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What Does it Mean to be a Missions-Minded Southern Baptist Church?

What does it mean to be a missions-minded Southern Baptist pastor or church? I think this is an important question, and several events over the past six months or so have set me to pondering this issue. First has been the renewed emphasis on global missions at Southeastern, where our mission statement claims that "Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission." Our unofficial motto has become "every classroom a Great Commission classroom." A zeal for the nations is evident among our students, faculty, and staff, even those who do not feel a specific calling to be career or long-term missionaries. I doubt we are the only SBC seminary characterized by a passion for the Great Commission. So what do/will the churches led by these students and attended by these faculty and staff look like?

Another reason I have been pondering this question is because of the ever-increasing emphasis on being "Great Commission churches." This emphasis comes in many forms. The International Mission Board has a variety of programs that allow individual churches to partner with specific missionaries or "adopt" an unreached people group. The missional movement, both within the SBC and in other forms, has strongly emphasized the need for cross-cultural missions, both internationally and in North America. In those circles where John Piper has influence, he modeled one way of being an American pastor with a heart for the nations, particularly through his popular book Let the Nations Be Glad! And, of course, churches of many shapes, sizes, and theological convictions are not participating in short-term mission trips to other countries.

A third reason I wonder about this is because I sense the definition is changing from what it has historically meant to be a missions-minded SBC church. To put it bluntly, it seems no longer enough to simply pray for missionaries and give generously to the Cooperative Program. But that is exactly what it meant to be a missions-minded SBC church even a generation ago. Two examples will suffice.

Example one: In John Burton's biography of long-time FBC Dallas pastor George W. Truett, the final chapter is titled "The Preacher and Missions." The chapter is a thirteen page recounting of all the ways Truett led his church to give money for missionary causes, particularly the Seventy-Five Million Campaign and the Cooperative Program. It ends by talking about the role Truett played in building the denomination. In a chapter about missions. For the author, denomination-building and being missions-minded were two sides of the same coin. It is no coincidence that Burton wrote the biography in 1946, when the SBC was just entering into a fifteen-year period where programming, efficiency, and financial support replaced doctrinal convictions as the heart of Southern Baptist identity. [See Joe W. Burton, Prince of the Pulpit: A Pen Picture of George W. Truett at Work (Zondervan, 1946), pp. 69-82.]

Example two: Back in the spring I gave a talk at FBC Durham on the history of mission involvement at our church. I spent some time poking around in the church archives, and I came to several conclusions. First, for FBC Durham, until about 30 years ago the primary way we participated in missions was through giving to the Cooperative Program. Second, the primary way we connected with missions was through the teaching and prayer emphasis of the church's Woman's Missionary Union (WMU). Third, with the exception of a handful of church members who became career missionaries, from 1845 to 1977 our church had almost no experience with the actual practice of missions. Finally, that began to change in 1977 when our church called a former missionary to be pastor. He led the church to engage in short-term trips, initially to the Caribbean. In the last thirty years, two of our church's four pastors had international missionary experience prior to assuming the pastorate (including our current pastor, Andy Davis) and the church has participated in literally dozens of mission trips, including seven or eight this year. What it means to be a missions-minded SBC church has changed for FBC Durham; though we still give liberally to the CP and to other mission endeavors, that is no longer considered enough. We actually do missions now. I suspect other churches share this testimony.

So back to my initial question: what does it mean in 2007 for a Southern Baptist church or pastor to be missions-minded? What is the best way to measure a church's commitment to taking the gospel to the nations? Is it still financial giving, either through the denomination or through other means? Is it still having programs like WMU? Is it still through praying regularly for missionaries? Is it critical–perhaps even mandatory–to actually participate in short-term mission trips? What about identifying and cultivating potential career or long-term missionaries from within the body? How do we know our churches are doing all that they can to facilitate the spreading of the gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation?

And here's the money question: how much of our missions-mindedness ought to be tied to denominational programs?

I am itching to hear your thoughts. 

Mother Teresa: Atheist or Simply Agonized?

I've often heard people joke about how we can't be sure if anyone is saved…except, of course, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Nobel Peace Prize award winner for her work among the poor, downtrodden and orphaned children of the world.

