Monday, March 13, 2006

A Tip of the Hat to IMB Trustees and Some Help Requested from Grassroots Southern Baptists

I have attempted to keep the focus of this blog on the International Mission Board and the exciting future direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. I have desired to be very positive about the work of the IMB in every area, including that of our trustees, and any impartial reading of my posts will give evidence of that positive outlook. Yes, I have disagreed with the two new policies at the IMB, but I have attempted to show that disagreement in a spirit of respect toward my fellow trustees. I have a deeply held belief that Baptists can disagree but continue to cooperate, and that has been at the forefront of my efforts to express my opinion but remain kind to everyone involved. This is the Southern Baptist way!

There are some very gifted men and women who have been chosen to represent the Southern Baptist Convention as International Mission Board trustees. Evidence of their wisdom can be seen in the Manual of Trustees, a self-imposed policy trustee manual, proposed and adopted by the trustees themselves. It was this book that was given to me last June, and the one I studied diligently before I ever attended my first meeting in July of 2005 as a new trustee. I believe that all trustees really do desire to perform a work that is honoring to Christ, regulated by policy that is based upon Scripture, and of course, one that is primarily concerned with the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ by appointing God-ordained, Spirit-filled believers called to the mission fields of the world.

Some of the good common sense of my fellow trustees is seen in several statements within the blue book that include:

(1). The International Mission Board's power can never exceed that of the convention itself. (page 1)

(2). Each trustee is to fill a servant role and represent the total constituency, not any particular segment within the geographical United States. (page 8)

(3). Ideally, the total constituency is to be informed on matters related to the work of the International Mission Board. (page 10)

(4). Trustees are expected to support the president in the effort to build a quality institution known for its excellence . . . (page 10)

(5). We will not enter lands with attitudes of haughtiness or superiority, but with humility and love. (page 22)

(6). The board never does its work in secrecy, but through openness. Baptists abhor hidden corners in its denominational operations. They expect a constant flow of communications and interpretations. The only times executive sessions of the board should be held are when human life is at stake, or tedious personnel problems must be handled. Instead of a secret approach, Baptists demand a program of information and want it to be kept up to date. (Page 22)

(7). (Trustees) must feel and act on their own best judgment. (page 26).

(8). Trustees are to decide and implement what is best for the institution and the churches served by it. (page 26).

(9). Careful and complete records are (to be) studiously kept of all actions and decisions of the board and its administration. (page 29).

(10). A trustee is to bring (his/her) voice to the meetings when serving, but is to also take (his/her) interpretations back to the people after adjournment. (page 33).

As you can tell, these are some excellent, wise policy statements, and there are many more!

How can so many wise people misunderstand my motives with this blog? I honestly think some of the trustees were initially just simply confused about the nature of a blog. Some made the mistake of attributing comments in a blog to the author of the blog. Rather than viewing blogs as a very positive way to get input from the grassroots level of the Southern Baptist Convention, some misunderstand a blog as a way to gossip. I think trustees are now beginning to see the value and benefit of blogging, and it does not include gossip.

However, to be fair, there does need to be some rules regarding blogging for trustees. I am asking you, my friends in the blogging world, to read the the excellent policy statements above regarding the protocol of trustees, and come up with similar statements regarding blogging. I will be in New York City tomorrow and Wednesday with my son and his sixth grade class, so I will be unable to post comments on a regular basis. However, please type your comment, and as soon as I have an opportunity, I will post it.

I would like to take your suggestions and formulate a "blue book for blogging." Maybe in the future this tool can be used in a powerful way to get all our Southern Baptists involved in the plannign and direction of the ministries of our convention.

Again, I express my faith in my fellow trustees at the International Mission Board and you, my blogging friends in the Southern Baptist Convention. Our best days are ahead.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Proposed New Policy on Baptism


The Missionary Candidate and Baptism

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has been given the responsibility to appoint missionaries who have a Biblical view of baptism. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message expresses the Southern Baptist Convention's beliefs regarding Christian baptism as portrayed in Scripture. The Bible teaches that water baptism is a symbolic picture of the believer's identification with Jesus Christ through His death, burial and resurrection from the dead. The Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of the sinner and brings him into the universal, eternal church of Jesus Christ. Water baptism is the regenerated believer's outward expression of his faith in Jesus Christ. For this reason, water baptism is a local church ordinance in that it is the local church's responsibility to examine a prospective member regarding his faith and his baptism to insure a regenerate membership. Southern Baptist Churches cooperate around the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message which states that water baptism is by immersion, after personal salvation, and is never to be trusted for one's salvation.

The missionary candidate's personal baptism will also be examined by the International Mission Board. Since the International Mission Board, by policy, does not consider a person for missionary appointment who has not been a member of a Southern Baptist Church for at least three years, the examination of the missionary candidate's faith and baptism by the International Mission Board is simply to insure that the local, autonomous church of which the candidate is a member has followed the Biblical model for believer's baptism in accepting the missionary candidate into membership.

If the candidate gives testimony that his baptism was by immersion after having come to faith in Jesus Christ, and that that his trust is in Christ alone for salvation, and that his local, autonomous Southern Baptist Church has received his baptism for membership into the local church, then the International Mission Board will consider the candidate's baptism to fall well within the parameters of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

If, however, the International Mission Board discovers that the candidate was not baptized by immersion, or the candidate's baptism preceded his personal conversion, or that the candidate was trusting his baptism for salvation and not the work of Jesus Christ, then the missionary candidate has disqualified himself from service on the mission field, regardless of the acceptance of his baptism by the local, autonomous Southern Baptist Church of which he is a member.

The International Mission Board does not desire to infringe on the autonomy of the local Southern Baptist Church, but it is our desire to insure that all missionary candidates fall within the parameters 2000 Baptist Faith and Message regarding baptism. However, every Southern Baptist Convention agency, including the International Mission Board, must not narrow the parameters of cooperation by adding to the requirements of Biblical baptism as defined by the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

A Proposed New Policy on Tongues


The Missionary Candidate and Glossolalia

The International Mission Board recognizes that it represents all the local, autonomous churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. This convention has no creed but the Bible. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Messsage serves as a confession of faith which gives others an understanding of the doctrinal basis of Southern Baptist Convention cooperation, not only as a convention, but as a missionary force as well.

Any Southern Baptist Convention agency, including the International Mission Board, must be very careful not to narrow the parameters of cooperation beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. We must hold sacred our duty to foster cooperation among all Southern Baptist churches in the area of missions; and, while most Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossolalia in their public services, the International Mission Board of trustees is aware that there is room within our convention for different doctrinal interpretations regarding glossolalia or tongues.

