Monday, August 04, 2008

The Best New ain't Jenny Craig

I normally do not pay a lot of attention to commercials. Praise God for direct dish TV where four or five presses of the 30-second advance button gets me past all the nonsense and back to the History Channel or FOX News! I wish there was such a devise on my car radio because I would certainly use it. A recent radio advertisement has me all in a snit. It’s for a Jenny Craig weight loss clinic that has opened in Jefferson City. Now, I’ve got nothing against Jenny Craig, and I’ve certainly got nothing against weight loss. I have found myself, however, mildly chaffing over their commercial. They announce that the clinic’s arrival in our state capitol " ... is the best news to hit Jefferson City in a long time." Now then, just think about that from a Christian perspective. A weight loss clinic is the best news that the citizens of the City of Jefferson have heard in a long time? Personally, I can think of a lot of other news items that would qualify over-and-above a new weight loss clinic in Jefferson City.
I immediately began to wonder about the dozens of churches in Jefferson City that faithfully preach the gospel of Christ week in and week out. In case you’ve forgotten, the word Gospel – euangelion in the Greek – literally means "good new". In the New Testament it refers to the good news preached by Jesus that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15) and the good news of what God has done on behalf of humanity in Jesus (Rom. 1:3-5). The background for the noun is found in the Old Testament where the verbal form means ‘to bring good news’ or ‘to announce good news’.

OK, I understand that commercials are all about hyperbole. I’m not suggesting that the they proclaim that this is "mundane" news or "insignificant" news. After all, they want to draw clients to their services. But the best news? There are thousands of citizens of our capitol who are blissfully unaware of the best news ever to come to Jefferson City. That good news, of course, is that God came to this world in the flesh, lived life as we do – except without sin – died on a cross to atone for the sins of His people, and rose again on the third day. Sadly, even a lot of professing believers treat this best of news as though it were mundane or insignificant.

I’m sure that many mid-Missourians are excited that Jenny Craig has come to Jefferson City. Jesus has been there a lot longer in the preaching and ministry of churches that have remained faithful to the Gospel of Christ. Now that really is the best news to hit Jefferson City.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Come and See
by David Krueger

"I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time brings dead people back to life." That blunt assessment comes from John Dominic Crossan, a leading figure in the Jesus Seminar, and one of the most influential authors on religion in post-Christian America. Any time you see a special on T.V. about the life of Christ, Crossan is one of the theological talking-heads you’ll see and hear. Thomas Sheehan, another fellow of the Seminar, put it even more directly: "Jesus, regardless of where his corpse ended up, is dead and remains dead."

The claim that Jesus actually rose from the dead on the third day is perhaps the greatest scandal of authentic Christianity in the face of modern secularism. Intellectual sophisticates and pseudo-Christian scholars cluck their tongues and wag their heads at those of us just silly enough to believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. “How,” they ask, “can right-thinking moderns believe in such ancient myths and stories? After all, anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that dead person simply do not rise from the dead.”

Such theological drivel is not new.

During the period of history known at The Enlightenment, spiritual darkness began to spread throughout western Europe, England, and even America. One result of this spiritual darkness was the philosophy of Deism, the belief that God is an unconcerned creator, and that the miraculous events of the Bible cannot be true since they are neither scientifically or rationally verifiable. With the rise of historical criticism, the resurrection and the miraculous world of the New Testament were simply out of date. Some biblical scholars began to distinguish between the “Christ of faith,” and the “Jesus of history” and assumed that the Jesus of history was more myth than reality.

In England, two of the most brilliant men of their day had both become deists. They were both professors at Oxford University. Their names were Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton. The two men were determined to silence the defenders of the supernatural in the Bible. They conferred together and decided that each would write a book. One would attack the alleged resurrection of Jesus from the dead, while the other would attempt to disprove the alleged conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Lyttleton undertook to disprove that Saul of Tarsus was ever converted, as is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles -- that his conversion was nothing more than a myth. Gilbert West would turn his attention to disproving the resurrection of Christ from the dead. West said to Lyttleton, “I shall have to depend upon you for my facts, for I am somewhat rusty on the Bible.” To which Lyttleton replied that he was counting upon West, for he too was somewhat rusty on the Bible. Their conclusion was, “If we are to be honest in the matter, we ought at least to study the evidence.” Each began his own study of the Scriptural evidence.

They had numerous conferences together while they were preparing their works. In one of these conferences West said to Lyttleton that there had been something on his mind for some time that he thought he ought to speak to him about, that as he had been studying the evidence, he was beginning to feel that there was something to it. Lyttleton replied that he was glad to hear him say so, for he himself had been somewhat shaken as he had studied the evidence of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Finally, when the books were finished, the two men met. West said to Lyttleton, “Have you written your book?” He replied that he had, but he said, “West, as I have been studying the evidence and weighing it according to the recognized laws of legal evidence, I have become satisfied that Saul of Tarsus was converted as is stated in the Acts of the Apostles, and that Christianity is true and I have written my book on that side.” His book can still be found in most large libraries. “Have you written your book?” asked Lyttleton. “Yes, but as I have studied the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and have weighed it according to the acknowledged laws of evidence, I have become satisfied that Jesus really rose from the dead as recorded in the gospels, and have written my book on that side.” West's book can also be found in our libraries to-day.

Similar stories can be found in our own day. Frank Morison, author of “Who Moved the Stone?,” and Lee Strobel, author of “The Case for Christ,” both were unbelieving lawyers who set out to prove the nonsense of the resurrection. Both investigated the resurrection accounts and both were converted to faith in Christ. When the gospel story is carefully and dispassionately studied, it will invariably lead men to only one conclusion: Jesus rose bodily form the dead.

The Scriptures simply leave no room for negotiation on this matter. The Apostle Paul writes: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain,” (I Cor. 15:13-14). Christianity stands or falls on the historical validity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bodily resurrection of our Lord is absolutely fundamental to biblical Christianity – and the gospel we preach and believe. To abandon this core belief would mean the end of Christianity as revealed in the New Testament.

Many years ago when Linda and I were in England we had the opportunity to visit Westminster Cathedral in London. It's the Cathedral where English royalty is wed and Kings and Queens coronated. It is also a place where many famous people are buried. On each tomb can be seen the words, "Here lieth the body of ... " Then the name of some general, artist, scholar, politician or clergyman. How different it is at the tomb of Jesus. There you will not find a tombstone with the inscription, "Here lieth the body of Jesus of Nazereth." Instead we hear the words of the angel on Easter morning as our Lord's epitaph, "He is not here: for he is risen. Come see the place where the Lord did lay." To me, this is the most explosive verse in the entire Bible. Because the tomb is empty, we can sing with great assurance that old gospel hymn ...

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!You ask me how I know He lives:

He lives within my heart.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Acts 29 Network: A Casualty of ‘the perfect theological storm’
by David Krueger

On Monday, December 10 the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Executive Board took the unprecedented action of barring any state convention relationship with or support of the Acts 29 Network. Missouri Baptist staff can no longer use the Acts 29 Network as a resource in their various ministries. The move most dramatically affects those few mission churches in Missouri who are receiving Cooperative Program monies as part of their support, and who also are affiliated with the Acts 29 Network. As of January 1, those missions will no longer be financially supported by the MBC. The move does not affect autonomous Missouri Baptist Churches that are affiliated with Acts 29, not does it preclude them from supporting missions that are.

