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

What Standard? Founders Flounder over Authority

I spent two hours watching the new documentary By What Standard? published by Founders Ministries.

Before I critique a couple of unfortunate statements in this film, I wish to express my prayer for Tom Ascol, leader of Founders Ministries, for a full recovery from his recent medical episode.

I believe, like those who lead the Founders Ministries, that Scripture is God's infallible, revealed word to mankind. I believe, like they, that Scripture is the sole guide of faith and practice for followers of Jesus Christ.

However, I have a fundamental disagreement with Tom Ascol and others in the Founders Ministries. They hold to a Reformed Presbyterian view of covenant theology which teaches that God established a Covenant of Works in the Garden of Eden with the first Adam, and then entered into a Covenant of Grace with the last Adam (Jesus Christ).

Without getting into the technicalities of Reformed Covenant theology, those who hold to it believe that the Hebrew Scriptures are as binding on followers of Jesus in terms of "faith and practice" as they are to the Jews of ancient days and to orthodox Jews today.

But followers of Jesus have a New Lawgiver, and His name isn't Moses.
While Peter was speaking (about Moses and Elijah), a cloud enveloped them, and they were afraid to enter the cloud. And a voice from the cloud came, saying, "This is my Son, who I have chosen; listen to Him." Luke 9:35. 
The authors of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message understood the clear and present distinction between the Law of the Old Covenant and the Law of Christ.
"The sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures...the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ." (Introduction and Section I: The Scriptures, 1963 BFM)
The above two statements were strangely and sadly removed from the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

There is a clear distinction and separation between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. There is a fundamental difference between the faith and practice of a Jew in ancient Israel (Old Testament days) and the faith and practice of a follower of Jesus since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law and then abrogated it.

All the promises of God made to His people in the Old Covenant were conditional upon the obedience of the Jews, but all the promises of God made to His people in the New Covenant are "YES in Christ, and Amen (it is so!)" because Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (II Corinthians 1:20).

In Christ, everything changes.

Whereas only male priests served in the Old Testament Temple, in the church, both males and females ARE the Temple of the Living God (I Corinthians 3:16).

Christ builds His church (us), and He gifts His people (us) with specific gifts, never using "gender" as a prerequisite for His gifting.  In the New Testament, the gifting of service (deacon), teaching (teacher), pastoring (pastor), elder (wisdom), evangelizing (evangelist), or any other Christ-bestowed gift is never restricted to only those with male genitalia, or to only those who are rich, or to only those of a certain ethnicity.
"For there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28). 
We are one body, gifted as Christ the Authority pleases.
We are one building, gifted as Christ the Architect designs

But the Founders flounder over spiritual authority.

Like good Orthodox Jews who believe in the Hebrew Scriptures, those books that we Christians call The Old Testament, but Jews call The Tanakh, Tom Ascol and the Founders seemingly join with Orthodox Jews and pray at least two of the three Jewish blessings for themselves every morning:
“Blessed are you O God, King of the Universe, Who has not made me a goy [Gentile], a slave, and a woman.”
Jesus ended that Old Covenant with the Jews and made all things new - radically new.

Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).

There is only one Teacher with authority in the church: Jesus Christ. Listen to Him.

But Tom Ascol and the Founders believe that men possess spiritual authority over women and children. They believe that male pastors have spiritual authority in the church and that they are called to spiritually rule over people.  This "ruling over" other people is fulfilled by declaring God's will to others, for they alone (male pastors) have this so-called spiritual authority. Thus, according to these authority addicts, any Christian woman who is teaching, preaching, shepherding, evangelizing, (e.g. fulfilling the call of God by exercising her gifts) is breaking God's Rules in God's World (the subtitle of the film), for only men are to have spiritual authority over others.

In summary, Tom Ascol and the Founders say that women who teach, preach, or evangelize men are violating God's "chain of command." And any denomination or convention that allows women in leadership are "sinning" by breaking "God's rules."

But many Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, gifted teachers in the body of Christ disagree with Tom and the Founders.