As the International Mission Board searches to find the best possible candidates to place on the mission fields in other countries, it will ask each missionary candidate his view on the gifts of the Spirit. The International Mission Board's intention in those discussions is neither to interrogate nor to instruct, but to come to a point of mutual understanding. The trustees realize that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message leaves room to send missionaries who hold to the continuationist view of the gifts of the Spirit, and it also leaves room to send missionaries who hold to a cessationist view of the gifts of the Spirit.

If a missionary candidate is continualist in his personal theology, and feels that glossolalia is a vital, significant and public part of his or her conviction and practice, the International Mission Board believes that person has eliminated himself from being considered further as a potential missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention. At the same time, the International Misson Board does not try to enter into the prayer closet and question the validity of the candidate's prayer language, nor does it attempt to monitor the missionary's prayer language and life who is currently serving on the field. A person may have a private prayer language and serve as a missionary within the Southern Baptist Convention.

There must be an understanding within each missionary candidate that a persistent emphasis of any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all will end the appointment process, and in the case of missionaries already appointed, to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive to the fellowship of missionaries or church plants, such an emphasis will result in disciplinary procedures including possible termination.

Our mission is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the peoples of the world, and we ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance and power in accomplishing that mission.

The above is just one example of a potential policy that addresses the abuses of tongues and other gifts of the Spirit, while at the same time, leaving open the door of cooperation to allow entry of Southern Baptists who disagree on the different interpretation of the texts that teach on tongues. I remind you that I speak only for myself on this blog, and not the Board of Trustees. What do you think?

In His Grace,


What To Do If You Find Yourself In a Spiritually Abusive Religious System

Dr. Jeff VanVonderen closes his book "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by identifying two different approaches for the person who finds himself/herself in an abusive religious framework.

I am posting this article in response to two emails I received from people in a church where the pastor seems to be, according to the members, very abusive verbally, going so far as to publicly shame dissenters, and even slandering deacons and lay leaders in an attempt to establish his authority and silence all opposition. If you find yourself in such a situation, how do you respond?

First, VanVonderen says you can take flight and leave. For many people trying to decide whether to leave or stay in an abusive religious system is a question just too close to home. Dr. VanVonderen gives several objective questions that you need to ask yourself before choosing to flee the system:

(1). Can you stay and stay healthy both at the same time?
(2). Does grace really have a chance in this system?
(3). Is it possible the system might need to die?
(4). Are you trying to help the system, even though you are exhausted?
(5). Are you able to listen to the voice of reason?
(6). Do you really know where to sow?
(7). If you came today for the first time, knowing what you now know about the system, would you stay?

The second response to abusive religious systems is to stay and seek change, what VanVonderen calls "stay and fight." VanVonderen says Christians should not like to "fight," but he says too many Christians are naive. Telling the truth will mean a fight. Truth telling leads to change, but a person who tells the truth must be absolutely sure God is telling him to stay, and that he is not staying for the wrong reasons.If a person decides to seek change within an abusive system, there are several reminders that will help that Christian be a gracious agent of change.

(1). Decide whom you serve.

The issue is not whether we will serve someone, it is who. "Let a man regard us in this manner," says Paul in I Corinthians 4:1, "as servants of Christ." If your perspective is that you are here to serve people, you may please people, but you may not serve them. But if your perspective is that you are here to serve Christ, you will serve people, but you might not please them.

(2). Keep telling the truth.

Peter and John said in Acts 4:19: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard."

(3). Know who your enemy is.

It is never people. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). While people are sometimes used as pawns, they are not the enemy.

(4). Hang on to the Shepherd.

"And he has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you'" (II Cor. 12:10). Fighting the fight of faith for the gospel of grace takes dependence upon God, says Dr. VanVonderen, not education, status, power, fame, but pure dependence on the Shepherd. Hang on to God and tell the truth.

(5). Messes are not bad.

Dr. VanVonderen says in unhealthy religious systems the person who exposes problems becomes the problem. But the truth never causes the mess, it just exposes it. In fact, says VanVonderen, messes aren't bad.

In I Corinthians 11:18-19 Paul says to a very contentious church in Corinth "I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. For there must also be factions amont you." There must be factions? What about peace at all costs? What good thing can come from division? Paul answers, "In order that those who are approved may have become evident among you" (v. 19). Only in the midst of division will you be able to tell who genuinely cares about God and His ways from the heart. Messes can be good.

(6). Confront the leaven.

If a little leaven leavens the whole lump, where there is leaven in an abusive religious system, there must be attempts to remove it in order that the entire organization is not destroyed.

(7). Know how a healthy spiritual religious system funtions.

Transparency, servanthood, unselfishness, focus on the Kingdom, humility, grace, cooperation, affirmation, and other adjectives can describe a healthy system. Dr. VanVoderen closes his book by drawing a diagram of a healthy spiritual organization.

Our staff at Emmanuel constantly evaluates our service as servant/leaders to our church to insure that we are not falling into "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" trap. We tell our people constantly that we are there for them, and they are not there for us. I think we all would do well to create safe environments in our churches and agencies where people really sense the power and presence of Jesus Christ through dynamic leadership that values every person for who he/she is, not for what he/she does.

In His Grace,


Friday, March 10, 2006

What Students at Our Seminaries Learn About Tongues

A classic textbook on Systematic Theology, written by Southern Baptist theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem, and used by some of our Southern Baptist seminaries, has on page 1072 this explanation about tongues:

"Some have objected that speaking in tongues must always consist of speech in known human languages, since that is what happened at Pentecost. But the fact that speaking in tongues occurred in known human languages once in Scripture does not require that it always happen with known languages, especially when another description of speaking in tongues (1Cor 14) indicates exactly the opposite. Paul does not say that foreign visitors to Corinth will understand the speaker, but he says that when someone speaks in tongues "no one" will understand and the outsider will not know what the person is saying (1Cor 14:2,16). In fact, Paul explicitly says that quite the opposite of the phenomenon at Pentecost will happen in the ordinary conduct of church life: if "all speak in tongues" and "outsiders or unbelievers enter," far from understanding the message, they will say "that you are mad" (1Cor 14:23). Moreover, we must realize that 1 Cor 14 is Paul's general instruction based on a wide experience of tongues-speaking in many different churches, whereas Acts 2 simply describes one unique event at a significant turning point in the history of redemption (Acts 2 is historical narrative while 1 Cor 14 is doctrinal instruction). Therefore it would seem appropriate to take 1 Cor 14 as the passage that most closely describes the ordinary experience of New Testament churches, and to take Paul's instructions there as the standard by which God intends churches to regulate the use of this gift.