The move has both its ardent supporters and it ardent detractors. In a matter of hours after the Monday vote, the event took on a life of its own as word began to spread through internet discussion lists and blogs. Discussion of the issue has been fervent to say the least, arousing passions on both sides of the issue. The long-range fallout from this decision is unclear.

Acts 29 Network
The Acts 29 Network is just that -- a non-denominational network of pastors, lay leaders and churches that are devoted to helping qualified leaders “plant new churches and replant declining churches.” They do that through assessment, coaching, training, funding, and by connecting them with like minded Christians. The Acts 29 Network is clearly
Reformed in its soteriology – i.e. they are Calvinists.

Pastors who qualify as Acts 29 church planters must go through a lengthy interview and vetting process, be willing to adhere to a strict covenant, and attend a Planter’s Boot Camp event. Currently, Missouri has more Acts 29 affiliated congregations than any other state in the mid-west with nine. Only the states of California (with 10) and Washington (with 19) have more Acts 29 affiliated congregations.

The Acts 29 Network uses the word “missional” to define the church’s relationship to the culture. Their web site states:

  • We believe that our local churches must be faithful to the content of unchanging Biblical doctrine (Jude 3).
  • We believe that our local churches must be faithful to the continually changing context of the culture(s) in which they minister (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
  • We believe that our mission is to bring people into church so that they can be trained to go out into their culture as effective missionaries.

The Acts 29 Network takes no official position on alcohol other than that “people should have their conscience captive to the word of God, submit to the leadership of their church or denomination, and do everything for God's glory.” The Acts 29 Network permits diversity on what they consider a secondary issue and chooses to pursue unity only on what they consider primary theological issues. They respect the right of Christians, organizations, and denominations to arrive at differing conclusions on this matter.

This “no position policy” has led some critics to assume that Acts 29 is, at the least, “soft on beverage alcohol consumption,” or at the worst, “promotes consumption.” Some view the Acts 29 Network as nothing more than a new generation of theological moderates who are compromising the Gospel by tapping into a secular culture and using non-traditional forms of evangelism that many traditional Baptists find offensive. This includes outreach ministries located in establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. This has become a particular point of contention in the Missouri Baptist Convention were two member congregations participate in what have come to be known as “brew and view” ministries. For some Missouri Baptists, the fact that these congregations are affiliated with the Acts 29 Network, makes the entire network suspect.

Colliding fronts
The move against the Acts 29 Network appears to coalesce around several fronts – the ‘perfect theological storm’ if you will.

The first front is the on-going debate within the Southern Baptist Convention at large and the Missouri Baptist Convention in particular over the use of beverage alcohol. At the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2006 annual meeting in Greenville, South Carolina, a resolution entitled simply On Alcohol Use in America was overwhelmingly adopted by messengers. Supporters of the resolution argued the action was needed because “some religious leaders” believe they may drink based on a “misinterpretation” of the believer’s “freedom in Christ.” Several prominent Southern Baptists known for their Reformed soteriology, vigorously opposed the resolution. Not because they were pro-alcohol, but because they were opposed to: 1) a resolution that intimated that the only Scriptural position on beverage alcohol is one of absolute abstinence. They argued that a total abstinence position is based on Baptist tradition, and not the Scriptures, which describes the use of wine in both the Old and New Testaments, and 2) because the resolution had the characteristics of a motion urging that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages. Resolutions in Southern Baptist life are non-binding statements. At least that’s how it’s historically been.

This strict abstinence position was front and center at the 2007 annual meeting of Missouri Southern Baptists. Rev. David Tolliver addressed ‘the alcohol issue’ in his Executive Director’s sermon, as did Rev. Mike Green in his President’s address, as did Rev. Rodney Albert who preached the convention’s annual sermon. All three clearly advocated that the Scriptures mandate a position of absolute abstinence from beverage alcohol, including low-alcohol-content beverages such as beer, wine, and wine coolers. During the convention’s last business session, messengers adopted a resolution on the consumption of beverage alcohol. It was exactly the same resolution that was passed at the SBC annual meeting in 2006, (only substituting ‘Missouri Baptist’ wherever the phrase ‘Southern Baptist’ appeared). The resolution passed with a clear – but not overwhelming – majority.

Six weeks after the annual meeting, the resolution became the motivation for the adoption of a new policy by the MBC nominating committee that gives teeth to the resolution by barring any Missouri Baptist who uses beverage alcohol from serving on convention boards, agencies or commissions. Nominees will now have to indicate whether-or-not they abstain from beverage alcohol. The decision has raised the hackles of a number of Missouri Baptists – including mine.

The second front involves the report of the Ad Hoc Theological Review Committee. The committee was appointed by MBC President, Mike Green, in December of 2006. It was the result of a motion brought at the 2006 MBC annual meeting:

That at the December 2006 Executive Board meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention, that the President of the Executive Board appoint a committee of at least five people to study the theological soundness of all relationships the Missouri Baptist Convention has with non-political para-church organizations; and that they use as a guide the Bible, the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, and any applicable resolutions passed by the Missouri Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention; and that the committee report its findings to the Executive Board and its President for possible action, no later than its July 2007 Executive Board meeting. (Motion by pastor and messenger Jeff White).

The committee presented its report at the Executive Board’s October 2007 meeting held in conjunction with the MBC annual meeting. Much of the report documented the committee’s research and findings in regard to the emerging church movement. Due to time constraints, the full presentation of the report and its adoption was postponed until the December Executive Board meeting. At that meeting the committee’s policy statements at the end of the report were adopted, but the report itself was merely ‘received’. The report lists thirty-five ‘findings’ a number of which were pertinent to the subsequent executive board decision to terminate any relationship with the Acts 29 Network and de-fund those missions that are affiliated with the network.

Finding #1 states:
1. There are three segments of what is called the emerging church movement — the emergents, the emerging church, and the Acts 29 network. They differ at some points in theology, but they often share much in common related to methodology and missiology. The research of some would point to these segments or divisions within the emerging church movement as the revisionists, the reconstructionists, and the relevants. These could possibly be referred to as the left wing, the moderates and the right wing of the emerging church movement — but they are nevertheless still firmly within the movement itself. There is a networking and a connectedness of relationships and a sharing of resources among the leadership of the different levels of the emerging church movement, (speakers, conferences, workshops, books, research, websites, etc.) One could argue that there is an incestuous relationship of perspectives, theology, and worldviews among these three groups of the emerging church movement. What ought to be of interest to the Southern Baptist churches in Missouri is that there seems to be evidence pointing to a relationship of involvement and support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the emerging church movement.

Regardless of where emerging church groups/leaders lie along the continuum from thoroughly liberal in their theology (Brian McLaren) to thoroughly conservative in their theology, (Acts 29 Network), the study committee reported that the relationship between the three branches of the emerging church movement is simply too cozy. This becomes obvious in other findings.

