Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

GO Fort Hays State 2010

Life at Union is great! We have now made it half-way through the Fall semester, and so far it has been a great semester.

Quick Construction Update: The Commons appears to be fully bricked (at least of what I have seen by walking around campus). If it is not fully bricked, then it is close. Also, the soccer field complex is almost finished as well. We now have at least twice as many stands as well as a press box at the fields, which has been really nice this season. And the Pharmacy building is currently under construction next to Jennings Hall. The steel beams are up, and it is coming along nicely.

Last week was the Baptist Conference that I have been reporting on these last few days, and next week (when we get back) is Faith and Practice Week 2009. David Platt will be back with us for three days, preaching the Word. About a month ago, we had GO week, being introduced to a variety of ways that we can get involved locally, nationally, and internationally. Now, almost one month later the teams for the GO Trips have been set.

In filling out my application, I put Fort Hays State as my number one choice. After talking with many of my team members from last year, I discovered that many were applying for new trips or were not planning on going anywhere this year. Furthermore, our leaders last year are not leading this year's trip either. Primary reason, they are having a baby. I have been accustomed to returning to the same place on multiple mission trips to continue to build relationships and continue to serve alongside the same people. So after praying about where to go, I felt like Fort Hays State should top my list. Thankfully, those who organized the trips allowed me to have the opportunity to return to Hays, Kansas next Spring.

So last night, after going through a series of activities with my new team members, we found our leader and our team. Now we will begin the process of getting to know each other, preparing for the trip, and connecting with Christian Challenge in Hays. I have been able to keep up with some of the students in Hays since we left in April, and I cannot wait to get back so that we can work alongside them once more. This will be my final Union University GO Trip, and I cannot wait to see what God will do this year.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

Thursday, October 8, 2009 - Dr. Daniel Akin

Times are changing in the Southern Baptist Convention, and I did not realize how much had changed over the past year. I guess this shows that I have not kept up with it lately, but Dr. Akin mentioned that the president of the NAMB and IMB are retired or are retiring within the year as well as the president of the Executive Board. Changes such as these can be both exciting and scary at the same time. With such a dramatic change within the same year, people have a right to wonder what the future of our convention holds. But Dr. Akin wanted to sound hopeful. He said that he sympathizes with the fact that with the decline of baptisms and understands why many people would think that we have a bleak future. In fact, he suggests that the future will be bleak if we do not stay on the right track with Christ.

First off, Akin said that as Southern Baptists, we must remain in submission to Christ’s Lordship. If we fail in this area, then nothing else will matter. We can attempt to develop the greatest convention with the greatest programs. We can rally around great “names” of the great men of the day. But if we do not remain with Christ, then it does not matter what else we do in life. Christ has to be our foundation. Thankfully, I feel like we have allowed Christ to be our foundation, and as long as we never forget this central truth, there will always be a hopeful future for our convention.

Dr. Akin’s next few points focused on the importance of Scripture and the doctrines that we rally around as Southern Baptists. First, Akin expressed the importance of committing to God’s word, believing it to be infallible. Once more, this is an issue that Baptist’s have been united on for decades (if not centuries), and if we remain committed to His word, we have nothing to worry about right now. But the Christian life is not about knowledge. We can know all sorts of information of how we are to live or how God would have us live, but we must also actively serve Him. Although works are not necessary for salvation, they show our commitment to Christ. If we do not live out what we believe, then we will have no influence on the lost. So Dr. Akin also commented on how our message must be theologically based, as we unite around the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This pamphlet outlines our common beliefs, what Southern Baptists rally around. These are theological truths that there is (or at least should not be) any discussion on. If you find yourself outside these boundaries, then you must reconsider your commitment to the SBC. But we must remember that although there are also secondary issues that we do not all agree on (such as worship), and since we differ, we must never allow these issues to split churches and friendships. We must remain united around our most common beliefs.

The next few points Dr. Akin made were about how the convention should be run. First, we must reflect the racial diversity of the world, not limiting ourselves to one race. Revelation 7:9-10 shows us the future, and as Christians, we have been commissioned by God to reach the nations. So as Baptists, we must not allow nationality or ethnicity or social classes to prevent us from preaching the Gospel. We must go to all the nations, without question. As a result, if we need to rethink the way that the SBC is organized, then we must be willing to change. Now although we cannot change for the sake of change, if change is needed, then we must be willing to allow this to happen for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Who are we to suppress the advancement of God’s kingdom?

