The Culture of the Christ-Haunted South

Russell Moore, the president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, begins his latest book, Onward, by telling a story.Onward Russ had a college friend, an atheist, who wasn’t antagonistic towards the Christian faith so much as he found it simply irrelevant. Russ and he had friendly coffee-shop debates about the existence of God, and on a number of occasions Russ had shared his faith with his unbelieving friend. So when his friend, out of the blue, asked Russ to recommend a church for him to attend, Russ thought the friend must have had a Damascus Road-type conversion. His friend quickly corrected Russ:

He rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe any of that stuff,” he said. “But I want to go into politics, and I’m never going to be elected to anything in this state if I’m not a church member. And I’ve looked at the numbers; there are more Southern Baptists around here than anything else, so sign me up.”

I was stunned into momentary silence as he stopped to check out a girl walking past our table. He then took a swig of coffee and continued, “But seriously, nothing freaky; if anybody starts screaming about hell or pulling a snake out of a box, I’m out of there.” (2)

Russ makes his point well. There has been a serious downside to the culture of the Bible-Belt, a milieu he calls “the culture of the Christ-haunted South.” For many persons, claiming to be a Christian became so expedient that it blinded them about the actual claims of Christ.

Russ argues that the collapse of the Bible-Belt provides the Church with a new opportunity. “We ought to see the ongoing cultural shake-up in America as a liberation of sorts from a captivity we never even knew we were in” (7). In Onward: Engaging the Gospel without Losing the Culture, Russ Moore makes the case for a clear-eyed optimism. I think he’s right.

Cross-posted at

In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Dr. Stephen Wade published an article which offers a few foundational thoughts relative to understanding addictions biblically, and in it he also suggests some practical tips relative to ministering to addicts. In his article Dr. Wade writes:

Addictions are typically associated with alcohol and drug abuse, but when we dig deep into the human heart, we find that a clear understanding of what is going on is really a picture of the battle going on in the heart of every sinner. Pastors will find that both believers and non-believers struggle with addictive tendencies, to a greater or lesser extent, with many different things in their lives. Indeed, the grace and power of the gospel applied to the struggle of an addict is the same grace and power that every believer needs in the battle with sin.

Thom Rainer published an article describing five reasons pastors have guest blindness at the Lifeway blog earlier this week. Dr. Rainer writes:

In light of the woeful reports from mystery guests, I was very surprised at one facet of some research we conducted as we interviewed pastors across America.* One of our questions asked if the pastor’s church does a good job of meeting the needs of first time guests. Surprisingly, 90 percent of the pastors said “yes.” Did you get that? Less than 20 percent of the guests said their visit was good, but 90 percent of the pastors perceive the opposite, that most guests have a good visit.

At The Gospel Coalition, Camille Cates writes: “Why I Don’t Blame Planned Parenthood.

In Genesis 3, we see Adam shift blame to his wife, Eve, and even to God himself. Likewise, Eve shifts blame onto the serpent. Neither takes responsibility for his or her own actions; instead, they simply act as if their sin is someone else’s fault. In the years immediately following my abortion, I shifted the blame too. I blamed my baby’s father. I blamed my parents who took me to the clinic. I even blamed God.

In a recent post on his blog, Dr. Waylon Bailey gives five practical steps for wise speech.

How many times have you asked yourself: “Why did I say that?” Or, maybe you asked: “How could I say that?” Nothing seems to be as easy as saying something dumb. None of us wants to misspeak or say things we shouldn’t. What can we do to minimize our unwise words?

Reflecting on a question he was once asked about Christians eating black pudding in light of Old Testament regulations about eating blood (Lev. 17:10ff), Sinclair Ferguson writes on four principles for the exercise of Christian liberty over at Ligonier:

Although (as far as I am aware) no theological dictionary contains an entry under B for “The Black Pudding Controversy,” this unusual discussion raised some most basic hermeneutical and theological issues:

  • How is the Old Testament related to the New?
  • How is the Law of Moses related to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • How should a Christian exercise freedom in Christ?

Yesterday in Chapel at Southeastern, Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of Graduate Studies warns students not to become hard hearted to where they destroy their witness. Watch the entire message here:

Why Church Leaders Need To Continue Their Education

By: Dr. Chuck Lawless

I admit my bias here. I am a seminary dean and professor, and I believe in education. My reason for writing this post, though, goes beyond these thoughts. If we are doing the work of God, we must give our absolute best. I desire to be part of a team that trains and sends out the strongest leaders in the world – leaders who make a difference in the kingdom of darkness. Those leaders never stop learning. Here are ten reasons why leaders should continue their education:

  1. The Christian life is about growth. We are babies in Christ at new birth, yet called to continual growth and maturity (Heb. 5:12-14). If we reach the point of assuming we’ve “arrived” and need no further training, we are instead neglecting our Christian responsibility.
  1. A willingness to learn is a sign of humility. Education is seldom easy. An openness to become a student again, to be held accountable for assignments, and to be evaluated by others is a sign of the kind of humility all leaders should exhibit.
  1. We always face theological issues. The authority of the Word of God, especially when evaluated against sacred documents of other world faiths, continues to be an issue. We must increasingly defend the truth that a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to God. Continued education can help us be better prepared to respond to these types of significant issues.
  1. We continue to confront new ethical and moral issues. When I started in ministry over thirty years ago, I did not imagine ministering in a culture that affirms same-sex marriage. Internet pornography was not even an option. Concerns like these are not, of course, separated from our theology, and further education equips us to minister in this changing culture.
  1. The people we lead are frequently still learning. At least in North America, we often minister to educated parishioners. Many of our congregations include professionals for whom continued education is assumed, if not required. Thus, they recognize the value that continued training offers for their spiritual leaders.
  1. Online learning allows us to continue education without leaving our ministry. Today, the Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for continued training without evacuating significant ministries. Southeastern Seminary now offers masters and doctoral degrees – including the PhD – that do not require residence in North Carolina.
  1. Learning within a group of peers is important. Many opportunities for advanced training include small group, peer-to-peer learning that focuses on particular aspects of leadership. Peers become not only classmates, but also prayer partners. Education thus becomes not only content-based, but also life-on-life.
  1. We often learn better after leadership experience. Learning apart from practical experience is not insignificant, but it risks becoming only theory rather than life application. The best students I know are those who leadership experience gives them a grid through which to evaluate concepts and programs.
  1. The discipline of learning is important. Let’s be honest: even leaders sometimes get lazy. We rely solely on yesterday’s learning to face today’s issues. We talk more about what we have read than about what we are reading. Continued education, on the other hand, challenges us to return to rigor and discipline.
  1. Continued education stretches our faith. The obstacles to further training are real. Too little time. Too few dollars. Too many years out of school. Too many other responsibilities. Too much risk of failure. Here’s the bottom line, though: sometimes we just have to trust God to help us do what He expects us to do.

First published at

Dr. Chuck Lawless is Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Vice President for Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.