I want to commend Tad Thompson for his excellent questions asked of Dr. Ronnie Floyd on his blog Total Truth. Dr. Floyd initially declined to respond, but he has since said he intends to give answers to the questions in the near future. Tad has also asked others in the blogospher to offer answers themselves. I think this is a great idea, and I will be posting my fifteen answers to his fifteen questions on this post. Following the Q&A I will respond to those who are interested in knowing if I will allow my name to be presented into nomination for the election of President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
1) What does the term "missional" mean to you within our denominational context? Do you see any valuable messages for the SBC coming from the Emergent Movement? What harmful messages are coming from the movement?
The term "missional" within a denominational context means that we are intentionally seeking to engage the cultures of the world, including our own, with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We become all things to all people in order that we might win some. We are "missional" about all we do --- we are on a mission.
Sometimes churches and denominations get stuck in a rut of doing what we do because we have always done it that way before. The young pastors in the "Emergent" or "Missional" churches of our convention can help us see that our methodology must remain fluid, while our theology must remain constant. I'm not sure that there are any harmful messages coming from this movement. However, a couple of cautions might be advisable. Young leaders must first not judge those who are not "like them," for if "missional" pastors begin to judge others, they will be no different than those from whom they came. Young leaders must also be aware of the tendency of some to compromise the message of the gospel.
2) Cooperation has become the mantra for many pastors who are voicing their concern that many powerful political players in the SBC have an agenda to narrow the parameters of cooperation along specific, doctrinal boundaries that go beyond the BFM 2000. The highest profile example of this narrowing of cooperation are the new IMB policies on Baptism and the use of Private Prayer Languages. What is your position regarding these new policies? In what ways should Southern Baptists cooperate with other denominations and entities in order to fulfill the Great Commission in the world?
My position regarding the new policies on Baptism and Private Prayer Languages? No comment (see the new IMB trustee policy handbook forbidding sitting trustees from criticizing Board approved actions).
I do believe we as Southern Baptists can, and should, cooperate with other evangelical churches and denominations in reaching the world for Christ. These Great Commission partners are our friends, and are on the same mission as we. It would be foolish for us to ignore them or pretend they did not exist, particularly on the mission field.
3) There are a growing number of young leaders in our denomination that have embraced a "reformed" view of the doctrines of grace. I recently attended the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville. There were close to 3000 pastors at this conference and over 70% of attendees were 20-40 years old. Do you believe Reformed Theology is a threat to the SBC and the Great Commission? What value, if any, is there in having a denomination that allows for theological diversity within the boundaries of the BFM 2000?
The only threat to our denomination is the attempt to narrow the definition of what it means to be a Southern Baptist, or to narrow the parameters of cooperation in missions and evangelism. "Reformed" theology is not a threat to evangelism in our denomination. Southern Baptists have a long history of pastors who hold to the doctrines of grace and Calvinistic thought. On the other hand, there are many Southern Baptists who are not Calvinistic. The problem is when either side tries to so narrow the parameters of cooperation that a point comes when one group does not consider the other group "true" Southern Baptists. The SBC is large enough to allow for theological diversity within the boundaries of the BF&M. Diversity is the heritage of Baptists. We must stop the demand for conformity of interpretation of those doctrines that are not essential to salvation.
4) Where do you stand on the freedom of principled dissent from concerned trustees of any of our SBC agencies?
I believe confidential matters among Boards should remain confidential and if a trustee violates confidentiality he ought to be censured or disciplined. However, to discipline a trustee for principled dissent, in my opinion, is a very unwise move. The suppressing of principled dissent is often the sign of weak support for one's position. I am of the firm opinion that strong positions, based upon the Word of God, can withstand dissent, but principled dissent is dissent based upon the Word of God and by all means should be allowed. A Christian's conscience is bound to the Word of God, not the opinions of man.
5) What is your opinion of the Executive Committee's recent call for the convention to only appoint leaders from churches who give at least 10% of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program?
