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

There are a number of pieces in Record this week that caught my attention.

Many seeds bring bountiful harvest
Toby Frost of NAMB wrote a guest opinion on "seed-sowing." It began by repeating my favorite Chuck Kelley quote, "Southern Baptists are a harvest-oriented denomination living in an unseeded generation." We simply must listen to the biblical call to scatter, water, and wait. God will bring a harvest of new life if we will be faithful workers in the field. Frost lists a few practical hints for evangelistic seed-sowing. It must:
. be positive
. be consistent
. be numerous
. be intentional
. be creative
. be service oriented
. be Christ-centered
. be sacrificial
. be natural
. be filled with prayer

Bowlin: Evangelists are crucial ministry
Mississippian Gary Bowlin is the president of COSBE. He wrote a piece on the importance of revival ministry. He made a statement I am still pondering, "A church should hold two revivals a year, one for church renewal and one for outreach. In addition, Harvest Days can really boost the church's evangelistic efforts." I have not made a decision on this advice yet and would welcome any imput. NOTE - We are having a revival in September (13-17) with Kevin Meador and Barry Landrum leading the meetings.

Warren: Plans for 2007 rally in North Korea will proceed
Rick Warren will lead a meeting on the 100th anniversary of the Pyongyang Revival. Warren and David Yonggi Cho have placed a mark on current church life. The outcome of a Warren meeting in Korea will be interesting. Our prayers are with him.

It Is Me and I Am Not
Dr. Futral's piece dealt with his new 'do. I was glad that he thought he looked like Lex Luthor. I pointed that out in a post on Broken Steeple and my mamma thought I was being tacky. I was simply being descriptive. He wrote about the buzz his uncovered baldness has caused in the Magnolia State and the fact that many were praying for his treatments (he does not have cancer). He wrote some touching things about cancer patients that I really appreciate, having just lost a friend at church to that terrible thing. Futral's tender humor is always appreciated and as I stated before he does look twenty years younger.

28 comments:

Rob Westbrook said...

Matt, this week's BR was a good issue. It was light on the political issues and more on the missions side. I'm enjoying it.

Matt Snowden said...

Rob,
It was a breath of fresh air. We get a steady dose of "agin it" stuff. The world knows Mississippi Baptists don't like drankin' gamlin' and dirty piture shows. I was so happy with the Record this week. We need more issues like it.

I saw where you are going into church planting. You are in my prayers.

Perry McCall said...

I am not one who rejects "revival" meetings as outdated or not useful. However, the idea that a Church "should" be having two revivals a year is crazy. If we are serious about reaching an unchurched culture, then the last thing we need to be doing is expecting them to come to church three or four times in one week. I believe the cause of the gospel would be served far greater if we called our churches to suspend all weekly programming twice a year and saturate our community events (school functions, local parks, ball games ect.) with our attendance and support while being prepared to invite people to Church and being willing to share the gospel when the door is opened by God. We can not expect the world to continue to come to us in order to hear the gospel. We must go!

The proper place and emphasis for revival meetings should remain on the renewal of the people of God. The NT church was praised by Paul not because of their camp meetings but because of their gospel lives that were touching the community and spreading the gospel everywhere that they went in their routine. Why can't we just spread the gospel everywhere we go?

Matt Snowden said...

Perry,

Good thoughts, I appreciate you. Our revival focus is on congregational renewal especially the area of prayer.

I think suspending some church services for the purpose of evangelism is a great idea.

A series of renewal services coupled with community evangelism would be ideal.

Bo Prather said...

I'm probably the only person on the planet bothered by this, but can anybody tell me what an evangelist is in terms of biblical offices. Are they elders, deacons, apostles? I've asked several "vocational evangelists" this question, and it's usually met with a blank stare and an incredulous "what do you mean?" After I repeat the question, they usually rattle off Ephesians 4:11, and I just let it drop. But don't see how Paul's reference here and in 2 Timothy 4 parlays into someone making a career as an itinerant preacher operating under the authority of a parachurch nonprofit corporation.

I certainly don't mean to cast dispersion on people who are obviously passionate about the gospel; I'm just bothered by lack of theological precision concerning an issue of great importance.

Matt Snowden said...

Bo,
I'm going to have to think on that one a little bit.

