J. D. Greear on Three Reasons to Read Your Bible

Every Thursday afternoon we highlight the writing of J. D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. This Thursday we point you to a recent post from J. D. on three reasons we must read our Bibles. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Jesus was asked a lot of questions during his earthly ministry, and not once did he ever say, “You know, I get why you’re confused. The Old Testament is just so unclear.” No, he repeatedly peppered his opponents with the question, “Haven’t you read?” suggesting that if they had just known their Scriptures better, they wouldn’t have been making the mistakes they were making.

 

We won’t be able to understand everything. We’ll still have questions. And that’s fine. But what we need to know for life is plain.  The problem isn’t so much that there are parts of the Bible we can’t understand, but that we won’t obey the parts we do understand.

Read the full post here.

Marriage and Weddings: An EQUIP Workshop (John Ewart)

The Charles Haddon Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. As the director of the center I have the privilege of building an intentional bridge between the seminary and the local church. One span of that bridge includes offering special equipping events on our campus and at sites around the country and world intentionally designed to help those who are currently serving or seek to serve as local church pastors.

I served as a full time pastor for many years in a variety of contexts. I found that no matter what the context, there were certain opportunities and challenges that were consistently present. In the Spurgeon Center we want to develop equipping opportunities and resources to help church leaders face those more ubiquitous ministry responsibilities. One way we are going to do that is through a specific type of event called an EQUIP Workshop.

I am excited to announce the Spurgeon Center’s first EQUIP Workshop is going to be held in Appleby Chapel on our campus on Wednesday, October 29 from 10am to 12 noon. The topic for this first workshop is marriage and weddings. How do we define marriage biblically? How does a pastor prepare for and plan weddings? How are weddings actually conducted?

The free workshop will feature a panel discussion with faculty members from both our pastoral ministry and biblical counseling areas as well as a local church pastor who teaches sermon delivery at the seminary. We will be discussing what marriage is and why, how to prepare and conduct good premarital pastoral care, key issues to be aware of and prepared for in relation to marriage and weddings as well as some of the more practical issues for which every pastor and church should be prepared. In other words, we will hit everything from biblical foundations to church policies and planning the event.

The second part of the workshop will include walking through the actual choreography of a wedding rehearsal and ceremony. We will show you where to stand and where to stand everyone else. We will help you make it through the important day itself by recreating a mock wedding ceremony and walking everyone through it. Everyone who attends will receive a packet of resource materials prepared by the workshop leaders to take with them. Reserve your place in Appleby Chapel on October 29 by clicking here. You do not want to miss this!

The entire workshop is going to be videotaped and will become a part of a bundled package we are developing covering the topic of marriage. It will also include a chapel event we are planning after the first of the year that will feature a more specific discussion concerning the biblical and practical issues surrounding marriage, divorce and remarriage. This helpful equipping module will be placed on the Spurgeon Center resource webpage for pastors as well as students to download and use as a training tool. It could even become a featured assignment for pastoral ministry and supervised field ministry experiences.

Future workshops will deal with the real ministry issues pastors face concerning death and funerals, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and church budgets and finances. It is my prayer that every seminary student will take advantage of this practical training to prepare themselves for real tasks they will face on the field and that current pastors would participate and benefit from these resources and events.

Building bridges through the Spurgeon Center between the academy and the church is a two way path and a great opportunity. We hope to better serve the church through the center and the participation by churches helps us to better glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve them and fulfill the Great Commission.

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.