Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Four days after it struck, I still find it almost impossible to believe the magnitude of the disaster that has left such a wide path of destruction throughout my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Although I haven't lived in Nashville full-time since 1990, and haven't lived there at all since 1994, I still think of myself as a Nashvillian. Each big change that came to the city---the reopening of the Ryman Auditorium; the arrival of the Predators and Titans; the construction of landmarks like the Batman Building, the new library, and the Schermerhorn; the boom in residential living downtown; the resurgence of Lower Broad and Second Avenue; the revival of Edgefield and the East Bank; Vanderbilt winning a bowl game---had me bursting with pride in my city, even though I was living either in Bowling Green or just outside of Knoxville. Not all of the changes were good, of course; the closing of Opryland, where I worked for six summers, comes to mind. I also remember the sorrow I felt watching the damage inflicted on my city by the tornado of 1998. But as bad as that was, my feelings at that time are nowhere close to the degree of sadness I have felt in the past few days.

Watching the waters rapidly cover I-24 was especially sobering. I have driven on that stretch of highway numerous times. The people driving that interstate on Saturday when the waters came rushing onto the road were certainly unaware when they got into their cars of the fate that awaited them. What a stark reminder that nothing is really routine. It may be something we have done every day for years, but today something unexpected can blind side us.

Other scenes have been etched into my memory. Seeing the stage and most of the lower level seats of the Opry House completely underwater was somewhat eerie. Hopefully the historic circle from the original Ryman stage that was inserted into the floor of the Opry House stage can be salvaged. On a lighter note, it was neat in a weird sort of way to see the grass at LP Field covered with water. With the water on the field right at the edge of the blue seats, it looked like a gigantic swimming pool.

The images that resonated with me the most were the ones from the Opryland Hotel. Seeing the damage that was done there made me sick inside. My affinity for the Opryland Hotel has little to do with its economic importance to Nashville, and it certainly has nothing to do with my opinion of the current management of Gaylord. I have such a strong attachment to the Opryland Hotel because my dad helped to build it. Of the many buildings that he helped to construct, he always was the most proud of the work he did at the Opryland Hotel. In some small way it is almost a blessing that he did not live to see the devastation that has been wrought upon the hotel.

As people are now returning to their homes and surveying the damage, I am filled with gratitude that my family fared quite well given the situation. My mother and sister had water come into their kitchen, not from flooding, but from the barrage of rain pouring through the top of the back door. My brothers had relatively minor damage---a storm door blown off, flooding in the back yard, some leaks in the roof. My aunt's basement flooded, but I don't think there was any damage to the main level. I give thanks to God that they all came through this in pretty decent shape, and I pray for all those who were not so fortunate.

One thing that has not surprised me is the spirit that the people of Nashville have shown in the face of this disaster, whether it's someone paddling a boat to check on stranded residents, neighbors teaming up to go in and start the cleanup process in each others' homes, strangers working side by side laying sandbags, or people sharing their finances and possessions with others. Nashville may be twice as big as it was when I lived there, but it looks like the hospitality, generosity, and civic pride that I remember are still alive and strong in Music City USA.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Now What?

By now most of you know that Wade Burleson has resigned as a trustee of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Missions Board. For a little over two years, Wade has tenaciously stood---alone more often than not---in opposition to efforts by the IMB board of trustees to narrow the doctrinal boundaries for missionary service beyond the SBC's official doctrinal statement and to suppress the right of trustees to express disagreement with any action taken by the board. Through all of the controversies surrounding himself and the board of trustees, Wade has been driven by an unwavering belief that the board should be accountable to the convention and by an even stronger conviction that cooperation to fulfill the Great Commission is more important than agreement on every particular point of doctrine. With Wade's resignation, it appears that there is no one left on the board who is willing to stand up for these two beliefs.

In the short run, Wade's resignation will have one positive effect. Trustees will no longer have to devote significant portions of their board meetings to the latest controversy involving Wade Burleson. This should allow them to devote more time and energy to the work of the IMB. Of course, given the adoption of the policies/guidelines on baptism and private prayer language that started all this mess, it may not be a good thing that the board will have more time to focus on the work of the IMB.

