Thursday, July 19, 2012

Educate Our People


I enjoy the conversation and even some of the debate of the issues we’re dealing with today in the SBC.  There are times when the debaters get a little ugly and personal – but beyond that – I have learned a great deal by reading the comments from thoughtful people who disagree.

Here’s my concern for the church…
We’re having the debate, but the vast majority of our people don’t have a clue what we’re debating.  It is assumed that Calvinist-driven pastors are slipping into the churches with a plan already in place to reform that church.  Certainly, that could be true on occasion – but I suspect most of these pastors are never asked about their theological leanings and don’t feel obligated to share them.  Isn’t it possible they aren’t trying to be covert – but just following a call to a church?  Isn’t it possible they are preaching a more Calvinistic theology because they believe it?  I think so.  In my interview I was simply asked if I was Southern Baptist.  I said yes.  I didn’t think to offer anything else – I just waited for the next question. 

That leads to my primary concern…
We need to educate our churches. 

Are we explaining theology to our people?  Are we communicating with our associations and with our sister churches that are looking for pastors?  Do we have information that can be placed in the hands of Search Committees?  We might find Calvinist-leaning congregations looking for that kind of pastor.  They might gain an understanding of the Calvinist “point system” and desire a certain number of “points” in a new pastor.  I suspect the opposite will be true – but at the very least they should expect a potential pastor can articulate his theology – and they should be able to understand his answer.  The idea of an informed Church/Search Committee and theologically astute pastor has to be appealing to everyone… Right?

What am I going to do?  In October, we will have a sermon series on “The Election” but rather than talk politics – we will look at Romans 8-10.  In the last Sunday of the series we will bring in Dr. Eric Hankins to preach and have a time of question and answer after the 11:00 service.  At that time our people can talk to the primary author of the Sinners Prayer Resolution and hopefully leave with a better understanding of the issue.  I will also talk to the DOM in our county to see if there’s a way we can help educate Search Committees who are looking for pastors.  I will not start an anti-Calvinist campaign but rather will seek to help in the education process. 

Let us continue to have the debate… but let us not forget the need to educate our people.

Chris

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Urgent!


In all the theological debates going on in Southern Baptist life, I hope we are not overlooking the important matters. Whether Calvinist or Traditionalist we are all called to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Though most give lip service to the necessity and extreme importance of sharing the Gospel, I do not sense the urgency within the SBC we need.
In Col 4:5, Paul tells the Colossians to make “the most of the opportunity.” The opportunity Paul referred to was the opportunity the Colossian Christians had with “outsiders.” “Outsiders” referred to non-Christians. Have you ever realized you and I have limited occasions with the lost of this world. You and I will engage the lost of this world, the outsiders, a limited number of times. When the opportunities allotted to you and me pass, we will have no more opportunities. Whether they move or they die or we die, we have a limited number of opportunities to engage the lost world with the Gospel.
We need to keep that truth in the forefront of our minds because you and I live in a busy world. It is not very difficult for our family to be busy and away from our home every night of the week. We live a busy lifestyle. We are always doing something or going somewhere. Our jobs are busy. There is always something to do for our employers. Throw in a little time to relax or get some things done around the house and we are swamped. We don’t have time for anyone else or to think about anyone else.  
In the midst of all that, we live in a lost world, but we are so busy, the lostness of the world gets lost. We forget about it and pay no attention to it. The opportunities come and go, but we forget: our opportunities are running out!
Understanding all of that, Paul called the Colossians to live with urgency. They were to “make the most of every opportunity.” The verb there literally means to “buy up.” The Colossian believers were to buy up or use every occasion they had to engage the lost people around them. Paul called the Colossians to use the opportunities they had to share the Gospel. No one can make someone be saved but he told them to take the opportunities they had to share the Gospel of Jesus knowing the power of the Gospel to save.  Paul did not call the Colossians to focus on the lost in the future. He did not congratulate them on what they had done in the past, but called them to take every opportunity and make the most of what they had when they had it.
 I like what Steve Mariucci said, “I never wear a watch, because I always know it's now—and now is when you should do it.” (San Fransisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci, Fast Company, June 2000)
Ladies and Gentlemen it is time for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to wake up! I love discussing theology. That is part of who we are. But our debates will never lead to salvation. So as we discuss our differences let us not forget the lost world around us. It is time that we realize the opportunities to change this world, the opportunities to impact this world, the opportunities to impact eternity are passing us by day after day. We sit idly day after day and watch them pass. When will we realize the need to buy up the opportunities we have. When will we realize the need to make the most of our time with the tellers at the bank? When will the church make the most of the time with the cashier at Wal-Mart?  Or the Dr.’s office, when we are there at 8 but do not see him till 11! Let us use those hours for Christ. You and I have a limited engagement on this planet and we must live with urgency for the Kingdom and for the glory of Christ Jesus.