Are tongues known human languages then? Sometimes this gift may result in speaking in a human language that the speaker has not learned, but ordinarily it seems that it will involve speech in a language that no one understands, whether that be a human language or not." (page 1072)

The endorsments of the book on its flyleaf includes this glowing declaration, "Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem is a fair-minded, thorough text in systematic theology---the best I have seen in recent years in terms of convenient organization, clarity, and a willingness to tackle the most salient issues of the day. This is an admirable blending of the scholarly and devotional elements seldom achieved in academic books." Paige Patterson.

I guess one can only hope a missiological student in the seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention doesn't pay any attention in class.

In His Grace,


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dear Brother Tom Hatley,

Thank you for your letter of clarification regarding the controversy that has emerged over the decision of the IMB trustees to modify/clarify the Board's appointment policy regarding "tongues and baptism."

My concern is regarding process more than the specific policy decision that the trustees approved. I find it very problematic when our SBC entity boards add "faith and practice" requirements that are not included in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), as approved by the SBC in annual meeting.

If the IMB trustees (or any other SBC entity trustees) want to impose upon their employees doctrinal requirements that are not presently included in the Baptist Faith and Message, it would seem appropriate for those trustees to first bring a recommendation to the SBC in annual meeting to amend the Baptist Faith and Message accordingly. I have always believed that the primary reason for the conservative resurgence (which I have actively supported since the SBC annual meeting in Houston in 1979) was to put SBC entity trustees in place who would faithfully act on behalf of the SBC in fulfilling their responsibilities. I do not consider it appropriate for our trustees to add or subtract doctrinal requirements that have not been sanctioned/approved by the SBC in annual meeting.

Again, let me be clear that I personally agree with what the IMB trustees believe about tongues and baptism, but what I believe and what the trustees believe is irrelevant in forming doctrinal policy for an SBC entity until the SBC has so defined our accepted faith and practices as Southern Baptists.

Surely, you guys realize the danger of the precedent that you are establishing. There are many theological interpretations that the BF&M does not specifically address because they are not fundamental to our faith. For example, most Southern Baptists are dispensational in their eschatology, but our BF&M statement on "Last Things" does not stipulate a specific eschatological view because it is not fundamental to the faith. However, with the action of the IMB trustees as a precedent, one of our SBC entity trustee boards could conceivably make belief in dispensational premillenialism a requirement for employment. Or how about the theological issue of "Calvinism?" Your approach to imposing "extra-BF&M" requirements has no good end!

If the doctrinal policy is not established by the SBC in annual meeting through changes to the BF&M, then the requirements for employment by SBC entities can be as varied as the next batch of trustees might decide. This looks like we are undoing what have we gained through the last twenty-five years. It's sad to me that the conservative resurgence finale has put us right back where we were before 1979: just a different set of "autonomous trustees" in charge of our entities doing what they want to do with no real submission to or respect for the SBC. Do you not trust the messengers to decide?

My recommendation is that you rescind your policy decision and bring a recommendation to the SBC to amend the Baptist Faith and Message accordingly -- let the messengers decide. That's what we have done and what we have fought for the last 25 years.

God bless you,

J. K. Minton, Director of Missions
Bluebonnet Baptist Association
1424 N Business I-35, New Braunfels, TX 78130

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

Jeff VanVonderen, a personal friend and lead interventionist in A&E's critically acclaimed television reality show "Intervention," is the author of several bestselling Christian books. I once asked him which book was his most popular book and I was suprised at his answer. It was not the great family book "Families Where Grace Is In Place" or the wonderful "Tired of Trying to Measure Up," but the book he co-authored with Pastor David Johnson, pastor of The Church of the Open Door in Minneapolis, Minnesota, entitled "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse."

In this book Dr. VanVonderen identifies seven characteristics of spiritually abusive systems:

(1). Leaders in spiritually abusive systems spend a great deal of time power-posturing by focusing on their "authority" and reminding others of it.

It is called posturing because the authority does not flow from genuine, godly character, but rather it is postured. As a result, a great deal of time is spent by these abusive leaders convincing others of their influence, expertise, longevity and how much authority they have and much everyone else is supposed to submit to it. The fact that they are eager to place people "under" them in submission --- under their word, under their "authority" --- is a sign of an abusive system. Jesus taught as one who actually had authority, not as the scribes who postured authority (Matt. 7:28).

(2). In abusive religious systems there is a preoccupation with performance.

The Bible tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 8:1). Conformed means "squeezed from the outside in" while transformed means "changed from the inside out." In a spiritual abusive system there is little focus on relational discipleship, or the heart of the Christian, but rather, there is an emphasis on meeting quotas, obtaining goals, and increasing numbers, and then pretending as if one's performance were the measure of one's spirituality.

(3). In spiritually abusive systems people's lives are controlled from the outside by rules, spoken and unspoken.

One unspoken rule in an abusive system, according to Jeff, is "never disagree with authorities." Rules like this remain unspoken (no official policy) because to examine them in the light of mature dialogue would instantly reveal how illogical, anti-Christian and unhealthy they are. Silence becomes the wall of protectiton, shielding the abusive authoritarian from scrutiny or challenge. The way this unspoken rule of silence is maintained is very simple according to Dr. VanVonderen: the person who speaks about a problem must become the problem. The person becomes the problem by being accused of being arrogant, angry, unloving and other Christian adjectives to attempt to keep the silence maintained and discredit the person who raises the issues that need addressing.

Jeff compares this abusive spiritual system to the "pretend peace" of Jeremiah's day when the prophets cried 'peace, peace' when there is none. A healthy church or organization affirms that all topics are open for discussion, and on some points there will be a determination to agree to disagree. Christians should be able to disagree and still fellowship and cooperate with each other in a spirit of love and humility.

(4). In spiritually abusive religious systems the mundane becomes the essential, the vital becomes trivial, and the real needs of real people are neglected for the sake of "agendas."

Jesus told the Pharisees that in their religion "they neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness" and ended up being "blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23:23-24).

(5). In an abusive religious system those in charge believe that "others will not understand what we're all about, so let's not let them know, or else we will be falsely ridiculed or attacked."

This abusive system of religion works on two assumptons: (1). What we say, know, or do is a result of being more entlightened than others; (2). Others will not understand unless they become one of us; and (3). Those who are not one of us are not with us, and therefore, are our enemies. It is an "us" vs. "them" mentality within an abusive religious system.

(6). In a spiritually abusive religious system there is a demand that loyalty be to the organization and not necessarily the Kingdom of God.

The mentality that prevails is "we alone are right." Because of this, anyone who speaks out against the direction of the organization is considered disloyal and is either silenced or removed. Tactics used against the , according to Dr. Jeff VanVonderen, include (1). threats, (2). slander, (3). humiliation, (4). and shame in attempts to get the person who questions authority to "submit" or leave the organization.

