In Case You Missed It

1) The sharp political and cultural critic, David Brooks, thinks that our culture has a shallow idea of meaning.

2) Tony Merida recently published his new book, Ordinary (B&H), which challenges us to be–yep–ordinary Christians.

3) At First Things, Faatimah Knight points out a “subtle and unnoticed misogyny” at work in television and film.

4) Micah Fries encourages SBC churches not to give to the Cooperative Program. (But he doesn’t mean what you may think.)

5) J. D. Greear asks, are you willing to doubt your doubt? Good question.

 

EQUIP: Nathan Akin on the Apostle Paul and Search Committees

What if the Apostle Paul were on a Search Committee?

Have you ever wondered if the Apostle Paul were on a search committee what kind of questions he would ask the pastoral candidate? I wonder if they would be like the questions most search committees ask today?

Questions such as:

  • What is the attendance at your current church?
  • What is the membership at your current church?
  • How many did you baptize this year?
  • What is the budget?
  • What degrees do you have?
  • Are you a Calvinist?
  • Are you pre-tribulational in your eschatology?

I think even the process of most pastoral search committee’s can be debated, but I think it is worth considering what the man who kept Timothy in Ephesus for the work of shepherding that flock and sent Titus to Crete would ask a potential pastoral candidate. It is possible that many search committees and churches place too high a focus on aspects of ministry that the apostle would not, “budgets and butts in the seats” as some would say. Now, Paul did give his young protégé one clear exhortation when it came to pastoral ministry. He wrote him in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Is it possible that a primary question the apostle would ask would be, “how do you plan on multiplying yourself?” I think we have more evidence in the scriptures that he would ask that question as well as questions about how you will guard the good deposit as we do about “budgets and butts in the seats.”

I believe churches need to value more highly the importance of the pastor reproducing himself. And I believe pastors need to consider how they will intentionally take on 2 Timothy 2:2 in their church and how they will intentionally build it into their schedule so that it does not get eclipsed by other things.

At Southeastern Seminary we have developed a program called EQUIP that will help pastors develop such a ministry in their churches and give Seminary-level credit for work done through that ministry. We would love to serve pastors and churches as they consider developing a 2 Timothy 2:2 ministry in their church and we would love to come alongside those that already have a ministry like this and see how we can partner to give theological credit. If you are interested in finding out more please contact us – Equip@sebts.edu

Recurring Themes in Baptist History

Nearly every semester, I teach a course at Southeastern Seminary titled Baptist History: Heritage, Identity, Polity. Like any subject that you study historically, Baptist history is characterized by a number of recurring themes. Some of these themes represent perennial debates among Baptists, while others speak to historical developments that continue to influence Baptists to the present day. I try to highlight these themes during the course of the semester in my lectures and in our class discussions.

While there are no doubt other themes that could be highlighted, I point to six as being particularly important. These topics come up in class again and again because, well, they come up among Baptists again and again!

1. Reform vs. Restoration: Some historians interpret Baptists as a reform movement that arose among English Protestants, while others see them as a restoration movement that sought to bypass earlier movements and return to the purity of New Testament Christianity. Furthermore, how Baptists themselves have understood their own identity as reformers or restorationists has varied at different points in history. How one approaches this issue necessarily affects his or her understanding of Baptist identity.

2. Calvinism vs. Arminianism: From their earliest days, Baptists have enjoyed no consensus on doctrines such as predestination, the extent/intent of the atonement, the relationship between divine grace and human belief, and the eternal security of those who believe. Some Baptists have been strong Calvinists, while others have been convictional Arminians. Many Baptists (including most Southern Baptists today) have attempted to argue that a position between Calvinism and Arminianism is the most biblical position. While this is an important topic that should be considered first and foremost from a biblical perspective, historically, there is no such thing as “the Baptist view” of the doctrines of grace.

3. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Church Membership: While all Baptists affirm believer’s baptism, there is no unanimity in terms of how baptism relates to the Lord’s Supper and church membership. Historically, most Baptists have argued that believer’s baptism is prerequisite to church membership and participation in the Lord’s Supper. However, many Baptists believe that believer’s baptism should not be prerequisite to communion. A small but growing minority of Baptists believes that believer’s baptism should not be a requirement of church membership. This spectrum of views was already present by the middle of the seventeenth century.

4. The Relationship between Church and State: Baptists have historically championed full religious liberty and church-state separation. However, Baptists have frequently disagreed about the implementation of this principle. Some Baptists want religious liberty within the context of a broadly Christian nation, while others want the state to take a secular (though not secularist) approach and remain neutral on religious matters. In America, this particular theme has been a point of tension from the 1960s onward. Some Baptists accuse the Supreme Court and sometimes legislative bodies of advocating secularism while other Baptists accuse political conservatives of rejecting, or at least downplaying, the importance of church-state separation.

5. The Centrality of Missions: From the eighteenth century onwards, missions has been arguably the defining theme in Baptist history. Nearly every theological and methodological debate among Baptists has been related in some way to the desire of Baptists to obey Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20. As much as any denomination, Baptists are a tradition defined by a high level of commitment to evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. We have certainly witnessed this theme play in some of our family discussions in recent Southern Baptist life.

6. Increasing Denominationalism: As Baptists became more committed to missions, they were forced to develop increasingly elaborate denominational structures to better facilitate cooperation for the sake of missions. Sometimes, denominationalism has served as a catalyst to missionary efforts. At other times, denominational structures have arguably hindered effective missionary advance due to alleged bureaucratic expansion. For some Baptists, their denominational identity is part and parcel of their wider Baptist identity, while other Baptists see themselves as only partially—perhaps even peripherally—part of a Baptist denomination.

Again, I have little doubt there are other themes that could be highlighted, but these are the ones that stand out to me. To my thinking, it is impossible to understand Baptist history—or contemporary debates about Baptist identity, denominationalism, etc.—without some familiarity with these six recurring themes.