Eddie

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chris/SBC


Passivity is not a description I am comfortable with.  I do not believe it describes my ministry style or leadership style.  Unfortunately, I have come to realize it could be a good description of my involvement in the SBC. 

I pastor Lee Park Church in Monroe, NC.  God has greatly blessed the work at Lee Park.  For three and a half years I was a part-time pastor, part-time seminary student and full-time TV News Anchor at the NBC station in Charlotte.  The church grew from 50 to 550 in worship.  Moving out of TV and into full-time ministry was an obvious (and God ordained) next step.  In the last three and a half years our church has merged with a Baptist church that was on the verge of closing, merged with a Spanish speaking church that was meeting in a home, renovated a gymnasium for a worship center and grown from 550 to 1,550.  I have busied myself with new buildings, land acquisitions, new staff members, counseling, hospital visits, weddings, funerals and of course – sermon prep and being a husband and father of four.  I am living the life of a pastor. 

The annual SBC gathering has been a nice diversion for me.  I rarely make the local meetings and have never participated in a state meeting.  At the national level, I enjoy the speakers and the process.  I engage in voting, go to some of the side meetings, but feel very comfortable sitting on the sidelines and watching others lead. 

That is changing.  Because it is passive…

Recently, I attached my name to a list that is now unfortunately best known for being a list of non-Calvinist ‘Traditionalists’.  I didn’t like the name from the start and feared there would be unnecessary division.  However, I am in agreement with the content of the document and thankful for the leadership of Dr. Eric Hankins and others for their thoughtful work.  The issue was and is simple for me… I am not a Calvinist and have no desire to be defined by the Calvinist ‘point system’ that exists.    In fact, I am not Arminian or Pelagian or semi-Pelagian (or pre-Pelagian, mid-Pelagian or post-Pelagian); I am a Baptist.  I am thankful for the Baptist Faith and Message and love the freedom of the autonomous church.  

While I don’t feel the need to fit perfectly into a particular system – I do seem to fit with a recent study that says 60 percent of our Baptist pastors are concerned about Calvinism.  I recognize that ‘concerned’ is a broad term.  However, my primary concern centered on the response from non-Calvinists.  My perception was that the response was either non-existent or angry.  I recognize the frustration that exists from those who say they are on the receiving end of Calvinist-condescension.  Really I do.  However, my concern is that non-Calvinists have lacked a good response and have lacked the desire to state their case in a way that generates positive discussion.  My hope was that the document would spark the sort of conversation that would bring the two sides together… and that is still my hope.        

There are extremists on both sides and they are an embarrassment to the work of the SBC.  Additionally, there are good people on both sides that occasionally make extreme comments.  Still, we should never choose an ugly fight over a healthy debate and healthy accountability.  If we can’t disagree and still push toward the ‘Great Commission’ we are already dead and simply going through the motions of a dead church that believes it isn’t dead.

I am committing to being more engaged in the process.  I accept the call from our new president to give an additional 1% to the Cooperative Program (it will go directly to the IMB and NAMB).  I have agreed to join a leadership network that includes pastors from North and South Carolina.  I have committed to attend a state convention-sponsored gathering of large church pastors and will commit to attending the state convention.  Additionally, I am communicating with others about being involved in a group that will seek to have a healthy debate while highlighting commonalities rather than consternation.    