(7). In abusive religious systems secrecy is prevalent and openness and transparency are rarely seen.

What is important to these abusive organizations is the maintaining of secrecy. Real problems are never addressed. Real issues are never faced. Some even believe secrecy is necessary to protect "God's good name." So how things look and what others think becomes more important than what is real.

It is secrecy and using "spiritual" code language that makes spiritual abuse "subtle." The subtle power of spiritual abuse would not be subtle if things were in the open or if people spoke in language that got to the point and did not obfuscate the problem with flowery spiritual code words that have no real sense or meaning.

This is good food for thought for any of us in positions of God-given authority such as pastors, administrators, trustees, missionaries, executives and others whom God has given leadership.

We need to ask ourselves, "Are we contributing to creating a spiritually abusive environment in our church, denomination or agency?" If so, how can we move our organization toward health? Friday, I'll tell you what Jeff says about how change occurs in an abusive environment.

To see an example of courageously confronting an overt abusive system of religion, watch this commentary from an Arab woman whose life is now in danger. Her courage is admirable.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Point Is Being Missed Yet Again

It is interesting that a select group of IMB trustee are now attempting to deliver a written justification for the new policies on tongues and baptism. I would encourage you to read both the rationalization for the policy on tongues and the rationalization for the policy on baptism very carefully.

I'm sure there will be plenty of debate on these two white papers, but frankly, I am delighted that they have finally been issued to allow a platform for public, doctrinal debate.

Rather than breaking down the new policies, and critiquing them both, I would like to make three observations.

(1). The issue is the exclusion of good, solid conservative Southern Baptists from participation and cooperation on the mission through the IMB simply because they disagree with interpretations of Scripture that the BF&M does not address.

The basis for the new tongues policy is the classic cessationist position. I'm sure there are many Southern Baptists who hold to this view. But there are other Southern Baptist professors, teachers, pastors, administrators, agency heads, laymen and others who hold to the continuationist interpretation. What is the difference?

The cessationist says, "Two things characterized tongues in the New Testament: Jews and evangelism. Tongues were given to be addressed to men (Israel), not to God.”

If someone objects to this interpretation by saying that Paul said, "Do not forbid the speaking in tongues," the cessationist will say, "We would not forbid to speak in “languages” in a supernatural fashion (I Cor. 14:39)".

We pay good money to teach people how to speak a different "language" on the mission field. I can assure you that not one person on the Board of Trustees would ever forbid somebody from speaking in a "language" they supernaturally learned. The mental gymnastics required to explain aways Paul's admonition "do not forbid the speaking in tongues" (I Cor. 14:29) to refer to a known language among men, rather than a supernatural language spoken to God, would be funny to the coninuationist were it were not so sad to him. He is left wondering, "What does the cessationist think I am doing? Does he think my gift is from God or Satan?"

For the record, I do not have the gift of tongues. I never have had it and I don't desire it, but I sure don't mind going to Africa and serving on the mission field with someone who prays in tongues in their prayer closet. The old policy already forbad tongues to be spoken publicly on the field (by the way, if "tongues" were truly "languages" understood by men, then why in the world would the old policy forbid "tongues" to be spoken "publicly"? Were missionaries supposed to share the gospel in sign language?).

The continuationist says that tongues remains a gift of the Holy Spirit today and there are places in Scripture where tongues was used in prayer to God, and not a known language to men. A wonderful, evangelical scholar named Dr. Sam Storms, a close friend of Baptist theologian John Piper and one of the finest Southern Baptists Oklahoma has ever produced, has written two excellent essays that show the continuationist perspective. Both articles can be found here and here.

The old policies of the IMB forbad the public expression of tongues on the mission field, but left the private prayer closet of the believer as sacred ground. The new policy disqualifies the Southern Baptist who is a continuationist from serving on the mission field. The Southern Baptist Convention is large and broad enough to have both groups of people cooperate around the Great Commission.

The disqualification of good, solid, conservative Southern Baptists men and women from serving on the mission field BECAUSE they are continuationists and not cessationists IS THE ISSUE.

The new policy on baptism also excludes Southern Baptists from serving who do not believe the administrator of baptism is of Scriptural importance.

Nobody disagrees with the first three points of the baptism paper. But I predict that point four in the baptism white paper will cause an uproar. I am frankly very grateful that it is now in print. Please read the paper in full, but allow me to excerpt the disturbing conclusion of point four while leaving the questionable paragraphs under point four alone for the time being . . .

The concluding paragraph on the defense of the proper authority of the administrator of baptism states "Yet, would being baptized by just anyone have made His (Jesus) baptism legitimate? Of course not. Jesus was baptized by the last Old Testament Prophet. Having the right authority was so important that John was the product of a miraculous birth, a special calling, and a proven ministry. Authority in baptism mattered to Jesus and should, therefore, matter to us. After our Lord took such great care to submit to proper baptismal authority are we to now have no need for the same?"

This conclusion will be torn apart by Southern Baptist scholars. I am withholding comment on it at this time simply to make, again, the point that seems to be missed in this debate!!

We ought to be able to fellowship and cooperate with those Southern Baptists who are cessationists and Landmark, but we also ought to be able to fellowship with those Southern Baptists who are not!


(2). When each board and agency begins to establish different doctrinal parameters that EXCEED the Baptist Faith and Message, and then demands adherance to those interpretations among all employees, we move very, very close to allowing just a few people to establish what is "orthodox," and we move away from our convention wide confessional heritage..

All of our Baptist Confessions of Faith throughout history have been broad enough to encompass people who disagreed on the non-essentials of the faith. The Baptist Faith and Message is broad enough to include people who take opposite views of the interpretation of those doctrinal issues upon which the Baptist Faith and Message remains silent?

I believe once we start down this creedal path it becomes a very, very slippery slope. We end up violating every historic Baptist principle upon which our denomination has been built, and eventually seek to squelch conscientious dissent.

(3). Finally, it is worth remembering that the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention can pass any policy it desires. We could pass a policy that says ladies with blond hair and blue eyes are disqualified from serving if we so desired.

Who holds the board accountable? The Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.

If you don't believe we ought to continue to narrow the doctrinal parameters for participation and cooperation in our missionary and evangelistic endeavors, then you better participate in the process immediately.

Do what Chairman Hatley has suggested. Let your voice be heard in print by writing to trustees at and telling us what you think.