Read what Ray Steadman had to say about authority among Christians.
There is no command structure in Christianity.
Authority among Christians is not derived from the same source as worldly authority, nor is it to be exercised in the same manner. The world's view of authority places men over one another, as in a military command structure, a business executive hierarchy, or a governmental system. This is as it should be. Urged by the competitiveness created by the Fall of the human race, and faced with the rebelliousness and ruthlessness of sinful human nature, the world could not function without the use of command structures and executive decision making.
But as Jesus carefully and clearly stated, "it shall not be so among you." Disciples are always in a different relationship to one another than are the "worldlings," those who are outside of the church. Christians are brothers and sisters, children of one Father and members of one another in the body of Christ. Jesus put it clearly in Matthew 23:8, "You have one teacher, and you are all brethren."
Throughout twenty centuries, the church has virtually ignored these words. Probably with the best of intentions, it has repeatedly borrowed the authority structures of the world, changed the names of executives from kings, generals, captains, presidents, governors, secretaries, heads and chiefs to popes, patriarchs, bishops, stewards, deacons, pastors and elders, and gone merrily on its way, lording it over the brethren and destroying the model of servanthood which our Lord intended.
In most churches today, an unthinking acceptance has been given to the idea that the pastor is the final voice of authority in both doctrine and practice, and that he is the executive officer of the church with respect to administration. But surely, if a pope over the whole church is bad, a pope in every church is no better!
According to Tom Ascol and the Founders, God forbidding women to teach, to preach, to evangelize, to shepherd men "is not unclear, it's just unpopular" (13:10 in the video).

Sorry, Tom. It may be clear in your mind, but it's just as clear in my mind that you are mishandling the Scriptures. You and the Founders flounder over authority.

In Conclusion:

My friend Dwight McKissic is in  the video at minute fifteen. Dwight speaks about the inconsistency of the Southern Baptist Convention sending Lottie Moon to China to preach, teach, and evangelize men and women overseas, but now the SBC is seeking to prevent women like Beth Moore preaching to "white men" in America.

Dwight McKissic makes a valid point.

Tom Ascol comes in with his rebuttal to Dwight McKissic. Read carefully what Tom says (minute 16).
"I sat down with the Vice-President for Global Training of the International Mission Board and asked him about the policies of the IMB with regard to women serving as missionaries. I asked him specifically if we send women overseas to preach to men... and he said, 'Absolutely not....' The International Mission Board is operating on the basis of the Baptist Faith and Message which says, "The role of pastor is limited to qualified men." 
That is a classic "bait and switch" by Tom Ascol.

Tom starts talking about Dwight McKissic's illustration of Lottie Moon going to China to evangelize the Chinese - men, women, and children - by preaching (proclaiming) the gospel. That's the function of the missionary and the purpose for which Lottie Moon was sent as a missionary to China.

But Tom switches to talking about "the role of pastor."

Tom and the Founders are attempting to frame the debate around "pastors" and "pastoral authority" by defining the role or function of a pastor as being something "reserved for males." A member of the Founders also made a (failed) motion at the Southern Baptist Convention this year that "the function of a pastor is to be reserved for males." 

When I heard that motion at the 2019 SBC, I tweeted my response:

When all you care about is protecting authority, you must specifically define the function and role of the person in "authority" so guardians of the galaxy of authority will know when someone without "authority" gets too close to "authority."

It's a crazy game.

Tom Ascol proceeds in the film to call Dwight McKissic "dishonest" and says he is being "sinful" by talking about Lottie Moon preaching to men on the mission field. She never did, says Tom.

Tom needs to catch up on some reading. I realize that revisionists have pressured the IMB to say Lottie Moon went to evangelize only women and children...

But anyone who's read anything about Lottie Moon's ministry understands that she led men to Jesus Christ by preaching and proclaiming the gospel to men, women, and children.

Lottie Moon was gifted by Christ to teach others about the Kingdom.

But she's a woman. The Founders flounder over "spiritual authority," so Lottie Moon doesn't fit neatly into their narrative.

