Monday, January 10, 2011

Does the GCR stand a ghost of a chance?

Before I begin, let me say I am in support of the Great Commission Resurgence, I think it’s a great thing, and we need to focus our ideas, resources and tool on reaching out. I have already posted on the things I think will hinder the SBC from really seeing a movement of God from the GCR, and I don’t want to hash that out again. What I want to look at is simple. Does the Great Commission Resurgence has a chance to really move the SBC forward in outreach, or is it just great propaganda? Here are some things I would like to discuss and toss around.

If the SBC is a bottom up entity (everything goes through the local church), then why are we moving programs from the top down. Now I realize that it’s necessary, we have to restructure the CP from the top down, we need to change NAMB and the IMB from the top down, we have to change the way we use dollars from the top down. Don’t miss my point, shouldn’t this movement have come up from the church, from the people in the pews? I love and respect Dr. Akin, but he really started this movement by an address in chapel at a seminary campus. It didn’t come from the local churches, and my number 1 concern is that it won’t impact the people sitting every Sunday in many of our churches. In the end, my concern will be the GCR is a big nebulous idea, but won’t touch the people. The people in the pew are where our missionary force begins. It’s where the CP dollars start, it’s where those who attend our seminaries come from. We can do lots of great things at the National and even state level, but are we touching people in the churches?

Now before you say “yes, of course we are” I want to ask something. If the GCR is touching churches, my question is, which churches? What does the average SBC church look like in this country? I don’t want to get into statistics and charts and graphs, numbers can be skewed and research is biased. The issue is, I have been to lots of churches in many states and seen what they look like. If you never get out of Florida, Georgia and Alabama, I’ll help you out. Most of the churches outside the south are small, less that 200 people. Many are less that 100 people. These are faithful churches, doing their best, reaching out to a community that is less and less interested. Even in the south, there are many small, faithful churches. You can argue with me on this point, but I am going to say the majority of Southern Baptist Churches are smaller, less that 500 people, with modest budgets, modest buildings, and hardworking pastors. How will the GCR affect them and their congregations? Many of the churches I have been involved with are teaching Biblical truth, are committed to missions, outreach and evangelism. How is this going to help them?

Further more, and what I have heard others saying, why in this middle of this resurgence are we looking to mega-churches for leadership? If the majority of the SBC is made of small churches, why are the churches that are composed of an entirely different structure leading off? I believe that the pastors work hard to keep a church alive and vibrant in a stagnant community, devastated economy and apathetic society are overlooked so we can celebrate the victory of the mega church. Have we gone insane? At what point did we decide that our measure of success was how big your church grows? I know a pastor serving faithfully in a small town in Iowa, the town and surrounding farming communities don’t have enough people to even make a mega-church. These guys fight every day, they know how to make use of the resources to the best of their abilities, why are we not taking the wisdom of years in the trenches? Let’s be honest, if the “mega church” strategy is fool proof, every church would use it. We have all read the books, gone to the courses, have the charts, graphs and diagrams. I am concerned that the GCR, the Convention, NAMB and our other agencies have bought the American lie that if it’s bigger, it’s better and if someone can build a mega-church, he is the right guy. Its American idolatry, and I think it’s a huge mistake.

If the GCR wants to reach America, it better start focusing on America, not Georgia. Where is NAMB, the IMB, Lifeway, where are they located? You want to be the North American Mission Board, close the office in Georgia and open 4 regional offices. Stick one in New York, one in Chicago, one in LA, one in Dallas. You want to reach Americans, go to America. I have served in the Midwest, in the Rocky Mountains and in the Southwest, and in many of those places Southern Baptist is a bad word. More than that, there is a feeling in many of those places that the leaders at our agencies don’t care. You want to reach these people go to where they are. Stick some offices there, make your presence known, show American that we may have Southern in our name, but the people are in our hearts.

Hear my heart for a second, I love the SBC, I think we do great things, I believe we have a great corporate heart and sense of community. I don’t want to leave the SBC, I want to see it reach out to the lost and to grow. Along with that, I have fears for our Convention. I’ll be honest, I have fears of corruption, favors, backroom deals and decisions and selfish ambitions. As a young minister, it concerns me how many are convinced that we exist in a denotation controlled by the “good ol boys”. What are we willing to do at the National level to change that image? It’s easy to write a GCR Declaration, but what are you going DO about it? Are we going to be a Convention that is willing to take radical steps to see resurgence or are we just going to talk a good game? What do you think?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How does this all work?

Have you ever noticed how many ideas in the Christian faith seem more hypothetical than concrete? Things like “fall into the arms of grace” or “just give it to God”. What do those look like really, are they things that have meat too them, or are they just things we say and have no idea what they really mean? How do you fall into grace, or give something in-material to a spiritual being? There are lots of things that we say that are hard to define and pin down, but I think it’s symptomatic of a larger issue. We have tried for two thousand years to define Salvation, but I am not sure we are any closer. Something so foundational to the Christian doctrine, but we can’t agree on what it looks like, how we get it and how we know we have it.

I want to pose some questions today, things to think about. I am sure for every question there are hundreds of opinions, so here is a chance to share yours. What is Salvation? Pin it down, are we talking substitution atonement, penal substitution, ransom theory. Is the nature of salvation illumination, restoration, satisfaction, victory, justification, something else entirely or a combination?

