Friday, June 29, 2012
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.