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

IMB Missionaries: Our Heroes

My wife and I were supposed to be overseas this week at a secret location meeting with missionaries from around the Central Asia region. The conference was designed to encourage our SBC missionaries who are on the field, risking their lives for the cause of Christ in a very dangerous area of the world. Due to scheduling conflicts, we were unable to attend, but our prayers are with the group who has travelled from the states to minister to our SBC missionaries, and our prayers are with the missionaries and their families who live in the Central Asia region. We pray that they have a wonderful week of refreshment and encouragement.

I am absolutely amazed at the work that is taking place in Central Asia. Every missionary in that region has sacrificed so much to take the gospel to the people groups of that part of the world. Every one of the missionaries in this region will go unrecognized by the SBC as a whole due to security concerns, but I can assure you that the missionary personnel on the field make me proud to be a Southern Baptist.

I notice in the stats for this blog that many people from Central Asia are reading the posts.

Allow me to take this opportunity to say to those of you on the mission field in Central Asia and other places around the world.

You are my heroes.

Thank you for being willing to sacrifice so much for the cause of Christ.

I can assure you I will do everything in my power to see that our support of you, both financially and spiritually, will only increase in the future.

Sometimes people who don't know what is taking place within the SBC might think that is is only about "politics" and "power."

I know better. You know better. We are all about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ around the world.

And this involves you, the missionary.

If it weren't for what we can do cooperatively as individual, local Southern Baptist churches, my church, and for that matter, everybody else's church would have no reason to be Southern Baptist. We cooperate to support you.

Again, our prayers are with you.

I will do what I can to insure the Internatational Mission Board focuses on how we can do even better in our support of you.

Cooperation remains the key.

We will try hard to keep all Southern Baptists on the missions playing field. We will do what we can to insure that Southern Baptists who are like minded in the area of missions don't feel disenfranchised.

As we pray for you, you may pray for us on the International Mission Board.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

A Prophet Amongst Us?

Dr. Timothy George is a highly respected conservative Southern Baptist theologian in the evangelical world.

Over four years ago Dr. George wrote regarding Jimmy Carter's resignation from the SBC, due to what Carter called, "an increasingly narrow conservative direction." The conservative Catholic writer, Richard John Neuhaus, quoted Dr. George in his "First Things" editorial in 2001.

Regardless of what you or I may think of Jimmy Carter or Richard Neuhaus, the words of the highly respected Dr. George seem very prophetic when placed in conjunction with issues we face in the Southern Baptist Convention today. Dr. George's direct quote from "First Things" is printed below and I want to thank Wyman Richardson for pointing this out over at Steve McCoy's Missional Baptist Blog.

"Attention was paid when former President Jimmy Carter, with great reluctance, resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention in protest against what he viewed as its increasingly narrow conservative direction. Technically he did not resign, since he still belongs to an SBC local church where he is very active in teaching Sunday School. But Carter made his point.

Dr. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, an SBC conservative in good standing, and one of the more impressive theologians around today, says that some SBC leaders may respond to Carter’s decision with “Good riddance!”

Not Dr. George, however. He thinks Carter has a point well worth making. He writes, “Especially troubling right now are isolationist forces within the denomination, some of whom oppose Baptist efforts even with other evangelicals. Combined with nativist politics and a virulent anti–Catholicism, this movement would actually restrict the missionary and evangelistic outreach at the heart of the Southern Baptist ethos. If left to grow like kudzu, it could reduce the Southern Baptist Convention to a mega–sect.”

Well written Dr. George,

In His grace,


Wade Burleson

Stand Up and Be Counted

I have received over 500 emails from people around the country who have expressed a belief that the new policies of the IMB on "tongues" and "baptism" are a mistake, and, as soon as possible, the IMB should revert back to using their former policies in screening missionary candidates (see The Old IMB Policies Compared to the New IMB Policies.

Many asked in their emails, for good reason, that they not be identified publicly. However, I believe it is important that I be able to give some kind of verifiable indication to my fellow trustees of how many across our convention are opposed to the new policies. In the end, I am not trying to convince my fellow trustees that the new policies are not Biblical (though I firmly believe they are not), but to show them that the Cooperative Program works because conservative Christians "cooperate" with each other, and when an entity, like the IMB, starts excluding people who disagree with the new policies from service, a large number of pastors, large churches, and lay people who support the Cooperative Program will be disenfranchised.

For this reason I am asking that everyone who is a Southern Baptist, has read up on the new policies (on this blog or others on the internet), and wishes to be counted in opposition to the new policies, to please sign this post. If you do not have a blog, simply click "other" at the bottom of the comment section and you may sign your name or initials and publish your comment. I will screen all comments before posting.

I am simply ask two things:

(1). You keep your comment on this post to one sentence or less.
(2). You sign your comment with name (or initials) and your place of Southern Baptist Church membership (city and state). You may list your church name if you wish, but that is not necessary.

As always, our spirits should remain gracious.

The principle is worth fighting for, but the people of God, no matter their position, are always worth loving.

Let's see how many sign this post before our next IMB Trustee meeting on January 9th-11th in Richmond, Virginia.

There are not enough votes yet on the IMB Board to revert back to the old policies on baptism and "tongues." In my opinion it is unwise to attempt to do so at the next IMB meeting in January.

However, this blog, simply indicates to those IMB trustees who are in leadership, that it can not, and it will not, be business as usual in the future. The IMB President and staff deserve the respect due their positions, and should always be allowed to speak their true feelings about policy changes to the trustees as a whole.