However, there has been some doubt cast as to her beliefs over the past couple of days as some of her letters have surfaced in the public sphere. Among some of the words that she wrote about God and Jesus and her life in general:

""Where is my faith?"

"Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. … If there be God — please forgive me."

"Such deep longing for God… repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal."

"What do I labor for?"

"If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true."

When one reads some of the writings of the Bible there are examples of men of the faith casting dobut upon God, but does doubt imply un-belief?

Also, to what extent does Mother Teresa's Catholic belief influence her ideas about God, justification, and even santification? 


Samson I remember having a conversation with my brothers and a friend of theirs in which the subject of Samson's salvation came up. Their friend exclaimed, "I don't even know if that guy was regenerate!" Of course Samson broke his Nazarite vow on several occasions, made multiple rendezvous with pagan women, cohabited with one, and committed suicide in some vain attempt to take vengeance on the Philistines for "one of his two eyes" that they had put out. Not to mention this guy's temper was out of control! Samson was the Israelite equivalent of William Wallace crossed with Hugh Hefner. So the question comes, "Is he saved? Or is he an Israelite Jihadist suicide bomber?"

 Hebrews 11 says that Samson is a hero of the faith. He was a champion in Israel who pointed us forward to the Champion Jesus Christ! In Samson's day God gave Israel over to the Philistines because of their compromise with the surrounding culture! In the midst of all of this national chaos and strife God focuses His Story on a barren couple, Manoah and his wife. The Angel of the Lord announces a miracle birth to them and says the child will begin to deliver Israel. Samson is born, grows, and it is clear that God is with him. He is anointed with the Holy Spirit. This doesn't mean that he is ready for a TV preaching ministry. Anointing from the Holy Spirit means war! He is a warrior who accomplishes mighty things: rips a lion to shreds with his bare hands, kills 30 Philistines, etc. Yet, all of these mighty things are tainted by his compromise with the enemy culture and its women.

 In spite of the failures in Samson's life he does point us forward to the Great Deliverer. God would deliver his people through 1 man! There was another man whose miraculous birth was foretold by an Angel. There was another man anointed by the Spirit who took on the enemies of God. There was another man betrayed by his own people and given over to pagan oppressors because His countrymen were so at ease with the foreign culture. There was another man whose close companion betrayed him with a kiss for silver. There was another man who was arrested, not blinded, but blindfolded, and made sport of. There was another man who was humiliated by his enemies. There was another man who looked forsaken by God and defeated by His enemies. There was another man whose death crushed the head of His enemies (and ours!)! This man did not suffer for his own sins as Samson did, but for the sins of the world. This man's name is Jesus of Nazareth. He gained a greater victory in His death than he did in his life. Jesus' prayer was the same as Samson's, "Remember me!" God heard that prayer and pulled his Son out of death, crushing the enemies and freeing his oppressed people from bondage to sin. Samson's deliverance pales in comparison to Jesus' deliverance of His people.

 The question comes, "Was Samson a suicide bomber?" No! Did he die deliberately? Yes. He died in the same way a soldier sacrifices himself to gain a victory. This determination points forward to a greater sacrifice, where Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem, determined to go and suffocate to death on a cross to free His people! He said, "No one takes my life from me. I lay it down!" That is warfare. That is a Jihad. This Jihadist does not take the life of innocents. This Jihadist stood in the place of the guilty as the only innocent and drowned so they could be acquitted!

 My brothers' friend stood in amazement with a smile on his face when I told him that Samson was a type of the warrior-savior, Jesus Christ. I stood their in amazement too. I was amazed that sinners like Jon, Paul, Eric, and Samson can hear the words "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I was amazed that someone went to war for us. He was no Hugh Hefner Braveheart with face-paint on. His face was covered in blood! 

Jon Akin 


Global Missions

Global missions stands at the heart of what it means to be a Southern Baptist. It does not look like that’s going to change anytime soon. However, the unanswered question for our generation concerning the mission of God is: How great, and with what intensity, will the Spirit of God blow through our churches, seminaries, and our own hearts to accomplish his purposes among the nations? 

