"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Old IMB Policies Compared to the New IMB Policies . . .

There has been a great deal of confusion regarding the new policies for missionary appointees of the IMB. I felt it would be best to show you the old policies which guided the appointment process for the past several decades, and then the "new" policies on baptism and tongues approved at the last IMB Meeting in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Old Policy Regarding the Missionary Candidate's Baptism

The staff of the International Board, through the Candidate Consultants, thoroughly investigated the faith and baptism of each Southern Baptist who applied to be a missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention. The Candidate Consultant doing the interview with the missionary candidate would only pass on to the Personnel Committee of the International Mission Board a missionary candidate for appointment if the following were true of his/her baptism:

(1). The candidate's baptism was by immersion after having come to faith in Jesus Christ.
(2). The candidate's baptism was an expressions of the candidate's faith in Christ for salvation, and the baptism was not seen by the candidate as the means of salvation (i.e. "baptismal regeneration"), and,
(3). The candidate's home church, which of course by IMB policy must be a Southern Baptist Church, had already received the candidate's statement of faith in Christ, and baptism, as both sound and biblical; and the candidate had been a member in good standing of a Southern Baptist Church for at least three years.

THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OPINION REGARDING THE OLD POLICY ON THE MISSIONARY CANDIDATE'S BAPTISM: It was excellent. By following the above procedures, the Candidate Consultants of the IMB were so thorough and effective in their investigation of missionary candiates, that there cannot be ONE EXAMPLE GIVEN OF ANY MISSIONARY APPOINTED TO THE IMB MISSION FIELD IN THE LAST TWENTY YEARS WHO HAS NOT BEEN SCRIPTURALLY BAPTIZED.


The "NEW" Policy Regarding Baptism for Missionary Consultants

POINTS TO BE COVERED DURING THE APPOINTMENT PROCESS:

1.The Individual

a.Believer’s baptism by immersion

Baptism by immersion follows salvation

b.Baptism is symbolic, picturing the experience of the believer’s death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ.

Baptism does not regenerate.

2. The Church

a.Baptism is a church ordinance.

Baptism must take place in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer.
b. A candidate who has not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his/her Southern Baptist church as a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches.

3.The Candidate

The candidate is responsible for meeting this doctrinal commitment to the above points

4.The Consultant

While the candidate consultant should have a working knowledge of many
denominational groups, he is not expected to investigate every church.

APPLICATION

1.This guideline is not retroactive.

2.Any exception to the above guideline must be reviewed by the staff and the Process Review Committee.



THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OBJECTIONS TO THE NEW POLICY ON BAPTISM
The emphasis is placed on "the administrator" of the baptism (the church, the person doing the baptism, etc . . .), an emphasis that neither the Baptist Faith and Message or Scripture makes. To equate baptism with "a church" or "a body or system of doctrine" as the new policy does, goes far beyond Scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message, where baptism is seen as person's identification with Jesus Christ. In addition, the IMB is now in the absurd position of sending a prospective missionary back to his home church for "rebaptism" when the missionary candidate himself, the pastor of the missionary candidate, and the home church of the missionary candidate all believe that the candidate's baptism is biblical. All of section #2 in the new policy, entitled "The Church," is a change from previous policy and becomes extraordinarily exclusive, even Landmarkish. The practical effect of this new policy is that there will be missionaries who apply for service to the IMB, who have been Scripturally baptized, and are members in good standing of an SBC Church, but will be rejected by the IMB for service.

The previous IMB policy and practice regarding the candidate's baptism IS SUFFICIENT.




THE OLD POLICY REGARDING GLOSSOLALIA OR "TONGUES"
APPOINTING MISSIONARIES WHO HAVE A PRIVATE PRAYER LANGUAGE

The IMB’s Position:
1.The board does not have a policy that precludes appointment for those who have a private prayer language.

2.The Mission Personnel Committee dealt with this issue on June 23, 1992. There was a discussion of guidelines used by staff in dealing with candidates who have experienced “tongues.” Copies of the following statement were handed out:

IMB APPROACH TO GLOSSOLALIA
The International Mission Board has not voted a policy statement with regard to glossolalia and it is not mentioned among the criteria for mission service. However, the International Mission Board represents all Southern Baptists and it is important that our missionaries be people who are comfortable with worship as it is normally expressed within the Southern Baptist family of churches.

As we talk with candidates we discuss their beliefs, patterns of worship and devotional life, and a host of other issues related to their life as Christians and Baptists. In the course of such discussions we find that it is appropriate and natural to talk about worship and prayer, including glossolalia if that is a part of the individual's experience.

Our intention in those discussions is neither to interrogate nor to instruct, but to come to a point of mutual understanding. In terms of worship practices, the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossolalia in their public services. Therefore, if a person feels that glossolalia is a vital, significant and public part of his or her conviction and practice, we believe that person has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the majority of Southern Baptists. At the same time, we do not try to enter into the prayer closet of an individual to monitor or evaluate that person's prayer language and life.

After discussion, the committee endorsed the position taken by staff in dealing with this issue.

3.The General Policy Manual deals with the reasons for terminating field personnel. Number six says:

“A persistent emphasis of any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive to the Baptist fellowship.” (General Policy 200-11) (This statement is also found in MFP-221 and MFP-226).



THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OPINION ON THE OLD POLICY REGARDING TONGUES: It is excellent. You were fired if you practiced tongues publicly on the field, but nobody entered a person's private prayer closet.



THE NEW POLICY REGARDING GLOSSOLALIA OR "TONGUES."

GLOSSOLALIA

1.The New Testament speaks of a gift of glossolalia that generally is considered to be a legitimate language of some people group.

2.The New Testament expression of glossolalia as a gift had specific uses and conditions for its exercise in public worship.

3.In term of worship practices, the majority of Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossolalia. Therefore, if glossolalia is a public part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.

PRAYER LANGUAGE

1.Prayer language as commonly expressed by those practitioners is not the same as the biblical use of glossolalia.

2.Paul’s clear teaching is that prayer is to be made with understanding.

3.Any spiritual experience must be tested by the Scriptures.

4. In terms of general practice, the majority of Southern Baptists do not accept what is referred to as “private prayer language.” Therefore, if “private prayer language” is an ongoing part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.

APPLICATION

1.This policy is not retroactive.

2.Any exceptions to the above policy must be reviewed by the staff and the Process Review Committee.


THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OBJECTION TO THE NEW POLICY: Under these new guidelines Miss Bertha Smith, Dr. George Ella, President Jerry Rankin, and a host of other wonderful Southern Baptist missionaries would be disqualified for service. Cooperation among conservatives who disagree on this issue, and other issues of Biblical interpretation, is essential to reaching the world for Christ.


IN SUMMARY: Allow the words from the old IMB Policy to ring in your ears:


The International Mission Board represents all Southern Baptists . . .

As 2005 draws to an end, I ask, is the above still statement still true?

IN His Grace,

Wade Burleson

89 comments:

Clif Cummings said...

If it wasn't broke why did the IMB try to "fix it"? Having recently moved back to Oklahoma from nearly 11 years in the Texas Baptist battleground, I believe that this is just the tip of a very large iceburg. It needs to be dealt with. Thanks Wade for bringing this into the light.

baptist theologue said...

I think Dr. Rankin has great administrative skills, but his understanding of certain areas of theology is lacking, especially in the vital area of ecclesiology. The ideal for some IMB leaders is for rapidly multiplying churches in CPM situations to have new converts as pastors.

Notice the following quote from Dr. Rankin’s new book:

In places where it is possible to live among the people—or at least visit the area periodically—the missionary follows a four-step approach of modeling, assisting, watching, and leaving. He may lead the first group of believers for a few weeks, but will lead in such a way that a local leader can assume that responsibility. After receiving encouragement, training, and assistance for a short time, the local leader can initiate the method and pass on the training to other lay pastors and evangelists. . . . On Paul’s first missionary journey he spent only two or three weeks in each city proclaiming the gospel. . . They ordained or set apart these relatively new believers to lead the churches. They didn’t select these men as elders because they had confidence in them, but because they had confidence in the Lord, in whom they had trusted for guidance. . . . A primary church leader does not need all the curriculum of what might be taught in seminary to pastor the church; he needs to be equipped for what he needs at the time.

Jerry Rankin, To the Ends of the Earth (Richmond: IMB, SBC, 2005), 93-94.

Paul, however, did not appoint “relatively new believers” as pastors (1 Timothy 3:6), and neither should IMB missionaries. The New Testament does not specify how long Paul stayed in every city. On his first missionary journey, he “spent a long time” in Iconium because of opposition to the gospel in which “a great multitude believed” (Acts 14:1-3). On his second missionary journey, Paul stayed for a year and a half at Corinth (Acts 18:11), and on his third missionary journey, Paul stayed for two years and three months at Ephesus (Acts 19:8, 10).

B. H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Baptist Seminary, stated that new converts should not serve as official teachers:

While even babes in Christ may be received into the church for further instruction and development, those appointed to instruct and develop must have far higher qualifications of character, capacity, and knowledge.

B. H. Carroll, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews, vol. 6 in An Interpretation of the English Bible, J. B. Cranfill, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1948), 149.

John Hammett, a professor of systematic theology at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, discussed the qualifications of pastors:

One of the qualifications, unique to Timothy but implicit in the idea of an elder, is that of spiritual maturity. In the words of 1 Timothy 3:6, he must not be “a recent convert” (neophytos).

John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), 169.

Pastors should not be new converts. This is a serious area of concern. Churches led by new converts could quickly go astray.

Wade Burleson said...

My only question for you Mr. Baptist Theologue is this:

What does your comment have to do with my post?

You may be asking a very legitimate question that demands to be answered, but what in the world does your question about Dr. Jerry Rankin's view on "lay pastors" have to do with the "baptism" or "private prayer language" of a missionary candidate?

Kiki Cherry said...

Perhaps it is an attempt to cast new doubts upon the leadership of Dr. Rankin, since the tongues/baptism argument doesn't seem to be holding much water.

However, Dr. Rankin's CPM methodology fits totally within the guidelines of David Garrison's "Church Planting Movements", a model which has been sanctioned by both the IMB and NAMB.

Nobody can dispute what God has been doing in North India, Cambodia, throughout Asia and the world using this model. Millions have been coming to Christ. We have finally succeeded in moving away from the "missionary-dependent" model that for years limited growth and stifled indigenous leadership.

Man can plant seeds, but only God can bring about a harvest like what we have been seeing in recent months. God wants the nations, tribes and tongues to worship Him even more than we do. And if He wants to use new converts to evangelize their friends and neighbors, that is His perogative.

The churches that are being established are merely an outgrowth of so many people coming to Christ. Dr. Rankin is not the one responsible for what is happening on the field--but rather the Holy Spirit.

Are you suggesting that we tell God to slow down until the IMB can send enough "mature" Christians to lead each one of these fellowships of believers?

martyduren said...

Wade-
It would also do us well to remember that what one slate of trustees says is not retroactive, can easily be made retroactive by a future slate.

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, you said the following:

All of section #2 in the new policy, entitled "The Church," is a change from previous policy and becomes extraordinarily exclusive, even Landmarkish.

You broached the issue of ecclesiology by referencing Landmarkism, which is all about ecclesiology.

Kiki, you said the following:

And if He wants to use new converts to evangelize their friends and neighbors, that is His perogative.

Is 1 Timothy 3:6 still applicable to pastoral qualifications today? If it is, why would God violate His Scriptural admonition?

Bowden McElroy said...

Wade, how about a post on "Landmarkism". I think I know just enough about what this was/is to get myself in trouble should I try to talk about it.

Clif Cummings said...

To baptist theologue I express these concerns. It appears to me that some of your comments concerning Dr. Rankin's "understanding of certain areas of theologsy is lacking" only serve to confirm what some believe to be the hidden agenda of certain trustees, the removal of Dr. Rankin.
Far be it from me to believe that any one of us (or group of us) has the definitive understanding of any area of "non-essential" theology. "In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Charity," St. Augustine.

Kiki Cherry said...

In the simple church model, there are "mentoring links" set up. As a new believer comes to Christ, the discipleship process has already begun. The new believer is still accountable to a more mature believer above him, who is accountable to a mentor above him, etc. And the rate of discipleship is far more intense than what you see in your average American church.

Ultimately there IS a person at the top of the chain who fits into your 1 Tim. 3:6 guideline. But with the rate of multiplication of these "simple churches", that one person cannot always be physically present at each location.

But how can anyone control the rate at which the Holy Spirit chooses to work? If new believers are sharing their faith with their friends and family, and Christ is drawing people to Himself, why should we stop them? There comes a point where we just have to trust the Holy Spirit, and this established "chain of authority", to prevail.

Are there ever times where this chain will break down? Sure. But does doctrine ever break down within our established American churches as well? Of course.

That is where trust in the Holy Spirit comes in. He is fully God. And He can guide people back toward truth when they stray.

God does not NEED us to accomplish His will. He ALLOWS us to be part of His activity in the world. But if He could speak our very universe into existence, then He is big enough and powerful enough to accomplish his purposes in the world.

Rather than criticize what God is doing through this CPM, why don't we take a lesson straight from "Experiencing God." We should note where God is already at work and join Him in what He is doing.

One thing that is occurring simultaneously to these CPMs is that God is raising up a generation who are willing to be sent out as trainers. There are more and more young leaders willing to go and teach solid doctrine to these leaders of underground churches, even at the risk of their own lives.

Take Dr. David Platt, for instance--professor at NOBTS. When he is not teaching at the seminary, he is overseas training up the leaders of these simple churches,and often in places where his very life could be at stake.

Rather than trying to limit the "harvesters" and the natural activity of God, maybe we should be equipping and sending more trainers and disciplers.

GeneMBridges said...

Kiki makes a good point. The point that Dr. Rankin is making is the same as that of the old Presbyterian missiologists and evangelists that taught that churches should be indigenous. That is all. See R.B. Kuiper The program of church planting, as I understand it, ends up making the newest churches accountable to a mother church for a period of time. The work that Dr. Rankin outlines is focused on the individual leaders within those churches. The system ends up being, ironically, remarkably connectional, very like Presbyterian polity.

There is a need to disciple the folks that lead these churches. These indigenous churches need to be linked not only to the SBC through the missionary, but also to one or more established indigenous churches to which they are accountable.

Likewise, the issues regarding the mentorship of individual leaders in those new churches does tie in to the need in our own convention with respect to the way we do evangelism.

If we are going to put Dr. Rankin's words under the microscope, then I respectfully suggest we take a long look at the "Million Man Dunk" being promoted by our own Convention president. Which is worse, populating our own churches with spurious converts under an anemic definition of what constitutes evangelism or establishing churches along the model Dr. Rankin discusses and doing it in a connectional manner like the old school missiologists of yesteryear advocated?

By and large, we define "evangelism" as "get them to believe x,y,and z about Jesus, pray a sacramental prayer, and get them baptized," and we move on. We have churches in this convention that baptize thousands of people over 3 or 4 years, only to increase their attendance on Sunday morning by 500 to 600. Something is wrong with that, and we need to address it. We're already having conversations in Baptist Press about the state of the denomination. Are we regenerate or not? Baptist ecclesiology is designed to, if properly executed, result in a predominantly regenerate membership. Looking at the discrepancies between our baptism numbers, our church attendance, and our membership rolls, one could conclude we aren't being very honest about our statistics and our methods are not working at home, much less abroad. So, if we're going to examine Dr. Rankin's philosophy, then lets examine that of Bobby Welch and our better known evangelists and see how well they fit in ecclesiologically as well.

Baptist Theologue said...

Clif, my concern is not with personalities; rather, it is with proper theology at the IMB. Ecclesiology is not non-essential theology. It is vitally important. I hope Dr. Rankin will soon understand that new converts should not be designated as pastors. I like him, and I hope he learns and applies the truth about pastoral qualifications.

Kiki, I’m not criticizing what God is doing through genuine people movements and CPMs; such movements are certainly possible with qualified pastors leading new churches. God desires that the IMB follow Scriptural principles in its missionary activity, and that includes making sure that a man meets Scriptural qualifications before designating him as pastor. You mentioned the discipleship chain. Dr. Rankin discussed this in his recent book:

A primary church leader does not need all the curriculum of what might be taught in seminary to pastor the church; he needs to be equipped for what he needs at the time. If you have ever seen a row of ducklings following the mother duck in a single file you may not have realized they were not all following the mother; each one is following the duck in front of him. By giving leaders the training they need in a way they can pass it on to others immediately as they acquire it, a long educational process that delays effective evangelism and church growth is eliminated.

