Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 1: Continuity with the Conservative Resurgence

A number of us have issued a call for what is being called “A Great Commission Resurgence.” This idea is being talked about, and there are a number of writings in circulation as well. For example, LifeWay distributed at the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis an 83-page booklet entitled Great Commission Resurgence. I contributed to this (a slight revision of my Building Bridges paper) along with Thom Rainer, Chuck Lawless, Jeff Iorg and Jerry Rankin. My Building Bridges presentation can be found at this website.

Still, some may be unclear, or at least have questions, as to what a Great Commission Resurgence would look like in terms of specifics. I believe the big picture is clear: it is a renewed passion for the pursuit and fulfillment of Matthew 28:16-20. I spoke specifically to this in a chapel message that also gave attention to the life and ministry of William Carey. That message is available here. We are to go and disciple all the nations until Jesus comes again knowing He is with us as we go. So, what are some of the details or particulars that would accompany a Great Commission Resurgence, especially for those of us who are Southern Baptists? This will be the first of a series that will hopefully make clear how the Resurgence might, by God’s grace, take shape.

The Great Commission Resurgence, of absolute necessity, must be wedded to the Conservative Resurgence that was launched in 1979 with the election of Adrian Rogers as president of the SBC, and which reached something of a highpoint with the adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Had there not been a Conservative Resurgence, we would not even be talking about a Great Commission Resurgence. Therefore, the Conservative Resurgence is the foundation upon which the Great Commission Resurgence must be launched. There can be no backtracking from the ground regained through the Conservative Resurgence. Further, there must be continued vigilance and even advance of the Conservative Resurgence. I have in mind here work that still needs to take place on the state, associational and local church level. Further, our national agencies and entities need continually to be held accountable to the vision that marked the Conservative Resurgence. This will be the very nature of things, an ongoing process. If we fail to build upon and stay rooted in the theological convictions of the Conservative Resurgence, the Great Commission Resurgence will be short lived and ultimately a failure. A Great Commission Resurgence by its very nature must be biblically and theologically driven. What that should look like will be the subject of future articles. Suffice it to say there must be a biblically informed, theologically balanced consensus for Southern Baptists to cooperate in a Great Commission Resurgence. This is not optional. This is not negotiable. Coming together around the bedrock essentials that identify us as orthodox, evangelical and Baptist will be a necessary component of an effective and vibrant Great Commission Resurgence. By God’s grace and for His glory, there will be neither compromise nor retreat from “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The Conservative Resurgence was never an end in and of itself. It was about Truth. It was about the gospel. It was about fulfilling the Great Commission.

A Theologically-Driven Missiology (Pt. 5: Spirit)

A Theologically-Driven Missiology (Pt. 5: Spirit)

Note: This series of posts deals with the relationship between doctrine and practice in general, and between theology and missiology in particular. It argues that sound theology should provide the starting point, trajectory, and parameters for missiological practice. It seeks a “theologically-driven” missiology both for the United States and international contexts.

Christians acknowledge that Father, Son, and Spirit live in eternal and unbroken communion with one another. The unified nature of their fellowship lies not only in their shared attributes and perfections but also in the unified nature of their mission. The Triune God’s mission is equally the Father’s, the Son’s, and the Spirit’s mission. Though the persons of the Trinity may play different roles, they nonetheless are working as One.

The Scriptures make clear that the Spirit plays an active role in our mission: It is He who empowers us for mission (Acts 1:8) and He who gives us the words to say in time of need (Mt 10:17-20). It is he who convicts souls (Jn 16:8-11) and He who grows the church both in number (Acts 2:14-41) and in maturity (Eph 4:7-13).

It is probably fair to say that, in Baptist circles, the Spirit often is talked about only sporadically, with hesitancy, and even with apology. What does such an infrequently-discussed and mysterious doctrine have to do with such a concrete and practical discipline as missiology?

The Spirit Reveals

Throughout the ages, Christians have recognized that God reveals Himself through His Word by His Spirit. Indeed, the human writers of Scripture wrote as they were moved by the Spirit (2 Pet 1:21) so that Paul could make clear that all Scripture is theopneustos, or “God-breathed,” and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Scripture is the very breath of God. This teaching has manifold and serious implications for our missiology.

For example, there are entire people groups, consisting of millions, who are unable to access Holy Scripture. This means that Christian workers must (1) make every effort to communicate the Scriptures to them even though they are not able to read the Scriptures on their own; (2) equip those same oral learners to share the gospel and build the church even while they are unable to read the Scriptures; (3) pray for and support those who work in Bible translation; (4) pray for Bible translation movements just as we pray for church planting movements; and (5) pray for, and work toward, the development of literacy in these people groups. Why should we withhold from them the very words of God, the workmanship of the Spirit of God?

