Monday, January 30, 2006


Avalon's latest album Stand came out Tuesday! I got my copy yesterday, and this is an awesome CD!!! I've already listened to it about seven times. There was a four month delay from the original release date, but it was definitely worth the wait. There is not a single weak song on the entire CD. This album has it all, from up tempo songs like "The Other Side" and "Love Won't Leave You," to the beauty of "Where Joy and Sorrow Meet," to powerful anthems like "Orphans of God" and "Jesus" and "We Will Stand" (featuring Russ Taff, who made this song a classic in the early 1980s). If I had to pick a favorite song from the album it would probably be either "Jesus" or "Where Joy and Sorrow Meet," but they're all really good songs, and the vocals are impeccable. The unique, dynamic Avalon sound stands out on each song. After ten years and a few lineup changes, Avalon is still the best, and this is their best album yet!

Jimmy Draper's Farewell Column

Tomorrow the Southern Baptist Convention will say good-bye to one of our most beloved leaders when Jimmy Draper retires as the president of LifeWay. For 55 years Jimmy Draper has served the Lord (and the SBC) as a pastor, as president of the SBC, and as president of LifeWay. But it is not his service in various convention offices that has earned Draper the love and respect of the SBC; it is his love for Jesus and for others that have won him a special place in our hearts.

Over the past couple of years, Jimmy Draper has taken the initiative to address one of the greatest potential challenges to the future of the SBC: the lack of involvement in SBC matters on the part of many younger SBC pastors and laypersons. I was there in Indianapolis in 2004 when he asked if there was a place for younger leaders at the SBC table. After asking the question, Draper spent the next year and a half working to make sure that there is a place at the table for us younger leaders and to get us interested in what's going on within the SBC. I had the privilege to speak with Draper at a 2005 Younger Leaders' Dialogue outside of Nashville; he was very open and showed great interest in what I had to say. I guess in a way I have Jimmy Draper to thank for this blog, because it was through the Younger Leaders' Discussion Board that I became acquainted with other younger SBC leaders and was introduced to their blogs.

As he says his official good-bye to the SBC, Jimmy Draper leaves us with a challenge to keep our focus on the main thing. Given the recent events with the IMB, Draper's advice is more relevant and needed than ever. Here is his final column from his e-newsletter:

"Will Southern Baptists keep their eyes on the ball?"
By James T. Draper Jr.

Think about how many sports involve a ball. There’s baseball, golf, football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, rugby and cricket just to name a few. These sports are so completely different, but the one thing they have in common is that if you don’t keep your eye on the ball, you’re not going to be very successful. It could also be painful!

I believe that is what Paul was telling Timothy through his two letters. In 2 Timothy, Paul flatly stated that “All Scripture is inspired by God” and explained its worth to “the man of God.” With deep seriousness Paul then charges Timothy to “proclaim the message.” He was telling Timothy to keep his eye on the ball.

This is my last LifeWay@Heart commentary. I am excited that my successor, Thom Rainer, will author this column in the future. He is a great communicator and will be a tremendous blessing to you in the years ahead. Although I will still be involved in ministry – one cannot retire from God’s service – I will no longer have the opportunity to speak to the Southern Baptist Convention from a position of formal leadership. In other words, this is my farewell charge to a convention I love dearly and have seen do wonderful work for God’s Kingdom over my 55 years of ministry. It is also a convention that needs to keep its eye on the ball if we are going to be a tool in the hand of the Master for years to come.

We must preach the exclusivity and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. This is the ball and we’ve got to knock out of the park every time. I believe Southern Baptists preach this and this is why I believe that God continues to bless us despite our shortcomings and weaknesses. We fought for biblical inerrancy and for the message of Jesus as revealed in Scripture. We must march boldly into a spiritually hungry world proclaiming Jesus while maintaining His attitude described by Paul in Philippians 2:5-11.