Silence is approval.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, March 06, 2006

Very Important Words from IMB Missionary David Rogers

Nearly two months ago I received a personal email from David Rogers, an IMB Missionary in Spain. David and I first met each other when we were students at Baylor University twenty five years ago. After leaving Baylor I kept up with David from a distance, and last heard from him at his father's funeral, when David spoke dearly of his father, the late Dr. Adrian Rogers.

David and I would visit regularly around the cafeteria tables at Baylor University about ministry, the Southern Baptist Convention and church work in general. David, like I, entered ministry following in the footsteps of a very well known father, but I soon learned to love David on his own merits, including a very humble spirit, an erudite intellect, and most of all, a deep passion for the lost.

David recently wrote a letter to all the trustees of the International Mission Board voicing his concern over the adoption of the new policies on baptism and tongues. David gave me permission yesterday, in writing, to post his letter to the trustees on this blog.

Dear IMB Trustee:

"After much prayer and thought, I have decided to write and express my concerns to each of you regarding the developments at the IMB which have been in the news recently. I am writing, first of all, as a missionary of the IMB, who having dedicated 16 years of his life to ministry in Spain, has a lot of investment at stake in the future direction of the IMB. I am also writing as the son of Adrian Rogers, with a sense of stewardship of the heritage I have received, as well as concern for a God-honoring and accurate representation and application of my father’s spiritual legacy. I can only wish my Dad were here today to share his wisdom and leadership skills in relation to the situations we are presently facing. It is impossible for me to know exactly how he would have responded regarding each detail concerned. I do, however, believe I knew my Dad well enough to give a general approximation of what he may have thought regarding these issues. At the same time, I acknowledge that each of us is ultimately accountable to God, and our understanding of His will in the light of His inspired Word, and not to the opinions or memory of any fallible human being.

Having said that, I must say now that I am concerned with what seems to me to be a general direction on the part of the Board of Trustees, much of which I have only recently been made aware. It would seem to me that much of the ground gained for the glory of God and the advance of His kingdom through the “conservative resurgence” in the SBC, in which my father played such an integral role, is in danger of being commandeered in a new, more extreme direction.

Specifically in regards to the direction of the IMB, I believe some very helpful adjustments in focus and parameters have been made in the wake of the “conservative resurgence”. We, as Southern Baptists, have been able to clarify that a steadfast commitment to the authority of God’s Word, and a proper understanding of “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” preclude any a la carte self-styled commitment to “missions” as our bottom line. We, at the same time, have made what I understand to be a greater push towards the evangelization and discipling of all the ethne of the world than ever before. Though we as Southern Baptists are definitely not perfect, and have undoubtedly committed many errors, it is my opinion that God’s blessing has been upon the Southern Baptist mission enterprise in a mighty way during this time.

I also believe that God has used the spiritual and strategic leadership of Jerry Rankin to help us make bold steps of faith, and to open our eyes to what God is doing around us, and to how we, as Henry Blackaby would put it, can “join Him in what He is already doing”. After having recently read the book, To the Ends of the Earth, I am not hesitant to say, in the light of 16 years of international missionary service, as well as whatever spiritual insight God may have given me, that I believe that God has given us as Southern Baptists a great gift in Jerry Rankin, and that His blessing and anointing is upon Dr. Rankin’s leadership.

I am especially encouraged by Dr. Rankin’s emphasis that the kingdom of God is broader than the Southern Baptist Convention, and that God’s way of working entails using the entire Body of Christ around the world, with each group and member making their own unique contribution working together in a beautiful kaleidoscope of service to Christ towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I am in agreement that we need to be careful to discern who are our true partners in the glorious task that Jesus has given us, and to not compromise biblical convictions, especially regarding essential doctrine, on the altar of “false unity”. I am concerned, however, that there appears to be a drive on the part of some to “rein in” the progress we have made in these areas, giving an undue emphasis on certain points of doctrine, which, in my opinion, are not clearly spelled out in Scripture, and seeking to narrow the parameters of biblical cooperation a few steps beyond the healthy adjustments we had already made.

Specifically, I do not think the recent policy change approved in the November Trustee meeting disqualifying missionary candidates who acknowledge having a “private prayer language” or those who were baptized by immersion as believers outside of a church deemed to be doctrinally compatible with Southern Baptists is a move in the right direction.

I myself do not practice a “private prayer language”. However, in the course of my Christian ministry, I have known many fellow servants of Christ who have professed to have had this experience and for whom I have the utmost respect, due to their evident love for Christ, His Word, and His work, as well as sterling Christian character. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this, as there are as well with otherwise perfectly orthodox believers, who do not practice a “private prayer language”. At the same time, while I recognize that sincere, godly interpreters of the Word of God take the view that certain supernatural gifts ceased at some time in the past, it seems to me that other equally sincere, godly, and objective interpreters of the Word of God have come to different conclusions.

I personally do not see how putting this new limitation upon Southern Baptist missionary service is going to make a positive difference in our faithfulness to Christ or in our effectiveness in carrying out His Great Commission. It does concern me, though, that some otherwise perfectly qualified candidates for missionary service might be disqualified because of this, especially in light of the previously existing policies limiting public expression of glossalalia and the “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”.

I also feel that the new policy stating that “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” and that “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” does not have scriptural justification and goes beyond what Southern Baptists have traditionally accepted. Others have already written eloquently, exposing the flaws in Landmarkist ecclesiology. I imagine most, if not all of you, are well familiar with the arguments on both sides of this issue.

I would like, however, to point out the biblical example of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, which leaves the question of any local church “sponsorship” or “supervision” of the baptism very much up in the air. We also have the testimony of the roots of the Anabaptist movement, in which the initial “baptizers” had not yet been scripturally baptized themselves.

I am not saying that those who approved the new policy change on baptism are necessarily sympathetic on the whole towards Landmarkism. However, I do recognize the policy as reflective of at least one “plank” of Landmarkist argumentation, and a “plank” for which I believe there is no biblical basis. And, it concerns me that we, as a denomination, may be making steps in that direction.

Another related issue that is on the minds of all involved has to do with the proposed dismissal of Wade Burleson from the Board of Trustees. Since I was not present during Trustee meetings in order to personally observe Mr. Burleson’s behavior in that setting, I must reserve judgment regarding that. At the same time, I have carefully read through Mr. Burleson’s “blog”, and reflected deeply both upon the ideas expressed therein, as well as the tone in which they are expressed. My opinion is that, while Mr. Burleson, just like any of the rest of us is not perfect, and may here or there say things which might be able to be expressed in a more circumspect manner, what I have read there written by Mr. Burleson is a long way from amounting to, in and of itself, “slander”, “gossip”, “broken trust” or “resistance to accountability”.