Baptist heroes such as William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Charles Spurgeon challenged people to reflect on the statement, “The question is not ‘Should I go?’ but ‘How can I stay?’” I would ask the readers of this blog to join me in asking the same question with serious prayer and sober reflection. With over six billion people spread across the globe and the vast majority of those in an area with little or no gospel influence, we must consistently consider and reconsider how we are fulfilling Christ’s command to reach the nations.

The students at SEBTS (at least those in chapel) have been encouraged and challenged to consider the joyful mandate Christ places on his disciples in the Great Commission. Please listen to the two missions sermons delivered in chapel this week by Dr. Danny Akin and Dr. Bruce Ashford. Dr. Akin preached on the Great Commission with insights from the life of William Carey. Dr. Ashford challenged hearers from Romans 1:14-17. The sermons are here.

What practical ways can we challenge people to consider the cause of global missions? Is it passing on a sermon like these? Is it giving them a copy of Elisabeth Elliot's Through Gates of Splendor or John Piper's Let the Nations Be Glad!? Is it one on one conversations, asking each other the hard questions of discipleship? Questions like, "Are you willing to live 20,000 miles from home?" "Where is your home?" "What is keeping you here?" "Are you fully surrendered to the Lord's will for your life?" There is joy set before those who put their yes on God's table. I pray that includes us. May God’s Spirit grant us repentance and a great infusion of missionary zeal in the days ahead.

Baptist Distinctives Series at Southwestern

The FamilyAs the beginning of the semester at Southwestern Seminary quickly approaches (classes start Thursday), I wanted to plug an upcoming conference at Southwestern. The third installment of the Baptist Distinctives Series is "The Family: Reclaiming a Biblical View of the Family, Womanhood & Manhood." The conference will take place Sept. 13-14 at Southwestern's Smith Center for Leadership Development. Plenary speakers include Paige and Dorothy Patterson, Russell Moore, Tom Elliff, Richard Land, and Mark Liederbach. There will also be ten other speakers leading breakout sessions.

Registration, schedule, and more information is available online at www.swbts.edu/thefamily. Overnight accommodations are also available at the Smith Center.

Should Baptists Require Baptism for Church Membership?

An overwhelming majority of Baptists throughout Baptist history have answered Yes. With the clear command of Jesus Christ and the Apostles to be baptized, the examples of Christ, the Apostles, and the early church, and the fact that there is no Biblical teaching on infant baptism, it is not hard to see how Baptists came to require baptism for church membership. 

And yet, there remain a few Baptists who argue to the contrary. Abraham Piper is one of these.  This morning, he interacted a little with this issue at the Desiring God blog. Abraham is the son of well known pastor-theologian John Piper, who holds to the exact same position. The senior Piper's thoughts on the issue can be found here. 

Abraham's blog primarily interacts with a recent blog written by Southern Baptist pastor-theologian Mark Dever. Dever argues that baptism should be a requirement for church membership. Those, Dever states, that have not been baptized  He says 

"Because Jesus clearly commanded baptism and to disobey this command is sin [whether intentional or not].  To continue in such an unbaptized state is unrepentant sin [whether intentional or not].  Thus, no careful paedo-baptist will follow John P's apparent "generosity" about membership.  That is, they will never knowingly admit someone to the Lord's Table that they understand to be unbaptized (even if they took that evangelical Quaker or believing Salvationist to be their brother or sister in Christ)." 

Like many Baptists who have gone before him, Dever writes 

"I simply don't want to take the responsibility to so disregard Jesus' commands (not that John P intends to in anyway disregard Jesus' commands).  I especially don't want to do this in what has been an area of relatively unanimous Christian agreement from Jesus til now".

Abraham Piper disagrees. He takes issue with Dever’s distinction between intentional and unintentional sin.  Using 1 John 3:8, Piper argues that people who continue in sin, whether intentional or unintentional, are lost. So, he continues, churches should not treat people unbaptized people as unrepentant sinners, as lost people. Rather, they should simply acknowledge that they are wrong and welcome them into the church membership. He writes

"But being wrong and being an unrepentant sinner are not the same. If they were, everybody with an imperfect theology (all of us) would be lost. But instead of going to hell, a believer can come before God with humility and repentance and say, "I'm weak-minded and fallible. I'm sorry that I do not understand you like I should. Please help me to know you more." And after this, he may still believe in infant baptism. Not because he's unrepentant, but because he's fallible".