This also means that we must pray, work, and even fight to have the Scriptures translated accurately. In Muslim areas, some Bible translators have sought to remove necessary Christian language, such as “son of God,” from translations in an attempt not to offend Muslims. However, to do so is to remove a central biblical teaching and to neuter the gospel itself.

The Spirit convicts, teaches and illumines

Further it is the Spirit who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8-11), who teaches all things (Jn 14:26) and who opens the eyes of our hearts that we might understand (I Cor 2:12; Eph 1:17-19). With this in mind, we must not rely exclusively on such things as communication models or people-group profiles. Rather, our mission in any context should be undergirded by prayer. We should pray that the Spirit will enable us to interpret the Scriptures rightly and that He will bring understanding and conviction to those who are our audience.

The Spirit empowers, gives gifts, and enables fruit

In addition to his agency in teaching, conviction, and illumination, the Spirit empowers us to proclaim the Word (1 Thess 1:5; 1 Pet 1:12), to pray effectively (Rom 8:26), and to have power over the forces of evil (Mt 12:28; Acts 13:9-11). He also gives gifts to each person (1 Cor 12:11) and enables believers to bear fruit (Gal 5:22-23). This truth suggests that church planting is probably best done in teams, as the multiple members of a team use their spiritual gifts together, and bear fruit together one with another. The result is that those who are watching will see more clearly what Christ intends for his church. Another implication is that a new convert can immediately be considered a “new worker,” a part of the team, as he is surely already gifted by the Spirit and capable of bearing fruit. Immediately he can give testimony to Christ and edify the believers.

The Spirit restrains

The Spirit works providentially, restraining evil (2 Thess 2:6-7). After the Fall, sin entered the world and with devastating consequences. Man’s relationships with God, with others, with the created order, and even with himself were broken. Sin fractured the world at all levels. It is only by the restraining power of the Spirit that the world is not an utter horror. This is a grace that God has given to the entire world, a common grace that allows us to act and interact in family, workplace, and community. It is a grace that allows use our relational, rational, and creative capacities, even though they are damaged by sin and are bent toward idolatry.

Reliance upon the Spirit

Our great encouragement is this: God the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals, teaches, convicts, illumines, empowers, gives gifts and fruits, restrains, and provides. We go in His power and leave the results in His hands. It is he who quickens the hearts of those to whom we preach. We need not try to coerce or to manipulate.

We go in conscious reliance upon the Spirit; our mission is empowered by the Spirit of the living God. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

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When Christ is Lord of Your Home, Part 2

[This is the second half of a two-part article. You can read the earlier post here.]

Charlotte and Danny on parenting

Having the privilege of parenting four sons was one of the great blessings of our life. Often we were flying by the seat of our pants doing the best we knew how but not certain it was. We visited numerous emergency rooms and had our assortment of broken bones, but it was a wonderful experience and we would not exchange it for anything. Several principles and precepts of Scripture influenced our style of parenting. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it summarizes what guided us as we sought to develop godly sons who would love Jesus and live for Him.

First, we always tried to see life from their perspective. God entered our world through His Son (John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-8) and showed us He loved us, and so we tried to get into the world of our sons as well. I call this “incarnational parenting.” We tried to weigh their age, maturity, interest and challenges, and gain their viewpoint about what was going on. Doing this is easier said than done, but it is essential nevertheless.

Second, we have worked at being good partners. Good partners almost always make good parents because seeing mom and dad love each other 1) brings security into the world of the children and 2) it models for them a healthy marriage.

Third, we disciplined them. In our family we tried to provide a big playing field not a small one. Why? Because kids are kids and, if the box is too small they will break the rules constantly and you will probably not be consistent in your discipline. We always told our boys they would establish the size of the playing field. If they were faithful, truthful and trustworthy, the playing field got bigger and bigger. If they were unfaithful, untruthful and untrustworthy, the playing field got smaller. We also adjusted the way we disciplined as they grew older. We believed spanking, in moderation and always under control, is both biblical and effective when the children are small (e.g. Proverbs 29:15). However, as they grow older, unless the situation is extreme and exceptional, the rebuke and restriction is a more effective way to mold and shape their character and behavior.

Fourth, we tried to love them with our eyes and tongue (see Proverbs 20:12; James 1:19). We have come to understand the power of both. With a look of the eye we can build up or tear down, communicate love or contempt. Words, of course, are powerful weapons. They can bless or curse. Parents will often say things to their child that they would never say to a stranger and seldom to a dog. We all fail far too often in this area, and it is something we must constantly work at.

Fifth, we learned that love is a beautiful four-letter word. It is sometimes best spelled T.I.M.E. When the boys were small, Danny traveled much less. As the boys got older he was in the churches more often. We missed him when he is away, but we were glad to share him with others. Still, he worked hard at being at important events in the life of the boys. He put football and basketball games on his calendar at the earliest possible date, and he was faithful to not let anything replace them. When Nathan and Jonathan were seniors in high school, the four boys together played more than 70 basketball games! We saw almost all of them, and our boys more than once told us how much it meant to them.

