Month: October 2009

Criswell College enrollment official linking with churches

DALLAS?In the four decades since W.A. Criswell founded the school, Criswell College has pursued its mission of “serving the churches of Jesus Christ by developing God-called men and women for ministry leadership.” Andrew Hebert is traveling Texas, making sure the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are aware of the benefits of a Criswell College education.

As the newly named director of enrollment services, Hebert serves as a liaison between the college and the SBTC. He said he plans to deliver a two-fold message?challenging those God-called servants to commit their lives to ministry and encouraging them to prepare at the Dallas-based school.

“For those who are interested in either full-time ministry or just want to be better prepared as a believer, I will be encouraging them to take a class or start a degree at Criswell College.”

He said SBTC churches will enjoy the benefit of Criswell graduates, who prove to be conservative pastors, missionaries and Christian leaders who will serve Southern Baptist churches with doctrinal clarity, missionary fervor and moral integrity.

“I will be working to build relationships with pastors and churches so that we can explore new and creative opportunities to partner together for ministry in the future” and build a stronger connection between SBTC churches and Criswell College, raising awareness for the school and preaching messages that will challenge people to a stronger commitment to Christ, he said.

Hebert earned his bachelor of arts in biblical studies from Criswell and is currently working on the master of arts in theological and biblical studies with an emphasis in New Testament. Last year he received the Paige Patterson Preaching Award. He has pastored two churches in North Texas, encouraging evangelistic outreach that led to contacting every house within a 10-mile radius of the last congregation he led in Sumner.

“Although young, Andrew Hebert has become a seasoned pastor of a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention church,” noted SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards. “He is a Criswell grad who can represent the values that the college and SBTC share. Andrew models what other young ministers can do by going to Criswell,” Richards added.

Whether a church needs a preacher for a revival, regular church service or an event like DiscipleNow, Hebert is glad to travel to Texas churches at the school’s expense. “Criswell College is the best place in the state of Texas to prepare for ministry and I want to get that message to the churches,” Hebert said.

“We have a servant-hearted and scholarly faculty. We require more classes in biblical studies and theology than any other undergraduate program in the state and more than many graduate programs.”

With convenient class schedules and low tuition rates, Criswell College remains well below the national average for private Christian education, he said.

“We offer the kind of specialized training that is hard to find anywhere else.”

Q&A: Mike Gonzales, Hispanic Initiative/Ethnic Ministries director

TEXAN: For those who don’t know, briefly outline the ministry assignment of the Hispanic Initiative/Ethnic Ministries team at the SBTC.

GONZALES: It has expanded in the last year. In addition to Spanish-language groups, our team is serving a greater number of Asian people groups. We are still very involved with the Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas, which meets once a year for a fellowship.

TEXAN: What is the status of the Hispanic Initiative and the Hispanic Education Superhighway, a collaboration between the SBTC, Southwestern Seminary, Jacksonville College and Criswell College?

GONZALES: At this point we are still developing and growing but we have had some success stories. We had our first graduate at Jacksonville College last spring, Manuel Giron. He received his certificate, which is 26 hours. He is now studying in a seminary and was able to transfer all hours, and that is the purpose of the Education Superhighway. We want to raise up a generation of Hispanic ministers with higher education. Now we have six students who are studying at Criswell in the program. This next year we anticipate anywhere from five to seven additional students. That is a great success for us. B.B. Alvarez of Criswell College is chairman of the commission for our Hispanic Education Superhighway.

TEXAN: What changes have you seen in your five years at the SBTC?

GONZALES: We’ve seen phenomenal growth at the Spanish-language session of the Evangelism Conference. Last year we had 1,000 people at our rally at First Baptist Colleyville and we had 100 professions of faith as church folks brought family and friends. We had greater attendance at the Hispanic Women’s Conference. In Houston this year, we had over 650 ladies attending. Youth Week at Alto Frio has grown, along with a singles conference, a men’s conference that is coming up at Mount Lebanon in Cedar Hill–numerous events that are well executed and meet a need in the ministry to Spanish-language people. We had a marriage conference that drew more than 200 people last month and was very well received.

One highlight recently was a regional Hispanic conference at Central Baptist in College Station last August with 120 people joining us for a weekend of inspiration and relaxation away from the rigors of ministry.