Jerry Rankin, Empowering Kingdom Growth: To the Ends of the Earth, Churches Fulfilling the Great Commission (Richmond: IMB, SBC, 2005), 94-95.

Jeff Brawner criticized this type of discipleship:

He [an unnamed IMB speaker at a CPM seminar] told us that we must visualize our ministry as if we were a mother duck leading our ducklings down the road. . . . Each successive duck isn’t focusing on the mother; he is focusing on the baby duck ahead of him. . . . He advised us that we must follow the same idea with our new believers in our respective countries. . . . We are to teach a new believer a principle as quickly as possible; send him out to do it, and he is to train the next person in what he has been taught. He might only have a little more of Christ then [sic] the person he is guiding, but he’ll always be one baby step ahead of his new convert. This is a key thought in CPM methodology. . . . This is an attractive concept on paper. Unfortunately, there are two inherent flaws in this part of CPM thought. First of all, this in no way follows the pattern that Christ set out in Scripture. It is true that the Apostle Paul did “commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others” (2 Tim 2:2). Paul certainly multiplied his ministry through his disciples, but HOW did he prepare those disciples? Did he follow the example of Christ and take a great deal of time eating, sleeping, walking and ministering alongside his men, or did he follow the “duck principle”. . . . I’m betting that he followed the first option. . . . The vast majority of believers need time, patience, and guidance from someone older in the faith. After a span of time that does not have to be years, the believer can start, not only to reproduce, but to multiply. However, the idea that he can start from day one and give up his idols, passions, or secret sins from his “old self” and begin to multiply spiritually flies in the face of reality for most believers. Can rapid multiplication happen? Of course it can. However, is it valid to base an entire ministry on this kind of quick discipleship? The pattern in the Gospels and Acts points to the contrary.

Jeff Brawner, “Planting Churches in a Harvest Field–Brazil,” Journal of Evangelism and Missions 4 (Spring 2005), 70-71.

Rick Thompson said...

I believe Gene and Kiki have put their finger on one of the principle issues we are dealing with. My fear is that there is not just an attack on Dr. Rankin, but on a broader scale, the strategy of the IMB. Which, ironically has been extremely effective at a time when the home church and other institutions have been somewhat lethargic.

Last summer I saw first hand the emergence of house churches in places where Christianity is forbidden in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. Six were started in one particalar region where our IMB volunteers were in tsumami relief and had previously not been allowed. Practically speaking, Rankin is acknowledging that we can't wait for Southwestern graduates to pastor them.

GeneMBridges said...

Out of curiosity, Baptist Theologue, you left 3 sets of ellipses in the original quote from Dr. Rankin's book. Would you please reproduce the entire quote?

Brother Rick, I'm not saying we shouldn't reexamine the current strategy of Dr. Rankin or the IMB at all. On the contrary, I come from the Reformed Baptist wing of the Convention and very strongly believe in connectionalism and not drawing elders from new believers. I also believe in Semper Reformanda, Reformed and Always Reforming.

As such, we need to constantly reevaluate strategies. Something may be working, and we shouldn't let pragmatism be our guide. The question I would have for Dr. Rankin, based on the above quote is "what do you mean by 'relatively new' believer?" Relative to what standard? Is this a believer of a few weeks, months, years? How is this this person/s tied into an indigenous mother church who is equipped to supervise this/these person/s? I don't have Dr. Rankin's book, so I need these questions answered to properly evaluate his words.

Our missionaries can stay and invest themselves over time or work within the framework of the indigenous areas where some churches already exist. It's worth noting that Paul in writing to Timothy is not discussing the calling of elders in the context of the establishment of new churches, but the calling of elders within an already established church, so, while there is a wider principle related to the calling of elders and then not being given spiritual pride that comes from being puffed up that new believers are more prone toward, there is still a difference in calling elders from within the local congregation of a new church in areas with no indigenous church at all and the congregation of an established church. The question is, how did they do it?

We know that the churches established by Paul and Barnabas on their first journey were established ca. 46 - 49 ad. The journey appears to have taken about a year, commentaries and critics vary. We don't really know definitely. It's worth noting that Paul and Barnabas established churches in the cities they visited, then they appointed elders when they returned through those same cities. They did not appear to stay for great lengths of time in all the cities they visited. We simply do not know, but we do know they left those churches when they planted them and stablized them and moved on and then appointed the elders after they had traveled to each city on their journey and on their way back to Antioch.

Now, the question is, did Antioch follow up with those churches while Paul and Barnabas moved on to the other cities, or were there more than Paul and Barnabas that left with them? John Mark was with them, were there more that Luke does not record, one or more of whom would stay behind to supervise the new church? Did Paul and Barnabas take a few from each city with them to train them as they continued their journey, or did they stay with them for relatively short periods of time, ensure they were stable and find ways to stay in contact until they could return and establish elders? It doesn't seem like they stayed and personally discipled the folks in those first churches for a tremendously long time. Thus, we're left with a teaching that we should not call elders who are new believers, written to Timothy serving in an established church, Ephesus, but a connundrum regarding the time spent discipling those whom they appointed elders in the churches planted during the first missionary journey. Presumably, as the churches became more connected, they interacted with each other and they were able to train up elders and potential elders in a more timely manner. Perhaps Antioch sent others to those churches to help them while Paul and Barnabas continued. Certainly, they received letters from the other churches and the Apostles themselves, including those of which were inspired for Scripture itself which, by God's providence, made it into the NT canon.

I favor connectionalism in which the first elders come from a neighboring established church myself. R.B. Kuper in God Centered Evangelism notes that the churches that Antioch established were not allowed complete autonomy even under their elders. The Apostles gave them direction, sometimes personally (Paul to the Corinthians is a prime example). The Jerusalem Council's decision was seen as authoritative for the church at Antioch and then the other churches. It is manifestly apparent that new churches cannot support themselves immediately and it takes time for them to be established. At the time Kuper wrote, he cites the churches in South Korea as evidence that churches could remain in need of connection to their mother churches for an indeterminate amount of time. Likewise, we need to recognize that missionaries should be planting churches, but I wonder if we might need to examine the idea of sending teams of missionaries, not just individuals and establishing associations, establishing first a well run mother church or churches that will supervise any other churches the missionary/s establish/es with the goal of forming associations.

I'm interested, however, in what Dr. Rankin is trying to say. These things should be explored. I agree, we can't wait for SWBTS, SBTS, SEBTS, MWBTS, NOBTS, and GGBTS grads to pastor them. Call me old fashioned, but I think the best strategy is doing it through strong, connected mother churches and association building. If that means a missionary goes to a new place and stays for a long time and pastors and trains for a long time in one church then, when he establishes that church moves on to a new area where he can stay for less time while that first church takes the daughter churches under its wing, that's what we should do, if its the biblical thing to do.

If, however, we are going to explore these theological questions, particularly Dr. Rankin's ecclesiology in this case, and be vocal about it, then we need to contextualize that discussion within the even wider context of the way we do evangelism as a Convention. I really meant it when I noted that we should, if we subject Dr. Rankin's writing to scrutiny, do the same thing with Bobby Welch's program to baptize a million. Are we doing "pray a prayer and dunk 'em" evangelism on the mission field, or are we doing educational evangelism and establishing connected churches?

What is wrong with our ecclesiology and philosophy of evangelism at home when we have churches that baptize 4000 members over 4 years and raise their average attendance over that same time by 650, with 29,000 members (27k resident) and, of those only 9000 of them are in attendance. I know of one church in this convention with roughly 4000 members that baptized 945 people during a 4 year period and they added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.

In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! If the church continues to grow at this rate then by the time it adds around 10,000 new members the preacher will be preaching to an empty auditorium at his "primary worship" service. Is this the kind of ecclesiology and evangelism we practice on the mission field? I hope not, but if this is typical of what we do at home (and the ACP's continue to reflect that it is what we do at home), and these numbers are reflective, as this example was, of the way prominent SBC leaders who wish to baptize a million are doing these things, then we need to have a conversation about the underlying theology of our missions, ecclesiology, and evangelism on more than one front. Our home shores are, it seems, quite disorderly.

So, ecclesiology and philosophy of evangelism, if we are to discuss them, should be discussed, but we should have an equal opportunity discussion if we choose to have it. I think we do need to have this conversation, and there is plenty of repentance to be had on all sides.

Paul said...

But Gene, you've now gone from preaching to meddling.

Kiki Cherry said...

Gene,

I think a huge part of the problem is the concept of "DO-ing evangelism" rather that "BE-ing evangelists."

Evangelism, if we are Christian, should be an integral part of our very being. In how we live, in what we say, in who we are not just in appearance but in character.

Look at the times that God has really moved throughout history. It is when His people have come in brokenness and total dependence on Him,and committed their lives fully to His will and purposes.

I think that's the place where we need to start.

Baptist Theologue said...

Gene, the full quote follows, as you requested:

In places where it is possible to live among the people—or at least visit the area periodically—the missionary follows a four-step approach of modeling, assisting, watching, and leaving. He may lead the first group of believers for a few weeks, but will lead in such a way that a local leader can assume that responsibility. After receiving encouragement, training, and assistance for a short time, the local leader can initiate the method and pass on the training to other lay pastors and evangelists. Relinquishing all leadership roles, the missionary stays in contact, watching and advising as needed before leaving and moving on to other unevangelized areas. The reluctance to relinquish leadership early in the process has been one of the primary weaknesses of traditional church-planting efforts. Once the missionary is seen and accepted as the primary leader, it is awkward, if not impossible, to pass on that role to an untrained local leader within the group. The alternative is for the new church to look for a pastor from without, imposing another factor detrimental to its strength and vitality and impeding its ability to grow and multiply spontaneously and independently. On Paul’s first missionary journey he spent only two or three weeks in each city proclaiming the gospel. As he reversed the circuit, we read in Acts 14:23, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” They ordained or set apart these relatively new believers to lead the churches. They didn’t select these men as elders because they had confidence in them, but because they had confidence in the Lord, in whom they had trusted for guidance. God had revealed to Paul that the Holy Spirit would disperse the gifts needed within each local body for its completion and perfection. Growth of the church is often inhibited by failure to trust God to raise up the leaders and failure to nurture gifts within the body. Church-planting movements cannot occur when there is a dependency on an outsider to fulfill the responsibilities of leadership. Another missionary has identified the principles for nurturing church-planting movements with the acrostic, “POUCH.” This stands for (1) Participative Bibe study and worship, (2) Obedience to God’s Word, (3) Unpaid and multiple lay leaders, (4) Cell churches that rapidly divide and multiply, and (5) Homes as the primary meeting place within a community where outsiders feel welcome. Most missionaries who have had a role in seeing church-planting movements among their assigned people group were committed to the admonition of 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” They never do anything alone, but are always modeling for national believers the vision, skills, and methods of witnessing, discipling, training, and their own personal walk with the Lord. As the movement expands, it is imperative to set up training programs and extension centers of basic theological education. It becomes impossible to continue one-on-one training as the number of leaders multiplies exponentially. Since it does not create local church dependency, assistance in funding and support for these training programs is often necessary. This is a high priority of the IMB, and more than one hundred twenty thousand grass-roots leaders participated in training modules and courses in 2003. However, the continuing growth of the movement cannot be sustained simply by the conscientious training of leaders. It is dependent on these leaders training others in what is called “just in time training.” A primary church leader does not need all the curriculum of what might be taught in seminary to pastor the church; he needs to be equipped for what he needs at the time.

Jerry Rankin, To the Ends of the Earth (Richmond: IMB, SBC, 2005), 93-94.

GeneMBridges said...

Dr. Rankin is not advocating the calling of new elders who are young Christians. He specifically says, "Relinquishing all leadership roles, the missionary stays in contact, watching and advising as needed before leaving and moving on to other evangelized areas." --The part you left out, Baptist Theologue. Now, what Does Dr. Rankin mean by "relinquish all leadership roles?" Literally, it is a self-refuting statement, in that the missionary is still leading, through observation, advising, etc. He isn't serving as an elder, but as the overseer of the elders. Dr. Rankin needs greater clarity in his thesis on that point.

Dr. Rankin draws from Acts 14: 23. Note again from that text, that Paul and Barnabas did not stay for long periods of time, and they do appear to have kept in contact with those churches. On the way back, not before they left the first time, they appointed elders, and, even then, those elders were subject to the connectional relationship of the mother chruch @ Antioch and to the Apostles themselves. I do think that Dr. Rankin is misreading the text a bit, however, in that Paul and Barnabas did appoint elders, but they did not relinquish leadership. On the contrary, Paul's authority trumped that of the elders. This is what happens when you read back the Baptist concept of absolute autonomy for the local church back into the text, classic semantic anachronism. Additionally, these churches were connectional, not completely autonomous, at the outset. The authority of the Jerusalem Council and the Antiochenes at that time proves this, as demonstrated in the next pericope. Those churches were allowed autonomy later, with Antioch coming to head its own See in the Ante-Nicene period. That connectional relationship does appear lacking in Dr. Rankin's analysis, or does it? I guess that depends on how you define your terms and set up an analogy between us in the SBC, the IMB, the missionary, any indigenous churches within the sphere of the new church and all their relationships with the new church.

So, the question I have is "how long should missionaries stay in one place before moving on? When should they appoint elders?" Clearly, these elders in this text were not appointed right away, there was intervening time, since Paul and co. had a chance to complete their journey and then return through those churches. (And Dr. Ranking doesn't seem to think they should be appointed right away, since he does point to Acts 14:23 and the time at which those elders were appointed). How much? A year? All my above questions essentially apply. If this is the model he is advocating, and it appears he is, then, Baptist Theologue, those are questions that need to be answered. Again, there is a difference in the appointment of elders in 1 Timothy, in an established church, and at the end of the First Missionary Journey, in new churches. There was an interlude between their conversion and training and their appointment, but how long was that time? We don't really know, and I can't help but think that Antioch itself was assisting those churches while Paul and Barnabas continued their journey. Again, we don't know.

Drawing historical precedent from Acts is also a sometimes dubious process. Not all the things they did are recorded for our benefit. They chose Matthias by lots. We don't call elders or deacons by lot, do we? They "held all things common," and this got the Jerusalem Council in a bind and Paul had to take up a unity offering later on and take it back to Jerusalem, so this isn't necessarily portrayed as a beneficial thing for us. It has some drawbacks. They were presented "warts and all," so we have to be careful about choosing what we will model from Acts, and avoid the warts.

He says, "Church-planting movements cannot occur when there is a dependency on an outsider to fulfill the responsibilities of leadership." Really? But isn't that exactly what was going on when Paul sent Silas and Timothy into churches to correct problems, or would he say they weren't really outsiders? I also believe that some of our Presbyterian brothers would disagree as well. The classic assertion they have made against Baptists in this department, as I understand it, is the number of failed churches and the emphasis quantity not quality. That's why they foster connectional relationships. Granted, they operate on a different polity at home, with ruling elders and sessions, church courts, and assemblies, but that's not the point. They do plant autonomous churches (in our own sense) abroad as well. I suppose that goes to more general questions of the way we order or own churches, church discipline, evangelisitic philosophy, etc. that are the wider context we need to address anyway, as I've argued above.

Here: Since it does not create local church dependency, assistance in funding and support for these training programs is often necessary.He seems to speak of trying not to foster "local church dependency." On the face of it, I think I disagree. Local churches should be dependent on their mother churches and each other for some time, under the watchful eye of the IMB. This is the example that the Sandy Creek Association itself used in founding Holston, Georgia, and Kiokee (*sp?) Associations. However, as I read that, it seems to me that Dr. Rankin doesn't define what he means by "local church dependency" here. How does "it" not create "local church dependency?" Is "it" the extension center? POUCH? etc. This sentence is not coherent to me.

I'll have to order Dr. Rankin's book and read it. Ah well, another book on the 2006 list. It's not even New Years yet! :~)

Kiki Cherry said...

Gene,

I think part of the problem here is that you are thinking of church in a Western context.

Have you ever worked overseas in indigenous church planting? There are two inherent tendencies that have historically caused problems, and are part of the reason for the shift in church planting philosophy: 1)missionaries who bring Western culture along with the gospel, and (consciously or subconsciously) try to "force" the indigenous culture into that model and 2)the natural tendency by the indigenous people to default to the leadership of the missionary.

Dr. Rankin is speaking as a man of experience, who understands not only the "ideal" church planting situtation, but also the practical aspect of it.

Your model sounds great on paper, and is possibly the best way to do church planting in Bible Belt America.

