Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Danny Akin: Creeds, Deeds and the Great Commission-Founders Breakfast 2009

It was a great privilege to have Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, speak at our Founders Breakfast last week in Louisville. God has raised up Dr. Akin to give strategic and principled leadership to Southern Baptists at this crucial juncture of our history. Pray for him and the seminary he leads.

His message from 3 John was at the breakfast was one of the highlights at a Southern Baptist Convention that had an unusually high number of them this year. Listen and be challenged and encouraged.

2009 Founders Breakfast with Dr. Danny Akin from Grace Baptist Church on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reflections on the #SBC2009

The 2009 Southern Baptist Convention may well go down as the one that has left me the most hopeful...ever. My first convention was 1979 when Adrian Rogers was first elected President and the "Conservative Resurgence" (CR) officially began. I am grateful for that movement because it inhibited the slide toward liberalism that was taking place in many of our agencies and institutions. Some doubt that such tendencies were present, but I lived through them and have many personal stories to illustrate the documented case that has been made in various places.

Others (Ed Stetzer, Aan Cross, iMonk, SBCimpact, Alvin Reid) have offered insightful recaps and observations of the convention and following are some of my own reflections of what took place the last two days in Louisville.

The Great Commission Resurgence

Many of us who fully support the CR have grown increasingly uneasy over the last several years as it became apparent that the gospel was being pushed (or left) on the periphery of convention life in favor of secondary or tertiary issues. God has used that unease to unite brothers and sisters who do not agree on some fine points of theology in the common cause of reasserting the preeminence of the gospel in both our creed and deeds. The growing call to recover the gospel and and to reassert its pride of place energized a growing number of Southern Baptists over the last few years while leaving others fearful that gospel preeminence would necessarily mean Baptist indifference.

The 2009 convention, on initial blush, seems to have set a course for Southern Baptists to major on Christian essentials without compromising on Baptist distinctives. The means by which this has been accomplished is the Great Commission Resurgence led by Drs. Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt. The call of such a resurgence over the last year has rallied Southern Baptists--including more of the rising generation than we have seen interested in a while--to reexamine, retool and recommit to great task of proclaiming the gospel in word and deed.

The passing of Dr. Mohler's motion to form a task force to study how the SBC can become more effective in serving Christ through the great commission was a significant milestone in our recent history. His motion was challenged, most notably by a messenger from Florida who asserted that what ails the SBC is nothing other than the rise of "Calvinism." But the challenges did not hold sway and Dr. Mohler's motion passed by a 95% margin.

Anti-Calvinist Rhetoric

It may be that the anti-Calvinist messenger was emboldened in his opposition by the foolish remarks of the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, Morris H. Chapman which were made earlier in the day during his report. Dr. Chapman's words have been publicly repudiated by SBC agency heads as well dozens of Southern Baptists who have voiced their concerns on blogs and twitter, and well they should be. He stated,
The Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing a resurgence in the belief that divine sovereignty alone is at work in salvation without a faith response on the part of man.

Some are given to explain away the “whosoever will” of John 3:16. How can a Christian come to such a place when Ephesians says, “For by grace are you saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8)? I do not rise to become argumentative, or to change minds already convinced of one perspective or the other. But I do rise to state the obvious. Man is often tempted to design a theological theory in light of a biblical antinomy in order to clarify what God is trying to say.
I daresay that Dr. Chapman, or any Southern Baptist for that matter, can find any person in the Southern Baptist Convention who holds such horrific views. If such a miscreant could be found I would be the first to renounce his errors and to try to persuade him to submit to the teaching of Scripture that God is absolutely sovereign and people are absolutely responsible in the gracious work of salvation.

Dr. Chapman's comments were out of place and sounded more like the incendiary rhetoric of years past than the more respectful kinds of exchanges that have tended to characterize the Calvinist debates since the Building Bridges Conference in 2007. Though I was disappointed in him, I was greatly encouraged by the response of the messengers. No one went to a microphone to attack him personally and all of the public comments that I have heard dealt with his words, not with his person or character. That is the way that it should be among brothers.

Personal Conversations

I was greatly encouraged by personal times of fellowship with brothers and sisters at the Founders Breakfast, Baptist 21 lunch, 9Marks sessions and President's reception as well as in hallways, parking lots, restaurants and shuttle buses. It was great to learn about work going on amon unreached people groups, new church starts, church restarts as well as in established ministries. Not all of the stories were of great victories, but all of them reflected the grace and goodness of God as He is keeping His servants strengthened and faithful in the task.

I was even blessed to have both fun and serious conversations with brothers with whom I disagree theologically. It is good to be able to have good-spirited banter over differences on fine points of doctrine, as important as they are, knowing that we agree on the essentials of the gospel. I enjoyed that kind of fellowship on more than one occasion. It is also good to be able to confront a brother with love and respect with whom there is strong disagreement and to be shown love and respect in return. Some of us may never agree on some points this side of heaven, but we can learn to disagree without rancor and resorting to caricature. I believe that this kind of spirit is spreading within the SBC and, despite the antics of one or two blogs that continue to assert half truths, distortions and conspiracy theories that border on paranoia, will ultimately the SBC of tomorrow.

