Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Great Commission Resurgence: A Southern Baptist Tool of Evangelical Accountability

At this year's 2009 Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, there will be a motion presented that will call upon all Southern Baptist employees to sign The 2009 Great Commission Resurgence Document. Once the motion is approved by the majority of Southern Baptist Convention messengers, the 2009 GCRD will be used as a tool of evangelical accountability for all Southern Baptist employees. Those Southern Baptist agency, missionary, and seminary employees who refuse to sign the 2009 GCRD will be terminated immediately and with cause from their Southern Baptist jobs.

The reasons for the need for this motion include the following:

(1). There are a number of non-evangelicals within the Southern Baptist Convention, and their refusal to sign the 2009 GCRD will identify them.
(2). The 2009 GCRD contains only statements regarding evangelical essentials with which no true evangelical Southern Baptist could disagree.
(3). The 2009 GCRD is a bare minimum statement of evangelicalism, and though Southern Baptist agencies may add additional evangelical requirements for employment, there can be no caveats by SBC employees or prospective missionaries to the 2009 GCD when they affix their signatures to it.
(4). Southern Baptists have every right to determine who it is will be paid by Cooperative Program dollars, and if the majority of messengers demand signatures to the 2009 GCD, then ALL Southern Baptist Convention employees must sign, resign or be terminated.
(5). Using the 2009 GCRD as a tool of evangelical accountability will ensure the reversal of the numerical decline within our Convention, and will increase both baptisms and new church plants.
(6). Those unwilling to sign the 2009 GCRD are free to remain in the Southern Baptist Convention, but they should not be allowed any leadership positions.
(7). For those who complain that Southern Baptists "have no creed but the Bible," we gently remind them that only "liberals" would ever refuse to sign a document passed by a majority of Southern Baptists as a tool of evangelical accountability.

We are six weeks away from the Southern Baptist Convention. Those who refuse to work to bring about passage of this motion to make the 2009 Great Commission Resurgence Document a tool of evangelical accountability for the SBC should issue a personal apology to these people.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sarcasm Alert: The foregoing has been written for my Baptist Identity friends.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Southern Baptist Religious "State of Play"

My son and I went tonight to see State of Play. We both enjoyed the movie, and afterwards I could not help but reflect on how people are often "played" in order to accomplish hidden agendas. Sometimes we Southern Baptists have a tendency to believe the best in everybody, which is not always a bad thing, but there are times when we should pause for a moment and consider whether or not there is a high level of connectivity between events at the state, national and local levels of the Southern Baptist Convention. In other words, it might be wise for us to ask questions before we just "assume" people are acting in the best interest of the Convention and our local churches. Some feel it is always "sin" to question religious leaders or to hold pastors accountable for their actions; but the Bible is quite clear that nobody is beyond the reach of sin, and all of us, not just some of us, should welcome the accountability that comes with positions of authority.

In November of 2007 the Georgia Baptist Convention passed an "anti-blogging resolution." At the time, a few bloggers and commenters wrote that the resolution was aimed "squarely at Wade Burleson," for my attempts to hold trustees accountable for passing doctrinal policies that exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. However, I wasn't so sure that the resolution was aimed at me. Frankly, the reason that Georgia used precious Convention time to adopt an anti-blogging resolution has always puzzled me - until yesterday.

Doug Pittman, a former member of Prays Mill Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Church just west of Atlanta, Georgia, called me at the office yesterday to thank me for my blog, which he said had been a source of encouragement to him. It seems that Doug, a man in his late forties, had been a member of Prays Mill Baptist Church his entire life. Yet in early 2007 PMBC church leaders, led by Pastor Mike Everson, forcibly removed Doug from membership. Doug and his family had been attending another SBC church prior to the disciplinary action, and Doug himself had personally informed Pastor Everson weeks earlier that he and his family would be joining a sister church. Nobody from Prays Mill Baptist Church had informed Doug that he was "under discipline," and Doug discovered that he had been forcibly "removed" from membership when PMBC members called to tell him after the business meeting where the action had occurred.

