SBC

SBC Executive Committee Disfellowships “Third Way” Church—Why?

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee has voted to disfellowship New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, CA, due to their position to “affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,” which violates Article III of the SBC Constitution.  Danny Cortez, the pastor of New Heart, advocates a “third way” in which their leaders can hold varying perspectives regarding same-sex marriage, the Baptist Press reports

BP also reports that Cortez attended the Executive Committee meeting, addressing both the by-laws and administrative committee—both of whom prayed for Cortez and his church.  The vote to disfellowship was unanimous.  Cortez endorsed homosexuality back in February, causing a ripple effect and thus this addressing of the issue at the Executive Committee. 

In reality, the SBC EC had little choice.  Southern Baptists have long stood on the biblical truth of one man-one woman union in marriage, and will not change that direction anytime soon—for which I am grateful.  This will not be the last church to come to such conclusions—and it’s not the first.  But through this, we see patterns that have plagued churches faithfulness to Scripture throughout history—and New Heart’s position is no exception.

People first, Scripture second.  Cortez shared that “I recently became gay affirming after a 15-year journey of having multiple people in my congregation come out to me every year.”  The danger for all pastors is to look at people’s situations, then judge whether the Scriptures ties in to the ‘reality’ of their situation.

An appeal to biblical ‘context.’  In Cortez’s February 2014 sermon, he argued “Romans 1 does not condemn all homosexual acts but only those committed in a spirit of violence or unbridled lust. He said modern homosexual relationships are different from the ancient forms of homosexuality Paul was referencing” (BP).  Let’s look at the passage to which he refers:

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

One does not need to know Greek to recognize that Paul (and ultimately the Holy Spirit) does not give any distinction—especially the distinction of ‘a spirit of violence or unbridled lust.’  The act of homosexuality itself is a shameless act.  It’s a difficult task to appeal to context, especially when every portion of Scripture looks at homosexuality as harmful to self and soul (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21, etc.). 

The core principle is a failure to honor, thank, worship, or acknowledge God” (Romans 1:18-32).  Appealing to context is a way to lessen God’s clear Word for personal and ‘loving’ purposes, thus taking away the necessary accountability needed. 

The pattern continues in that those who disagree with Cortez’s stance reflect a lack of love for homosexuals.  Do we want an ancient document like the Bible to squelch the love we should have for those, even loving them to the point of affirming their lifestyle choice?  

Then there’s a stark denial of orthodox truth.  I echo Frank Page, EC President:  we love all with the truth, and pray for those who say they love Christ but turn from His Word to repent.   God calls pastors to serve as stewards of the truth of God’s Word—not to find a third way between holiness and sin.

Mike Routt, fellow Colorado pastor who serves as chairman of the SBC EC as well as pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, rightly said, “”Mr. Cortez, the issue is not just about homosexuality.  It is about the collision of our orthodox faith and your radical theology. We advocate Jude 3: Contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints. You advocate reinterpreting the faith that was once entrusted to the saints.”

So from an associational level to a state convention level to now the Executive Committee, the SBC continues to take a necessary stand.  The enemy’s arrows may come, but here they stand.  I know a number of men serving on that committee, and they’ve stayed consistent and true to their love of Scripture and the Savior it proclaims. 

Again, I’m grateful!

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A Closer Look at What It Means to Be a Southern Baptist

The Southern Baptist Convention (a denomination of which I’m proudly a part) has updated their website.  I encourage you to take a look around, especially at the page, “A Closer Look: What It Means to Be a Southern Baptist,” which goes into some detail about what we’re all about.  One of the things I like best about the SBC is the Cooperative Program.  They have a very cool graphic on that page, which is reproduced below:

It’s always good to cooperate, knowing that the funds given by the churches’ members, who are part of local, autonomous churches who give and cooperate at a level they see fit. 

Take time not only to read up on this page, but to peruse around the sparkly new site. 

Take that next step!

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Baptist Twenty-One 2013 at the SBC Annual Meeting

B21′s panel at this year’s SBC discussed discipleship, cooperation, Calvinism, cultural engagement (in particular the homosexuality debate), and more.  The panel included: Danny Akin, Matt Carter, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, and David Platt.

