Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Difference Between Foundations and Corners

-- Pastor Wade is currently overseas with his wife Rachelle. He was able send the following few thoughts about some of the things he has seen and learned. You may leave a comment if you wish. We will moderate their publication until Pastor Wade returns to the states next week --- (Blog Administrator)

"In the southern states of America there are some Baptist pastors and theologians who feel they have the corner of theological truth. Notice, I did not say the foundation of truth, but the corner of truth. Firm, solid foundations are absolutely necessary for a stable structure, but how an architect finishes out the corners is a measure of style, function and creativity. Any southern architect worth his salt will finish corners differently overseas than he would in the United States; or, if he flat out refuses to be flexible on corners in various cultures, then that architect will put himself in danger of having no working relationship with anyone but those in his neck of the woods who love the way he finishes his corners.

Some Baptist pastors believe that the only true ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) is the way their local ecclessia operates. Deacons? Why of course, but all male. One pastor? Absolutely, with ultimate authority over the congregation. Baptize converts? Certainly, but not for identification with Christ; only as the door of entrance into our ecclesia. Ordinances? Without a doubt, but only with those in our local ecclesia, and administered by those duly qualified as pastors and deacons of our ecclesia. "Why, for heaven's sake," say some of my southern Baptist pastor friends, "This is the only way a true ecclesia should look."

Tight, clean corners that all look the same is the desire of these southern pastors.

But a few of my pastor friends need to spend time on the mission field overseas. They need to go to the provinces where all hotel rooms for foreigners are bugged. They need to walk down the street where the police, both uniformed and undercover, keep a close eye on you. They need to sit with our missionaries as they have their emails for the past year laid in front of them by government officials. They need to help one of our missionary couples pack as they leave quickly from the place they have called home for the past few years under threat of arrest. They need to observe the locals in their small house churches as they sing quietly, pray quietly, worship quietly, and welcome any believer into their presence - regardless of denominational affiliation. They need to allow a tear or two flow as they watch a female leader of a baptistic house church baptize a couple of new converts in a bathtub, only to have watchers outside prepared to warn the half dozen people within about approaching military police. They need to breathe a prayer of thanks for God raising up a man of influence in the community after years of only females being willing to risk their lives, jobs, families, and future for the cause of Christ. They need to realize that their demand for neat little corners at overseas ecclessias - in order to make them like like some southern churches in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida - will only cause southern missionaries to be frustrated, overseas believers to be perplexed, and the kingdom of Christ to be minimized.

May God keep us southern Baptists concerned about the foundation overseas but allow each culture to finish out the corners of their local 'ecclesia' as best suits the culture in which they find their ministry."

In His Grace,



Gary Snowden said...

A good and timely word, Wade. One of the best things we came away from missionary orientation at MLC (as it was called then) was the need to share the essence of the gospel in its simplicity without all of the accompanying cultural baggage that we Southern Baptists are so easily tempted to attach to it and then proclaim it as biblical. Blessings on you and Rachelle as you travel and visit with our missionary personnel.

Anonymous said...

excellent...well said!

IMB Africa

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wade and Rachelle for that word. I also wish all pastor's and the BoT's could come here to E. Asia and see how it is on the front lines then maybe things would be different back at the BoT and in the SBC.
Sorry we weren't in the area you were visiting. We would have loved to have met you guys.


Anonymous said...

These are wise words but likely to go unheeded. As Mark Lowry says, "Fundamentalists may not always be right but they are never in doubt."

Anonymous said...


M with YOUR organization

OC Hands said...

Wade and Rachelle,
You are having some very enlightening and enriching experiences because of the attitude you took with you--one of wanting to learn. Unfortunately, not all visitors to the field have that attitude. Some who come and observe are not inspired and excited about the sharing of the gospel and its resulting in churches that is happening overseas. They come with a judgmental attitude, and cannot rejoice with those who are being faithful to the call of Christ, because they come with their pre-conceived ideas about what should be done on overseas.
They are not willing to sacrifice their lives to join with those already there to build the church of Jesus Christ, but feel free to make negative comments to and about those who are there.
May God raise up many more like you so we can get on with fulfilling the command of Jesus--God and make disciples, teaching them WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.

Chris Johnson said...


I think the conclusions of your article are well intended and do hit traditionalists and immature pastors squarely on the jaw….but I would put a little different spin on things that you have spun.

You say “Firm, solid foundations are absolutely necessary for a stable structure, but how an architect finishes out the corners is a measure of style, function and creativity…………………."Why, for heaven's sake," say some of my southern Baptist pastor friends, "This is the only way a true ecclesia should look."