Sixth, we made it a habit to hold, hug and kiss them. “Love touching” took different shapes and forms through the years, but it has always been a healthy and vital part of our family life.

Seventh, we tried to make life and our home fun. Indeed, making our house a fun house, a place where the boys would be glad to bring their friends was always a top priority.

Eighth, we tried at appropriate times and in appropriate ways to push them out of the nest and let them develop their own wings. After all, we knew that one day it would be just them and the Lord.

Ninth, we invoked seven magical words in English whenever it is needed: “I am sorry (or “I was wrong). Will you forgive me?” We are not perfect and our boys know it. Why lie about it and lose their respect? When you blow it admit it and ask their forgiveness. This is a sure way to raise the respect factor.

Finally, we prayed for their salvation and continually talked to them about Jesus and the things of God. In His mercy and goodness, God has saved all four of our sons. Today each is involved in or preparing for ministry. Nothing this side of heaven has meant more to us as parents.

Putting leadership in the home to the test

In December, 1995, Al Mohler contacted us about the possibility of coming to Southern Seminary as Academic Vice-President and Dean of the School of Theology. Well, this came out of nowhere and was quite a surprise. We were extremely happy at Southeastern Seminary where we had served since 1992. Danny had been working alongside Paige Patterson, his father in the ministry, since 1988, and really never thought of ever being anywhere else. Furthermore, we had only been in a new house, which we had built, for just over a year! Well, Danny traveled to Louisville, met with Al (and also his better part, Mary and the kids!) and it seemed that God was in this. We both remember a Sunday night phone call from Louisville back to Wake Forest. Charlotte somewhat playfully (!) said if things had gone well with Al she really did not want to hear about it. Danny responded by saying, “Well, I guess we don’t have much to talk about then.” God, to Danny’s great surprise, knit his and Al’s heart together almost immediately. What were we to do? And, what about the kids?

Both of us have noticed through the years that some sad and unhappy families sometimes show up at seminary. God has called Dad and we must go, end (actually it never began) of discussion. To even raise a question would be a clear evidence of sin and rebellion against God. So, off they go, confused, hurt, whatever. This is not godly leadership in our judgement.

As the God designated leader of our home, I (Danny) believe I am to lead not drive. Furthermore, I think there is great wisdom for every husband and father found in Proverbs 12:15, “a wise man is he who listens to counsel” and in Proverbs 11:14, “but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” As a husband I have always sought Charlotte’s counsel, her perspective. We have always made “we decisions” in our marriage, and also in our family. Big decisions like moving from Wake Forest, N.C. to Louisville, KY (and then back to Wake Forest in 2004!) should not be made dictatorially, autocratically or solo. I was sure God was leading us to a new assignment, but Charlotte and the boys needed to know and believe that too. For several weeks Charlotte and I talked, and often, about this decision. We prayed together and individually. Because of the many lessons God had taught us and His consistent faithfulness, we were united on one thing: find and obey the will of God. In January 1996, we took a trip to Louisville to visit and it was then that God made it crystal clear to both of us: Louisville is to be our new home. I again want to emphasize, this joint decision was reached over several weeks not several days, and it was one in which I allowed God to work in Charlotte’s heart without forcing the issue.

Now we turned our attention to the boys. When they first heard that we might be moving they were not thrilled. They loved Wake Forest. All of their friends were there and they were at an age where a move was not on their radar screens. Again, I did not push and neither did Charlotte. We prayed and we talked with the boys individually and together and usually in a casual kind of context. For us that has always worked best and fits my style of managing one’s own household (1 Timothy 3:4). After a couple of months had passed, I remember we were riding in our van somewhere when, I believe it was Jonathan said, “Dad, we’ve (the boys) been talking about moving to Louisville and we’ve decided if that is God’s will then that is what we should do. We’re not real excited about it, but if this is what God is telling you to do then He will take care of all of us and we’ll be fine too.” As a father, I cannot tell you what that meant to me; that my sons had that much confidence and trust in God, and also in their dad. I must confess that this approach to leadership was foreign to me earlier in our marriage. Like far too many Christian men, I misunderstood the Bible, believing that leading meant barking out orders and giving commands. This “my way or the highway” mentality was not only unChristlike, it was sinful, hurtful and ineffective. To lead you must set an example worth following. To lead as a Christian you need to follow the example of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).

We have come a long way in our marriage and family. We have both matured in our roles as husband/father/granddaddy and wife/mother/grandmother. We have not arrived nor do we expect to this side of heaven. That will not, however, keep us from pressing on ” ’til death do us part” or Jesus comes again. Godly leaders keep their word. By God’s grace we intend to keep oline game