Doug had been a star athlete at the local high school, a baseball player for Auburn University, highly respected in the community and his church, and had never been one to ruffle feathers or rock the boat. But Doug's conscience had led him to leave his home church and attend another church because he had discovered that church leaders, led by Pastor Mike Everson, were deceiving church members about multiple indescretions involving staff members, church computers and pornography. Doug spoke out against Pastor Everson's decision to cover up the moral indescretions by multiple staff members. Doug had first hand knowledge of the pornography problems because he was the computer specialist at PMBC, and it was he who had performed the forensic tests. He believed the church should know the truth, that there should be full transparency and no cover-up. He spoke his convictions to leadership, including Pastor Mike Everson. When leadership informed Doug that they intended to continue with the subterfuge, Doug made the decision to leave.

Doug believes that the surprise move against him was intended to punish him for daring to speak out against church leaders. It was only after he was informed, after the fact, that he had been removed from the membership at PMBC that Doug began, on May 4, 2007, his blog. Doug told the reasons, in full detail, that led to his decision to leave the church and his shock that he was being "disciplined" for simply following his conscience and speaking out against what he believed to be intentional deception by church leaders. As stated above, Doug had intended to simply leave the church, but the blog was necessary to reveal what he believed to be an ecclesiastical abuse of authority, several acts of deception by church leadership, and a blatant attempt to ruin Doug's reputation for speaking out in opposition to church leadership actions.

Doug signed his name to everything he wrote on the blog. He used the blog to expose the truth and fight the falsehood intentionally being spread. He also told me over the phone yesterday that when he began to write he received multiple threats. But he continued. He felt his home church needed, and Christ even demanded, full transparency, honesty and integrity. But according to Doug Pittman, friends of Pastor Mike Everson, including some large mega-church pastors in Georgia and Florida, circled the wagons to protect their friend who was now "under attack."

Pastor Mike Everson happened to have been serving as Chairman of the Executive Board of the Georgia Baptist Convention. After experiencing several months of PMBC church members reading Doug Pittman's signed posts, informing the church about the truth of what had really happened at Prays Mill Baptist Church, Pastor Mike Everson and his pastor friends, in November 2007, presented for adoption to the Georgia Baptist Convention the The Resolution Against Blogging.

The Resolution included the following two paragraphs:

BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that we reaffirm the historic method of administering our agencies and institutions through elected boards of trustees, and we call upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing of these elected leaders; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all Georgia Baptists respectfully request and expect that individuals who disrupt the fellowship through blogging repent and immediately cease this activity and no longer cause disharmony for the advancement of their own personal opinions and agendas . . .

When the resolution "passed," I'm sure that many Southern Baptists thought those evil "bloggers" had it coming. Most Southern Baptists, including me, had absolutely no knowledge of Doug Pittman and the saga at Pray Mills Baptist Church. It is quite possible that SBC agency trustees, contrary to the statement in the resolution, actually need someone to be critical of their decisions. It is also quite reasonable to believe that the "disharmony" mentioned in the resolution is not caused by a blogger following his conscience, but by church leaders following a path of deception.

Pastor Everson resigned his church leadership position in December 2007. Doug Pittman also shut down his blog. The hurt, however, continues. Doug told me yesterday that he has no desire for he or his family to ever again be associated with anything Southern Baptist. I encouraged Doug to realize that there are a great many Southern Baptists just like him. People who know that truth and transparency is always best, and we will not be snowed by any religious "state of play." In short, when any outside agency is used by a local Southern Baptist church to strike back at someone who is attempting to present the truth, then we Southern Baptists have an obligation to not just assume that the church leadership is always acting with integrity.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Will There Be More People in Heaven than Hell?

For over twenty-five years I have believed the Bible teaches that God, by His grace, will redeem more sinners from the just judgment of hell than those who will experience hell as the just consequences of their rebellion against their Creator.