But having grown up in a third-world country, I just don't see how it's feasible in most foreign contexts. Especially the idea of always linking to a mother church. In many regions, I think the first response would be "WHAT mother church??????!!!!

I also would like to respond to another question you raised. You asked, "how long should missionaries stay in one place before moving on? When should they appoint elders?"

When God tells them to. Every situation is unique, and should be evaluated on an individual basis.

Baptist Theologue said...

Gene, you said the following:

“Dr. Rankin is not advocating the calling of new elders who are young Christians. . . . And Dr. Rankin doesn't seem to think they should be appointed right away, since he does point to Acts 14:23 and the time at which those elders were appointed.”

I disagree. As you mentioned earlier, Dr. Rankin referred to Paul’s setting apart “relatively new believers,” and Dr. Rankin referred also to the missionary passing leadership to an “untrained local leader.” David Garrison’s CPM book describes the selection of new converts:

Relying on local leaders can be difficult for missionaries. Even today, some missionaries insist on pasturing the new churches they help to plant. Similarly, some missionaries still insist on mother churches sending an ordained pastor on an itinerant route to provide struggling new churches with rites of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This pattern of external dependency has never produced a Church Planting Movement. Those who are reluctant to transfer this kind of authority quickly point to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 3:6 where Paul advises young Timothy that a bishop “must not be a recent convert…” However, Timothy’s church was already well established enough to reference several generations of believers (see 2 Timothy 2:2). In such an environment it was natural for Paul to delegate church oversight to those who had been closest to the original message delivered by the apostles, but nowhere does Paul place church authority in the hands of outsiders. When a new church is started, Paul does not hesitate to appoint local leaders right away. In Acts 14:23, immediately after winning converts in Lystra, Iconium, and Asia Minor’s Antioch “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Likewise, he urges Titus to appoint elders, local men with families whom everyone knew, for every town of Crete. Meeting with the Church Planting Movement taskforce we posed the question, “When do you pass the torch to new leader?” Their unanimous response was, “In a Church Planting Movement you begin with the torch in their hand.” The nods of approval around the room testified to the shared experience. Of course this is only possible when the churches are rooted in obedience to God’s word and a lifelong commitment to discipleship.

David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World (Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004), 187-188.

Gene, in regard to the missionary, you said:

“He isn't serving as an elder, but as the overseer of the elders.”

The missionary is certainly in an advisory role for a period of time, but he is not filling the authoritative office of an apostle or “overseer of the elders.” The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, under Article VI, states that the church’s “scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.” It also defines a church as “an autonomous local congregation.” Thus, after the churches are established and have pastors other than the missionary, the missionary has no authority over them. In contrast, the Apostle Paul did more than give advice; he had authority over the churches he established. Article VI lists 1 Timothy 3:1-15 as one of the Scripture passages applicable to the article, and thus it implies that the passage is still applicable today. New converts should not be chosen to serve as pastors.

Kiki Cherry said...

Last quick comment, then I've really got to get to sleep. Long drive tomorrow.

CPMs are still lay leadership driven (Church Planting Movements,by David Garrison, Chpt. 3 p. 35) But the goal is to provide on-the job training (through programs like Theological Education by Extension) while not limiting the natural progression of the movement.

In Chpt. 5, p. 44, Garrison explains this concept of "on-the-job training."

"Avoid the temptation to pull new local church leaders away from their churches for years of training in an institution. A decentralized theological education which is punctuated by practical experience is preferable. This approach might include one month of training with two months of pastoral work, or eight sessions of training for two weeks at a time stretched over a couple of years, with ongoing discipleship and skill upgrades that may last a lifetime. Higher education may benefit church leaders at some point, but it can hinder a Church Planting Movement in its early stages."

New converts are being rapidly trained for leadership positions out of necessity. But doctrinal training continues throughout the process.

I think Garrison hit the nail on the head, though, when he warns agains prefabricated methodologies. In Chpt. 7, page 52, he states, "Whenever missionaries enter a field with a pocket full of answers rather than a heart that is hungry to watch and learn where God is at work and what He is doing, they are limiting His ability to use them. This is not to encourage a 'know-nothing' approach to missions, but it does speak to the necessity of humility and dependence upon God to reveal where and how He chooses to bring about a Church Planting Movement."

Ryan Abs said...

It sounds to me like BT and others like him associate a seminary education with the ability and qualification to pastor. That is funny, considering some of the worst and least effective pastors I know hold doctoral degrees from SB seminaries. And some of the best and most effective pastors we have ever seen held no degree or a bachelors from a mainstream university. I feel sorry for those whose faith is in education and not in Christ.

Baptist Theologue said...

I don't think a seminary education is required for a pastor. I do think that he should not be a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6). Thus, Baptist ordination councils normally determine whether the candidate grasps basic doctrine and meets the Scriptural qualifications for the office of pastor.

Kiki Cherry said...

But where are you going to find these Baptist ordination councils in rural India or SE Asia?

Kiki Cherry said...

I feel the need to explain from a personal perspective why we are fighting so hard against these new guidlines and the mindset that accompanies them.

We love our denomination. And our denomination has historically been a leader in world missions and actively involved in the work of God globally.

But these ever-tightening restrictions, which are not based on the essentials, are making it virtually impossible to continue to "join God in what He is doing" through the avenues of the SBC.

Let me explain what I mean.

On a personal level, we asked God to direct us to where He is working, and stepped back to look at the larger picture.

We see strong evidence of God's activity in three particular areas: 1) CPMs, 2) College campuses and 3)locations where major disasters have occurred.

We also saw three other distinctive factors: 1) God is calling His people to personal consecration and active prayer, to "prepare the way" and build a "highway of holiness" 2) these movements have a strong foundation in the Word of God, in expository teaching and raising disciples who can study the Word for themselves, and 3) in many cases, like in disaster areas, there is a cooperation and unity among followers of Christ that transcends denominational boundaries.

Yet we are getting stuck on the minors, while God is moving in an exciting and amazing way around us.

I am afraid that if we do not seek out God's agenda, and keep chasing rabbits, then those fighting in the trenches will leave.

Those who are actively pursuing God are going to keep their eyes on Him and His activity, regardless of where our denomination decides to go. But if the SBC makes it impossible for them to fulfill their calling within our own organizations, they will go elsewhere. Their allegiance is to Christ first and foremost.

I fear that we may one day wake up and find that the lifeblood of our denomination has seeped away, and we are left with nothing but a shell of what the SBC once was.

Baptist Theologue said...

Kiki, you asked the following:

“But where are you going to find these Baptist ordination councils in rural India or SE Asia?”

In cases where the church planting missionary is alone without any national pastors to serve on such a council, then the missionary alone could make a recommendation to a church about whether a candidate for pastor meets the Scriptural qualifications of the office. The church makes the final decision to approve or disapprove the candidate. I served on an ordination council recently. We presented our findings to the church and recommended the candidate, and the church then voted to approve the candidate.

In the older version of Garrison’s book on the IMB web site, you can clearly see the assertion that new believers can serve as pastors:

“Rather than waiting for new believers to prove themselves worthy of leadership, missionaries begin by drawing new believers into leadership roles through participative Bible studies and mentoring pastors from behind the scenes.”

CPM Chapter 4, Common Factor 9
http://www.imb.org/CPM/Chapter4.htm

I don’t have any statistics to prove it, but I think most Southern Baptists believe that 1 Timothy 3:6 is still applicable to today’s churches in all people groups. Remember that 1 Timothy 3:1-15 is listed as a supporting Scripture passage with Article VI (The Church) of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

By the way, just out of curiosity, does anyone here believe that people immersed only in the Church of Christ should be accepted as members in a Southern Baptist church without rebaptism in that SBC church?

Kiki Cherry said...

Baptist theologue,

I'm still a little sketchy myself on how some of this works in the CPMs overseas.

But I actually got to meet David Garrison today (which was SO cool!)and he gave me a copy of his new book. So I'll read that and get back with you on it.

I gave him this blog address, and I'm hoping that he'll come on here personally and comment, although it probably won't be for a few days because he'll be in Asia. (He was literally heading out the door to the airport when we stopped by, but was still gracious enough to visit with us.)

Apparently there will be a new website soon that can also answer a lot of these questions. I believe it will be called "Best Practices Institute."

But I did ask him about 1 Tim. 3:16. And he said that they use shared leadership roles, typically with a pastor, deacons, and a treasurer. Typically five deacons are selected, and each is assigned responsibility for the areas of worship, fellowship, ministry, evangelism, and discipleship. The pastor may be a relatively young believer in Western terms, but is approved by a group of solid, grounded Christians (which often includes the missionary or one of the leaders under him.)

However, he also said that they have seen very few problems with faulty doctrine in these simple churches. He attributes that to the work of the Holy Spirit and God just protecting the integrity of His church.

Baptist Theologue said...

Kiki, you said,

“The pastor may be a relatively young believer in Western terms.”

Kiki, 1 Timothy 3:6 states that the pastor should not be a “new convert” (NASB). This is a universal truth, not a Western truth. Remember that 1 Timothy 3:1-15 is listed as part of the article concerning the church in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

Wade, do you believe it’s okay for new converts to serve as pastors?

Wade Burleson said...

Kiki,

You asked, so I'll tell you.

I think there is currently an "overemphasis" on the establishment of "churches" in other countries.

Where two or three are gathered together in the Lord's name, Christ is in the midst of them.

A missionary on a foreign field may only lead one or two people to Christ in the first couple of years. He should have the privilege of baptizing them and discipling them (the Great Commission), whether there is an established "church" or not.

Englishmen William Carey took 20 years in India before he had "one" convert. It took many more years before he helped establish a "local" church.

Carey is now a posthumous hero in India for his work. If we as the IMB are not careful, we might consider a modern day Carey a failure because he does not "establish" a local church quickly. Some of the most eternal things take time, and establishing a local church should take time.

In some regions (Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, etc. . . regions I oversee on the IMB), it is virtually impossible to establish a local, non-Western led church at this time, but it is exciting to see Muslims led to Christ and discipled by our IMB personnel, with or without, a local church.

In time, a local church can, and should, be established, but I think that is separate work from fulfilling the Great Commission, because I believe Scripture is clear that the Great Commission and establishing a local church should be considered separately.

So, to answer your question:

No, I do not believe a young believer should be a pastor.

But the reason the IMB may be facing this dilemma is because we have tied evangelism and the Great Commission far too closely with the establishment of local churches.

I would propose that our SBC convention could fulfill the Great Commission without ever establishing ONE church, because Christ is building HIS church through the spreading of the gospel, and He will not fail.

Then why start local churches?

For many, many, good, solid Biblical reasons.

But I really believe we need to take a step back and see the Great Commission and establishing local churches are two separate ministries in Scripture, or we fall right in the lap of the sect called Landmarkism.

Sorry you asked Kiki?

In His Grace,

Wade

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, Kiki did not ask the question; I did. Thanks for answering the question.

Wade Burleson said...

Baptist Theologue,

Oops! Sorry for the confusion.

You obviously are very bright. I have enjoyed reading your posts.

What are your thoughts regarding my response to your question?

Wade

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, I agree that it sometimes takes a long time to establish a church in a new area. I think one problem with New Directions/SD 21 is that all team leaders/strategy coordinators have been forced to write master plans that supposedly will result in CPMs in three years, no matter what people group they are working with. Dr. Garrison made an interesting statement recently:

“Churches in Church Planting Movements, however, face a different set of considerations. Because they tend to occur in settings that are less friendly to the gospel, churches in Church Planting Movements prefer to keep a low profile. They want to blend into their neighborhoods, shielding the congregation from persecution.”

David Garrison, “Global Church Planting: Something is Happening,” Journal of Evangelism and Missions: 4 (Spring 2005), 83.

The problem is the lack of understanding of receptivity. Some governments (or groups in power) are hostile to Christianity; yet particular people groups there are receptive to the gospel and the messenger. In other cases, both the government and all the people groups are unreceptive to the gospel and messenger. The CPMs described in Garrison’s book tend to occur in places where the government (or group in power) are hostile to Christianity but where a people group is receptive. House churches are effective in such places and multiply rapidly in secret. In the unreceptive places you described, in contrast, the government (or group in power) is unreceptive, but the people groups are also unreceptive, and thus house churches do not rapidly multiply, and a CPM is impossible until the people groups become receptive. I think it was a mistake to force all IMB missionaries to adopt the house church model. True, many churches have started in a house, but they have acquired official church buildings. The IMB policy is that churches start in a house and stay in a house. One house church divides to form other house churches, and the churches never become very large. In some cultures and people groups, such a policy is not the best way to go. In contrast to the IMB’s policy, the North American Mission Board sees CPM house church methodology as one option, not as a universal requirement.

I think it is difficult to separate church planting from the Great Commission. We are commanded to baptize, and baptism is a local church ordinance. We are commanded teach new converts “to observe all that I commanded,” and that includes the Lord’s Supper, another local church ordinance.

Kiki Cherry said...

Wade,

I agreed with your response, too. : ) And I would not have been sorry I asked.

Part of it goes back to how we define the small groups of Christians assembling together, which have grown out of the rapid growth of the CPMs. I'll let David tackle all that when he gets back.

I told him that he was welcome to go back and correct me on anything I misrepresented. : ) I don't claim to be an authority. But I do believe that the CPM movement is of God, and am concerned about what will happen if those opposed to this gain control of the IMB. It also seems that some of the criticism of Dr. Rankin is rooted in this particular issue.

I don't think anyone has all the answers to the challenges of these CPMs. But my concern has been that we not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I have to seriously question the motive of those who would want to stop something that is bringing millions into a relationship with Christ.

I grew up with an IMB church planting/seminary professor father. This was dinner table conversation in our house. Church planting is part of my DNA. Our passion as a family is loving God, loving people and reaching the unreached.

I have been studying Garrison's Church Planting Movements model for the past year and a half. In PA we are looking into applying this same model within a Western context.

We just witnessed a second attempt at a traditional church plant fail in our area. The "way we have always done it" may not actually be that effective in many regions (particularly outside the Bible Belt). We also need to do a better job at reaching younger generations. So we are also trying to figure this all out.

Wade Burleson said...

Baptist Theologue,

I would love for someone to do a dissertation on "the ordinances" in Baptist life.

I think you will find that it was almost universally believed among Baptists until 1800 that the Lord's Supper and Baptism were ordinances of Christ.

In other words, Christ commanded them, Christ instituted them, and Christ governs them.

With the rise of the influence of Landmarkism within the SBC, particularly in the early to mid 1800's, the confessions of the Southern Baptists began to shift to reflect the view that the ordinances are "ordinances of the church."

Any time a young man is ordained, a Landmark will always ask, "Young man, what are the two ordinances of the church?" That young man, shaking in his boots, will never consider that the premise of the question is wrong, but he will respond, because he has been warned, saying, "Baptism and the Lord's Supper."

I would hazard to say most Southern Baptist pastors could not defend from the Bible their view that the "ordinances" are the church's and not Christ's.

They believe it simply because they have been told to believe it.

Why is it important, in my opinion, to see Baptism and the Lord's Supper as ordinances of Christ?

Every follower of Jesus Christ has the privilege of baptizing his convert and remembering his Lord through the bread and the wine whether or not there is an "ordained" pastor present.

In other words, it is unnecessary to have "a church" to win people to Christ and to remember the Lord through the bread and the wine. Missionaries can do it. Families can do it. It's the privilege of every Christian.

However, if a church is established, and individual Christians covenant together as a family of believers, then that church, once established, is obviously the organization, through her pastor/elders, that church should examine a person's faith and baptism before admittance into fellowship. In addition, the church does have say over the practice of the Lord's Supper within the fellowship of that local church for the purpose of discipline or discipleship, but I think it is vital that a person understand that the ordinances are Christ's, and not the church's. It ultimately affects how we do missions and evangelism.

I realize this may be a shock to your system, but I again, refer you to the linquist and brilliant Baptist theological scholar Dr. John Gill of the 18th Century, and to his theological treatise called "The Body of Divinity" where he makes this very point regarding the ordinances.

Landmarkers who read this will have a cow.

Honest, conservative Christian men and women will search it out for themselves.

If I can be proven wrong from Scripture, I will, of course, change my view on the spot.

My guide is the Word of God, not the opinion of man.

By the way . . .

The view that the ordinances belong to the church is highly Roman Catholic.

Baptists historically have been the antithesis of Roman Catholocism ecclesiology.

Not so much anymore.

In His Grace,

Wade

Wade Burleson said...