Finally, who cannot be encouraged to see the number of younger Southern Baptists who participated in the convention this year? As I listened to some of them preach, lead dialogues and describe God's work in their lives and minstries, I could not help but be energized. Under the grace of God, the future looks bright for Southern Baptists and I am very hopeful. God has raised up exceptional leaders for such a time as this and seems to be stirring the hearts of more and more among us. So I leave Louisville motivated to keep pressing on in working for renewal in my own life and congregation as well as trying to encourage others along the same path.

May the Lord grant us a genuine resurgence in love, joy and zeal in pursuing His mission in the world.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Vote Passed

Dr. Al Mohler's motion to commission a task force passed tonight at the Southern Baptist Convention. Specifically, the motion requests that
the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 23-24, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky, authorize the President of the Southern Baptist Convention to appoint a Great Commission Task Force charged to bring a report and any recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida June 15-16, 2010, concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.
There was brief public opposition during the time for debate. The most rancorous opposition came from a pastor who is convinced that the problem with the SBC is the rise of Calvinism in our ranks. He likened it to the Primitive Baptist movement and blamed all the ills the convention on the revival of the doctrines of grace in the convention. His comments were inflammatory and unfounded. They did not carry the day.

A substitute motion was put forward but was fortunately voted down, allowing for an overwhelming affirmation of Dr. Mohler's original motion. The Parliamentarian, Dr. Barry McCarty, later said that the vote was at least 95%-5% in favor.

This was a good move that bodes well for the future of the SBC. Of course, it is just the beginning. Johnny Hunt must now appoint a committee that will take up the responsibility of this assignment. Pray for him and for those whom he appoints. The last thing that the SBC can afford at this point is a study and report that fall short of serious analysis and recommendations. While these recommendations will not be binding on any entity in the SBC just because a task force recommends them, they can become rallying points for the way ahead in marshalling our cooperative efforts more energetically and efficiently in the work of the great commission.

Though in the big scheme of things this vote is not all that important, I believe that it is a harbinger of better days on the horizon. In fact, today is the best day that I have ever spent at a Southern Baptist Convention. In no particular order, following are some of the reasons that I say that.

1. Danny Akin. Dr. Akin spoke at the Founders Breakfast at 6:30AM, the Baptist21 luncheon at noon, at the SBC giving a theme interpretation at 3:30PM and at the 9Marks after-meeting at 10:00PM. No doubt he is tired! But his weariness is reason for Southern Baptists' encouragement. In each assignment, he knocked it out of the park, communicating great insight in a personable, humble and courageous manner. He is the kind of leader that Southern Baptists desperately need right now, and the demands on his time indicate that he is willing to answer the call.

2. Johnny Hunt. He has proven to be a remarkable leader for Southern Baptists this last year. Dr. Hunt makes it very hard not to love him. He is gracious, humble, transparent and enthusiastic in his leadership. He has demonstrated a willingness to work with all Southern Baptists who are willing to unite around the gospel and press forward in the great commission. He has been very gracious and kind to those with whom he disagrees at certain points, setting a tone of genuine love and respect in the SBC that we have needed for a long time. Some have been less than thrilled with his leadership but, from my vantage point, their antipathy has more to do with his unwillingness to tow anyone's party line than with him personally. His love for Christ, pastors and for the conversion of unbelievers is contagious and I, for one, want to catch what he's got! I look forward to his next year of leadership and will continue to pray for him privately, in my home and in our church.

3. Though I have not heard all of the sermons from the pastors' conference or that were preached today at the convention, what I have heard has left me more encouraged about the state of preaching in the SBC than in a long time. There have been wonderful messages preached. Sell your blood if y0u must, but be sure to purchase the CD of David Platt's sermon from last night at the pastors' conference. It was incredible.

4. The IMB. Everyone has heard of the financial shortfall that will result in the decrease in our missionary force by the end of the year. Of the $16 billion that Southern Baptist churches collected last year, less than 2.6% went to the IMB. But that message seems to be rallying Southern Baptists to renew our commitment to getting the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world. I was deeply moved by the IMB report tonight of what God is doing and what the needs yet are. Jim Richards of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention presented Jerry Rankin with a $100,000 check to help start making up for the shortfall. The pastors' conference took up a special offering to assist with it as well. I believe that Southern Baptists will rally and that this financial crisis will provoke the kind of self-examination that we need at this time in order for us to re-order our priorities.

5. The growing humility within the SBC. I heard agency heads, featured preachers and seasoned pastors saying publicly what has needed to be said for a long time. God doesn't need the SBC. The SBC can fail and be thrown onto the ash heap of ecclesiastical history and the kingdom of God will march on victoriously. It is that kind of awareness and humility that breeds the kind of perspective on the SBC that may well lead us to see our brightest days in the future. Until we get over the SBC we will not be in a position to utilize it for kingdom purposes as we ought.

So, I am hopeful. It seems to me that a fresh wind is blowing. If it is the wind of God's Spirit then may we recognize His work and redouble our efforts to be faithful in following wherever He leads.

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