Neither does Joanna P. Moore (1832-1916), a Southern Baptist home missionary appointee (a single woman) who taught preachers about the sin of drunkenness.

I was a trustee of the International Mission Board. I know where views of inherent male authority over women leads, and it's not pretty (please pay attention to Number 4).

Tom Ascol and the Founders are on the losing end of this debate. They are unbiblical and illogical in their arguments, as well as infatuated with authority in their misjudgments.

I've written two books exposing the problem: Hardball Religion  and Fraudulent Authority.

If someone asks me, "Can women be in an office of pastoral authority over men?" I answer, "No."  But I also point out that neither can men be in an office of pastoral authority over women.

The entire problem is fraudulent authority of the pastor.

The only authority in the church is Jesus Christ and He dispenses gifts to His people, building His church, as He sees fit. He is the Head; we are His body.

At the eight minute, ten-second mark, Josh Buice makes this statement:
"When we talk about the abuse of women, I would go on the record stating that if we ask a woman to do something spiritually that God did not intend her to do, that's abuse." 
Tom responded to Josh:
"That's abuse. That's a great point."
Gentlemen, you might want to consider this statement:
"When we talk about the abuse of women, if we prevent a woman from doing something spiritually that God has gifted her to do, that's abuse." 
As my great-grandfather used to say, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it."

More to come. 

Silence Those Who Disagree and Lose Your Liberty

The far left and the far right of political, religious, and cultural movements both attempt to suppress dissent.

Those in power fall into the trap of believing that silencing  minority opinions is somehow beneficial.

But silence those who disagree and it's only a matter of time before citizens of a country, members of a church, or inhabitants of a culture lose their liberty.

Let me give you an example.

In 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky, a polymath student and friend of both Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, wrote a book called Worlds in Collision.

Velikovsky used documentation from the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Hebrews to explain how volcanoes formed mountain ranges, massive meteoric showers destroyed entire civilizations, and oceanic tidal waves flooded areas of the earth on a regular basis in relatively recent human history (e.g. 2200 BC, 1500 BC, 650 BC).

Velikovsky wrote that all the ancient Greek and Roman legends have their heroes revolve around Jupiter (Greek: Zeus), the god of  "sky and thunder," as well as Saturn, Venus, and Mars, because these planets passed close to earth during early recorded human history on their way to their current planetary orbits. Velikovsky called these near celestial collisions Worlds in Collision.

According to Velikovsky, the ancient cataclysms are  described by religions and people groups across the globe, including the Hebrews in their Scriptures.

An evolutionist himself, Velikovsky believed that mankind is in amnesia about these cataclysms. He writes:
"The agitation and trepidation preceding global upheavals, the destruction and despair that accompanied them and the horror of possible repetition all caused a variety of reactions, at the base of which was the need to forget, but also the urge to emulate."-                                                                                                          Immanuel Velikovsky
When MacMillan Company first published Worlds in Collision in 1950, the radical left of the scientific and academic communities went ballistic. They organized boycotts of university textbooks published by McMillan, forcing the company to transfer publishing rights of Worlds in Collision to another company. The academic intelligentsia personally blackballed Velikovsky, calling him a pseudo-scientist at best, and a quack at worst.

Velikovsky's belief that the earth has been through massive upheavals in mankind's recent past is directly contradictory to steady-state evolutionist theories of academia.

As a result of these intimidating tactics against Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky by the radical left, there has been a loss of true open and frank dialogue with dissenting scholars in our higher education system in America.

In other words, American universities are no longer free.

Faculty, students, and researchers must hold to the leftist party line of those in power.

However, the left has no monopoly on silencing dissent.

Charlemagne (AD 748-814), a "Christian" king and first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, massacred thousands who refused to be "baptized" as a Christian.

Adolph Hitler, following the example of Charlemagne, purged Germany of anyone not Christian and not German. Hitler desired a Third Reich (Empire) of German rule. In the 1930s, the Nazis held official book burning ceremonies to eradicate any publication that offered an alternative view to the principle of blood purity, nationalism, and German colonial expansion.