Findings #12 through19 state:

12. There is currently no official relationship in the Missouri Baptist Convention with the emerging church movement — including the Acts 29 network.
13. There is a lack of clarity at this time in Southern Baptist Convention denominational life regarding the emerging church movement -- - including the Acts 29 network.
14. The Acts 29 network is a part of the emerging church movement.
15. The Acts 29 network should not be an organization with which the Missouri Baptist Convention networks by means of our Cooperative Program money, missions emphases and church planting.
16. A commitment to the planting of indigenous churches in Missouri is not a commitment to cultural compromise.
17. The ad hoc committee has great difficulty with the notion or philosophy that a church can be theologically conservative and yet methodologically liberal. There is an inherent connection between biblical theology and missions methodology.
18. The ad hoc committee recognizes the diversity of opinion in American evangelicalism when it comes to alcoholic beverages. This does not negate the historic and ongoing affirmations of the resolutions at 62 annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention (as well as at least 36 resolutions at the annual meetings of the Missouri Baptist Convention since 1881) regarding abstinence as the Baptist position on the sale and use of alcoholic beverages.
19. The ad hoc committee recognizes that there are vast theological extremes and a profound depth of doctrinal diversity within the emerging church movement with which we are greatly uncomfortable.

Clearly, the Theological Study Committee includes the Acts 29 Network within the ‘emergent movement’ camp. And clearly they are uncomfortable with the reported ‘liberal methodology’ used by some Missouri Baptist Churches that are affiliated with the Acts 29 Network.

The third front revolves around the on-going controversy surrounding two congregations associated with the Missouri Baptist Convention. One is The Journey, an autonomous Missouri Baptist Church located in South St. Louis County, and Karis Community Church, a new church plant in Columbia, Missouri. Both are affiliated with the Acts 29 Network, and both are involved in ministries that are perceived by many Missouri Baptists as inappropriate and controversial. Both host outreach ministries in establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. The Journey hosts “Theology at the Bottleworks,” a monthly discussion group that meets at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, MO. Every month, dozens show up at the brewpub to drink beer and talk about issues ranging from racism in St. Louis to modern-art controversies to the debate about embryonic stem cell research. First-timers are invited to check out the church on Sunday. The church has made national news headlines including a segment on NBC’s Today Show. At issue is a $200,000 loan that was made to The Journey from the Missouri Baptist Convention that was used as part of the congregation’s down payment on a church building. When the loan was made, Executive Board members were unaware of the controversial outreach ministry. Had they been, it is likely that the executive board would not have approved the loan.

Karis Community Church in Columbia has a similar outreach ministry. It’s called “Theology at the Forge” and meets at the Forge and Vine, a restaurant similar to the Applebees chain of restaurants. Karis Community Church continues to receive financial support from the North American Mission Board, the Missouri Baptist Convention, and several sponsoring churches. When MBC church planters covenant with the state convention, they must sign an agreement that the church planter will personally abstain from use of beverage alcohol, and shall teach the strong biblical warnings against alcohol use to the congregation. Kevin Larson, pastor of the church, insists that he has abided by that covenant agreement.

Critics of these “brew and view” ministries argue that there is usually little theology discussed in such meetings, and that the reported use of alcoholic beverages by some members of the two congregations during the meetings compromises the Gospel and simply goes too far in attempting to be culturally relevant. At the December board meeting, David Tolliver, interim Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist Convention stated that the convention would not give financial support to churches that participate in “sinful outreach ministries.”
These three fronts all collided at the December 10 MBC Executive Board meeting. The result was the perfect theological storm with Acts 29 Network caught in the middle. The result is that the MBC Executive Board has nixed any state convention relationship with or support of the Acts 29 Network or churches associated with it.

Thoughts and analysis
The debate over beverage alcohol consumption is a continuing debate in Southern Baptist life. We need to come to a consensus statement on the issue. However, I don’t look for such a consensus to be hammered out any time soon.

Baptists in general, and Southern Baptists in particular, have championed alcohol abstinence since the late 1800s, but a growing number of Southern Baptists believe it is time to reexamine the issue. Is absolute and total abstinence mandated by the Scriptures, or does our abstinence position have more to do with our own Baptist traditions? In an interview in
Christianity Today Magazine earlier this year, Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, said, "There is growing discontent, people saying that we shouldn't be mandating things that aren't spoken clearly about in Scripture. It's hard to argue that the Bible requires total abstinence."

Some of us believe that to take a position of absolute and total abstinence strikes at the heart of the sufficiency of the Scriptures themselves. While there are clear biblical warnings against the use of “strong drink” and while drunkenness is thoroughly condemned by the Scriptures, we should not, we must not attempt to make the Scriptures say what they do not say. The question is not, "Should we abstain?" I am of the opinion that we should. It’s the wisest choice. It’s the mature choice. It’s the Christian-brother-honoring choice. It’s even the most God-glorifying choice. But I say again: The question is not "Should we abstain?" The question is, "Is it Scriptural to maintain that the occasional consumption of a low-alcoholic-content drink such as wine or beer or a wine cooler is, always has been, and always will be sinful?" There are those brothers among us – such as myself – who believe that it is not always necessarily sinful to do so, even though we would never, ever choose to do so ourselves. This is a matter of interpretation that puts me squarely at odds with the resolution that was passed (or at least several statements contained therein), and with some men whom I deeply respect and consider close brothers in Christ.

While I respect and appreciate the work of the Theological Study Committee, and supported the adoption of the policies they recommended to the convention, I disagree with their conclusions regarding the Acts 29 Network. To include Acts 29 with the emerging church movement, is simply painting with too broad a brush. Acts 29 leaders believe that each individual church affiliated with the Acts 29 Network must determine for themselves their polity, mission works, vision, and ministries. The Network neither encourages ministries such as the ones used by The Journey and Karis Community Church, nor does it discourage them. The Acts 29 position is spelled out on their web site:

  • We believe that our local churches must be faithful to the content of unchanging Biblical doctrine (Jude 3).
  • We believe that our local churches must be faithful to the continually changing context of the culture(s) in which they minister (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
  • We are not liberals who embrace culture without discernment and compromise the distinctives of the gospel, but rather Christians who believe the truths of the Bible are eternal and therefore fitting for every time, place, and people.
  • We are not fundamentalists who retreat from cultural involvement and transformation, but rather missionaries faithful both to the content of Scripture and context of ministry.

It’s hard for me to see how these statements can be interpreted as an endorsement of alcoholic beverages or a whole-sale license to drink.
Scott Thomas, director of the Acts 29 Network recently blogged about the MBC executive board decision: “Acts 29 does not promote alcohol, nor do we decry the personal decision of each church planter to decide what the Scriptures teach about alcohol. We strongly believe drunkenness and/or being controlled by or addicted by alcohol is a sin.” He further writes that to cut off every church affiliated with the Acts 29 Network based on the ministries of two churches, is “guilt by association.” In this he is correct. The MBC executive board simply acted in haste. When executive board moderator, Gerald Davidson, asked board members how many of them had personally studied Acts 29 for themselves, only a smattering of hands was raised, and yet the board ultimately voted by a 3-1 margin to disenfranchise any church plant affiliated with the Acts 29 Network. Granted, we’re talking about only a handful of congregations in Missouri, but as the saying goes, “It’s the principle of the thing.” To condemn the Acts 29 Network because of the objectionable practices of two churches is akin to branding all Southern Baptists as racists because a few actually are.

The debate is as old as Christendom, i.e. how far does the church go to become culturally relevant to the age it finds itself in? The debate rages on in Southern Baptist life between those who would “engage the culture” verses those who believe we need to “challenge the culture.” Jeff White summed it up well in an email on the MoBaptist Discussion List, “ … what makes these issues so difficult for me is that I have people I respect on both sides of the issues.”

