The Sinner’s Prayer, David Platt and the SBC

Most folks who know me know of my close friendship with David Platt. I am grateful for how God has raised David up for this time and this generation. Our friendship is not surprising given our mutual passion to see the name of Jesus made famous among the nations. And, when you consider my son Paul serves as a missions pastor and elder at The Church at Brook Hills, David preaches at SEBTS annually, we are editing together with Tony Merida a 40 volume preaching commentary, and SEBTS is partnering with CBH in EQUIP, where our seminary works with local churches in doing theological education (we are now partnering with more than 100!), this friendship has been a natural and wonderful working out of God’s providence. The fact that we agree so much about preaching and theology hasn’t hurt either! I love this brother and thank God for him.

Recently David caused quite a stir with a comment he made concerning the “sinner’s prayer.” His use of the word “superstitious,” no doubt, caused the greatest concern. While I think David could have chosen a better word that would have avoided a visceral reaction on the part of some, I too share his concern about poor gospel presentations, manipulation and false professions of faith that have resulted in our churches being filled with unregenerate members. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want it to be known that I shepherded all of my sons in praying a “sinner’s prayer” as an expression of the work of God in their hearts as they repented of their sin and placed their trust in Christ alone for salvation. I have also preached more than a dozen graduation messages and in each and every one I have shared the gospel, invited people to receive Christ, and even helped them as they surrender their lives to Christ by leading them in a “sinner’s prayer.” I have done this many more times when preaching, as well. Handled carefully and wisely, I gladly invite people to repent of sin, trust in Christ, and surrender their lives to Him. David and I, I am quite certain, are in 100% agreement with one another on the issue.

David spoke again to this issue when he preached at the Pastors Conference at the SBC. I gladly commend his message to you, and you can find the manuscript of that sermon here. Also at the SBC, the messengers passed, overwhelmingly, a resolution on a “sinner’s prayer.” Both David and I gladly voted for the resolution, and you can find David’s comments on that resolution and the entire issue here. I again commend and affirm David’s comments, and appreciate both the clarity and charity he brings to the conversation.

In the days ahead I hope and pray Southern Baptists can model genuine Christlikeness as we talk about important issues like this one. Wild exaggerations and misrepresentations must be avoided. To say I am against the “sinner’s prayer” because everyone in my town has prayed it and our churches are filled with lost people is irresponsible and does not help. On the other hand, to say that Calvinists do not want to use the “sinner’s prayer” because they fear leading someone who is non-elect to pray a prayer that is hopeless is equally irresponsible. Let’s all of us be better than this. Let the “Golden Rule” be your guide, and represent others as you, yourself, would want to be represented. This will build us up and not tear us down. And, it will show so many who are watching us closely the difference Jesus makes even when brothers and sisters may see things differently. It is a good thing for fellow believers to talk to one another when we “seek the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Let’s work hard to ensure this good thing!

For the Record: Nathan Finn on Being Baptist (Part 1)

[Editor’s note: Nathan Finn is Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies here at Southeastern. He is known as a top-shelf classroom instructor, a prolific writer, and a student of all things Baptist. In this interview, we ask him questions about eight of the most significant and/or controversial issues arising in Baptist life today. Part 2 (questions 5-8) will appear here tomorrow morning.]

1. Baptist identity seems to be a hot-button issue in some SBC circles. How do you understand Baptist identity?

This is a great question. I’ve written a great deal on this topic over the years, most recently in a nine-part series on my personal blog that attempts to tie Baptist identity and distinctives with the gospel. First of all, we need to understand that there is no such thing as a normative Baptist identity. Presbyterians have the Westminster Confession and Roman Catholics have their Catechism, but we can’t point back to a particular document and say “that’s the authoritative statement of Baptist identity.” As a tradition that has emphasized freedom and autonomy, sometimes perhaps too much so, we have to be careful to distinguish between description and prescription. So descriptively, I’d say there are many Baptist identities, even within the SBC. The tricky part is articulating a view of Baptist identity that reflects biblical emphases and is compelling to Baptist Christians.

I argue that when Baptists are at their best, our identity is simultaneously catholic, reformational, evangelical, and radical. By catholic, I mean Baptists share certain core convictions with all professing Christians, particularly concerning the Trinity, Christology, and basic anthropology and eschatology. By reformational, I mean we share certain beliefs with all traditional Protestants, especially concerning the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the centrality of justification by faith alone. Our identity is also evangelical because we hold to a conversionist understanding of salvation and embrace the imperative to intentionally share the gospel with others. And our identity is radical because we embrace a view of the church (especially the local church) that was considered radical until the last couple of centuries because it rejects any version of Constantinianism and embraces a believer’s church and credobaptism.

2. Do you think there is such a thing as a uniquely Baptist understanding of doctrines such as Scripture, salvation, last things, etc.?