What do you guys think? I think Piper’s rejection of Dever’s distinction between intentional and unintentional sin misses the mark. In fact, the distinction that Piper makes between being unrepentant towards a command of Christ and just wrong about the command of Christ seems to be a lot harder to swallow than Dever’s distinction. Disobedience to a command, whether intentional or not, is sin. Now, as Dever mentioned, the Scriptures teach that unintentional sins do not incur as strict a judgment. Nevertheless, they incur judgment

This issue isn’t going away. Hopefully though, as the discussion continues, the church will gain a more carefully articulated understanding of church membership. Hopefully. 

On Broken Hearts and Baptist Blogs

Like many readers, I appreciate Evan sharing his (broken) heart with the rest of us yesterday. Blogging can be a sickening thing, and it often is in the SBC. In fact, as a blogger my fear is that blogging as a medium for ministry will be judged worthless by the great majority of Southern Baptists because of the recklessness of a relative few. I keep hoping that the growing number of relevent, insightful, edifying blogs among Southern Baptists will make a helpful contribution to SBC culture. I just hope that the approach of the few has not already permanently poisoned the pot for the many. But I digress.

Several months ago I posted some thoughts on blogging as part of my series Some Possible Solutions for What Ails the SBC. I thought that, in light of Evan's challenging post, I would reprint that material here. The following was originally posted in the fall of 2006. I have made some editorial revisions and a couple of expansions for this post, but the substance of the original post remains unchanged.

Time for a confession: I don’t like bloggers that much. Oh, I like people that blog, even many with whom I disagree. But the culture of blogging in the SBC bugs me. So I realize that I am about to irritate a bunch of people, but here goes anyway—I have several suggestions for bloggers, and no, I will not name names (frankly, because we all fall into this trap sometimes—I am the chief of blog sinners):

A. Bloggers need to regularly pray about their blogs. Pray that God will help you to blog with integrity. Pray that God will bring sinful motives to light. Pray that God will use your blog for his glory.

B. Bloggers need not assume they are smarter or godlier because they are more tech-savvy or can turn a phrase. There is an arrogance that can easily accompany blogging. Because of the temptation to pride, we need to remember that we bloggers are, after all, each of us remarkably unimportant people who now have somewhat wide audiences because we have a gift for regularly putting words up on a screen. But this ingenuity should not be confused with wisdom (especially of the godly kind), at least not across the board. Sometimes opinions are just opinions, and while they matter to you and people like you (or me), they really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

C. Bloggers need to guard against negativity, and yes, I am preaching to myself. For some reason, cynical people are drawn to blogging. It is important that blogging not be used by the enemy to feed our sinful predispositions and make us uglier versions of our already sinful selves.

D. Bloggers need to admit that Bobby Welch is right, even if they do not like him, FAITH, bus tours, or his criticism of blogger culture. Bloggers need to not let their hobby take the place of things that really matter, which includes personal evangelism. I am not claiming that ANY blogger is not evangelistic enough—that’s between the blogger and God. What I am claiming is that blogging can consume one’s life and detract from the things that really matter, like family, church, job, and yes, sharing the gospel with non-Christians. So let’s just be careful and not dismiss those who do not blog when they try to keep us honest about the things that are really important in life.

E. Bloggers need to remember that sometimes the better part of wisdom is not posting about everything you know. Or think you know. Or want people to think you know.

F. Bloggers need to remember that if this little revolution ever becomes about SBC political power, they will become the very thing they gripe about the most: a power base. If any blogger is hoping that his blog will ultimately elevate him to a position of prominence, then I pray God would bless him with a burden to want to be something besides Southern Baptist—and I mean that for both dissenting bloggers and thoughtless toadies of current SBC leadership. If you think blogging is your ticket, then I hope it’s a ticket to Mars.