We are going to be doing three Hispanic Leadership Conferences in 2010, along with a pastor-wives retreat in Fort Worth for two nights. We will be inviting 25 of our pastors on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a real need for these connection points in our service to Hispanic and ethnic churches.
In addition to these, we have an annual Asian retreat in the summer that drew over 150 people; they met at Chinese Baptist Church in Arlington for a two-night retreat. It was a very inspirational time of fellowship that brought together Laotians, Chinese, Indians, people from all ethnic groups came together with English as the common unifier. Last year, Dr. [Jim] Richards was our keynote speaker.

TEXAN: Bruno Molina joined the staff last year. What is Bruno’s role?

GONZALES: Of course, he’s shared by the evangelism department and our department. Next year he will be in charge of the Hispanic session at the Evangelism Conference. He will also lead the pastor and wives retreat and the four Hispanic leadership conferences. On the evangelism side, he is leading the Muslim outreach trainings that are very, very succcessful. He also this year did a Muslim Awareness Meeting with African American pastors, which was very successful.

TEXAN: As Texas becomes more diverse, how will Southern Baptists need to adapt?

GONZALES: The challenge remains in reaching out to the immigrant, and also the Hispanics who are bilingual and bicultural. Many people groups from various Latin American countries are here. The culture and customs, foods, are all different. When you have in the same congregation Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Mexicans, that’s a hodgepodge and that could become a problem unless the pastor is able to manage the differences by creating an authentic Christian unity. That’s one of the biggest challenges we have is finding pastors who can unify these various culture groups.

TEXAN: How can people pray for your ministry?

GONZALES: Continue to pray for the Hispanic Education Superhighway so that more students can take part. Our future ministry will depend on these students. And also, that the SBTC would pray for our various events throughout the year, that we would continue to build up and equip the churches we serve.

Family is important to Jim Bob Duggar, father of TV show ’18 Kids & Counting’

JACKSONVILLE  Students and families from the area surrounding Jacksonville College and the affiliated BMA seminary affirmed the pro-family message of Jim Bob Duggar and his 20-member family as he spoke to a chapel audience Oct. 6.


The event provided a reunion between Duggar and his second cousin, Philip Attebery, the dean-registrar and professor of Christian education at the seminary. The two cousins share a common great uncle, the late Dr. John Duggar, who was president of the Jacksonville-based seminary from 1973 through 1983.


As it turned out, more than just seminary students came to hear the Duggar clan, as homeschool families and fans of the show came to the school’s chapel. Those attending were not disappointed as the Duggars sang, quoted from memory Exodus 20, played violins, and heard the life testimony from Jim Bob and Michelle in a chapel that lasted a little over an hour.


Specifically, Duggar said he came to encourage the seminary students to make wise decisions early in their ministry career, being firmly rooted in God’s word. He shared that while there was a time when he considered going into the ministry, he never felt led, even though Duggar was born on a Sunday and was in church the following Sunday.


The Duggars encouraged the students to adhere to biblical principles of finances and referred them to resource links on their web page, Early on in their marriage, the Duggars purposed to live debt-free, a goal that became harder as their family grew.


And how their family grew!


The Duggars spoke on the day which the episode “20 years, 20 Duggars” aired, which recounted their 25th wedding anniversary and depicted the renewal of their vows and the births of all 18 of their children over the past 20 years. Michelle is also now pregnant with her 19th child, which will cause the show to undergo another name change from its original name “17 Kids & Counting.” But the first major national exposure of the ever-growing Duggar family came with the 2004 Discovery Health and TLC documentary entitled “14 Children and Pregnant Again.”


Neither Jim Bob nor Michelle came from large families and say that they didn’t plan on having this many children in the early stage of their marriage. Jim Bob shared that he grew up in a financially struggling family, but one in which his mother faithfully took them to church and taught them to trust the Lord.


When the Lord provided, Jim Bob was quick to give praise to the Lord, so much so that once when he and his sister were provided a way to go to youth camp, Jim Bob sang praises throughout the house until his sister Deanna finally cried out, “Mom, can you tell Jim Bo to quit singing,” Michelle recounted.


In addition to good financial stewardship, the Duggars gave testimony of being faithful to the Lord in dating relationships. Early on, Jim Bob made a commitment to not date “anyone who didn’t love Jesus as much as I did.”