It would seem to me that if the Trustees are indeed accountable to the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, and to the churches which comprise it, then Mr. Burleson acted in good faith making known to those who have the bottom line responsibility for decisions made something of the issues involved behind those decisions. Before the “conservative resurgence”, it was frequently argued that many of the various boards and committees of the SBC were out of step with what the majority of Southern Baptists believed, and thus, it was necessary to make Southern Baptists aware of what was going on. In my concise but humble opinion: “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

At this point, I would like to reiterate it is impossible for me to know exactly how my father would have addressed each of these points. Each of us is our own person. However, having grown up under the wings of this great man of God who has been so influential in Southern Baptist life, I can honestly say I think that he would be in general agreement with the gist of what I am saying here.

How each of you respond to this is between you and God, taking into consideration your accountability to the SBC as well. I pray God will give you the grace and wisdom to act in a way glorifying to His name and advantageous to the advance of His kingdom."

Your co-laborer in the Harvest,

David Rogers

David has started his own blog called Love Each Stone, and I would encourage you to check it regularly and comment as you see fit. On his blog he has posted another very important letter which I would encourage you to read. In this second letter, entitled "Coming Clean," David states he has read many blogs and . . .

It has been of particular interest to note the amount of comments sent in by anonymous IMB missionary colleagues. I understand and appreciate the need of some colleagues to remain anonymous due to security concerns. I am concerned, however, about the perceived climate of fear and mistrust which has led many to remain anonymous, primarily due to concerns about possible reprisals from within the Board. I would like to make clear that I am not so much criticizing those who have chosen to remain anonymous as I am expressing concern over the perceived organizational climate which has apparently motivated their desire for anonymity.

Hmmm. Very good thoughts David. The last sentence of the paragraph is quite profound. I may know a little of that which you speak. Thanks for having the courage to say what you have said. Your example is a reminder that the Southern Baptist Convention is healthiest when people can speak freely, without fear of reprisal.

Just maybe we are slowly turning the ship called the Southern Baptist Convention back to the port of safety where good Baptist people, who love the Word of God, can voice their disagreements with different interpretations of the Word, but still remain in fellowship and cooperation in order for ALL Southern Baptists to work together in fulfilling the Great Commission.

More later,

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, March 05, 2006

IMB Minutes From 2004 That Are Worth Noting

There are comments on my blog that are posted by people, both named and anonymous, that cause me to stop and reread what I just read. Today I would like to make one of those comments the subject of this post.

This is one of those posts you will want to remember, and I'm sure, I will point back to it in the future. The following comment was dated Saturday, March 4, 2006.

"About 5 years ago (in an open session), a motion was made by an IMB trustee that the board assess church plants on the field by conducting spot checks of some churches. This motion was defeated; one argument made was that once churches are established, they are autonomous and not under the authority of the SBC or IMB.

A similar motion was brought to the floor again in 2004 and passed. This explains the reference to prior board action in the following.

According to the public record (minutes of the September 2004 Board of Trustess Meeting) a report was made to the board of the results of an August 2004 meeting of representatives of the IMB staff and trustees and seminary presidents and missions professors. The trustee representatives presented 10 recommendations to the board (not for a vote but to be referred to committee for study). The following is an excerpt of several of those recommendations:

Michael Barrett brought recommendations from the four representatives of the trustees, Tom Hatley, chairman; Michael Barrett, vice chairman; John Floyd, chairman of the Mission Personnel Committee; and Bob Pearle, chairman of Overseas Committee.

The following recommendations are from the four trustee representatives in consultation with staff, seminary presidents and seminary professors coming from the August 13, 2004 meeting ...

THAT we refer to the Overseas Committee the action to implement an accurate annual audit of beliefs on the field as previously adopted by this Board, and that this audit is to be reported to the full board. (This is to insure that Baptist churches are being planted on the field.)

....THAT the Overseas Committee or appropriate sub-committee revisit the definition of boundaries and level of cooperation with G.C.C. groups, with the purpose of bringing clarification to the board, staff, and especially to our leadership on the field.

....THAT the Overseas Committee and appropriate sub-committee continue to study and evaluate the teachings and curriculum at M.L.C. and training on the field as especially regards ecclesiology and the role of women in ministry..

....THAT the proper Overseas subcommittee revisit and clarify for all the definition of a local church.

....THAT the Overseas Committee review the role of women on the field and work with staff to improve our communication in this area.

Tom Hatley referred these recommendations to the appropriate committees."

As far as can be acertained from subsequent minutes, the definition of a church has been addressed as has the issue of levels of cooperation with other groups. It will be interesting to see, in light of the discussion on this post, what will be the criteria for the belief "audits" and what will be the definition of "Baptist" church. It may behoove those interested to also be alert to the issue of the "proper role" of women on the field and whether that too will exceed the parameters of the BFM.

It is healthy for our convention to stay informed on these issues within the IMB.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Move Toward Transparency Is Needed

Our Enid High Basketball team overcame the largest second half deficit in the history of 100 years of Enid High School, and led by Kade Burleson's 12 straight points in the third quarter qualifed for the 6A Oklahoma State Basketball Championship by beating Tulsa Memorial 53-49! With no game today in Tulsa, I thought I would post a response to an interesting flurry of blogs on Friday.

I welcome fellow trustee Jerry Corbaley to the blogging world, and wish him the best. I think Jerry may find that the SBC blogging world is composed of some really sharp individuals, who love Christ, and who also have a propensity and penchant for holding fellow bloggers accountable.

Jerry seems to have a couple of concerns as evidenced in his first couple of posts:

(1). The minutes to the January meeting are not publicly released until they are officially approved in the next board meeting, which won't be until later in the month. Thus, how could Marty Duren know what is in minutes that have yet to be approved?

I asked Marty Duren the same question. I have received a copy of the minutes and they are in my file ready to go to Florida. Nobody has seen a copy of my minutes, nor have I shared verbally with anyone what is in the minutes. It seems Marty has some incredible resources, a veritable modern Woodward and Berstein.

However, I think people need to realize that the minutes in question are not details of EXECUTIVE SESSION matters. The minutes are details of "public actions of the IMB," including the reading into the official record of motions that come from Executive Sessions. Once approved, these minutes will be PROVIDED TO THE PUBLIC as an accounting of what took place in the public sessions of the IMB, also called "Plenary Sessions." Executive Sessions (secret, closed door meetings are tape recorded, but there are no "official minutes" of those meetings). The minutes in question that Jerry seems so concerned about are the minutes of a PUBLIC IMB meeting! Why would anyone be concerned that nobody see minutes of things done at IMB Plenary Sessions?