Radical Muslims today are killing infidels, silencing anyone who opposes their attempt to establish a world-wide caliphate.

But listen carefully. There are some liberty-loving, kind and caring Muslims who oppose the far right radicalism of Islamic fundamentalism.

Read for yourself what these peace-loving Muslims say.

I have many friends who are Muslim. I don't agree with their religion, but I support them in their attempts to publish their dissenting opinions. What no lover of liberty can accept, and my Muslim friends agree, are the intimidation tactics against those who disagree.

Rachelle in the Christmas Market of Nuremberg (white hat)
Rachelle and I were standing this past week in the Christmas Market in the historic downtown square of Nuremberg, Germany, drinking coffee by a warm fire, when a nice German woman asked my wife what she thought of Donald Trump.

I noticed a young German man standing next to the fire, warming his hands, watching my wife very intently as she told the woman that she liked Donald Trump as President, particularly his economic business policies, and she would vote for him again. She also said she wished our President wouldn't do and say some of the stupid things that he has said and done, but she feels he's been good for the economy of the United States.

As the young man listened to my wife, he didn't blink. He stared. You could tell he was angry. Then, in a very intimidating voice, he said something to my wife that made our spirits grow as cold as our hands.

We left the center of Nuremberg and realized that our world is filled with radicals, both left and right, who wish to silence those who disagree with them.

The young German man who rebuked my wife was a radical political liberal. He couldn't stand the thought of my wife's opinion being expressed out loud. He attempted to silence through intimidation someone with whom he disagreed.

The radicals on the right do it. The radicals on the left do it.

I left Nuremberg with a renewed resolved to defend everyone's freedom to speak, write, and believe whatever they wish.

Velikovsky, a close friend of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, became the target of a coordinated campaign to blackball him and his writings from the leftist intelligentsia in power.

The Velikovsky Affair is something that I've studied for over a decade, and it's given to me three insights into today's political, religious, and cultural conflicts:
1. If either the right or the left uses bullying tactics to intentionally silence dissenting  opinions, it's incumbent on me to resist those in power and defend the minority's right to speak, even if I don't hold to the minority opinion. 
2. University scholars, religious clergy, and national party leaders must be regularly reminded how fragile any institution is unless free and open discussion takes place, which includes the toleration and protection of those who espouse dissenting viewpoints.  
3. Any authoritative demand for absolute  conformity ends in the loss of liberty for all individuals and the eventual collapse of the institutions themselves.
Let freedom ring!

Happiness Doesn't Just Happen and the Holidays

I recently received a letter from a man serving time in prison for a white collar crime he committed. After being sent to prison, a friend gave this businessman a copy of my book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen.

A portion of man’s letter to me is reprinted below. Though my book is now "Out of Print" from the original publishers. I am re-issuing it through Istoria Ministries with a new Foreword for Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. The book contains a few study questions at the end of each chapter for small groups.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited account, you can read it for free. Or, you can purchase the ebook for $3.95 and the new paperback for $8.95. Some book dealers offer the paper book (used) for a much higher price, so make sure you only get the low-cost new paperback on Amazon.

The man’s letter begins with some personal background, and then he writes the following:
"As you might expect, when a man is in prison for a specific sentence, whether he wants to or not, he dwells on his progress toward his release. Then, when something happens to make him doubt the D.O.C.'s (Department of Correction's) calculations, it can really become overwhelming...this is where I've been.
I have been corresponding with a friend for a while now, and he occasionally sends me "Care Packages." I received one this past weekend and there was a copy of your book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen." The timing was perfect. It had to be God's timing. 
God has given me periods of peace in my misery, but nothing really took hold and stayed with me. I would read the Scriptures that dealt with waiting on the Lord. I reminded myself over and over that God's timing is perfect and that He controls my destiny, but it just wasn't sticking - that is, until I read your book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. It jerked me out of my misery and brought me happiness. 
Wade, praise God, He has used this book to completely change my outlook. Your book has opened my eyes to the grace of God to the point that I told my wife I am going to read it over and over until I can't forget it. Now that I see it, I don't want to lose it. I have read other books by notable Christian authors, but second to the Scriptures, your book has spoken to me more than any of the others. 
This may shock you, but I am actually glad to be in prison now. He has allowed me to see many things I had not seen or understood before. Your book has been a major part of this process.
Thank you for being obedient in writing the book. Thank you for writing true to Scripture. Thank you for helping me work through difficult times."
I can't thank of a better recommendation for Happiness Doesn't Just Happen