What Wade's resignation means for the future of the SBC is unclear. It is likely that those who seek to narrow the parameters of cooperation, stifle dissent, and resist the idea that SBC entities should be accountable to the convention will be emboldened by Wade's resignation. They may perceive that as long as they stand unified against reform minded leaders that they can simply outlast any reform movement. And they may be right. My observation is that most reform minded Southern Baptists are not going to devote years to changing the SBC via the political process. While they have a great deal of respect for the SBC and its work, they have an even greater commitment to the Kingdom of God. If these reformers reach the point where they see continued involvement with the SBC as interfering with their work for the Kingdom, they will withdraw from active participation in SBC matters and may even leave the convention completely. This may make life easier for supporters of the status quo in the SBC, but the long term effects on the convention could be serious.

While Wade's resignation may be seen by some as a setback for the reform movement in the SBC, in some ways it could help advance the cause of reform. Now that he is free from the restrictions and guidelines incumbent upon a trustee, Wade can speak to the issues facing the convention more freely. Wade is also now free---if he chooses---to reveal to the SBC some of what he has heard and seen within the corridors of power. It seems certain that a revelation of these things would convince many Southern Baptists that reform is sorely needed.

Whether or not reform comes to the SBC, one thing is certain. God is sovereign, and His Kingdom will go on no matter what. It is my personal hope and desire that the SBC will continue to be one of the tools used by God in the building of His Kingdom, but if some things do not change then I believe that God will turn to others who are more committed to His Kingdom than to their own kingdoms.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Quick Update, and a Brief Statement About the IMB

For those of you who are interested (some of you have even asked), here is a quick update on what has been going on in my little corner of the world.

I haven't heard anything from the church in McMinnville, Tennessee, where I preached at the end of September. However, they said up front that they were going to proceed rather slowly and that there were other potential candidates they were going to speak with in subsequent weeks. I thought that everything went well. The church has a strong commitment to serving the community and supporting missions. They are looking for someone who can teach the Word. If there is any potential problem, it is that I come from a background far different from that of most of the members.

Probably the biggest thing that has happened recently is that we have moved. We are in a brand new house about a mile closer to town than we were, and the rent isn't much more than we were paying. This was a somewhat unplanned move. Maria had been looking at the classifieds, and she found the listing. We looked at the house right around the time we went to McMinnville, and after a couple of days we were at the top of the list. However, since the house was such a great deal there were several other people who were interested. The builder-owners were eager to get someone in the house, so we had to decide very quickly. While we loved the house, we were hesitant because we did not want to get trapped in a lease knowing that there was a possibility that we might be called to a church out of town, and also we did not have the cash flow to pay rent on two places in October plus a security deposit. The owners worked with us on both issues, and we took the house. Most of October was spent packing and moving a little at a time. We have been moved in for about two weeks, but we are surrounded by boxes that are not unpacked yet. In addition to being in a new house, I also got broadband Internet service, so if we ever get settled in I plan on resuming a more regular blogging schedule. (I know, you've heard that before, but this time it should happen!)

Given my preoccupation with moving, I have not been following events related to the SBC. I did happen to see on Baptist Press what happened with the IMB concerning Wade Burleson. Needless to say, I was very upset with the decision. I don't have time to discuss my thoughts in detail, but I will say that the decision has caused me to seriously question whether there is a place for me in the SBC. At this point the main thing keeping me in the SBC is that I do not want to give up on our cooperative missions work. But it looks like there are several in our convention who are not interested in truly cooperating with anyone who disagrees with anything they believe, say, or do.

