Visitors Not Welcome?- Akin Responds Directly to Criticisms Over Driscoll

February 23, 2009

Today during chapel at Southeastern seminary, seminary president Dr. Danny Akin introduced the sermon passage of 1 Timothy 2.1-7 with the unusual disclaimer that if anyone had small children or would be easily offended by things of a sexual nature then they should consider not staying for his message.  That is interesting, seeing as how this passage deals with prayer for those in authority, God’s desire for salvation of all peoples, and the mediatorial work of Christ, but 25 minutes into it the reason became clear: Dr. Akin is addressing the criticisms he has received for inviting Mark Driscoll onto his campus two weeks ago for the 2009 collegiate conference.

Obviously, if you have been here you know what I’m talking about, but just to recap, the largest criticism being lobbed at Driscoll, and by consequence at Dr. Akin, is the one that says Mark Driscoll is a dirty man who uses dirty words trying to ramp up attendance by speaking all too casually about sex and sexual practices from the pulpit (see here and more comically here).

Before ever actually addressing the specific criticism, Danny Akin throws his support behind Driscoll foremost for his heart in ministry saying, “I commend him for wanting to pastor and guide and help his people.” From here, Akin then shares his own experiences in speaking about sex on the campus of a Christian undergraduate institution, where after his series of messages several female students confronted him about why he did not address issues of “masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex” during his talks.  Akin admitted his surprise, and later expressed his overall ignorance to this concern as several others made him aware of the prevalence of such questions among the younger generation.  Because of this, Dr. Akin makes the statement that, “I think it is ministerial malpractice not to talk about such issues. . . .  If the church and the ministers don’t address these issues for [their people] then who will and where will they get their information?”  Wrapping this all back around to Driscoll, Akin admits that it is his belief that, “”If you have a desire to see all people saved, you will first of all wisely contextualize your ministry.”

I know personally I was appreciative to see this response.  Dr. Akin is a stand-up guy, and to see him put his reputation among older, hardline Baptists on the table by confessing that if specific sexual practices are what’s being asked about then specific sexual practices are what need to be addressed was very exciting.  If todays brand of young Baptist leaders (who are truly conservative, despite some nay-sayers) are ever to gain acceptance among the old guard stalwarts of the SBC, we will have men of integrity and vision like Danny Akin to thank for bridging the gap.

If you would like to see his whole message, it may be accessed here.

Visitors Not Welcome?- More Insanity Around Driscoll, More Revelations of the Real Problem

February 15, 2009

Things continue to spiral out of control in SBC world as many top guns are chiming in on the Driscoll issue. Because I do not think I can do it in charity I am not going to link any of the opposed voices (though you shouldn’t have trouble finding them), but I do want to give a shout out to some more who have stood up for the inclusion of Pastor Mark as a friend to the SBC.

Dr. Alvin Reid is the first voice I want to share. He gives his view in an article which describes the problems Dr. Reid has with many great theologians, then with Driscoll, then with himself, and then with the SBC; the ultimate point being that he is comfortable with learning from and conversing with other imperfect people (since only Christ is perfect) who, though he may not always agree with them, share with him in a common bond of “love [for] the Word and the Gospel.”

Probably my favorite line in his article is one that I think proves awfully prophetic. Speaking of the problem he has with his convention (which is also my convention, the SBC), he says, “I am tired of talking good younger men off the ledge from leaving the SBC.” Is this not what we see happening, and will see happening evermore if things like the Baptist Press article smearing Mark Driscoll go uncorrected? I tell people all the time, this generation doesn’t care nearly as much about being Baptist (at least in name) as it does about seeing the gospel spoken effectively into the culture of today, and as long as the SBC refuses to do this they will continue to see diminishing numbers of young leaders within their churches.

The second article I would point you guys to is the one written Friday by Ed Stetzer. Ed is always a hammer on these issues, and with as many connections and as much clout as he has inside the convention, when he swings, people either listen or get hurt. He is very unapologetic about his distress at the BP article and about how unfair, even unchristian, it is to keep trying to tag Driscoll with the “cussin’ pastor” moniker.  He also delves into the cursory issue which some have tried to move onto now in attacking Driscoll, that being his handling of sex from the pulpit, and once again offers support to Driscoll and rationality to the discussion.  I love the way Stetzer says what is on his mind and says it forcefully without simultaneously being uncharitable to the party he opposes (a quality I am constantly trying to refine in myself).

Finally, I want to point you to a pair of articles from Baptist21 that deal with the Driscoll issue in another light, as part of a growing generation gap between those over-40 and those under-40 within the SBC (1 and 2).  Some deny this, claiming it is a problem of a “discernment gap” between the Driscoll/Acts 29/Calvinism proponents and the traditional conservative core of the SBC.  I whole heartedly disagree with this (in fact, I think there is even greater discernment on the part of the new generation in issues of regenerate believers and cultural engagement), and if you don’t already feel the same, hopefully you will read the B21 articles and better understand why they (and I) feel this way.