What happens when we are saved? Does it happen in a split second, or does it happen over time? Is it a one time thing, or does it reoccur? Are we saved once and for all time, or does it happen daily? I have heard, seen or read theories off all and more, different ideas. I have seen verses thrown at verses and arguments made for every side, when and how does it happen?

How do you know you are saved? Do you do something to get saved? Is there a work involved, do you just go “get” it, do you “accept” it and if so, how is that not a work. Is not the action of reaching out and taking something an action that constitutes a work, albeit a small work, is it still not something I can boast it? How much “accepting” do I have to do, if it’s like accepting a gift, is it a heavy gift? Do I have to unwrap it, take it out of the box, does it require assembly? I am a father of 3, and I know how much work accepting a present can be, kids toys have more moving parts than the space shuttle. Are we saved with works, through works, do we have works because we are saved, can we be saved without works, and if we have no works, are we saved? If we believe in works theology, can we still be saved? If we can’t be saved because of works theology, but accepting is a work, where does that leave most SBC churches?

How do we know we are saved? Can we have faith apart from works, and can we have works apart from faith? If we prophecy in His name and cast out demons in His name, if we preach and teach in His name, does that mean we are saved? Can we think we are saved and not really be saved? Can we be saved and not really know it? Who decides who is to be saved, do I make the choice or was it made for me? When was it made, when I made it, or before the foundations of the world? Does God know who is going to be saved? If He does, when does He know? How limited is God’s view of human action? Can we surprise God? If God knows what I am going to do before I do it, can I make the choice to do something else?

I asked a whole lot more questions that I am going to attempt to answer. I know what I think and what I believe, but to be honest, I have no idea what we as a denomination believe. We seem to be divided over the foundational issue more than any other issue, from both extremes to some place in the middle, to those who don’t even want to discuss it. This is the most important doctrine in the life of a Christian, it is what makes us a Christian, yet we can’t even come together in agreement on what it means, what it looks like or how it happens. Come, let’s reason together and see if maybe we can come to an understanding. Let’s try to be civil and disagree like Christian adults, even if there is a possibility that none of us are either.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Has Blogging Ruined the Church?

I know it’s interesting to have a topic like this on a blog, but I wonder about our online relationships and how the impact the Universal Body of Christ. I have developed some great relationships online with people I would have never met otherwise. I have learned a great deal from blogging, reading, writing and sharing online idea. I think blogging has a lot of validity, but what I want to ask about is community. Is online community authentic? Can we have true fellowship online? Has the invention of the internet created a whole is community?

The most popular social network out there of course is Facebook. I have and use a Facebook page, I have great friends on Facebook, we use it to interact and communicate, keep updated and share pictures. The biggest destroyer of community, in my opinion, is the Facebook status line. We have created the equivalent of the drive by shooting online with the Facebook status. You have seen them, things like “some people need to act like Christians” or “I can’t believe they just did that, they are so bad”. These posts don’t name anyone specifically, they just through out ideas and create suspicion. It’s on-line gossip at its best. On Facebook, we can create superficial relationships and then destroy them with the click of the mouse. If we are not slandering people in our status, we can write notes about them, we can even click the dreaded “unfriend” button.

Facebook also gives us the chance to address problems without addressing the problem. We have done this for years, but Facebook has make is faster and easier. If someone does something you don’t like, simply post a verse on Facebook addressing the issue, then you are done. Write a note, post a blog, we tweet or update our status to address the problem. If it’s really serious, we might post to someone’s wall or send a message too them and take care of the problem. Some how when Jesus said to “go to the person”, He wasn’t referring to their Facebook page.

All of these online forum has also created an atmosphere in which it’s easy to speak without thinking. We can post things in a safe situation, not face to face interaction. Many of the posts and comments I have seen at SBC Impact I am pretty sure wouldn’t happen in face to face conversation. We have become crass and careless with our words, not focusing on words that build up and edify, but taking cuts, slinging mud and being cruel.

The online relationships we have build are so fragile that it doesn’t take much to break them. If the Facebook and blogging community can really been seen as the Church, we have taken the body of Christ and made it so fragile that it will never be able to stand up in the world. We have created fragile connections, and so often we are not encouraging or supporting each other. We are not iron sharpening iron, we are simply stone chipping away at stone. This should not be so.

So what is the solution? I think much of the issue when we are on blogs, Facebook or other online communities, we begin to address the person as the problem and not the issue. Instead of saying “I don’t agree with this statement, because”, we just reply with “you’re an idiot”. This is a less than helpful statement when working to build community. We should also take time to get to know our fellow bloggers, after all, aren’t we all here for the same reason? Is not the goal to expand the Kingdom, to Glorify God and to grow in our faith? If we all have that common goal, if we are working together towards the same end, why do we continue to devour each other? I believe because it’s easy to do online, and we have such a fragile structure, that we break it because we can. Never do people become so carnal as they do online. Perhaps the internet has created an outlet for the flesh, can we reform it to be used as a place to bring glory to God? I sure hope so, because I would hate to see the blogs destroy the church.