I agree with you that solid “theological” foundations are absolutely necessary, in fact…this is where and how immature pastors wind up missing the mark on the definition of a deacon,…. the immature pastor misses the need for pastoral oversight for the church (whether singular or plural), the immature pastor misses the meaning of baptism for Christ’s church redefining the act as a means to count membership,….. the immature pastor depends on his experiences and talent instead of the firm foundation of theological truth. The mature pastor, on the other hand, studies diligently to show approval rightly handling the word of God…..and actually holds Christ higher, as he becomes nothing.

The Architect is Christ and the mature pastor knows this like Abraham, ….. Hebrews 11:10 "for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

A trip to a foreign land will not change the immature pastor’s heart, only Christ can and will. As we have learned from our missionaries in Kibera...many of the things you have described about how people are treated in other countries actually exist in some inner cities in America…(but in a more stable government).. so a trip to another address will not take the place of real theological understanding and submission to God’s word.

I do pray that American pastor’s would seek God’s ways in whatever culture they live.

You say… “They need to realize that their demand for neat little corners at overseas ecclessias - in order to make them like like those in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida - will only cause southern missionaries to be frustrated, overseas believers to be perplexed, and the kingdom of Christ to be minimized.”

The kingdom of God cannot be minimized. God is not on our timetable. He does not walk to the beat of our drum. He will make the rocks cry out if necessary. We should never allow ourselves to understand God based upon our experiences (although that method is very tempting).

Our spins are a little different…..

I hope your journeys are safe and that God brings you home with even more passion to pastor the flock of God.


Gary said...

I have to agree with OC Hands. My wife's niece, husband, and children are serving as Security Level 3 (or whatever the term is this year) missionaries. Too often they get questions like "why don't you just establish a church?"

Well, in a way, they have, but it doesn't have a storefront.

We all come to this with our own experiences, pet projects, and outlines. These folks in places which most of us can only imagine work hard to establish relationships with ANY believer, especially if they are the only Baptist missionary in country.

Most of all they want us to pray for them. For wisdom, guidance, protection, and for Holy Spirit drawn folks to witness to in whatever way that they can.

But most of us here realize that already. The ones that don't, probably won't.

Gary Skaggs

Anonymous said...

Wade, you are an inspiration to many people as you continue to lead the charge againist narrowing the parameters.

Anonymous said...

And it would seem to me that the only foundation is faith in Jesus. He said it all when HE said "It is finished." Why we want to insist on uniformity beyond Jesus really is hard to understand.

creed said...

I was in Vietnam several years ago with a Christian group and several fellow Vietnam Veterans. We were watched in Hanoi as we visited a Tin Lanh Church where the Pastor was not willing to meet with us in public. In the South we met with Christians who were routinely required to keep a log of travel and with whom they had talked. We stood in a former Church confiscated by the government and prayed for its return to the Baptist congregation. Yes, it gives one a different perspective on what is really important. Certainly, it is not about hymns versus choruses. It is about serving Christ at great cost.

Sam Creed

Alan Stoddard said...

Now that's a post.Love those kinds of reminders about where the focus should be. Thanks Wade.

Anonymous said...

Well said & summarized. I know that blog moderation is in process due to Wade's absence, but I have to wonder what the reaction has been among those who believe that neat, ecleiastical American cormers are the "only" correct way. Hang in there Wade, and keep thinking Biblically ratrher than culturally!

John Fariss

B Nettles said...

I've said this before: Anyone who is a trustee for the IMB needs to have lived overseas on mission for at least 6 months! That might be a little stringent, so, have an option of at least 4 volunteer mission trips where they weren't primarily touring and preaching in a large group.

Anonymous said...

WOW! This should be a cry in the darkness of SBC exclusion and control that wakes every 'leader' from their own dream-like state. It is unbecoming of southern baptists to hold tightly in one had the inerrancy of the gospel and in the other hand to hold tightly to their own 'perceived empires'. When will we wake up! God help us all...

Pastor Ricky

CB Scott said...


There must have been some technical problem with the transmission of my comment from yesterday, January 16, 2008, so I am trying again.

Some of us "Southern Boys" have been in several foreign countries and some of us have been west of the Mississippi River.

You know,.....we have found some of the problems with "corners" just as real there as in the places you mentioned in your post.

I think it would have been better to say pastors "everywhere" even in Oklahoma need to realize some things about "corners" in the building of the Kingdom rater than to just mention "Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, etc., etc. Don't y'all?

Such statements could be taken as very inflammatory, and bigoted by some down heah, don't ya think?