Kiki,

Great comments, as usual. I really think our IMB Board ought to be discussing the issues you raise. They are compelling, relevant and at the heart of our mission.

Unfortunately, we get so sidetracked on the ridiculous, it is hard for us to concentrate on the essential.

I do hope Mr. Garrison gives us his thoughts.

Wade

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, I was surprised to see that you do not believe that baptism and the Lord's Supper are local church ordinances. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message says otherwise. Notice what it says first about baptism and then about the Lord's Supper:

"Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."

Article VII, 2000 BF&M

Wade Burleson said...

Baptist Theologue,

I have no problem with the statement in the Baptist Faith and Message you quote. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances at my church as well, so I can honestly say they are "church" ordinances.

However, it's a little like saying of the chair I'm sitting in as I type this, "This is my chair."

In reality, it is my father-in-law's chair. I'm keeping it till he returns from the mission field.

The ordinances are Christ's, not the church's, but for a church to call Christ ordinances "church ordinances" is fine, unless . . .

There is no established "local" church.

Then what do you do?

Can a Christian observe the Lord's Supper in the desert of Arabia with no church or pastor around?

Of course. It is Christ's ordinance.

Can a Christian baptize his convert in the desert of Arabia if there is no "local church?"

The Landmark says, "NO!"

I say, "Absolutely."

Paul was baptized and then joined the church.

The Eunich was baptized and then joined the church.

Where is what I have said not Biblical?

Show it to me if you can.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Wade Burleson said...

Baptist Theologue,

I have no problem with the Baptist Faith and Message calling Baptism and the Lord's Supper "church ordinances."

It is a little like me saying of the chair I am sitting in, "This is my chair."

In reality, it is my father-in-law's chair. I'm keeping it until he returns from the mission field.

The church keeps the ordinances of Christ 'till He comes."

But what about that missionary in the isolated Arabian desert? Does he refrain from observing the Lord's Supper because their is no organized church? No.

Does a missionary refrain from baptizing his convert in that same Arabian desert because there is no offical "church" in which the convert can be baptized? No.

Paul was baptized immediately upon conversion and later joined the church.

The Ethiopian Eunich was immediately baptized and later joined the church.

Of course, it is simpler in our culture and society for those who come to faith in Christ to be baptized in our church, but it is only a "church ordinance" because we are keeping Christ's ordinances as He commanded.

But in regions and areas where local churches are not yet established, it is very logical, Biblical, and Christ-honoring for those who follow Christ to enjoy the bread and the wine when they gather for fellowship, remembering their Savior, and to immediately baptize those they lead to Christ.

In time, a local church should be established, and of course, then the ordinances of Christ are kept by the believers who covenant together as a spiritual family, but even then, it is very appropriate for members of that congregation to enjoy the ordinances when they are unable to be present at the corporate worship times.

The 1644 London Confession of Faith has a great statement regarding the ordinances in Article 33:

"That Christ has here on earth a spiritual Kingdom, which is the Church, which He has purchased and redeemed to Himself, as a particular inheritance: which Church, as it is visible to us, is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world, by the Word and the Spirit of God, to the visible profession of the faith of the Gospel, being baptized into the faith, and joined to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement, in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances, commanded by Christ their head and King."

I would be very interested in you showing me from Scripture where I am wrong.

In His Grace,

Wade

P.S. You might reread my post entitled "What Every Baptist Should Know About Baptism"

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, you said the following:

“I think you will find that it was almost universally believed among Baptists until 1800 that the Lord's Supper and Baptism were ordinances of Christ. . . . With the rise of the influence of Landmarkism within the SBC, particularly in the early to mid 1800's, the confessions of the Southern Baptists began to shift to reflect the view that the ordinances are ‘ordinances of the church.’”

Check out what John Smyth (one of the founders of the first English Baptist church) said in 1609:

(12) That the church of Christ is a company of the faithful; baptised after confession of sin and of faith, endowed with the power of Christ.

(13) That the church of Christ has power delegated to themselves of announcing the word, administering the sacraments, appointing ministers, disclaiming them, and also excommunicating; but the last appeal is to the brethren of body of the church.

http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/scof.htm

Thus, local churches have the authority to baptize delegated to them. Philip was an officer of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5) before he baptized the Samaritans (Acts 8:12) and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38). The apostles of the church in Jerusalem had authority over Philip’s activity in Samaria, and Peter and John came down to Samaria (Acts 8:14) and laid hands on the new believers. Baptism is not separated from churches in Scripture, and of course IMB missionaries are members of churches.

John Hammett, a professor of systematic theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, discussed this issue:

“There is widespread agreement that the administration of the ordinances belongs to local churches. This agreement is based on a number of factors. First, the command to baptize (Matt. 28:19-20) was given to the apostles, not as independent individuals, but as the authorized leaders of the early church. New Testament descriptions of baptism and the Lord’s Supper seem to assume that these activities normally take place in the context of a church, or in the case of some baptisms, at the beginning stage of a church’s establishment (as in Acts 2:41; 8:12; 16:15). . . . But the ordinances involve commitment to a body of believers (in baptism) and renewal of that commitment (in the Lord’s Supper) and thus cannot be properly observed in a context unrelated to a church.”

John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 261-262.

In regard to the visible and invisible church, we must remember that the English word “church” comes from the Greek word “ecclesia” (assembly). The word is used three ways in Scripture: (1) a local assembly (2) an assembly in heaven when all the elect of all eras are gathered at the end of time (3) a general reference to the church as an institution. There is no reference in Scripture to the elect on earth at any particular period of time as constituting a universal, invisible church. Those elect individuals on earth at a particular period of time cannot be assembled as a group until the end of time; e.g., infants dying in infancy do not believe while alive on earth, but they will be part of the assembly of believers at the end of time. Article VI (The Church) of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message refers to the church as being (1) “a local congregation” and (2) “all of the redeemed of all the ages.”

Baptist Theologue said...

Correction for my previous comment: John Hammett serves as a professor at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, not at Southern. He received his Ph.D. at Southern. Prior to that, he served as a pastor and missionary.

Wade Burleson said...

Baptist Theologue,

Nice post. Four comments in response.

(1). John Smyth statement is great. It speaks of "the brethren" having the authority, not the clergy. I believe he is proving my point. I am opposing the idea that only the "ordained" clergy have the authority to administer the sacraments. All 'the brethren' who name the name fo Christ have that privilege. Landmarkism says that the ordained "pastors" of Baptist churches are the spiritual descendents of the Apostle. I fight that tooth and toenail.

(2). Do you actually believe the command to Baptize was given to the Apostle's only? I'm not asking you to quote Dr. Hammett, I'm asking you yourself. If you follow that logic, then the command to evangelize was given to the Apostle's only as well.

(3). Dr. Hammett is teaching the Landmark position. In fact, he is teaching the classic Landmark position. Contrary to what Hammet says, the universal church is present in this world --- Christ is building it. To talk of the local church as the "only" church puts one in the sectarian position of refusing to recognize believers in churches that are not "Baptist."

(4). I have no problem fellowshipping, serving and cooperating with Landmarks. The problem is they will not cooperate with you. Landmarkism leads toward a separatism and independence.

(5). You can quote Landmarks, I can quote Gill. There is an abundance of commentators on both sides. I'm asking you to defend from Scripture that the "ordinances" are the "local" church's, with the "local" church having power over them, rather than Christ's and the people of Christ (the universal body of Christ) commanded to observe them.

Remember, I agree that the ordinances are "local" church ordinances, as the Baptist Faith and Message states, to the extent we keep them in the covenant community we call the "local" church. But when a person who is identified with Jesus Christ, and is away from his "local" church, he has the privilege and blessing to observe the ordinances (i.e. "baptize" the evangelized, and "remember His Savior through the bread and the wine"). Do you say he does not have that privilege?

If so, why?

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, I think you are being a bit careless in identifying Dr. Hammett with Landmarkism. You said,

“Contrary to what Hammet says, the universal church is present in this world --- Christ is building it.”

Dr. Hammett did not deny the universal church. He said the following:

“Local churches partake of the oneness of the universal church to the degree that they hold to the one Lord and one faith of that one church. In other words, churches that profess and hold to the gospel are one with the church universal and can rightly claim the mark of unity.”

Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 53.

Dr. Hammett discussed Landmarkism:

“There are a number of problems with the claims of the Landmark Baptists, but the most serious is a failure to make a distinction between what is essential to the church’s nature and what is important and not essential.”

Ibid., 64.

James Leo Garrett Jr., a well known Southern Baptist professor and theologian, quoted J. R. Graves in explaining the essence of Landmarkism:

“James Robinson Graves, the leading Landmarker, in 1880 set forth seven marks of the true church, which he affirmed to be found among Baptists:
1. ‘The Church and Kingdom of Christ is a Divine Institution.’
2. The Church ‘is a Visible Institution.’
3. The Church’s ‘Locality is upon this Earth.’
4. The Church is ‘a Single Congregation,’ ‘independent of all other bodies.’
5. The Church has a ‘professedly regenerate’ membership.
6. The Church practices ‘Christian immersion’ as ‘the act appointed for the profession of gospel faith.’
7. The Church observes the Lord’s Supper as a ‘commemorative’ ‘local church ordinance.’”

Garrett, “The Congregation-Led Church: Congregational Polity,” chapter 3 in Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004), 182-183.

I agree with the Landmark Baptists that there is no invisible church, but I disagree with them when they say that the Lord’s Supper at a local church can only be observed by the members of that church. I believe that just as a local church can invite non-members to preach in their pulpit, a local church can also invite non-members to participate in the Lord’s Supper if they are biblicly immersed believers. So, I guess I would not be considered to be a full-fledged Landmark Baptist. I also believe that Church of Christ immersions are not biblical immersions, so I would not be in favor of accepting former Church of Christ members as members of my church if they were not willing to receive a biblical immersion. I would be in favor of accepting biblical immersions from churches of like faith and order.

Wade, you said the following:

“But when a person who is identified with Jesus Christ, and is away from his "local" church, he has the privilege and blessing to observe the ordinances (i.e. "baptize" the evangelized, and "remember His Savior through the bread and the wine"). Do you say he does not have that privilege?”

Let’s think about a hypothetical situation. While his parents are out of the house (who are members of a large, traditional, Baptist church), an eight-year-old boy (who attends the same church as his parents but is not yet a member) could ask his seven-year-old friend (without getting authorization from his parents or the aforementioned church) if he wanted to get baptized in his bathtub. Would his actions be proper?

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Baptist Theologue,

Forgive me. You are correct that it is careless to identify Dr. Hammett as a Landmark Baptist. I will seek to not make a similar mistake again.

However, one of the characteristics of Landmark Baptists is that they claim Christ gave the privilege of baptizing believers to the Apostles only, and not to all disciples of Christ.

Now to your hypothetical, which unfortunately, you make sound ridiculous.

The way you describe it the boys were playing around and participated in a game of baptizing in the tub. I am choosing not to be offended by the ridiculous question "would his actions be proper?"

I assume you mean would we accept the boy's baptism at our church.

Of course not. There is no salvation present in either boy, the one dunking his friend and the one being dunked. That's a silly question.

However, if a young child of eight, himself a member of our church through his faith in Christ and believer's baptism, came to us with his friend and said that for a period of time he had been sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with his buddy, and that after much prayer and discussion his friend had received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. Further, both families were at a picnic over the holiday and the new believer wanted to share with his parents that he had identified himself as a follower of Jesus Christ. With family and friends looking on, and with parental consent of both young men, this young convert professed his faith in Christ through baptism in the pond behind their house, having the privilege of being baptized by his friend, the young Christian man who had led him to Christ.

Now then, ask me the question: Would his actions be proper?

You bet.

Our church would examine this young convert ourselves, but after our examination of his faith and baptism, finding them both to be Biblical, we would receive him into membership.

Now please, from Scripture, tell me why you would not accept this young man's baptism.


In His Grace,

Wade

Ben Stratton said...

Bro Wade,

You ask for Scripture why we should not accept this young man's baptism. Every baptism preformed in the New Testament can be shown to be connected to a church. You say, What about Phillip and the Eunuch? Whether he was Phillip the apostle or Phillip the evangelist, he was still an ordained officer of a local church. You ask, What about Ananias and Saul? Everyone agrees there were disciples (plural) at Damascus. It seems very reasonable that Ananias was the pastor of the church at Damascus. The other baptisms fall right in line. Saul / Paul, who was sent out by the church at Antioch. Peter, who was an apostle at the church at Jerusalem. etc, etc. This is why we Landmarkers call baptism a church ordinance. The Great Commission is the only place in scripture, where baptism is given as a command to perform. We Landmarkers believe this commission was given to the church, for it was the church that would endure through the end of the age. We believe that the scriptures and not tradition compels us that baptism should only be administered by someone connected to a church in line with the faith and practice of the New Testament. If you are going to believe that baptism can be administered by anyone regardless of doctrine or church affiliation, you need to teach and encourage your church members to baptism their non-immersed Christians friends in their swimming pools or bath tubs. This would be the only way to be consistent in your position. - a Landmark Southern Baptist pastor.

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, thanks for adding some details to the hypothetical situation. You did, however, leave out a couple of important details. We know that the eight-year-old boy’s parents are members of a large, traditional, Baptist church, but we don’t know their spiritual maturity level. We also don’t know the spiritual status of the seven-year-old boy’s parents. What if they are heavily indoctrinated Church of Christ members? What if they tell their son, “Yes, you say you have surrendered your life to Christ in repentance and faith, but one other requirement is missing—baptism. Physical immersion is a requirement for salvation.” What if the eight-year-old boy’s parents are unable to refute this statement? Yet, the immersion in the pond proceeds in the midst of this confusion. Was it a biblical immersion or not? Neither church authorized or designated the eight-year-old boy to administer the baptism. After the immersion, when your church examines the young convert’s faith and baptism, would it find them both to be Biblical?

Dr. Hammett gave some relevant comments:

“There is no theological reason why someone must be ordained to administer the ordinances, but it does seem prudent and orderly. At the same time, we view the ordinances as entrusted to the church, not to the church’s leaders. Therefore, the church can designate whomever it chooses to administer the ordinances, whether that person is ordained or not. . . . But the ordinances involve commitment to a body of believers (in baptism) and renewal of that commitment (in the Lord’s Supper) and thus cannot be properly observed in a context unrelated to a church. They are not appropriate for loosely related groups like those found, for example, on a youth retreat, or a small portion of the church, like a home Bible study.”

Hammett, 261-262.

No particular immersion mentioned in Scripture can be strictly separated from a local church.

Wade Burleson said...

It makes me no difference the "spiritual maturity" level of the boy's parents. They could be lost, and it would not affect our treatment of the boy.

Our church's examination would be of the boy and his personal faith in Christ. It is what he believes, and if in our questioning of him he could not articulate his faith in Christ, then of course we could not receive him into our fellowship.

When you say, "no particular immersion in the New Testament can be separated from a local church" it leads me to challenge you directly:

Give me the name of the local church into which Paul was baptized? It sure isn't the Jerusalem church; they had nothing to do with Paul's baptism, so tell me the church that did.

Give me the name of the local church into which the Ethiopian was baptized?

You can't.

The answer from our Landmark friend in the post above is an illustration of adding to Scripture to arrive at a conclusion.

Solo Scriptura.

Here I stand.

In His Grace,

Wade

Ben Stratton said...

My Good Brother Burleson,

I notice that outside of calling my post an example of an "illustration of adding to Scripture to arrive at a conclusion" you have ignored my arguments from scripture. Whether baptism is a door into the local church or merely an perquisite to joining is a mute point to the alien immersion argument. Landmarkers have disagreed amongst themselves on that question for generations. The argument is that baptism must be connected to a local church - that is those performing the baptism much be connected to a local church and a sound one at that. In my post above I dwelt with both Phillip and Ananias. Please read Acts 9:19. It is clear there was a church at Damascus. - Ben

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, if you look at my statement again, you’ll see that it was carefully crafted. I said, “No particular immersion mentioned in Scripture can be strictly separated from a local church.” I did not say that Paul was baptized into a local church. His baptism, however, was connected to a local church. He had begun persecuting the “church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), and he began “ravaging the church” (Acts 8:3). The resultant scattering (Acts 8:4) caused other churches to be formed as “those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” Apparently some went to Damascus and established a church there, and Ananias was a part of it. Ananias had “heard from many about this man, how much he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13), so apparently the church at Damascus had connections with the church at Jerusalem. John Gill made this point:

“Ananias had been at Damascus some time, and was not an eyewitness of the havoc Saul made of the church, only had the account of it from others; and these many who fled to Damascus upon the persecution, which Saul was at the head of; and being so, was particularly spoken of, and his name was well known, and was become infamous for his cruelty and barbarity.”

http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/GillsExpositionoftheBible/gil.cgi?book=ac&chapter=9&verse=13

Again, in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, I did not say that he was baptized into a particular church. There was, however, a connection with a local church. Philip was an elected officer of the church in Jerusalem.

