Off The Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

With July 4th coming up the editorial and guest opinion were dedicated to "God and Country" material. Let's spend this Independence Day praying for peace. We all know someone in the Iraq war. May God grant them grace and protection!

Much of the Record covered convention matters. Alot of it was BP pieces. One of the more interesting pieces was the cover piece on Frank Page. The highlights for me were:
1. "Page said he believes messengers are calling him to place an emphasis 'not on personality, but a cause of evangelism and missions that we do together.'" I think he got that right. His election was a blow to the cult of personality that has ruled SBC life for a generation.

2. Page gave criteria for SBC appointments and indicated that he would tap a reserve of leaders found in small and medium sized churches. His criteria would be. A) A sweet spirit, B) an evangelist's heart, C) a commitment to the integrity of the Word of God. I can live with these and think Page's openness is a breath of fresh air in Baptist life.

3. Page affirmed the importance of the Cooperative Program but stopped short of placing a 10% mark. He wrote, "I would rather not us a specific percentage amount because my entire point has been to broaden involvement, not to restrict involvement." It seems like Frank Page is free of guile. WOW!

Page believes his election was a defining moment in Baptist life. We will watch and see.

At Such A Time As This

Meredith and I are teaching in VBS. Today's lesson was on the book of Esther. What a story! I read the text again last night and was amazed at the paternal advice Mordecai gave the young Hadassah. His message to her was a powerful example of a balanced theology of Christian service. Mordecai said:

"For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:14 NRSV).

Mordecai's message reveals -
1. God does not need us. We can loose that messiah complex.
2. God delights in us joining in His work.
3. There are consequences for not joining God's work.

Let's join God in His mission. Who knows? Perhaps we have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this!


Our VBS began at Truitt today. We had a great turn out and it looks like it is going to be a great week. We also had a children's consultant from the MBCB pay us an unexpected visit. We are part of a really good state convention. Keep Jan Halford, Shirley Garrett, and all the workers and students in your prayers.

Off the Record

The most interesting piece in the Record this week was William Perkins' editorial on the '06 SBC. He addressed three key convention events.

1. The Election of Frank Page
Perkins explored the election of Frank Page to the SCB presidency. There were a number of factors that led to this election. Perkins chose to focus on the role of the cooperative program. I agree that the CP was a factor for many messengers. Another key factor was the role Page played as an alternative to the hand picked candidates of the Patterson/Pressler junta. The spell has been broken - genuine participation in the SBC is a possibility again.

2. The WMU
The messengers of the convention voted against a motion presented by the executive committee calling the WMU to formally join the SBC as an agency. Strike two for the junta.

3. The Alcohol Resolution
The convention passed a new anti-alcohol resoltion. The vote was a landslide but many were still upset by the modest opposition it received. I totally abstain but do see clearly the oppostion's position. They simply did not want an extra-biblical mandate placed on Baptists. This is not a liberal or even moderate position. The uberConservative John Piper took this position in the Broadman and Holman book, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (chapter 21). I think this resolution was a backhanded slap at Steve McCoy, Ben Cole, Wade Burleson, etc. It was a bit pointless but to be expected.

Perkins concluded his piece by stating, "There did seem to be a feeling that the winds of change are blowing. It's much too early to declare that a revolution is at hand or that the current system is on the verge of toppling, but one thing is clear: if the messengers to this annual meeting are restless, the people of the churches who sent them are restless. Stay tuned." WE WILL!

Preaching Preview for Sunday June 25th

Text: Mark 9:30-50

McIntosh and Rima said that the raw ingredients of ministry dysfunction are: pride, selfishness, and self-delusion. How do the disciples manifest these ingredients in the biblical story?

How does Jesus guide the disciples to greater maturity?

How do you manifest the ingredients of dysfuntion in your life?

How do you undertand Jesus' command in verse 50? "Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with one another." (HCSB)

See Ya'll Sunday

Cooperatio Dei

Miroslav Volf wrote in 1991, "In the past few centuries Christian theologians have come to view human work as cooperation with God." I believe that this view is drawn from scripture, one of the key texts being II Corinthians 6:1. Paul wrote in this passage, "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." Working with God is the heart of missional Christianity.

I have been in some wonderful meetings with Levi Price, Terry York, and Ron Cook. These men have been imparting a heart for missional living. I can't wait to get home. I belive that our church will benefit from the missional emphasis at Truett. Dr. Price has been talking some about the pioneering work of Francis DuBose, the former missions professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. DuBose wrote a wonderful book titled, God Who Sends. This book was WAY ahead of its time in '83. In it he calls all Christians to embrace a missional way of life. Dubose wrote:

"Yes, we take trips, but we always come back to our houses and lands and out earth-binding things. And we always come back to our church houses and church lands and our earth-binding church things.
And missions? This is something we pay others to do. And pray for others to do. And they go. And thank God they go. But is the Christian mission an elitest vocation? Is this what the Bible says? Is this what we sense from Jesus?
Where have we missed the meaning of our pilgrim faith? Why has the biblical meaning of mission so escaped us? Where did we abandon the legacy of the Jesus way? We live before the mystique of the missional vision. But we seem to be able to keep it a vision - a vision at a safe enough distance to keep us from being compelled by its power."