There is only one possibility. The Board can seek to change, amend or alter minutes, so that the proposed minutes are different than the minutes eventually released to the public. When I say the minutes can be changed, amended, or altered I mean "expunged" (there is a rule in Robert's Rules of Orders that allow for this for very specific reasons), "corrected" (meaning what is actually printed in the proposed minutes is not a true reflection of what occurred and a necessary change is made), or "amended" (things that did happen were not properly recorded in the proposed minutes). In a church business meeting proposed minutes are ALWAYS presented to the church so that these necessary corrections can be made before they are approved. Any Board has the legal right to take change proposed minutes. The better question might be, "Why are proposed minutes of public IMB meetings supposed to be secret?" It could be that there is some confusion about the appropriateness of what is in the minutes.

I frankly am not in favor of expunging, amending or correcting the proposed minutes, unless there are very, very good reasons for doing so. One reason might be the protection of the International Mission Board from legal action if those minutes were somehow a danger to the integrity of the organization or placed the organization outside the boundaries of state or federal law. Those circumstances are, indeed, very rare, but a trustee who takes his obligation seriously will do what he can to correct any errors that harm the organization.

I think everyone probably needs to be a little patient on this matter and let the Board deal with the issue of minutes at the next Board Meeting and not jump to swift conclusions.

However, it is wise to reiterate that these are the minutes of the "Public Meetings" of the IMB, and not Executive Session minutes that are in question.

(2). Jerry's second concern seems to be the statement, made by Marty Duren, that Jerry was the person who made the recommendation for my removal. How could Marty know this, because if it did occur, it happened in Executive Session.

I do not know Marty's sources. All I know is that until I received the copy of the minutes a few days ago, I had never seen the actual motion for my removal in print. I heard it read into the "offical record" at the last Plenary Session (again, a PUBLIC MEETING) of the International Mission Board, and immediately blogged about what I heard (see To My Friends, Family and Church).

First, for people to have information from Executive Session Meetings of the IMB is a serious breach of confidentiality. I am not saying if Jerry is the person who made the motion or not, but it should not be revealed if he is. However, I think people need to be really careful about also making hasty judgments about people "breaching" confidentiality.

The religion editor for the Arkansas Gazette was doing a story two weeks ago on the motion for my removal and in her interview with me she asked me if I had any correspondence with _________, who made the recommendation for my removal. I was silent for just a moment and then asked, "How do you know who made the recommendation? That is a detail from Executive Session?"

She told me Chairman Tom Hatley told her. I do not, in any form or fashion, believe that Tom intentionally breached Executive Session confidentiality rules. I think we need to give a little room for grace in this matter. I frankly don't think we ever should have put Tom, or any other trustee, in a position of possibily breaching confidentiality in this matter. Everything should have been public from the beginning, particularly since nobody ever came to me privately about the recommendation for my removal BEFORE it was presented to the Board. Let me repeat that again, NOBODY EVER CAME TO ME PRIVATELY ABOUT THE RECOMMENDATION TO REMOVE ME UNTIL IT WAS MADE A MOTION BEFORE THE ENTIRE BOARD. I would have much preferred that the debate for my removal be in a public forum under those circumstances. To debate the matter behind close doors allows for innuendo. I have nothing to hide, and want everything public.

Here's my point. Baptists operate best in openness and transparency. I do not believe we would be in the dilemma we are in now if we had taken the position as a Board that our business needs to be done in public, under the light and scrutiny of the entire convention.

Executive Sessions are necessary "ONLY FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE BOARD" for legal reasons, and the security of our missionaries overseas. Too many of our Boards are using "Forums," "Executive Sessions," and other closed door meetings in ways I don't think they were ever intended to be used. We are Christians. We should never be ashamed for the light of scrutiny on our actions.

Again, everything we do as Southern Baptists needs to be done in the light of day if at all possible. I have asked, from the beginning, that everything regarding the recommendation for my removal be made public. I stand by my request. I am fully prepared to bring this publicly before the convention.

Frankly, I think our convention might be better off dealing with it publicly.

However, if the Executive Committee of the IMB now feels the Convention and Board is better off with me remaining on the Board, then I would simply ask that we deal with this matter as graciously and as publicly as possible. I am ready to move on. There is work to be done. The removal issue needs to be put to rest so we can focus on the other issues before us.

I continue to look forward to working with my fellow trustees, abiding by every policy and procedure that forms the framework of the duties and responsibilities of the trustees of the Internatationl Mission Board.

In His Grace and Have a Great Lord's Day!

Wade Burleson

Thursday, March 02, 2006

There Are No Southern Baptist Churches on the Mission Field

This post is in honor of my aunt and uncle, Dr. Frank and Betty Coy, retired IMB missionaries, and longtime servants of Christ to the Chilean people in Santiago, Chile.

Uncle Frank and Betty were assigned in 1960 as Field Evangelists (now called Strategy Coordinators or SC's for short) with the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Frank pastored several churches in Chile, including new church starts, and in 1969 he became a professor at The Santiago Theological Seminary where he taught Ethics, New Testament, Christian Education, and Biblical Counseling.

Santiago Seminary had been founded by missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board, and in 1978, Frank became the President of the seminary. He served as President of SBTS for eleven years. Uncle Frank told me over the phone yesterday that his job at SBTS was to work himself out of a job. He discipled and trained Chilean nationals to become the professors, pastors and leaders of the Chilean Baptist Convention, now called The Baptist Union of Chile, and he trained those same leaders to take over the seminary.

In 1989 Dr. Frank Coy had the privilege of handing over the reigns of Santiago Theological Seminary to a Chilean national named Dr. Guillermo Catalan. This transition of authority marked the end of the Southern Baptist Convention's work in Santiago Theological Seminary, for soon all professors, administrators, and, of course, the President himself, were native Chileans.

This causes my uncle to smile for joy. The SBC missionaries in Chile had succeeded in establishing a theological institution that is currently completely self-funded, with no monies from the the SBC flowing into the coffers. Uncle Frank worked himself out of a job.

As mentioned, during Frank's service as President at SBTS, he also pastored Chilean churches. I can remember him coming home on furlough and speaking of the work in establishing these churches in Chile.

He would ask the listeners at the Missionary Conferences in the States, "Do you know how many Southern Baptist Churches we have in Chile?"


That's right, none. Over 400 churches have been started in Chile through the efforts of missionaries from the Southern Baptist Convention, but these churches are Chilean Baptist Churches. They are fraternally connected to the SBC, but they are NOT Southern Baptist Churches.

Uncle Frank says that until Southern Baptists understand the dynamics of starting churches on the mission field, we will be making many mistakes in the area of control. It's a little like a mom and dad who gives birth to children, but rather than realizing that kids are not carbon copies of their parents, as the kids grow older, they control, manipulate, and in general, refuse to respects the boundaries of their children in an attempt to get the "kids" to look just like "the parents."

