>Union Conference

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Thursday and Friday, Bonnie and I were privileged to attend the conference at Union University entitled “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism”.
Thursday night, Dr. David Dockery spoke on the topic of “So Many Denominations: The Rise and Decline of Denominationalism…and the Shaping of a Global Evangelicalism.” Dr. Dockery did an excellent job discussing the history of denominationalism in Christian history and tactfully explained why there are so many denominational structures. What I took from his speech was that we should all realize that even though denominationalism is rampant in today’s society and is getting a bad wrap, denominations still provide a context for guidance and a place of belonging. We should all strive for a denominational future that has conviction and cooperation; boundaries and bridges; structure and spirit.
Here is a good article at the Union University website about Dockery’s speech:
I will be posting tomorrow some comments regarding Friday’s discussions by Dr. Nathan Finn, professor at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.
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>Thoughts on the Convention

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Here are some pictures from the convention this past week. The chapel picture on the top is from the Sesquicentennial (150th) Dedication of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This was my first time at a chapel service at the seminary. The other two shots are pictures from our “best” seats at the convention on Tuesday afternoon.

What are my thoughts on the convention?

1. It was not as highly attended as I thought it was going to be. I have a book that I had to read for the seminary class that had on the cover of the book a picture from the 1988 SBC Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. In that picture, there is an entire stadium filled with SBC messengers (looks like well over 20,000 people). This convention only had a little over 8,000 messengers and it was in a convention hall at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville, KY.

2. There was not all that much controversy. This is not a bad thing. But, due to the preparation seminar that we had at the Seminary class on Saturday (6/20/2009), Dr. Russell Moore (Dean of Theology at Southern Seminary) mentioned what to expect and I left with the impression that there would be some debate on the floor especially with the Great Commission Resurgence and also about the possible disfellowship of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. As it turned out, the Broadway Baptist Church disfellowship recommendation by the Executive Committee passed without discussion and the Great Commission Resurgence was passed whole heartedly without much debate (it was the only “controversial issue).

3. There was one resolution that was most publicized in the media. It was a resolution on President Barack Obama. The resolution celebrated the fact that an African American was elected to the highest office in the United States. However, it also lamented the positions that the Obama administration was taking on the abortion issue and pro-gay rights. Here is the Baptist Press article about the resolution [http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=30759]. You will notice in the article that Dr. Roger “Sing” Oldham is in the picture with Danny Akin and Richard Land. Akin is the President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and was also chairman of the Resolutions Committee for this year’s convention. Richard Land is the Chairman of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC.

4. The Exhibit Hall of the SBC was absolutely amazing! There was an entire Lifeway Christian Store in the middle of the hall. Also there were unbelievable exhibits from every seminary and entity of the SBC and also all the Christian Colleges in the states. I am proud to announce that Union University probably had the best location in the entire hall, right at the entrance! Bonnie and I especially enjoyed the International Mission Board exhibit. There was a huge board that had a map of the entire world with indications of the percentage of evanglical Christians in each location. Each messenger had the opportunity to sign his or her name in a region of the world to pray for the missionary effot to reach that part of the world for Christ. I picked Russia, since Breanne Oldham (Dr. Sing Oldham’s daughter and fellow classmate) is currently in that country as a journeyman missionary.

5. Bonnie and I attended the Union University Alumni dessert reception on Tuesday evening. It was a wonderful event. Dr. Dockery informed the guests that Union is having a record Freshman enrollment this year. Things are doing great for my alma mater!

6. I got to meet a bunch of new ministers my age throughout the country and also got to meet and “rub shoulders” with some of the leaders of the convention. It is neat to be walking around the exhibit hall and then turn around and there is R. Albert Mohler walking right by you, or Thom Rainer, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Richard Land, etc. I also got to see some familiar faces. It was definitely great to see Brother Wayne and Linda Perkins and also Eddie Mallonee and his wife. We also saw Jim Barnhouse from Macks Grove Baptist Church.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the convention and am thankful that the church has allowed me to go. I look forward to the next time I will be able to go.

>Monday at the Pastor’s Conference

>Bonnie and I had a long day! There were three sessions of the Pastors’ Conference today! Nonetheless, I must say that this was a wonderful day. There were a total of ten speakers at the conference today. I am not going to go into the detail that I did yesterday on the three that I listened to last night. Here is the list of the speakers that presented sermons for the day:

Monday Morning: What if we had the same love?

