Integrity in Ministry

For 30 plus years I have been burdened for the personal integrity of those in the ministry. The reasons are simple. Integrity is a biblical requirement (1 Tim 3:1). And, the respect for those in ministry is at a low ebb, especially in our nation. Of course one major area of importance is how ministers conduct themselves with the opposite sex. I have always challenged fellow pastors to make a rock solid, non-negotiable commitment: “I will never be alone with a woman who is not my wife.” This commitment and conviction has not always been applauded. I have been accused of being a Pharisee, legalist, sexist and Neanderthal. I was once accused of having “psycho-sexual hang-ups in need of therapy!” But praise God and by His grace, I have never been accused of adultery because in almost 30 years of marriage, I have never been alone with a woman other than Charlotte. I have no plans to change this.

Sexual temptation is a powerful reality, and a wise person will never forget that no matter how much you love Jesus, “the wrong person plus the wrong place plus the wrong time will equal the wrong thing happening.” Look no further than to the tragic story of King David, a man the Bible says was after God’s own heart.

Sexual immorality exacts a heavy price tag. It will cause you to dishonor Christ, wound the church, break the heart of your mate and lose forever the respect of your children. That is a price only a fool would pay.

This issue was brought to my mind again in a recent blog by my friend Ed Stetzer. By the way, I am excited to tell you that Dr. Stetzer is going to join the Southeastern faculty as a visiting research professor. Personally I am thrilled we will get to share him with our friends at LifeWay. In Ed’s blog he referenced the “The Commandments for Saddleback Staff” by Rick Warren. Here is Rick’s list.

  1. Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex.*
  2. Thou shalt not have the opposite sex pick you up or drive you places when it is just the two of you.*
  3. Thou shalt not kiss any attender of the opposite sex or show affection that could be questioned.*
  4. Thou shalt not visit the opposite sex alone at home.*
  5. Thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex alone at the office, and thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex more than once without that person’s mate. Refer them.
  6. Thou shalt not discuss detailed sexual problems with the opposite sex in counseling. Refer them.
  7. Thou shalt not discuss your marriage problems with an attender of the opposite sex.
  8. Thou shalt be careful in answering emails, instant messages, chatrooms, cards or letters from the opposite sex.
  9. Thou shalt make your co-worker your protective ally.
  10. Thou shalt pray for the integrity of other staff members.

[*The first four do not apply to unmarried staff.]

These are wise words for any minister of any sex or age. These are principles that will help us in finishing the race well for King Jesus. Integrity as it relates to your sex life is not optional for the minister of the gospel. It is essential. Take the high road in this area. Be cautious and be careful. Stay close to Jesus and stay close to your mate. End your race with no regrets. It will glorify God, and you will be glad you did.mobi online

Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal: Summary

Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal[This is the first of two posts that will interact with David Dockery’s new book, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal (B&H Academic, 2008). This first post is a relatively detailed summary of the book. In the second post, I will interact with some of Dockery’s key proposals. You can purchase the book for $9.99 from LifeWay Christian Resources.]

Over the past twenty-five years or so, Union University President David Dockery has been engaging some of the most pressing issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention. In his articles, conference addresses, chapel messages, and books, Dockery has been consistently charting a course for the future of the Convention. Much of that material has now been brought together and synthesized as Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal, a book-length agenda for the SBC.

Dockery begins with an introduction titled Southern Baptists: Past, Present, and Future. He recounts the origins of the SBC as a sectional denomination, discusses the various theological and cultural movements that shaped Southern Baptist identity, and describes the evolution of the Convention into a modern denomination during the mid-20th century. He also addresses how the Convention’s theological identity shifted from a principled conservatism shaped mostly by pastor-theologians to a progressive pragmatism nurtured by denominational programs. This shift contributed to the rise of progressive theology in the 1960s and 1970s, which in turn inspired periodic conservative backlash. These two competing visions collided in the Conservative Resurgence that began in 1979 and captured control of the denominational bureaucracy. After a helpful discussion of the varieties of Southern Baptist conservatism and the tensions that result from this diversity, Dockery concludes his introduction by calling for “a new generation that will be both convictional and cooperative (12)”. Such Southern Baptists will build a consensus around the gospel, pursue a renewed Baptist identity, and recommit to the cause of missions and evangelism. The rest of the book fleshes out Dockery’s call.