Matt Snowden said...

Bo

In Acts 21:8 Philip is called "the evangelist."

In II Timothy 4:5 Timothy is told to "do the work of an evangelist."

It seems like Luke and Paul are speaking of functional ministry and not a ministry office.

I would agree with Ralph Martin's assesment of Ephesians 4:11, "the term [evangelist] denotes a function more than an office.

I join you in not wanting to cast dispersion on vocational evangelists. We need more passion for the gospel and not less and these guys have infectious passion.

Maybe we should see if Alvin Reid can help us on this one.

Bo Prather said...

Matt,

I agree with you about the functional nature of the title. Philip, for instance, holds the office of deacon in the Jerusalem church. Luke labels him "the evangelist" presumably because of his work in Ethiopia. The activities that most likely earned him the title seem to correspond more with modern day missionaries than itinerant evangelists.

Here's my concern. With the typical conception of evangelists, we have guys who travel from church to church sometimes with the intent to preach the gospel to unbelievers, sometimes with the intent to preach repentance and renewal to the church. While these guys are probably members of a home church somewhere, they would seldom, if ever, be present to worship with their church family or sit under the corporate teaching of God's Word from one of God's undershepherds. This would seem to make local church accountability and mutual encouragement nearly impossible for the itinerant evangelist. Instead, most of the itinerant evangelists I've talked to point to a hand-selected board of directors for their non-profit corporation as those to whom they look to for support and accountability. By the way, the same thinking would apply to the way some missionaries and directors of missions function.

I believe that the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in our time is the local church, and there are no superstructures. I thank God for the work of the faithful men and women in parachurch organizations over the last half-century or so, but I believe that the parachurch phenomenon is a form of judgement on our churches for not faithfully carrying out our God-ordained mission. I guess it just concerns me that we think of entire classes of people as leaders in the Kingdom without any expectation that those people be leaders in their churches, and on top of that I'm fearful that we then take undue liberties with biblical language to help talk about and justify our thinking. I don't want itinerant evangelists to stop proclaiming the gospel; I just don't know that we have conceived of that term correctly.

Bo Prather said...

Quick correction: in the above post, I meant Samaria instead of Ethiopia. Sorry, I had Ethiopian eunuch on the brain.

Bo

Matt Snowden said...

Bo,
I'm with you. The local church should be the hub of all Christian evangelism. Good thoughts.

Matt Snowden said...

Bo,
Your comments caused me to remember my favorite part of Mark Driscoll's - The Radical Reformission.

In the introduction he adapted Lesslie Newbigin's triangular movement of the gospel (gospel + culture + church). When the movement breaks down you get the following:

1. Gospel + Culture - Church = Parachurch

2. Culture + Church - Gospel = Liberalism

3. Church + Gospel - Culture = Fundamentalism

I think that is accurate.What do you think?

Matt Snowden said...

one more thing -

I wrote Alvin Reid about the evangelist issue. He said that Frank Harber wrote his phd dissertation on this. I intend to look it up. I think Bo raised an important issue.

Perry McCall said...

Baptist Press has multiple aricles on the "need" for evangelists and revivals in SBC life. The evangelist Britt assures us that we are being sinful and do not believe the word of God if we don't use vocational evangelists because they are clearly an office of the church "just like the pastor" is. Bo, you must repent!!

Rob Westbrook said...

Oh, man. Bo, you got me thinking again. And just when I was gonna stop for a while!

Matt, if you get any good info from Harber's dissertation, let us know. Also, thanks for your prayers. Please continue to remember my family and me. We're really crushed to leave this church after 7.5 years here. At the same time, we're really excited about God's future for us.

Matt Snowden said...

Perry,

I read Britt's article in BP this morning and Fordham's. What they lack in theological precision they make up for with passion. Something about them makes we like 'em. One thing for sure they spur me to share the gospel. I think Britt overplays his hand on the vocational evangelist a little but if you put yourself in his shoes it becomes clear why. This type of ministry is the sigle focus of his life. I am going to find the time to look at Harber's dissertation.

Matt Snowden said...

Guys,
In looking for an abstract of Harber's work from home I ran across a piece written by William Combs in the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary Journal. The school is Fundamentalist dispensational by description and I would not affirm the entire statement of faith but the piece is worth reading. http://www.dbts.edu/journals/2002/combs.pdf

Perry McCall said...

