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).