I was thankful to attend this with my wife and Jim Misloski, our state missions coordinator among Colorado Baptists.  So thankful for the responses these men gave to these various issues. 

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Great Commission Baptists? Reflections on the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting (Part II)

Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC brings a powerful message entitled:  “Will Southern Baptists Be Great Commission Baptists?  Six Marks of a Great Commission People” from (Romans 15:14-24).  Please watch this:

May God continue to give us Southern Baptists and all evangelicals a Great Commission heart. 

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My Reflections on the SBC Annual Meeting (Part I)

I am now back in Denver after spending the last few days at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastor’s Conference and Annual Meeting.  I was blessed on a number of fronts by this meeting—and am growing more and more encouraged by the direction our convention is taking. 

Over the next few days, I hope to give some reflections on our denomination’s get-together.  But let me start with some things that encouraged me:

First, I love the direction of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).  For me, the highlight was Monday’s (free) lunch that the NAMB sponsored, where Kevin Ezell and others gave a report and rallied the troops to begin planting churches (15,000 in the next ten years).  With Denver being a SEND North America city (one of twenty) that has a need of more of a gospel presence, I am all on-board.  Plus, knowing that men like Dave Howeth (Church Planting Coordinator of the NAMB) and Jim Misloski (State Missions Director for Eastern Colorado) are on our team here makes me glad I am in Colorado.  God is starting to stir our church (Arapahoe Road Baptist Church) into considering the possibilities of planting.  This lunch in particular and the NAMB in general stoked the fire even more.

Secondly, I’m thankful for Fred Luter, Jr., being the president of our convention.  Dr. Luter serves as Pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, and possesses a heart to reach the lost and unify the convention under the banner of Christ.  His sermon on Tuesday night possessed a power and an unction of the Spirit in my own heart to such a degree that I felt the stirrings of revival take place in me.  All this at a convention meetingAbsolutely!  Such is another encouraging direction in the SBC and its annual meeting.  I love one particular quote from his sermon:  “Nothing can be politically right if it’s biblically wrong.”  Should his talk ever become available, I will be sure to link to it on this blog. 

Thirdly, I’m thankful for unifying conversations.  As you may have heard, the Southern Baptists have had a controversy stemming between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.  So, rather than talk at and around each other, Dr. Frank Page of the Executive Committee started a conversation with a 19-member Calvinism Advisory Committee, containing both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.  The report that came out showed a unity even amidst the disagreements

“We can talk like brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can work urgently and eagerly together,” the 3,200-word report reads. “We have learned that we can have just this kind of conversation together, and we invite all Southern Baptists to join together in this worthy spirit of conversation. But let us not neglect the task we are assigned. The world desperately needs to hear the promise of the Gospel.”

As one who calls himself a Calvinist, I have never really understood how, in the scope of history of Spurgeon and Edwards and even Calvin himself, how one could dispute the need to evangelize.  Even Jesus said, “All that the Father has given to me will come to me” (showing God’s sovereignty in calling a people to himself) “and whoever believes in me, I will in no ways cast out” (showing our responsibility in responding to the call—and even the fact that Jesus himself issued that call).  Consider Calvin’s own words:

Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace . . . even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom He foreknew and predestined (John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, trans. J. K. S. Reid (London: James Clarke and Co., Limited, 1961, p. 9).

And also this:

God certainly desires nothing more than for those who are perishing and rushing toward death to return to the way of safety. This is why the gospel is today proclaimed throughout the world, for God wished to testify to all the ages that he is greatly inclined to pity (John Calvin, Calvin: Commentaries (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963), vol. 23, The Library of Christian Classics, eds. Baillie, McNeill, and Van Dusen, 402).

As mentioned in my previous sermon from June 2, God does not send anyone to hell against their will

So I thought this conversation was very important, because it all stems around the effect and execution of the Great Commission.  This report finally began to help many see regarding both sides that we know that God is the one who saves, and that we want that to happen in Christ.  Yes, there may be some differences—and that will elicit another conversation, I’m sure.  But we’re all on-board for the Great Commission.  So let’s ‘go’ and get it done for the cause of Christ.

