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Baptist Distinctives Conference at SWBTS

What makes Baptists different from other Christians? Is there a uniquely "Baptist" vision for the Christian life? What are the distinctive convictions Baptists hold about the local church? Imporant questions, all. And to help us answer them, our friends at Southwestern Seminary are hosting their second annual Baptist Distinctives Conference in Fort Worth on September 29-30. The theme of this year's conference is "Maintaining the Integrity of the Local Church in a Seeker Sensitive World: The Baptist Perspective on Baptism, the Lord's Supper and Church Discipline." The conference will include a wide number of scholars from across Southern Baptist life. The following is a list of conference speakers and topics:

Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, "Regaining Meaningful Church Membership"

John Hammett, Southeastern Seminary, "Regenerate Church Membership"

David Allen, Southwestern Seminary, "The Proper Mode of Baptism"

Daniel Akin, Southeastern Seminary, "The Meaning of Baptism"

Stan Norman, New Orleans Seminary, "The Reestablishment of Proper Church Discipline"

Jason Lee, Southwestern Seminary, "Baptism and Covenant"

Gregory Wills, Southern Seminary, "The Historical Development and Loss of Discipline in Baptist Churches"

Malcolm Yarnell, Southwestern Seminary, "The Priesthood of the Believers"

Thomas White, Southwestern Seminary, "A Baptist Theology of the Lord's Supper"

Emir Caner, Southwestern Seminary, "The Lord's Supper: It's Participants and Relationship to Church Discipline"

In a day of theological confusion and doctrinal compromise, this conference promises to be a wake up call and perhaps the beginning of a needed course correction in Southern Baptist ecclesiology. For more information see the conference webpage here.

Did the Conservative Resurgence Go Too Far?

Anyone familiar with the events that have transpired over the last year in the SBC knows of Wade Burleson. He serves as a Southern Baptist pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. Also, he is an IMB trustee. If you were at the SBC in Greensboro, you would've heard him speak on a number of occasions from the floor.

Pastor Burleson also is an avid blogger (which is why he has become so well known). Recently, he reflected on his actions and many others' actions during the Conservative Resurgence. He talks about how we should think of and treat those who are commonly labeled "moderate" or "liberal". As you read his argument (which I'll link to below), unfortunately, you'll notice a scary similarity to the arguments used by liberals to try to convince Southern Baptists that the Conservative Resurgence was wrong. To say the least, this has caused quite a stir on the blogosphere. And rightly so.

As Southern Baptists it is crucial that we understand the thinking of those who we put in leadership positions. Thankfully, Burleson is honest, something that couldn't always be said throughout the 70s and 80s of our leaders. Unfortunately, I believe, he is in dangerous territory. 

I don't want to get too lengthy here, just want to bring it to your attention. If you want to hear fuller treatments, check out Nathan Finn's other blog at

  http://nathanfinn.blogspot.com/

or Scott Lamb's blog at

http://www.thoughtsandadventures.com/

But it's best if you read Burleson's words first. You can find them here

http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/2006/08/back-to-past-for-map-of-future.html

Live Strong, Lance Armstrong

What do I have in common with Lance Armstrong? He's an international celebrity, a champion bicyclist, and a world-renowned philanthropist who has devoted his resources and his fame to fighting cancer, a cause most closely associated with the yellow "Live Strong" bracelets. And he's an atheist who has rather publicly ridiculed the Christian faith. I'm a Southern Baptist seminary student. But for a few days this summer I found myself with Lance (and 15,000 other bikers) bicycling across Iowa. For seven days, there we were: a group of rookies, some seasoned veterans, and one superstar.

It might be hard to imagine the excitement of riding alongside Lance Armstrong. Just imagine playing basketball with Michael Jordan. When my brother and I saw Lance Armstrong coming up behind us, we couldn't believe we were tearing through the Iowa countryside side-by-side with the man himself.