In His Grace and With Hope of Future Coooperation Among All Conservatives,


Wade Burleson

Forbid Them Not From Serving

I have repeatedly asked my fellow brothers in Christ in favor of the new policies of the IMB for Scriptural support for "excluding" Christians from service or fellowship who do not hold to the same Landmark interpretation of baptism and the "cessationist" view of tongues.

I recognize that churches and pastors have various interpretions of Scripture regarding tongues and baptism. Some teach that there is no such thing as a "private prayer language," while others point to what they believe to be the clear teaching of Paul and say there is a "private prayer language." Others teach that a person is not properly baptized unless the church or person who is doing the baptizing "qualifies" as a proper administrator (Landmarkism), while others say the Scripture makes no such demand. I am not arguing for, or against either interpretation in this post, but rather, I want to ask a question: Where does the Bible say that you "exclude" people from service in God's kingdom who interpret the same Bible differently on these two issues?

Nobody has been able to give me an answer.

So allow me to give you a very clear teaching of Jesus Christ which seems to me to say that the IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention is making a huge mistake if these new policies of the IMB continue to be used in the screening of missionary candidates for the purpose excluding those who do not "conform" to a specific interpretation of Scripture. The historic practice of the Southern Baptist Convention has been to cooperate together in missions and evangelism, even if there is not an agreement in one's interpretion of the text in areas of controversy. The issue is not "Is the text the inspired word of God?", but rather, "Can people who believe in the Sacred Text interpret it differently and still work together?"

Jesus seems to teach that we can, and we should, work together though we do not conform in every area of faith and practice.

Those within our convention with a sectarianism bent ("you are not qualified to serve with us unless you are one like us") would do well to learn from our Lord's words in Luke 9:49-50,"And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."

J.C.Ryle's comments on this passage are very fitting:

Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us a warning against a bigoted and illiberal spirit. Who this man was and why he did not consort with the disciples, we do not know. But we do know that he was doing a good work in casting out demons, and that he was doing what he did in the name of Christ. And yet John says, "we forbade him." Very striking is the reply which the Lord at once gave him: "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."

Thousands, in every period of Church history, have spent their lives in copying John's mistake. They have labored to stop every man who will not work for Christ in their way, from working for Christ at all. They have imagined, in their petty self-conceit, that no man can be a soldier of Christ, unless he wears their uniform, and fights in their regiment. They have been ready to say of every Christian who does not see everything with their eyes, "Forbid him! Forbid him! for he followeth not with us."

The plain truth is, that we are all too ready to say, "We are the men, and wisdom shall die with us" (Job 12:2). We forget that no Church on earth has an absolute monopoly of all wisdom, and that people may be right in the main, without agreeing with us. We must learn to be thankful if sin is opposed, and the Gospel preached, and the devil's kingdom pulled down, though the work may not be done exactly in the way we like. We must try to believe that men may be true-hearted followers of Jesus Christ, and yet for some reason may be kept back from seeing all things in religion just as we do. Above all, we must praise God if souls are converted, and Christ is magnified,—no matter who the preacher may be, and to what Church he may belong. Happy are those who can say with Paul, "If Christ be preached, I rejoice, yea and will rejoice," (Phil. 1:18) and with Moses, "Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that all did prophesy." (Numbers 11:29)

[Taken from Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, under Luke 9:49-50]

May our Southern Baptist Convention's missionary efforts and evangelistic zeal be characterized by a Christocentric view of inclusion of all who follow after Christ within our convention, rather than what seems to be a sectarian exclusion in the hearts of some who don't like it when others in the SBC do it, or see it, another way.

In His Grace,



Wade Burleson

In Christ Alone: Ecumenical Evangelism vs. Re-Emerging Baptist Landmarkism

I have received several emails from young pastors who have bemoaned the recent direction of the Southern Baptist Convention in the new baptism and tongues policies of the International Mission Board. Many of them have been very perceptive in their emails by drawing attention to the fact that this is not the first time parameters of fellowship and potential service have been narrowed, and unless there is a concerted effort by many across the convention, it will certainly not be the last attempt by some who are seeking uniformity and conformity across our vary diverse convention.

It has been said that those who do not know history are destined to repeat other's mistakes.

For those unfamiliar with Baptist history, one might believe that we Baptists have always been an exclusive, non-ecuminical, isolated sect of evangelicals. On the contrary, Baptists historically have been a people of broad cooperation, ecuminical spirit, and a fierce desire to see people worship in freedom without coercion.

BAPTISTS HAVE HISTORICALLY WELCOMED FELLOWSHIP AND PARTICIPATION WITH OTHER EVANGELICALS

When Baptists began to blossom in numbers across England and eventually Europe in the 1600's and 1700's, persecution against those Baptists abounded. Baptists were forbidden from obtaining higher education at the state supported universities, and as a result, most Baptist pastors were self-taught.

That is not to say the Baptist pastors of this time period were not educated, because most were. They were, however, educated through book learning and not through official channels.

Thus, when the eminent Baptist scholar of the 1700's, Dr.John Gill, received his honorary doctorate for his work in the languages and ancient literature, he made the famous statement regarding his degree, "I neither thought it, sought it, or bought it."

Eventually evangelicals (Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc . . .) in both Europe and Great Britain began to accept Baptists, mostly because of the thoroughly biblical 1644 and 1689 Baptist London Confessions of Faith, and the way Baptists preached the gospel through men like John Bunyan, Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and other famous Baptists of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Though there were disagreements over the mode of baptism among evangelicals in that day, cooperation in ministry and partnership in missions marked the late 1700's and early 1800's among all evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic. Southern Baptists in America formed their convention in 1845 and participated in this evangelical cooperation among their Southern evangelical friends, including Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

That is until the mid 1800's when Landmarkism began to arise within the Southern Baptist Convention.