I Am So Grateful for God's Transformational Power

Every Thanksgiving I like to express my gratefulness for being in a ministry where I get to observe God's transforming power.

On this Thanksgiving, I tell you Jim's story, with his permission, because it illustrates why Kingdom focus is so important for every Christian.

Church is who we are, not what we do. 

The Lord calls us to be transformational, not comfortable.

Salt and light, that's who we are. Good News, that's what we share.

Yet, too often, we pastors are more interested in pleasing people and making budgets than we are in pleasing God and making disciples.

It was ten years ago that Jim first came to see me at Emmanuel Enid.

Jim told me he didn't wish to live. He wanted to die. Every day he'd get out of bed and tell his wife, "Today's the day I'm going to kill myself."  

His threats were real. 

Jim had attempted suicide seven times. When you know his story, you understand why. He only came to see me at the request of his wife.

Jim recounted his life for me at that first meeting. 

He was beaten by his mother beginning at the age of 3. Not spanked; beaten. The physical abuse intensified over the years.

At age 12, after his mother caught him at an R-rated movie, Jim was told to remove his pants and underwear and bend over the kitchen counter. 

His mother removed Jim's metal three-pronged belt from his pants, and she proceeded to beat him with the metal end on his bare buttocks.

She told Jim she would keep beating him until he cried. "I'd been beaten so much by her I was determined to die before I cried," Jim told me.

The beating didn't stop until Jim's older sister finally intervened and grabbed the belt out their mother's hands. 

Enraged that her pre-puberty son had not yet cried, Jim's mother yelled, "You two clean up this mess."

It took more than an hour to clean Jim's spattered blood spots from the floors, countertops, and ceilings.

The physical abuse was nothing compared to the sexual abuse.

From age 8 to age 11, an older male cousin repeatedly sexually violated Jim. Unless you've experienced sexual abuse, it's difficult to imagine the soul-crushing agony. 

After the physical abuse in the kitchen, Jim's mother realized she could no longer control him through physical abuse. So Jim's mother began enticing him sexually.

It would be inappropriate for me to detail how Jim's mom sexually abused him, but Jim's psychosis began around the time he grappled with why his drug-addicted mother crossed over from inflicting physical pain to demanding sexual pleasure.

At the age of 13, Jim began to get in trouble with the law. The police arrested him for setting fires and other acts of vandalism. "I was arrested too many times to count," Jim told me.  

The fights were frequent and fierce. "I once put a boy in the ICU for bashing his head with a brick on our way home from school." Jim's anger was uncontrollable.

On those occasions he managed to suppress it and not express it, Jim plunged into deep depression. 

Jim turned to drugs and alcohol for relief but found none.

That's when he began to have actual mental breakdowns. "I've been institutionalized nine times. I've been diagnosed as bi-polar. All I know it's been difficult to even want to live." 

His suicide attempts were frequent and often the cause of his institutionalization.

Seven years ago, when I first heard Jim's story, my heart went out to him. Jim could barely look me in the eye. His voice was so quiet I strained to hear him.

I knew Jim was a wreck inside. I encouraged Jim as best I could. I recommended that Jim begin attending a new recovery program that Emmanuel Enid was beginning.

Jim did what I asked. He went to our new recovery program at Emmanuel. In a moment, I'll let Jim share in his own words how God transformed his life at Emmanuel Enid one Thursday night in 2009.

But first, fast forward with me to Thanksgiving week three years ago.