My interpretation of the Bible passages that indicate heaven will be more populated than hell is not unique. Charles Spurgeon, John Gill, and Jonathan Edwards are just a few who held similar beliefs. One must add Southern Baptist B.H. Carroll to the list as well. Phil Ratliff of Norman, Oklahoma sent me the following quotation from Caroll's writings in The Interpretation of the English Bible, Volume 10, page 207:

So then if I were called on to answer, in light of the Bible teaching, this question: "At the judgment will the saved outnumber the lost?" I would reply by citing in contrast a Jewish opinion prevalent just before Christ was born, and a Christian opinion of the present day, and say frankly that I am inclined to the Christian opinion. The Jewish opinion is thus expressed twice in the apocryphal book of Esdras: "The kingdom on earth was made for many: the kingdom above for few," and "The number of the saved is like a drop to the wave. "Such is the Jewish opinion. The Christian opinion, expresed by one of the truly great expositors of this generation is: "The number of the finally lost will compare with the whole number saved about as the criminals in jails and penitentaries now compare with the free and law-abiding citizens of this county," For myself, without taking time just now to cite the scriptural basis of the judgment, I heartily cherish the Christian opinion.

Could it be God's purpose to redeem an innumerable company from every tribe, every kindred, every tongue and every nation to ensure that His grace ultimately and eternally triumphs over sin?

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Are As Healthy As The Secrets We Keep

Anyone who has been in pastoral ministry for any length of time knows the the title of this post is an axiomatic statement. An unhealthy marriage is measured by the number of secrets spouses keep from one other. An unheathy church is manifested when members are kept in the dark about business matters 'for their own good.' An unhealthy convention will have leaders do everything behind closed doors, keeping secrets from the members at large, believing that only those in power have the true ability to handle all the truth.

On the other hand, a healthy marriage is measured by the full and open transparency between husband and wife. A church is in good health when leadership has no desire to "keep" secrets from the congregation. That's not to say everything must be shared with everyone, but simply that leadership takes no effort to keep information from members. The same can be said of a healthy convention.

Dr. Albert McClellan, the former Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, spoke to a writer for The Baptist Program on December 31, 1980 and said,

"In 43 years there have been fewer than six executive sessions (closed door, private meetings) . . . The Executive Committee (SBC) has an open ear for anyone one who wants to speak to it. For almost 25 years the gallery has been two to three times bigger than the size of the Committee, and the gallery has been permitted to ask any question, to give any information, to make any point and to offer any objection."
I am grateful for any positive course corrections brought about by the Conservative Resurgence, and some would argue that the removal of Dr. McLellan was one of those course corrections, but I would propose that if there has been just an infinitesimal increase in the number of secrets in the SBC since 1979, then we may very well be, no matter the objections, worse off as a convention.

Why are secrets being kept? Why do we wish to keep people in the dark? What is the purpose of leaders hiding behind a veiled curtain? I would be interested in your opinions, but allow me to offer a couple of possible reasons through the form of two memorable quotes on transparency.

"One man's transparency is another's humiliation." Gerry Adams

What I'm thinking about more and more these days is simply the importance of transparency, and Jefferson's saying that he'd rather have a free press without a government than a government without a free press." Esther Dyson

In His Grace,


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Censure, Censorship, and Church Citizenship

The Director of Missions at Cherokee Strip Baptist Association, Don Rogers, sent me an email today that I found very interesting. Emmanuel Baptist Church is a cooperating member of CSBA. Don wrote the following :

"I received a phone call from an older sounding man from Florida. He gave me his name but it was hard to understand on my cell phone. His purpose in calling me as the Director of Missions of Cherokee Strip Baptist Association was for me to report you to an "ethics committee" in the association to get you censored . He said you were writing harmful things on your blog concerning the leadership at the FBC in Jacksonville,FLA . I asked him a particular instance in which you had harmed the church's leadership. He would not list anything but he said that he would send me the blog material. I told him I was not interested because I did not spend time reading any blog except for the one that keeps up with LSU sports ! After the conversation, I read your blog and found the various entries related to Jacksonville. I do appreciate the way you asked the right questions in seeking to find the truth."

Don went on to detail for me the follow-up conversation he had with this gentleman from Florida. Don concluded his email to me by writing:

"The reasons that I share this with you is two-fold : (1) I am proud of your leadership in pastoring in such away that your church is really committed to missions in Enid and around the world and in giving to the Cooperative Program ; and (2) I am proud of the way you use your special communication skills to present other sides of issues in seeking the truth."