I didn't want to ruin the moment by saying something dumb. So we enjoyed a brief moment of silence. But I couldn't help myself. Caleb and I engaged Armstrong in some conversation: about the goodness of pie and homemade ice cream, about how much we appreciate his work against cancer since we lost a grandfather to it, about what keeps him going in his athletic pursuits.

We asked Lance Armstrong if he is a Christian and he told us no. We shared the gospel with him and told him that, as Christians, we're on board with his fight against cancer. We told him that we're not just against certain manifestations of death, but the whole thing. Since Jesus has overcome death in all of its ugly wholeness, we're all about taking on death itself.

I'd like to tell you that our witness about Jesus knocked Lance off his bike, like Paul on the way to Damascus. I'd like to tell you that he prayed to receive Christ and is now applying to Southern Seminary to study for the pastorate. But the story's not that dramatic. Lance didn't respond in repentance and faith. He graciously dismissed us. He may not have listened to the gospel, but what happened next sure turned my attention more closely to it.

After riding a little farther with him, my brother and I passed on ahead of Armstrong and the pack, opening up some highly coveted positions next to the superstar for other riders. As it happened, we were entering the town of Victor, Iowa. They were expecting Lance Armstrong. The streets were overflowing with spectators yelling Armstrong's name or "Live Strong," clapping, taking pictures, the whole deal. Yellow wristbands and shirts were as many as there were bikes. Lance was about 20 feet behind my brother and I and he was closing in on us. About midway through the town, he passed us for good. He and the "Live Strong" mob went on their way. My brother and I just looked at each other and laughed, as if to say, "What a crazy day."

Right then something struck me. It was kind of like when you're driving with your window down and you smell something that reminds you of a time of the year, an experience you had as a child, or something like that. The memory has a realness that almost overwhelms you. But the "memory" that struck me that day didn't come from a smell. It was from an event. And it didn't remind me of a past event. Strangely enough, it "reminded" me of an event still in the future, an event someone once wrote about.

The Apostle Paul wrote about a day that is coming when Jesus, the victorious warrior king, will return in triumph to this galaxy. Paul draws on an ancient pattern of a conquering king who returns from battle to his people waiting for him, cheering, outside the walls of the city, eager to march in with him in glory. Paul writes that all of us in Christ, living or dead, will rise to meet our heroic Messiah in the air (1 Thess 4:17). And we will march back into a new creation for a great celebration (Rev 21-22).

As I rode along, I realized how limited, by comparison, Lance Armstrong's celebration was. It is limited, ultimately, by death. Many of those cheering for Lance Armstrong will have their cheers silenced one day by cancer. All of us will have our jubilations interrupted by death. A yellow "Live Strong" bracelet can't ward it off.

I shared the gospel with Lance Armstrong as much as I could at the time, huffing along on a bicycle. I hope one day he sees it more clearly than I could say it. The day is coming when no one will be cheering for Lance. They'll be cheering for Someone Else, One who isn't on a bicycle but on a white horse. One day cancer will be defeated, not by yellow bracelets but by pierced hands and feet. Nobody will be cheering for Lance Armstrong on that day, but I hope he's there to cheer for King Jesus. I hope he hears and believes a gospel that is the only really good news. I hope he learns how to "Live Strong," with a life that is stronger than death.

Self-Promotion and the Name of Christ

Do you want your name to be known? Are you pursuing a ministry that you hope will result in the recognition of your name by many? Or, at the very least, do you think that those whose names are written in Christianity's lights, are the most successful? This, no doubt, is a temptation that we all face. Sure, we'd like to think that our intentions to promote the name of Christ are single and pure. But have you ever thought that the recognition that you might receive will result in a greater breadth of ministry? I have.

Recently, I found myself in a situation in which I was reminded of the large numbers of Christians who believe just the opposite. I mentioned the name of one of these people in public document and had to be told to remove it. This was strange to me. It was strange to me to find a person who was not taken in the very least with the opportunity to receive recognition. It was strange to me to see a man who so wanted the name of Christ to be known that he didn't want any mention of his name to hinder that work.