Finally, we must be Gospel centered. Our foundation is on Christ, as we saw at the beginning. So if that is the case, then we must follow the commands that He has given us, to spread the Good News to those who have not yet heard. Our churches should be founded on Christ and centered on the Gospel. Therefore those in our churches must view themselves as missionaries. We need people to understand that a missionary is not just someone who travels to another country to preach God’s Word. We are all missionaries, for we are called to peach God’s Word.

So is there a future for our denomination? Yes, if we remain focused on Christ and the Great Commission. I appreciate Dr. Akin’s suggestions, and believe that this is a message that many of our churches need to hear. Some of us need to be reminded of our purpose, and some of us may just need to change so that we make sure that we are focused on what Christ is doing in this world and join Him.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Church's One Foundation

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - Dr. Robert Smith

Dr. Smith provided a powerful message with more information than I have to cover. But I will touch on some of his main points. One theme running through the conference has been the necessity in making the denomination’s “doctrine” something we personally believe, focusing on the local church and even more specifically on the individual. Like speakers before him, Dr. Smith commented on the necessity of uniting around common beliefs, like those presented in the Baptist Faith and Message, but he also spoke on how we are to make it our own confession as well. In that, he presented several convicting points that we must consider.

Our theology, as Dr. Smith believes, must be one “of the feet and not a theology of the seat.” We cannot sit at home in front of our TVs or in our rooms with the knowledge we have about God. If we do, we are failing at what He has called us to do. Instead, we must be active in serving those around us and spreading the Good News to those who have not yet heard. What good are our beliefs if we keep them hidden from the despite world around us? We must each consider this statement personally. I should ask myself how I am carrying out the Great Commission, and you must ask yourself the same thing. Are we like Philip in Acts 8 who fulfilled the Great Commission when he spoke with the Ethiopian Eunuch.? Do we allow God to put us in those positions specifically for the purpose of sharing His Word with those around us or do we shy away from those opportunities, ultimately disobeying God’s command?

I fear that too many of us (and I have been guilty of this as well) have shied away from those opportunities too many times. One reason we fail to proclaim Christ is because we do not fully believe. Many times this week we have seen how knowledge is pointless without action. Well today we have a lot of knowledge of who Christ is (believing the things He did in the Bible or in our own lives), but we tend to believe that He cannot help us in the here and now. If we do not believe that Christ is all that He says He is, then how can we tell others this glorious news? If we, if I, do not believe that Christ truly is enough and that our lives revolve completely around Him, then how will I ever have a desire to spread His word to others? Simply, I will not.

When our knowledge about who Christ is becomes more than knowledge, then and only then can we boldly proclaim Christ to the nations. We argue today about the necessity of works, and although many believe that they are necessary but not required for salvation, too many have used this statement as a crutch to do nothing. Since works are not necessary unto salvation, many believe that we can just sit at home while the world dies around us. But that is simply not true. Going back to Dr. Smith’s quote at the beginning, our theology (our ministry) is not something we can sit on. Instead, it is something we must act upon. We must be like Philip, actively pursuing the lost, serving the lost, and telling the lost about Christ. If we find ourselves content with doing nothing, then we must do a major spiritual checkup on ourselves. In fact, it may be healthy to do a spiritual checkup now. Am I serving Christ, or am I sitting in my home doing nothing? Do I have a heart for the lost, or am I content with watching them die around us? Am I willing to get up and go, or will I continue to sit around doing nothing? Will I meet someone one-on-one and share Christ’s love with them, or will I cower away from those personal interactions afraid of what the outcome might be? If we find ourselves in any of the latter examples, then we must decide what changes we need to make. But no matter where we fall, we must make sure that we know this Jesus we are proclaiming. Whether we are actively serving Him today or are just now committing to serve Him again, we must never portray the wrong image of Christ. Study the Word, have a knowledge and a belief of who God/Jesus is, but do not let it end there. Do not let our life end with the head knowledge. Instead, carry it through to service and tell the world about Christ.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - Dr. Ray Van Neste

Too many times today, preachers seem to believe that the central goal of the pastoral ministry is to preach the word. They believe that their presence in the pulpit over the congregation (a position that is removed from the personal relationships he could have with those people) is the most important aspect of their ministry. Now while the proclamation of God’s Word from the pulpit is key to their ministry, it is not the most central element. Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that the Gospel is not central to ministry for I believe it is the central element of our ministry. The problem that has arisen today is the fact that too many preachers no longer invest in the lives of their congregation.