I do not know who it was that called my Director of Missions, nor am I interested in knowing his identity. However, I think the phone call evidences why it is that some Southern Baptists feel like they must write anonymously. It seems a few churchmen have a knack for trying to intimidate others into silence. In the end, it never works.

I have written only five posts related to FBC Jacksonville out of over seven hundred and eighty-nine posts written on "Grace and Truth to You" - that equates to less than three quarters of one percent. However, due to the fact that this gentleman from Florida deems these posts cause for ecclesiastical censure, and since he himself was unwilling (or unable) to identify anything within the posts that merit such action, I have decided to make all five posts available for easy finding and reading.

Anonymous Writing Is Not Intrinsically Evil

Abuse of Authority: It Must Not Be Ignored.

The High Cost of Stifling Criticism and Dissent

Lessons in Dealing with a Disgruntled Church Member

Your Honor, Please Help Us Understand

I am praying for all the people involved in the situation at FBC Jacksonville and believe all Southern Baptists can learn from the mistakes made.

In His Grace,


Monday, April 20, 2009

The Source of a Gracious Spirit

When driving Paul Young to the airport after speaking at our church, he expressed to me how refreshing the weekend had been for him, particularly after the difficulties of the week before. I asked him to elaborate, and after a moment of hesitation, he said that he had learned that a friend and fellow minister had recently turned on Paul and was sending out mailings to churches detailing how Paul Young was a "heretic." Paul was surprised to learn that I had not received a package myself.

I asked Paul what he intended to do in response to the mailings. He was silent for a moment and said, "Nothing." Paul went on to explain that his mission in life was not to correct the mistatements of his opponents. In years past he would have felt the need to correct the incorrect opinions that others had of him, but having now come to an incredible sense of his own worth to Christ, it was neither necessary nor beneficial to put out fires about his character and integrity started by others. The conversation was refreshing and reminded me that . . .

(1). I'd much rather be around a person with a gracious spirit and a secure sense of his personhood, even though I may disagree with this person doctrinally, than to keep the company of a mean-spirited person - even though we may be in complete agreement doctrinally. To phrase it a little stronger - I sometimes wonder if there are those who give mental assent to evangelical truth, but have been still-born spiritually, possessing none of the divine life of God in them - life evidenced by love for people (John 13:35).

(2). I am convinced that one of the greatest evidences of strong character and genuine security is the lack of desire to silence one's detractors and accusers. Insecurity is the mother of twins named control and intimidation. A secure soul, finding genuine and ultimate satisfaction in Christ, responds to criticism, personal attacks, and derogatory statements with a genuinely gracious spirit. That's not to say there are not times when a response is needed to false accusations, but even when those rare occasions arise, the tone and tenor of the response says far more than the response itself.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Washington Post Weighs In On My Prayer

Upon entering office as the first President of the United States, embarking on what would be eight years of service to his country as the Chief Executive of the America, President George Washington prayed the following, public prayer on behalf of our nation - dateline April 30th, 1789.

Almighty God,

We make our earnest prayer

- that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection,

- that thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government;

- and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States of America at large.

And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all

- to do justice,

- to love mercy and

- to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of The Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.


The Washington Post religious editor, David Waters, writing for the paper that bears the name of our first President, seems to have read the prayer I offered before the opening of the Oklahoma Senate Session on Monday, March 30, 2009.

David, a man I know as an excellent writer and thinker, is offended with my prayer. He seems to not be able to comprehend how anyone could express a desire that our country be led by only those men and women who have a belief in a just God to Whom all will one day give an account. As for me, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (whom I quote in the prayer) remind us that our greatest leaders in history displayed the moral fortitude and character that comes from personal faith in a just and righteous God.

Oh well, I guess when the writers at the Washington Post consider you a theocratic fundamentalist and some of your fellow Southern Baptists consider you cultural liberal heretic, then you very well might be neither.


In His Grace,


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is There a Thing Called Radical Masculinization?

