[The following post is lightly adapted from a blogpost originally published here on 5/26/06
One of the best blogposts I've ever read was actually written by a non-blogger. My friend Nathan White posted an article by Dave Stephenson-my former pastor and his current pastor at Grace Bible Church
in Canton, GA-on Strange BaptistFire blog
This is a must-read article, especially for Southern Baptists, as Dave addresses the cause of some besetting sins common to many Southern Baptist churches, namely:
- "Ignoring biblical qualifications for leadership"
- "Refusing to hold sinful lay-leaders accountable"
- Holding to the traditions of men while laying aside the commands of God.
Dave- formerly a pastor of a Southern Baptist church- argues that the above sins spring from a rejection of the doctrines of grace. He writes,
There is something in particular that is driving people to these expressions of the sinful heart rather than to some other expression of it. That something is the rejection of the doctrines of grace. The false theology of libertarian self-will ultimately must bear fruit; and it bears the fruit of selfishness.
I would wholeheartedly agree with Dave's assessment, but I would like to add that these sins also arise due to a neglect of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Southern Baptists have been battling against liberal philosophies for many long years now in order to proclaim the inerrancy of Scripture- and, by all outward signs, the struggle for inerrancy in the Southern Baptist Convention has been won- but Southern Baptists as a whole have failed to proclaim other facets of a biblical doctrine of Scripture- that the Word of God is authoritive, necessary, sufficient, and clear. In particular, many Southern Baptist churches fail to proclaim Scripture as sufficient: they have lost the idea that in Scripture we have all we need for life and godliness. Neglecting scriptural sufficiency, Southern Baptists don't see that:
- We have very specific qualifications laid out for us in God's Word concerning church leaders (see 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)- the Lord Himself chooses who will minister to His flock. Instead of receiving the blessing of God-established leadership, many Southern Baptist churches form committees to decide what kind of professional ministers the majority of the congregation would like to hire. Having this mindset at the beginning of the 'pastoral search' process, it is no wonder that many congregations- and particularly those who have been given some measure of power by the will of the people by being placed on committees- are quick to call for new pastors to be fired if they don't meet their expectations.
- We have very specific instructions laid out for us in God's Word concerning church discipline, and especially discipline in regards to church leadership (see Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Tim. 5:19-22). If these instructions were followed, then lay-leaders would be held accountable and sin within the congregation would be handled. In the absence of Biblical church disciplne a vaccuum is left that are all-too-easily filled by gossip, backbiting, and church splits.
- Finally, a firm commitment to Scriptural sufficiency leads us to carefully check all things by God's Word (see Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 5:21-22; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Whether our congregation has engaged in a certain activity for 2 weeks or for 20 years, if we believe that God directs His church by His Word, then we will always be checking the designs for our programs and order of worship by the commands, examples and principles the Lord has given us in the Bible.
A return to the doctrine of Scriptural sufficiency is absolutely crucial if Southern Baptist churches are going to experience real and lasting revival and reformation. Depending on God's revealed will in ordering His church is necessary if Southern Baptist congregations are going to fulfill the our Lord's Great Commission of making disciples of all nations.
Labels: Reformation Theology