I went with Jim to a local mental health facility that Jim had been visiting every week.

Jim was no longer a patient at the facility. Jim went to minister to patients.

I listened as Jim shared his story of abuse, addiction, psychosis  and recovery through Jesus Christ to the patients in the mental health facility.

I watched the mental health patients listen intently as Jim shared his story. I mean, they really listened.

Jim captivated them with the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ. One man wore a shirt that said, "Nothing to fear, but the loss of beer." But in listening to these men as they conversed with Jim, I realized that they all feared so much more.

Many of them had been sexually abused like Jim. All of them faced addictions like Jim. These men connected with Jim because he was one of them; he was part of the walking wounded.

I too listened intently as Jim explained to the men in the mental health facility how he began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery program at my request.

It was there that Jim experienced God's transforming power. 

Four weeks into the recovery program, participants are asked to pick an accountability partner. The recovery leader at the time asked everyone to stand and look around and find someone to be their accountability partner.

Jim shared with the mental health patients what happened next:
"I ran to the bathroom and hid," Jim told enraptured mental health patients. "I did what I always did. I withdrew. I decided while sitting on the floor of that bathroom to take my life that night. I resolved to kill myself. I washed my face and walked out of the bathroom."
All the people listening to Jim tell his story weren't even blinking. Jim continued, "That's when I saw two men in Emmanuel's recovery program standing there in the hall. They had seen me go into the bathroom. They were waiting for me.
'Jim,' they said, 'We want you to be our accountability partner. We love you.' They hugged me. It's the first time I can remember anyone ever hugging me. 
I cried all the way home. I thought to myself, 'If these men actually loved me, then maybe God could love me too."
I went home and told my wife, 'Honey, I don't know what happened tonight, but something's changed. I think I experienced the love of God. That night, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I surrendered everything to Him; my life; my hurts, my hang-ups, and my habits. My recovery began."
There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Jim finished. 

Jim had touched them with his story.

As Jim was speaking, he looked his listeners in the eyes. As he shared, the hesitant, embarrassed man that was full of shame, the man I first met seven years earlier, was now gone.

God had transformed Jim. The Spirit of God now controlled him.

It was my privilege to pray with the mental health patients as we finished our time together. I couldn't help but get emotional as I prayed for Christ's power and love to transform these men's lives, just as He had transformed Jim's life.

The men all hugged Jim and me before we left.

As we were leaving the hospital I said, "Jim, it's absolutely amazing to see the impact you had on these men tonight. You are so totally transformed from the man I first talked to seven years ago."

Jim smiled and said, "We serve a very big God, don't we?"

As an adult, Jim didn't avoid the mom who'd inflicted so much pain. Christ gave him the power to love her, in spite of her sins. Jim's now aged mother recently sought forgiveness of Jim.

The power of God's grace in Jim has been seen in his ability to forgive.

When we walk the halls of the church building on Sundays, there are many people just like Jim who are walking with us.

They are unimpressed with outward appearances because everything inside them is falling apart.

I'm grateful to pastor a church who thinks about everything we do, with the primary focusing on being transformational rather than comfortable.

I'm grateful for friends like Jim who continually remind me that the grace of God makes us all "more than conquerors through Him who loves us."

I'm grateful that after four decades of vocational ministry, I'm finally learning that the measurement of a great ministry is the people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ, not the number of people who wish to be comfortable in their church. 

I'm grateful that Jim, who after ten years of his own recovery, now heads up our Thursday night recovery program at Emmanuel Enid.

I'm grateful that Jim continues his weekly ministry at our local behavioral health unit, and that we are seeing some of them beginning to come to Emmanuel Enid. 

I'm so grateful today for God's transformational power.

Don't give up on that person you love.

God is in the business of changing lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Is Not a Creed

In 1962 and 1999, Southern Baptists formed respective committees to modify the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, the denomination's confession of faith. The results of their respective efforts were the 1963 BF&M and the 2000 BF&M confessions of faith.

Three times in the last century (1925, 1963, 2000), Southern Baptists changed the Baptist Faith and Message.