This man is not alone. Right now, all around the globe, there are people who know that if their name is ever recognized in the public sphere, then their ministry and lives are in danger of coming to an end. I'm talking about those serving overseas in regions that cannot be named. These people aren't impressed by titles. In fact, they've reduced their title down to a letter, the letter "m". These saints are so committed to the name of Jesus being known and delighted in among all the nations, that they fear any mention of their name in relation to their work.

This way of life isn't new. Millenia ago, the Apostle Paul informed a struggling church that he was not a superstar Apostle. Rather, he and his followers were "like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things" (1 Cor. 6:13).

Unfortunately, the desire for fame is not new either. Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his day because they gave into the great temptation to delight "in the place of honor" in their culture (Matt. 23:6). Have you ever found yourself secretly enjoying the sight or thought of your name written or announced in papers or from pulpits across America?

If you have, I hope that you will join me in repentance. If you haven't, I pray that you will continue to fight this sinful inclination. Let us be careful to cultivate a longing for the name of Jesus to be lifted high and desire for our names to be put in their proper place. Let us thank God not only for those whose names we know very well, but also for those whose names we will never hear of or read about. Brothers and sisters, let us be a people who are willing to join the Apostle Paul and many today who have become "like the scum of the world" (1 Cor. 4:13). That's not going to fill football stadiums. But then again, we're not looking to fill football stadiums for our praise. We're looking forward to a new creation filled with the knowledge of God like the waters cover the sea. And when this happens, the knowledge of one name will matter, Jesus Christ is Lord.

If you've struggled with this or are struggling with this, what are some ways that you fight this and fight for the name of Christ? How do you cultivate this in your congregations and your homes so that if you were to disappear, your loved ones' focus on the name of Christ would be rock solid?   

Southern Baptist Mistake?

What do you think about the events that took place at the SBC this year? In June, you could find answers to this question all over the blogosphere, state papers, and so forth. Some answers were insightful. Others were not. Here in August, you'd be hard pressed to find much on this topic. Fortunately for us, Southern Baptist pastor Dr. Mark Dever is still giving attention to the events that took place in Greensboro. It may surprise you to learn that he's not speaking about SBC hot topics like alcohol, baptism, or private prayer languages. Instead, he's speaking about the importance of regenerate church memebership. Why this issue? Well, to put it simply, it was an issue that was dealt with on the floor of the SBC. And, Dr. Dever argues, it was delt with poorly. Check out his commentary and let us know what you think. Did the SBC miss this one? Has Dever overstated the situation? Why or why not? What do you think we should do about it? This subject is too important to neglect. Hope to hear from you soon. You can find his comments here:

http://blog.togetherforthegospel.org/

Here's a little preview. Dever writes:

"Of course there are hypocrites in the church, but they shouldn't be there with our approval. We should ourselves be constant repenters and trusters in Christ. We should not aid unrepenting sinners in their own delusions of being saved."

Are Southern Baptists Evangelicals? Part 2: Confession is Good for the Soul

I read one time in Guideposts that confession is good for the soul. So here goes: I am not prepared to finish this series of posts as it presently stands. I thought I could present a reasonable answer to this question in a couple of posts, but I was wrong. The issue is too big. The terms of debate are too complicated. I have been wrestling with this question for 2-3 years. Some have been wrestling with it their whole careers. So rather than attempt to dazzle everyone with a couple of slam-dunk posts, I am going to have to simply post my thoughts on this question from time to time. In other words, I am admitting I bit off more than I can chew and am now approaching this question from a different angle.

To review, I noted in my first post that I did not believe Southern Baptists were Evangelicals, at least in the sense of being a formal part of any interdenominational parachurch movement. I stand by that. But I also indicated, especially in my interaction with commenters, that I do think there is another sense in which Southern Baptists are Evangelicals. Actually, evangelicals with a "little e." Let me explain.