Certainly, there needs to be some liberty in regard to those congregations who would seek to engage the culture in such ways. Darren Patrick, pastor of The Journey contends: "Theology at the Bottleworks was started to reach people who are actively opposed to Christianity, by discussing contemporary cultural issues in a neutral environment.” Is this philosophy fundamentally different from those who would plant “Cowboy Churches” or “Biker Churches” because they believe there is a sub-culture within the broader culture that is not being reached through traditional evangelistic methods or by traditional churches?

On the other hand, those congregations that would engage in non-traditional forms of outreach need to do so with wisdom and discernment, and with the larger body of Christ in mind. David Tollier speaks to this when he says: "We need to engage the culture, but without compromising our biblical, traditional Baptist values. For me, that includes abstinence from alcohol."

If I have a criticism of The Journey and Karis Community Church, it’s that I don’t believe that they had the whole Body of Christ – in this case fellow Missouri Baptist congregations – in mind when they made their decision to begin the outreach ministries that have proved so controversial. Or if they did, they greatly miscalculated the protest that has resulted. The Apostle Paul encouraged the believers of Galatia to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3, ESV). Our eagerness to reach the lost must also be tempered by our eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit within the Body of Christ.

My solution is a relatively simply, but surely controversial, one: State conventions need to get out of the church planting business. For most of our history, establishing new congregations was the purview of the local church. In recent years, however, both the state convention and our North American Mission Board have increasingly taken on the responsibility of beginning new congregations. The problem is that these church plants essentially become responsible to the whole convention of churches and must conform their practices to the lest common denominator of theological conviction. If congregations like Karis Community Church were solely responsible to their ‘mother church’ we simply would not be having this discussion in Missouri Baptist life. But because they receive Cooperative Program monies, every church in the convention that gives to the CP has a right to have a ‘say-so’ in what the congregation does. In this case, their “Theology at the Forge” has ticked a lot of Missouri Baptists off and the result has been that a helpful, biblically-centered ministry (Acts 29) has been caught up in the swirl of controversy and suffered the consequences of the perfect theological storm.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Crossan in the middle?
by David Krueger

John Dominic Crossan has a brilliant mind. He is an Irish-American religious scholar best-known for co-founding the controversial ‘Jesus Seminar’. He is professor emeritus of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago and has authored more than 20 books about the historical Jesus. He has become one of the ‘go-to’ scholars for any television production about Jesus or the Bible, and is especially influential in the field of Historical Jesus studies.

Crossan is, shall we say, less than orthodox in his views concerning Jesus. His books maintain that Jesus was nothing more than an itinerant Jewish wise man who did not die as a substitute for sinners or rise from the dead, but instead became a follower of John the Baptist, and preached a social gospel of inclusiveness, tolerance, and liberation through his parables. Ultimately he was crucified by the Romans as a nuisance. There was nothing divine or supernatural about him, whatsoever.

Crossan maintains that the Gospels were never intended to be taken literally by their authors. They are not historically reliable documents that relate the ministry and message of Jesus, but early Christian propaganda written to compete with the rival Mystery Religions of he day. None of the miracles can be taken literally, and most of what the Gospels record Jesus saying really was not said by Jesus at all. He believes that miracles like the virgin birth, and resurrection of Jesus are "insurmountable obstacles" to modern people as they encounter the New Testament.

What I find so interesting about Crossan is that he now considers himself squarely "in the theological middle" regarding his views of Jesus and the Gospels. Crossan recently wrote: " ... we ended the last century with two visions of Jesus. One vision was of the literal Jesus – the figure obtained from a harmony of the four New Testament Gospels. The other vision was the historical Jesus – the figure reconstructed through those and other (non-canonical) gospels, behind those and other gospels, before those and other gospels." Because – according to liberal scholarship – the four Gospels of the New Testament are not to be relied upon as historically accurate accounts of the life of Christ, Crossan believes that the historical Jesus – the real Jesus – must be "reconstructed" using these and other gospels which the church long ago rejected such as The Gospel of Thomas, The Secret Gospel of Mark, The Apocryphon of James, and many others. The result, Crossan believes, is that the "literal Jesus" of the New Testament masquerades as the "historical Jesus" of twentieth-century scholarship.

According to Crossan, there is now a third vision of Jesus beginning to emerge that is to the theological left of his own liberal views. This vision, he writes, is of a "fictional Jesus" – the figure married in a novel (The Da Vinci Code), crucified in a film (Mel Gibsons’ The Passion), and buried in a documentary (The Lost Tomb of Jesus, aired on the Discovery Channel). Crossan writes: "There is even a growing far-left wing proposing that Jesus never existed and that it was all an early Christian conspiratorial fabrication. So now there are three divergent base-versions of Jesus – the literal, the historical and the fictional. Crossan describes himself as "bemused" and "satisfied" that he would now find himself in the middle of theological scholarship concerning the life and nature of Jesus and New Testament studies.

But is Crossan truly in the "middle" of scholastic opinion concerning Jesus? Regardless of his self-proclaimed middle-ground in biblical scholarship, Crossan remains squarely on the far-left theologically. For Crossan to look at those who are patently absurd in there views of Jesus, and then proclaim, "See, I’m not at wack-o as they are," is not a good measure of orthodoxy. Heresy is heresy after all whether one is just academically left or outlandishly wack-o far-left. Crossan does not deny that Jesus actually lived. He does deny everything divine or supernatural associated with our Savior’s life. Crossan’s "historical Jesus" bears little, if any, resemblance to the "literal Jesus" of the Scriptures. Traditional, orthodox faith, however – backed up by solid historical, and textual evidence – reveal that the literal Jesus of the Gospels is, in fact, the actual historical Jesus. There is no difference between the two.

It is because of men like John Domini Crossan that the Apostle Jude wrote: "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 3-4, NIV). Crossan is representative of many legitimate bible scholars who openly deny most of the foundational truths of the Bible and 2000 years of church orthodoxy. They represent men who have crept in unnoticed who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Crossan in the middle? I think not!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Quake at the Lake that didn’t materialize
by David Krueger

On Tuesday evening of this week, a moderate-sized earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay area. It broke windows , flipped over store shelves and rattled residents, but did relatively little damage. In the weeks preceding the annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention, some were predicting a convention-wide, mega-magnitude ecclesiastical quake that threatened to split the convention wide open and send waves of repercussions crashing onto the shores of associations and local churches. Thankfully, that event did not take place. The forecasted, and much feared, Quake at the Lake simply never materialized. Missouri Baptists left Tan-Tar-A much relieved, and more united than many thought we were.

The emphasis on prayer in the weeks before the convention, and during the annual meeting itself, I’m convinced, played a major role in easing the fault-line of tension that has existed in our state convention. Though I was unable to attend any of the scheduled prayer meetings, I did commit myself to prayer, and repeatedly asked the Spirit of the living God to reveal in me any spirit of bitterness or feelings of animosity that I might possibly be harboring toward a fellow Missouri Baptist. It is impossible to hate a brother or sister in Christ when you are praying for them. I arrived at Tan-Tar-A with a cleansed heart, and a fresh desire for unity of spirit.

When it comes to denominational life, I have attempted to live by several principles.