Confessions are meant to change over time. The 2000 BFM will change within the next decade.

Few people understand that a confession is not a creed

A creed is intended to separate orthodoxy from heresy. A confession addresses specific, practical needs in a denomination.

Southern Baptist leaders have always made this clear.  Listen to what the 1999 Committee said about their work (emphasis mine):
With the 1963 committee, we have been guided in our work by the 1925 "statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life . . . ." It is, therefore, quoted in full as a part of this report to the Convention:
(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.
Last month, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hired Karen Swallow Prior. Fundamentalists within the SBC have gone on social media, bashing SEBTS and Karen Swallow Prior for her perceived lack of conformity to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Her sin? Karen Prior is deemed a feminist. In reality, Karen Sallow Prior is a smart, orthodox follower of Jesus who is making an impact in our culture. 

Beth Moore has been preaching in Southern Baptist churches on Sunday morning, and is one of  the best known preachers of the gospel in the Southern Baptist Convention. By the way, "I preach" comes from the Greek word kerusso, which phonetically imitates the sound ancient Greeks heard the rooster make while proclaiming the risen sun. To preach is to proclaim the risen Son. Fundamentalists in the SBC have vocally and vigorously condemned Beth Moore. Her sin? She's speaking of Christ to men. Beth Moore is changing lives through her ministry. She's one of the best things Southern Baptists have going for us in terms of reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Dr. Sheri Klouda, a female professor of Hebrew at SWBTS, was removed from her position by the architect of the 2000 BF&M (Paige Patterson) because she was a woman. 15 years ago, just five years after the adoption of the 2000 BF&M, I spoke out about Sheri Klouda's unjust firing. Paige Patterson, the architect of the 2000 BFM, terminated Dr. Klouda. Fundamentalists in the SBC went ballistic when I pushed back on Dr. Klouda's unjust firing. 

A Southern Baptist Church in South Carolina recently advertised their need for a Senior Pastor, suggesting that gifted men and women, called to preach the Gospel, could apply. Fundamentalists in the SBC went crazy

I find it remarkable that in 2007, "local church autonomy" was the reason given by the SBC Executive Committee for their rejection of my request to track sexual predators in the SBC. However, when a local Southern Baptist Church believes that leadership is based on spiritual gifts and not sexual gender, local church autonomy seems to go out the window by Fundamentalists who condemn churches that place women in leadership.

I believe that leadership in Christ's church should always be based on spiritual gifts and never sexual gender. I'm being biblical in my views.

However, when people tell me that "women in leadership" in my church - women pastors, women preaching, women leading, etc... - is a violation of the BFM 2000, I gently respond:
"I believe the Bible. I respect your freedom to only have males in leadership and to send the women home. I would never be a member of your church and you would never be a member of my church. But can we partner with each other in missions, disaster relief, and other cooperative efforts that help our world?"
Of course we can, and of course I will!

For those Southern Baptist churches and church leaders out there who feel the BFM 2000 is used as a club to keep males in authority and to send women home, I remind you that confessions are never designed to be a creed. 

Follow Scripture.

Follow the Savior.

It's time Southern Baptists understood that the 1999 BFM had an agenda.

I get my marching orders from Jesus.

The 10th Anniversary of Forgotten Ministries, Enid

Ten years ago, I made a request of Jeremiah and Sarah Herrian.

"Come to Enid, Oklahoma," I said, "And help us do our county what you've been doing in Los Angeles."

At first this young couple was confused. Jeremiah and Sarah were operating their base of ministry on Skid Row in Los Angeles. The homeless man portrayed by Jamie Foxx in the film The Soloist, was a product of their ministry.

"Surely," they said, "there can't be the kind of poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and ministry that we see on a daily basis in Los Angeles in Oklahoma."