In closing, I ask that you pray for me. I have felt far away from God for a few weeks, yet at the same time I have thought about Him and His Word more deeply than I have in a long time. Sometimes it seems like God delights in watching me go through failure after failure. I have never been a negative minded person, but after four years that have been more bad than good (and getting worse each year) it's hard sometimes to believe that God really cares about me. In my mind I know that He is in control and that He loves me and that all that I am going through is somehow intended for His glory, but surely there must be some way that God can be glorified and I can be happy at the same time. Please pray that God will strengthen my faith and give me a better attitude.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Latest on the Church Search, and Other Personal News

Please keep Maria and me in your prayers this weekend as we meet tomorrow with a search committee in McMinnville, Tennessee, and as I preach at their church Sunday morning. This is an initial, get-to-know-each-other interview, and not an in-view-of-a-call situation. But considering that I haven't put forth any real effort in my church search for a couple of months, this was completely unexpected. Actually, they just called me out of the blue three weeks ago; I had not even sent them a resume.

McMinnville is a decent sized small town (12,000-13,000) about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga, and it's about 20 miles from the town where my mom grew up. It would be a bit of an adjustment for us if we ended up going there, but at least we would still be able to visit each of our families in a day trip.

Of course, having had my optimism dashed on several occasions over the past couple of years, it's hard for me to go into this expecting a positive result. It's easy to say that God is in control and that whatever happens is His will, but after so many close calls (and even more where I never had a shot) it becomes harder to really believe this in a way that goes deeper than mere intellectual assent to such statements. So in addition to praying for the interview and the service Sunday morning, please pray that God will strengthen and renew my confidence and hope and that He will just help me to have a better attitude in general.

In other good news, I got a phone call last night from a church in Portland, Tennessee (about 25 miles south of us), asking me to preach the first two Sunday mornings in October. I preached there two Sundays in January and two more in July. I am preaching three of the next four Sundays. It's been nearly a year since I've preached on such a consistent basis, so I am really excited.

One other bit of good news (that has nothing directly to do with the church search) has the potential to return me to regular blogging. We have finally decided to get broadband Internet through our cable company, which is supposedly 6 times faster than DSL (which we cannot get where we live). One reason I have not done any blogging lately (not just here, but also at other blogs I used to read daily) is that my dial-up connection speed has dropped from 38-40k to 12-14.4k, making it impossible to look at more than a handful of pages in one sitting (and forget anything with a lot of graphics or media). To put it in perspective, using the DSL at Maria's sister and brother-in-law's house, I am able to read in about an hour all of the blogs and news sites that it normally takes me all evening to read at home. Unfortunately, we have had to postpone our service call more than once because our car situation makes it impossible for one of us to get home during the day.

For the past couple of weeks we have been down to one car, so by the time I pick Maria up from work and we run some errands that she normally does on her own I have little time at home (the other reason for my absence from the blogs). We picked her car up last night (had to get a new fuel pump---nearly $400), but as I went to shift out of park the button on the gear shift would not push in. The mechanic tried to get it to work, but all he could do was put the key into the shift lock and release it that way. He said for us to bring it back in a couple of days and he would get it working; he thought there was a short in the shift lock or gear shift or something like that. As I was driving down I-65 on the way home, I noticed that none of the gauges on the dash were working and the odometer was not rolling over. So apparently there is a problem with the electrical system in the dash and console areas; the mechanic had to fiddle with some of the wiring to get the fuel pump to work, so it seems to be related. We have to take the car back to get this fixed; hopefully it won't take two weeks this time. So please pray for our car situation as well, especially as we consider whether or not to buy a new (or new to us) car.

Friday, August 31, 2007

My 2007 NFL Predictions

With the beginning of the college football season this week and the NFL regular season next week, my time in the sports wilderness for 2007 has reached its end.

Last season certainly did not go as I expected regarding my two favorite teams. I thought the Titans would be awful again and that the Steelers would make a serious run at defending their Super Bowl title. As it turns out, they both finished 8-8---a pleasant surprise for one, a tough disappointment for the other. On the bright side, my number 3 team---and my favorite player, Peyton Manning---hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy at season's end.