There are plenty of websites on the internet that can give you a brief history of Landmarkism, but my point in this post is to simply give you the salient facts regarding Landmarkism to help you understand why it is essential it not be allowed to rise again within the SBC.

Some leaders of our convention in the 1850's were upset that some Southern Baptist Churches were allowing "Presbyterian" pastors to preach from the pulpit. In addition, these convention leaders were concerned that Southern Baptist Churches were receiving into membership people who had been baptized by preachers who were not "Southern Baptist." It was believed by these "Landmarkers," as they came to be called, that a person baptized at the hands of an "unbaptized" pastor (i.e. a preacher who was himself baptized as an infant), was not truly baptized, even though the baptism was by immersion and took place after that person had come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Landmarks sought to "purify" the pulpits and churches of the SBC.

Landmark Baptists believe that a "pure" church is a priority; and the only pure church is the "Baptist" church.

The tenets of Landmarkism are as follows:

Landmarkism believes that the original church was a baptist church (Mat 16:17-19), and that the only true churches are baptist or baptistic. Some of the corollaries to this are:

1. There is no universal church, only local churches.
2. Baptism by a church that is not baptist or baptistic is not valid, and those coming to a baptist church from another background need to be baptised, even if they had a "baptism" in some other church. This is often referred to as "alien" baptism, or "alien" immersion.
3. Communion is closed, that is, it is only to be celebrated by members of a local congregation, and visitors, whatever their faith, are not allowed to partake.
4. There is an apostolic succession of baptist churches, unbroken since the first church in Jerusalem, organized by Christ Himself. New churches must be "mothered" by a church in the chain, or they are not valid.
5. The "bride of Christ" consists only of members of proper baptist churches. Though others will be in heaven, they will not be part of the bride.

The Landmarks of the 1850's were eventually defeated by the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention and they left to form independent Baptist churches that supported missions through the local church.

When the new policies on baptism were approved by the trustees of the IMB, I was greatly troubled because I believed it was a reversion back to the 1850's and the re-emergence of Landmarkism within the SBC.

Is it?

Only time will tell.

All I can say is that we better, as a convention, seek to be more open in our evangelical fellowship and understanding of the church of Jesus Christ or we will continue to lose hundreds of young pastors to the Bible church or community church movement that is far more ecumenical in approach than the current SBC.

Baptism identifies a person with Jesus Christ.

Nowhere in Scripture does it identify a Christian with a church.

Churches are responsible to examine a person's faith and baptism before they admit a person into fellowship within the church, but it is critical to understand the nature of biblical baptism --- by immersion after having come to faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of the qualifications of the administrator of the baptism.

Sola Scriptura should drive our every policy and procedure.

As of this writing not one person has been able to show me one Scripture upon which the new policy on baptism is based.

Are we really a convention of the Book?

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

A Grace Filled Christmas to You and Yours

Rachelle, the kids, and I will be visiting family during this holiday season and I will be unable to post or respond to emails or posts..

A friend of mine said my blog is as thick as "War and Peace. There should be enough reading material for those interested.

After Christmas I will post a lengthy article I have written on "The History of Landmarkism within the Southern Baptist Convention."

The Burleson family wishes you and yours a joyous holiday season.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Am I a Fundamentalist?

I recently read a post by the head of the Mainstream Baptists in Oklahoma, Dr. Bruce Prescott, where he called me a "Fundamentalist Baptist Pastor." In his own blog entitled The Fundamentals of Hate, Dr. Prescott says, "While Burelson (sic) calls for conservatives to sheath their swords, he continues to use the sabre-rattling rhetoric that draws them out. Burleson still talks about hating "liberalism," and now he's added hating "legalism" and "Fundamentalism." The thread tying these all together is a heart that still condones "hate." That's what's killing the SBC. Hatemongering and the rhetoric of warfare always leads to division and death."

I think Dr. Prescott needs to read my blog a little more carefully. I am arguing that we in the Southern Baptist Convention should "cooperate" with our brothers in Christ, and not exclude them, because of differing interpretations of the Word of God. I am insisting that there does not need to be any more fighting.

In addition, I agree with Dr. Prescott, that we (the Fundamentalists) should love our liberal friends. Just because we want no part of liberal theology does not mean we should hate those who do. It may surprise Dr. Prescott to know that I enjoy the company of two men who are liberal in their theology. I call them friends, and they consider me a friend as well. The love of Christ overflows in my heart to people regardless of their doctrinal position.

The same goes for my argument against what I am calling "Fundamentalism within the Southern Baptist Convention." To hate the methodology of the SBC Fundamentalists ("you cannot serve if you don't interpret the Word of God as I do"), is not to hate the Fundamentalists themselves. I don't. In fact, some of the godliest, nicest men and women I have ever met are insisting on a narrow interpretation of "tongues" and "baptism." I don't hate them at all. I do despise their methodology of excluding conservatives who don't agree with their interpretation of the Sacred Text.

In summary, to hate the methodology of Fundamentalism, or to hate the theology of liberalism, does not, and should not mean you hate the person behind either.

So . . .

Does it bother me that Dr. Prescott thinks I hate him or any other person with "liberal" theology? Of course it does. I don't hate Dr. Prescott. In fact, Dr. Prescott, whom I have never met, may actually be surprised that I am an easy going guy who enjoys the company of people of all persuasions.

But it particularly bothers me that anyone would think I "hate" anybody within the SBC.

My word. These are my brothers and sisters whom I respect deeply, even those who disagree with me on the IMB new policies.