My heart and soul “amens” John Piper’s statement in his book, Brothers, We are Not Professionals. It is my plea to us all as well: “This is a plea for passion in the pulpit, passion in prayer, passion in conversation. It is not a plea for thin whipped-up emotionalism.” In other words, preach Christ crucified!

There are at least two tensions currently pulling on Southern Baptists.

First, the desire to be overly seeker sensitive is pulling us away from proclaiming the hard truth of the gospel. The gospel is an offense! A righteous man was nailed to a cross. There was a beating involved, and blood shed. We must not water that down. We cannot compromise the reality of the gospel under the guise of relevancy. Relevancy is earned when churches – Christians – acting as the hands of Christ, touch the wounded hearts and souls of those around them. When Christians act like Jesus, bear the burdens of others like Jesus, suffer with others like Jesus, then we will be more effective in verbally sharing the pointed truths of the gospel with them like Jesus. What’s more, the lost will drink in the message like a thirsty man wandering in a desert drinks in cool, clean water.

A second tension we face is what I spoke of at the Southern Baptist Convention last June. We are in danger of choking the life out of the future of the SBC by dabbling in peripheral matters and neglecting the heart of our convention, which has always been missions, evangelism and cooperation. The added challenge here is to incorporate younger Southern Baptists into the leadership of our convention.

I spent a lot of time the past two years calling for the inclusion of younger leaders, but also for younger leaders to engage the convention and not back away. I have met many of these men and women and I am impressed. They are accepting the challenge. They want to earn the right of relevancy and to partnership in the ministry of the SBC. They want to push to the spiritually hard places and they are willing to suffer hardships to press into those places to share the gospel among individuals in the world’s out-of-the way places or in their own neighborhoods.

Some across the convention point to the complainers among the younger leaders and despise the youth of the entire group. As a result we often get side-tracked into nonessential matters. This in turn can create larger barriers for our work together. We may become guilty of sacrificing cooperation with the sword of inflexibility. All the while the white fields waiting to be harvested stand decaying.

This is not new rhetoric; several of us entity leaders have been saying this stuff for years. It all sounds good when stated, but there is a disconnect between what is said and what is done. We should all – not just the SBC’s leadership – set an example of devotion to Scripture, personal integrity and cooperation.

A place to begin is on our knees. It is tough to criticize those for whom we pray. How my heart aches at the research that reveals we spend less than 7 minutes a day in prayer. Brothers and sisters, we cannot do God’s work in our way. The only way to know and do the will of God is to fall on our face before Him, asking for His direction and responding in obedience. We must pray more purposefully and more passionately.

Closely related is humility. Individuals motivated by personal agendas reek of arrogance. God hates arrogance. I am encouraged because I believe there is a growing desire for humility in the hearts of God’s people. I believe there is a movement beginning to take place where Christians are dissatisfied with the comfortable, materialistic, ineffective Christianity they’ve been living and are truly seeking God. My heart’s desire is that humility will consume the Church and consume our convention.

Morris Chapman said four years ago that the Southern Baptist Convention stands at a crossroads, that we can be a convention that reaches the ends of the earth with the gospel or one that relegates itself to being an inconsequential regional convention. The choice is ours. Time is slipping by, and I believe God has allowed the SBC to linger a bit longer at that crossroads.

I will miss being as actively involved in SBC leadership as I have been in the past—I love you all! We face some tough individual and corporate challenges, BUT I am incredibly optimistic about what God is going to do through Southern Baptists in the years ahead, if we will keep our eye on the ball.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us Jimmy Draper. May you continue to bless him and use him to bless others in the years ahead.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What If I'm Not Exactly Certain What the Bible Means About. . .?

Over at SBC Outpost there is a rather lengthy and detailed discussion of a "white paper" that is basically a critique of the direction and vision of the IMB under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Rankin. I'm not addressing the "white paper" itself in this post, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to at least skim over it before reading the quote below. One of the comments, posted by Stephen Pruett, just blew me away. His comment vividly reminds us that there are some things in the Bible that we cannot reach a definitive conclusion upon. With his permission, I am quoting the entire comment here for you to read and comment on.