An evangelical is a born-again Christian who has a high view of Scripture, has an historic understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ and has a missionary understanding of the Christian faith. By this definition, almost all Southern Baptists are evangelicals, even though I do not believe the SBC is Evangelical. In fact, there are many evangelicals who are not Evangelicals. Sadly, there are a growing number of Evangelicals who are not evangelical. There are also some Baptists who are not Baptists, many Methodists who are not Methodists and a multitude of Episcopals who are not Episcopals. There are even some Catholics who are not really Catholics. Confused yet? That's all I am going to say for now, though I hope it sparks some interest for future discussion.

Now, let me explain where I am going in future posts. I am changing the title of the series to "Southern Baptists and Evangelicals," and will attempt to demonstrate what we are, what we are not and, Lord willing, what we ought to be.I will elaborate on this theme with a combination of personal reflections, scholarly interaction and case studies from real life. I will also try to alert readers to others who are weighing in on this question, as I did last week with the link to Malcolm Yarnell's recent article. We will talk about many groups besides Baptists, but our goal will be to better understand who we are (and ought to be) as Baptists. 

I appreciate your patience, and I hope that the Lord will use this ongoing discussion to bring clarity to a very fuzzy (and critically important) issue. 

  

Upcoming Preaching Conference at SEBTS

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will host their Proclaim preaching conference for pastors on October 17th.  The theme for the conference is Between Two Worlds: The Text and The Pew.  Featured speakers for the event include Dr. Jerry Vines, Pastor Emeritus of FBC Jacksonville and two-time SBC President (1988-89), and Dr. Danny Akin, president of SEBTS.  These men will address exciting topics such as, "Preaching With Authority in an Anti-Authoritarian World," "The Poetics of Preaching: Using Language and Imagery To Communicate God's Word," and "The Future of Expository Preaching: Emerging or Enduring?"  This conference promises to give helpful instruction, encouragement, and refreshment for those who "set (their) heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules." (Ezra 7.10)

Additional information and registration can be found online at www.sebts.edu/proclaim.  If you are in the Raleigh/Wake Forest area in October or can make the trek, I look forward to seeing you that we may grow in our calling to communicate God's timeless truth in our ever-changing world.  The cost, covering lunch and conference materials, is $25 and the deadline for registration is Oct. 6th.

Maddy Is Home!

First Family PhotoMaddy Akin arrived home two weeks to the day she was born. She left the hospital at a whopping 3 pounds 8 ounces! I want to thank everyone who encouaraged and prayed for us during this time. Even as we learn to care for someone who is completely helpless and dependent upon us, we also were reminded of how helpless we are and in need of God's help. He has been, is, and always will be our helper. God tells his people, "Listen to Me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you and I will carry you; I will bear and save you" (Isa. 46:3-4). God carries us from birth to old age to death and even to resurrection. He bears us. He acts on behalf of the helpless. Thanks so much for the prayers.

Jon, Ash, and Maddy Akin

The Current State of Southern Baptist Preaching

Alan Bandy and Michael Bryant over at The Pastor as Theologian are committed to providing pastors with resources to help them bridge the gap between scholarship and ministry, especially in their pulpit ministries. One of the features of the blog is interviews with SBC pastors and educators on the current state of Southern Baptist preaching. Recent interviews include Dr. David Allen, Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching and George W. Truett Chair of Ministry at Southwestern Seminary and Rev. Ben Brammer, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC and Ph.D. student in preaching at Southeastern Seminary. The Allen interview can be found here and here, while the Brammer interview can be found here and here.

More Blog Entries Coming!

Just wanted to let our readers know that they can expect more consistency on the blog in the days ahead. Many of our writers have been out of pocket, traveling all over the place. Well, we're back and we are ready to get on our computers and help provide a helpful witness to Southern Baptist life and thinking. I would like to thank Nathan Finn, Jason Fowler, and Jon Akin for doing a great job in carrying the load while the slackers, like myself, were gone. Look forward to the days with you ahead!