Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Priesthood of the Believer: A Forgotten Doctrine?

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" 1 Peter 2:9
One of the tenets of biblical congregationalism if the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer, based on 1 Peter 2:9 and other scripture passages. The priesthood of the believer has been one of the  Baptist distinctives which has been cherished down through the centuries.

The priesthood of the believer has been mentioned in the preambles of both the 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Here's the statement from 1963:
"Baptists emphasize the soul's competency before God, freedom in religion, and the priesthood of the believer. However, this emphasis should not be interpreted to mean that there is an absence of certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified."
Here's the statement from 2000 :

"Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God."
And so, how does the doctrine of the priesthood of the believers or sometimes called the preisthood of believers work practically in the Baptist church? I will let Dr. James Leo Garret, Jr. address this issue:
"The Baptist model of a church rests on the concept of the priesthood of believers. A church is made up of persons who have exercised their God-given competency by believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord and by voluntarily associating with a particular fellowship of believers.
Each believer priest in the fellowship is equal to all of the others. Therefore, no one is in authority over all. Thus decisions are made by the community of priests seeking to know the will of the head of the church, the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. They do this by prayer, Bible study, meditation, discussion and decision."(emphasis mine).
Dr. Thomas White has this to say about this doctrine:
"Congregationalism also rests on the larger scriptural theme of the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:9), in which all believers possess the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17), and thus can receive guidance of the Lord and have direct access to the Lord without the need of a human intercessor. This presupposes a congregation of members who are all regenerate and in touch with the Holy Spirit otherwise known as regenerate church membership." 
Dr. Wayne Grudem has weighed in on the benefits of congregationalism over other forms of church polity:
"Historically, false doctrine often seems to be adopted by the theologians of the church first, by the pastors second, and the informed laity, who are daily reading their Bibles and walking with the Lord, last.
Therefore, if the leadership begins to stray in doctrine or in life, and there is no election by the congregation, then the church as a whole has no practical means of getting hold of the situation and turning it around. But if the officers are elected by the church, then there is a system of “checks and balances” whereby even the governing authority of the church has some accountability to the church as a whole."
Even that old Reformer, Martin Luther believed in the priesthood of the believer, though perhaps not exactly as we Baptists do. Here's a statement from Luther:

"By virtue of their spiritual priesthood all believers “unto the end of the world” possess the inherent right to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments [a good Baptist would say Ordinances]. Since, then, all Christian believers are entrusted with the means of grace, it is their privilege to call pastors, or ministers, who in their name publicly apply the means of grace. Cf. Luther: “That some are chosen form the multitude is done for the reason that they, as representatives of the congregation, should administer and execute the office, which they all have.”

It is clear that the priesthood of the believer has been a baptist distinctive for centuries and is one of the foundational doctrines which support congregational polity.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Some Advantages of Being a Bi-Vocational Pastor

The President of our SBC Executive Committee, Dr. Frank Page is spending time with small church pastors in Missouri this week. Approximately 53% of these pastors are bi-vocational. Dr. Page has always been a champion of small churches as evidenced one way by his appearance at our Small Church Leadership Network Conference in 2008.

For the last two years, I have been a bi-vocational pastor of a new church plant in North Carolina. Being bi-vocational makes a tough job even tougher. However, the advantage I see in being bi-vocational is that the church has to take on more of the load of visitation, evangelism, and ministry. This model helps our members to grow in theiir faith and and is good way of making disciples. Also, I believe this model is closer to the early church than the way we do church in suburban and urban areas.

Right or wrong, many suburban churches expect their fulltime pastor to do most of the work and the congregation stands back and lets him do it. That's not to say that many small churches with bi-vo pastors don't have the same expection, but my personal experience as a bi-vo pastor is that more members are willing to minister during the pastor's absence.

Another advantage of being a bi-vo pastor is a steady income. I have experienced leaving a fulltime pastor job without another fulltime position in hand. It is extremely difficult because churches do not have to provide unemployment insurance and secular jobs are hard to find. Thus many pastors in this situation lose their houses, cars, etc., and destroy their credit. With a bi-vo pastor, his steady income in a secular job helps prevent those calamities from happening.

I have the greatest respect for bi-vo pastors. Sometimes they are not respected by fulltime pastors who wonder why bi-vo pastors can't get a fulltime position. For many, it is not that they cannot get a fulltime position but they choose the biblical model of of the New Testament in which being bi-vo was normal.

Finally, I commend to all bi-vo pastors a Southern Baptist organization, the Bivocational and Small Church Leadship Network. They have a plethora of resources to encourage not only bi-vo pastors but also pastors of small churches. I urge you to take advantage of this wonderful organization.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Homosexuality: Sin That Demands Approval

Sin is the refusal of men to obey the word of God. When we think that we know better than God, then that is sin. The Bible says we are all sinners. All sin is the same in God's eyes. Stealing, lying, murder, physical or verbal abuse, adultery, premarital sex: all are sin.