I like being a Southern Baptist (and don’t even mind the nickname Great Commission Baptist).  In fact, I like being a Southern Baptist too much to be passive

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The SBC/ Eddie


I always look forward to the Southern Baptist Convention. Always. The convention is a family reunion of sorts. A group of my friends and I stay close together, eat almost every meal and attend most sessions together. We truly have a wonderful time as we worship and fellowship together. This year was no different.

But as the 2012 convention approached there was a different feeling. There was/is a feeling that Calvinism had begun to dominate the SBC and the Pastors’ Conferences. Many felt like there needed to be a push back. A push to let the Calvinists know and understand there are Bible believing, Gospel centered leaders who are not Calvinistic. 

Battle lines were being drawn. Calvinist and non-Calvinist were debating and sometimes insulting one another. Though there were calls to be kind and to “play nice,” many times those calls fell on deaf ears. Therefore, as the convention approached one had to wonder if there would be “fussing and fighting,” perhaps as we had never witnessed before. I feared the worst and was concerned I would leave the 2012 convention discouraged and distraught over my beloved Southern Baptist Convention. 

Thankfully, the fighting never happened.

Thankfully, I left the convention as hopeful about the SBC as I have been in sometime. In recent years I have wondered if the divide between the mega-churches and the rest of the convention would ultimately split the convention. This year I wondered if the differing views on soteriology would split the convention. It seems (to me anyway) instead of dividing the convention and pointing us toward our doom, in a strange way I feel more unified. Why?

Maybe it’s because the conversation has begun. As Jerry Vines pointed out prior to the convention, the “elephants” needed to be discussed. Instead of listening to a 30 second video of Mohler, Platt, Gaines, or whoever in our offices, the discussion was brought full scale to the convention; out in the open. Eric Hankins should be commended for his contribution of the “Traditionalists” view of soteriology. Mohler, Harwood, Vines, Gaines, Wright, Page and a host of others are to be commended for their responses to the issue at hand. Both sides who weighed in publicly should be commended for their kind tones and gestures.

So, I for one, am relieved and hopeful that open discussion will continue in a courteous and kind manner, with both groups realizing the legitimacy of one another’s beliefs and that both groups will continue to study God’s Word and grow therein. We will likely never change one another’s opinion and that is OK. I am not mad at the Calvinists. I am not and have never been accused of being a Calvinist. But, I understand how they get there. I believe they love the Lord and I have many friends and partners in the ministry who lean that way. We can work and worship together for God’s glory.

Maybe I am hopeful because of because of the descriptor; doubtful, but maybe. I was not for it. But, if my brothers in other areas of the world believe it will help them reach the lost, who am I to say no. It changes nothing I do or how I refer to the church I serve. So maybe the willingness to help those in other areas encouraged me.

Or maybe it was the election of Fred Luter, the first African American President of the SBC that encouraged me. I have known of Bro. Fred for years and have never heard a disparaging word about him or his ministry. God has used him to grow a great church and he is universally loved and respected in the SBC. May God bless him and use him in a mighty, mighty way!

Maybe I am na├»ve, but I truly believe Calvinists and non-Calvinists can serve the Lord together. I do not believe we should change our name, but we should all be Great Commission Baptists. And it doesn’t bother me if a church uses the descriptor (after all it does include Baptist)! Also, I believe we can rally around President Luter.

Some may say I’m crazy, or giving in, or whatever. That’s OK. I choose to believe the best about the Body of Christ and to work for the best of our convention through the power of Christ.

Eddie Wren

Friday, June 22, 2012

Welcome

Welcome to The Bridge! Our goal is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people. We desire to share the Gospel in the most effective way possible and will be discussing methods of evangelism, doctrines of salvation and Christianity, as well as sharing the thoughts of others that we may grow in our understanding and practice of the Gospel.

Come with us on this journey for it is good and acceptable in the sight of our God who "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tm. 2:4).