Going into the 2007 season the NFL looks considerably different than a year ago. Coaching legends Bill Cowher, Bill Parcels, and Marty Schottenheimer are gone from the sidelines (at least for now). Marshall Faulk, Tiki Barber, and Tarik Glenn are just a few of the players who have said good-bye to the game. Michael Vick and Pacman Jones are among those who have experienced the strong hand of Commissioner Roger Goodell. Star players such as Randy Moss, Trent Green, Travis Henry, Willis McGahee, Jamal Lewis, and Daunte Culpepper are playing for new teams.

Despite all these changes, some things remain the same. Brett Favre will be calling the signals for Green Bay as he tries to will the Packers back into the playoffs. The AFC is still far stronger than the NFC, especially at the top. And come January many of these picks, and others as well, will elicit great laughter

Well, that's enough talking. Let's get to the picks.


AFC East
New England Patriots (12-4)
New York Jets (8-8)
Buffalo Bills (5-11)
Miami Dolphins (4-12)

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers* (11-5)
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
Cleveland Browns (5-11)

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
Tennessee Titans (7-9)
Houston Texans (6-10)

AFC West
San Diego Chargers (12-4)
Denver Broncos* (11-5)
Kansas City Chiefs (5-11)
Oakland Raiders (2-14)

* Wild-card teams

First Round
Denver over Baltimore
Pittsburgh over New England

Divisional Round
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
San Diego over Denver

Conference Championship
Indianapolis over San Diego


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
New York Giants (7-9)
Washington Redskins (6-10)

NFC North
Chicago Bears (12-4)
Green Bay Packers (8-8)
Detroit Lions (6-10)
Minnesota Vikings (3-13)

NFC South
New Orleans Saints (12-4)
Carolina Panthers* (9-7)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
St. Louis Rams* (10-6)
San Francisco 49ers (8-8)
Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

* Wild-card teams

First Round
Seattle over Carolina
St. Louis over Dallas

Divisional Round
New Orleans over St. Louis
Chicago over Seattle

Conference Championship
New Orleans over Chicago

Indianapolis over New Orleans

Monday, July 16, 2007

"Alien Baptism" and the Irony of the IMB Guideline

For those of you who do not regularly read Joel Rainey's blog, I want to call your attention to his latest post, I Do Believe in "Alien Baptism." In my opinion, this post presents the clearest and most compelling case against the IMB baptism guideline passed in November 2005. Joel does this not by directly attacking the guideline, but instead by describing four different types of "baptism" that are alien to the biblical teaching on baptism and demonstrating how the IMB guideline fits one of these descriptions. According to Joel:

  1. An "Alien Baptism" is any baptism that takes place prior to regeneration and conversion.
  2. An "Alien Baptism" is one that occurs by any mode other than immersion.
  3. An "Alien Immersion" is one that takes place among a "faith community" that is not made up of genuine followers of Christ.
  4. An "Alien Immersion" is one that places the primary focus of the ordinance on anything besides union with Jesus Christ and His people.
In his explanation of his fourth point, Joel points out the irony of the IMB guideline:
Scripture is clear in teaching that there is ONE baptism. With that in view, I am appreciative of the IMBs desire that all who go to the mission field under our banner have experienced this. The problem comes when they begin to tie baptismal validity to doctrines that while precious and essential to Baptists, are secondary in matters of salvation and the church. I am speaking of course of how the IMB ties baptismal validity to whether the congregation that performed the baptism believes in "eternal security." The outcome of such a guideline is that a candidate could be genuinely born again, immersed in the name of the triune God after this experience, as a testimony of that experience, among people who share our Gospel convictions and are themselves believers, and still be required to be "baptized" in a Southern Baptist Church...

But if the candidate has already been Scripturally baptized, and there is only one baptism, then what exactly is being required by the IMB?

I believe IMB trustees are honorable people, and like me, they simply want to guard our Biblical heritage and ensure the same of those who will represent us on the mission field. But this new guideline changes the focus of Baptism from Christ and His people to the doctrine of "eternal security." Such a move means that the above question can be answered in only one way: The IMB is now requiring "alien baptism," which ironically, is the very thing I am certain they were trying to avoid with the new guideline.
After reading Joel's post, my initial thought was, "Why didn't I think of that?"