It seems to me that Dr. Eitel's analysis and arguments often used by Drs. Mohler and Patterson assume that people with whom they disagree have certain pre-suppositions that invalidate their opinion. Dr. Eitel ascribes Barthian influence to Keith Parks, and Mohler and Patterson acuse those who would suggest that some issues are not absolutely clear in scripture of being influenced by post-modernism. They apparently believe that people with whom they disagree do not accept the concept of absolute or objective truth. I would like to suggest that refusal to take a dogmatic position on some theological matters is not a reflection of Barthian or post-modernist influence but is a proper interpretation of the Bible and of history. Paul stated that he "saw through a glass darkly". Paul had a direct audible revelation from Christ Himself, he knew Christ's disciples, he was an Old Testament scholar, and he believed that there were things he did not understand clearly. Would it be too much for us to be uncertain about some issues without being accused of being post-modernists? The Calvinist/Arminian debate has been going on for hundreds of years, and parts of it are still raging in the SBC. Let's consider this carefully. Thousands of brilliant, passionate theologians on both sides have written scholaraly and detached as well as spiritually and emotionally engaging defenses of every aspect on both sides, and still no complete consensus has emerged. Could it possibly be time to accept the idea that God does not require us to understand everything and that He did not give us in the Bible enough information to establish a definitively "correct" position on every issue? I believe there is enough information in the Bible to definitively establish all the essentials, but people who insist they have the "correct" veiw on each issue as it becomes a source of controvery have caused and will continue to cause great harm. If you doubt that, just read the diaries of John Adams (2nd President of the US, Adams shunned Christianity because of rancorous encounters he observed between Calvinists and Arminians.

The issue of women as pastors is an interesting example of a non-essential that has been codified in the B F & M 2000, even though there is reason to think that the scriptures may not permit definitive conclusions on this issue. First, even books that present a case for prohibition of women pastors (like "Restoring Biblical Manhood and Womanhood") list a series of scriptures that support the opposite position and which are never effectively refuted. In the end, the writer concludes that the balance of the evidence supports prohibition, but there is some subjectivity involved. To me, the key is that we interpret 1Corinthians 11 as being "culturally influenced" and not literal with regard to hair length and head covering. Yet, we have codified a literal interpretation of 1Tim. 2, even though the same eternal-historical-theological justification is given by Paul in both passages. So we interpret 1 Corinthians 11 as being eternally applicable with regard to the spiritual truth embodied in the command but not the literal specifics of the command. The spiritual truth is usually stated as something like, "men and women should not have a personal apprearance that would discredit the church to those it is trying to reach". No one has provided me with a convincing reason that the same interpretation could not legitimately be applied to 1Tim. 2. The eternal truth in this passage would be that women should not be in positions that would discredit the church in a culture that does not accept women as leaders. Of course, this is no longer the case in our culture, so one could reasonably suggest that the Bible indicates that women should be allowed to be pastors. Certainly a number of very conservative evangelicals such as James Dobson accept this view, and I do not recall anyone accusing him of being a post-modernist. My point here is not to convince anyone that the SBC should mandate that women can be pastors. The point is that this is not the slam-dunk, easily and definitively determined interpretation that many seem to believe. This matter was placed into the B F & M not because it is the only possible interpretation for an inerrantist who interprets the Bible just as literally as we do (in 1Corinthans 11, at least), but because it provided an opportunity to push back against feminists and other enemies in the culture wars. I agree that we should oppose feminist positions that are unambiguously unbiblical. However, I cannot forget that the SBC previously pushed back against our culture on the issue of segregation, and guess what? That bad old secular, liberal culture was right, and the SBC was wrong. Worse, the SBC had used "certain" interpretations of the Bible to support its position on race.

