination to a “Great Commission Resurgence.” And that will only occur when Southern Baptists “fall in love” with Jesus, who spoke the Great Commission – to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. “I believe then baptisms will begin to increase,” Page assured.

    Southern Baptists like every other denomination and non-denomination need repentance and genuineness, not another program.

    Varying Views of Homosexuality in the Church

    LifeWay Research just released results from survey conducted on in April on a sample size of 1,201 American adults. The study showed that 61 percent of Protestants believe homosexuality is sinful compared to 31 percent who don’t. Among born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Americans, 79 percent say it is sinful while 17 percent do not believe it is. Only 39 percent of Catholics called it a sin.

    LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer made the following comments to The Christian Post, “Seventeen percent in that latter category may seem low compared to the others, but considering these people consider themselves born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist.

    Perhaps the courts and continuing political arguments contribute to the differing views and confusion. The latest decision from California’s high court certainly doesn’t help churches in their approach to homosexuals. Kelly Boggs, columnist for the Baptist Press, writes, “Making something legal does not change its moral status.” You can read Kelly’s article on the California matter here.

    Ed Stetzer sums it up best in response to his survey findings, “it reminds us of the need for clear biblical teaching on the issue in our community. We need to strive to show the love of Christ, while upholding the standard of Scripture, to those who struggle with same-sex attraction.”

    Outgoing Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page recently spoke of his own feelings on how the church should handle this issue in a recent article in The Tennessean.

    While Page teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful, he also focuses on other sexual sins. If a couple comes to the church and is living together, the church insists the couple gets married before they can become members. And the church has gay people who attend, but are not members as well. Page says the church is not going to turn anyone away.

    “We have people that are living together, we have homosexuals who come here, and who are not joining, because they are loved and cared for and they hear the Gospel,” he said. “We say you are welcome here. Do we have some requirements for membership? Yes. We are not going to back off those. But if you don’t meet those or don’t want to meet those, we are still going to love you.”

    Of course, many will find offense with that response as well, because they want acceptance of their behavior as Boggs states. But we are not responsible for others’ responses to us. We are only responsible for our response to them, and that response must reflect Christ. A Christ who conversed with a sinful woman at a well, dined in the home of a thieving tax collector, and so on…

    Baptist’s Tongues Debate Continues

    Just in time for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind. on June 10-11, the issue of missionaries speaking in tongues publicly or privately has come up again. Here are excerpts from two articles in the Christian Post this week about a statement issued by a number of Southern Baptists urging the International Mission Board’s reconsideration of their current “guidelines” for missionary qualifications.

    Thirty-seven former Southern Baptist missionaries, former International Mission Board trustees and Southern Baptist pastors have signed a statement expressing their “strong” disagreement with a 2005 decision by the IMB trustees that ruled out the appointment of missionary candidates who practice speaking in tongues in public or a “prayer language” in private and who have not been baptized properly, according to the new guidelines.

    “We are alarmed at the reports of the rejection of otherwise worthy candidates and reports of individuals who will now not even bother to apply to their own denomination’s missions organization, lest these guidelines disqualify them,” the statement, which was released Monday, says. “We are dismayed that one of the results of the implementation of these guidelines is the loss of valuable, faithful IMB personnel.”

    “Let us as Southern Baptists not purposefully turn away any qualified worker who has heard and obeyed the call to ‘Go,'” the statement reads.

    The signatories argue that the International Mission Board’s guidelines for candidacy stray “far beyond the parameters” set by the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith – the Baptist Faith and Message.

    In 2005, the International Mission Board stirred debate when it adopted a policy that barred missionaries who practice private prayer language. The agency already had policies in place barring missionary candidates who practice public glossolalia (speaking in tongues) but went further to ban those who practice it in private. The adopted baptism guideline stated candidates must have been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone and the administrator of the baptism must believe in eternal security.

    Amid ongoing debates, IMB trustees revised the mission board’s policy in May 2007, terming it “guidelines” rather than “policies.” But the agency retained much of the original wording and reaffirmed the main provisions of the “guidelines.”

    Paul Chitwood of Kentucky, chairman of the trustees’ mission personnel committee, said “the rapid spread of neo-Pentecostalism and its pressure exacted on new churches in various regions of the world warrants a concern for the clear Baptist identity of our missionary candidates.” Read the entire article.

    “Many faithful brothers and sisters who are members of Southern Baptist churches differ on this issue as they seek to live out their lives in obedience to Christ,” the statement continues. “The Bible at no point raises this issue to a matter of primary doctrinal importance, thus it should not disqualify any godly missionary candidate for service with the International Mission Board.”

    Meanwhile, William L. (Bill) Wagner, a former Southern Baptist missionary who is also up for SBC president this year, doesn’t believe the trustees’ action was appropriate.

    “We have lost some wonderful missionaries because of this decision. We already have the Baptist Faith and Message document. It has served us well. We do not need to add to it,” Wagner recently told Baptist Press. “I know much about this action at the IMB, and I feel that there was too much political reasoning involved in the decision. We as Baptists need to put politics aside and get back to our main task of winning people and making them disciples.”

    Read the entire article here.

    Read the actual statement here.

    By coincidence, I suppose, another article this week in The Tennessean reported concerns by Southern Baptist Convention President, Frank Page of a decline in membership beginning in the denomination.

    Since being elected president in 2006, Page has urged Baptists to give up their political infighting and focus on their main mission of spreading the faith. To the media, he’s tried to help the convention present a kinder, gentler face. He’s also tried to stress the democratic nature of Southern Baptist life.

    Ed Stetzer, head of Southern Baptist affiliated LifeWay Research, says that growth rate has slowed in recent years.

    Now, he says, the convention has started a downhill slide. “If you look at the demographics, the trends are not positive,” Stetzer said.

    I’m afraid demographics may not be our only problem. I hate to think where we might be if we hadn’t had a president with Page’s goals the last two years. I understand Southern Baptists are a denomination with its own beliefs and doctrines. I understand the need to preserve those doctrines. But to what extent?

    While those issuing the statement commended the thousands of missionaries serving under the IMB, I wonder what restrictions like this will do to funding and applications. After all, there are more and more great mission organizations rising up every day. Will we decide to give our mission offerings and time to them instead?

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