In addition to these sins, the Bible is clear that homosexuality is also a sin.

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. " Leviticus 18:22

"If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." Leviticus 20:13  

"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." Romans 1:26-27
In addition, it is clear that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of blatant homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-13). 

Homosexuality is not a worse sin than any other. The problem with those who are in bondage to the sin of homosexuality is they refuse to acknowledge their sin and they go even further. They demand that society approve of their sin. They embrace their homosexuality and demand that we embrace it as well. No other group of people living in sin demand approval from the world. There is no child molester group demanding approval of their sin. There is no murderer group demanding approval of their sin. Their is no prostitution group demanding approval of their sin. Only homosexuals clamor for approval from all people of their lifestyle.

Homosexuals say that when we do not approve of same-sex marriage then we discriminate against them. Homosexual spokesperson have even compared their movement to the civil rights movement of African-Americans. Listen to what African-American civil rights leaders have to say about that:

Gays and lesbians “may want to cast their fight in civil-rights terms, and a lot of people are buying it. But not the faith community and especially not the black community,” says Bishop Harry Jackson, whose Hope Christian Church has a flock of 3,000 in the Washington, D.C., area. “Many African-Americans believe gays are discriminated against, but they don’t believe marriage is a civil-rights issue,” says Jackson, who says his father was threatened at gunpoint in the 1950s by a state trooper while working on a voter-registration drive. “There are issues of acceptance, but there is no back of the bus; there are no lynchings.” There is also the ongoing debate as to whether homosexuality is an immutable trait or a choice. “It’s not immutable,” says Jackson. “And it’s not an externally observable characteristic unless you want to flaunt it.”

Indeed, some 70 percent of African-Americans voted yes on California’s Prop 8, and exit polls found similar levels of opposition among blacks for a marriage initiative in Florida that same year.

Rev. William Owens, President of the Coalition of African-American Pastors said, "I marched with Dr. King and we did not march one step to promote same-sex ‘marriage’."
Homosexauls also make the argument that they are "born that way," that is, they are born homosexual and they cannot help it. This argument doesn't hold water either. The same could said for murderers, prostitutes, liars, cheaters, etc. They say that scientists are close to discovering a homosexual gene.

Even if scientists do find a so-called "homosexual gene," the Bible is clear that every human being is born with a sin nature. The human nature is a sinful nature. And to give oneself over to one's own human nature is to sin against God. We have all succumbed to our sin nature and we are all sinners, but that does not excuse us from our responsibility to love, obey, and glorify God.
Let me make this perfectly clear: the sin of homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. Some people will say that this blog post is "hate speech." That is untrue. I do not hate homosexuals or anyone else. I love them enough to tell them what God's Word says about their behavior. I love them enough to tell them there is good news. The sin of homosexuality can be forgiven by God if homosexuals confess their sin, repent (turn away from) of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ to save them from Hell. This good news is for all sinners, not just homosexuals.

I write this because I love you. I do not want you to go to Hell. I implore you to confess your sin, repent and turn to Christ before it's too late.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Would the PCA Be a Better Fit For SBC Calvinists?

I want to ask an honest question here. I have no ulterior motive in asking this question. I just want to understand the current Calvinist mindset better. Here's the question: Would PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) be a better fit For SBC Calvinists ?

Here's why I am asking the question. It seems to me that SBC Calvinists have much more in common with the PCA than with the SBC. The only major difference I see from what I hear SBC Calvinists say they believe and the PCA adopted Confession of Faith, the Westminster Confession of Faith is Chapter XXVIII. - Of Baptism. However, I see many differences between SBC Calvinist beliefs and our own BFM2K.

Two differences are Article III - Man and Article V - God's Purpose of Grace. Article III does not support the Calvinist view of original sin but is more supportive of the article in the Trad Statement, which SBC Calvinists claim is semi-pelagian. Also, Article V does not support the Calvinist view of election. The article is almost word-for-word repeat of the BFM 1963 version. Herschel Hobbs, who was the main architect of BFM 1963, said that the article on election reflected the view that election meant that the way of salvation through Christ is the election by God and not the individual believers.

I could note many other differences between SBC Calvinists and SBC traditionalists such as ecclesiology, polity, etc., but I won't belabor the point. It is clear to me that SBC Calvinists have more in common with the PCA than the SBC. So why would not SBC Calvinists move over to the PCA?

Thanks for your response. Comments are now closed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is There a Calvinist Agenda To Reform SBC Churches?

This post is the content of an op-ed which will be published in a state baptist newspaper soon. In order to make this op-ed the best it can possibly be, I solicit comments from Calvinists and Traditional SBC folks on how I can improve this article. Comments are open for this post.

Is There a Calvinist Agenda To Reform Traditional Southern Baptist Churches?

 Recently, I was speaking with a Pastor Search Committee about a pastor search they were conducting. When I mentioned that Calvinist candidates may not be forthcoming in regard to their true beliefs, they asked, "What is a Calvinist?" I wasn't surprised that a small rural church was not aware of the Calvinist plan to reform SBC churches.