One of my hobbies is writing letters to the editor of my local paper opposing the nonsensical tenets of post-modernism and atheism. However, I believe that some SBC leaders have vastly overestimated the influence of post-modernism on Southern Baptists. At least some of us resist dogmatic positions on some non-essential matters because we believe the scriptures do not allow definitive conclusions and that the Bible itself indicates that faith and not knowledge saves us. Paul instructed churches on a variety of issues, but I only recall that he suggested excluding people because of persistent unrepented sinful behavior or heresy. Even when Paul could not personally work with someone, he did not suggest that they should be excluded from the church or from service. Maybe we should start trying to actually emulate scriptural examples?

What do you think of Stephen's statements? Are there some things in Scripture that we simply cannot figure out conclusively, or does a lack of certainty on some issues indicate spiritual immaturity or heresy? What should our approach be with other Christians whose views on the kinds of issues mentioned by Stephen differ from ours?

Monday, January 23, 2006


Following one of the most improbable playoff runs in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers are headed for Super Bowl XL! Most people thought the Steelers were done after losing to Cincinnati on December 4, as that loss (their third straight) dropped the team to 7-5. With their season on the line each week, the Steelers roared back to win their last four regular season games by a combined score of 115-33 and earn the AFC's final playoff spot. In the playoffs, Pittsburgh went on the road and defeated the top three teams in the AFC---the 11-5 Cincinnati Bengals, the 14-2 Indianapolis Colts, and the 13-3 Denver Broncos. The wins over the Bengals and Colts avenged regular season losses, while the victory at Denver was more remarkable because the Broncos had been unbeaten at home this season and had never lost an AFC Championship game in Denver.

Despite being the AFC's number six seed, the Steelers opened as a four point favorite over the Seattle Seahawks, the top seed from the NFC. This is one of the closest spreads I can recall in the Super Bowl. Seattle will be a formidable challenge, but if the Steelers continue to play like they have in the playoffs so far, they will win decisively.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What's the Real Issue?

With so many issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention because of the recent IMB trustee actions, what is THE issue that is at the heart of the matter? Why are so many of us so passionate about what's going on?

Is Wade Burleson the issue? No. Our passion regarding these issues has nothing to do with Wade himself. While Wade is closely connected to what has been happening, few of us had even heard of the man before he voiced his opposition to the new IMB policies. Were it someone else in his position, our response would be no different. (That being said, the way Wade has conducted himself has earned our respect and admiration.)

Is Baptist polity the issue? No. While there are legitimate concerns that the IMB has violated local church autonomy by overruling the decision of a local church to determine the validity someone's baptism, most of us just don't get that excited about Baptist polity. Besides, there are instances where an SBC entity should reject the decision of a local church.

At first glance there seems to be some disagreement over what the real issue is that is behind all this mess. Jason Sampler sees the main issue as being one of doctrine and theology. He states, "My beef with the trustees is doctrinal. I disagree with their theology, or specifically the new guidelines that [they] have enacted regarding baptism and prayer languages." On the other hand, Wade Burleson has a somewhat different perspective on what the real issue is. He says, "I have tried to remind everyone in this blog that the major issue for me is NOT so much the new policy forbidding the appoint of missionaries who have a private prayer language, or even the policy that rejects prospective missionary candidates who are not baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church that teaches eternal security. Sure, I believe both new policies go beyond Scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message, but they are only symptoms of a deeper problem. The real problem? We are continuing to narrow the parameters of fellowship and cooperation in the area of missions and evangelism by demanding conformity and agreement on non-essential doctrines." (Emphasis Wade's.) While on the surface Jason and Wade seem to see two different issues, when you think about it they are talking about the same issue, just from two different perspectives. Doctrine lies at the heart of both of their statements. Jason's primary focus is on the doctrinal shortcomings of the new policies, while Wade's primary concern is with narrowing the parameters of cooperation on the basis of doctrinal interpretations on issues that are not essentials or that are not supported by absolutely clear biblical evidence. At least that's how I read their arguments. (If either of you read this and feel that I have misstated your views, please correct me.)