1. Mike Landry, Pastor of First Baptist Church Sarasota, FL.
Outline:
I. What does missions look like without love? Bottom Line: read the book of Jonah
II. How do we maintain missions and have “same love”?
A. View the Great Commission as a relational mission.
B. Know God Intimately
C. Value People

2. Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research and Interim Pastor of Hendersonville First Baptist Church.
Outline: from Ephesians 4:1-8
Main Point: God has already made us one, we just need to live it out.
I. Walk Worthy
II. Display Right Attitudes
A. Humilty
B. Gentleness
C. Patience
D. Accepting in Love
III. Live the Unity God has already Created
IV. One in Christ

3. Francis Chan, Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California
Did not get much of an outline from Pastor Chan, but he did an amazing job. Francis is a native of Hong Kong, China and is a pastor in California. I enjoyed his genuine, no-nonsense approach.

4. Tom Eliff – did not get to listen to his sermon. Bonnie and I went to eat lunch.

Afternoon Session – What if…we were One in Spirit?

1. Michael Catt, Pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA (the church that did Facing the Giants and Fireproof)
Michael did not have a full outline and he basically preached an encouragement sermon for young and old pastors alike. Good words.

2. Dennis Swanberg also spoke. He is a Christian Comedian and he was hilarious. He started off the bit by imitating Billy Graham and he sounded just like him! Swanberg has just written a book called, The Man Code.

3. Fred Luter, Pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Fred Luter is an African American pastor of a Southern Baptist Church and he was the highlight of the afternoon. He was ELECTRIC!!! Here is his outline:
What happens when we wait on HIS spirit? – Acts 1:8
A. You Become a New Person
B. You have a New Purpose
C. You will have a New Power

4. Mike Huckabee: everyone knows who he is. He spoke mainly about the roles of the family, the pastor, and government. He made the basic point through his speech that we are not to be like Abimilech in Judges 9.

Monday Evening: What if…we were one in Purpose?

1. Alvin Reid, Professor of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Outline: Tipping Points (Acts 19:8-10)
I. Relationships
II. The Gospel
III. The Future
IV. Relating to Culture
V. Defining Success

2. David Platt, Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL.
David Platt, in my opinion, was by far the best preacher of the conference and he is only thirty years old and a pastor of a vibrant church in Alabama. David Platt told the conference that the one purpose for us is the GLORY OF GOD! His text was out of Hebrews 13:11-14. The major question that he offered was: Are we going to die in our religion, or are we going to die in our devotion? I simply stopped writing notes and sat down and listened to Platt preach the gospel. He really drove home the need for global missions awareness and the fact that the Gospel of Christ is on the march among the nations.

3. Johnny Hunt, Senior Pastor First Baptist Church in Woodstock, GA. Johnny Hunt is the current and presumed re-elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. I did not take notes on his speech, but it basically was an exegesis of Malachi and was a stirring sermon on being dependent upon the LORD.

Overall, I truly enjoyed the Pastor’s Conference. Tomorrow, I am looking forward to the first day of the actual Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Tomorrow morning, it has been announced to my Seminary class that we will be asked to join the leaders of the convention on the platform of the annual meeting of the SBC for us future pastors, pastoral staff, missionaries, and denominational leaders to be prayed over by the convention. Since the convention is at Louisville, KY Southern Seminary, its leadership and students are being spotlighted.

Another neat feature of my involvement in the SBC is that each of the students of the Southern Seminary students, including myself, will have to serve as microphone monitors for the convention business sessions. My session will be on Wednesday morning and will be manning microphone 5. This means that we have the responsibility of manning the microphones and operating a digital microphone computer box that will indicate to the chair of the convetion (Johnny Hunt) what the person at the microphone will be doing (making a motion, speaking for or against the motion, making an amendment, and making a point of order). This is the first year that the microphones will be digitally connected to the platform and the system is simple, yet complicated (sort of like touch-screen voting machines). I anticipate that it might get complicated.

Tomorrow starts the convention. The proceedings will be on live streaming video online at this address:

http://www.sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc09/sbcam.asp?cat=home

The recognition of seminary students should be at 9:00am EDT (that is 8:00AM central).

>Sunday at the SBC Pastor’s Conference

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The Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors’ Conference is now underway! Starting this late afternoon at the Kentucky Expo Center by the Louisville Airport, Louisville Six Flags, and Churchill Downs. Bonnie and I arrived in time for the pre-conference concert. Brother Marshall should be excited to know that the soloist, Starla Harbin, started out the conference singing “Days of Elijah” and during the evening’s worship, we sang, “When I think about the Lord”. Bonnie and I felt like we were right at home.