I am grateful for the gospel ministry of Mars Hill and her pastor Mark Driscoll. I am not very familiar with much of Mark's teaching, but I came across this video on YouTube, obviously intended to be a parody of Mark's belief about males in the church, and it made me wonder if there is such a thing as masculinization. I often hear of evangelicals being concerned with the feminization of the church, but I am honestly asking (and don't even pretend to know the answer), if it is possible to be so pro-MALE in the evangelical church that we lose sight that the New Covenant gospel is not as nearly concerned with the separation of the rich and the poor, the black and the white, the slave and the free, the male and the female, as it is in the restoration and healing of every soul to the proper place of finding one's true identity and significance in Jesus alone?

Just wondering.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SWBTS: Public Perception vs. the Real Truth

One of my concerns regarding the SBC over the past three years is that we have developed the habit of saying one thing publicly, in order to put the best possible spin on ourselves to the world at large, and then doing something totally opposite in secret, behind closed doors. This disingenuity and lack of transparency must stop. Last Wednesday, April 8, 2009, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's newsletter The Hill published an article entitled Southwestern Seminary Announces No Tuition Increase for 2009-2010. In the article, SWBTS administrators were unmistakably clear:

Tuition for Southern Baptist students in the master’s programs will remain at $173 per semester hour. The move confirms the administration and trustees’ commitment to protect students from the burden of increased tuition in a financially uncertain time.
The article goes on to favorably compare SWBTS's decision to that of other seminaries in the state of Texas, including divinity schools at TCU and Baylor by stating:

TCU announced a five percent increase for 2009-10, and Baylor University announced increases of seven percent for the university and just under seven percent for its Truett Seminary.
Kudos to SWBTS, right? Well, not so fast.

Yesterday, Th.M students at SWBTS were told by administrators that tuition for their master's program would be increasing to a flat fee of $2,050 per semester regardless of the number of hours a Th.M student takes. Faculty at SWBTS have formerly advised students to work towards a Th.M degree over two full academic years (four semesters). Thus, this new rate schedule for the Th.M. means tuition costs of $8,200 for Southern Baptist students and $16,400 for non-Southern Baptist students. The Th.M used to cost Southern Baptist students $173 per credit hour, the tuition rate declared in the article as unchanged, for a total $4,152 to complete the 24 master level credit hours. The new cost for Southern Baptists completing the Th.M in the suggested time of four semesters is $8,200, for a whopping 100% increase in tuition.

Some SWBTS administrators might object to the above by saying, Th.M. students could finish the 24 credit hours in one year, and thus actually save money!" Such an objection would, however, seem disingenuous given that SWBTS administrators themselves recommend that students take two years to complete the Th.M in order to ensure a high quality of scholarship. Further, few seminary students actually take 12 master's course hours each semester, even as M.Div students. Th.M. students usually take less hours per semester than M.Div. students since even more is demanded to complete the most advanced master’s degree offered by SWBTS.

The change in the billing structure certainly would not seem in the best interest of the vast majority of Th.M students. Many SWBTS Th.M. students are pastoring in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and only have time, unfortunately, to take one class per semester as a means of continuing their education. Thus, the total cost for the Th.M. degree for those pastors taking one course per semester has now increased astronomically - from the former $4,152 to $10,850, a 152% increase.

There are just a couple of questions that I believe should be asked by Southern Baptists of SWBTS administrators.

(1). Why is the change in billing structure not being announced openly? The seminary newsletter categorically states tuition is not increasing. There is little room to interpret the statement "master’s programs will remain at $173 per semester hour” in a manner different than the way it reads.

(2). Is it possible that administration at SWBTS might wish the public at large to believe the school is doing one thing, but in reality, they intend to do just the opposite? At best, the story in the school's newsletter needs be amended to include the relevant information concerning the enormous increase in tuition for Th.M students.

To be clear, it is the perogative of SWBTS administrators and trustees to increase tuition by changing the billing structure all divinity students if they desire. The issue is not the increase. Our concern is that any SBC institution might represent to the public something that is contrary to what is actually happening.