Frankly, when I am called a "Fundamentalist" by someone who left the SBC over the inerrancy of Scripture, and a "Liberal" by a person who fought the battle for the Bible and now is leading the effort to conservative conformity, as has happened to me in the past two months, then it very well may be that my theology is "fundamental" and my methodology is "liberal."

Maybe that's how it should be.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

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

It's About People

I have stated previously why I oppose the new IMB policies regarding missionary candidates (see Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives: The War for the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention ), but the following email from a long-time International Mission Board fellow trusteee puts a face to the problem.


Brother Wade:

I know your e-mails and phone calls must be overwhelming, but as a trustee who shares your views but not as vocal as I probably need to be, I just wanted to say thank you for your stand and expression of concern.

I remember sitting on a personnel subcommittee reviewing one of the most compelling testimonies of a couple I'd heard who sought to be appointed tp represent Southern Baptist as missionaries for Christ and then in utter amazement having one on the committee refusing to affirm them because she had been baptized as a 9 year old girl in a church of another denomination. Although she was baptized by immersion, beautifully articulated the meaning of baptism and had been a member of a strong, well respected Baptist church for over 20 years, we were going to require her to be rebaptized before she could be appointed.

I remember saying to myself, if this is what this board is about, I need to resign. I'm not a preacher, but sometimes we are so good at preaching grace but then turning right around and getting up under the law.

Anyway, just wanted to thank you for your leadership concerning this and let you know I support you and I'm praying for you.


(Name Withheld by Blog Administrator).


May God help us as a denomination when we exclude God-called men and women who qualify Scripturally for service, but don't measure up to our man-made rules.

In His Grace,

Wade

Trust, Trustees, and Transparancy

The following is an email from a young minister asking for a definition of a trustee:


Wade,

I'm a middle school youth minister in ____________. I've been trying to contact the trustees in my state to ask them about the new IMB policy/guidelines.

This has left me wondering what exactly the role of a trustee of the IMB is. That may be a silly question, but after trying to contact some of them I'm not sure what to think. I looked for a charter or constitution or something to figure out what I should expect, but didn't find anything.

To get directly to my point, this is an excerpt of an email I've received from one trustee:

<---I do not feel like it would be proper for me to share my own personal views on this topic. When the group acts (IMB Trustees), then I support the action no matter what my personal feelings.--->

On some level I felt like the trustees are a representative body of all Southern Baptists. I'm sure that there's no direct correlation between this body and say, how Congress would represent U.S. citizens, but if the analogy is true at all, should I not be able to hear what this trustee thought?

I appreciate any insight you can give me into this situation. Thanks so much for taking a stand on this issue. This new policy affects me personally in that I am now no longer a valid candidate to serve with the IMB. I have seen serving with the IMB as something I want to consider and pray about in the future. My girlfriend and I have talked about it -- she cares about missions as well. She's already served as a journeyman for IMB. I'm proposing to her tomorrow night. :-) . . . .

I feel like I'm rambling a little bit, so I'll stop. I appreciate any comment you can give me about this stuff.


Sincerely,


(Name Withheld)




My very brief comment to this young pastor is as follows:

On one level, the trustee who responded to your email is correct, and on another level he is dead wrong.

He is correct in saying "When the group acts (IMB Trustees), then I support the action no matter what my personal feelings." I agree.

For instance, as a member of the Personnel Committee, I will reject all applicants who do not meet the new policies regarding baptism and tongues even though I do not agree with them. The Board has spoken.

However, he is dead wrong about not sharing his personal opinion with you.

He is obligated, as a trustee, to report to you his thinking, his vote, and/or his disagreement with the actions of the Board.

He works for you.

Trustees have been given "trust" by the members of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention holds trustees accountable.

Every single trustee is obligated to let people know how they feel.

I have been inundated with requests for information about the new policies.

This blog is my attempt to let the people who hold me accountable to know exactly how I feel.

Next time Jerry, just send people the link. It looks better than copy and paste.

In His Grace,


Wade

Tongues, the IMB, and Biblical Interpretation

I recently received an email from someone who equated "women deacons," "tongues," "homosexuality,' and "abortion," as all problems associated with "liberalism."

If the sender were not so high up in the SBC I might laugh. As it is, I want to cry.

Have we come to the point in our convention that we do not know the differences between conservatives interpreting Scripture, using sound exegetical methods, and arriving at opposite conclusions, and liberals who deny the veracity of Scripture all together?

Take tongues and homosexuality for example. Every conservative I know believes the Scriptures are clear that homosexuality is a sin,, but some liberals, who deny the inerrancy of Scriptures will try to defend homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. The problem is not different interpretations of the text but different views of the text itself.

But tongues is different. I know many conservatives who exegete the Scriptures and come to different conclussions regarding the practice of tongues today. Conservatives interpret the inerrant text differently. But conservatives all agree about the nature of the text -- it is inspired by God.

For example, when Dr. Rankin was interviewed by the Search Committee seeking a new President of the IMB in 1993, the Search Committee investigated Dr. Rankin's belief regarding tongues. The Search Committee and Dr. Rankin had various interpretations regarding "tongues" (there were several varying interpretations), but nobody ever doubted Dr. Rankin's high view of Scripture.

In fact, it could be argued that Dr. Rankin "out-inerranted the inerrantists." In other words, he based his belief of tongues on the infallible, inerrant Word of God, not a speculative, "neo-orthodox," "this is what the Spirit has revealed to me" type of philosophy.

Is it possible to have a solid, exegetical approach to Scripture, and still believe in a modern day "private prayer language"?

Absolutely.

Dr. Sam Storms, one of the brighest, sharpest theologues of our day, has written two excellent articles on "Tongues and the Southern Baptist Convention." I would encourage you to read both articles and then realize that conservatives can, and should, cooperate with each other in reaching the world for Christ.

