Thursday, April 30, 2009

What People Think of Southern Baptists

Over at Provocations and Pantings, Timmy Brister posted on some informal research that Dr. Thom Rainer did on the impressions people have of Southern Baptists. The results are revealing. I encourage you to check out this post. Notice the word cloud which shows the responses of people. The big words are the ones most often mentioned and the little words are least mentioned.

Granted, this is an informal survey and not a formal poll. Yet, I can't help but say "ouch" when I see that the responses. The most used words were legalism, legalistic, and tradition. Even boycott and chicken beat Jesus and gospel. One bright spot was the fact that missions made a good showing. After a long battle for the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, the word Bible didn't even make the top ten.

It seems that we (Southern Baptists since I am one) have some work to do. Perhaps the emphasis of Dr. Danny Akin and others on the Great Commission Resurgence will go a long way toward getting Southern Baptists focused on the things that we need to be known for; things like the gospel, missions, discipleship, love, church planting, etc.

Gospel Coalition

Want to listen to some preaching that will feed your heart and challenge you to gospel faithfulness? Go to the Gospel Coalition and listen to the likes of John Piper, Don Carson, Bryan Chapell, Tim Keller and others.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Seven Marks of False Teachers

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) gives seven marks of false teachers.
False teachers are men-pleasers.
False teachers are notable in casting dirt, scorn, and reproach upon the persons, names, and credits of Christ's most faithful ambassadors.
False teachers are venters of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts.
False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things of both the law and the gospel, and stand most upon those things which are of the least moment and concernment to the souls of men.
False teachers cover and color their dangerous principles and soul-impostures with very fair speeches and plausible pretenses, with high notions and golden expressions.
False teachers strive more to win men over to their opinions than to better them in their conversations (lifestyles).
False teachers make merchandise of their followers.
Survey the landscape of evangelicalism and ask yourself if there are not some quite popular teachers who fit the profile outlined by Brooks during the Puritan era.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Being Passionate about Jesus

I had the opportunity to address a crowd of golfers at a tournament for our local Baptist Association today. I began my talk reflecting on the career of Tiger Woods. He has won 66 times on the PGA Tour and 36 times on the European Tour. He has won 14 majors. He has amassed almost 83 million dollars in winnings. Remember, he has done all of this by age 33.

Tiger is very open about his passion for golf. He has stated that he is "addicted to golf." He speaks of his desire to be "dominant." He is very open about his drive to win. He says that a good year is a year when he wins more times and wins more majors than anyone else. His workout and practice routines are legendary for their intensity. There is no doubt that Tiger Woods is passionate about golf.

When we read Paul's words in Philippians 3:7-14, we also see a man of passion. Two things stand out as indicators of Paul's passion. When we read these verses we understand that we prize what we are passionate about. Paul clearly says that there is nothing in his life which he values more than Jesus. Things he once thought important and valuable before he met Jesus are now considered rubbish. Things he once viewed as assets are now recognized as liabilities. For Paul, there was nothing in the world more valuable to him than Jesus. He considers all things loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.

Paul also demonstrates that we pursue what we are passionate about. Paul's life goals were to know Christ, to share in his sufferings, and to be conformed to his death. Though he had not achieved it or become perfect, he is pressing forward and straining toward the goal of knowing Christ. He forgets what is behind and reaches toward the goal of God's calling on his life through Christ.

As I reflect on my own values and pursuits, I am haunted by the question, "Am I more passionate about Jesus than Tiger is about golf?" Am I prepared to spend and be spent for the glory of Jesus like Tiger spends himself to get a green jacket? I must admit that such questions painfully penetrate my heart. How we need to have a singular passion and drive for Jesus! How we need to be able to say with Paul, "This one thing I do..."

It was this sort of singular passion for Jesus that enabled 12 men to turn their world upside down in the first century. May the Lord fire this kind of passion in our hearts and give us the grace to prize Jesus above all else and pursue Him with undistracted devotion.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Leadership We Need in the SBC

Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently delivered a message which outlines his vision for a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. It is an excellent message. Dr. Akin states twelve axioms which, in his view, are necessary for the SBC to experience a great commission resurgence within her ranks. I developed an appreciation for Dr. Akin when I sat in his class on the Gospel of Mark at Criswell College years ago. Since then, the Lord has seen fit to place Dr. Akin in a very strategic place as the leader of one of our seminaries. In my opinion, Dr. Akin embodies the kind of passionate, balanced, God-centered leadership so desperately needed within the SBC.

I pray that God will continue to allow voices like those of Dr. Akin to be heard across the convention.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Declining Value of Preaching in the Priorities of Pastors

Baptist Press ran a story today on the ministry priorities of pastors. I was shocked by what I found. Lifeway Research surveyed 801 pastors about their top five ministry priorities. When they compiled the results from all churches surveyed, preaching came in fourth place behind evangelism, Sunday School/Small groups, and worship/specific worship services. When they compiled the data from all ministries mentioned in the survey, preaching came in seventh place.

I certainly would not take issue with the value of the other ministries mentioned in this survey. They have an important place in the life of the church. What shocks me is the relative lack of importance placed on preaching according to these survey results. When preaching falls to fourth place in a pastors list of five priorities, it seems to me that something is amiss.

When we read the New Testament, we find a heavy emphasis on the importance of preaching in the church. In the list of priorities of the early church given to us by Luke in Acts 2:42, we find the apostles doctrine at the head of the list. When we turn to the practice of the apostles, we find that they emphasized the Word and prayer (Acts 6). In the pastoral letters where Paul is advising his young pastor friends, we find him giving strong emphasis to preaching and teaching. Consider this advice to Timothy:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate teachers to themselves according to their own desires, and will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside unto myths.

I would suggest that the declining value of preaching in many congregations is one of the contributing factors to the ministry problems these congregations face in other areas. A lack of biblical literacy and discernment leads to a multitude of moral and spiritual problems. A famine of God's Word among God's people will create an emaciated and vulnerable congregation which is ripe for the strategies of our enemy.

I am especially concerned about this as a Southern Baptist. Historically, our denomination has been known for a strong emphasis on the pulpit. Preaching has long been considered the heart and soul of congregational ministry. It appears that this long-standing priority is slipping in importance for many pastors. I am certainly not suggesting that preaching is the only context in which the Word of God may be effectively communicated in congregational life. But I am suggesting it is the primary way. If no strong preaching ministry exists, it will be difficult to build an atmosphere in which the Word of God is properly valued as the primary instrument which feeds and leads all other ministries.