Monday, July 09, 2007

Are We Going to Build Bridges or Burn Them? (Part 3)

After a hiatus of more than four months, I am finally resuming this series. Given all of the events that have transpired in the SBC since the end of February, I believe this series is even more relevant than before.

In Part 2 I looked at three prominent SBC leaders---Thom Rainer, Morris Chapman, and Bill Curtis---who, in my opinion, are working to lead Southern Baptists down the road of building bridges. These are men who appreciate the diversity that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention and recognize that people who disagree on secondary issues can cooperate together for the work of the Kingdom.

Unfortunately, other SBC leaders sound a different call, a call to separate from or even exclude those with whom we disagree. In contrast to those who would lead us to build bridges, these folks would lead us to burn bridges with some Southern Baptists, including some conservatives who affirm the BFM 2000. I feel compelled to point out that I believe those who support this approach sincerely believe they are protecting the SBC from serious doctrinal error or even heresy. However, despite their sincerity and their good intentions, I believe that they are wrong and that their approach will make the SBC weaker instead of stronger.

The most well known SBC leader who in my opinion advocates the path of exclusion and bridge burning is Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson. Patterson is one of the most polarizing figures in the SBC---respected and adored (and even idolized) by many, but also mistrusted and criticized (and even vilified) by many. One reason that Patterson is such a polarizing figure is that he doesn't try to hide his views, a characteristic that I respect greatly. His position on such issues as the sign gifts (especially tongues/private prayer language) and the role of women in ministry are well known in SBC circles. The problem is not Patterson's views on these issues; the problem is that apparently he sees his position on these issues as the only legitimate position for Southern Baptists.

I acknowledge that Patterson does not advocate excluding people on the basic of every point of doctrine, as demonstrated in his discussion of soteriology with Al Mohler at the 2006 SBC annual meeting. But the following statement seems to reflect Patterson's general opinion about cooperation with those with whom he disagrees, at least as it relates to one issue:

Noting that differences of interpretation on spiritual gifts is one reason why different denominations exist, Patterson invoked a baseball analogy, suggesting Baptists and charismatics are not on the same denominational teams: "Why would I want to wear a Red Sox uniform if I want to play for the Yankees?"
When one examines Patterson's remarks in a radio interview during at the 2007 SBC annual meeting (as described by Art Rogers), it is evident that he identifies those who disagree with his position on some of these contentious issues as liberals and believes they have no place in the SBC:
Paige Patterson was interviewed by the Criswell College radio station. In that interview he said that every 25 years the SBC has to throw out Liberals and that it was time to do it again. When asked if these men might be Conservatives who disagree with methodology, he replied that they were Liberals who knew not enough Baptist History to fill a thimble.
In addition to leading us down the path of excluding people with certain views, others would go even further and exclude those who associate in any way with those who hold these views. An example of this occurred at an Executive Committee meeting this past winter when Roger Moran of Missouri made the following statement in support of a motion calling on Lifeway to investigate the emerging church movement:
One of the most dangerous and deceptive movements to infiltrate the ranks of Southern Baptist life has been the emerging/emergent church movement...

In my home state, the Missouri Baptist Convention is on the brink of a near civil war—and at the heart of our struggle has been the blatant dishonesty of those who are determined that Missouri Baptists will embrace this new postmodern approach to ministry.

The most recent evidence of the clash in Missouri came on January 28th when on the front page of the Sunday edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch there appeared this article, titled: “Beer and the Bible—It works for one growing St. Louis church but its got Missouri Baptists hopping mad.”

The story is about one of our new churches in St. Louis called the Journey, which received a $200,000 loan from the Missouri Baptist Convention and has what the Post Dispatch called a “beer ministry” in a local downtown bar. Another so-called ministry is the churches’ “film night,” where secular movies are viewed and discussed—movies that are often rated “R.”

What makes this all the more significant is that the Journey was exalted by the top leadership of the Missouri Baptist Convention as a model for church planting and its pastor is hailed as a modern-day “Caleb.”