His first meeting with Michelle came actually on an evangelism visit to her house shortly after she was first saved. While she vaguely remembers a short quiet guy who sat on her couch while another guy did all the talking, Jim Bob said he remembers praying to God to let him disciple this beautiful cheerleader.


“This just shows the power of prayer,” Jim Bob beamed, as Michelle gazed lovingly at him.


Later Michelle turned her love life over to the Lord and after breaking up with a boy who wasn’t as excited about Christ as she was, she began talking with Jim Bob.



Partnership in New York ripe with opportunity, planters say


ARLINGTON, N.Y.–“We are literally in the center of the biggest mission field in the United States,” explained Sean Pierce, director of missions in the Hudson Baptist Association of New York, citing statistics that show 2 percent of people in upstate New York and New England profess a recognizable Christian testimony.

“That means we would be as likely to run into another believer in most of China and almost all of Russia as we are here in New York,” Pierce said. “Church planting and making disciples is the very best way to reach the area with the gospel.”

The irony: it was once the American Bible Belt.

Within the 12-county area of the Hudson Baptist Association, a million and a half people populate the medium-sized cities and quaint villages that string their way along the Hudson River Valley from Dutchess County, about an hour north of New York City, up to the northern half of eastern New York state. In the Hudson Baptist Association, 30 Southern Baptist churches exist and other churches with a biblical gospel witness are rare.

There are a few Evangelical Free churches and Christian Missionary Alliance congregations, but the area is overwhelmingly irreligious despite generational Catholicism and tepid mainline churches that are often near empty.
Where religiosity is most fervent, it is likely to be rooted in occult practices or New Age mysticism. The largest New Age training center in America is in the area.

“We have Woodstock right up the road,” church planter Pete Shults said on a stop in Hurley, about an hour and a half north of New York City. “Of course the concert was held in nearby Bethel, but Woodstock became a New Age haven.”

Within 15 minutes is the town of New Paltz, home to a State University of New York (SUNY) campus of 8,000-plus students and a city where the mayor made news in 2004 by presiding over an illegal marriage ceremony for 30 homosexual couples.

Despite these factors, the people in New Paltz, Woodstock and other cities in New York state are receptive to the gospel, Pierce said, and we need more church planters to reach them.

As with large segments of the northeast region of the U.S., “the landscape is littered with old, mainline churches where the gospel is absent,” Pierce lamented. “There is more gospel to be found on the gravestones of some of the cemeteries than there is in the pulpits.”

Shults, a former businessman who grew up in Ulster County and was saved as an adult after attending a Bible study for three years and realizing he’d never personally acted upon the gospel message, has a heart for reaching his hometown friends and neighbors with the gospel and planting new congregations in cities along the Hudson Valley.

The church he planted three years ago, Cross Point Fellowship in the Hurley-Kingston area, rents an abandoned convent on the third floor of a Catholic High School. They are reaching people by faithfully teaching from the Bible and sharing the love of Jesus. Cross Point’s community service ministry has knocked down barriers, built bridges and is yielding increasing fruit.

Through Bible studies called “Discovery Groups,” the church started winning some converts. About 30 students show up for a weeknight Bible study; more than half are without a saving knowledge of Christ, and Shults told of one high school student who was surprised upon learning that the Bible was printed in English after thinking it was in Latin his entire life.

Shults described the church’s evangelism plan as “mining existing relationships” and building new ones. He also hopes to purchase a scanning device that would allow the church provide a service to homeowners by detecting heat loss areas in their homes, free of charge, that would cost homeowners several hundred dollars otherwise.

Heating costs are very high there, Pierce said, and the ministry idea of Shults’ could advance Southern Baptists’ outreach in the Northeast.
Shults noted that Cross Point has benefited from mission teams and financial support from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper, Texas, as well as several other Texas churches in the Sabine Neches Baptist Area.

Cross Point is averaging 100 attenders in its worship services but is sacrificing one-third of its giving receipts to help start Lighthouse Community church in nearby Tillson with Rich and Melinda Wright, who were commuting to Cross Point, 20 minutes away. The Wrights live in Tillson and are holding services in a community fire house where Rich Wright had served as a volunteer firefighter.