 What is a Calvinist? Calvinists believe in five specific doctrines regarding salvation which are framed in the acronym: TULIP. Here's what TULIP stands for:

T = total depravity. Man is incapable of coming to Christ without first being regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

U = unconditional election. Before time began, God predestined who He would save. Unless one is a part of this special group, known as the "elect," one will not be saved.

L = limited atonement. Jesus did not die for the whole world. He died for the elect.

I = irresistible grace. In the case of the elect, they will ultimately come to Christ because God will cause them to come through an irresistible pull from Him.

P - perseverance of the saints. The elect of God will persevere in their faith in Christ and will not fall away.

Now let me make a couple of points regarding this doctrine of salvation which Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says is our "future." Here are some of the logical conclusions to what Calvinists believe. If God chose who was going to be saved before time began, then nothing can change His sovereign decree. Thus, if you are not one of the elect, you will not come to Christ. You can hear the word of God preached but it will have no saving effect on you because you are totally depraved and cannot come to Christ unless God causes you to come to Christ. And if you are not one of the elect, God will not cause you to come to Christ. The flip side of this theology is that God does nothing to draw the non-elect to Himself, thus they will not come to Him through Christ.

The majority of these Southern Baptist Calvinist pastors are coming from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC). In North Carolina, small rural churches have been particularly vulnerable to Calvinist graduates from these seminaries because of their close proximity to churches in our state.

If Calvinist candidates, who are seeking pastoral positions in traditional Southern Baptist churches, would be honest about their beliefs, then I would see no problem. Our churches are autonomous and can choose to hire whom they please. If a church wants to hire a Calvinist pastor, then God bless them. Unfortunately, many Calvinist pastoral candidates are not revealing their Calvinism during the pastor search process in order to secure a pastoral position. Many times after the Calvinist is called as the pastor of the church, they begin to teach Calvinism in order to "reform" the traditional Baptist church in ecclesiology, polity, and worship. In many of these churches, the result is either a church split or the church is traumatized by the process of firing the pastor.

Is there an issue with pastoral candidates not being truthful to search committees about their beliefs? Apparently it is an issue that Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Seminary, thought was worthy of comment when he wrote:

“Act with personal integrity in your ministry when it comes to this issue. Put your theological cards on the table in plain view for all to see, and do not go into a church under a cloak of deception or dishonesty. If you do, you will more than likely split a church, wound the Body of Christ, damage the ministry God has given you, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of everyone. Let me give an example. I am pre-tribulational/premillennial in my eschatology. It would be inappropriate for me to interview with a church and continue the discussion if I discovered that it was committed to an amillennial position... If a person is strongly committed to five-point Calvinism, then he should be honest and transparent about that when talking to a church search committee.”

Is there a Calvinist agenda to reform traditional Southern Baptist churches? Absolutely. Ernest Reisinger, the chief architect of Founders, a Calvinist ministry, describes in great detail how to "reform" a traditional church. He even gives the agenda a name: "The Quiet Revolution." Make no mistake, there is an intentional effort to "reform" traditional SBC churches into "Reformed" (code word for Calvinist) churches.

Traditional SBC church leaders and their churches need to be informed about this Calvinist agenda. They need to be informed on how to ask the right questions to determine the true theological positions of their pastoral candidates. Not only would this process identify Calvinist candidates but other candidates who may not be a good fit for their church such as candidates who speak in tongues, candidates who believe that one can lose their salvation, or candidates who believe that the Ten Commandments are no longer valid.  But the main difference between Calvinists and other non traditional Baptist candidates is that only Calvinists are actively trying to change local SBC churches to their beliefs.

Is there a Calvinist agenda to reform traditional Southern Baptist churches to Calvinism? Undeniably, yes. In response to the Calvinist efforts to reform non-Calvinist churches, a group of traditional Southern Baptist leaders and scholars wrote a “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” There are hundreds of signatures affirming this traditional Southern Baptist view of salvation. The list of signatures include includes over 250 pastors (representing  small, medium, and large churches in 29 states), 6 former SBC Presidents, 7 state Baptist convention executives, 4 members of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 committee, over 20 associational Directors of Missions, 5 Baptist seminary and college Presidents, and hundreds of other evangelists, church staff members, and lay ministers. If you would like to stand for traditional Southern Baptist views of salvation, then I encourage you to go to the website and add your signature.

After the release of this statement, many Calvinists said they wanted unity in our convention. Traditional Southern Baptists also desire unity and I believe that unity is an attainable goal, but only when Calvinists cease trying to reform traditional SBC churches to their views.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Partner With Us For Our Next Community Baptism

Our church is raising funds so we can conduct a Community Baptism in Greensboro, NC. Will you or your church partner with us to reach people for Christ in Greensboro, NC? We covet your prayers in this outreach project. Thank you for any financial support you can contribute. All contributions are tax deductible.

Comments are allowed on this post.