A pastor is commanded to shepherd the flock. Dr. Van Neste pointed out that John 10:11-15 is an example of this ministry, an example that comes from the perfect example, Jesus. In this passage, Jesus portrays Himself as the Good Shepherd, the one who takes care of the sheep, the one who faces danger in order to protect His sheep. He does not run away when the trials come. He does not abandon the sheep in the difficult times. Instead He guards them so that they might persevere through those difficult times. The goal of today’s pastor should be more focused on taking care of the souls of his congregation (personally reaching out to the individuals) and not so much on preaching from the pulpit (hoping that someone might possibly hear the word and choose to respond without any prior personal interaction).

Paul is an excellent example of what this ministry should look like. Paul preached from the pulpit, and although it may seem as if that practice has been beaten down at this point, there is a time and a place for preaching. But Paul did not exclusively preach the Gospel from the pulpit like so many do today. Instead, he made sure that he took time out of his schedule to visit those in his congregation. He made sure that his ministry was also public, going from house to house to invest in the lives of his people.

Dr. Van Neste mentioned that many young pastors today are encouraged to stay distanced from their congregation. They are warned to not get too close lest they have to rebuke someone. But he suggested that this view is completely backwards. Pastors do need to be involved in the lives of their pastors. As for the practice of rebuking, it is much more effective when it comes from a close friend who cares about the spiritual condition of the person than it is when it comes from someone who has never shown any interest in the condition of their soul. Thinking on this, I believe that although it would hurt worse (which is the point), I would much rather one of my close friends rebuke my sinful ways than someone who I barely know. I may feel that these other people are picking on me, trying to make me feel bad, finding joy in my suffering, or I may just not know how to take them since I do not know them. But I would understand that my close friend had my best interest in mind, wanting me to draw closer to God once more. Now while this is just one example of why the pastor should be involved in the lives of the congregation, Dr. Van Neste also mentioned more.

But I will close with this one last observation. In the end, when judgment day comes, God will judge us according to the work that He gave us to do on this earth. He entrusted us with the souls of the many people that we would come in contact with in life (for the pastor, this would be his congregation). What will be the modern pastor’s excuse when God asks him why he did not reach out to those in his congregation? God gave us a mission, the Great Commission. And although it is honorable to preach God’s Word to the multitudes, we must also preach to the individuals, caring enough about their souls to share God’s word with them unashamedly.


Friday, October 9, 2009

"The Faith, My Faith, and the Church's Faith"

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - Dr. Timothy George

Dr. Timothy George looked at Jude 3 as he discussed the role of faith in our lives and in the life of our church. Jude 3 states, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude was written during a time of crisis near the end of the first century. Unlike today, grace was not cheap and the cross had not been reduced to a metaphor. It seems like today we have forgotten about the power of the cross in some aspects of our lives. The people in Jude’s day either remembered the cross from a firsthand experience or had close friends who had been with or seen Jesus. More than likely, there were more and more people who had not actually seen Jesus on a firsthand basis, thus ushering in a greater need for faith. Not only did they have to believe that Jesus actually had the power to die for their sins, but they also had to believe that there actually was a man named Jesus. So Jude wrote on what this “faith” was. He knew that he would only have time to write a short letter, so he wrote about what he felt was most important for his readers to hear.

But this “faith” is nothing if it is not personal. We can look to passages such as Jude 3 or read the stories in the New Testament all day long, but without faith it is pointless. Without faith, we are reading and studying in vain. So the question that we face today is whether we make Scripture and the creeds that have been developed over the last 2000 years a part of what we believe. Again, we can have head knowledge all day long, but without faith we have nothing. Without action (a direct result of our faith) we have nothing.

Finally, what about the “church’s faith?” Dr. George stated that any one of these three categories can lead to dead ends by themselves. We have already seen how faith is powerless unless it is also personal, our own faith. So how do we relate this to the church? The question now is what is it that we believe? As Christians, we have the message of hope, meant to carry out to the world, to all the nations, as commanded in the Great Commission. That is our statement of faith, what we believe, the message we receive in Scripture. This is where the “church’s faith” is rooted, Scripture.