Matt,
Yeah, ditto on the passion thing. We might ought to make the point again that we are not talking about the need for doing many different things and activities in order to spread the gospel. The issues surronding this discussion I believe are two fold. First, I believe that it is important to discuss the best ways of doing evangelism that are still biblically faithful. Secondly, I believe it is equally important that we have a proper view of biblical offices. If the itinerant vocational evangelist who travels from week to week to different churches "doing" the biblical work of evangelism is a biblical office just like pastors & deacons, then the BF&M is in blatant error (as well as all historic Baptist confessions) in affirming only pastoral and deaon offices as biblical.

I agree that we are in desperate need of revival in the American church. Furthermore, I agree that we must be intentionally getting out and spreading a gospel centered message to the world. I believe that the best way to recover a missional passion is a baptist renewal. A keen conviction of and commitment to regenerate membership. A commitment to the authority of scripture that is "proven" by the living and serving by the sufficiency of scripture.

I know that the common practice is to attack people in the name theological precision. However, we can not allow others spiritual abuse to cause us to shy away from being doctrinally correct. I am being serious about Britt's position. He and Bo can not both be right. His position and the BF&M can't both be right. The evangelist is either an office of the Church or it is not. Being a secondary issue does not make it unimportant. It is still an issue of biblical faithfullness and biblical faithfullness is an issue of sin. If it is an office, then he is right in saying that we are in violation of scripture and we must change. I know it sounds like we are nick picking and attacking him. I promise we are not. I am agreeing with him that it is an important issue.

To have revivals are not? To each his own. The bible is COMPLETELY silient on the issue. However, to call the evangelist a biblical office is not an inconsequential position. Our answer to that question will determine the faithfullness and purity of our Church.

Matt Snowden said...

Perry,
To be clear. I agree with Bo and you about the office issue. I think this type of thing should be worked out theologically. I also appreciate the ministry of evangelists. I think working this issue, in concert with them will yield fruit in the future.

Perry McCall said...

Me too! I knew we understood each other. I just wanted anybody else reading to understand the background of the conversation. Also, I don't want to be confused with people who do attack their ministries.

Bo Prather said...

Matt,

Thanks for the time and effort you've put into this; I really didn't mean to stir up a hornets nest. I guess some of us just kind of have a knack for it.

First off, I'm a big fan of Driscoll. I think he's one of the best missiological guys we've got, and I think his work on church, gospel, and culture is really helpful.

Second, I hadn't read Bill Britt's article when I commented last, but I think it does illustrate the point I was trying to make. Britt, who once wore the mantle I now where as pastor at Urania, is obviously a good guy with a strong passion for the gospel, but in the article he seems to be using that passion and a less-than-responsible employment of Scripture to put the squeeze on churches to support a system of doing evangelism that I think has more to do with Southern Baptist tradition than with Scripture. By the way, I say that as someone who happens to be pretty fond of Southern Baptist traditions.

I'd really like to hear more from Ried and Harbor on this. I've got a meeting Monday with a vocational evangelist, and I'll ask him about his take on all of this. I've asked others before, but I think I've just unintentionally offended them by asking. Maybe I do better this time around.

Really, I'm not out to get evangelists. As I said, I appreciate the work they do. I sincerely hope that I haven't hurt anybody's feelings about this. I just have the questions, and I can't get them to go away.

Bo

Matt Snowden said...

Guys,

I don't think this conversation was a stirred hornet's nest. This is an important issue. The greatest need we have is the need for genuine revival. We are called to love God with our minds AND hearts. Thinking seriously about matters of the heart is fuel of holy fire. Keep it up guys.

Matt Snowden said...

oops -

fuel for (not of) holy fire

Matt Snowden said...

I was going to set this issue aside but I found an old copy of "Fires of Revival" while cleaning out my office. It was the May issue and contained the Britt piece published recently by BP. It got me thinking again.

The WRS Journal published a piece by Tom Lyon in 1995 that explored the issue and concluded:

"It would appear from its three instances in the NT, that evangelist was neither an office to be entered, nor a gift to be exercised, but a work to be performed. A work clearly contained within, but not limited to, the regular offices in the church. Men differ in gifts, and only a relative few hold office, but every Christian may be called upon to 'do the work of an evangelist.'"