Let's pray that the power of the missional vision will compell us to cooperate with God and each other in the work God is doing in the world.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

I drove home from Waco, TX to spend the weekend with my family. Meredith and I spent Sat. morning eating breakfast at Primo's and reading papers. She read the Jackson Free Press and I consumed the Baptist Record. Much to my surprise, the Record included a letter to the editor responding to a letter that I wrote in February. The writer of the letter was James Burke of Clara. I am sure that Mr. Burke is a godly man and I appreciate him commenting on my thoughts. I believe, however, that he missed most of my key points.

On February 2nd the Record published my letter and titled it, "SAD IMB POLICY."
I used this letter to explore a number of key themes:
1. I expressed sadness over the new IMB policy regarding spiritual language and baptism.
2. I expressed sadness over the action taken against Wade Burleson.
3. I expressed sadness over the narrowness of the board's actions.
4. I asserted that this policy would have excluded Bertha Smith and (in the origional letter Jerry Rankin).
5. I asserted that this policy would have excluded Paul.

Mr. Burke did not respond to any of these points. He offered a thin exegesis of key passages and stated, "The discussions is not a list of exhortations to speak in tongues, but a long list of restrictions against the practice." AGAINST? A fair reading of the NT will reveal the Paul is not AGAINST any of the spiritual gifts. He simply wants them to be practiced in a God-honoring way. Paul stated, "Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in [other] languages."

The new IMB policy is in clear violation of this biblical exhortation. I believe that the events of this year's SBC indicate that this type of smallness will not be tolerated. We will see.

I also read and enjoyed the piece on the bi-vos. May God bless each of these great men.

Sociograms and Grace

Today we presented papers on our churches that included simple sociograms. As we discussed all of the dynamics that make up congregations and denominations I began to wonder why anyone would ever want to join a church. I then remembered grace! I also met with Dr. David Garland, today, about a project I am working on. We talked about the New Testament, and God's work in the world today. He is a wonderful example of servant leadership and true humility. He "fleshes out" the psalm that we focused on in our morning prayer group. If we all would follow this example then we would have a far greater impact on a hurting world.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore. Psalm 131

In the Name of Jesus

I am sitting in a coffee shop at Baylor University thinking about my day. Drs. Terry York and Ron Cook led a discussion of Henri J.M. Nouwen's philosophy of leadership during our morning seminar. Nouwen wrote, "Words like 'right-wing,' 'reactionary,''conservative,' 'liberal,' and 'left-wing' are used to describe people's opinions, and many discussions then seem more like political battles for power than spiritual searches for the truth." This process of labeling and demonizing has long been a part of church history and has slowed the spreading of the gospel. This process has been true of my denomination. There have also been those, through the ages, that have practiced missional Christianity and servant leadership. They have passed God's story from generation to generation. This is of great interest to me because I have been following the blog reports of the Southern Baptist Convention during breaks. It seems that a new day may be dawning. I hope that the shaking will result in a new era of genuine cooperation and missional participation. I am very positive about the future and am glad to be part of it.

The Raw Expression of Authority

I will be in seminars at Truett Seminary for a couple of weeks. I have been in the program for a year and believe that Truett is a great fit for missional Baptists. Truett is more conservative than many believe, yet open to fresh perspectives. Like me, many of the students have M.Divs from SBC schools. Today our discussion was led by Dr. Terry York. Dr. York was the editor of the '91 Baptist Hymnal and has had many years of experience in church and denominational ministry. He contrasted true leadership with the raw expression of authority. Leadership is a gift from the follower. It is born in relationship and is nurtured on trust and respect. The expression of authority, on the other hand, depends on titles and never grows past the job description.

It seems to me that the crisis in the SBC and in many churches is a crisis of leadership. Let's all try to get it right. Much is riding on it.

I miss you Meredith and Molly Katherine!

Off the Record

Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

Katrina Musical Remembrance
David T. Clydesdale will be leading a Coast-wide choir concert on August 19th in the Gulf Coast Coliseum. More information is provided at This promises to be a powerful worship experience. Walter Brueggeman writes powerfully about the force of laments to move the believer from a place of disorientation to a new orientation. My prayer is that this event will facilitate this process for our friends on the coast. We spent all last week down there and they are still struggling. We passed a FEMA trailer on hwy 90 that had a big white cross in the yard. It had painted red letters that said, "Jesus has risen and so will we." We pray that they will.