Over the last 2000 years, the church has demonstrated their faith in a variety of methods: songs, confessions, prayers, and sermons. Now here is the connection between the individual and the church. Obviously, individuals write songs or sermons. Small groups of people develop confessions or statements of faith. But songs, confessions, prayers, and sermons are not kept to ourselves. Instead, they are shared with the congregation of believers. Instead of it being a strictly personal faith, it becomes a public faith that we share with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

We can get lost when we remain isolated, to ourselves, in our faith. When we solely depend on the church to tell us what we believe and do not search Scripture for the answers, we may not even know what we truly believe. But when we unite these two together (actually all three), they will support one another. We must have a faith that is our own personal faith (one that we have searched the Scriptures for) that is also supported by the church’s faith (what the church stands for, such as a confession of faith). All three of these “types” of faith must go hand-in-hand or we will find ourselves at a dead end.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Is There a Future for Denominationalism?

This past week I have been attending a conference here at Union: Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism. While I have not had the opportunity to attend every session (mostly due to class), I have attended several over the past few days. This post begins a series of posts where I will briefly share with you what I have learned. Please understand upfront that I am not able to capture all that was said in each session, and I do not do justice to what these great speakers have spoke on this week, but these posts will serve as a summary of some of the ideas brought up at the conference.

If you would like more information on the conference itself or would like to here the sessions that have been posted online, please go to:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - Dr. Ed Stetzer Session:

To begin with, Dr. Stetzer spoke really fast during his session and I fear that I did not catch everything that he mentioned in the session. The session itself was a response to the above question: is there a future for denominationalism? In recent years, commitment to denominations has been on the decline. In fact, 50 of the current top 100 largest and fastest growing churches are labeled as “non-denominational,” not connected with an organization such as the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, leaders in these top denominations are admitting that there are current struggles in denominational life.

Dr. Stetzer agrees that there are struggles today, but he spent much of his time speaking on why denominations are important. But to preface his positive reasons for denominations, let me explain his view of denominationalism. We do not really need denominations today, they are not absolutely necessary (something I had not thought of in those terms before). They are not the key to the Gospel or the key to spreading the Gospel, for that ministry thrives through the ministries of the local church. But denominations can provide connection and guidance in the larger ministry to which we have been called. However, we must never focus so much on the machine (denominations) that we forget our purpose (to spread God’s word to the nations).

It was suggested that denominations are inevitable because as humans we tend to group ourselves with those of like-mind. So in matters of faith, we tend to group ourselves with those who believe along the same lines as we do. As a result, groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention are formed. These connections begin to extend beyond the local church and allow believers to connect with believers of like-mind across the country and entire world. These connections are particularly helpful when storms arise. We can lean on one another and whether life’s storms together.

Another positive side of denominations gives believers a sense of rootedness, knowing what we believe in and what we were founded on. So the question raised now is what were we founded on? As Baptists, we must know where we come from. Our leaders set certain parameters when they developed the Baptist Faith and Message, the most recent edition in 2000. With confessionals, boundaries are established, which develops a sense of exclusivity. Those who do not find themselves within the set boundaries cannot be included in the denomination. For instance, the Baptist Faith and Message, outlines the basic beliefs of Baptists, basic beliefs that all churches associated with the denomination must agree on (beliefs that I myself agree on). But beyond this confessional are other issues, such as worship styles, how to run certain ministries in the church, and even issues such as expository preaching (some of the examples Dr. Stetzer mentioned). Since the Baptist Faith and Message does not specifically deal with these issues, there is a certain freedom that each church has in dealing with these issues. And we cannot form divisions and factions based on these secondary issues, for that undermines the purpose of the denomination. I have seen something similar to this happen before, and it tore the church apart. Matters such as these should never split a church.

So what is the denomination’s purpose? Our purpose is to spread the Gospel to all who are willing to hear across the world, the Great Commission. But we must remember that the denomination should assist the local church, not vice versa. If we get this concept backwards, then we neglect to fulfill the Great Commission. The denomination was created to assist local churches in doing ministry. Yes, the local church should support the denomination they are a part of, but ultimately the denomination is developed to assist the local church. Ultimately, we cannot forget the command to preach God’s word. If we fail in this aspect, then being included in a denomination is pointless.

To answer the question of this session, Dr. Stetzer concluded with saying that there is a future for denominationalism, and I agree with that. This session was a challenge to look at the way we view the denomination and how the local church should be run as a result.