Though not officially launched—they began holding weekly worship services in May—Rich teared up as he told of reaching some of his lifetime friends with the gospel after resisting it and even ridiculing it himself after his wife was converted. Frequent partiers then, Rich didn’t like his wife’s lifestyle changes.

“I was very critical; my heart was hard,” he said. Years later with three children in the house, Wright decided church might be useful. He started attending a Bible study and reading through Proverbs, discovering “His Word makes sense.”

“That encouraged me to read the rest of the Bible,” he said.

Wright told how God is orchestrating his leaving IBM earlier than he planned through a workforce reduction. He initially hoped to wait at least a year to 18 months while getting the church off the ground, but the workforce reduction may result in a severance package, which would expedite the process. The Wrights don’t know where the long-term income will come from except for a belief that they are in God’s will.

Another church planter Shults is partnering with, along with Hudson Baptist Association, is Derek Duncan, who came to the Poughkeepsie area, about an hour north of New York City, in August from Memphis, Tenn.

He and his wife, Dana, are in the initial stages of planting a church there. Dana Duncan has a music background and is volunteering with the marching band at a large high school where the Duncans’ daughter, who is a band member, attends. In desperately seeking a home to rent after a lease opportunity fell through, family in tow and living in a motel, Derek reluctantly called a realtor, who asked what the Southerner was doing relocating to the Poughkeepsie area.

“Not knowing what his response would be, I told him I was here to plant a church. He said, ‘I’ve been praying that someone would come and plant a good church here.”

Norm, the realtor, has become a great friend and supporter of the Duncans, Derek said.

Stopping at a pizza restaurant to meet a group of Texas Baptist pastors who were visiting with Shults and Duncan to learn of partnership opportunities in the Hudson Baptist Association, Norm paused briefly when asked what the greatest need in the area was, answering, “They need hope. There is just an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. And they don’t know why they are hopeless.”

The Duncans hope to present a passion play at Easter in 2011 as a community outreach; Norm serves on the board of a theater in the Poughkeepsie area that is the oldest theater in New York state, Derek said.

One obstacle in the Poughkeepsie area is a strong occult presence, said Derek, emphasizing his desire that Southern Baptists pray on their behalf as the church plant looks for meeting space and divine appointments.

Outlining his vision for helping plant more churches, Shults said Cross Point seeks to be “an engine and an incubator” for church planting in these surrounding cities and towns.

The association, with the blessing of the New England Baptist Convention, even helped plant a church, New Life Community Fellowhship, in the far western Massachusetts city of Pittsfield.

Pastored by Jeff Black, who came to the area 12 years ago from North Carolina, the church is attempting to plant a sister church 30 minutes north in North Adams, Mass.

Another missionary planter in the network of Hudson Association, Lyndrell Randall, is working to establish a new church, One Body in Christ Baptist Church, in an ethnically diverse area near downtown Albany. Currently meeting in the chapel of a newly built rescue mission, Randall was already a familiar face with passersby on downtown streets the day the Texas team of pastors visited him in late September.

Opportunities for Texas church to send short-term mission teams for service projects, Backyard Bible Clubs, prayer walking, sports camps and to provide financial help are ample and much needed, Pierce said.

For more information on the SBTC’s partnership with Hudson Baptist Association, e-mail Tiffany Smith at or call her toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC). Sean Pierce at Hudson Baptist Association may be contacted at

Texans on the September vision Tour to Hudson Baptist Association included Terry Stockman, pastor of First Baptist, Colmesneil; David Miller, associate director of missions in Sabine Neches Area; David Nugent, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist, Jasper; Jeff Griffith, youth minister at Hillcrest Baptist, Jasper; and Drifty Cates, pastor of Pineridge Baptist, Sour Lake.

The Cooperative Program: as necessary as ever

In May 1900, everyone in Hot Springs, Ark., was hoping for tranquility. Barely a year had passed since this hotbed of organized crime and illegal gambling had erupted into an open gunfight between corrupt Hot Springs police officers and corrupt Garland County sheriff’s deputies. Arkansas Baptists and the Hot Springs city fathers somewhat nervously prayed that Bathhouse Row would put its best foot forward for the Baptists of the Southland.