See Dr. Storm's article at The Southern Baptist Convention and Tongues: Part 1 and The Southern Baptist Convention and Tongues: Part 2.

I do not personally possess a private prayer language, have never sought one, and do not see a need for one, but I have a great deal of respect for conservative men and women who base their beliefs in a prayer language on solid biblical exegesis.

Tongues is not like homosexuality.

In His Grace,


Wade

What Every Baptist Should Know About Believer's Baptism

Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) was considered by Baptists in the 18th and 19th Centuries as the pre-eminent Baptist theologue of his day. His Greek and Hebrew proficiency excelled the Anglican scholars of London and the Roman Catholic scholars of Europe. His works on the ancient Jewish writings have not been surpassed in scholarship to this day.

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, called Gill "his mentor in Israel." Dr. Gill was a contemporary and friend of Augustus Toplady, author of the great hymn, "Rock of Ages," William Cowper, and other world-renowned evangelicals of both London and Europe.

Dr. Gill is the only English speaking scholar to write a commentary on every book of Scriptures from the original languages (even non-English seaking Calvin skipped Revelation). After his commentary, Gill wrote his "Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity," a wonderful compilation of systemized doctrine. Usually interpreters base their commentaries on presuppositions. Gill exposited the Scriptures first, then systemetized his theology.

According to the scholarly historian Joseph Ivimey, if a pastor in the 1800's did not have Gill's Commentaries in his library, he was not considered a true Baptist in his day. Whether you agree with his soteriology or not (Gill was a Calvinist), no one can deny his Biblical erudition and theological acumen.

Gill was brilliant.

Read carefully the following excerpt from Gill's "Body of Divinity." His statements regarding baptism are thoroughly Biblical and reflect the historic view on baptism of Baptists everywhere. Following the excerpt I will then point out five serious errors in the new IMB policy regarding baptism.

Practical Divinity~Book 3

Chapter 1:

Of Baptism


As the first covenant, or testament, had ordinances of divine service, which are shaken, removed, and abolished; so the New Testament, or gospel dispensation, has ordinances of divine worship, which cannot be shaken, but will remain until the second coming of Christ: these, as Austin says {1}, are few; and easy to be observed, and of a very expressive signification. Among which, baptism must be reckoned one, and is proper to be treated of in the first place; for though it is not a church ordinance, it is an ordinance of God, and a part and branch of public worship.

When I say baptism is not a church ordinance, I mean baptism is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church; persons must first be baptized, and then added to the church, as the three thousand converts were; a church has nothing to do with the baptism of any, but to be satisfied they are baptized before they are admitted into communion with it.

Admission to baptism lies solely in the breast of the administrator, who is the only judge of qualifications for it, and has the sole power of receiving to it, and of rejecting from it; if nor satisfied, he may reject a person thought fit by a church, and admit a person to baptism not thought fit by a church; but a disagreement is not desirable nor advisable.

The orderly, regular, scriptural rule of proceeding seems to be this: a person inclined to submit to baptism, and to join in communion with a church, should first apply to an administrator; and upon giving him satisfaction, be baptized by him; and then should propose to the church for communion; when he would be able to answer all proper questions: if asked, to give a reason of the hope that is in him, he is ready to do it; if a testimony of his life and conversation is required, if none present can give it, he can direct where it is to be had; and if the question is put to him, whether he is a baptized person or not, he can answer in the affirmative, and give proof of it, and so the way is clear for his admission into church fellowship.

So Saul, when converted, was immediately baptized by Ananias, without any previous knowledge and consent of the church; and, it was many days after this that he proposed to join himself to the disciples, and was received, #Ac 9:18,19,23,26-28


The new IMB policy on baptism violates the above in five areas:

(1). The new policy forces baptism to take place within a church for identification with a church, not recognizing that baptism can, and often should, take place outside a church (winning the convert on the mission field and baptizing in a river or lake) and it represents one's unashamed identification with Jesus Christ and His followers.

(2). Thus, the new policy places the emphasis of baptism on the person's identification with a church, not identification with Christ.

(3). Therefore, the IMB is now asking questions about what the church who baptizes an individual believed, rather than asking what the individual being baptized believes. What is in the head of the baptizer is deemed more important than what is in the heart of the baptized.

(4). So the new IMB policy violates the historic Baptistic understanding of baptism, not to mention the Scriptural description of believer's baptism by immersion, by adopting a Landmark understanding of baptism with it's emphasis on examining the qualifications of the church, or person, doing the baptizing when both the New Testament and Baptist Faith and Message make no such demand.

(5). So the eventual end to the matter is that the IMB's sacerdotal and Landmark new policy on baptism violates the autonomy of the local Southern Baptist Church, by rejecting the prospective missionary candidate who is a member of an SBC church, who has been Scripturally baptized, but not by a "proper church," a condition only attached to Landmark theology.

The former policy of the IMB and the statement on baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message are both clear, biblical, and sufficient. The new policy is an eggregious error with continuing consequences in the field and SBC churches.


In His Grace,

Wade

The Line, The Ditch, and the Sheep Fold

One of the genuine pleasures for my wife and me is to take groups to Israel for tours of the Holy Land. Our guides are Israeli Paratroopers and we are fascinated with their tales of Jewish heroism during the 1948 War of Independence, the Egyptian Wars of the 1960's and 70's, and the Lebanese/Israeli War of the early 1980's.

The modern Jewish soldier learns early in his service the story of Masada. During the Jewish/Roman war of A.D. 70, many Jews fled to the desert palace of King Herod on top of Masada. The Romans encircled the mountain and eventually conquered the fortified walls only to discover over 900 Jewish men, women and children had committed suicide in order to not be captured by Romans.