First, I am willing to fellowship with anyone. The tie that binds is dependent upon our relationship with Jesus, who is the Christ. It is our relationship with Him that puts us in relationship and fellowship with each other. The Apostle John wrote: "that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3, ESV). Here is the biblical basis for our fellowship. It’s a fellowship that is not – and should not be – dependent upon a similarity of political agendas within convention life.

As Baptists, we will always have disparate views on something, i.e. speaking in tongues, worship styles, evangelistic methodologies, etc. We should never have disparate views, however, on what binds us together; a mutual love for Jesus, that translates into a mutual love for each other. The Scriptures teach that we are to forgive one another, and encourage one another, and comfort one another, and pray for one another, and to bear one another’s burdens, and to accept one another, and even to submit to one another. To fellowship in love through the spirit in Christ does not mean laying aside our convictions concerning issues that face us as a convention. It does mean that the issues do not preclude a genuine love for and desire to fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. I have always believed and consistently preached that men of good conscience can passionately disagree on the issues facing our convention, and still come together at the end of the day in genuine Christian fellowship.

I had the opportunity to share for a few moments with Bruce McCoy during the HLG reception on Tuesday evening. I shared with him something he already knew – that I had been vocally and editorially opposed to Save Our Convention’s agenda. That’s never been any secret. But I also had an opportunity to share with him that I consider him a brother in Christ, whom I am not in any way embarrassed by or fearful of being seen with. I met for the first time at this convention Darren Casper, and Tim Cowen; brothers with whom I have had passionate debates on the MoBaptist List. It’s always a joy to put faces to the names of brothers I regularly converse with and to discover a commonality and comradery that simply cannot be communicated via email. I have also discovered a kindred heart in Micah Fries. We first met in San Antonio this summer during the Southern Baptist Convention. I had an absolutely delightful time with Micah and his wife, Tracy during dinner on Monday evening.

In this eclectic group of Christian brothers I include men like Don Hinkle, Kent Cochren, Kerry Messer, and Rodney Albert. These are men with whom I have a deep theological affinity , and similar views concerning most of the issues facing the Missouri Baptist Convention. But the tie that binds me to Kent Cochren, is exactly the same tie that binds me to Jim Shaver or Micah Fries – the Lord, Jesus, and that is a tie that supercedes anything that takes place in the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Second, I thoroughly believe in the foundational principle of Baptist polity: One Baptist with one vote, voting their conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, with the majority ruling and the minority choosing to cooperate with the will of the majority.

Many years ago while pastoring a church on the West side of Missouri, I learned a valuable lesson from Esther Catron. Esther was an energetic seventy-five-year old who led the children’s department of our Sunday School. She ran her own business, and took care of an invalid husband. She was passionate about discipleship training and was often my ‘go-to’ person when, as a young pastor who had not grown up Baptist, I needed guidance on Baptist practice. One year the church was deciding on whether-or-not to begin a ministry that was going to involve considerable time and money. Esther was ‘agin it. She spoke against it in the Church Council meeting, but was out-voted. She spoke against it, and voted against it at the subsequent business meeting where the church approved proceeding with the event. The next week a sizable check was received from Esther for the ministry that she had so thoroughly opposed. When I mentioned it to her, she responded. "I was against it, and I voted my conscience, but my church voted to do it, so I’m going to support it." Through that action, Esther taught me one of the most important lessons about Baptist life. You vote your conscience at every level of Baptist life, whether it’s the local church, or the local association, or the state convention, or even the national convention, and if you do not prevail in that vote, you choose to cooperate any way.

I have been critical of Save Our Convention’s agenda. As I said earlier, this is no secret. I fully supported the nominations of Mike Green, Jay Scribner, Roger Moran, and Jerry Williams, and voted for each one of them, believing that they were the best choices to guide the Missouri Baptist Convention this coming year. That was my conviction. Not one of them was elected. I still choose to cooperate with the Missouri Baptist Convention and will pray for each of the four men who were elected. We must not act like the kid who owns the bat and ball, and threatens to take them and leave the game if the other kids don’t agree to play by his rules.

We all know the adage that The majority is not always right. But as Baptists, who come together as believers, born of the Spirit, we must believe that God is providentially at work in the life of each messenger, and that He guides them in their decisions. In this manner He moves and works his will in the life of our convention as a whole. It is God who began a good work in each one of us and who will bring his work to completion in us.

I repeatedly told people in the days leading up to the convention that I trust Missouri Baptists. I trust them because I fully believe in the providence of God to accomplish His will in and through us – sometimes in spite of us. As the Spirit of God moved over the face of the deep to bring order out of chaos during the days of creation, so I believe that God’s Spirit still hovers over the chaos of our lives, or our churches, and even our state convention and seeks to bring order out of chaos, thus bringing glory to Himself.

Lastly, we are going to have to agree to disagree at times. When the CBF-supporting moderates were in control of the MBC, this was often onerous to many of us, and yet we did it. We disagreed with what was taking place in our state convention, but we cooperated any way. We supported the Cooperative Program, and we gave to the mission offerings. We came to the convention year-afer-year and voted our conscience and usually got voted down. Rarely, if ever, did the conservative nominee for a convention office win election. Moderates controlled the nominating committee, and allowed only a token number of conservatives onto the various boards and commissions. And still we chose to cooperate.

Now the conservative resurgence in firmly in place, conservatives are in control, and still we have some disagreements. That’s because we’re Baptists and thoroughly committed to being guided by the authority of the Scriptures. The problem, as we all know, is that on some issues we can have honest differences of interpretation. This is one of the burdens that come with fellowship among Baptists. We each have the tendency to believe that our position on a matter is the only proper position to take, and we don’t understand why the other guy can’t see it our way. The question is: "Will we, as theological conservatives, allow these issues to hinder our fellowship and cooperation to the point of disunity and separation, or will we agree to disagree on some issues and cooperate for the sake of Kingdom growth?" Nowhere is this question more obvious than on the issue of abstinence form beverage alcohol.

We heard much this last week on the "alcohol issue." David Tolliver addressed it in his sermon, as did Mike Green and Rodney Albert. During the last business session, messengers declined to support the Resolution Committee’s counsel not to do so, and instead voted to bring to the floor for consideration a resolution on the consumption of beverage alcohol. It was the exact same resolution that was passed at the SBC annual meeting two years ago. It was clear that the majority of the messengers and all the speakers who addressed the issue believe that the Scriptures mandate a position on this issue that not all of us believe that the Scriptures mandate. Some of us believe that to take such a position strikes at the sufficiency of the Scriptures themselves. We have here, a clear difference of interpretation. The question is not, "Should we abstain?" I am of the opinion that we should. It’s the wisest choice. It’s the mature choice. It’s the Christian-brother-honoring choice. It’s even the most God-glorifying choice. But I say again: The question is not "Should we abstain?" The question is, "Is it Scriptural to maintain that the occasional consumption of a low-alcoholic-content drink such as wine or beer or a wine cooler is, always has been and always will be sinful?" There are those brothers among us – such as myself – who believe that it is not always necessarily sinful to do so, even though we would never, ever choose to do so. This is a matter of interpretation that puts me squarely at odds with the resolution that was passed (or at least several statements contained therein), and with some men whom I deeply respect and consider close brothers in Christ.