The leadership of the SBC were saying their own prayers for peace, knowing that the Hot Springs meeting would feature an ambitious and potentially controversial set of historic proposals for the Southern Baptist Convention?the fruit of an entire year’s effort by a task force known as the “Committee on Observance of the Year 1900.”

Franklin H. Kerfoot was the public spokesman of the task force, reading a report recommending unprecedented interagency cooperation among associational, state, and national Southern Baptist entities in denominational fundraising.

This was not change for change’s sake. Southern Baptists faced serious fundraising problems in 1900. The coterie of Southern Baptist entities was young, growing, and in desperate need of money. In 1900 Southern Baptist entities were seeking those funds independently of one another?in competition with one another. A class of Southern Baptist employees emerged whose sole business was to solicit money from Southern Baptist churches and wealthy church members. The multiplication of institutions and agents meant that some churches were inundated with people seeking a Sunday to speak at the church and take up an offering. The resultant distribution of funds was haphazard rather than strategic, reflecting more the skill, lineage, and network of the employed agents than the spiritual importance of the institution. Some agents were authorized to keep for themselves the solicited funds until their own salaries had been funded. The activity of these agents tended to provoke resentment among Southern Baptists. Consider this passage that appeared in the Missouri Baptist Word & Way in early 1901 as a measure of Southern Baptist angst:

“Every observing person must recognize the advance of a dread commercialism which is eating like a [cancer] at the vitals of our generation. . . . We are coming to believe that there should be no agents going up and down the land whose sole business it is to get money. . . . Let our agents change front, and instead of seeking only the money of the Lord’s people, let that whole matter take the secondary and incidental place where it belongs, and make piety, consecration of life and property the great burden of their message.”

The birth of the Cooperative Program

The delegates at the Hot Springs meeting weren’t the only ones looking for a solution. The First Baptist Church in Murray, Ky., “began in 1900 a new approach to church finance. [H. Boyce] Taylor, pastor 1897-1931, avidly promoted this unified budget plan.” Taylor’s idea proved to be the solution to accomplish all of the star-studded task force’s goals.

Radical changes are difficult to make in a voluntaristic union, especially among a people zealous for local-church autonomy and sometimes peevishly resistant to demagoguery. The statesmen of the SBC in the early 1900s employed a process marked by careful patience and deliberate inclusiveness that is worthy of note. Before proposing a permanent structural change to the operations of the Southern Baptist Convention, the leadership of the SBC embarked upon a one-time trial run called the Seventy-Five Million Campaign.

The time period from the launch of the Seventy-Five Million Campaign to the adoption of the Cooperative Program was fully six years, from 1919 to 1925. These six years were filled with a truly inclusive and thoroughgoing effort to involve and inform every Southern Baptist of the benefits to be gained by moving to such a plan. Southern Baptist laypeople across the South enlisted to give “four-minute speeches,” mimicking a successful grassroots fundraising campaign by the United States Government during World War I. The theological basis of this decentralized approach, however, was much older than Liberty Bonds; the new Southern Baptist plan back in 1900 involved state conventions, district associations, and local churches as well as the national convention.

Both in its successes and its failures, the Seventy-Five Million Campaign was time well spent in determining the future path for the SBC. It succeeded in demonstrating that Southern Baptist entities were better off financially to join in cooperative fundraising than to continue in internecine solicitation rivalries. Yet the

OPINION: Not one world

I loved it when Paul Harvey would abruptly say, “It’s not one world.” Whatever came next was going to be a zinger of weird behavior or political opinion, at least to most of Mr. Harvey’s listeners. What do you think he’d say of the “debate” regarding the punishment (his crime is admitted) of acclaimed director Roman Polanski.

What’s he accused of? According to then 13 year-old Samantha Geimer, the acclaimed director offered to take photos of her (without clothes as it turned out) to help with her acting career. He gave her alcohol and a Quaalude before trying to convince her to have sex with him. She resisted but raped her. Polanski pleaded guilty to the rape, although the details of the event are “alleged” because of a plea bargain. Seeing that he would likely go to jail, the world-class artist fled to France and has lived there since.

What’s to debate? Well, remember that Polanski is an Oscar-winning director, an artist in the minds of many. For the French (Polanski is now a French citizen) film community his artistic talent has some bearing on the consequences he should face for criminal behavior. French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand says that an America that would arrest Roman Polanski is the “America that scares us.” Other French newspapers refer to Polanski being persecuted for his art.