Until recently, every Israeli paratrooper was sworn into service on the top of Masada where a line would be drawn into the sand, the soldier would raise his right hand, swear allegience to the state of Israel, and close the ceremony by saying, "No more Masada." Israel must defend herself against every enemy, seen and unseen.

C.S. Lewis used to argue with his good friend J.R. Tolkien about whether or not the gospel should be made abundantly clear in their respective allegories. Tolkien argued for the vague representation of Christ, but Lewis took the position that the person of Jesus Christ should be revealed so clearly in the allegory, that little explanation would be needed. Thus, Aslan so typifies Christ, all one has to say to the child who reads the "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is, "Aslan is Christ," and that child will immediately understand the ;rinciples of the gospel. C.S. Lewis said there was no greater privilege than to reveal Christ to the nations. That was his line in the sand.

Which leads me to my modern allegory.

I have had overwhelming positive response by email to the line in the sand post of December 10th entitled "Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives: The War for the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention."

Those in support of the post believe, as do I, that the line must be drawn against the legalism, Fundamentalism, and crusading politics that scorches the Southern Baptist landscape, and burns good conservative men and women, disqualifying them from service in the SBC.

In the past, many within the SBC have remained quiet at the tactics that have forced the resignations of conservatives from places of service within our SBC framework. It seems God's people in the SBC have possessed the "Masada" complex. We'd rather give up than fight.

Fortunately, a new generation of Christian leaders has arisen who have drawn the figurative line in the sand --- there will now be a defense of the conservative family. We may not interpret the Bible the same, but we will not allow good men and women to be crucified by the sword of legalistic conformity.

We must draw this line in the sand and defend our brethren, for if not, the SBC will fall into the ditch of separation, independence and societal support of missions rather than conservative cooperation that has historical characterized our attempt to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations.

I'm tired of some conservative leaders being led to the slaughter like lambs. The sheep of God in the conservative fold called the Southern Baptist Convention deserve our defense.

I'll do my best.

Wade

The Righteousness of Faith

The Apostle Paul wrote a great deal of Romans, Galatians, Colossians, and Philippians with an emphasis on the righteousness of God that is ours by faith. Many Christians today do not understand the concept of imputed righteousness, and that is probably the fault of us pastors.

The only righteousness that ultimately counts in the eyes of God is the righteousness of His Son. Every other kind of righteousness is faulty, especially that righteousness that we perform ourselves.

However, according to the Apostle John, the evidence that someone possess the righteousness of Christ is he "lives a righteous life" (I John 3:8).

So on the one hand, faith in Christ gives to you a perfect righteousness that you will never lose because it was not yours in the first place and it was given to you by God as a gift, but on the other hand, the evidence that you possess this righteousness is that you live righteously.

Too often pastors only focus on the preaching of Christian duty, responsibility, and commitment, to the neglect of the great doctrines of grace and what it is that Christ has obtained for His people.

May God lead us all into an understanding that no believer is ever ready to live right until he first understands who he is in Christ.

In Christ, the believer is perfectly righteous.
In His Grace,

Wade

Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives: The War for the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

Twenty years ago liberalism in the Southern Baptist Convention experienced her Waterloo in Dallas, Texas, as 45,000 messengers set the course of our beloved SBC for the next two decades. We are all grateful to the leaders of the conservative resurgence including my friend Paul Pressler, current Southwestern Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, and the late Adrian Rogers for their foresight, courage and wisdom in snatching the SBC from the clenched jaws of dead neo-orthodoxy and restoring our seminaries, agencies and institutions to an unapologetic adherance to the inerrancy of God's word, the sufficiency of Christ's work, and the evangelical missionary zeal which has marked the SBC since her formation in 1845.

I have stood side by side with my fellow conservatives and toe to toe with liberals in our convention over the years. When the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship organized in Oklahoma I nailed on the door of their organizational meeting "95 Theses Against the Formation of the CBF," an act which marked me forever as an opponent of the CBF, and resulted in a caricature of me by the unofficial artist of the CBF in Oklahoma.

My forefather, Dr. Rufus Burleson, was President of Baylor University and twice served as President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in the late 1800's. I myself recently completed a second term as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. I bleed Southern Baptist blood. I have personal battle scars as a result of the war against liberalism within our convention.

I am glad and I rejoice over the conservative resurgance. I am a conservative. I love my convention.

But sadly, a new war has begun. It is a war initiated by fellow conservatives; conservatives who have forgotten how to put their swords in their respective sheaths. It is a war that technically may not have just begun, but one that simply never ended.

Conservatives who loved the battles of decades past have fallen victim to a crusading mentality of bloodthirst. Since all the liberals are gone, conservative cruasaders are now killing fellow conservatives.

A clear understanding of how this war is proceeding may be seen in the recent actions of the International Mission Board, an agency that I now serve as trustee. New policies were recently approved by the Board of Trustees of the IMB regarding the appointment of missionaries. The new policies forbid the appointment of any missionary who uses a private prayer language or one who has not been baptized by a "qualified administrator" of baptism.

I personally and publicly opposed the proposed new policies of the IMB not because I do not believe we need standards for our missionaries -- we do! I opposed the new policies because we already had excellent policies on the books regarding tongues and biblical baptism. My objections to the new policy on baptism are well documented, so I will not go into them here, but I will use the new policy on "glossolalia" to show how crusading conservatives are killing other conservatives.