The first true chapter is devoted to renewing various “markers” of Southern Baptist identity. Dockery first discusses the primacy of Scripture, arguing that Baptists have historically been thoroughgoing biblicists. He then outlines an evangelical doctrine of Scripture that hinges upon the inerrancy and sufficiency of the canonical texts. Dockery also discusses the place of doctine, arguing that Southern Baptists need to differentiate between primary and secondary doctrines by faithfully searching Scripture and looking to Baptist history and the wider Christian tradition for guidance. He then discusses the role that global missions has played in Baptist history in general and the SBC in particular. Dockery closes the chapter by discussing how cooperation fuels our mission endeavors. He argues for a gospel-driven consensus within the SBC that balances a passion for the truth with a call to love others and that models Christian unity before the watching world.

The second chapter focuses on the gospel, calling for a Southern Baptist consensus on the good news of all that God has done on our behalf through the person and work of Christ. Dockery begins by noting how programmatic cooperation in the SBC contributed to the decline of the gospel among our churches. He then argues from Scripture that the gospel is based upon God’s sovereign initiative to save sinful humans, though he is careful to argue that individuals are responsible for responding to God’s divine intitiative. Dockery then discusses how the issue of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility has been debated throughout church history, particularly in the debates between Calvinists, Arminians, and those who pitch their tent between the two positions. He argues that Southern Baptists must reject hyper-Calvinism, Pelagianism, and “consistent” Arminianism, while focusing on the proclamation of the gospel to all men. Dockery then provides a lengthy explanation of the gospel message itself, including God’s creation of all things, humanity’s creation in God’s image, humanity’s fall into sin, God’s provision for salvation through the person and work of Christ, God’s actual salvation of men and women when they look to Christ as Lord and Savior, and God’s ulimate redemption of the entire created order. He closes the chapter will a call for a Southern Baptist consensus around these fundamental truths.

Chapter three focuses on worship among Southern Baptists. Dockery begins by noting the genuine diversity of worship styles among North American Christians, including Southern Baptists. He then provides a brief overview of how Baptists have worshiped over the last 400 years, with particular emphasis on the role that revivalism has played in shaping our worship and the central place of preaching in our corporate worship. Next, Dockery helpfully outlines six different worship styles, most of which are present within sectors of the Southern Baptist Convention. The chapter closes with a call to renew Southern Baptist worship. Dockery calls for Scripture-saturated worship, including text-driven preaching, a high degree of congregational participation in praise, prayer, singing, giving, and confession, and a greater appreciation for the ordinances od baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Dockery finishes with seven suggestions for renewing worship: (1) recognize that worship is a primary function of the church; (2) realize that worship is not passive but active; (3) understand that worship is a response to the person and work of Jesus Christ; (4) emphasize that worship is primarily spiritual and symbolic; (5) rediscover the significance and importance of the Lord’s Supper; (6) help people realize the need to prepare for worship; (7) show a greater appreciation for the centrality of the local church as the place for corporate worship. Dockery is convinced that the renewal of Baptist worship will help facilitate renewal in every other area.

Chapter four is titled Serving Church and Society: A Vision for Baptist Education. This is a topic Dockery has extensively addressed in other works, most notably Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society Through Christian Higher Education. After an historical overview of Baptist higher education, including early schools, theological traditions, and ten shaping influences, Dockery discusses how our Baptist distinctives inform our approach to higher education and how certain tendencies within the Baptist tradition threaten higher education. He argues for wedding Baptist identity with a deeper commitment to the historic confessional tradition of the church. Dockery then proposes five keys to a renewed vision for Baptist higher education, including a closer connection with the churches, a commitment to academic freedom within a confessional context, the formative role of higher eduction in Baptist identity, a focus on students, and developing faculties that are communities of scholars who are also devoted churchmen. Dockery closes by proposing a view of theological (seminary) education that is theologically driven, is connected to the church, is pursued in service to the church and on behalf of the church, that consciously weds theology and practice, and helps facilitate renewal within the SBC.

Chapter five focuses on rediscovering our theological heritage for the purpose of contemporary renewal. Dockery begins with an overview of the unique theological emphases of the first three centuries of Baptist history prior to the formation of the SBC. He then traces the development of Southern Baptist theology through the writings of six theologians: John L. Dagg, James P. Boyce, Basil Manly Jr., B.H. Carroll, E.Y. Mullins, and W.T. Connor. The general trend moves from Scripture to experience, along with the waning of doctrinaire Calvinism. Dockery then discusses Southern Baptist theology since the mid-20th century, dividing his discussion into pre- and post-Conservative Resurgence tendencies. He notes that prior to 1979, the Convention was divided between conservatives and moderates, the latter including both theological progressives and those who tolerated them, including many who were individual conservatives. There was no real confessional center to the SBC, leading to a series of theological controversies and the breakdown of the older, theologically based consensus in favor of a more pragmatic consensus. Since 1979, the shift has been back toward the older consensus’s focus on the truthfulness of Scripture, though the Convention remains internally divided on any number of issues. But our commitment to biblical inerrancy provides us with the foundation to move forward toward a new consensus within the SBC.