I believe if you read the report of the Cooperative Program Study Committee you will see it is simply an encouragement or a request for Southern Baptists to take into consideration the amount of support a church gives to the CP before voting someone from that church into office. I think that is a fair request, but I would be against any standardization or bylaw recommendation that requires a certain percentage given to the CP. Southern Baptist people are smart enough to know what is best, and while it is fair for the request to be made, it is also fair for churches to either choose to give ten percent to the CP or not, and likewise, it is fair for the messengers to abide by the encouragement to elect only those candidates to office who give ten percent to the CP or to simply ignore the request. That is the beauty of every entity in the SBC being autonomous.
6) FBC-Springdale/Pinnacle Hills is an atypical church from the standpoint that it covers a lot of geographic ground, and it is frankly huge in terms of attendance every week. How does your work in NWA reflect the vision you would cast in the SBC?
This question is a good one for Dr. Floyd, but does not apply to anyone else.
7) Critics of the "mega-church" paradigm would say that there is a problem with churches which are already large launching satellite locations rather than planting new works. For example, it leaves the appearance that the senior pastor is drawing attendance based on personality rather than sound preaching because his work is not producing more senior pastor-caliber believers; it masks over discipleship with "spectator" Christianity. How would you respond to those critics?
I personally am in agreement with the critics. I believe there is something wrong when the work of the ministry or the preaching of the gospel can only be accomplished via videotape or the broadcasting of a "main personality." We are to make disciples of Christ, and in the discipleship of Christ's church the Spirit will appoint to each appropriate gifts for the building up of the body. If a church becomes too large it is impossible for proper discipline, proper mentoring, and proper discipleship to occur. I would wholeheartedly recommend a new church plant over and against multiple sites of one church with a video preacher, but because I believe in the autonomy of the local church, I also believe only individual churches can, and should, make those kinds of decisions.
8) In our consumer-driven culture many churches take a pragmatic view of ministry that allows for almost any method as long as it produces the desired results. The internet is a buzz with talk of a fire truck baptistery at FBCS, fully equipped with confetti canons. Is this methodology defensible from a theological perspective? How do you respond to those who criticize your church for using such methods?
It does concern me when one of my members, Yacouba Seydo, baptized in the Nigerian river by a non-Southern Baptist, cut-off from his Muslim family because of his faith in Christ, accepted into our church upon his statement of faith and baptism, but can then be rejected by one of our agencies for an invalid baptism, while someone who who is baptized in a fire truck with confetti and family applause, within one of our Southern Baptist Churches, is deemed appropriately baptized because it happened in a Southern Baptist Church and allowed to serve as a missionary within the SBC.
One is baptized upon threat of death. The other is baptized in a veritable party atmosphere. The one who gave up everything for Christ is considered "improperly" baptized because of "who" baptized him (a non-Southern baptist), but the one who was baptized in a fire truck during Southern Baptist Sunday School is considered "properly" baptized.
If all is accurate as reported then something is indeed rotten in Denmark.
9) There are some who believe that membership numbers in most SBC churches demonstrate a lack of integrity because many of these people are on our membership roles, yet never darken the door of our churches. Do we need to change our view of membership as a denomination? Would a revival of church discipline be beneficial for us as a denomination?
When I came to Emmanuel, Enid fourteen years ago there were 3,600 on the rolls and about 750 in small group attendance. Today we have 2,000 on the rolls and 1500 in average small group attendance. Because we pastors are called "undershepherds" and shepherds are called to know their sheep by name, we take it upon ourselves to know our sheep individually and care for them spiritually. We do practice loving church discipline, but it is always done in grace, only on violations of clear commandments of God's Word, and always for the purpose of restoration, never removal from the church, unless of course there is no repentance. So, I would say there does need to be a revival of discipline within the SBC.
10) What are the most important objectives for the SBC in the next 10 years?
We must engage the hearts and minds of young pastors in our convention. We must show them that the SBC is a place for cooperative ministry, and that their is a place for evangelical conversatives within our denomination, even if they don't "do church" the way their fathers did church. We must expand our parameters of cooperation and include men and women in the appointment process who are conservative and evangelical, but have been left out in recent years. We must recongize that we live in an age of increased accountability and heightened awareness of issues within agencies, and as a result, all of our business must be conducted in as open and transparent venues as possible.
Our objectives remain the same. We desire to take the gospel to the nations. The question we face in the very near future is clear: "Will we stop the narrowing of the parameters of what it means to be a Southern Baptist?" This is THE key objective in the next ten years. Our gospel witness is at stake.