The Th.M. degree program at SWBTS is seeing an enormous tuition increase. I would suggest that we put the facts out for all to read and resist any temptation as Southern Baptists to be hide the reality of our decisions. The solution in this particular situation, in order to maintain integrity, is for SWBTS administrators to address the tuition hikes for the Th.M. degree program in a public manner as soon as possible.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Podcast Interview About Hardball Religion

David B. McLaughlin is a corporate trainer, accountant, and ordained minister. He entered the corporate world after spending 15 years in full-time ministry. He is the president of Voyage Ministries, Inc. and the author of Voyage Through The Bible, Basic Training, and The Life of Christ. He is also the host of Voyage Radio. His new book, The 40 Book: Forty Things You Should Know By Forty, is published by Ocean Drive Books.

David McLaughlin interviewed me this week's Voyager Radio 2.0 podcast. Go visit David's site and let him know of what you think of the interview.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Wm. Paul Young and "The Shack": A Review

Now we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is (not) walking . . . in accord with the tradition you received from us. As for you, do not grow weary in doing good" (II Thessalonians 3:6,13).

One can't help but imagine what the disciples saw and felt when they observed Jesus move among sinners. From the adulteress women at the well, to the pagan tax collector hiding in the trees, Jesus taught the early disciples the power of transforming love. He himself declared, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." (John 13:35). It would seem that this tradition of loving people through unselfishly doing that which is good for others is the very mark of Jesus in us. Paul wrote to young Timothy and exhorted him to not associate with those Christians who used people for their own selfish purposes and who were filled with indulgent idleness. This kind of behavior is the opposite of the tradition which Timothy received from the early followers of Jesus. It's interesting to note that the Apostle Paul's concern for Timothy is not that he keep away from those brothers teaching differently, but from those brothers walking differently. Or, to put it in John's language, the world will know that we are Christians not by what we say but by how we love.

The Book "The Shack"

In 2008 I read Paul Young's book The Shack. It came recommended to me by my wife, my mother and my sister, all of whom shared with me the book "rocked their world." I read the book, and though I enjoyed it, it was not life changing for me. My wife would later tell me that for years she has heard me preach on the Father's unconditional love for His people - an eternal, personal and unrelenting love - so she felt the book didn't affect me deeply because it simply presented in different form the very core of my own belief system. She, of course, was right. My belief in God's unchanging love for me - a love that precedes Creation, my conversion, and carries me to and through eternity - is the very basis of my freedom and joy. Memorizing Psalm 139 when a child and reading God's Everlasting Love for His Elect by John Gill as a teenager, solidified in my heart and mind the truth of God's deep, personal and everlasting love for me.

However, tens of millions of sinners do not live in the joy of knowing God's love for their souls. Paul Young, author of The Shack, had a hard time believing God loved him from early in his childhood. The son of Christian Missionary Alliance missionaries in Indonesia, Paul was raised by native cannibals who repeatedly, forcibly and secretly molested him before he was six years of age. Combine that abuse with an angry natural father who taught Paul by His words and actions that God punishes people for their religious non-performance, Paul's image of God, even after coming to faith in Jesus, was that of a distant deity more interested in punishment than a loving Papa enjoying personal relationships.

In The Shack, Paul has used a creative metaphor to present "Papa," or God the Father, as the loving, kind and good Heavenly Father revealed to us in Scripture. Some have expressed outrage that Papa is metaphorically presented in Young's book as a loving African-American woman, as if Young literally believes God the Father is a loving, large black woman. Paul Young's metaphor of God the Father no more bothers me than David portraying God as a big bird ("hide me under the shadow of Thy wings" Psalm 17:8), or C.S. Lewis' imagery of God being "a lion" in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Intuitively I knew after reading The Shack that members of Emmanuel Baptist Church who have heard me preach for years on the love of God for His people would benefit from hearing Paul Young himself.

Paul Young at Emmanuel, Enid, April 4-5, 2009

Last weekend's services at Emmanuel, Enid with guest speaker Paul Young possessed more of the Spirit's gifts of renewal, cleansing and conversion than any weekend I can remember in twenty-five years of pastoral ministry. Several hundred gathered on Saturday night, then again in three services on Sunday morning, and for one final service on Sunday night. The gospel - the good news - was shared in all the services. Men for whom we have prayed for a long time came to faith in Jesus, some of whom will be baptized this Sunday. Addicts publicly expressed their choice to let go of their addictions and turn to God our Heavenly Father through trusting the work of Jesus for their souls. People sat for two hours, without moving, hearing gripping accounts from both Scripture and life of how Jesus sets captives free.