Enjoy reading and I will keep things up-to-date as new posts continue to be published.

Visitors Not Welcome?- Further SBC Divide Over Driscoll Following Propaganda Piece

February 12, 2009

(UPDATE: I have modified the intro to this post in order not to offend my brothers in Christ. I apologize to anyone who took offense at my initial statements and wish it to be known that my only intention was to seek accountability from certain bloggers, not to personally attack them.)

Last night I was surfing the web (boy, is that phrase out-dated) and came across an article entitled “Poll: Your Thoughts on Baptist Press on Mark Driscoll.” This intrigued me since I had no idea what the Baptist Press had said, so I followed the link to this article. After reading it, I promptly headed back to the first article and checked “Terrible article! What shoddy journalism!” (along with 71% of other voters).

If you took the time to read it (and it’s really not worth the time if you haven’t) what you would find is some hastily put together propaganda piece trying to discredit Driscoll. Nothing new, right. Except this is from the Baptist Press is a news wire service that is supported by the Cooperative Program and is wholly under the purview of the SBC. Yet Driscoll is not a Baptist and this article makes no explicit mention of why they deemed it necessary to cut and paste an article run a few weeks earlier in the New York Times Magazine (remember) along with their own editorial content. This is clearly an opinion piece (since no effort at charity or contacting Driscoll appear to have been made), but the question is, Why did BP see fit to broadcast their opinion on this?

Well, apparently Danny Akin knows why. At least, that is the idea one would get from the article which popped up on Southeastern’s blog Between the Times shortly after BP’s piece, entitled “Mark Driscoll and Southeastern.” It seems that SEBTS took this as a shot at their recent collegiate conference featuring Driscoll, as well as their continuing relationship with his ministry. Timmy Brister also sees this as an attempt at undermining Driscoll’s influence on young SBCer’s by using old data and fear-mongering, and some on his comment board have pointed out the unnecessary reference to Driscoll and MacArthur being Calvinists in the piece.

For what it’s worth, I agree with all of the people saying that BP is pushing an anti-Driscoll, anti-Calvinist agenda here and that the timing is purposely so that it casts a poor light on the recent success of the SEBTS collegiate conference. If all they were doing was rehashing a current event from the NYT then they should have published this a month ago. It is this type of propaganda and judgmental mindset that got me running this whole Visitors Not Welcome? series in the first place. It is also the reason why not too long ago a prominent young SBC pastor told me that he is “ferociously Baptist” and yet chooses to do his church planting outside of the SBC entities.

How many thriving, biblically sound churches must the SBC lose before it stops cannibalizing the next generation?

Visitors Not Welcome?- Matt Chandler at FBC Jax Pastors’ Conference

February 10, 2009

Ho-ly crap! When I began writing this series on the intermixing of SBC and Acts 29 interests, I was not expecting the most spectacular part to be Matt Chandler’s appearance at the FBC Jacksonville Pastors’ Conference. Given Mark Driscoll’s reputation and propensity for being a little extreme I was sure some detail would come out of the weekend at Southeastern that his critics might latch onto and make a fuss over. But, little did I expect Chandler to travel over from Dallas to Jacksonville and point the two-edged sword of the gospel right at the throat of the SBC idols.

Here’s what went down. Tuesday morning, Matt Chandler gave a session at FBC Jax which was structured to be a lesson/Q&A about how to reach the younger generation. During this time he went through his personal history and his experiences in being called to, straightening out, and growing his church, The Village in Dallas, TX. This turned out to be a nice testimony interspersed with comments about how The Village became what it is today, a rapidly growing congregation of 6000 people spread over 10 services and 2 locations.

There were a couple of interesting points in this period.  First, Chandler wasted no time getting the fact that he is a Calvinist out on the table.  It wasn’t in a “I’m a Calvinist and so is God” pseudo-instructing manner, but simply came out as a depiction of who he is overall ministerially.  Also, there were a number of instances when he made comments that, though not directed at FBC Jax, could be taken as against FBC Jax if someone wanted to pick a fight.  For example, Chandler said that his conviction was to not spend $40 million on a new facility for his church.

The last interesting remark to come out of the morning session with Matt Chandler was when he said that he is thankful to the older generation of Southern Baptists for fighting the war for inerrancy and winning, but that now they need to learn to stop fighting for secondary issues over and above simply focusing on the primary concern of the gospel.  When he said this I was amazed.  It seems similar thoughts have been in my head (and on my blog) in the past, so to hear Chandler voice them on a stage like FBC Jax, if at nothing more than a minor session among early-rising preachers, was an incredible moment.

However, as it turned out, that incredible moment that I felt when Chandler said this during the AM session, grew into an incredible hour as this message elaborated was the topic of his afternoon sermon.  Using the example of the church at Ephesus to illustrate (Acts 18-19, Revelation 2), Chandler talked about what happens when a formerly vibrant community of God remains biblically faithful and yet still “abandon[s] the love [they] had at first” (Revelation 2.4).  This, he claims, is what has happened in the SBC as church leaders have promoted secondary issues, specifically moralism, into the primary focus of the church to the exclusion of emphasizing the gospel’s power to salvation.