Back to our hypothetical situation: if the parents of the eight-year-old boy are lost, and the parents of the seven-year-old boy are heavily indoctrinated members of the Church of Christ who tell their son that baptism is required for salvation, would you accept that pond immersion as a biblical immersion? Do you believe that Church of Christ immersions are biblical immersions? Does your church accept people for membership who have received only a Church of Christ immersion, or does your church require that they be immersed in your church?

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks guys for some great posts. One final comment and I must move on.

Back to the hypothetical as you requested.

It was OUR MEMBER who baptized the boy in the pond, so I don't care if the parents were atheists.

Second, I have never yet found a "Church of Christ" person who desires to join our church and understands salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Every Church of Christ I have met who wanted to become a member of our church felt that he was saved in the waters of his baptism. We have taught, discipled and loved that person to the point that he sees his salvation is through Christ alone, and then we baptize him --- biblically.

You and I are probably saying the same thing.

Thanks for your comments.

FYI. I appreciate your quote on Gill. I think you will find his view on baptism is the same as mine.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, it is helpful.

Anonymous said...

Gangkeyawan here,
If new candidates "gifted" with a "prayer language" wish to continue using it has disqualilfied them as a representitive of Southern Baptists through the IMB, then ANY commissioned IMB missionary that persists using their "prayer language", even in private, has disqualified themselves as a representitive of Southern Baptist doctrine through the IMB, let's go ahead and make the new policy retroactive to clean out the ranks. God continued to reduce Gideon's numbers to show His power through fewer warriors, so even if a small handful of IMB missionaries are sent home, surely God would be able to work mightier through those dedicated saints that remain.

Stephen Pruett said...

This series of posts has been educational for me, and I commend the participants both for the content and the respectful tone. It is precisely this type of dialog that has been missing in the SBC. Wouldn't it be nice if the SBC decided to use the internet in a series of structured blogs to actually deal with issues of contention. This seems to me to be much closer to the process modeled in Acts 15 than our current approach.

In this whole series of posts, there is an additional issue about which I am uncertain. Does Baptist Theologue think it is appropriate to change IMB policies in a manner that will embarrass (at the very least) the IMB President? Is it reasonable to infer that this was part of the motivation for the change in policy? If Dr. Rankin's "understanding of certain areas of theology is lacking" would it not be more ethical to deal with these areas rather than indirectly attacking him? Unfortunately, such tactics seem common in the SBC. Thus, I pray that Wade's efforts will spark much needed change. In addition, the detailed theological and policy issues raised in this one series of posts emphasize how important it is that we put down our own favorite legalisms in favor of cooperation. If a small group of Bible believing conservatives can disagree to such an extent on the few issues discussed here, it is clear that if Christians must agreee on everything before they cooperate, there will be no cooperation.

Wade Burleson said...

Stephen,

Amen.

Well said.

I really respect the men who have posted in this blog.

I not only want to cooperate with them, I consider it my honor to cooperate with them.

These issues we are discussing, when compared to what we are accomplishing around the world through the IMB, are insignificant.

You have eloquently and succintly shared my motives in what I am doing.

I want people to see that conservatives disagree on tongues and baptism, but that it should not mean we "separate" from those who don't agree with us.

Again, excellent post.

In His Grace,

Wade

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, you asked the following:

"Does Baptist Theologue think it is appropriate to change IMB policies in a manner that will embarrass (at the very least) the IMB President? Is it reasonable to infer that this was part of the motivation for the change in policy? If Dr. Rankin's 'understanding of certain areas of theology is lacking' would it not be more ethical to deal with these areas rather than indirectly attacking him?"

I'll try to answer each of your questions in order.
(1) I'm not trying to embarrass anyone. I like Dr. Rankin. It is also true, however, that "his understanding of certain areas of theology" has a profound effect on the IMB. If his understanding is incorrect, then hopefully it can be corrected without too much embarrassment.
(2) I think it's usually difficult to judge the motives of other people. We can safely assume, however, that all the IMB trustees want to see correct theology reflected in IMB policies.
(3) I am not attacking him. I do hope he will come to a correct understanding of the issues we have discussed.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bro. Burleson, but I decided it would have been better to read all of this thread before posting to the newer threads (not that I didn't mean what I posted on those). Anyway, I've finally gotten around to reading the whole thing and have these comments.

In differing with the new policy you state that it is "Landmarkish". This is a sort of ad hominem argument, even if not intentionally so. The specter of Landmarkism is enough to frighten many away. If by "Landmarkish" you mean "influenced by Landmarkism" that might be so, though debatable. I know a number of conservative Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, and otherwise who are definitely not Landmarkers but practice basically what is outlined below.

"Baptism is a church ordinance. Baptism must take place in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer."

While Landmarkers might agree with the above, those who hold only the above might differ widely with Landmarkers. The new policy only limits in 3 areas - the baptizing church must be an immersing church in faith & practice, the baptizing church must reject efficacy in the baptistery, and the church must hold security of the believer. Churches that meet these requirements can and do fall far short of Landmark requirements - that they must be BAPTIST in faith and practice.

Ultimately, the "proper adminstrator" stands or falls not on whether the idea is "Landmarkism".

marty adkinson said...

Going back to the origin of this discussion, I have to aggree with Clif Cummings, if it wasn't broke, why must it be fixed?

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Vaughn,

Thank you for your gracious and kind spirit.

Let me be very direct and concise.

The old policy of the IMB examined the missionary candidate's personal views on baptism and whether or not he was immersed after having come to faith in Christ, and made sure the candidate did not believe in baptismal regeneration when he was baptized or since.

Never in the history of the IMB has any missionary ever been appointed who was not Scripturally baptized.

However, now the new policy states you must be baptized IN A QUALIFIED CHURCH, which is a total misrepresentation of Scriptural baptism.

The Bible NOWHERE identifies baptism as "joining a church" or "professing a doctrine of a church," but rather, "joining the family of Christ," and "professing faith in Jesus Christ."

The old policy was excellent.

The new policy turns us into a sect.

What I am asking is simply that the IMB recognize that many, many churches in the SBC accept baptisms as bibilical that the new IMB rejects because those churches do not have a sacerdotal view of baptism.

I don't know how many times I have to say, but I'll say it till I am blue in the face --- TALK TO THE MISSIONARY ABOUT HIS BAPTISM AND WHAT HE BELIEVED WHEN HE WAS BAPTIZED!!!!!!

Quit trying to find out whether or not his church was "pure." Landmarks bother with that and we are not Landmark Baptists.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


P.S. Finally, I remind everyone that no missionary candidate appears before the board unless an SBC church has determined his baptism is Scriptural --- for that candidate must be a member of an SBC church for at least three years before he applies for missionary service.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bro. Burleson, thanks for the explanations and comments. I could go on & on, but this is your blog, not mine. Thanks for letting me contribute to it.

You say, "The new policy turns us into a sect." I get what you're saying, but in a way it is true that SBC missions is closed to that "sect". For example, the policy that "a candidate must be a member of an SBC church for at least three years before he applies for missionary service" seems in a sense more "sectish" that the other in that it specifically specifies SBC churches, whereas the policy specifies doctrine. On the other hand, everyone understands that an organization must have certain standards that are "self-promoting" (i.e. must be an SBC member) in order to continue to function and exist as an organization.

All in all, I think when you write -- "What I am asking is simply that the IMB recognize that many, many churches in the SBC accept baptisms as biblical that the new IMB rejects because those churches do not have a sacerdotal view of baptism." -- that really sums it up. The problem is that the SBC is such a large organization and it has a lot of diversity on the issue of baptism -- from accepting immersions as bibilical for satisfied believers, to the new IMB policy, to all out Landmarkism.

I'm sure most concerned would prefer their method be the chosen one, and would prefer that they were supporting missionaries they agreed with on this issue. Obviously, someone is going to have to agree to disagree.

Thanks for listening. Happy New Year and have a blessed first week of this new year.

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Vaughn,

I wish you a wonderful and blessed New Year as well.

The IMB had a great system at work under the old policies when the candidate consultants interviewed all prospective candidates and recommended for appointment only those who were Scripturally baptized.

The candidate consultants desired no policy change (nor requested it). The President of the IMB desired no policy change (nor requested it).

This is the first time in the history of the IMB that policy changes occured without the trustees having ANY input from staff.

I specifically asked at the last board meeting to hear from the candidate consultants as to what they felt regarding the new policies and the chairman of the Personnel Committee refused to allow them to speak (saying, "it would not be beneficial").

All I am saying is this:

When the largest congregations in the SBC, and when the largest contributors to the Lottie Moon offering in the SBC, and when the pastors of the largest churches who serve as trustees on the IMB, and when the younger generation of pastors within the SBC all express their disagreement with the new policies, then the convention risks disenfranchising the very people who sustain missions for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Setting aside the belief I have that the new policies are unsupportable by any text of Scripture, it is foolish to continue to narrow the parameters of cooperation. It's bad business.

You end your comment by saying, "obviously, someone is going to have to agree to disagree."

YES!

Agree to disagree! THAT IS WHAT I AM ASKING.

Let's agree to disagree.

But what others are saying is, "Agree to agree or don't cooperate."

I say, "Agree to disagree and let's cooperate together."

I don't agree with you on tongues, but I'll serve beside you.

I don't agree with you on the administrator of baptism, but I'll serve beside you.

I don't agree with you on Arminianism, but I'll be a missionary with you.

We can't keep dismissing conservatives who are different from us or we will end up dying from within.

Get the picture?

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

R. L. Vaughn said...

Well, some interesting thoughts to go to rest on. Good night and thank you.

But before I go, one completely off-topic question, if you don't mind. How did you get the counter of visitors at the bottom of your page? I have a weblog with blogger/blogpot, but mine doesn't have that feature as far as I know. Of course, I'm totally new to this and maybe just don't know how to do it. Thanks.

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Vaughn,

http://sitemeter.com/

Go to the site above and sign up.

It's free and I recommend it.

They will send weekly updates via email as well.

Wade

Stephen Pruett said...

In response to the last post by Baptist Theologue, I would like to suggest that at some point there will be a matter on which your opinion is judged to be lakcing (at least by a majority of persons in the SBC or some sub group of it), just as you regard Dr. Rankin's now. When policy on that matter is changed such that those who are on the "wrong" side are excluded from missionary service, or membership on an SBC Board, or a position at an SBC seminary, or membership of a local church in a regional association (in other words it becomes a criterion for fellowship and cooperation), you will find yourself excluded from service on the basis of having the "wrong" opinion on some relatively minor matter of interpretation. This would be tragic. Unfortunately, it is already happening to others who have a private prayer language, for example. I do not suggest that baptism or tongues or other issues are unimportant. However, my take on the New Testament is that nothing short of heresy or living in an openly and unrepentantly sinful manner should preclude cooperation and fellowship of believers. Thus, the SBC should discuss (openly) and study these issues. Perhaps seminary professors could be commissioned to write "white papers" on them to provide a rigorous exegesis on which discussion could be based. However, in the mean time, we should not exclude people on the basis of these matters. Would you really want to face someone at the gates of heaven who was rejected because a missionary was not sent to his country because the church that baptized him was not acceptable to the SBC? I think this is what Wade means when he says that we shouold keep our legalistic tendencies in check. Jesus was gentle with the folks that the SBC fights (common sinners), but he was harsh with religious legalists. I think this is becuase sin carries its own punishment and even those engaged in it know deep down that it is empty and not sustainable. In other words, sin is self-limiting. Things may get bad, but if they get too bad, the family, country, civilization, etc. will fall and a less sinful one will emerge. None of this really harms the cause of Christ, because a culture in which sin and its consequences are readily evident is actually an environment in which it is easier to make a case for the gospel. However religious legalism harms the cause of Christ, becuase it drives away those who might otherwise accept Him. The SBC's public persona has reflected legalism more than love for a long time now. It is not that we need a new PR firm, because I believe the public perception of the SBC as a self-righteous, legalistic bunch is right on target. We (the SBC) need a change in attitude that is then reflected internally with a new emphasis on cooperation and externally with a focus on helping folks rather than condemning them. If we cannot devise methods to maintain our conservative perspective and our reverence for the Bible while doing these things, then we truly lack imagination and the type of servant-leaders described in the Bible.

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, I’ll try to respond to your comments. You stated,

“I would like to suggest that at some point there will be a matter on which your opinion is judged to be lakcing (at least by a majority of persons in the SBC or some sub group of it), just as you regard Dr. Rankin's now.”

That point came a long time ago when I expressed my disagreement with five-point Calvinism, but I do agree with every word of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, which constitutes “a consensus of opinion” of the SBC.

You also said,

“When policy on that matter is changed such that those who are on the "wrong" side are excluded from missionary service, or membership on an SBC Board, or a position at an SBC seminary, or membership of a local church in a regional association (in other words it becomes a criterion for fellowship and cooperation), you will find yourself excluded from service on the basis of having the ‘wrong’ opinion on some relatively minor matter of interpretation.”

I should not serve for a particular confessional institution if my beliefs conflict with that institution’s confession of faith; rather, I should find another place to serve where my beliefs fit. If I am really called by God to serve in a particular type of ministry, He will provide a place for me to serve.

You also said the following:

“However, my take on the New Testament is that nothing short of heresy or living in an openly and unrepentantly sinful manner should preclude cooperation and fellowship of believers. Thus, the SBC should discuss (openly) and study these issues.”

I have close friends who fervently believe the doctrines of the Church of Christ, but I would not want to pay their salaries to propagate false doctrine.

You continued,

“However, in the mean time, we should not exclude people on the basis of these matters.”

What if a person had only received a Church of Christ immersion and an SBC church accepted that immersion as biblical? What if that person (whose only immersion had been in a Church of Christ) applied to be a missionary for the IMB? Should the IMB accept that person’s baptism as is, or should the IMB suggest that the person receive a biblical immersion?

You asked,

“Would you really want to face someone at the gates of heaven who was rejected because a missionary was not sent to his country because the church that baptized him was not acceptable to the SBC?”

Your soteriological view has a problem. You have given an excuse to many lost adults who never hear the gospel before they die. According to Romans 1:20, however, such people have no legitimate excuse. If your view were correct, then many adults who die without hearing the gospel could stand before God at their judgment and tell God that He should let them into heaven because they would have surrendered their lives in repentance and faith if they had been given an opportunity to hear the gospel. Not only could they point their fingers at the Christians who failed to share the plan of salvation to them, they could ultimately point their fingers at God for failing to provide some sort of opportunity for them to hear or read the gospel.

In your view, the Christian who shares the gospel becomes a type of savior for the lost adult. In heaven, according to your view, the person who received the testimony could approach the one who shared the gospel and say, “Without you I would not be here. No one else would have shared the gospel with me.” The one who shared the gospel could legitimately boast, “You are quite correct. You owe me your eternal life. Without me, you would be in hell.”

Of course, Christians are merely God’s obedient tools when they share the gospel. In heaven, according to my view, the person who received the testimony could approach the one who shared the gospel and say, “Thanks for being obedient to God. I understand that if you had been disobedient and had not shared the gospel with me, God would have found another means to provide me an opportunity to hear or read the gospel. He deserves all the praise. Nevertheless, I appreciate your being obedient and serving as God’s tool to share the gospel with me.” The one who shared the gospel could then say, “You are quite correct. God deserves all the praise. I am thankful that He used me as His tool to share the gospel with you.”

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, Article V, states,

“Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.”

Notice the key phrase, “comprehends all the means in connection with the end.” If God wants to save a lost adult, He comprehends the means in connection with that end. He will provide all elect, non-Christian adults with the means to understand and receive the gospel. I am not a five-point Calvinist, but I do agree with this article of our confession of faith. Notice also that election excludes boasting. I will not boast in heaven about how many people I won to Christ, and neither will anyone else. All the glory will go to God. Article II states, “His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures.” He has always known that elect, non-Christian people who are past the age of accountability will freely choose to surrender their lives to Christ when He provides them with the opportunity to do so.

You also said,

“Jesus was gentle with the folks that the SBC fights (common sinners), but he was harsh with religious legalists.”