More reflections next time regarding the Boy Scouts Resolution.

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Helpful Understanding of What Makes Southern Baptists, Southern Baptists

Southern Baptists.  Depending on your vantage point, this denominational designation can bring about some strong feelings. Our history began with a commitment to missions and a commitment to the clear teachings of Scripture (a good thing)—but it also began as a split from Northern Baptists in 1845 because Southern Baptists did not see a problem with slaveowners being missionaries (a very bad thing, in my opinion).

Sometimes Southern Baptists are known more for what we are against than what we are for.  In this post, I want to focus exclusively on what we are for.  By virtue of explaining what we are for, we will also by implication state what we are not for.  Even so, given the wide umbrella that is the Southern Baptist Convention, I aim to use the acronym ‘Baptist’ to help clarify who we are and what we by and large believe.

Below is an excerpt that we send to our new members at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church

Biblical Authority: We hold to the Holy Bible (also known as the Scriptures or the Word of God) for everything we do in faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God breathes out every word of Scripture so that we may grow to full maturity and be given all we need for all He desires of us.

Autonomy of the Church. What this means is that this church, though one Southern Baptist church of many, is a group of baptized believers who have made a commitment to each other around the Scriptures. We operate as God directs our specific church, directing each person who has joined this church. Only Christ through the Scriptures and none other directs what we do. To read up further on this, go to Matthew 16:15-19; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 6:3-6; Acts 13:1-3.)

Priesthood of the Believer. This means that each believer in Christ can go directly to God the Father through Jesus Christ on His own. While we are certainly accountable under the leadership of the church to whom we belong (Hebrews 13:7-19), we may go to God in adoration, confession of sin, thanksgiving, and making requests to Him without anyone else’s permission.

Two Ordinances: An ordinance is an act that was ordained and practiced by Jesus himself during His earthly ministry. Those two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper serves as a divine object lesson to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins: the breaking of His body (the bread) and the shedding of His blood (the cup) for the forgiveness of our sins. Baptism comes from the word meaning ‘to immerse.’ Only those who have said they would surrender their all to Jesus were baptized. It is not the last step of salvation, but the first step of obedience—testifying to the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ.

International, North American, and Local Missions. ARBC is like all Southern Baptists in that we long to reach Centennial and Colorado and the corners of the earth. Southern Baptists have over 5,000 full-time missionaries worldwide and numerous other missionaries here in North America working to bring those who are far from God near to Christ. ARBC has been involved in missions to Alaska, Canada, Hungary—along with other missions fronts coming up. Missions work is a defining distinction among Southern Baptists.

Salvation by grace alone to faith alone to the glory of God alone. We are not saved by what we do to gain points with God—we are saved by surrendering and trusting in what Christ has already done through his work on the cross for our sins. Faith plus works does not save (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we see that as Christians our faith will work itself in our lives. We live out whom we love (Ephesians 2:10).

Two Offices. Scripture speaks of two ministry offices in the church: pastor (also called elder, bishop, or overseer in Scripture) and deacon. Their leadership only comes in service to the church in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs therein, but comes ultimately from God.

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New SBC President Bryant Wright Press Conference

Dr. Bryant Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, GA, is the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, serving a two-year term (2010-2012).  I confess, I was not familiar with Dr. Wright’s ministry, but after listening to his press conference, I am very optimistic as our convention moves forward.

I was happy at the  tone of the SBC Annual Meeting this year in Orlando.  While there was some disagreement regarding the extent and nature of the recommendations of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, I was grateful to Dr. Ronnie Floyd in how flexible he and the 22 members of that committee were in making sure that the Cooperative Program received its due as the primary vehicle for missions giving in the SBC.

The SBC Pastor’s Conference and Annual Meeting is in Phoenix, Arizona next year (June 12-15, 2011).  While I’m not sure about me attending this one, I will certainly be more involved in denominational affairs as we seek to advance His Kingdom.