The former policy of the IMB regarding tongues stated that if you practiced tongues publicly on the mission field you would be fired. But the new policy narrows the restriction to preclude a private prayer language. Our own Bertha Smith of South Carolina, one of the finest missionaries we have ever had as Southern Baptists, professed to be gifted with a private prayer language. Dr. Jerry Rankin, before being hired to be President of our International Mission Board, made known he had experienced a private prayer language, but agreed contractually to abide by the policy of the IMB as President and to never publicly practice "glossolalia." Some of the greatest men and women of God throughout the centuries have disagreed over the issue of a private prayer language, but have cooperated in the work of spreading the gospel.

Why have some conservative crusaders now insisted on new policies at the IMB regarding tongues? Again, it seems clear to me that some conservative crusaders have yet to learn how to sheath the sword, and rather than cooperate with fellow conservatives in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, they have gone after the head of Dr. Jerry Rankin. I have been told by an authority in the crusading effort that there are some trustees who will settle for nothing less than Dr. Rankin's "head on a platter."

A conservative killing a fellow conservative. What a shame.

It is not my intention to defend Dr. Rankin. The issue is much larger than one man. This is not about Dr. Rankin, Dr. Draper, Dr. Crews, Dr. Chapman, or anybody else in leadership of the SBC.

The issue is much more. The future of our convention is at stake.

WHEN ARE PEOPLE IN THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION GOING TO STAND UP AND SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?

If we are not careful we are going to lose a younger generation of pastors that are disillusioned with the SBC because all they see is the continuing narrowing of the parameters of fellowship within our convention. These young pastors don't see eye to eye with the conservative crusaders, but they themselves are conservative, seeking to reach their generation with the gospel. Where, they are asking, do we fit within the SBC?

Again, I think if people are not careful they will see arguments against the new IMB policies on tongues and baptism and believe the problem is simply a theological one. If that's the case, the real issue at hand, the issue that is so disturbing to many of us, will never be grasped by SBC laypeople at large. The Southern Baptist Convention, through trustees of boards and agencies, is narrowing the parameters of fellowship and cooperation to the point that real, genuine conservatives are being excluded as unfit for service in the SBC.

Our convention hated liberalism twenty years ago and we expelled it from our midst, but at this hour we better hate legalism and Fundamentalism as much as we did the former liberalism or we will find ourselves so fractured and fragmented that we no longer have the ability to cooperate about anything, including missions. We all agree on the inerrancy of Scripture and the nature and work of Jesus Christ our Lord, but we must not be Fundamentalists when it comes to our convention. Fundamentalism with a capital F is known for her independence, separation, schism-making, and her "I'll do it my way without your help because you don't qualify to work with me" attitude.

I believe if God does not intervene in the Southern Baptist Convention by raising up men and women in the SBC who are more concerned about conservative cooperation than we are conservative conformity, we are headed down this road of religious Fundamentalism.

In closing, allow me to explain what is happening in our convention in crystal clear terms.

The war that is now taking place with crusading conservatives attacking cooperating conservatives is following the same battle plan conservatives used to defeat liberalism.

Trustees of agencies are being "vetted" or cleared by men and women who are of the opinion that no conservative is worthy of leadership that does not toe the party line. That line is no longer the nature of Christ and Scripture, but has moved rapidly toward a specific interpretation of Scripture related to eschatology, ecclesiology, soteriology, missiology, etc . . .

Crusading conservatives are using private meetings at trustee meetings, an unethical violation of all agencies' guidelines, to cram their agendas through. Crusading conservatives are influencing nominating committee members of various states to place on the different boards and agencies of the SBC those who are in lock step with crusader goals. Agency heads who are not the appointed leaders of crusaders, i.e. elected by the crusaders themselves, are being forced to resign or simply removed.

Crusaders gather to elect chairmen of the boards and appoint committee chairmen. Crusaders have an agenda and if anyone steps in their way they become vicious. Ask someone who has dared to speak out against a crusader.


Conservatives throughout the centuries have had differing interpretations regarding what Scripture teaches, but have been, and are today, united regarding the nature of Scripture. Our cooperation historically has been built upon our belief in the inerrant word of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ, and we have joined hands in cooperation to advance the kingdom. But sadly, the Southern Baptist Convention is now moving toward a time when everyone must look the same, talk the same, act the same, believe the same on the non-essentials of the faith, or else you will be removed as "not one of us."

God forbid.

I am a Southern Baptist. I will be a Southern Baptist until the day I die.

I am a conservative. I will cooperate with other conservative evangelicals until the day I die.

I fought one war to rid our convention of liberalism. I sm prepared to fight another war to rid our convention of legalism.

I, and others, are now being attacked by conservative crusaders who want to rid our convention of fellow conservatives who don't interpret Scripture like they do. These crusaders refuse cooperation in favor of conformity, and I really think it is because they have forgotten how to minister in the power of the Spirit through prayer, humility and cooperation.

If the crusaders sheath their sword, I promise, I will sheath mine. I do not want to fight my fellow conservatives. I want to cooperate with every conservative to win the world to Christ.

However, the stakes of this war are too great to roll over without a fight. This war is about the future of our convention.

I promise you I will ask the Lord for grace and mercy for us all. But I cannot stand by and watch our convention die. Today it is "glossalia" vs. cessationists and the "proper administrator" of baptism vs. biblical baptism. Tomorrow it might be Calvinism vs Arminianism or Dispensationalism vs. Preterism. Where will it end?

Why can't it end NOW. We need cooperating Baptists instead of crusading Baptists.

I believe, as did Spurgeon, there is a time to take draw a line in the sand for the cause of Christ.

That time has come for the Southern Baptist Convention.

My line has been drawn. How about yours?