Bearing with one another is sometimes hard work, but it’s always worth the effort. Example: Over the last year, Kent Cochern has become a dear brother in Christ to me. I enjoy his fellowship and his friendship, and he mine. But Kent thinks I’m wrong about this "drinking stuff." (Although there are many, many aspects about the issue in which we are in total agreement). Kent loves me anyway. I may never convince Kent that my interpretation is the correct stance, but I love him anyway. Our friendship is worth the effort of bearing with one another on this issue.

I end with this thought for our convention: "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV)

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Interview with Mike Green
Nominee for a second term as MBC President
Mike is the Director of Missions for the Twin Rivers Baptist Association

1. Why do you feel led to allow your name to be place in nomination for an MBC office?
First, let me say that I never sought the office. Others have sought me out, and asked me to serve, initially as 1st Vice President, and then as President. I’ve agreed to run for the constitutionally-allowed second term because there are big changes coming in Missouri Baptist life, and I believe that we need some continuity in the midst of that change.

2. Please tell me about your conversion experience and a little about your spiritual journey.
I became a believer when I was nine years old. I was saved at the Bates Creek Church Camp in Jefferson Baptist Association, and made my commitment to Christ public at the 1st Baptist Church of Desoto, MO. I was baptized into the church by Rev. Milton Elmore who was one of my heroes when I was growing up.

3. What is your vision for the future of the Missouri Baptist Convention?
My primary vision for the Missouri Baptist Convention is simple – that we fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission. Secondly, that we move forward and stay on course with the conservative resurgence.

4. Please tell me a little about your family.
I am married to Cathy. We met in school through the local BSU. Cathy is a High School music teacher and also teaches private voice and piano lessons. Our son Matthew is the “brains” of the family. He is getting ready to attend Washington University and will major in medicine. Elise, our daughter, has a degree in Entertainment Management and works for Silver Dollar City.

5. What do you believe are the major issues confronting the Missouri Baptist Convention?
One of our top priorities right now is finding God’s man and a god-led man to be our next Execute Director. Another priority needs to be planting biblically solid church plants, that believe in orthodoxy as well as othro-practice. I fully agree with our interim Executive Director, Dr. David Tolliver, that we need a major emphasis on growing healthy churches. A healthy church will be a church that fulfills the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

6. What do you believe are the major issues confronting the local Baptist Church?
Perhaps the most important issue facing our local churches, is staying faithful to Scripture in a post-modern world. Developing strong biblical leadership among both clergy and laity in our local churches is also of utmost importance. It’s one of the reasons I chose the theme that I did for this year’s annual meeting -- Building Kingdom Focused Churches based on Acts 1:8. As a new Director of Missions, I have also discovered that we have a great number of pastors and staff members in our churches who are disillusioned and hurting. They need ministry and encouragement.

7. Do you believe the MBC should continue its legal case against the five former convention agencies who’s trustee boards voted to go self-perpetuating?
In a word – Yes!

8. Save Our Convention argues that a small cadre of Missouri Baptists are controlling the state convention from behind the scenes. How do you respond to that?
My friendships and relationships in the MBC cross many lines. I do not like the controversy. No one does. But I also believe that we must continue the conservative resurgence. I can also say, that as MBC president, I was not controlled by any cadre of people.

9. What is your opinion of The Pathway?
I believe that The Pathway is one of the finest state newspapers in the SBC. This is not just my opinion. I’ve heard many others express that view from other states including other editors. As with any newsjournal, there are probably ways to improve the paper.

10. Why should local churches continue to support the Missouri Baptist Convention?
For the same reason that we’ve always supported the work of the convention: It is a solid organization that links us together to support, missions, evangelism and other ministries in the state of Missouri.

11. Is there anything else that you would like to say to Missouri Baptists?
Thank you Missouri Baptists for giving me the priviledge this last year to serve as your president. I thank you for your prayers, your kind letters and emails, and I would ask that you pray for me as I moderate the convention in Tan-Tar-A this year. Also pray for me as a believer and a new director of missions, that I would always honor my lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in all that I do and say.

Monday, October 22, 2007

An Interview with Roger Moran
Nominee for MBC 2nd Vice President
Roger is a layman who owns his own business and is a member of the FBC, Troy, MO

1. Please tell me about your conversion experience and a little about your spiritual journey.
At the age of 13, I made a profession of faith in Christ. But in my late teens and early twenties, I had wondered off to the far country of rebellion and bad behavior. However, on May 1st, 1982, at the age of 25, the Lord did an amazing thing in my life. Through a series of events and circumstances, He brought me to the point of repentance and changed my desires in a significant way so that for the first time in a long, long time, I wanted Christ and realized that I needed Him desperately. God changed me from one type of person to a completely different one. I still had lots of faulty thinking and bad behavior to deal with, but I was on a new path. I had never really read the Bible before, and was an extremely poor reader. But I remember well moving back in with my grandmother, and for the next three years was completely consumed with reading the Scriptures. I’d sit behind her old wood stove in the winter with the door of my bedroom cracked so the light would shine on the pages of the black Bible she gave me and there I would read late into the night, always amazed at what I was reading. There are no words that can express how grateful and thankful I am for what Christ did in my life. In those days, I literally drove a stake in the ground that I might remember that I had chosen to put my hands to the plow and that by the grace of God, I would never look back.

2. Please tell me a little about your family.
My wife, Ronna and I have nine children ranging from age two to 19. Our eldest, Kristina, attends Hannibal LaGrange College. Michelle, 16, is considering Pensacola Christian College. Yulia, 15, is our adopted daughter from Russia. Daniel, 14, has spent most of the last year recovering from a serious horse riding accident. Rachel is 11 and loves people. Rebekah and Elizabeth are nine year old identical twins. Jonathan is a handful at five. David is two and will be attending his first convention this year. We live on a 160 acre farm about 25 miles from Troy, MO, where we attend church. Ronna, is finishing her bachelor’s degree while home schooling our children.

3. What do you believe are the major issues confronting the local church?
At the 2006 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, NC, I made a motion requesting that LifeWay Research investigate the growing body of research regarding two specific issues that should greatly concern every SBC/MBC church. First is the research showing that the vast majority of those who call themselves evangelical Christians (which includes Southern Baptists) do not hold to a clearly defined biblical worldview. Second is the growing body of research stating that 88 to to 92 percent of the children from evangelical homes are leaving the church as they are entering young adulthood. (The SBC Counsel on the Family cited the 88 percent figure) Thus, I have come to view the underlying causes of these issues as the major issues confronting the local church. If, as Southern Baptists, our quest for biblical truth fails to translate into a biblical worldview and if our passion for evangelism fails to reach and sustain our own children, then we are in grave danger of becoming a people committed to nothing more than religious rhetoric.

4. What do you believe are the major issues confronting the Missouri Baptist Convention?
The book of Amos asks the rhetorical question: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” As Missouri Baptists, we are increasingly finding ourselves in need of self-definition as a growing number of SBC/MBC voices are telling us that we should not be divided over “secondary issues.” But we were never told what those “secondary issues” were. Now we have discovered that the “secondary issues” include the use of alcohol in church ministries, cursing pastors, men’s poker night, men’s Bible and brew night, “film night” ministries where secular R-rated movies are shown, churches hosting secular rock concerts for underage kids, church services in breweries, and other such activities that characterize the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, which we are now being asked to embrace because they claim to be “theologically conservative.” However, issues and “ministries” such as these will indeed continue to divide Missouri Baptists because they do not represent the vast majority of Missouri Baptists. Ultimately, this is what this year’s MBC annual meeting will be about. Four years after Project 1000 and the battle for theological conservatism, Missouri Baptists will now decide if we will embrace the “cultural liberalism” of the emerging church movement.

