August 2009

On the heels of the last post about the SBC, I want to quickly add my own conviction why that denomination has been blessed as it has despite the internal-battles of the last 50 years. Frankly, it is what keeps me identified with this wing of the Church.

It is simply that it has been able to keep the world mission as the unifying task of what the Convention is about year after year. By the way, SBC stands for Southern Baptist Convention, a fellowship of autonomous local churches.

To give you a taste of how important this is to me and I believe to the cause of Jesus Christ on earth, I want to quote from an outstanding missionary to Islam in another denomination-the oldest continous protestant  denomination in the USA-the Reformed Church in America:

Over the entrance of one of the university buildings in Upsala (Switzerland) is the inscription- ‘Free thought is great but true thought is better’. There is great freedom of thought on missions today. The globe-trotter, the newspaper reporter, and the man on the street do not hesitate to express their opinions on missions and missionaries. The youth of today, untrammeled by the older traditions or conventions, is free to express its conclusions. A leader among the present generation of students, when cautioned regarding the humanistic trend and syncretistic philosophy in missions wrote: “I am personally not the least interested in modernist propaganda. The battle has passed wholly beyond that front for me. Modern life and my own life crack the universe clear open to its very core and make me face issues a thousand fathoms beneath those of the modernist and fundamentalist controversy. . .as a teacher I am not at all concerned with what any man thinks but only that he thinks.”

This is a familiar attitude and there is considerable truth in the contention. But if “the universe is cracked clear open to its very core” and we are to think at all correctly, conclusively, and creatively regarding it and the Kingdom of God, we need first of all to gird the loins of our mind with truth. In the battle against error there is no weapon so powerful as the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. – Samuel Zwemer, Thinking Missions with Christ (1934)

My personal message to fellow members of the SBC would be along the above lines-in the 21st century, the only safe way forward is to think missions exactly as Zwemer is advocating here, as the unifying purpose of our continuing partnership.

Read an excerpt from an earlier book (1911), The Glory of the Impossible

Zwemer biography at HISTORY of MISSIOLOGY, Boston University

From the Tampa Christian Spirituality Examiner.

I’ve made reference on this blog to a trend that seems to be active in all the major faith traditions that fits into what I understand as a type of “revitalization”. This first came to my attention as we were approaching Y2K-remember? It was as though the leadership in all the major traditional faiths were trying to lead the faithful to prepare for the new century by renewing or re-capturing the original passion/vision of their particular organization. SBC

When I read what my friend Tom Ascol wrote for a local Tampa area Christian newsletter, I thought to myself, here is a perfect example that this trend is heating up within the Southern Baptist Convention. I will post only part of the article here but encourage you to read the entire piece.

As president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, (President )Mohler gave an opening semester address to students today on “The Future of the SBC.” Comparing the SBC to General Motors, Mohler warned that if Southern Baptists are unwilling to reexamine their principles and priorities in order to become more faithful to the message and mission of Jesus Christ, they may well find themselves, like the giant auto maker, with a more glorious history than hopeful future. 
At their annual meeting in June of this year, SBC President, Johnny Hunt, appointed a “Great Commission Task Force” to study the current state of the convention and bring back recommendations for next year’s meeting in Orlando. Many are already looking to that report as a harbinger for the kind of future that awaits Southern Baptists. As Mohler articulated the issue today, will Southern Baptists become more committed to Jesus Christ and his mission or continue to cling to old tribal and bureaucratic ways that served fairly well for most of the twentieth century?
To read full article, The Southern Baptist must change or die.
To Listen to Dr.Mohler’s live forum (66minutes)GO HERE.
Related post by David Sills at Southern Seminary.

Geoffrey Bromiley (1915-2009)

Another godly life has been completed and belongs in our Saints’Gallery. I was not personally aquainted with Geoffrey Bromiley, but came to know that anything written from this man was of the highest quality and definitely had the mark of “the wisdom that comes from above” (see James 3).