If you are still interested I would like to know what you make of that.

Perry McCall said...

I am just getting in from a long week of Madden07 in Madden, MS. I am too tired right now to say much. However, this is definitely the direction of my thoughts. What is WRS?

Matt Snowden said...

Perry,

WRS is the Western Reformed Seminary Journal.

I hope all went well at Madden '07.

anabaptistblogger said...

Matt,

It seems to me that just because the office is not biblically mandated that does not invalidate the role of the evangelist. If that were the case then we would need to give all of our Sunday school teachers a pink slip next Sunday.

The only offices that I am convinced are biblically mandated are the offices of Pastor and Deacon. Each of these two offices like the role of the evangelist are given titles that also function as descriptors. The office of Pastor is referred to as overseer, elder, and shepherd. The office of deacon is referred to as servant. The role of the evangelist is one of proclaiming the gospel or a good news message.

Y'all have done a great job of hashing through this issue but let me add a few more things if this train has not already left yet. I may be talking to myself and you guys are welcome to leave this one alone. But, I cannot help but believe that God has ordained men with a special role that we have come to understand as an evangelist.

Who here would deny that Billy Graham is ordained of God? Granted many of the evangelists of old are of a more Arminian or Wesleyan type of theological leaning, which you may suggest is an importation of another hot bed into this discussion but I do not think that to be the case. In the First Great Awakening the primary impetus came from a Reformed perspective. The Second Great Awakening merged the efforts of both Wesleyan and Reformed theological perspectives. Today, most itinerant evangelists are influenced by an Arminian theological perspective.

Why am I bringing the C word into this discussion? Because I think that there is a great disparity in what true revival constitutes from each camp, for one. Secondly, the matter of bringing in an outside preacher who comes in and preaches theology from a perspective other than our own is concerning for each side. Imagine a mostly Arminian church hearing about the divine decree in election and the predestination of some to salvation and others to perdition. Or the reverse, imagine a church from a Reformed perspective hearing an evangelist preach that millions of people are going to die and go to hell if you do not do something about it or all you need to do decide for yourself about Jesus, it is up to you.

In the truest since there is one gospel, but there are diversities within the church in terms of how that gospel is to impact our church. The evangelist is not so much about Christ and Culture as it is about Church Culture.

The second thing, as if that were not enough, is that the role of the evangelist is like the role of the pastor in many ways. I once interviewed with a church that had it stated plainly in the job description that it was the pastor sole duty to win the lost to Christ. I took the opportunity to educate the search committee that in fact it was every Christians responsible and charge to win the lost to Christ. I believe that the problem with the role of the evangelist is that it gives the church the idea that we bring in someone to do our evangelism. Let's say that we do it twice a year, well then we are really doing a good job then. How about four times a year? Why not? If twice a year is good, why is four not better? If our role a church is to win the lost and if we have people get saved at these meetings, then why would we not have at least a minimum of four a year?

My concern about the role of the evangelist is that his role is not longer pressing. We live in an age where the traditional mode of the SBC has been geared toward harvesting. As SBC members we are by nature harvesters. However, I fear we are attempting to reap where we have not sown. The most pressing need for today is not harvesters but sowers. Therefore if someone where to come to my church, I would not be interested in bringing in a crackerjack preacher who has the ability to invoke emotion. I think we need to be exposed to substantive biblical theology.

I would say the church is need of repentance, but I fear it is the leadership of the SBC and the majority of pastors out there that are in need of being preached to. If our leadership took seriously their mandate from Scripture I believe that the church would naturally assume a missional posture. If we all did our part and functioned biblically we may only need to bring in someone twice a year to get our batteries recharged. As it is I am afraid that we are missing the great need, which is a missional transformation of our own church culture.

FWIW,

Billie Mac

Matt Snowden said...

Bill,

Thanks for your thoughts. You have given us a good deal to think about and made some very helpful points.

Perry McCall said...

Ditto Bill!!

I think your thoughts on harvesting an unplanted field is spot on!!

BTW, since when are you concerned with only talking to yourself? I always thought that we mae great friends because you talked and I talked and it didn't matter if anybody was listeninglol!

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