One of my greatest current concerns has been the formation of the new political group called SOC (Save Our Convention), whose message has been that the convention needs to be “saved” from its current leadership, which they refer to as a group of “legalistic Pharisees” bent on destroying the MBC and its agencies. Yet, within the SOC group there is strong support for the Acts 29/emerging church movement. Even among SOC leaders that are clearly opposed to the use of alcohol, there are issues and inconsistencies that should cause serious concern among Missouri Baptists, especially in light of their stated desire to become the elected leaders of the MBC. Such concerns would include John Marshall’s support and involvement with the pro-alcohol/pro-emergent, Core Fellowship Church in Springfield, whose pastor has stated that he “wouldn’t be surprised one bit if Jesus chose never to show up in church on Sunday, or had a beer at a frat party, or frequented a gay bookstore” (read the full text of the statement I made before the SBC Executive Committee and my letter to the editor regarding this church plant); David McAlpin’s support and involvement with The Refuge Church in St. Charles, an Acts 29 church and mission of the Journey in St. Louis (also an Acts 29 church), which, like the Journey, has a bar-room ministry in a brewery; Jim Breeden, DOM of the St. Louis Metro Association, which strongly supports the Acts 29 group, and whose associate DOM, Darrin Casper is a member of the Journey.

At some point, Missouri Baptists need to ask some hard questions: Has McAlpin’s ongoing conflict with the Theological Study Committee been at least in part because that committee is exposing what McAlpin has been involved in (Acts 29)? Or, could it be that Gerald Davidson (SOC’s candidate for MBC president) launched his unprovoked public attacks against the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association at least in part because his son-in-law is an Acts 29 church planter?

The SOC attitude of “tolerance” and their broad tent of undefined “inclusiveness” will likely continue in a significant way if Missouri Baptists elect Davidson and other SOC leaders in Tan-Tar-A. An example might be one of our larger churches in the Southwest part of the state that recently participated in a “U2Charist,” where various faith groups partake of the Lord’s Supper to the music of the rock band U2. This event, which has swept the United States, is co-sponsored by the One Campaign, a liberal group whose sponsors include such far-left groups as Emergent Village (led by Brian McLaren); Sojourners (led by Jim Wallis, well known as a pro-Marxist, religious left leader whose board chair is Brian McLaren); the Unitarian Universalist Association (a predominately atheistic denomination); etc. The pastor of this large MBC church will nominate John Marshall for MBC Second Vice President. My concern is not a lack of commitment to “sound doctrine,” but the serious lack of discernment and judgment among the SOC leaders that will certainly influence the course of the MBC.

5. What is your vision for the future of the Missouri Baptist Convention?

Our vision for the future is often shaped by our understanding our past. The recent political battle we fought called Project 1000 recognized that Missouri Baptists were being led in the direction of theological liberalism with the clear objective of moving us away from the more conservative SBC and toward embracing the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The battle was clearly over biblical truth and sound doctrine. However, sound doctrine alone was never intended to be the final destination, but rather the starting point from which Missouri Baptists would recognize the absolute necessity of pursuing with passion the pathway of holiness, purity, obedience and faithfulness. Because the demons of hell believe and tremble, we understand that right believing is never a guarantee of right living or of godly character.

My vision for Missouri Baptists has never changed. The “main thing” for every born again believer is the passionate pursuit of holiness, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, at which time we, as Missouri Baptists, have every right to expect God’s divine intervention in the lives of our people and our churches. It is from this vantage point, I believe, that our commitment to missions, ministry and evangelism becomes increasingly significant because it is God who draws, God who convicts and God who regenerates, just as it is the Spirit of God who leads us into all truth and gives us a clear understanding of the seriousness of sin – the very thing for which Christ died. And it is only from this vantage point that we will ever see an authentic transformation of our people and our churches, which I believe is the highest honor we can pay to our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ. It is from a position of holiness, purity, obedience and faithfulness that Missouri Baptists will receive power from on high to carry out the great commission. But there are those who measure our success only by the number of people we draw with the latest religious fads and gimmicks; the number of baptisms, despite their absentee membership; and the number of dollars we give to the Cooperative Program. Such thinking has failed to measure the things that matter most. I believe it’s time to look once again at transformed lives, godly attitudes, character, integrity, honesty and biblical fidelity. These are also important evidences of where we are in Christ.

6. Save Our Convention (SOC) argues that a small cadre of Missouri Baptists are controlling the state convention from behind the scenes. How do you respond to that?

First, I would argue that the SOC group is made up predominately of pastors from some of our largest churches who are angry over the firing of David Clippard. I would further argue that the SOC group could be divided into two specific groups. The first group is angry because their close relationship with David Clippard gave them direct access to the “oval office” of the MBC as they influenced the course of the convention in a significant way. When Clippard was fired, the degree of access and influence they enjoyed ended immediately.

The second group is angry because Clippard was their primary advocate for the emerging church movement within the MBC -- specifically Acts 29. Clippard’s identification of the Journey as a church plant model and its pastor as a modern-day Caleb (2006 MBC annual meeting) came nearly a year after his push for a $200,000 loan to the Journey to “help facilitate a church planting center in St. Louis.” There was no question where our former Executive Director was leading the MBC in regard to this issue and certainly, the Journey’s bar-room ministry was no secret. Thus, SOC leader Kenny Qualls was absolutely wrong when he stated at the SOC meeting at Harvester that the formation of SOC was not about alcohol, the emerging church or the firing of David Clippard. The issue of alcohol cannot be divorced from Acts 29 and Acts 29 cannot be divorce from the former Clippard administration.

With all this being said, I would agree that there was a small cadre of Missouri Baptists influencing the course of the MBC from behind the scenes. But it wasn’t the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, Project 1000, the nominating committee or a group within the MBC Executive Board, for Clippard had come to view these as his political enemies. Those who were attempting to control the convention from behind the scenes were the SOC leaders, who by using the powers of the Executive Director’s office in the day to day operations of the convention, were attempting to advance their own agenda. I would further argue that because their agenda was out of step with most Missouri Baptists, their efforts had to be from behind the scenes. This also explains, at least to some degree, the conflict between Clippard and numerous members of the Executive Board, who felt that Clippard was getting his “marching orders” from people other than his convention elected authority – the Executive Board.

Now that the predominantly large church pastors that make up the SOC group have made it clear that they will not rest until they seize control of the MBC, one important question needs to be asked: How far to the left is David Sheppard and his fellow SOC leaders willing to go to build a political coalition to “move the MBC back to the center?” Another important question that needs to be asked is this: When SOC leaders said that the current leadership of the MBC has moved the convention too far to the right, what exactly do they mean? I find this extremely deceitful, especially considering the number of SOC leaders and people from their churches that serve at both the MBC and SBC level.