But it’s not even “one America.” American actress Whoopi Goldberg claims that Polanski’s crime was not “rape-rape.” Is there a way to describe non-consensual sex between a 13 year-old child and a man 30 years older that is palatable to civilized society? She, in defense of the director, added that we are “a different kind of society” than we were when Polanski was arrested 32 years ago. American directors and actors including Woody Allen, David Lynch, Michael Mann, and Martin Scorsese have signed a petition demanding Polanski’s release. Film producer Harvey Weinstein added, “Whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time.” I wouldn’t call 30 years of freedom and wealth “serving time.”

I’ve not heard any of these celebrity spokesmen suggest that Louis Soltren should be released. Soltren was recently arrested and charged with hijacking a plan to Cuba 41 years ago. Surely he’s also served his time, and in less luxury than the rapist. Or what about Dennis Bradford who was recently arrested here in Texas for raping an 8 year-old girl nearly 20 years ago? Maybe a petition for him should be arranged.

Two important principles occur to me as I read of the Polanski case. The first is pragmatic and the second is philosophical.

Pragmatically, I remember the warning of those who disagreed with our national move toward the un-defining of marriage. If marriage may be between a man and a man or a woman and a woman, then why not between adults and children or among more than two people, and so on. This case does relate to marriage because it involves sex. Even in our “different kind of society” we must acknowledge that sex that doesn’t disrupt a community is sex within the bounds of marriage. It is still true today and the many children born without benefit of married parents remind us of that verity.

To those who still call those earlier watchmen hysterical, I offer the reminder that some have offered legalized gay marriage as a justification for polygamy. And now the Hollywood subculture argues that a man who raped a child 30 years ago and then fled the country to avoid prosecution should be vindicated because our society has changed since then. That fuzzy logic could justify nearly anything.

Philosophically, we must recognize that Whoopi Goldberg’s 30-year age of enlightenment was caused by something and it has consequences that even she might find regrettable. Undeniably, attitudes toward marriage, extramarital sex, and single motherhood have changed. Those who try to clean up the effects of social catastrophes agree that divorce and single motherhood are leading causes of poverty in America. Who’s in favor of poverty? We also observe that the objectification of women in our culture has grown during this time. Who’s in favor of that?

In a selectively idealistic subculture like our entertainment industry, most people say justice for the weak, hungry, homeless, or sick is a high priority. That idealism joins other motives to explain movies that put black hats on faceless bureaucracy, the pharmaceutical industry, industrialists of all sorts, and most members of the military.

Union president: SBC has important role in changing world

JACKSON, Tenn.?David Dockery began his presentation about the rise and decline of Christian denominationalism by citing a 2009 Gallup poll: 16 percent of respondents said the role of denominations are important; 19 percent said the same thing about their brand of toilet paper and 21 percent about their brand of toothpaste.

Brand loyalty isn’t what it once was.

But, said Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., in addressing the conference “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism,” held Oct. 6-9 at Union, denominations and Southern Baptists, specifically, can play an important role if they wisely handle changing attitudes about church brands while continuing to provide the structure, accountability and doctrinal moorings necessary to carry forth the gospel mandate.

Dockery, one of 14 presenters at the conference, which included three members of the SBC’s Great Commissions Resurgence Task Force?seminary presidents Albert Mohler and Danny Akin, along with Dockery?prefaced his presentation with Ephesians 4:1-6, a text that speaks of keeping “the unity of the spirit with the bonds of peace” and “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

“Denominations that thrive,” Dockery said, “will remain convictionally connected to their tradition, the Scripture and the gospel, while working to explore new ways of partnership with affinity groups and networks, moving out of their insularity while seeking to understand better the changing global context.”

Dockery said the “new, interlocking networks” that began in the 1940s in the response of evangelicals to sweeping liberalism on the one hand and reactionary fundamentalism on the other “have formed and framed the center of American evangelicalism over the past 60 years” more so than denominations. Consequently, Dockery argued, most people at least partially identify with parachurch movements in addition to their denominational membership; for others, these “horizontal relationships” eclipse denominational identity.