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The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention (Albert Mohler)

This is an address I pray all of our members would hear regarding my beloved denomination. May we listen with great discernment.

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Are We Swimming in the Same Direction? Lessons from "Finding Nemo"

Last night, after our venture to the Newport Aquarium near Cincinnati, we came home to watch Finding Nemo (Pixar) for some relaxation and for the kids to see if they recognized any of the fish they saw at the aquarium.

In the process, I was struck by one of the last major scenes of the movie. Rather than try to describe the scene, I hope you’ll watch it. It is the portion where the fish are caught in some fishermen’s nets and what they do to escape.

Here’s the clip:

What do we see here? An allegory of sorts. An allegory is “a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another” (Dictionary.com). In other words, most of the items in this story represent something in real life. So here we go.

The fish represent us at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church

How? None of us live the same type of lives, do we? Even in my house, though we have the same last name go about our lives in slightly different directions and from different perspectives. When it comes to backgrounds, jobs, mindsets over the temperature of the house, how to wash dishes, what to eat for dinner–we come at life from different perspectives and directions.

Each of the fish in this scene is heading in a similar direction, but clearly they are on their own. In other words, they are together, but they are not together. What gets them together?

They see the net coming (more on what that net means in a moment), so they reverse course in an attempt to save their lives! So they see a common threat. Fear has a way of galvanizing a group–even members of a church. It could be fear of having no money, a fear of becoming obsolete, a fear of change from the traditions developed and held dear, a fear of not being relevant, a fear of having less and less influence, etc. But notice that even this fear does not bring unity–these fish were on their own. They were heading in the same direction for the purpose of escaping the net.

Let’s talk about this net

This net represents a group that is stuck. Groups become ‘stuck’ for various reasons. This group of fish grew this way due to an enemy coming along wishing to capture these fish in order to sell them. From the enemy’s perspective, these fish are an ends to a means.

Yet, these fish recognize that them being ‘stuck’ in this situation will lead to certain death. And in many ways, those fish understand better the dire consequences of being ‘stuck’ in this nature–for it will lead to death. In Boone’s Creek’s case, it may not lead to death by way of extinction, but it will lead to the death of our influence and witness and Kingdom effectiveness.

We must understand that there are ways in which we must be ‘stuck.’

  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the Scriptures (Psalm 119:15-16; John 17:17);
  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) by whom all Christians are to be identified through baptism (Matthew 28:19).
  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15; John 3:1-21);
  • We must be stuck in the “one anothers.”
  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the body of Christ that clearly proclaims Christ and His gospel (Col. 2:6-15).

Yet what are ways that we fish may grow stuck?

Music

This is clearly the biggest flashpoint. As one who served as minister of music for ten years, I understand how so many view the music used in the worship service. For many, if the music isn’t their style, they say they ‘haven’t worshiped.’ This is particularly troublesome, because we should worship based upon what Christ has accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection. Our worship should hinge on this, not on man-made compositions and styles. We must beware that if a style of music affects our ‘worship,’ we will become worshipers of music (and that, dear friends, is the epitome of an idol) (Jeremiah 2:9-11; Romans 1:18-23).

Man-made traditions

I equate some traditions to lint in the lint trap of my dryer. (Now, hang with me on this one.) The more the clothes roll along in the dryer, the more lint accumulates. For many churches, the more time rolls along, the more traditions accumulate until they become as much a part of the church as the furniture in the sanctuary. And as generations inherit these firmly-grasped traditions, they become more aware of these traditions than of Christ and the gospel. This is part of the reason why so many Southern Baptists (SBCers) are sucked into other cults: they know their traditions, and as such they know the terms we evangelicals use (salvation, eternal life, church, Christ, the Bible), but they don’t know the substance of those terms. So when cults come along using the same verbiage yet having a clearly different meaning, SBCers take the bait and become stuck in a false religion with a false gospel giving false assurance. Yet, what they have done is simply exchanged one man-made tradition for another.

This is why it is good to evaluate and clean out the lint traps frequently before the lint gets into the machinery. Isaiah 29:13 says:

And the Lord said:”Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.”