The final chapter is titled Praying for Church and Convention Leaders: Character, Conviction, and Cooperation. Dockery calls for Convention leaders who exemplify godly character. He also calls for leaders with strong theological convictions, in particular a commitment to biblical inerrancy and sufficiency and an appreciation for the heart of the historic Baptist confessional tradition, though not necessarily total doctrinal uniformity. He then argues for a renewed cooperation built around our renewed confessionalism, with genuine humility and Christ-centered unity driving us every step of the way. Dockery concludes this chapter, and the book, with a review of all that he has discussed and a call for these priorities and emphases to guide us in a new Southern Baptist consensus and renewal, for the glory of God, the health of our churches, and the sake of those who do not yet know Christ. online rpg mobile game

Toward a Great Commission Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention: Part One

Today I am writing from the fifth floor of a hotel in Central Asia, having just gotten finished conversing with a local Muslim merchant, whose political and religious views are farther to the right than Sam Donaldson’s part. Having escaped from the conversation as quickly as possible, I am now seated on the terrace roof of a very small hotel.

It is noon and the local mosques are having their calls to prayer. Within my line of vision, there are nine mosques, their prayer-callers warbling and wailing over the loudspeakers attached to the minaret. It is at once humorous, as the prayer-callers compete with each other by increasing their volume, and quite serious, as it calls attention to the fact that there are close to two billion people worldwide who have little or no access to the gospel.

By “little or no access to the gospel,” I mean that, for the majority of them, unless something changes, they will never encounter a Bible, a Christian, or a church. Whereas in the United States, an “unreached” person is one who does not attend one of the many churches in his city, in other countries the word “unreached” signifies those who could not possibly find a church even if they wanted to. They could leave their houses and walk, for days and months and years, and never find a believer or a church.

To compound the problem, the only thing they know of “Christianity” is that Christian countries like the United States manufacture such commodities as Britney Spears, Sex & the City, and homosexual marriage. They know this b/c their religious and political leaders, and their satellite dishes, tell them so. While it may be difficult for American Christians to believe that large swathes of humanity would caricature Christianity in such a manner, it is the very real perception of much of the world.

The Unique Situation of the SBC

What gives me hope, however, is the network of churches with which I am associated, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). I am here in Central Asia with 20 of our SBC students, many of whom will be coming back here to live and work for the rest of their lives. Our churches have entrusted their best and ablest to us, and we are sending them to join the dozens of other SBC families who live and work in this region, and the several thousand who work across the globe.

Never before in history, and at no other place on the globe, will one find a network of churches that is more capable of planting the gospel among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have the theological, financial, and personnel resources to finish the task given to us by our Lord-we have enough people, enough money, and a statement of faith that reveals our belief in the uniqueness of Christ. Any Southern Baptist who does not have doctrinal, moral, or medical obstacles can be fully salaried and sent to proclaim the gospel and gather churches in nearly any country in the world.

We are committed to this because we are “taken” by John’s vision in Revelation 5 in which all of heaven bursts forth into worship. Among those worshiping are men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This is the vision that drives us-that our Lord will be worshiped from all corners of the globe. He is no tribal deity, limited to receiving the admiration of a few. Rather, there is something about Him so profoundly true, and comprehensively good, and strikingly beautiful, that He will find worshipers among every type of person who has ever lived. He alone is worthy of such worship. We believe that our lives should be lived in such a way as to contribute to this triumphant march of God, as He draws unto himself worshipers from among every people group on the face of the globe.

The Task of the SBC

What, then, is our task? Our task is to make the gospel readily accessible to every tribe, tongue, people and nation; it is to do so even in the face of formidable financial challenges and potential personal cost, to do so joyfully even when we might suffer for the sake of the gospel.

The magnitude of our task, moreover, is matched and exceeded by the magnitude of our biblical convictions: That God is a missionary God; that all people without Christ are lost; that a central theme in the Scriptures is God’s desire to win the nations unto Himself; that since the coming of His Son, God has chosen that all saving faith be consciously focused on Christ; that the church’s task in each generation is to proclaim the gospel to her generation; and that this progress of the gospel to the ends of the earth may be hindered temporarily, but there can be no doubt about its final triumph.

A Great Commission Resurgence

This, then, is why the call for a Great Commission Resurgence resonates so deeply within the convention. Based upon our gospel convictions, we as a convention know that we must build Great Commission churches and seminaries. We must be committed to making disciples “to the ends of the earth.” As mentioned above, upwards of 2 billion people have little or no access to a church, a Bible, or a Christian witness of any type. In the words of Paul, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15).