A study this year reported 8 million people who self-identify as “nondenominational,” compared with 200,000 in 1990, Dockery said.

Quoting author Robert Wuthnow’s book “The Restructuring of American Religion,” Dockery said: “This shift toward transdenominational movements is the biggest change in Christianity since the Reformation. It’s the biggest change because people no longer think of themselves in vertical alignments. Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists?instead they think primarily around identifying marks like fundamentalists, conservatives, evangelicals, moderates, liberals, spiritualists. Thus liberal Anglicans and liberal Methodists have much more in common than liberal Anglicans and conservative Anglicans. Evangelical Baptists and evangelical Presbyterians have much more in common than liberal Baptists and evangelical Baptists.”

Dockery traced the explosion of Protestant denominations to the 16th and 17th century Puritans’ quest for a purer, more biblical form of Christian preaching and practice.

“Some things about the decline [of denominations] may be good; others may not be,” Dockery argued. “The question for us tonight is this: If the denominational structures that have carried forward Protestant Christianity since the 16th century are on the decline, what will carry the Christian faith forward in the 21st century? How are we going to respond to the challenges around us?”

To answer the question, Dockery said, one must follow the “chain of memory” along Christian history, which must not be lost in adjusting to 21st century challenges, he argued. Citing a book that described the profound memory loss of some amnesia patients that led to the loss of their personal identity, Dockery stated: “I fear that American Christianity is on the verge of losing its hope and its identity in a similar kind of disorientation. The problem for many is not so much doubt but a loss of memory.”

Dockery said evangelical theologians have admirably championed biblical fidelity and a sound theological core “but for the most part evangelicals have not done a good job of articulating a theology of the church.”

Stetzer: Denominations have future as ‘servants’ of churches on God’s mission

JACKSON, Tenn. (FBW) ? Although denominations are not clearly mandated by Scripture and today face significant challenges, they nevertheless have a future ? but only as servants of local churches on mission with God, Southern Baptist leader Ed Stetzer said Oct. 6 at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

For Southern Baptists, in particular, Stetzer argued for doctrinal consensus around the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a “sufficient guide” as well as methodological diversity that permits cooperation with biblically faithful churches that may preach, worship and serve Christ in ways traditional churches do not.

“If an SBC leader says that he cannot be in the same denomination with a contemporary church leader because of his or her personal convictions, then he or she needs to leave the Convention,” Stetzer said in calling for valuing of methodological diversity. “Why? Because that person has established a more narrow standard than the BFM 2000 states.”

Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and missiologistin residence of LifeWay Christian Resources, was the first speaker for Union’s conference, “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism.” The Oct. 6-9 conference is being held in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Baptist movement.

Speaking on the topic, “Denominationalism: Is There a Future?” Stetzer dismissed two faulty assumptions about denominationalism.

It is mistaken to assume “denominations are necessary or even an integral part of the mission of God. This is not to say that they are not, but, lacking a clear biblical commandment, we cannot assume that they should be,” he said.

Interpreting a role for denominations in the “life of local churches apart from the mission of God” is also wrong, according to Stetzer.

The mission of God is the key to “successfully navigating these waters of philosophical upheaval that have left many people wondering” about the future of denominations.

“Until we are assured of the role of denominations within the framework of God’s mission, we should assume them of necessity to be flexible, malleable and possibly even temporary. ? If denominations are to exist, it will be for the purpose of helping churches fulfill the Great Commission and join God on his mission,” he said.

Stetzer said there are several reasons why there is a future for denominations.

Denominations are “inevitable,” he said, because denominations are the best means of missions cooperation and because of their inherent self-preservation.

Stetzer said denominations are so inevitable that networks of independent churches are “proto-denominations” resembling denominations more than those involved would wish to admit.

Denominations also have a future because younger evangelicals today are “looking for a sense of rootedness in a fragmented society.”

“Whereas the Baby Boomers untied themselves from tradition and decided to chart their own course, many of the Baby Boomers’ children have begun to look back wistfully to the shore. They want the stability of a sturdy heritage,” he said.

“In a rapidly morphing age, the sense of historical solidarity and theological and ecclesial stability offered by a denominational heritage are a great value,” Stetzer added.