G. Bloggers need to remember that blogging communities are only pseudo-communities; as fun as it is to dialog in the comments, real community can only exist in real, face-to-face relationships. I met Bart Barber and Marty Duren at the SBC. I have spoken to Wade Burleson three times, once briefly in person. I have spoken to Ben Cole once. I have had a couple of conversations with Tom Ascol. I have never formally met Jeremy Green, Art Rogers, Les Puryear, Dorcas Hawker, Tim Rogers, Kevin Bussey, Timmy Brister, Wes Kenney, Peter Lumpkins, Micah Fries, or even my fellow blogmate at SBC Witness, Jedidiah Coppenger. I have no clue who SWBTS Underground is. I have never met C. B. Scott, though we have several mutual friends. Brad Reynolds is a colleague, but we have only ever talked a couple of times in person, both briefly. In fact, the only bloggers who I can claim to really know in any meaningful sense are my other buddies at Witness, Alvin Reid, a couple of professors and administrators at other schools, and a handful of SEBTS student bloggers. I say all that to say, I only have a real friendship with the folks at the end of the list. There are things I appreciate about all of the other folks—even the ones I disagree with—but they are not real friends. Maybe one day they can be, but only when we really get to know each other, which requires a context besides a weblog and an email exchange. So let’s never confuse blog relationships with real friendships. Even better, let’s pray that many of our blog relationships will one day become real friendships. [Note: I have met some of these bloggers in person since I wrote this nine months ago, and would count one or two more of the above-mentioned bloggers as friends].

H. Bloggers need to remember that change will only come to the convention as local churches change. Even the most influential blogs ultimately play a small role in convention life. Our convention is only as strong or weak as our churches, so while we should pray God uses our blogs for his purposes, let’s remember that whatever he does among us will ultimately need to take root in the hearts of the people in the pews.

I. Bloggers need to be willing to quit. I actually did it once—I blogged from December 2003 to February of this year, then pulled the plug before starting fresh in June. The break was good for both my soul and my time management skills! There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t think about pulling the plug, not because I don’t like to blog, but because I like it too much. It is so easy to slip into the trap of believing that my *real* ministry—the one that has the biggest following—is the weblog. God forbid. I think this is a healthy tension to live in—to blog or not to blog—and I hope the Lord will use it to help me keep this little hobby of mine in proper perspective.

My Heart Is Breaking: Blogging and the SBC

I wrote an email to a friend of mine the other day stating that I was becoming a little discouraged over the attention that several SBC issues were receiving in the national media. He responded by assuring me that God was in control, and He would work things out in time. Then I read some of the various blogs that I track on a daily basis. The result is that I am no longer discouraged—my heart is now breaking.

I am certainly not an emotional person, and rarely do I get "worked up" about anything—good or bad. The current situation in the blogosphere, however, has really gotten under my skin. I read entries and comments demanding this and that from various people whom the writers do not know. I read accusations and innuendo regarding the motives of professing Christians that would make a "bar-hopping, wife-abusing, pagan ne’er-do-well" blush. I see misstatements, overstatements, understatements and everything in between that are used to push any number of agendas, perspectives, opinions, and the like.

The overall result of all this "in-house" bickering is that the name of our Lord is being slandered. Look at the media—they are eating this up. Every time a fellow believer publicly ridicules another, they jump at the opportunity to spread it across the AP newswire. The fact of the matter is that if someone looked hard enough at any of our lives, something would most certainly be found to give cause for embarrassment and/or heartache. The problem is that we have forgotten what it means to talk to each other. Posting a blog entry calling for answers or calling the local news reporter to share a "juicy tidbit" does not count as working out our problems as fellow believers. We are so focused on our own demands that we forget to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil 2:3–4).

Is the Southern Baptist Convention perfect? No. Are Southern Baptist churches perfect? Not a chance. Are the leaders and pastors within the convention and churches perfect? No way. Am I perfect? Not hardly. Are you perfect? Perhaps closer than me, but what difference does one step up on the depravity scale really make when you see that we are both at the bottom?