I came into the weekend believing Paul Young's view of the Trinity may be his weak point, but after all four services I now believe Paul Young's view of the Trinity is his strong point. One of the finest messages I have ever heard, a message saturated with the truth of Scripture, was preached in the 8:30 a.m. morning worship service. His explanation of the love relationship between the three Persons of the Trinity, all of whom possess the full and equal essence of the eternal Deity, is the foundation for Young's belief that the Father only does what He does out of a heart of love for relationship. We are putting all six hours of teaching on six CD's in a CD notebook, including six MP3 files, which will be available at our cost - $25.00. You may order by calling (580-237-0602).

Fellowship Supercedes Theological Differences

Paul Young believes that Papa was in Christ reconciling the world (i.e. "every single human being") to Himself. It is no secret that I believe the biblical word "world" does not encompass every single human being without exception, but rather an innumerable company of sinners from every tribe, every kindred, every nation and every family. In this Paul and I would differ. Yet, Paul agrees with me that the God's redemption of sinners is so powerful at the cross, that nothing negates the love of God the Father toward those for whom He lovingly sent His only begotten Son to die. We simply differ over whether those sinners God chooses to enter into a redeeming love relationship include every single sinner who has ever lived or an innumerable company of particular sinners whom God has chosen to redeem.

Some are now calling Paul a universalist. Not so. Paul believes in hell, but he believes hell cannot be comprehended apart from God's love. How God can eternally love people who experience His wrath in hell is explained by Paul using different human analogies which you can hear if you listen to the CD's. It is Paul's hope that every man will one day experience the love of God. Paul differs with me not in affirming the truth that God loves every human being, for I believe the Father does, but in my belief that God the Father has a special, distinguishing, redeeming love for particular sinners. For example, I might tell you that "I love my wife" and then tell you that "I love your wife." But I can guarantee you that I don't love your wife in the same manner in which I love my wife. Likewise, there is a Bride for the Trinity, and she is loved by God with a special, eternal and unconditional love, and the Father has done everything for this Bride to effectually bring to pass her redemption. Paul and I agree that this Bride of Christ is composed of those for whom Christ died - we just disagree that Christ died in the stead of every human being without exception.

Ironically, we both share in common a strong resistance to the legalism of religion. All religions, even some religionists of the Southern Baptist variety, tell you that you must do something to earn the love of God. But the good news of the gospel is that God's love cannot be earned, it rises from His heart of love like an artesian spring, needed nothing to draw it out. To trust and experience God's unconditional love, no matter one's earthly condition, is the basis for true freedom and joy. More importantly, when one's heart is full of the love of God, it overflows with love for others. I came away from this weekend not changing my theology of particular redemption one iota, but through Paul's life and message, recommitted to love every single sinner with whom I come in contact - from the hardest hearted sinner to the one who professes to be my most profound enemy.

Paul Young loves sinners like Jesus loves sinners. Paul signed hundreds of books this weekend, and after he signed each book with a unique personal message, Paul would then personally embrace the person. The lines would often stretch for hours, but Paul was never in a rush. Every single person was treated as a most important person. One could learn a great deal about the hurt sin causes and the healing Jesus brings by simply observing the tearful hugs and listening to soul wrenching conversations people had with Paul Young. Unlike many in the professionally religious world who want the admiration of others, Paul was genuinely humble, shockingly transparent (publicly confessing his own failures) and deeply concerned for the healing needed in the souls of others.

An Illustration of the Power of God's Love

One of our young ladies at Emmanuel has probably been through as much hurt as Paul. She is now seventeen. When she was ten, her father was killed with a shotgun by her mother and her mother's boyfriend. Our church member was then kidnapped along with her brother and taken to Mexico by her mother and her mother's lover the day of her father's funeral. Police eventually caught the murderer and she now sits on death row in Oklahoma. It has been difficult for our seventeen year old church member to trust adults, but as I told Paul her story and watched as he signed her book, whispered words of encouragement in her ear, and then give her a warm and affectionate embrace, it was evident that our church member had come to understand that the love of God cannot be measured by the absence of painful events or the abundance of temporal blessings in our lives. The message got through to this young lady, as evidenced by her tears and her willingess to converse with a strange adult man for the first time in over a decade, that God loves us the way we are and is powerful enough to deal with the ugly and destructive junk in our lives caused by sin.