Wade Burleson


Dr. Morris Chapman's convention message at the 2004 Indianapolis Convention should be read by every Southern Baptist who is concerned about the future of cooperating conservatives reaching our world for Christ. He is far more eloquent than I, and his words spoke deeply to my own heart. The message may be found in audio and print form at The Fundamentals of Cooperating Conservatives.

Law and Grace in the Church

Our forefathers understood the difference between law and grace and the appropriate place and time to use both.

18th Century preachers would preach clearly the law of God, the holiness of God, and the justice of God to people who felt very little conviction of sin. Jonathan Edwards used his message "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" to awaken a slumbering community to their sin and rebellion towards their Creator.

However, our forefathers also understood that it was essential to preach to the believers in Christ the eternal, immeasurable grace of God. Why? People who had already felt their sin needed to be shown the Savior in all His glory and beauty.

Today churches get the use of law and grace confused. For some reason we try to get the lost to feel comfortable at church, and then when they feel the church is a comfortable place, we ask them to join. But to keep them committed to Christ we then have to give them the law, "do this or miss out on God's blessing."

How sad. We should make sinners feel as uncomfortable as possible under the expositional teaching of the Scripture (because Scripture does the same thing), but we should do our very best to show convicted sinners the unconditional, eternal, and unbelievable blessings of grace found in casting one's trust on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

If a person has truly tasted of grace wild horses could not keep him from serving.

So, tell your lost friends the truth about the law of God with a spirit of grace and humility, but to that soul who has obtained by faith the righteousness of Jesus Christ, do your very best to show him all the understanding, love and grace you possibly can, even if he or she is radically different from you in lifestyle, personality, and gifts. His righteousness through faith in Christ is the same righteousness you have received by faith.

There is no room for legalism in the church. But we need a ton of law in the world.

Grace to you and yours,

Wade

Truth With a Genuine Smile

"There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God." C. H. Spurgeon

Recently the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention passed new policies regarding qualifications of prospective missionaries of our Southern Baptist Convention. As a new trustee of the IMB I voiced my opposition to the proposed policies over and over again. In the end, I, and other like-minded trustees could not persuade enough trustees to vote against the proposed policy changes.

Here is where it gets interesting. Several people from across the convention have written to me asking "What happened?" Since every Southern Baptist is privileged to hold the trustees of our agencies accountable, and since I have publicly stated my objections to the IMB Board on numerous occasions, I am free to tell exactly what happened.

But I must tell it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Why?

The one distinguishing mark of graced people is that they are gracious to others who disagree. Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that their entire salvation is one of grace, therefore, walk "consistent with your calling."

So to all my friends in the blogging world and beyond, remember, not everyone will agree with us doctrinally. Not everyone will see the world the way we do.

Speak the truth. But never forget, the world revolves because God spins it, not us.

Speak the truth with a genuine smile because He works all things according to the counsel of His will for our good and His glory.

There is no room for acrimony and bitterness in the people of God. Truth, yes. Courage, yes. Boldness, yes. Grace, always!

God's grace to you and yours,

Wade

Timing, The Will of God, and Biblical Providence

21st Century followers of Christ are so prone to speak of finding God's will that they have never paused to consider if the concept is even Scriptural. The Bible speaks of God's will in terms of certainty and fact, never uncertainty and doubt. In other words, God's will is never lost for the believer, but always perfectly experienced by the believer.

Sure, His revealed Word is often broken (commandmants, biblical principles and exhortations, etc . . . ), but God has established His throne in the heavens and He does as He pleases. His decretive will (or decrees) is never broken, for who can resist God? Even sin, which is always permitted by God -- for He could immediately destroy the sinner and the sin -- ultimately redounds to His Glory (the praise of either His eternal justice and holiness or His immeasurable grace through Jesus Christ).

This is why the Apostles would make plans, such as a mission trip, and then always say, "If God wills . . ." This simply meant it would not be done if God did not will it for He would stop it. It did not mean they had the possibility of "missing God's will."

The steps of the righteous are directed by God. Therefore, rest in His Providential care. Make your plans. Trust your God.

He never fails.

Wade Burleson

The Purpose Driven God

I am often asked my opinion regarding "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. Rick used to be a member of my father's church at Southcliff Baptist in Fort Worth, Texas during his seminary days. He is a fine individual and a wonderful pastor.

"The Purpose Driven Life" is a good book as far as books go, but in my opinion it falls short of a Biblical understanding of true purpose.

The prophets of old cautioned the people of God against too high an opinion of themselves and too low an opinion of God. Israel often prided themselves in their spirituality and distinctive purpose and often lost sight of their God. In fact, the prophet Daniel revealed to Israel that when they worshipped God they thought of Him "just like you think of a man."

In our day we have a similar problem. We think that our "purpose" in life (desires, plans, goals, achievements, etc . . .) is everything. We give little thought regarding God's purposes. Further, when we finally begin to think in terms of the Divine Purpose, we consider His ways altogether too much like our own.

God is not like us. When He purposes or wills something He will always, absolutely succeed. But when we purpose something, we usually, and most likely will fail.

What God purposes, He accomplishes.

Has He purposed the salvation of sinners? He will accomplish it.

Has He purposed to conform you to the image of His Son? He will accomplish it.

Has He purposed to build His church? He will accomplish it.

Has He purposed to be honored and praise in every event of history? He will ultimately accomplish it.

It would serve churches of our day very well if pastors would focus more attention on revealing the God of Scripture in their preaching. The people who know their God shall be strong and do amazing things.

Let the world focus on self-help, but let the people of God focus on a Sovereign God who cannot fail.

Let the modern church focus on the purpose of man, but let the Church built by Christ focus on the Purpose Driven God.

Grace and Truth to You and Yours


Wade