For me, this is closely related to the last question. I wouldn’t say there is a “uniquely” Baptist understanding of these things-again, we want to stand with other types of believers in these areas. But it would be true to say that there are definite tendencies in the way that most Southern Baptists (and many other Baptists) approach these doctrines. For example, most all Southern Baptists affirm a view of the Bible that is common to many conservative evangelical Protestants; it’s not unique to Southern Baptists, but most of us are on the same page. The same could be said of salvation-virtually all Baptists argue that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There are different nuances (the Calvinist-Arminian debate sticks out here), but even in those cases we agree on more than we disagree and our debates aren’t unique to Baptists. On eschatology, we pretty much all agree on the basics, though we debate some of the particulars; again, our core convictions and our debates are common to other Christians. The only area where Baptists really stand apart is in our ecclesiology.

3. We hear a lot about Baptist distinctives. What are the Baptist distinctives?

The Baptist distinctives are those eccesiological views or tendencies that are uniquely emphasized by Baptists. The earliest Baptists simply attempted to take the principle of sola scriptura and apply it to eccesiological matters. They would say that when local churches are brought under the lordship of Christ as it is revealed in Scripture, those churches will look a particular way. I’d argue that wherever you find these views, you have a Baptist (or perhaps better, baptistic) Christian, even if that identity isn’t affirmed in an overt way.

I’d argue Baptists have four unique emphases: a regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism by immersion, congregational freedom, and a free church in a free state. We believe that local churches should be communities of presumably regenerate individuals who’ve covenanted to walk together under Christ’s lordship for the sake of the gospel. We believe that only those who can give a credible salvation testimony should be baptized by full immersion and become church members. (I’d also argue only baptized believers should participate in the Lord’s Supper, but many Southern Baptists argue baptism shouldn’t be a prerequisite to communion.) We believe that the whole congregation should come together to make the most important decisions of the church (congregationalism) and that every church is a local outpost of the kingdom that is free to pursue Christ’s agenda for that body (local autonomy). We believe that God alone is Lord of the conscious and that authentic Christianity best thrives when full religious liberty is extended to all citizens in a particular land. Different Baptists will nuance each of these distinctives in different ways, but we’re pretty much agreed on the basics.

4. Which Baptist distinctive do you believe is most threatened in our contemporary context?

They’re all threatened to some degree, but I think congregationalism is far and away our distinctive that is most threatened. I think there are many reasons for this. Some Southern Baptists are overreacting to unhealthy manifestations of congregationalism: the tyranny of the majority, reckless congregational votes to terminate pastors, full church votes on even the most mundane matters, etc. Others are convinced congregationalism is incompatible with pastoral authority, often because they’ve experienced bad congregationalism, incompetent pastoral leadership, or both. Many are convinced congregationalism isn’t as efficient as other polity models-it takes time for a church to come together and seek Christ’s will for the body. Still others believe that congregationalism is simply not as biblical an option as some sort of pastoral rule, whether by a single pastor or a plurality of pastors (or elders).

We need to admit that congregationalism as we practice it isn’t a perfect reflection of the New Testament. In the apostolic era, they had apostles who exercised authority over the whole church. Yet we also see that the congregation often made certain key decisions, particularly the setting apart of elders and deacons and the final act of church discipline. I call the New Testament model “apostolic congregationalism.” Since most Baptists agree that the apostolic office didn’t continue past the original apostles, we’ve attempted to adapt what we can of New Testament polity to a world without apostles. I’d argue this is a pastor-led congregationalism, where the pastor or pastors lead the body through the ministry of the Word but the whole church at the very least sets apart pastors and deacons, practices church discipline, and (for the sake of prudence) approves of the budget and important church property matters. Everything else can be contextual from congregation to congregation.

 

Pastorally Speaking: Johnny Hunt on Distinguishing between Good and Best

Editor’s Note: This blogpost by Johnny Hunt kicks off a new BtT series entitled “Pastorally Speaking.” In this series, SBC pastors will “think aloud” about matters related to pastoral leadership and church life. The posts will be brief, no more than a few paragraphs, and written for those of our readers who are training for, and actively involved in, local church ministry.

One great challenge in the Pastor’s life is leadership. I find it very difficult at times to distinguish between what’s good and what’s best. In a recent time of reflection, I began to think through life’s priorities and what I sense as God’s best for the ministry the Lord has entrusted to me. After solidifying these priorities I now find myself with another challenge. If I’m convinced of what is best, am I willing to give my best to these priorities? Hopefully by now you are curious as to what these priorities are. One thing is for sure, they will be different for every person.

After much prayer and conversation with my wife, the following serve as the driving priorities for at least the next 10 years.

1. Pastoring the FBC Woodstock

2. Mentoring 2 Pastors per year as long as I am Pastoring

3. Training Pastors/Staff through Timothy + Barnabas Ministry

4. Very active in Church Planting

5. Modeling Generosity

6. Touching Poverty

7. Training in our SBC Colleges and Seminaries

It is my prayer that these 7 priorities will be used by our Lord to guide my scheduling of the greatest resource entrusted to me, TIME. It is very easy to allow ourselves to be driven in lots of areas that don’t necessarily magnify our spiritual giftedness. Thus far these priorities are serving as a great guide to greater effectiveness and to accomplishing more with less.topodinmobile rpg games