Thursday, June 15, 2006

Reflections: 2006 SBC Pastors' Conference

Now, on to the SBC meeting in Greensboro. The JPBC contingency (Brian Davis, Geoff Glass, Steve Belcher and I) left Charlottesville for Greensboro Sunday afternoon.

This was my second SBC meeting. Last year in Nashville was my first.

First, some reflections on the Pastors' Conference:

Session I (Sunday evening): This was a disappointment to be honest. We got there at the end of Dick Lincoln’s message. There was a terrible storm outside and the coliseum lost power at the start of Johnny Hunt’s message. The favorite line of our group from Hunt (oft repeated through the week: "I’m about to have a spell!" Rick Warren was supposed to speak but was unable to come for some unexplained family reason. Instead, he sent a video message. I felt like I was in a multi-site church and know now why I do not like them. Impersonal. You have to admire his giving away a large part of his royalties from PDL sales. But it was hard to get over statements like (paraphrase): "God will do as much in your life as you allow him to do."

Session II (Monday morning): Much, much, much better. The highlight of the week and the conference. Hands down. I say this even given the fact that I do not like "break-out" sessions.

Block One: We first attended the Mohler-Patterson dialogue on election. Wow. Two SBC seminary professors sitting in a room with thousands looking on, three deep standing at the back, to hear two SBC theologians discuss election.

Mohler came in wearing dark sunglasses—he had emergency eye surgery Monday at Duke. We suspected he might sit down at a piano at any moment and break into "Georgia on My Mind." He looked to be in pain. But he delivered the goods in the election "discussion." See my notes.
Patterson seemed a bit punchless in the discussion and even helped the other side by making an effort to disabuse the audience of the notion that Calvinism is necessarily anti-evangelism.
Mohler bettered the folksy, populist Patterson by delivering the best zingers. His most poignant observation at the get-go: "If not for the conservative resurgence in the SBC we might be sitting here today debating the ordination of homosexuals into ministry."

Block two: Next we went to Dever’s presentation on Church Discipline. Not much new if you’ve read Dever, but you got the sense his pounding on Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 was new to many in the standing room only crowd. His co-presenter was an associate at Johnson Ferry BC. His comments were more along the lines of: "We would really like to start doing discipline in our 7,000 member church and we have an organizational flow chart but we haven’t really done it." How stark was the contrast to Mark who held up his church list of c. 500, each of which is known by the Elders.

Block three: "Reaching Today’s World Through Apologetics." This was led by Phil Roberts, president at MWBTS and William Lane Craig of Talbot. I have always admired Roberts’ work at NAMB ("Mormon Puzzle" done while he was there is the best evangelical resource on Mormonism out there). William Lane Craig was dynamite. Clear, articulate, and very practical. He is a member at Johnson Ferry BC and teaches a SS class called "Defenders" on apologetics. He noted that mainly men have been drawn to the class. He also made an aside observation that much of our modern praise music drives men away, because it is so effeminate. Hymns are manly!!! This was a great session.

Session III (Monday afternoon): This was the "contemporary" service. The music, led by Jonathan Munson, was not as bad as I had feared it might. The three speakers were: Nelson Searcy (The Journey, NYC); Kerry Shook (Fellowship of the Woodlands, Texas); and Erwin McManus (Mosaic, LA). Notice none use the name "church." Of the three I liked Searcy’s message best. He actually exposited a text from Colossians! I liked Shook’s least. He played a video clip of a service in which a motorcycle jumped over his head and used minimal scripture in his talk. It seemed to be the worst kind of appeal to the flesh. And what do you say about McManus? His was the most engaging presentation. It was filled with energy and passion. Best line: "I know I live in LA, but I’m not a vegetarian. I don’t believe we should eat anything that isn’t able to run away from us. I can’t help it if cows are not highly motivated." He played a clip of a Mosaic convert. A troubled young woman who found Jesus. Lingering question: How has coming to Jesus changed her dress, speech, and lifestyle (including even her appearance)?

Of all these, I can say I appreciate their zeal for sharing Christ. It challenges me to want to reach out more to the lost. But is some of this zeal without knowledge (Rom 10:2)? Question: Does the rejection of traditional exterior forms (the name "church"; traditional sacred music and orderly worship; etc.) also subtly play into a modern anti-authoritarian attitude that will not lend itself to "traditional," orthodox Christianity?

Session IV (Monday evening): This was the "traditional" worship. "New" Southern Baptist David Jeremiah started the evening off. He made note of his broadcasts on TBN as a mere delivery system and expressed no love for Paul Crouch. The best part of his presentation was a video of baptism testimonies (as we also do here at JPBC). It was powerful to hear the testimonies and see the baptisms of these adults from all backgrounds (men, women, blind, Hispanic, former Muslim, etc.).

Joyce Rogers, widow of SBC colossus Adrian Rogers, also gave a very dignified and God-centered testimony. The thought ran through my mind: Why did God choose to use Adrian Rogers as an instrument for reform in SBC life? Maybe it was because of Joyce’s godly character and maturity. She also stunned many when she made the first overtly political statement of the Greensboro Convention by saying that Adrian would not be pleased with attempts to narrow the participation of fellow conservatives.

Tony Evans preached next. He stacked up a series of stories in a sandwich sermon, but it was hard to follow Joyce. We decided to leave early and so we missed Ed Young’s sermon, which as I hear followed up on the themes Joyce Rogers introduced.

Thus ended the Pastor’s Conference in which we had heard 13 sermons/testimonies/messages in 1.5 days!

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