Guest Blog by Central Asia RL: Biblical Foundations and Guidelines for Contextualization (Pt 5)

Guest Blog: Biblical Foundations and Guidelines for Contextualization (Pt 5)

Editor’s Note: This guest blog is written by the IMB’s Regional Leader for Central Asia. It is a six part series, giving the biblical foundations and guidelines for contextualization, and making application to Christian ministry in the Muslim world. This series will appear as a chapter in the forthcoming book “Look What God is Doing in the Muslim World.”

The Message of the Good News

We can use their book as a bridge to the Gospel, as long as we do it in a way that does not imply divine inspiration or equality with the Bible.

We can choose our terminology carefully, and delay the use of red-flag terms like “Son of God” in favor of other equally-Biblical terms until we have reached the point where we can explain those red-flag terms Biblically.

We can and should utilize the full scope of Biblical narrative to establish a worldview in which the Gospel is intelligible. The Bible doesn’t jump straight from the Fall of Man in Genesis 3 to the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1. God took centuries to establish who He is, what He requires, what humanity is like, and what He intended to do about it, before He brought Jesus on the scene. The worldview of the Old Testament is essential to understanding the Biblical Gospel. Most Muslims who come to Christ do so after exposure to a broad scope of Biblical revelation over a period of time. Take the long view. In each conversation, ask yourself, “What Bible/Gospel content can I add to their understanding today?” In this context, and in the oral cultures that make up so much of the Muslim world, chronological Bible storying is a wonderful tool!

We can and should utilize a variety of communication genres and media to communicate the message of the Gospel. Some cultures revel in poetry, songs or proverbs – all of which are found in Scripture. Explore the internet, audio, TV, video, and print media. Find out what genres they use to communicate worldview truth. Find out what media they use and respond to the most. Use any and all genres and media that are appropriate.

We can utilize whatever name for God is most appropriate in any given language, including Allah. We must import Biblical content and correct past understandings with any word we use for God.

We can utilize the Arabic forms of other names and terms in the Bible, rather than forms from other foreign languages like English or French or Russian or Dutch.

We should stress that we are calling people to a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and not to ethnic treason and the abandonment of their cultural identity.

We do not need to attack Islam directly.

At the same time:

We can never downplay the central doctrines of the Gospel – particularly those that contradict Islam or that cause offence to Muslims. Many examples could be given here, but in a Muslim context we need to take special care that we never deemphasize the Deity of Christ, the reality of His death and resurrection, the necessity of His substitutionary sacrifice, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the integrity, inerrancy and finality of the Bible, and the radical nature of conversion, which is so extreme that it can only be described in terms of death and new life.

We can never downplay the necessity of repentance.

We can never deny or excise any part of Scripture or any Biblical terminology, including the term “Son of God.”

We can never construct a chronological Bible story set and call it an oral Bible. Chronological Bible story sets are wonder tools for evangelism and discipleship, but only the full text of the Bible is the Bible, and an oral Bible must be the actual words of the Bible presented in audio rather than print format.

We can never remove, substitute or downplay the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

We can never give the impression that we believe that Islam, Muhammad or the Quran are of divine origin.

Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 10: Church Discipline: One Essential of a Healthy Church, Part A

Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence is a series of articles by faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary that seeks to offer some definitions of what constitutes a GCR, why we believe the SBC is in need of such a movement, and what such a movement might look like in SBC life. The series will address biblical, theological, historical and practical issues related to a GCR with the hope that God will use our finite and flawed efforts for His glory and the good of the people called Southern Baptist.

Church Discipline: One Essential of a Healthy Church, Part A

The New Testament has a great deal to say about Church Discipline. Jesus addresses it in Matthew 18:15-20, and Paul does so repeatedly in Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 13:1-3; Galatians 6:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; and Titus 3:9-15. This fact alone makes it all the more remarkable that no aspect of church life in our day is more neglected than this one. Indeed the contemporary church’s disregard for this clear teaching of Holy Scripture is perhaps its greatest visible act of disobedience to our Lord. This rebellion is not without significant consequences. John L. Dagg cogently noted, “when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.” Without Christ at the center, there will be no Great Commission.

For Baptist this neglect is striking when you consider that we have historically viewed Church Discipline as an essential mark, “the third mark,” of the church, right alongside 1) the Word rightly preached and 2) the Ordinances properly administered. And yet, none of our most recent confessions, The Baptist Faith and Message 1925, 1963, and 2000, has a statement on this biblical teaching!

How did we get here? How did we get to a place where the “people of the Book” exercise such a blatant act of disobedience to a clear command of Christ and a crucial component of Church life? Certainly there have been abuses of the practice, though even the memory of this is so far removed from our own day that I seriously doubt one of us can point to a single example. No, we have been infected by a far more deadly disease.

I believe the genesis of the disease is 4-fold: 1) a loss of theological nerve, 2) a compromised morality, 3) biblical illiteracy and 4) practical expediency. In each of these instances the problem finds its origin at the top, with the leadership, with the pastors.

First, we have lost our theological nerve, the courage to confront as well as comfort, to admonish as well as exhort. Out of fear of offending, we have slinked away into the false security of silence.

Second, we have been overcome by moral compromise. Our churches look and act so much like the world we would hardly know where to begin if we did restore Church Discipline.