We must be careful that we don't try to control how churches in the mission field look. It deserves repeating, there are "NO" Southern Baptist churches on the mission field. A church in Afghanistan will look different than a Southern Baptist church in America. A Southern Baptist church in California will look different than a church in Chile. A church in Pakistan will look different than a Southern Baptist Church in Pennsylvania.

An understanding of this should help us in two areas:

(1). At the IMB we better be prepared to realize what may work in one culture of the world may not be the best in another culture. House churches are needed in persecuted areas of Muslim influence, but sometimes buildings are needed in Portugal and South America where people associate "church" with buildings. To train missionaries the same, for all regions of the world, is ignoring reality.

(2). To attempt to reproduce our Southern Baptist Churches in America on the mission field is impossible, and even detrimental to our mission work. Sure, we provide a doctrinal framework for new church starts, but we better be very, very clear on the doctrinal essentials and not get our cultural biases confused with the clear mandates and commands of the Word of God.

Anyway, I hope that we as Southern Baptists can come to the realization that what we are striving for in our mission efforts around the world is the evangelization and discipleship of people in need of a Savior.

Jesus Christ and Him crucified is what we proclaim. The ekklesia (called out ones) in different cultures will "do church" differently than us.

So be it.

Thanks Uncle Frank and Betty for your service to the IMB.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. My son is attempting to lead his basketball team into the 6A State Tournament. I will be posting again early Monday morning. Everyone have a great weekend and celebrate Christ and fellowship with others who enjoy Him as well this Sunday.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Southern Baptists, Adolph Hitler, and the Danger of Exalting "Cultural Religion" Rather than Jesus Christ

One of great Christian books of all time is Henry Scougal's classic work "The Life of God in the Soul of Man." Many of our forefathers began their religious journey believing Christianity was a standard of moral purity or a behavioral ethic, but came to see through this penetrating work of Scougal that Christianity, at its very heart, is God's life in man's soul. A Christian is different from the natural man because of the change that has come to his heart and soul, not because of his outward "moral" behavior.

If you struggled reading and understanding that last sentence you might want to read it again. The danger of judging a Christian by outward behavior is that certain behaviors considered "sins" in one culture, are considered "norms" in another culture (i.e. "the eating of meat," "the drinking of wine or beer," "the use of certain words or gestures" etc . . .). In one particular culture on the mission field it is considered "evil" for a man to touch another woman in water, therefore, if a "man" baptizes a woman in that culture, an evil action has just occured. When we as Southern Baptists start defining Christianity by our "cultural standards of behavior" we have lost sight of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and the esssence of true Christianity --- the change in a person's heart.

A great example of the dangers Southern Baptists face when putting too much emphasis on outward behaviors comes to us from 1934 and a meeting in Germany with the Baptist World Alliance. Dr. William Allen has written about this meeting in an article entitled How Baptists Assessed Adolph Hitler.

In this very interesting article Dr. Allen quotes several Southern Baptists who wrote of their impressions of Adolph Hitler at the time. The following are excerpts from the article:

(As Baptists entered the hallway where Hitler had recently convened a gathering of his party in Germany they saw) a huge painting of historic Baptist figures William Carey, J. G. Oncken and Charles H. Spurgeon standing at the foot of a cross. Alongside this trinity hung an equally imposing flag of the Third Reich -- a vivid reminder of the bloody June purge of many of Hitler’s former friends and the repression of the Jews.

Most Baptists in Berlin spoke boldly against the racism, nationalism and militarism so prevalent in the Germany of 1934. Unfortunately, not all Baptist delegates to Berlin interpreted the tragedy of the German situation the same. “Quite a number of correspondents of our Southern Baptist papers writing about the BWA seemed to have a kindly feeling and a good word for Hitler and his regime,” wrote R. H. Pitt in Religious Herald, singling out one variety of Baptists who seemed particularly vulnerable to German propaganda. Victor I. Masters of the Western Recorder went even further, writing, “Most of the testimony we have from our brethren who went to the Baptist World Alliance in Berlin has seemed with great spontaneity and readiness to accept the opinion that all is well in Germany -- especially in regard to religious liberty.” Even Dr. Bradbury, the Boston pastor who dreaded crossing the German border, changed his mind about the Nazis.

Knowing now the depth of the violence which was beginning to grip Berlin in 1934, we wonder why some Baptists, particularly Americans, were susceptible to Hitler’s propaganda. What in their appraisal of foreign affairs allowed them to be seduced by Nazism? How could they support a regime so incompatible with peace and justice?

For one thing, Baptist delegates tended to assess larger social issues through the narrow gauge of a simplistic personal ethic. The Alliance noted, “It is reported that Chancellor Adolf Hitler gives to the temperance movement the prestige of his personal example since he neither uses intoxicants nor smokes” (Official Report of the Fifth Baptist World Congress). Even Dr. Sampey, wary of the Nazis, cautioned against too-hasty judgment of a leader who had stopped German women from smoking cigarettes and wearing red lipstick in public. After being so afraid to enter Germany, Dr. Bradbury, once there, found himself delighted with the forced morality of the fascists. He wrote:

It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be sold; where putrid motion pictures and gangster films cannot be shown. The new Germany has burned great masses of corrupting books and magazines along with its bonfires of Jewish and communistic libraries (Watchman-Examiner XXII 37 (September 13, 1934).

Surely a leader who does not smoke or drink, who wants women to be modest, and who is against pornography cannot be all bad, or so the reasoning went. As M. E. Aubrey of England observed in the Baptist Times, Hitler had “brought almost a new Puritanism, which makes its appeal to our Baptist friends, and for the sake of which they can overlook much that cuts across their natural desires.” Baptists from the United States ignored the fact that interpreters were barred from even rendering the word “democracy” in Aubrey’s speech. Priority was placed on personal habits, to the detriment of larger, more vital issues.

May God prevent us as Southern Baptists from losing sight, again, of larger, more vital issues. The spread of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is our mission, and by placing too much emphasis on those issues that have nothing to do with our mission we are in danger of repeating our error of 1934.

Every trustee of the IMB, every pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, every missionary on the field, every person who gives to the Cooperative Program needs to understand something very, very clearly. We are NOT starting Southern Baptist churches on the mission field. There is NO SUCH THING AS A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH ON THE MISSION FIELD. A Southern Baptist church is a cultural phenomena in America. On the mission field we are taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in need of a Saviour. We are praying for God to call out people (the ekklesia) to Himself and deposit His life into their souls. These are the churches (ekklesia gatherings) being started. This is missions. This is what the IMB is all about.

Let's keep the main thing the main thing.

In His Grace,