Lum takes reins as Evangelism Director
Don Lum has been selected to fill the role of state evangelism director. Don is from Pearl and knows a lot of people in our church. They think very highly of him and I have every confidence that he will do a good job in his new position. Our prayers are with you Don.

Satan's ultimate adrenaline rush
The last bit of interesting reading in the Record was a quest opinion written by Jon Kittrell, pastor of Shugualak Baptist Church.
He argues that the devil gets his grins and giggles watching Baptist fights. I appreciate the general tone of his writing and agree that discord does not normally promote the advance of the gospel. I think, however, that he may have glossed some issues of real importance. For instance he stated, "In the last year, it appears to me that we are squabbling over issues that do not impact theology." The biggest issues over the past year were about theology. The IMB trustee issue was about the gifts of the Spirit and the doctrine of the Church. Wade Burleson and other missional Baptists are simply working to keep the SBC from further becoming a Fundamentalist sect. The legacy of the conservative resurgance is becoming one of radical exclusion. This is an important theological issue. The NAMB issue was about more than "effecient management." It was a reflection of a power culture born out of a certain theolgy. Unity can exist in the presence of differing opinions. We must work to improve the Convention while striving for a bond of peace.

Earthen Vessels

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extaordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. II Cor. 4:7 (NRSV)

Thursdays on a week long mission trip seem to belong to ole scratch. People have tired bodies, short tempers, and are emotionally fatigued. If you're not careful the beauty of the gospel becomes lost in a cloud of darkness. Today we experienced all the symptoms of Thursday. We also saw the gospel blossom in the lives of many people. It is just crazy that God stores and pours the message of Christ from cheap, fragile containers like us. Grace really is amazing.

The Chastisement of our Peace

We began our day with a group devotional on the bus. A retired woman named Arrie talked about her first mission experiences in G.A.s. She said that the first bible verse she learned in her little mission group was Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the the iniquity of us all." That passage of love has guided her heart all these long years. Arrie made a statement about missional living that I thought was very insightful. She said, "As a girl I learned about 'home' and 'foreign' missions, now I know there is just church missions." She has come to accept the New Testament model of congregational based missions. I think we are making some progress toward authentic missional Christianity.

The family from the RV park came to our children's ministry today. They will be back tomorrow!

The Kingdom of God and the RV Park

We had a good day at GBC. Our ministry time with them seems to be going really well. We stirred things up a little today though. We wanted to go and meet some other people in the community after our children's ministry. A woman named Amy arranged for us to go swimming in a creek at a local RV park. This seemed to bother some of the church ladies and they began to offer us many other options for our "free time." Amy is a new Christian and is not "church broke." She loves Jesus, talks loud, smokes Marlboro reds, and has lots of friends who are not Christians. We looked at the other options and decided to hang with Amy.

The RV park had more rebel flags than the Confederacy. Almost every adult had a tatoo and absolutly none of the kids were planning on attending anybody's VBS. Amy showed us the ropes and we met a lot of new people. I talked to a young mother of two who was recently widowed after eleven years. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she told her story. She is one of Amy's friends and Amy invited her kids to our children's ministry at the church. She said they would come. This woman and her kids really need the "church ladies" to be Jesus for them. Pray that Amy and our team will be used by God to stir new passion for missional living at Graceland Baptist Church.

I'm Going to Graceland

We began our work with the Gracland Baptist Church today. We had a great day and are looking forward to a fruitful week. In addition to working at Graceland we met with Adrian Turner to discuss future ministry partnerships. Adrian is the port chaplain in Pascagoula. His ministry at the seaman's center touches men from all over the world. They stock bibles and ministry materials in over fifty languages. Thomas Friedman's flat world theory suggest that we are living in a JerusalemJudeaSamariaEnds world. Global trade at the ports of Mississippi presents a unique ministry opportunity for us. The World comes here. Let's be sure that they are touched with the kindness of Jesus during their stay.

People along the coast are nervous about the hurricane season while still dealing with last year's devastation. We are making plans to welcome them into our homes if need be. Please do not forget to pray for coastal Mississippi.

Big Pulpit

We are leading a mission team on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We left early this morning and drove to D'Iberville. I preached at the Brodie Road Baptist Church. We partnered with Brodie Road the week following the storm. They have come a long way and are working hard to reach thier community. They are still working on thier facilities but have made great progress. The platform of the small sanctuary is covered with a blue tarp. In the center of it is the largest acrylic pulpit that I have ever seen. It was donated to their church and looked as if it may have once belonged to Benny Hinn or T.D. Jakes. I know it must have spent some time of cable television. I thought that it seemed quite large for such a little church. As I preached it occured to me that the big ole thing was a fitting picture of the influence many small churches have. Paul Powell once said that, "there are no small churches only small people." The people at Brodie Road are large people with a large task. They have a powerfully large pulpit planted in the midst of a very difficult situation. Please keep them and all Gulf Coast ministries in your prayers.