Third, we are simply and sadly biblically illiterate. Lay this deficiency at the feet of preachers who have jettisoned an expository model of preaching that allows us to avoid and neglect the hard doctrines of Scripture like Church Discipline.

Fourth, practical expediency and, I might add, personal ambition, has played an all too important role. A bigger membership means greater bragging rights. It affords a more attractive platform to make the move to a larger and more influential pulpit or denominational post. I wish I did not believe that there was any merit to this particular observation. However, too many conversations with too many ministers makes the case unavoidable. Furthermore, Southern Baptist’s fascination and fixation on numbers naturally enslaves us to this kind of mindset. It is all but hardwired into our DNA, embedded in the hard drive of our internal logic. Now, I do not wish to be misunderstood. Numbers and an “accurate accounting (!)” of those numbers is important. It is a matter of accountability and integrity. It is biblical (see Acts 2:41). However, their inflation and exaggeration, and our infatuation with them, dishonor Christ, robs us of our integrity, and calls into question our credibility.

Where then do we turn for an answer, a solution, a cure to this critical condition in which we find Christ’s Church? The answer of course is Scripture, and in two following articles I will direct us to the one source we should consult and then obey in this matter, as in all others as well.

Suffice it to say that strange as it may sound to some ears, a restoration of Church Discipline to its proper place in the life of the church is an essential component of a Great Commission Resurgence. Rightly practiced, it promotes health and holiness in the body of Christ. It goes hand in hand with a regenerate church and magnifies the glory of the gospel in transformed lives. It is not optional. It is an essential for a New Testament Church. It is necessary if we are to experience a Great Commission Resurgence.

Assisting Gospel-Driven Churches: A Reminder to Baptist Bureaucrats, Part 2

This is the second post in a two-part article titled “Assisting Gospel-Driven Churches: A Reminder to Baptist Bureaucrats.” The sermon was preached in the weekly chapel service of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina on September 8, 2008. I want to thank the executive leadership of the BSCNC for the invitation to preach and their blessing in publishing the sermon manuscript here at Between the Times. The earlier post can be read here.

Assisting Gospel-Driven Churches: A Reminder to Baptist Bureaucrats
1 Corinthians 1:18-31

II. Gospel-Driven Churches Place their Confidence in the Right Place (1:26-31)

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Having just finished explaining how the gospel seems like folly to the lost world, Paul now turns to Christians themselves and notes that the verdict is not much better; they were not very wise, not very powerful, and not very noble. Try applying for a job at the state convention with that resume!

But God is not hedged in by these limitations. He chooses the foolish to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong. It is the low and the despised and the nobodies that God uses. I think Paul sounds a lot like Jesus, who teaches us in the Gospels that the world’s hierarchies don’t really matter, because in the kingdom it’s the last who are first.

And why are things this way? Verse 29 tells us: So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Instead of boasting on the basis of our own feeble talents and accomplishments, Paul tells us to boast in the Lord because we have believed the gospel and are now in Christ. Jesus Christ is the wisdom from God and he is our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. This is just another way of saying Christ is the one who has saved us, is saving us, and will save us at the last day.

Brothers and sisters, we have nothing if we do not have Christ. This is true for us as individuals, it is true for our churches, and it is true for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and Southeastern Seminary.

Since we are all family here and we are co-laborers as denominational servants, let me speak very candidly with you: Southern Baptists, including those of us who live in North Carolina, don’t have the best track record when it comes to humility. Since at least the mid-20th century, all you have to do is attend any type of denominational meeting and you will hear some of the most rank bragging on earth:

“We are the largest Protestant denomination in America”

“We have the largest seminaries in the world”

“We have the largest force of foreign missionaries on the planet”

“We have clout with the people in Washington”

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is just as bad when it comes to this type of thing: look at this great new program we have launched, look at how big we are, look how many people we had at this conference. We . . . we . . . we . . . we . . . we.

Brothers and sisters, God does not need the SBC or the state convention. Every single person in this room is expendable, our jobs are not necessary, and the churches do not have to have us around to do the work they are called to do.

And to be frank, many of them know this.

So if we are actually going to assist the churches in fulfilling their divinely appointed mission, then we had best remember that we do not exist for our own sake. The Cooperative Program, state missions budgets, programs, conferences-all these things are helpful, but they are not necessary. These things are all temporary, but they are not permanent.

Verse 31 says, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. This is our calling as Christians, this is our calling as churches, and this is our calling as denominational servants.

Because Gospel-driven churches put their confidence in the right place, denominational servants must guard against falling into the trap of thinking we are essential. We are a means, not an end, and to suggest otherwise, even implicitly, is the height of hubris and a disservice to the churches we claim to serve. Brothers and sisters, only Christ is essential, and we are only valuable insofar as we assist churches in proclaiming him.


I am thankful for almost everything that I hear about the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. I think that God is doing a work of renewal in this convention, just as I trust he is doing a work of renewal in the Southern Baptist Convention. But we need to remember that both the state convention and the SBC were created to serve the churches. Some of the churches out there need some convincing, and the burden is on you and I to prove to them that we want to assist them–and can assist them–in becoming the kinds of churches that God would have them to be.

I am delighted to labor alongside you in serving the churches for the sake of the gospel. May God grant us great grace and abundant wisdom as we seek to assist gospel-driven churches in North Carolina, North America, and the uttermost parts of the games