You might want to elaborate on that. I was not aware that the SBC was fighting common sinners.

Finally, you said the following:

“I believe the public perception of the SBC as a self-righteous, legalistic bunch is right on target.”

I disagree. I think SBC churches and institutions are full of loving Christians who want to be used by God as He accomplishes His glorious, sovereign plan for the universe.

Stephen Pruett said...

Suppose you have devoted many years to service in the SBC, and you care deeply about it because it is, to you at least, the body that most closely models the biblical ideal of church cooperation to accomplish the work of God. Suppose the B F & M 2008 includes five point Calvinism. Would you just casually move on to another denomination with no harm done? Would it help the SBC to lose you, with your experience and investment and passion for its causes? I think the answer is obviously no to both questions. One problem here is inconsistency and lack of integrity. The SBC has a de facto policy of agreeing to disagree and continuing fellowship and cooperation on some issues, but not on others. The issues that have become critera for exclusion do not seem to be the most important issues, rather they seem to be those that represent the favorite legalisms of the group in power at the moment. Wade has pointed out carefully and reasonably that the current rules on tongues and baptism are workable and biblical. What then is the benefit to adding additional criteria for exclusion? The shifting and growing criteria for exclusion have created an aura in the SBC that is unrecognizable when compared to the ideals for churches expressed in the New Testament. I have communicated with several SBC employees who have asked me not to share their communications with others because they fear retribution-not based on any expression that is against current SBC policy, but because they cannot know what will be the basis for exclusion in the future. I don't see any signs of such an atmosphere in Acts 15.

Please forgive my amateur status in the area of soteriology (my Ph.D. is in immunology, not theology). You have obviously given this matter more thought than I, and I am nearly in agreement with your discussion. However, there is another passage in Romans (10:14-15) in which the question is asked how can people believe without the word being preached, and how can it be preached if preachers are not sent? Is there another way to interpret this passage than to accept that failure to send preachers will prevent some from believing? Even nature reveals enough of God to allow people to decide to follow Him or not (Romans 1:20), but a clear presentation of the gospel followed by discipling is obviously preferable. Will Baptists be accountable for accomplishing this? God has called the SBC to do it and every time we fail because we exluded missionaries on the basis of criteria of debatable biblical interpretation, we express our value system and our priorities. The IMB Board's actions suggest a value system in which legalistic conformity is more important than fulfilling the great commission. How can this possibly conform with Paul's (i.e., Bible's) priority system in which he would do anything not immoral, even to the point of acting weak to reach the weak?

Of course, I am not suggesting we pay persons whose beliefs correspond more closely to the Church of Christ than to the SBC. I am saying that we should be willing to cooperate with those folks on the presentation of the gospel. I am also saying that the issues being discussed here are excellent examples of differences in opinion on Biblical interpretation that can be accepted without harming the fundamental mission of the SBC. I am very pleased that Wade has raised the alarm about the conseqeunces of continuing to be crusading conservatives. I too believe that mandating conformity is a dangerous way to go. I mentioned inconsistency earlier. Now that we have begun down this road, what is there to stop some new SBC leader or Board from decideing that the best solution to this lack of consistency is not to agree to disagree on disputable interpretations but to list 20 (or 30 or 50) more interpretations that one must accept to be a Southern Baptist and then implement them as criteria for exclusion from service or cooperation.

My pastor (who is very conservative but also has evangelism as his highest priority) told a joke recently that goes like this. There was a man getting ready to end his life by jumping from a bridge. A Baptist man driving by stopped his car to try to prevent the suicide. He began to talk to the jumper, and the jumper said that he was a Baptist. The man who stopped said, me too! Are you a King James only Baptist or do you like other versions as well? The jumper said King james only. Me too, said the man who stopped. Are you a pre-millenialist? Yes, said the jumper. Me too, said the man who stopped. Do you favor women deacons? No, said the jumper. Me either, said the man who stopped. Are you a five point Calvinist? Yes, said the jumper. At that point the man who stopped pushed the jumper off the bridge. Of course, this was just meant to be funny, but there is an undeniable grain of reality and a lesson to be learned from it. The methods by which conformity has been enforced have been unkind at the very least and there is no end to the issues for which conformity might eventually be demanded.

I should not have implied that Baptists in general are a self-righteous and legalistic. I agree that most Baptists are not like this at all. However, I believe many of our leaders have allowed their legalistic tendencies to get the best of them and thus appear self-righteous. For example, Baptist theologue's apparent certainty that he is right on soteriology and on ecclesiology and that I and Dr. Rankin, repsectively, are wrong is an attitude with which I personally would not be comfortable. I am not certain that my view is correct. Being assured of my own fallibility, I have admitted to myself that he may be right and that my biases or clouded thinking may be interfereing with right interpretation. I believe I have provided an adequate rationale for my relatively subtle difference between his and my position on soteriology, and I am satisfied for now with my position. However, he may raise further points that cause me to see a flaw in my thinking. Regardless, I am quite sure that our disagreement on this point should not exclude either of us from the full range of opportunities for service in the SBC. I believe leaders for whom legalism was not a priority would be quite hesitant to add new criteria of exclusion. There seems to be no such reluctance on the part of the majority of the IMB Board.

The firing of missionaries and seminary employees who could not accept one or more provisions in the BF & M 2000 is an excellent example of harsh legalism on the part of SBC leaders. The honorable and charitable approach would have been to allow missionaries and professors to either affirm the new document or reaffirm the document under which they were originally hired. However, SBC leaders (including Dr. Rankin, interestingly enough) chose not to be charitable. This has nothing to do with doctrinal integrity, because missionaries were and are subject to individual review if there are reports that they are teaching in ways that conflict with Baptist doctrines. The new provisions of the B F & M 200 and the current changes by the IMB represent an expanding effort to enforce conservative conformity on particular debatable interpretations that will exclude people who have done nothing wrong and who have beliefs that can be supported biblically. Perhaps SBC leaders did not want to confront individual missionaries publicly about the aspects of the BF& M 2000 with which they disagreed, because it would become evident that two inerrantists can legitimately arrive at different interpretations on some of these matters. I believe most SBC leaders have honorable motives and are trying to protect the denomination. However, I believe they are now "protecting" it from fellow conservatives who have much to contribute and whose differences with them over relatively minor issues do not justify their exclusion.

I apologize for taking up so much space in Wade's blog, but I really believe the future of the SBC as an effective force for the cause of Christ is at stake, and the Baptist Theologue's well stated and well meaning statements deserve a response.

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, you said the following:

“Suppose you have devoted many years to service in the SBC, and you care deeply about it because it is, to you at least, the body that most closely models the biblical ideal of church cooperation to accomplish the work of God. Suppose the B F & M 2008 includes five point Calvinism. Would you just casually move on to another denomination with no harm done? Would it help the SBC to lose you, with your experience and investment and passion for its causes? I think the answer is obviously no to both questions.”

I disagree. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message has room for both five-point Calvinists and others like me. If the hypothetical 2008 Baptist Faith and Message were to provide no room for my soteriological beliefs, I would try to find another Baptist denomination where my beliefs would fit. If the SBC adopted such a confession of faith, it would no longer be the same denomination, and thus it would not hurt the SBC to lose someone like me who holds different beliefs. The SBC certainly has the right to adopt such a confession of faith.

You asked,

“Wade has pointed out carefully and reasonably that the current rules on tongues and baptism are workable and biblical. What then is the benefit to adding additional criteria for exclusion?”

I answered this in my last post, but I will give a more detailed answer now. Under the old policy, the criteria was the candidate’s opinion about his immersion and the opinion of his SBC church that accepted that immersion: “The baptism was not seen by the candidate as the means of salvation. . . . The candidate's home church, which of course by IMB policy must be a Southern Baptist Church, had already received the candidate's statement of faith in Christ, and baptism, as both sound and biblical.” It would be possible for candidates who had received only Church of Christ immersions to say that they believed at the time of their immersions that their immersions were not the means of salvation, and it would also be possible for some SBC churches to receive such baptisms as sound and biblical. Church of Christ immersions, however, can never be regarded as sound and biblical immersions. Baptism is not just an individual exercise; rather, it is also a testimony. There is a group aspect to baptism. In the Church of Christ, the erroneous public testimony is that immersion is a means of salvation. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, Article VII, identifies baptism as a testimony and church ordinance. Dr. Hammett of Southeastern Seminary commented on the identification with and commitment to the group when a baptismal service occurs in a church:

“But the ordinances involve commitment to a body of believers (in baptism) and renewal of that commitment (in the Lord’s Supper) and thus cannot be properly observed in a context unrelated to a church.”

John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 262.

The new policy recognizes the importance of the group aspect of immersion: “Baptism must take place in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer.”

Stephen, you asked the following:

“There is another passage in Romans (10:14-15) in which the question is asked how can people believe without the word being preached, and how can it be preached if preachers are not sent? Is there another way to interpret this passage than to accept that failure to send preachers will prevent some from believing?”

I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, so I obviously believe this passage. It is true that non-Christian adults cannot hear the gospel unless it is presented to them. The adults who never hear the gospel would not have believed if the gospel had been shared with them. God makes sure that all the people who would believe if they had the opportunity will indeed have such an opportunity. Even though Christians have sometimes been disobedient and inefficient in sharing the gospel, God has always been 100 percent efficient in providing an opportunity for elect people past the age of accountability to receive Him in repentance and faith. Thus, there are three broad groups of people who live past the age of accountability: (1) Elect people who have an opportunity and surrender their lives to Him in repentance and faith; (2) Non-elect people who have an opportunity but reject the gospel; (3) Non-elect people who do not have an opportunity but who would reject the gospel if they did have an opportunity.

You asked,

“Will Baptists be accountable for accomplishing this?”

God is at work everywhere, but He works unevenly. Some people groups are more open and receptive to the gospel than are others. Donald McGavran described this phenomenon:

“The proclamation of God’s love does not receive uniform or simultaneous response. There are areas of little response and consequently small opportunity for church growth. There are also areas of great response and large opportunity for church growth.”

Donald A. McGavran, How Churches Grow: The New Frontiers of Mission (London: World Dominion Press, 1959), 2.

Alan R. Tippett commented,

“Not all populations are responsive. Fields come ripe unto harvest. The harvest time has to be recognized, and harvesters have to be sent in at the correct season.”

Alan R. Tippett, “The Holy Spirit and Responsive Populations,” in Critical Issues in Missions Tomorrow, Donald McGavran, ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972), 97.

McGavran continued,

“Correct policy is to occupy fields of low receptivity lightly. They will turn receptive some day. . . . While they continue in their rebellious and resistant state, they should be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel in as courteous a way as possible. But they should not be heavily occupied lest, fearing that they will be swamped by Christians, they become ever more resistant.”

McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 230.

This concentration upon receptive fields may sound familiar to you if you have read Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God. We should join God where we see Him working in a special way. I think God wants Baptists to lightly seed the resistant people groups (if possible) but concentrate their resources among the people groups that are receptive to the gospel.

You said the following:

“Of course, I am not suggesting we pay persons whose beliefs correspond more closely to the Church of Christ than to the SBC. I am saying that we should be willing to cooperate with those folks on the presentation of the gospel.”

I don’t think the Church of Christ is preaching the same gospel that Southern Baptists preach. Thus, we should not cooperate with them in regard to presenting the gospel.

You asked,

“Now that we have begun down this road, what is there to stop some new SBC leader or Board from decideing that the best solution to this lack of consistency is not to agree to disagree on disputable interpretations but to list 20 (or 30 or 50) more interpretations that one must accept to be a Southern Baptist and then implement them as criteria for exclusion from service or cooperation.”

The SBC church messengers have the ultimate say in this matter. They elect a president who appoints a committee on committees that nominates a committee on nominations that selects trustees to the IMB.

You stated,

“However, I believe many of our leaders have allowed their legalistic tendencies to get the best of them and thus appear self-righteous. For example, Baptist theologue's apparent certainty that he is right on soteriology and on ecclesiology and that I and Dr. Rankin, repsectively, are wrong is an attitude with which I personally would not be comfortable.”

You are citing me as an example of legalism and self-righteousness, and your evidence is that I possess apparent certainty that I am right in regard to my soteriological and ecclesiological views. I don’t think that “apparent certainty” is an evidence of legalism and self-righteousness. I also think that it is better not to judge the motives of those with whom you disagree. The serious issues we have discussed deserve thorough discussion, and it is possible for us to disagree and respect each other at the same time without discussing the motives of our opponents.

Stephen Pruett said...

I do not want to monopolize this excellent blog, and I am hopeful that others will chime in on some of these issues, but I would like to respond to Baptist Theologue (briefly I hope).

Is Baptist Theologue seriously saying that after devoting a good portion of his life to God through the SBC, he would not be harmed, if the SBC changed its confession of faith to exclude him and prohibit him from his job or other area of service? If so, Baptist Theologue is a genuinely remarkable person, because everyone I know would be distraught and deeply distressed (as many have been to whom this has already happened).

Your soteriology is stated well and it is similar to mine, but I do not understand the logic of your reconciliation of your view with Romans 10:14-15. It seems quite clear that Paul is trying to motivate us by reminding us that some people will not be saved unless we send a preacher. I don't see any other way to interpret it, and it doesn't fit precisely with your soteriology. In addition, I have heard sermons from several Southern Baptist pastors with doctorates from SBC seminaries, who preached the idea stated in Romans 10:14-15 to motivate their congregations. My point is that there are valid reasons for disagreement on this point. Because I cannot adequately reconcile this passage with the Soteriology of Baptist Theologue (which otherwise seems quite reasonable to me), I would not be comfortable stating a "certain" position on this issue.

I disagree with the Church of Christ on perseverance of believers, but the following quote indicates their take on the gospel. “About Salvation-The Bible tells us that there is nothing we can do to deserve or earn our relationship with God. instead, it rests on the love and grace of God. We come into contact with Him through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ” (from the Web site of the Westover Hills Church of Christ, Austin, TX). That sounds a lot like the gospel Southern Baptists preach. I would have no trouble cooperating with their presentation of this gospel, and indeed I have done so, during a recent Franklin Graham crusade in my city (at least I seem to recall a Church of Christ pastor as part of the local organizing group).

I am sorry if my comments indicated that I question Baptist Theologue's motives. Actually, I assume they are the best. However, expressing certainty about an issue without being able to definitively reconcile every scripture that is contradictory (e.g., Romans 10:14-15 above) seems inappropriate to me. Certainty about issues on which the Bible does not support certainty (e.g., fine points of the law, genealogies, eschatology, and soteriology) and emphasis on relatively incosequential issues are harmful, according to the Bible (Titus 3:9; 1Tim. 1:4). I would suggest for your consideration the possibility that the recent actions of the IMB Board fall into this category. I respect those who disagree, but I hope they do not prevail.

I can only remind Baptist Theologue of the joke in my previous post, which includes just a few of many, many issues about which conservative Baptists could exlude other conservative Baptists, if they decided to initiate a Patterson-Pressler style political effort to do so. Sorry, but I do think the SBC will be hurt by the loss of people who differ on relatively less important issues. If we really want to grow and reach the unsaved, excluding people who are called to serve as missionaries seems a strange way to do it. It seems to me to reflect inappropriate priorities and to be at variance with Paul's emphasis on evangelism and love above all else.

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, you asked the following:

“Is Baptist Theologue seriously saying that after devoting a good portion of his life to God through the SBC, he would not be harmed, if the SBC changed its confession of faith to exclude him and prohibit him from his job or other area of service?”

I might suffer, but God’s sovereign will for my life would ultimately be accomplished.

In regard to Romans 10:14-15, it is certainly a great privilege to be used by God to share the gospel with non-Christians. Again, those who would believe in Christ if they had an opportunity will be provided an opportunity (Romans 8:28-30). God will make certain of that. Divine appointments have been on God’s schedule for eternity. He has always known exactly when elect people past the age of accountability would surrender their lives to Christ. Christians are His instruments for accomplishing the evangelistic task. Romans 10:14-15 is not saying that some people will go to hell because I fail to share the gospel with them. It is simply saying that Christians have a necessary part to play in bringing the elect to Christ. God will make sure that Christians will play their part. He makes sure that an obedient Christian is in the right place at the right time (the divine appointment) to share the gospel with an elect non-Christian. You said,

“It seems quite clear that Paul is trying to motivate us by reminding us that some people will not be saved unless we send a preacher.”