Here is my solution for what is ailing the SBC and our churches, and it has nothing to do with making demands, calling motives into question, or seeking answers. This is a four-part solution:

1. Be humble—"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time." (1 Pet 5:6)

2. Live out your imputed righteousness—"Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:6–8)

3. Love one another—"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." (Rom 12:9–10)

4. Serve one another—"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." (Gal 5:13–15)

My heart is breaking over these issues because we are apparently unable to handle our problems as Christian brothers and sisters. Brennan Manning is quoted as saying, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." I find it unbelievable that we would publicly humiliate one another with no concern for the cause of Christ. Blogs have certainly raised the level of information access in this world, but they should also raise the level of personal responsibility for the bloggers. When we post something, it is not simply available to our friends and family, or even our Christian family—it is available for the world. We need to remember that.

I leave you with a few more words from the Apostle Paul: "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:1–3). Let us heed the inspired words of our Lord—He gave them to us for a reason.

Convergent Conference

markComing up in September Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will be hosting The 2007 Convergent Conference. Pastor Mark Driscoll will be one of the featured speakers. He has recently blogged about this event and playfully added that he will not be "drinking, cussing, or sprinkling babies and calling it baptism". He has expressed his gratefulness for this opportunity and his hopes to honor Christ with his message. The event description can be found here. I am eagerly waiting for this event and am especially looking forward to hearing Pastor Driscoll. Event Registration ends September 7th.

Dr. Rainer (pt. 2)

LogoDr. Rainer addresses some of the issues facing the SBC, offers advice to young ministers, and weighs in on the new look Crimson Tide.


SBW: What is the most pressing issue facing the Southern Baptist Convention?


Simply stated, the SBC is in danger of dying. Our baptisms have not increased appreciably since 1950, even though we have more than twice as many members today. We must have a passion for doctrine. We must be relevant. And we must repent of our sins of evangelistic apathy. I am praying that God will break my heart for the lostness of humanity, and that I will be "unable to stop speaking about what [I] have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

SBW: What is your opinion about controversial issues like Calvinism,"emerging churches," and the role of the BF&M (Garner Resolution)?

Rather than re-enter the debate about each issue individually, my desire is for Southern Baptists to discuss these issues, even disagree about these issues, without being caustic and disagreeable. It seems like much of our debate is often more focused on castigating others than having a disagreement in a spirit of Christ-like love. I have a long way to go with my walk with the Lord, but I pray regularly that the words I write and the words I speak will be edifying and wholesome, even if I disagree with someone.

SBW: LifeWay Research recently published a study on tongues and PPL. That got a good deal of press. Why was that topic chosen? Were you surprised at the stir that it caused?

The survey on tongues was a part of an annual omnibus study that LifeWay has conducted for several years. Each year LifeWay has selected five or six key issues or items of current interest in the SBC and then formed a survey to determine attitudes, beliefs, practices, etc. related to these "hot topics". In the planning of the 2007 omnibus study, the issue of private prayer language was determined to be one of the top six issues of major interest and dialogue in the SBC. While I was not surprised at the stir it caused, I was surprised that the tone of the responses were pretty heated. I really expected our Calvinism study to create a greater stir, but the results did not seem to bother most Southern Baptists. I do regret the timing of the release, right before the Southern Baptist Convention. When we finally got the results, the convention was right upon us. I knew that I would be questioned if I released them at that point, right before the convention, or if I made the decision to hold them until after the SBC met. I am grieved at the divisiveness the study caused, and I take full responsibility for that.

SBW: What are some practical tips for encouraging church members to embrace sharing the gospel? What is THE most important factor in seeing this happen?

We say that we believe in the power of prayer. We say that we believe the Bible teaches us to share our faith. Why don't we then pray for opportunities to share the gospel with the lost and the unchurched? I have seen churches where the members truly take that challenge, and the church is revolutionized evangelistically.

SBW:What advice would you offer to seminarians and young pastors?

Be men of prayer. Practice humility. Love and tend to your family. Love the church. Initiate change in the church in a way that does not destroy the church. Preach the Word. Practice evangelism before you preach evangelism. Listen to others; you may be surprised at where you find true wisdom.

SBW: Does the Crimson Tide have a hope this fall? Favorite type of BBQ?

My favorite BBQ is pulled pork. And there is a vicious rumor circulating that I don't like anything green on my plate, That's not true. I like lime sherbet. The Saban-led Crimson Tide will improve in 2007, but it will be two or three years before the Tide is truly back. But . . . I do believe! Roll Tide!