Stories like this could be repeated over and over again from this past weekend, but because of time I wish to close this short review of Paul Young and his book. It has not been my desire in this post to answer every question you might have about The Shack, nor has it been my desire to defend the author - God is quite capable of doing both for you and Paul Young respectively. My desire is to give a modern illustration of applying the teaching of the Apostle Paul to young Timothy in the verse placed at the top of this post (II Thessalonians 3:6).

Some have suggested I should have "kept away" from Paul Young. Some Southern Baptists have volunteered that Paul Young should never have been invited to Emmanuel to speak. They suggest that he is teaching heresy in his Christian fiction book. I, however, will follow the instructions of the Apostle Paul. I will maintain a friendship and cooperation with my brother in Christ, Paul Young, because he practices the ancient tradition of the fathers of our faith - he genuinely loves sinners.

And I will keep away from those brothers who don't practice this love - no matter how much they agree with me theologically.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Seed Faith Giving Makes Some People Rich

Last December WCNC Television, a Charlotte news station, broadcast a six minute story on The Inspiration Network, a Christian television broadcasting network out headed by CEO pastor/evangelist David Cerullo and his wife Barbara. It seems that the Cerullos pulled in 1.6 million dollars last year in salary, excluding benefits. The Cerullos preach a prosperity gospel message, and it is worth those interested in Christian television to watch this television news investigation regarding The Inspiration Network.

A handful of Southern Baptist Churches broadcast their services on Inspiration Network. It would seem to me that those SBC pastors and leaders who use Inspiration Network should be the ones asking questions about the Networks finances. When the news reporter asked for David Cerullo's responses to a series of questions, the reporter was handed a written statement from Inspiration which included the following: "Our policy is not to engage in public discourse regarding accusations against our ministry."

When fellow Christians either refuse to ask questions privately, or on the other side, refuse to answer questions privately, then unfortunately, questions must be asked publicly. The refusal to enter into public discourse is most certainly an indication of private dysfunction at the Christian ministry in question.

In His Grace,


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Jack McGorman on Unity without Uniformity

A friend who serves as an International Mission Board missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention sent me the following quote from Dr. Jack McGorman. Dr. McGorman taught New Testament at Southwestern Theological Seminary for five decades, and is considered one of the most popular and effective professors in the history of SWBTS. From the notes taken in Dr. McGorman's class by my missionary friend, it seems the good doctor had a very good understanding of how Christian unity is not the same thing as Christian uniformity. Dr. McGorman said:

"The more insecure leadership is the more they demand uniformity. There are things which we don't have to believe exactly as someone else does. You can't have uniformity without coercion. The best marriage is unity without uniformity."
Additionally, in the introduction to a book Dr. McGorman wrote entitled, "The Gifts of the Spirit", Dr. McGorman astutely points to one of the major problems we seem to face within our beloved Southern Baptist Convention:

Unfortunately the gospel of Jesus Christ sometimes suffers as much at the hands of its defenders as it does from its distorters. This is difficult to acknowledge because it is always the hardest to recognize and repent of our "spiritual" carnality. It is precisely at the point of what we regard as our greatest spirituality -- whether in the claim of special religious experience or in the claim of loyal defense of the truth -- that we are most vulnerable to carnality. How shall the Holy Spirit convict us of the sin we attribute to him as our greatest good!"
In the spirit of Dr. McGorman, I remind Grace and Truth readers that you will be able to watch our third Sunday morning worship service LIVE, via the Internet, at 11:00 a.m. Central Time, or you may join us for the evening service at 6:00 p.m. Central Time LIVE via the Internet. Special guest is William Paul Young, author of The Shack. If you would desire to see a modern illustration of what SBC demands for uniformity look like, then you might read some of the comments attached to this former post.

In His Grace,