While Jason is right on the mark in his analysis of the doctrinal and theological shortcomings of the new policies, I tend to frame the larger issue similar to how Wade does. There are certain core doctrines on which the Bible clearly speaks where we would be unwise to cooperate with those who hold different views, but on secondary issues or on issues where the Bible's meaning is not explicitly clear we should be willing to cooperate for the sake of the Kingdom with those who hold different views. Drawing lines of cooperation too narrowly, especially when those lines are based on biblically dubious views, is a major mistake that will hurt our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission.

What do you see as the main issue at the heart of the IMBroglio? Why are you so interested in and passionate about what's going on?

Jason Sampler's Beef with the IMB Trustees

Anyone who has read this blog knows about my opposition to the recent IMB Board of Trustees' decisions to implement new policies regarding tongues and baptism and to recommend the removal of Wade Burleson as a trustee for publicly expressing his opposition to the new policies. (I'm sorry, but despite what Tom Hatley said, there is nothing in the IMB trustees' statements to suggest any other reason for Wade's removal.) I have explained my reasons for opposing these decisions, but I admit that my explanations demonstrate my lack of education in Baptist history and ecclesiology. Others who know more about these areas have weighed in with their opposition, however. In his post, IMB Trustees and My Beef, Jason Sampler appeals to Scripture, church history, and Baptist polity and ecclesiology to explain why the IMB Trustees were wrong to implement the new policies on tongues and baptism, with his emphasis on the baptism policies. Jason provides the degree of biblical, historical, and theological support for his position that I have yet to see from anyone who supports the new policies.

What do you think of Jason's arguments? Is there anything you would add?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Dark Day for the Southern Baptist Convention

UPDATE---IMB Board of Trustees Vote to Recommend Removal of Wade Burleson as IMB Trustee

The following is an excerpt from Wade Burleson's blog regarding the IMB trustees' recommendation:

The Chairman has just read a statement into the record that the Southern Baptist Convention is being requested by a 2/3rd majority vote of the trustees of the International Mission Board to remove me as a trustee of the IMB. I have not been given a copy of the statement, but I know it contained the words "slander" and "gossip."

Anyone who has read Wade's statements knows that he has NOT slandered or spread gossip about ANYONE. He has always been careful to express his love and respect for those with whom he disagrees, not to reveal anyone's name without their consent, and not to reveal anything said in confidence. If anyone has been slandered or libeled, it has been Wade. (See this post for an example.)

Apparently, the IMB Board of Trustees now defines slander and gossip as:
  1. Showing members of SBC churches how THEIR IMB Board of Trustees operates. (Apparently, many of the trustees have forgotten that they are accountable to the SBC and do not constitute an independent oligarchy.)
  2. Speaking out publicly when the board adopts policies that impose extra-biblical (or even unbiblical) requirements on missionary candidates.
  3. Using a public forum to share personal views on issues facing the SBC. (But isn't that what BP's "First Person" feature is?)
  4. Expressing disagreement with any decision made by the board.
  5. Sitting down to share one's views with someone whose views are different, and LISTENING to their views, in a respectful, loving manner.

It seems that the majority of IMB trustees have decided that anyone who does not march lockstep with what they decide must be silenced. Disagreement is not to be tolerated. Today it's tongues and baptism, tomorrow it will be Calvinism/Arminianism, views on the end times, worship styles, or any other issue on which conservative Baptists who believe in the inspiration, infallibility, AND INERRANCY of Scripture have long agreed to disagree. But no more. We now DEMAND uniformity on interpretation, or at the very least for you to shut up if you disagree.

If we allow this to go unchecked, then we can kiss the SBC as we know it good-bye. We are standing at a moment of decision in the SBC. This action by the IMB Board of Trustees is either the first step toward the SBC becoming a fundamentalist dictatorship, or it is the first step toward the difficult and painful path of cleaning up the SBC and returning our focus to missions instead of power. I pray that it's the latter, but for that to happen we're going to have to make the sacrifice. What can we do?