You seem to be suggesting that some people who never heard the gospel before they physically died would have become Christians had they heard it. I disagree. Many people have died without hearing the gospel. This was not unfair. Those people would not have become Christians had they heard the gospel. You also seem to be suggesting that the Christian can change the elect or non-elect status of non-Christians by sharing the gospel with them. I disagree. God has always known the elect or non-elect status of people, and that status will not change. God has always known what free choices the people would make if they had the opportunity to hear or read the gospel.

In regard to Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, their statement of beliefs includes the following:

“Faith requires being immersed in water (baptism) to personally share in Christ’s saving actions so our sin is removed and we can be God’s children.”

http://www.westover.org/who-we-are.html

Southern Baptists do not believe that baptism removes sin and makes us God’s children. Church of Christ folks believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. We therefore cannot cooperate with them in regard to presenting the gospel.

You also said,

“However, expressing certainty about an issue without being able to definitively reconcile every scripture that is contradictory (e.g., Romans 10:14-15 above) seems inappropriate to me.”

I have reconciled Romans 10:14-15 to my soteriological view, and thus my certainty is not inappropriate.

You said the following:

“Certainty about issues on which the Bible does not support certainty (e.g., fine points of the law, genealogies, eschatology, and soteriology) and emphasis on relatively incosequential issues are harmful, according to the Bible (Titus 3:9; 1Tim. 1:4).”

Certainty about the basics of soteriology is not harmful. It is very important to be certain about the plan of salvation. Baptism is not a requirement for becoming a Christian. Faith and repentance are. The fine points of soteriology, e.g., whether one is a five-point Calvinist or not, are important, but a lack of certainty on those points is understandable. Certainty on the fine points such as those of Calvinism is not harmful if one is correct about them. Soteriological disagreements are not “foolish controversies” (Titus 3:9); rather, such important and controversial issues are worthy of study.

Stephen Pruett said...

I think our dialogue illustrates the problem the SBC is facing. No Baptist I know disputes your statement "It is very important to be certain about the plan of salvation. Baptism is not a requirement for becoming a Christian. Faith and repentance are." Yet, you present it as though disagreement on this is the basis for the recent IMB action. The issues acted upon (private prayer language and the validity of the "baptizing authority") are no more clearly delineated in scripture than the "fine points of soteriology" about which you are willing to admit that there is room for valid disagreement. Your assertion that it is OK to be certain on such matters if you are right will be the basis for the continued shrinkage and fragmentation of the SBC. I contend that there are matters in scripture about which certainty is neither needed nor desirable, and they should never be used as a basis to exlude fellowship or service. The SBC has crossed the line between essentials that must be agreed upon and matters that can and should remain uncertain. Paul had access to and knew the Old Testament and had direct access to the Disciples of Jesus, yet he "saw through a glass darkly". He did not find it necessary to arrive at certainty on all matters. However, it is clear that your position is favored by most SBC leaders. We are already seeing the results. Dr. Rankin administered the firing of missionaries who disagreed over non-essential matters in the B F & M 2000 and it appears he is on his way out over non-essential changes made by the IMB Board. Perhaps the leadership will eventually exclude enough of themselves that people such as Wade Burleson can step in a restore decency and common sense. I can only hope and pray (and occasionally contribute to blogs and write annoying letters to SBC leaders).

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, you said the following:

“I think our dialogue illustrates the problem the SBC is facing. No Baptist I know disputes your statement ‘It is very important to be certain about the plan of salvation. Baptism is not a requirement for becoming a Christian. Faith and repentance are.’ Yet, you present it as though disagreement on this is the basis for the recent IMB action.”

My statement has a direct bearing on the issue of baptism in the new IMB policy. A Church of Christ baptism is a testimony to the group observing it of the Church of Christ doctrine that baptism saves. The new IMB policy closed a gaping loophole. If a person has only received a Church of Christ immersion, and if that unbiblical immersion is accepted by an SBC church, then that person can no longer become an IMB missionary unless he or she receives a biblical immersion.

You also stated,

“The issues acted upon (private prayer language and the validity of the ‘baptizing authority’) are no more clearly delineated in scripture than the ‘fine points of soteriology’ about which you are willing to admit that there is room for valid disagreement. Your assertion that it is OK to be certain on such matters if you are right will be the basis for the continued shrinkage and fragmentation of the SBC.”

I think the prevailing cultural winds in our postmodern culture blow against certainty, and thus we have to be careful that we do not let our culture affect our judgment. The postmodern mindset may not like the concept of absolute truth, and if it accepts the concept of absolute truth, it may not like the idea that one can know it with certainty. As a Christian spiritually matures and studies the fine points of theology, he or she will develop more certainty about those fine points. Baptists have been setting doctrinal parameters for a long time. Rather than getting tighter, they have generally become looser over the past 150 years. For instance, B.H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Baptist Seminary, wrote a very fine exegetical argument to prove that there is no universal, invisible church, and in answer to a question about ecclesiology he stated that sometimes it is necessary to disfellowship those who do not properly honor church ordinances:

“Do you dis-fellowship your Baptist brethren who teach the present existence of ‘an universal, invisible, spiritual church?’ Most certainly not so long as they duly honor the particular assembly and its ordinances, as multitudes of them do, in spite of the natural tendency of their theory to discredit it. Many of them, known to me personally, are devoted to the particular church and its ordinances, responsibilities and duties. It will take a wider divergence than this to make me disfellowship a Baptist brother, though I honestly and strongly hold that even on this point his theory is erroneous and tends practically to great harm.”

http://www.reformedreader.org/ekk.htm

Rarely do we hear about Baptists being disfellowshipped over the ordinances today. Carroll explained his beliefs about biblical immersion:

“For baptism to be valid, four requirements must be met: (1) the proper authority, the church, administers it; (2) the proper subject is the penitent believer; (3) the proper act is immersion; and (4) the proper design is symbolic, with no trace of baptismal regeneration. Salvation precedes baptism, not vice versa. . . . Allowing no ‘alien baptism,’ Carroll accepted only members baptized in a Baptist church. . . . Unlike Landmarkers, Carroll allowed Baptists from other churches to commune in Waco.”

James Spivey, “Benajah Harvey Carroll,” Chapter 9 in Theologians of the Baptist Tradition, Timothy George and David Dockery, eds. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 175.

Carroll opposed the (Landmarkish) Gospel Mission Movement and supported cooperative missions through the Foreign Mission Board:

“From the moment T. P. Crawford launched his independent Gospel Mission Movement (1892), Carroll recognized its subversiveness. He used his furlough (1894) to rally statewide support behind the Foreign Mission Board, and Crawford’s momentum in Texas stalled.”

Ibid., 167

Most Southern Baptist churches today allow some degree of open communion, and many allow some form of alien immersion. I fear that Baptist ecclesiology has not been taught well in many SBC churches. For IMB church planters, proper Baptist eccesiology is very important. Our missionaries should be planting Baptist churches. Some other denominations have discovered that loosening doctrinal parameters does not necessarily lead to growth.

Again, the SBC should send out Baptist missionaries who will start Baptist churches. That’s just good stewardship. Most Baptists know the difference between Baptist doctrine and Church of Christ doctrine. They also know the difference between Baptist doctrine and Pentecostal doctrine. Pentecostal groups have become numerous and wealthy and can afford to send out their own missionaries:

“Indeed Pentecostalism during the twentieth century has emerged from the status of a marginalized sect to become a major tradition of Christianity. With 193 million (19.3 crores) members in 1990, the Pentecostals were the largest Protestant group of churches in the world.”

http://www.apts.edu/ajps/05-1/05-1-RHedlund.pdf

Paul discussed his prayer language in 1 Corinthians 14:14: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

This tongue speaking occurred during prayer, but there is no indication in the verse whether it was in a public or private context. Albert Barnes believed it occurred in the public context as he commented on verse 14:

“The reference to prayer here, and to singing in 1 Co 14:15, is designed to illustrate the propriety of the general sentiment which he is defending, that public worship should be conducted in a language that would be intelligible to the people. However well meant it might be, or however the ‘heart’ might be engaged in it, yet unless it was intelligible, and the understanding could join in it, it would be vain and profitless.”

Also notice the comment on verse 14 from Valley Bible Church in Lancaster, CA:
“1 Corinthians 14:14 refers to praying in a tongue. However, based on 1 Corinthians 14:15-17, Paul does not mean private prayer but public prayer. This is then consistent with the earlier rebuke of speaking publicly in a language that was not understood by those who had gathered, which would be unfruitful. Because of the subjunctive mood of the Greek verb (‘pray’) and the conditional clause (‘if’), it is apparent that Paul is speaking hypothetically and is not describing his practice. Prayer in a tongue that is not interpreted is a negative event that is being spoken against, not a positive event that is being encouraged. The reason is that others are not being edified because they do not understand (14:15-17).”
http://www.valleybible.net/resources/PositionPapers/Tongues.shtml#prayer

If such prayer was in a public prayer context, then those who spoke a particular foreign language unknown to the one praying, if present in the worship service, would be able to understand what he was saying in his public prayer. Paul was speaking in a language unknown to him, and he did not know what he was saying. When I see Pentecostals today speaking in tongues, it does not appear to be a foreign language; rather, it appears to be an emotional outburst. In the first century, A.D., the New Testament had not been translated into many languages. There was a definite need for the miraculous gift of speaking in a foreign language that had not been learned in a classroom. Today, many missionaries have worked hard to acquire the heart language of the people group to whom they are sent, and they often have the New Testament translated into that language. God is a good steward of the gifts of the Spirit. The gift of tongues was greatly needed in the first century, A.D. It is not needed as much today.

The SBC should send out Baptist missionaries. This is a matter of good stewardship. If Pentecostals or Church of Christ folks want to be sent as missionaries, we can be loving to them, but they should be sent by their own groups, not by Southern Baptists.

Stephen Pruett said...

Baptist Theologue is right that some issues are important and deserve careful study. This may include the ones addressed by the IMB Board. Given time, care, an emotionally uncharged dispassionate setting, guidance from many of the excellent scholars at our seminaries, and freedom to express all sides of the issue without fear of retribution, it mght be possible to develop a carefully crafted and defensible consensus on these matters. I still would not use the term "certain" in this regard. This does not represent any post-modern influence. As I explained previously, it is based on my understanding of scripture.

However, events of the day have made it clear that there will be no dispassionate, careful, open debate about the IMB decisions. At least there will be none condoned by the IMB Board or other SBC leaders. Instead, the person who called our attention to this issue (Wade) will be sacked (I think a person who posted previously on this blog predicted this some time ago). On the basis of Wade's limited description of witnessing a group of IMB Board members openly violating Board policies against caucusing, I would suggest that these members, not Wade, should be facing dismissal. However, repression of dissent by exclusion from service is entirely consistent with SBC actions since 2000. If the Baptists who pay the bills for these Boards (like me) do not rise up and say, ENOUGH, I despair of any hope that the SBC will continue to be used by God or even to exist as we now know it. In announcing the recommendation to remove Wade, the Board speaks of his resistance to accountability. I would suggest it is the rest of the Board that is resisting accountability to the majority of Southern Baptists. I am quite sure most Baptist laymen will be displeased when they learn that the determination of the validity of baptism made in their local congregations is not good enough and will be overturned in some cases by the IMB Board. In any case, suppression of honest disagreement is poisonous and generates an environment in which nothing can be addressed without considering the potential repercussions of lining up against the political power brokers. This is the very antithesis of a Spirit filled and directed organization.

Although it would be a natural response, I would encourage all who read this blog not to respond by witholding funds from the IMB. The missionaries in the field deserve our unwavering support. However, I hope there will be an outcry leading to some real changes in the Board. I encourage everyone to contact the President and the Executive Committee of the SBC as well as IMB Board members. Does anyone have e-mail addresses for any of these folks? If so, please post them.

ThomasJ said...

Hi Wade,
Couldn't read all the comments. Why the change in IMB policy? I have to believe it was for the best unless you tell us the whole story. What situations on the field led them to determine that this had to be done? What problems were being caused by those who were ministering as SBC missionaries in these "gray areas" of which we have not been told? Obviously, you can't tell us everything (or you are ignorant of all the reasons for the change), so the impression you leave us with is that the IMB trustees are incompetent. I think that is unfair and unfortunate. You are certainly concerned about a legitimate issue, the IMB is certainly not perfect, but perhaps you are a "loose cannon" doing more harm than good.

Just a missionary... what do I know? said...

Baptist Theologue said "I think one problem with New Directions/SD 21 is that all team leaders/strategy coordinators have been forced to write master plans that supposedly will result in CPMs in three years, no matter what people group they are working with."

As one who is a field leader with the IMB, I can assure you that this is not a policy that is required in all regions of the world. Perhaps you have been told this by someone with the IMB but it is not true of all SCs or team leaders. I have sat in on multiple SC Trainings and participated in the training. This is not true in our region.

Just a missionary, what do I know? said...

Here are a few questions for you all.

Can someone who was baptized in a Bible Church then later joined a SBC church serve as a missionary?

What about someone from an AOG church?

How about an MK of a SBC missionary who was Baptized in a Baptist church in Germany? That is not an SBC church. Would they qualify?

How about someone who was Baptized in a house church in China and then later moves to the US, joins a Baptist church and years later wants to be sent as a missionary to Russia. Do they have to be rebaptized?

Wade Burleson said...

Missionary,

(1). Bible Church? Depends. Did they teach "eternal security?"

(2). AOG? No. No. No.

(3). Baptist Church in Germany? Maybe.

(4). House church in China? Absolutely they would have to be rebaptized.

I refuse to abide by unscriptural requirements.

Wade Burleson

Baptist Theologue said...

"Just a Missionary," thanks for clarifying the policy in your region for master plans. After reading books by Drs. Rankin and Garrison, it's my impression that they believe (or did believe) that it's okay for new converts to be designated as pastors. What is your take on this issue? Can new converts be designated as pastors under current IMB policy, or does that depend on the region where the missionary serves? Has IMB policy changed on this issue in the past few years?

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, I found two interesting quotes from your ancestor, Rufus Burleson:

"The truth is, there is but one way to kill the Baptists, and that way is to hug them to death. I mean kill them with kindness, call them dear brethren, invite them to your communion table, urge them to come unite with you as brethren, and leave off the discussion of doctrinal questions. This is the most effective, indeed, the only way, to kill the Baptists."

Rufus Burleson, The Life and Writings of Rufus C. Burleson, Georgia J. Burleson, compiler and publisher, 1901.

"In 1838 Bro. Jackson was converted and baptized by Elder John A. Taylor into the fellowship of the Mount Enon Church, Dickens county, Alabama. He moved to Texas and settled in Washington county in 1841. He first joined the church at Independence and under circumstances very peculiar and illustrative or the crisis, of the character of himself and his noble wife and the consummate generalship of Rev. W. M. Tryon. It was in the midst of the fearful struggles of the little handful of Baptists with Campbellites as led by the unfortunate leader, T. W. Cox. The little church at Independence was nearly equally divided; thirteen in favor of Cox and twelve Baptists firmly set on the Old Land Marks. The church conference was that day to settle the vital questions; first, the validity of the baptism of Rev. Lindsey P. Rucker, and second, whether T. W. Cox or Wm. M. Tryon should be elected pastor. Rev. Mr. Rucker (now an Episcopal minister), had been a Methodist Protestant preacher but being a good scholar, he saw immersion alone was baptism and applied for membership in the little church at Independence. He was cordially received and his baptism fixed for a day in the near future. But Dr. Clough, a deacon, and thoroughly imbued with Campbellite ideas, persuaded Elder Rucker that any man had a right to administer baptism and took him down to the beautiful little stream called Rocky and immersed him, contrary to the grand old landmark, that 'three things are essential to a valid baptism: 1. A converted believer. 2. A regularly ordained Baptist preacher in good standing. 3. Immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.' The twelve Baptists knowing the Campbellites had one majority, made every effort to get Bro. Jackson and wife to put in their letters, which would give them a clear working majority of one. But Bro. Jackson, with his great love of peace, and having been sorely tried by the fearful divisions of the churches in Alabama about missions, Sunday schools, etc., resolved to keep out of church trials and wars, and resisted all importunities to join till the difficulties were settled. The Campbellites came up so full of confident success that they invited Bro. Tryon to preach on Saturday before going into conference. The old Independence Female Academy building was crowded. Bro. Jackson and wife rode twelve miles to be there. Bro. Tryon's sermon was to demonstrate the duty and importance of every good soldier coming boldly to the front in the day of battle, and to illustrate the shame of a soldier shirking danger, he related the familiar story of the old pioneer when the big black bear came into his little cabin, climbed up into the loft till his wife with the axe tackled the bear and felled the black monster in the floor, and when the danger was all over the husband jumped down, seized the stool and knocking the bear's brains out, shouted: 'Old woman, ain't we brave!' Bro. Jackson's angel wife gave him a suggestive look, and in telling me the incident afterwards, he said: 'I first felt small enough to crawl into an auger-hole, and then felt brave enough to fight a whole regiment of black bears, and thirteen Campbellites besides.' As soon as Bro. Tryon's sermon was over he said: 'Julia, I do wish we had our letters here; I want to join right now.' The angel wife replied: 'All right; I brought them along in case we might conclude to join!' They joined; they elected Wm. M. Tryon pastor; they told Deacon Clough and good Bro. Rucker and the whole Campbellite element to go! That one vote secured by the bear story saved the little church at Independence, defeated the wiley and fallen T. W. Cox, and made Independence the great educational center of Texas for nearly forty years."