Memories

Like music, memories are powerful in churches. While God provides this function of ‘memory’ as a great gift, the flesh and the devil use this as a net in which we may be stuck. Like the changes in music or moving away from traditions, changes in the church may come about because of a memory some may have. For instance:

  • We cannot change the baptistry. My granddaughter and daughter were baptized in that baptistry.
  • We cannot change the color of the walls. Why, Sister Sue painted this in this manner years ago! She put so much effort into it!
  • We cannot tear down our old sanctuary! I was married in that building, as was my parents! I came to faith in Christ in that sanctuary. It would be unbearable to tear it down.

Could I go on? While these examples are not real (at least, I’ve never come across them), I know some from other churches who have. And maybe some in our church have certain things in our church that really effects them if they are moved, changed, redirected, or reset.

So as we must not make an idol of our musical preference, or our man-made traditions, we must not bow down to the idol our memories. One person once said, The past is meant to be learned from, not lived in. It is good to look back on our memories, but we must glean out the lessons from them as we move forward.

How Did The Fish Become… “Unstuck”?

In the movie, Dory is caught in the net with the rest of the fish. Nemo remembers how they escaped in the fishtank earlier in the movie: each of the fish in the net swam down. Their collective power and energy helped them break away. So Nemo instructs the fish to do the same thing. Eventually, they break out of that net and are free.

Those fish had to receive outside instruction on what to do. This is the same with us as followers of Christ. In our own fearful state, we can cling to music, traditions, memories, etc. to find that much-coveted stability.

Or …

We receive outside instruction from the Word and the Spirit and we all move in the same direction with the same purpose for the same glory of God.

Preaching and teaching and read the Word of God is that outside instruction. And as the Spirit begins to apply that Word to our hearts at Boone’s Creek, we will soon be heading in the same direction.

Those fish had to act on those instructions given. Receiving the Word so that the Word grips you is so key. Now, it’s time to bear that fruit. The Spirit regenerates our hearts, causing us to be born again. Through the Spirit, God gives us the faith to believe in His Son (something we could not do on our own). Then the Spirit sanctifies our hearts as His will becomes more prominent. In other words, the flesh has less and less influence as the Spirit has more and more. Our actions which come from these instructions are not actions in hope of salvation, but are actions which give evidence to that salvation.

Closing Thoughts

Some churches, like many businesses, are about mission statements and vision statements. We have ours as well: We aim to spread the glory of God from our neighbors to the nations. Yet, we failed to be dialed in to the fact that every sermon preached, every lesson taught, every hymn sung–all these things are used by the Holy Spirit to craft a vision into the hearts of all Christians at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church.

We must come into our times of worship with this understanding: God’s Word is his revelation, his vision, for his people. We don’t wait for something to be “relevant” (a very self-serving word) before we’ll listen. We listen and prayerfully absorb even if it doesn’t seem to be personally relevant to us. It’s in His Word, and God has given preachers and teachers to help us understand that He put these things in His Word for a purpose.

Christ brought the fish into the boat (salvation), and he brought His fish together here at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church (membership)–now what will our fish look like? A me-first attitude, a fearful attitude, or a faithful attitude as we all swim together in the same direction toward the same Christ for the same purpose?

All this from a kids’ movie! Isn’t God amazing?

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Is Church Membership Really Necessary? (From the Archives – 8.15.06)

At our Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, the issue of regenerate church membership arose. This is also an issue that has come up amongst our leadership here at Boone’s Creek. What does it mean to be a member of a church? Here are some takes on this.

Southern Baptist Mistake by Mark Dever (HT: Mark Combs)

Where Is Membership in the Bible? by Mark Dever

Is Church Membership Optional? by Stephen Pribble

Sadly, the United Methodist Church seems to be very misguided about biblical membership, as referenced in this article.

What think ye? Do we make too much of a deal about church membership? No, church membership does not save, but is it an essential component for our Christian lives? Or can one be a good spiritual follower of Christ without being involved in any organized Christian assembly?

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