  1. PRAY. Over at Missional Baptist Blog, Kiki Cherry suggested that we set aside this Friday as a day of fasting and prayer for the SBC.
  2. Contact the IMB trustees. Point out that, regardless of their view on the tongues and baptism issue, that it is wrong and dangerous to attempt to remove a trustee for expressing views contrary to the majority of the board. Jason Sampler has listed contact info for each trustee at his blog.
  3. Contact your state Baptist paper and encourage them to cover this story. Explain to the editor the issues at hand and the potential consequences of this action.
  4. Attend the SBC Annual Meeting in Greensboro in June. This may be the most important annual meeting in years. The result of the vote on the recommendation to remove Wade will indicate which of the two paths mentioned above the SBC will likely head down. There also will probably be an effort made to overturn the tongues and baptism policies, but I can't say for sure.

Also, if you haven't done so yet, stop by Wade's blog and let him know you appreciate his courage, grace, and love during this difficult time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Concerns About Fundamentalism and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

Thanks to Marty Duren and Wade Burleson for keeping us informed about what's going on at the IMB Trustee meeting in Richmond. Going into the meeting, I really didn't expect the trustees to overturn the recently adopted policies regarding tongues and baptism, but from what I have read about the meeting so far, I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention is in the greatest danger it has faced since the days when liberals controlled the leadership. The danger is the rising tide of fundamentalism, with its attitude of "my interpretation of Scripture is inerrant and infallible" and its efforts to silence, intimidate, and exclude those who disagree with them.

PLEASE understand what I am about to say. NOT ALL of those who support the new policies are fundamentalists. Many, perhaps most, of them exhibit Christian love toward those who oppose the policies, and they are not seeking to intimidate or silence anyone. But there are AT LEAST A FEW supporters of the policies who have personally attacked the character of those opposed to the policies. To disagree with someone is one thing, but to say that someone is "arrogant, deceitful, a liar, and above all, a man who lack[s] integrity" just because he disagrees with your position and shares his views with others is simply going too far.

After reading Wade's post about the first day of the meeting, I made the following comment (You should read Wade's post before reading my comment.):

For the first time I am beginning to have real doubts about the future of the SBC. I can easily see a day in the not-too-distant future where a person will have to be a Landmarkist/Arminian/ dispensational/pretrib/premillenial/complementarian/HCSB only or KJV only/cessasionist in order to be found acceptable as a missionary or denominational worker by the SBC leadership. When this happens, the SBC's days of being the global leader in missions will be nothing but a memory.

I haven't reached the point of thinking about walking away from the SBC, as many other younger leaders have. But the next 3-5 years will determine whether or not the SBC has a real future. I pray that it does, but if the attitudes and mindsets you have described are not exceptions among our leaders, then I have real doubts about our future.

What do you think? Is this issue regarding the IMB a sign of where the SBC is headed, or is it an isolated case? Does this issue demonstrate a move toward fundamentalism? If so, is that a good or bad thing?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Bus Keeps Rolling. . . Into the Playoffs

They did it the hard way, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are officially in the playoffs. This means that Jerome Bettis, known affectionately as the Bus, will play at least one more game for the Black & Gold. Speculation is that Bettis, who is in his 13th year in the NFL, will retire at the end of this season. What would be a more fitting end to his brilliant Hall-of-Fame career than for Bettis to play in the Super Bowl in his home city of Detroit?

Regardless of how the Steelers finish, I join with the crowd in Pittsburgh who chanted, "One more year! One more year!" Even though he is pushing 34, Bettis played a key role in Pittsburgh's drive into the playoffs by scoring three touchdowns in the season finale against Detroit. While he no longer piles up the yards like he used to, Bettis is still one of the best short-yardage and end zone running backs in the NFL. Whenever his career does end, he will be sorely missed by the Steeler organization and their fans.