Ibid., 718-720.

In the same book is a description of Dr. Burleson's views by the biographer Harry Haynes that were published in a series of articles for "The Tennessee Baptist":

"In these articles he maintained that we can not exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ, and at the same time believe in the possibility of baptismal regeneration."

Ibid., 48.

Wade, do you agree with your ancestor's views as expressed in these quotes?

Baptist Theologue said...

The page reference for the first quote in my last post is 51-52.

Stephen Pruett said...

Baptist Theologue, Do you have no sense of common decency, let alone Christian love? Trying to trap Wade by asking him to criticize the views of his ancestor is low, low, low. Your post illustrates the nature of the problem in the SBC.

Baptist Theologue said...

I don't agree with the views of all my ancestors, so I don't see the problem. I still love and respect my ancestors even though I don't completely agree with them. Rufus was a famous Texas Baptist. I'm just curious to see if Wade agrees with him on these serious issues. I think it was a valid question.

Wade Burleson said...

Great quotes.

Rufus is also the one who opened up education to women, was called a liberal by his fellow Baptists and said you should enjoy communion around the essentials, but give freedom in the non-essentials.

Denying baptismal regeneration is an essential.

But I know of know missionary ever appointed who believed in Baptismal regeneration.

Stephen, thanks for your defense, but I think I understand where BT is coming from.

I think Rufus' blood is in mine. He wanted conformity on essentials, but freedom on the non-essentials. The question for us all is simply this:

Is being baptized by in a church that teaches eternal security essential? I say no. In fact it is not even biblical --- period.

Is forbidding speaking in tongues in a missionaries prayer closet essential? No. In fact it is not even biblical.

I think Rufus would agree because that was the same argument he used in integrating education at Baylor.

In His Grace,

wade

Baptist Theologue said...

Wade, thanks for answering the question. It appears from the big quote, however, that Rufus believed that only particular people could administer baptism:

"But Dr. Clough, a deacon, and thoroughly imbued with Campbellite ideas, persuaded Elder Rucker that any man had a right to administer baptism and took him down to the beautiful little stream called Rocky and immersed him, contrary to the grand old landmark, that 'three things are essential to a valid baptism: 1. A converted believer. 2. A regularly ordained Baptist preacher in good standing. 3. Immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.'"

Thus, Rufus might not agree with your illustration of the eight-year-old boy baptizing his friend.

I think we can agree that ecclesiology is not taught enough in SBC churches today. Perhaps Rufus, if he were still alive, would want to close the loophole where a person could be baptized in a Church of Christ, have his baptism accepted in an SBC church, and then be accepted as an IMB missionary under the old policy.

Stephen Pruett said...

If a person who has been baptized by immersion after a genuine conversion experience understood that baptism was symbolic and not regenerative, is there a biblical reason why that person's baptism should not be accepted as valid? I am not aware of one. I do not know if my church has accepted as members persons baptized in the Church of Christ. I do know that my pastor asks everyone who was baptized in a non-Southern Baptist church their understanding of the meaning of Baptism and how theirs was done, and their baptism is regarded as valid or not on the basis of their answer. As a layman, I am not pleased that the IMB has decided to add to the requirements that my local church applies for accepting baptism as valid. I believe that what my pastor does is scriptural. Adding requirements not found in scripture was a habit of the religious leaders in Jesus' time, and I seem to recall that He rather forcefully rebuked them about it. The SBC leadership has been worried for years about slippery slopes. What about this slippery slope that, carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to an Inspector General's Office in the SBC to conduct surprise inspections of SBC churches to make sure their ecclesiology is acceptable?

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, you asked the following:

"What about this slippery slope that, carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to an Inspector General's Office in the SBC to conduct surprise inspections of SBC churches to make sure their ecclesiology is acceptable?"

Any SBC church is autonomous and has the right to do whatever it wishes to do. The associations, state conventions, and national convention are also autonomous and can do what the messengers from the churches vote to do. Thus, they can vote to sever relations with a church. The church can also vote to sever relations with them. An SBC "Inspector General" could never inspect a church and tell it what to do.

In regard to what makes an acceptable immersion, remember that baptism is not just about an individual; it is also about a group. Rufus described baptism:

"As is my custom, I explained briefly and lovingly that the beautiful ordinance of baptism is to remind us vividly of our Savior's baptism in the River Jordan, and also of His burial and glorious resurrection, and that it was also designed to illustrate our future burial and resurrection, and to proclaim to the world that we had died to sin, were now 'buried in holy baptism, and raised up to walk in newness of life.'"

Rufus Burleson, 80.

Just as Christ was raised to new life only once, so Christians are raised to new life only once. We can never become non-Christians again. Our baptism represents that one-time transition from death to life (Colossians 2:12). Baker's Evangelical Dictionary states,

"This conception of the baptismal pool as a grave in which the pre-Christian self and its ways are buried once and for all and from which a new self rises to a new quality of living appears to be Paul's own."

http://bible.crosswalk.com/Dictionaries/BakersEvangelicalDictionary/bed.cgi?number=T78

Notice the phrase "once and for all" in the quote.

If a group such as the Church of Christ believes that people can lose their salvation, then the testimony given in baptism changes. There is not one point in their lives where they believe they receive eternal life. On the contrary, they believe that they cannot receive eternal life until they physically die. (If you can lose it, it isn't eternal.) Thus, the meaning of baptism for them is different. The experience of baptism (in their belief system) is one more requirement for salvation in a process that will not be complete until physical death.

Stephen Pruett said...

Oh come on! The IMB action is the first step in over ruling the autonomy of the local church. If it can be done in the matter of baptism, why not anything else? It IS a slippery slope. Current policy is that SBC churches are autonomous, but a single vote could change that. If it ever happens this IMB decision will be cited by SBC historians as the key initiating event.

Oh come on again! If someone told my pastor they understood baptism to be necessary for salvation (and I can assure you he asks), they would be re-baptized before being granted church membership. I don't know any SBC preachers who would do otherwise. Are there SBC missionaries who do not believe in the security of the believer or who are teaching that? Please show me one! I have many friends among our missionaries, and their integrity is such that if they had any doubt about the validity of their own baptism, they would request re-baptism. This is just another example of legalism and meaness in the name of doctrinal purity (and even worse without a solid scriptural mandate). You can quote Rufus as much as you want. You could also quote SBC leaders from the same era justifying segregation of the races. Any of them could have been wrong. What does the Bible say about the qualifications of the "baptizing authority"? The answer is, it doesn't say anything. Given that the Bible contains exactly what God wants it to contain (or does your view of inerrancy not go that far), it seems we should be able to take some hint about the importance God assigns to this relative to the importance of sending missionaries (which is addressed rather explicitly more than once).

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, you said the following:

“The IMB action is the first step in over ruling the autonomy of the local church.”

I disagree. The members of a local SBC church can vote to send out missionaries who speak in tongues from their particular church. Any SBC church is free to do that. Of course, such missionaries would not be IMB missionaries, and the members of that church would have sole responsibility to pay the salaries of those missionaries instead of partnering with many other SBC churches through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Offering. No one can stop a local church from doing that. Thus, the local church has complete autonomy. The IMB, however, is not an entity of one local church; rather, it is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. Notice the following quote from the IMB web site:

“The International Mission Board (formerly Foreign Mission Board) is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest evangelical denomination, claiming more than 40,000 churches with nearly 16 million members.”

http://www.imb.org/core/aboutus.asp

You also said,

“Current policy is that SBC churches are autonomous, but a single vote could change that.”

Again, I disagree. If a majority of SBC messengers two years in a row voted to change the SBC Constitution and install a Baptist pope who would have authority over all SBC churches (something that I think we would agree is highly unlikely), the SBC churches would be free to leave the SBC if they wanted to maintain their autonomy. The SBC could not force churches to remain in the SBC. The only people who can take away the autonomy of a local SBC church are the members of that church.

You said the following:

“What does the Bible say about the qualifications of the ‘baptizing authority’? The answer is, it doesn't say anything.”

This point has already been discussed in regard to the baptisms of the Ethiopian eunuch and Paul. There is always a connection with a local church. Baptism is a local church ordinance, and the local church is the baptizing authority. Note what the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message states in Article VII about baptism:

“It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.”

A local SBC church is autonomous, and thus it has the freedom to errantly accept a Church of Christ immersion. Under the new IMB policy, the IMB can reject such an immersion that was approved by an SBC church.

Stephen Pruett said...

Baptist Theologue, thank you for working to build my patience! I am not sure I can make this any clearer. Only persons who state that their baptism was not a requirement for salvation and that it symbolized their new birth in Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection are accepted for membership in my local church. I believe this is true for almost all SBC churches. If you want to believe that we practice "errant baptism", Fine! If you want to completely assure baptismal validity why not give candidates for church membership polygraph tests, have them pass a written exam on ecclesiology (prepared by you of course), vow that they have never even been inside a Church of Christ building, and write the lineage of their baptizing authority all the way back to John the Baptist? That would be fine with me! It would make the issue facing the SBC on crusading vs. cooperating conservatives even more clearly delineated than it is now.

I do not expect an election for Baptist Pope next year (or in the near future), merely a continual whittling away of the autonomy of the local church until churches do begin to leave. The IMB action does interfere with local church autonomy. If a local church accepts a person for membership and recommends that person for missionary service in the IMB, that is an autonomous action of that church. The IMB will now be in a position of thwarting the expressed desire of that church, in some cases. Churches that belong to a voluntary, cooperative organization that is supported by their contributions have a reasonable expectation that church actions will not be set aside and declared invalid, particularly when the churches have acted consistently with the Bible and the B F & M 2000.

If invalid baptism is a real and pervasive problem in SBC churches (which I doubt), why not deal with it in ways that will not disrepect local churches and possibly cause them to withdraw support for the IMB?

Certainly churches could regain their autonomy by sending their own missionaries, except that most churches are not wealthy enough to support a missionary family. You speak of churches leaving the SBC as though it is of little consequence. It could greatly diminish the effectiveness of the IMB. Will it have been worth it? We will have addressed problems that could have been dealt with effectively on a case by case basis under the current rules. As churches leave, we will lose opportunities to share Christ with many people. Let's put those potential outcomes on the balance and see which one weighs more.

I must admit that your conclusions are consistent with your soteriology. Since you believe that no one's salvation depends on us sending missionaries, it is easy to understand why actions likely to decrease the number of missionaries in the field do not concern you much. I would suggest that most Southern Baptists do not share your opinion.

As informative as our dialogue has been, I will not have time to respond as frequently to future posts. Between a very demanding job, many duties at church, and family time, I cannot make much more time for this. In addition, I am beginning to enjoy this jousting too much. I am afraid I may soon become a crusader. In any case, I want Wade to know that I support him and will be praying for him. I have never attended an SBC annual meeting, but I am already looking online for hotels in Greensboro.

sbcheritage said...

As an IMB missionary currently on the field, I find this whole controversy very disturbing. As I skim through this blog, I can read sarcasm and pride in many of the comments and I find that terribly distressing in a 'conversation" among Christians. Personally, I do not have a problem with the Trustee decision. We are who we are after all -- Southern Baptists -- and we have a right to establish the parameters of belonging to the constituency. After all, a fox hunter wouldn't be admitted as a member of the SPCA would he? Mr Burleson, I beg you to consider your actions, including your blogging, in light of Proverbs 6:19. According to this verse, the Lord hates one who sows discord among the brothers. I know that you quote missionaries in South Asia, but I can assure you that not all IMB missionaries share their opinion and many of us are extremely appalled and distressed by this controversy and the damage it is doing in so many ways.

Bob said...

Three things:
1. This is my first ever blog entry in my life. Until yesterday, I never even looked at a blog.

2. Sadly, I agree with sbcheritage regarding the tone of some of the writings in this blog.

I have read nearly every word here since reading the following headline in the paper yesterday – yeah…I was up until 2am last night.

A headline in our local newspaper yesterday, Jan 20 2006, read "Southern Baptists at war with each other." [emphasis added]

I am naive. I had no idea this kind of conflict occurred among Christians. I knew we disagreed occasionally on the non-essentials, but I have never experienced such discord over them. On that note, good for you Wade for taking a stand against this very thing. I just fear the further division which may result.

More than 48,000 have viewed this blog to date. How many were not Christians? What is their impression?

3. As for baptism, the debate mystifies me. I was baptized by immersion as a college student. But what if the person who baptized me unintentionally left just my nose (or face, or head, or head and shoulders) above the water level - was my baptism "valid"? (Again, I'm naive because until last night, I had never heard the terms "valid" and "baptism" used together.) Where is the cutoff? And why? What of the adult confined to bed due to medical reasons and can only be sprinkled (true story)?

If my understanding of the scripture improves and becomes more theologically correct over the years, which of these corrected errors, warrant "re-baptizing" (another new term for me today)? (E.G. and AOG believer who later realizes one's baptism had no part in their salvation.) Frankly, because I am so naive to the subject, I feel like I am asking a silly/absurd question.

Lastly, imagine my pain and confusion last year. Over the years God permitted me to have three sons. He allowed me personally to lead two of them (so far) to Christ. When my eldest expressed an interest in being baptized, I was told by our Baptist pastor (not SBC) that he "had to" baptize him. I could "of course be in the water with him" but the pastor would have to the actual baptizing. Though I gently protested, I didn't argue and my son was baptized...and I was in the water nearby.

I am trusted to raise, share Christ, lead to Christ, disciple, and mentor my children into adulthood, but I cannot baptize them? Why not? Sincerely, I don't understand. (Yes, I did ask my pastor this question. He said it was “tradition” in the church and that there were “some” in the church who “would not like it.”)

Submitted with respect.
Bob

Anonymous said...

Baptist Theologue asked

What is your take on this issue? Can new converts be designated as pastors under current IMB policy, or does that depend on the region where the missionary serves? Has IMB policy changed on this issue in the past few years?

Sorry it has taken me a while to respond to you but I have been in the field with little access to email or internet. I would like for some of the people who are claiming what missionaries are being forced to do to step up and name themselves. I think that there is much speculation going on about what is being taught in SC Training. If you would like to know... several of the regions are offering SC Training for churches interested in adopting people groups. Go through the training yourself. I mean this with all of my heart. There is much misinformation out there and as it is repeated, it is accepted as truth.

Now to your question as to what is IMB policy for designating pastors. Wow... I would be uncomfortable with the IMB having policies about things that are local church decisions. Maybe you think that I am not answering your question but some people have the idea that IMB missionaries go around naming pastors of local churches. In all of my years as a missionary, I have never done that. I have seen it done by other missionaries and it has always resulted in problems. I have always led the local church to choose their own leaders, choose from within their own flock who baptizes, and who can lead the Lord's Supper.

If the IMB has an official policy on this issue, it is news to me. My personal opinions on the matter really are not at issue but I will share from our experience. I have started a church that was comprised of all new believers. There was a shared leadership with lots of discipleship that took place in that church. Many hours were spent with the leaderS of that new church and they chose who could Baptize and lead the Lord's Supper. In all of our work we have always had as our goal to raise up leaders from the harvest, ie not import leaders from other locations.

I hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

As an IMB missy, I'm in favor of any policy that ensures our missy force is truly Southern Baptist. I had the priviledge while stateside to explain what the CP program is to a member of a large SBC church in the area. It was obvious that this lady was clueless as to what I would consider a "basic" of SBC life. Since our missy force comes from the churches, then we need to be careful that those that are called out not only have our Baptist distinctives, but also understand how we cooperate together.

However, I am dismayed to see us "add" to the Word of God by forbidding tongues. Did not Paul say, "do not forbid to speak with tongues." That is very clear.