This year’s conference president is Ed Litton, Pastor of First Baptist Church of North Mobile, Alabama. The worship team also is from the North Mobile church and they did a fantastic job.

The speakers this evening were J.D. Greear of The Summit Church in Durham, NC, Mac Brunson, Pastor of First Baptist Church Jacksonville, FL, and Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and prolific Christian author. All three of the speakers did an excellent job and I would like to outline their speeches.

Ed Litton started off the speaking with a “theme interpretation” on the motto for the Pastors’ Conference, “What if”. Dr. Litton gave the congregated messengers various convicting questions based around the motto. The questions that caught my attentions were:

What if we adjusted our thinking and sought out God for a greater vision?

What if we truly cast ourselves upon the Lord and not on the numbers?

What if we “opened up the silos” and quit storing up for ourselves and gave freely the gospel of Christ Jesus to those around us?

What if we gave up the stubborn problems that have plagued us.

The theme for this year’s conference is Philippians 2:2 – “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” [ESV]

J.D. Greear preached from Matthew 23, where Jesus gave the seven woes to the Pharisees. Dr. Greear focused on the difference between religiosity and true gospel ministry. This cut me to the quick! He introduced the sermon by outlining the three tendencies of religiosity:

1. Religion tends to displace the gospel from God’s people.

2. We tend to see the conflict in others in the past but we do not see that in ourselves in the present.

-the Pharisees loved missions.

-the Pharisees loved scripture

-the Pharisees loved doctrine

-the Pharisees loved disciplined obedience

-the Pharisees thought these proved that they were the people of God.

3. Religion makes us horribly ineffective at evangelism.

-the Pharisees were not effective on people who were not like them. But Jesus did. When Jesus called Peter to cast the net on the other side of the boat and Peter and the disciples-to-be were unable to bring in all the fish that they had caught, Jesus said, “from now on you will be catching men’ (Luke 5:10). Jesus was saying, like you have caught the fish, so shall you catch men. Jesus drew people unto him.

The main outline of the sermon detailed six characteristics / ways that we are religious and how that displaces the gospel:

1. Religious people are obsessed with Recognition – they love honorary titles and really love the praise of people.

2. Religious people substitute religious rituals for a love for God. We can make a big deal of a set of conforming behaviors. We many times focus on what we do instead of knowing God. We must encounter God. We must have a white hot passion for God’s glory – a thirst to know more of him.

3. Religious centered Christians elevate secondary traditions above the love of God. We can so easily place more emphasis on tradition than calling sinners to repentance.

4. Religious centered Christians elevate secondary traditions above love for others.

5. Pharisees are more aware of the sins of others than in their own life.

6. Pharisees always think that preachers and teachers are talking about someone else when talking about sin and short coming.

His concluding thoughts were to not use God for another agenda in our lives. Based on a less then gospel-centered ministry in many churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, many people get converted to the SBC and not to Christ. We must repent of our religion and our self-righteousness, and thinking that we are better than everyone else. One of the best lines of the conclusion was that Southern Baptists must not trade the deadness of liberalism for the deadness of traditionalism.

Mac Brunson came shortly thereafter to bring a message from I Peter 3:8-9. His sermon was not as clearly delineated as Greear’s so my outline is not a clear. Brunson focused in his remarks on the responsibility of ministers and pastors to encourage and edify one another.

In his first point, Brunson outlined the five characteristics of how ministers and Christians should be in the Southern Baptist Convention. First, we are to be harmonious or same minded. God is not calling us to be clones, but are there are cardinal truths that we should all agree on and be like-minded. We ought to all agree on the Great Commission (this is a reference to the controversy over the document entitled, “The Great Commission Resurgence”. Second, we are to be sympathetic, truly and honestly identifying with the felt hurts and needs of fellow ministers and Christians. Thirdly, we are to have a brotherly intention. Fourthly, we are to have a brotherly submissiveness and be humble in spirit. And finally, we are to have a tender heart. In this section of the message, Brunson highlighted a couple of illustrations. The first illustration was that of the satellite buffalo. Apparently, in nature there is always one buffalo in a wild herd that will always stay on the fringes of the herd, and not interact with the other buffalo. For the whole of its days, it will always be removed from the other buffalos and they always die a premature death due to the neglect of interaction with other bison. Brunson made the point that we are not to allow the pastors of our convention feel like the satellite buffalo. Secondly, Brunson mentioned a book that two very successful female ad execs wrote once they had built a company from the ground up. The title of the book was what these two women believed was the key to their whole success. The book was called, The Power of Nice.