Doctrinal accountability rooted in confessions of faith is another reason for denominations in the future, Stetzer said, pointing to the drift to theological liberalism in independent churches and institutions.

Since there is a future for denominations, Stetzer committed most of his nearly 50-minute address to the type of denominations that should exist.

Answering the question, “What kind of denominationalism is desirable?” Stetzer cited four values: missional rather than tribal; confessional consensus; methodological diversity; and assisting churches, not vice versa.

Missional rather than tribal

“Denominations should be made up of churches that look outward rather than inward,” Stetzer said. While introspection is necessary, such should be “to focus us again on God’s global mission.”

“Tribal” denominations “deliver a message of ‘come and join us’ rather than ‘go and live for Christ.’ We focus on preserving who we are rather than proclaiming who He is,” Stetzer said.

Confessional consensus

Stetzer said there are five essential purposes of confessions of faith ? doctrinal statements ? for denominations: a common theology, a standard for denominational agencies, a source for local churches in affiliating and a tool for established churches, a “sentry against moving left,” and a “shield against excessive distinction” in which certain rules or distinctions are overemphasized.

Methodological diversity

Stetzer spoke at length about his concern that Southern Bap

Akin: SBC’s future ‘hopeful’ if committed to Great Commission

JACKSON, Tenn. (FBW) ? With “seismic changes” creating an “unprecedented” historical moment for the Southern Baptist Convention, Danny Akin is not optimistic about the future of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination but he is “hopeful” ? if Southern Baptists will fully commit themselves to the Lordship of Christ and His Great Commission.

If, on the other hand, Southern Baptists are not moved to a complete commitment to missions, “We don’t deserve a future,” Akin concluded in an Oct. 8 address on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Citing the promise of Rev. 7:9-10in which heaven will be populated by vast multitude of all peoples, Akin said, “The question that stares Southern Baptists in the face is this: will we join hands with our great God in seeing this awesome day come to pass or will we find ourselves sitting on the sidelines watching?”

Akin spoke at Union’s conference, “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism.” The Oct. 6-9 conference is being held in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Baptist movement.

Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and primary author of the “Great Commission Resurgence Declaration,” which later resulted in the Southern Baptist Convention’s authorization of a GCR Task Force that is currently studying the SBC to seek greater effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission. Akin serves as a member of the GCR Task Force.

Noting the “spiritual stakes are high,” Akin said his “conversations and experiences” in recent months have “only heightened and made even more clear where the dangers to our future lie.”

Akin launched the GCR movement in April with a chapel address at Southeastern Seminary outlining “Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence” and invoked several of the same themes in his Union address.

Akin asked conference participants to consider “eight points of observation” that he asserted are necessary for the SBC to have a hopeful future.

Lordship of Christ

As with his axioms address, Akin first asserted that Southern Baptists must “return to our first love and surrender ourselves fully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Akin said he has “experienced significant grief” that this matter received so little attention in the wake of his axioms address. While Southern Baptists passed over this issue claiming they already believe it, Akin asked, “Do we live it? Is Jesus Christ really our passion and priority?”

Citing Jesus’ final words in Matt. 28:18-20and Acts 1:4-8, Akin said a “right reading of Scripture will not set these statements in opposition to or at odds with one another. Any appeal to Acts 1:8to justify not getting more personnel and resources to the unreached nations is wrong headed. Actually, it is shameful. Most of our Jerusalems have a Gospel witness. Large portions of the uttermost parts of the earth do not.”

Southern Baptists need to think and act like Jesus, Akin said. “If we fail here, we will fail everywhere.”

Inerrancy, sufficiency of the Bible

Praising Southern Baptist leaders like Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines who led the Conservative Resurgence during the 1980s and ’90s to oppose the “poison of liberalism” in the SBC, Akin said these “heroes of the faith” should be honored and not forgotten ? and newer generations of Southern Baptists need to be told of their sacrifices.

However, Akin added, the “war for the Bible is not over and it will never end until Jesus returns.” He warned younger generations “not to squander away precious theological ground” essential for a “healthy and hopeful future” for the SBC.

Those who would deny the “full truthfulness of the Bible” should leave the SBC, Akin asserted.

“We love you and pray for you, but we do not want you infecting our people with a spiritual disease that is always fatal to the Church of the Lord Jesus.”