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Tulsa last week. We drove so we had a lot of time to talk about a number of things. We spent a good deal discussing the critical difference in the training of teachers in the Church and how scholarship as handled in western education can either be a blessing or a curse. In light of my last post on a teacher sent from God, we talked about the incredible mental acuteness of the Apostle Paul (my wife is reading through the Roman letter) and that he models one of the most important ingredients that is so characteristic of that wisdom from God which brings so much blessing to the churches. Following what might well be the most difficult passage in this letter, which surely demanded all the mental discipline and intensity that the human mind is capable of, Paul ends the passage with a confession of God’s unsearchable wisdom (Romans 11:33-36), which to me clearly demonstrates  his own total submission of his intellect to the mind of God as revealed in Holy Scripture.

There is no praise for the lazy mind in the Christian faith, for shoddy scholarship. There have been outstanding examples through out the history of the Christian Church of godly men and women who were gifted educators- teachers sent from God to bless and enrich all of us as we sought to follow Christ and serve His Church. But this one necessary thing- our intellect and scholarship must always be held very lighly and submitted to His Word. “Your thoughts are not my thoughts, saith the Lord”!

Geoffrey Bromiley was one more of these priceless treasures sent down from the Father of lights because He wants us to know His wisdom. Read about his life at CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Thank you Father, for the life and ministry of Geoffrey.

On the critical role of the teacher in the Church

“ Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. .
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (Epistle of James, ESV translation) 

Recently my good friend John at ACT3, blogged about the neglected role of Jesus as “The teacher sent from God”. I really appreciated him speaking to this critical function, not only in the life of Christ, but of perennial importance in the Churches of Christ.

I want to speak to a different emphasis on the same theme: the very thing that James speaks to in the third chapter of his little epistle. I think I was among the majority of Bible readers who, when they would read this chapter and what James said about the “tongue”, just assumed I knew that he was literally speaking about that member in the human anatomy that causes so much trouble. Right?


(Elder D.J.Ward- see the Saints Gallery )

But then one day I read one of those essays that opened a whole new light on what he was saying about the function of the teacher within the community of faith. The essay by John Yoder called attention to the fact that the word “tongue” as used in the New Testament always had a broader and richer meaning which included language (as in the account on the Day of Pentecost and the miracle of “tongues”-see Acts 2), and the whole concept of transmitting either by word-of-mouth or by letter the teachings of Christ and His Church. For anyone who has seriously sought to be involved in this teaching activity, they have undoubtedly discovered for themselves the basic reality James is dealing with and just how incredibly significant the choice of words becomes (“if anyone does not stumble in what he says”) as well as all the personal factors of the one doing the transmitting. This goes for whether it is in person or by the printed word or now what is placed on the internet.

In crucial matters of a faith tradition such as my own, this function has everything to do with the maturing not only of every disciple of Christ, but the entire Church herself. That is why there is so much spoken about this function in the New Testament (for starters, start with the Life of Christ himself and what he transmitted to his disciples and then told them to perpetuate-see Matthew 28:18-20 or the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy).

I close with two observations. First, we must always recognize that the function of teacher in the Church is, like the Apostle, one that is called and gifted by Christ himself. It is not for anyone to assume or take on of his or her own initiative. James is very clear in regard to his warning to wannabe teachers- “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Secondly then, those that are appointed by Christ to this function whether in a local congregation or to the Church-at-large, must realize the discipline required of them in being able to control what they say and how they say it. My own observation, after spending my entire adult life in the Church and her teaching ministries, is that all of us are all too lax in this regard and not careful with our own “filler” that we carelessly add to the message.

May God grant His Churches in these challenging days, the wisdom that comes from above for all His chosen teachers.

(Read Yoder’s essay on The Use of The Bible in theology)


Tony Blair Speaking at Westminster Cathedral -2008

Excellent Statement about people of Faith

Here is one of the best statements I have encountered speaking into the present public square from an unashamed perspective of faith. Though Mr.Blair is obviously speaking from his own faith tradition in one of its hallowed temples, I believe what he says is applicable to all  faith traditions and is why he can promote a solidarity among such traditions as we face the challenges of our world. I posted this so it would be here at E4Unity to refer to in future blogs. Be sure to let me know what you thought as you listened to it.

I’ve already heard some comments reminding me that Tony is campaigning for the Presidency in the European Common Market.

A Related Post on E4Unity: “Why Does Faith Matter?”