In his second point, the exact wording of which I did not get, he focused on verse 8 of I Peter 3. He discussed a minister not returning evil for evil or insult for insult. We all have this emotional itch called the flesh and it always tempts us with the conviction that we always have to defend ourselves and our honor and return insult for insult. This is a natural reaction . But the Bible tells us that we don’t have to. The best thing that Satan can do is to knock us off our game – off our rhythm.

One final illustration was that Dr. Brunson showed pictures of a church in Germany in which its foundations had wasted away until one day the entire church (save the front facade) collapsed. Instead of building back the church, the town decided to just repair the facade and not to build the actual church back up. Now, all that remains is a beautiful facade without any church attached. Brunson encouraged pastors to rest or take pride in a precious and beautiful facade of a church if the foundation is crumbling. We must have a firm foundation.

Chuck Colson came to speak at the end of the evening and his focus was on leadership. Just a copule of quick highlights:

-Pastors have the eternal destiny of souls in their hands. We must not take this responsibility lightly.

– [quoting Spurgeon] “we must tremble lest we misspeak the word of God”

-being a pastor is an awesome charge and we must approach the ministry with great humility

-not only are you called to preach, but you have been called to lead as a pastor.

-we are not to pander the people and tell them all that they want to hear, but we must preach the word of God and lead the people toward His glory.

Well, this was the conference for Sunday evening. Bonnie and I are looking forward to tomorrow. Bonnie will be attending the Pastor’s Wives Institute during the morning, while I will remain with the other ministers for the continuance of the Pastors’ Conference. The speakers slated for tomorrow include Mike Landry, Ed Stetzer, Francis Chan, and Tom Eliff in the morning. During the afternoon, Michael Catt, Fred Luter, Jr., and Mike Huckabee will speak. Finally, to conclude the conference that evening, Alvin Reid, David Platt, and Johnny Hunt (Hunt is the current and most likely to be re-elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention). Bonnie and I are looking forward to it! God bless…

>Looking ahead to the Southern Baptist Convention

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I start off this week looking ahead to a very busy couple of days. I have to wrap everything up so that Bonnie and I can go to Louisville, KY on Friday to attend the Southern Baptist Convention. This week I am spending my free time reading and preparing for the class that I will take at Southern Seminary in conjunction with the annual meeting. Here are the books that I am reading:

Baptist Reformation by Jerry Sutton

Baptists and the Bible by Russ Bush and Tom Nettles

Uneasy in Babylon by Barry Hankins

A Hill on Which to Die by Judge Paul Pressler

The class, based on my reading and the required texts, appears to be a study on the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, which began in 1979. Interestingly, this year’s annual meeting marks the 30th Anniversary of the 1979 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston, TX where Dr. Adrian Rogers was elected as president of the convention and marked the first time a conservative, inerrantist was elected to the Presidency. From that point to the present day, all of the elected presidents have held to the authority of Scripture.

I have just finished reading the Baptist Reformation and have been exposed to the details of the reason for the Conservative Resurgence and the truth surrounding the opposition espoused by the moderates and liberals of the convention. To say the least, reading that book has been eye-opening. I am in the process of reading the Baptists and the Bible, which is another great read. The thesis of this book is that Baptist history tells us that Baptists – from John Smyth and Roger Williams all the way to Herschel Hobbs – have believed in the full authority, trustworthiness, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture. It is only through the influence of the modernist theological movement with an emphasis on higher criticism in the mid-late 19th Century that influenced many Protestant theologians (including Southern Baptists) to move away from a high view of Scripture. This has given me confidence and pride to know that Baptists have been traditionally a Bible believing faith. In this regard, the Conservative Resurgence was a needed corrective against the modernist tide.

Another milestone that Bonnie and I will get to participate in is the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, of which I am a student. I am proud to be a student at a seminary that has reclaimed its heritage as a bastion of conservative theological convictions. Under the leadership of Dr. R. Albert Mohler, the school has become one of the flagship seminaries in the United States, if not the world. It will be enjoyable to finally listen and watch in person speeches and comments made by Mohler and other faculty that I respect at this event.

I am enjoying my reading and looking forward to the next few days in studying the Southern Baptist Convention and witnessing it in action at the annual meeting.