And while this may sound like a local church issue or a state convention issue—it is not. It is a critically important issue facing the entire Southern Baptist Convention.

The pastor of the Journey Church is Darrin Patrick and he serves together with Ed Stetzer from the North American Mission Board as co-chair of NAMB’s Young Leaders Task Force.

Interestingly, these two men also serve together on the board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network (Patrick actually serves as vice president and Stetzer as a board member.)

The president of Acts 29 is Mark Driscoll, best known by his peers as “Mark the cussing Pastor.” Driscoll, who claims to be theologically conservative, pastors the non-denominational Mars Hill Church in Seattle Wa, where this past New Year’s Eve, his church hosted a “Red Hot Bash.” Those who attended were encouraged to dress “red hot,” and those planning to drink were advised to bring their ID’s.

I mention Driscoll because he is scheduled to appear in chapel at one of our seminaries, and one or our cherished professors from another seminary will be preaching at Driscoll’s church later this year...

Serving on the board of Emergent Village is Chris Seay, an emerging church planter from Houston, Texas who was one of the featured speakers at the Younger Leaders Summit in Nashville, hosted by Lifeway’s Jimmy Draper in 2005 and by 2006 was led by NAMB’s Ed Stetzer.

And while I am certainly perplexed as to why a board member of Emergent Village was a featured speaker at our Younger Leaders Summit, I am equally concerned about the particular group of younger leaders we seem to be pursuing for leadership positions in the SBC.

For withing this group of young SBC leaders, are: those who strongly oppose the SBC’s long standing position on alcohol; and those who now want us to move toward embracing the charismatic practice of speaking in tongues; and those who are now telling us that CBF really wasn’t much of a problem; and those who are now calling for a "revolution" to move the SBC back to what they call the "center"...

The seriousness of the emerging/emergent movement and the degree to which it has infiltrated the SBC warrants a full and thorough investigation. And I would argue that the investigation needs to start at the North American Mission Board, and most specifically in the area of church planting.
The emerging church conversation is so broad and diverse that there are few, if any, generalized statements that are true of all the various strands of the movement. My issue with Moran is not his views about the emerging church (I share some of his concerns about certain aspects of the emerging church) but the guilt-by-association theme that pervades his statement. His support for this investigation seems to be less about gaining an understanding of the emerging church and more about finding out which SBC leaders are the least bit sympathetic with the emerging church so they can be dealt with. It is obvious that on the issues of alcohol and tongues (and who knows what else?) Moran sees no place in the SBC for those who disagree with him, even if they provide biblical support for their position, nor does it appear that he sees a place for ones who cooperate with them.

Let us not forget about the trustees of the IMB and Southwestern Seminary who continue to exclude Southern Baptists from service with their respective entities on the basis of specific interpretations of Scripture that not only go beyond the Baptist Faith & Message but also are challenged by opposing interpretations that have just as much biblical support, if not more. One would think that world missions or the task of training future ministers would be more important than advancing narrow theological views on secondary doctrines, views that are not the only biblically sound and reasonable positions on the issues in question. Apparently this is not the case with some of our trustees. For them it is more important to exclude from service people whose views differ from their own (although these trustees are more than happy to accept their financial support) than it is to work for the Kingdom with faithful, passionate believers (Southern Baptists at that) who agree with them on the essentials of the faith and core Baptist distinctives but not necessarily on these secondary and disputable matters.

Just so nobody misunderstands, I am NOT questioning the commitment of these people to the Lord, His Kingdom, His church, or the Southern Baptist Convention. As I said earlier, I think they sincerely believe that an exclusionary path is necessary to preserve the doctrinal purity of the Southern Baptist Convention. Were they drawing lines of demarcation on the basis of essential doctrines where the Bible speaks clearly, I would support them wholeheartedly. However, many of the recent lines they have drawn are based on specific and even questionable interpretations of secondary issues. Drawing lines on the basis of such issues brings unnecessary disunity into the body of Christ, making us less effective in carrying out the Great Commission.

In Part 4 I will discuss why I believe that building bridges is a better path for us to follow than burning bridges.