Jeremiah Herrian speaking at Forgotten Ministries banquet
Jeremiah and Sarah led people from our church and our city on a "Walk Across Oklahoma" that summer, with Jeremiah carrying a cross. When that summer walk was finished, Jeremiah told me he was shocked at what he saw. "The same issues we face in Los Angeles are present in Enid and throughout Oklahoma. They're just underneath the surface and hidden from public view."

That was 10 years ago. Jeremiah and Sarah moved to Enid.

Dedication of Women's Shelter, Refuge at the Well
Forgotten Ministries was born.

Over the course of these past 10 years, Forgotten Ministries has opened a homeless shelter (Mercy House), a men's transitional house (Oasis), the 580 Coffee House (downtown), a women's transitional house (Refuge at the Well), a garden where men and women work to provide food for the shelter, various ministries to the Pacific Islanders in our county (especially children), a massive clothes closet for those in need, and has sponsored neighborhood clean-ups throughout the city.  The people mostly "forgotten" in the city of Enid have been ministered to by Forgotten Ministries on a daily basis. It's been fascinating to see all that God is doing through FM. Mission teams from all over the nation come for training and ministry under the leadership of Jeremiah and Sarah Herrian and their amazing staff.

Pacific Island ministry at Forgotten Ministres
Sunday night Jeremiah told a story that I think epitomizes the Lord's blessings on the Herrians’ ministry to the Forgotten in Los Angeles and Enid.

Francis Chan, a Los Angeles pastor, would often come and minister with Jeremiah on Skid Row. Jeremiah would often preach the gospel on the streets while offering food, clothing, and ministry to the poor and homeless.

"Every day, as I proclaimed Jesus, a fierce looking, clean-cut body builder would stare at me. He was the major drug dealer on Skid Row, watching to make sure that all the dealers under him weren't cheating him as they made deals. I'd be preaching and seeing drug deals occurring all around me. The drug dealer in charge never took his eyes off me. It was very intimidating."

Becca and the PI kids at FM
Francis Chan observed Jeremiah at work in Los Angeles on many occasions. One day, he called Jeremiah and said, "Listen, Jeremiah, the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers are friends of mine. They want to go down to Skid Row and help you minister to people today."

Jeremiah, having never met the two men, told Francis that they needed to be warned that it wasn't always safe on Skid Row. Francis said he would tell them and that they would meet Jeremiah at a time and place they designated.

On the appointed occasion, Jeremiah met the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Clippers and reiterated what he'd said to Francis as the men walked to Skid Row. "Listen guys," Jeremiah said, "we're going down to Skid Row to do some ministry. You'll see drug deals, assaults, and other crimes. It can get scary, but we are here to preach Jesus."

At that moment, a drug addict who'd heard Jeremiah preach in the days preceding, stepped in front of the men and said to Jeremiah, "If you preach that *&%* today I'll break this beer bottle and slit your " *&%* throat."

After the threatening man walked away, Jeremiah said he turned to face the owners of the Dodgers and the Clippers. "Their faces were drained of blood and their eyes were wide open. I told them that we came to preach Jesus and Jesus would protect us."

Work of Forgotten Ministries on Pacific Island Building
When they arrived at the designated place on Skid Row, after ministering to the people, handing out food and clothes, Jeremiah stood up on a box to begin preaching Christ. True to his word, the drug addict walked up to Jeremiah, broke the beer bottle in his hand, and made his move to cut Jeremiah's throat.

"I thought to myself," Jeremiah said, "Lord, I guess it's time for me to come home to You."

All of the sudden, that clean-cut body builder in charge of Skid Row drug deals, the man who'd been staring down Jeremiah every day that Jeremiah preached the Gospel, suddenly appeared. He looked the drug addict with the broken bottle in the eye and menacingly said, "If you touch Jeremiah, you're a dead man." The man dropped the bottle and walked away.

"I looked over at the owners of the Clippers and the Dodgers and their mouths were open. On their first day on Skid Row, they saw both the danger and the deliverance. Jesus cares for His own."

That story illustrates to me the hand of God on Forgotten Ministries.

Jesus is taking care of His own.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Jeremiah and Sarah. We look forward to the next decade of ministry in Enid!