11) What are the most important cultural issues for the SBC in the next 10 years?
Without sounding trite I wish to propose the most important cultural issue for the SBC is how we can recognize that we ARE the culture. Too often we withdraw from culture and become isolationists who condemn, when Jesus told us to go into the world and be people who effect change by our love and our example. How does a homosexual change? By the power of the gospel. How do teenagers stop engaging in promiscious sex and cease having abortions? Through the power of the gospel. How does a city shut down its bars and fill its churches? Through the power of the gospel. I would suggest our greatest need is to be a people who engage the culture with the power of the gospel. Refreshingly, I see this happening all across our land.
12) Apart from your weekly study of the Bible, what are the three most important books you have read recently which have influenced you in the ministry?
The Autobiography of Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal
William Huntington; Saved Sinner by Dr. George Ella
13) World Christianity has taken a dramatic shift to the Southern Hemisphere. This shift is mostly in the form of Pentecostalism and Catholicism. In what ways should the IMB be adapting to a rapidly changing world in order to spread the gospel effectively to the ends of earth?
The best advice I could give on this is that we must recognize that Christianity will not look like FBC Smallville, Texas in other countries of the world. When we try to formulize what "church" looks like, and then demand that missionaries and others follow our Western Americanized formula, we are asking for trouble. The IMB is full of creative, conservative evangelicals who know what they are doing.
I say we let the administrative staff lead, and we do our best to support and follow, while maintaining our fiduciary responsibilities for financial, legal and moral accountability.
14) Are there kingmakers calling the shots in the SBC? Should agency heads or seminary presidents attempt to influence the boards of other agencies for the purpose of undermining agency leadership?
Yes, but not for long.
Absolutely not. To the extent that may have been, or continues to be a problem that should stop. I think steps are being taken to insure it does not occur any longer.
15) Finally, as a younger leaders in the convention, what will you do as president of the SBC to bring younger leaders to the table? What ideas do you have to develop leadership within the denomination? Are there ways to ensure that involvement in SBC life can include a broad coalition of leaders from various demographics, such as age and church size? What is the role of the small and medium size church in SBC life?
There must be a very intentional, purposeful attempt at bringing younger leaders to the table. Conferences and national meetings targeting fellowship and training among young leaders is essential. In addition, the appointment powers of the President of the SBC are such that he can facilitate more involvement among young pastors across the convention. Some of our best, brightest pastors in the SBC are in small or medium size churches. Engaging younger leaders to participate in the SBC should be a priority for whoever becomes President of the SBC.
ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING MY NOMINATION FOR SBC PRESIDENT
From the very beginning of my blog on December 10, 2006, I have attempted to address the issues that face us as a convention. I have maintained that I have no desire to be elected to a national office in the SBC. But because the issues are so critical, I have been determined to see that real, effective change comes, and part of that change means having a President who understands the issues and will take steps to address them.
Because the discussion of the issues on this blog has resonated in the hearts of thousands of Southern Baptists around the world, I have received at least twenty five requests from individuals desiring to either nominate me for President of the SBC or allow my name to be nominated by others. I have refrained from commenting when reporters ask my intentions, because I have sought out others to run for President, not myself. I have personally asked five men to run for President of the SBC. For various reasons these men did not feel led of God to agree to be nominated at this time.
Recently I was introduced to a man who had been approached by several individuals, none of whom was me, to allow his name into nomination. This morning I had a lengthy conversation with this man and left quite impressed with his grasp of the issues, his desire to address them with both a firm resolution and gentlemanly grace, and his pledge to open up the doors of cooperation and participation to include all evangelical conservatives in the SBC and not just a select few. He is a great supporter of the Cooperative Program, a rock solid conservative, and pastor of a very strategic church. Though we might not see eye to eye soteriologically, he has pledged not to denigrate anyone in the SBC who holds to "reformed" theology, believing the SBC and the BF&M is broad enough for us all.
If this man decides to allow his name into nomination for the Presidency, I will not allow mine. He will make a decision by the first of next week, and because I believe he would make a great President of the SBC and address the issues that concern us, I will give him my full support.
In His Grace,