This afternoon we traveled to Ocean Springs and met with church leaders at Graceland Baptist Church. They are hosting us this week. We look forward to getting to know this community of faith better. The pastor of the church is a 67 year old man named Jim Willey. He preached a message on Noah tonight that was essentially narrative. At one point he had Noah say to God, "Well if that is really what you want me to do then let's get on with it." A little country theology never hurt anybody.

Six great years

Meredith and I have been married six years today. Molly Katherine was born this year and is the best anniversary gift we could have received.

Off the Record

I intend to include a weekly commentary on the Baptist Record on this blog. The Baptist Record is the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. The Record includes both news and commentary. I generally have something to say about it all.

SBC Exec. Comm. drops 10% CP goal
The Record leads with a BP story about the drop in Cooperative Program goals. The CP has become a continuous issue in the SBC. The shift in missional philosophy in many local churches is seldom discussed in regard to this issue. Many churches are taking a more active role in personally supporting missions (see chapter 12 of Stetzer and Putman's "Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community").The mess at the IMB and NAMB will, I believe, further lead to the erosion of the CP.

Welch announces retirement
Bobby Welch, pastor of First Church in Daytona Beach will retire after 32 years of ministry. We wish Pastor Welch blessings in his retirement. Our church uses FAITH with what I call the, "McRaney qualifier." Professor McRaney wrote, "Memorized presentations can be helpful to the witness but not because he will make a complete presentation. Learning a presentation or gospel outline will provide those who witness with additional confidence as they enter and provide direction to the evangelistic dialogue." Thank you Pastor Welch for providing this additional confidence for many Christians.

See you in Greensboro
Editor William Perkins' piece deals with the end of the post- takeover, "pax Southern Baptist." He contends that there will be "fireworks" at the SBC for years to come. He identifies, "a fledgling group of young pastors ready to mount a challenge to what they see as the iron-fisted tactics of the grayheads now in charge." He has identified my tribe. As one of the fledglings, I have two fears. I fear that we young missional Baptists will become what we struggle against. The end does not justify the means. Let's be sure to humble ourselves before God while promoting missional issues. My second fear is that healthy dissent will be crushed under the banner of "unity." We must resist the professional temptation to, "love human praise more than the praise of God" (John 12:43 NLT).

Distracted by cheap stunts and Where was story?
Dr. Carl White wrote both a guest opinion and letter to the editor. "Brother Carl" is a former writer for the Record and might have been feeling a little nostalgic this week. He's also my parent's pastor. White charged the BP with being AWOL on the recent NAMB issues and suggested that an unofficial, group of powerful pastors was really running SBC agencies. DUH! (I sometimes feel nostalgic too).

Trusee Burleson to battle IMB leaders' ban
I thought the most telling bit of reporting in this BP piece was Hatley's quote, "I'm sorry, you'll have to close that microphone. I need to recognize Clyde to come and give his report." The "pax Southern Baptist" exists only because of the leadership's longstanding ability to, "close that microphone so Clyde can speak." Well, Wade Burleson and many others have blogs that can not be silenced and hearts for reformission. I'm with you Wade.

Speakers Tournament champion implores, 'Take up cross'
A young woman named Carrie Kirk won the 2006 Speakers Tournament. The Record published her "speach" in full. Young women often do well in this state competition. Our daughters do prophesy. What a wonderful testimony to Pentecostal grace. Preach on girl!

Until Pentecost

"But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me." I Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV)

This Sunday millions of Christians will gather to celebrate the wind and fire of Pentecost. In preparing myself for this observance I was reminded of Paul's little note to his Corinthian friends. He said that he was going to celebrate the festival but until that time he would stay put in Ephesus. He gave a two part reason.

A great door for effective work has opened to me -
Like Paul a door of opportunity is open for all missional Christians. We are called to go, our own way, to new people. God is already at work in His world and invites us to join him in it. Until and after Pentecost let's walk through the open doors.

Many oppose me -
Apparently open doors let in opposition and difficulties as well as opportunity. The "American Gospel" promises limitless opportunity without opposition. Paul lived with a different perspective and so must all missional Christians. Until and after Pentecost let's face opposition for the glory of God and the good of the world.

Pray for our mission team as we travel to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We will be working with the Brodie Road Baptist Church and Graceland Baptist Church.
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