Since January 2007 (this calendar year), members from the 11 SOC churches serving on MBC and SBC positions include: Five members on the MBC Executive Board; two members on the MBC Nominating Committee; Three members on HLG; three members on SBU; two members on MBU; one member on the Children’s Home; two members on the MBC Foundation; two members on the Baptist Home; one member on the Executive Director Search Committee; one member on the Theological Study Committee; one member on the Credentials Committee; and one member on the Local Arrangements Committee. At the SBC level: one member at Southeastern Seminary; one member at Southwestern Seminary; two members at IMB; two members on the Committee on Nominations; and two members on the Committee on Committees (which selects the committee on nominations). This gives a total of 32 positions held by people from the 11 SOC churches.

Equally deceitful is the SOC accusation that good Missouri Baptists are being excluded from service in the MBC. If this is true, it certainly isn’t the 11 SOC churches that are being excluded. It also needs to be noted that because there is a limited number of positions of service available each year, there will always be “good people” who are “excluded” from service. But it is also true that the people currently serving within the MBC are “good people,” and SOC’s reference to current MBC elected leadership as “legalistic Pharisees” was nothing more than divisive political rhetoric designed for their own political gain.

7. What is your opinion of Pathway?
It has been my observation that Missouri Baptists have one of the finest news journals in all of the SBC, as well as one of the finest editors. I have the utmost confidence in Don Hinkle and his staff. Don has performed his responsibilities remarkably well, especially in light of the political turmoil the convention has experienced the last couple years. I would contend that Hinkle is to be commended for his faithfulness to Missouri Baptists and to the cause that brought Bible-believing Missouri Baptists to the helm of leadership within our convention. I know of few men who could have endured what our state editor has had to endure in recent months. I believe we owe him our prayers and a debt of gratitude.

8. Why should local churches continue to support the Missouri Baptist Convention?
Like any other institution, the Missouri Baptist Convention must earn the support of every MBC church. Yet at the same time, the convention cannot be “all things to all people” for it is bound by the decisions and directives of the messengers meeting in annual session. I still believe Missouri Baptists are overwhelmingly conservative and have a passion for the things that matter most to God. Nevertheless, if we begin to elect MBC leaders that dilute or downplay our long standing opposition to the kind of bad behavior flowing from the emerging church movement, the same Bible-believing Missouri Baptists that rose up and took back the MBC will either rise up again, or wearied by fighting and foolishness, will gradually reconsider the legitimacy of such a religious institution.

Thus far, all we know about the SOC group and their political agenda is what they say they don’t like about the current leadership of the MBC (the vast majority of which is based on false and extremely misleading statements). But what they are not saying publicly is what they are for -- and what they want the MBC to look like when they’re done. I would submit that thus far, their actions are speaking louder than their words.

9. Is there anything else you would like to say to Missouri Baptists?
There are a number of things Missouri Baptists need to know about the current political environment within the MBC . Since the formation of the SOC group, I had opted to allow their rhetoric and accusations to largely go unchallenged, hoping that some degree of sanity would return to the convention. By early September, I thought that maybe that time had arrived. At the recommendation of MBC president Mike Green and interim Executive Director David Tolliver, I agreed to meet with SOC leader John Marshall the day after Labor Day in St. Peters. This private meeting was at his request to discuss convention issues. At the end of the meeting, Marshall stated that it was his intention to “shut down” the SOC group. Marshall called David Tolliver and announced to him the same thing. The next day, Marshall called again and asked if I would be willing to meet with Kenny Qualls and Tom Willoughby (both SOC leaders) as I had with Marshall. However, three weeks later (October 3rd) when the second meeting took place, it was clear that there was no intention of shutting down the SOC group, but rather, it became evident that the SOC group had planned their own meeting for that same day. The following day I was informed (not by Marshall or SOC leaders) that far from shutting down SOC, they had endorsed a full slate of SOC candidates for MBC officers.

Other concerns I have about the SOC group would include their first meeting at FBC Harvester in May, when David Sheppard went into great detail about how it “grated” on him that a front page story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch identified me as “the most powerful Baptist in Missouri,” an editorial comment based on a statement from a CBF pastor. However, Sheppard never quoted the full title of the article: “Missouri’s most powerful Baptist takes on the ‘emerging church,’” which was the focus of the article. Even more revealing is that Sheppard never mentioned another front page article in the Sunday edition of the Post Dispatch titled: “Beer and the Bible: It works for one growing church. But it’s got Missouri Baptists hopping mad.” This was in reference to the Journey in St. Louis which was the recipient of a $200,000 loan from Missouri Baptist. That apparently didn’t “grate” on Sheppard, even though the emerging church article was in response to the “Beer and the Bible” article.

I find it equally disturbing that SOC leaders accused MBLA at the Harvester meeting of being “powerbrokers” in part because Kerry Messer, MBLA president and Richard Stone, an MBLA board member served on the SBC Committee on Nominations in 1998 and 2000 respectively. But they failed to note that since 2004, numerous SOC leaders have served on both the SBC Committee on Nominations and the SBC Committee on Committee (which appoints the SBC Committee on Nominations): For current year 2007, SOC leader David Sheppard is serving on the SBC Committee on Committees and SOC leader Dewight Blankship will serve on the Committee on Nominations; In 2006, James Barnhart (associate pastor under SOC leader Mitch Jackson) served on the Committee on Committees and SOC leader Tom Willoughby served on the Committee on Nominations; In 2004, SOC leader Mitch Jackson served on the Committee on Committees and James Montgomery (from John Marshall’s church) served on the Committee on Nominations. (It should also be noted that in 1998, when Kerry Messer served on the SBC Committee on Nominations, Project 1000 had not yet won their first MBC presidential election.)

10. Do you believe the MBC should continue its legal case against the five former convention agencies whose trustee boards voted to go self-perpetuating?
Yes. There is no question that the trustees of these agencies wrongfully “stole” these entities from Missouri Baptists. The absolute wretched behavior of these former MBC leaders is most clearly seen in the fact that they have used every possible tactic to delay our “cause” from coming before a judge for a simple ruling as to whether or not the trustees had the right to do what they did. The only thing Missouri Baptists have ever asked for was a simple ruling on the merits of the case. And we still are waiting on that simple ruling while those who plundered the convention are attempting to spend us into submission. I would also argue that while we may certainly forgive a thief, especially if he repents, we also have a Biblical responsibility to hold a thief responsible for his wrongful behavior – especially if the thief professes the name of Christ.

11. Why do you feel led to allow your name to be placed in nomination for an MBC office?
I entered the political fray of MBC life in 1989 over the issue of pornography and the SBC endorsed boycott against Holiday Inn. It was at that time that I discovered that the MBC had been funding Americans United for Separation of Church and State for over 30 years. From that battle, we moved to the CBF and ultimately Project 1000. Today, Missouri Baptists are facing a significantly different kind of issue only in that we have theological conservatives opposed to theological conservatives. Nevertheless, the underlying issues we now face still have serious ramifications.

Men like Mike Green, Jay Scribner, Jerry Williams (and I need to include myself since I’m on the slate of officers I am recommending), have never stammered, stuttered or wavered in our commitment Biblical Truth or issues of holiness. Peace and unity are always one of our highest priorities, but not at any price.

I have chosen to add my name to a slate of men that I have the utmost respect for and who will continue to move Missouri Baptists in the same direction and on the same course that we (and several of the SOC leaders) charted way back in 1998. I think it is clear what we will stand for and what we will stand against. In the meantime, we will continue to pray that God will use what has happened in the MBC to move us on to a deeper level of maturity and a greater passion for the things that matter most to God.