After using various examples and situations to hammer on this for a while, sometimes to much applause, sometimes to a reserved acknowledgment of the veracity of his statements, Chandler moved to the story of the Prodigal Son as a close.  He briefly overviewed the story and then began describing the last scene, with the good son standing in defiance against the celebration of the Prodigal’s return.  The son stands firm against the father’s plea to come and celebrate and in his selfishness complains that, “You never gave me a young goat!” (Luke 15.29).  This, Chandler claims, is what the older SBC is doing.  They are crying, “We want our goat!” and then turning various moral stances and practical convictions into a goat of favor which they can use against the world saying, “Look what we’ve got.  You should get some too.”  And it is this that Chandler says is causing them to lose the younger generation from the ranks of the SBC.

When he finished with his message, my blood was pumping harder than it previously had been.  Seeing the way in which Chandler took a hard message from Scripture and personal observation and drove it home, all while standing in the pulpit of a benchmark of SBC tradition in FBC Jax, was an unbelievable experience.  My hope is that this was a message taken to heart by the pastors and SBC leaders in attendance, and that that old familiar enemy of pride doesn’t just cause them to bull up and deflect the charges to those around them while avoiding any serious self-reflection here.  Matt Chandler really went out on a limb with his message at the FBC Jax Pastors’ Conference, but he said something that needed to be just put out there and I pray God can now use that to ignite change for the better within the ranks of the larger SBC communion.

Visitors Not Welcome?- Mark Driscoll at SEBTS Collegiate Conference

February 9, 2009

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s 20/20 Collegiate Conference.  As I noted in the previous post, one of the major draws to this conference, both for myself and the 1399 other young adults who attended, was the presence of Pastor Mark Driscoll (Note: this is in no way to discount CJ Mahaney, who delivered probably the best message overall, but his speaking isn’t nearly as controversial as Driscoll’s).

It is well-known that there is no love lost for Driscoll among conservative Christians or specifically people in the SBC.  In fact, while at the conference I found myself coming across a nice piece of propaganda entitled “What you should know about Mark Driscoll” which takes upon itself the responsibility of cut-and-pasting Driscoll’s quotes and then passing judgment on him passed on their own subjective, extra-biblical requirements.  You can view the full 11-page condemnation of Pastor Mark here.  Nevertheless, in light of some peoples opinions to the contrary, I do not believe there to be any more biblically faithful teacher than Driscoll today.  In a day where we have the leadership of a major church movement proclaiming biblical justification for committed, homosexual unions, why are we still cannibalizing ourselves over someone’s methods?

Putting his biblical fidelity on full display, Pastor Mark delivered three messages in three days, including one rewritten 4 hours prior to going on with it, all of which energized a collective of hungry young Christians while simultaneously focusing them on the unadulterated teachings of Scripture.

The first message was delivered during chapel at SEBTS on Thursday and dealt with the nine distinctions between the Gospel and religion.  To show you how highly Dr. Akin thinks of Driscoll, this was the speaker and message on stage during the Preview Days for the seminary, when prospective students are on campus seeing what it’s all about.  Anyways, this was a typical hard-hitting Driscoll message, one of those which probably doesn’t resonate well with traditionalists since it was basically an attack on all of the sacred calves of half-hearted, legalistic, self-aggrandizing American Christianity.  In it he spoke of distinctions such as, Religion causes us to be aware of others sins, the Gospel makes us aware of our own sins, and, Religion is about getting stuff from God, the Gospel is just about getting God.

The second message came Friday night to open up the Collegiate conference.  This was on 7 views of Culture.  This was the message by Driscoll which I think that made the biggest impression on people throughout the weekend, specifically in his explication of the Ecclesiological view of Culture.  Speaking on this, he said that there are four ways of viewing culture through the church: Church as a mirror of culture, Church as a parasite on culture, Church as a city within the city of culture, or Church as a bomb shelter from culture.  The last one, Church as bomb shelter, took aim squarely upon the home-schooling co-op, end times preaching, music banning church that we all probably know of and some maybe even belong to.  He criticized this because, in an attempt to maintain and manufacture innocence, all they really seem to be doing is creating naivety.  He also spent considerable time developing the idea of how Joseph, Daniel, and Nehemiah demonstrate the Biblical view of Culture for us to imitate.

His final message at the conference, which he started at 8:30am, admitting he had written at 5am, was an extended treatment of one view of culture he was unable to get to, that being the Doxological view.  This concentrated on how we can live our lives as worship (in the vein of Romans 11.36-12.2) and how we can avoid idolatry (in the vein of Romans 1.24-25).  Driscoll was probably his calmest during this message, but what he said was very poignant, particularly as he answered the question, How can we find our idols?  Dr. Akin commented afterwards about how rich an exposition of the practice of worship he found this message to be and I would certainly concur.  It is well worth listening to, even if you are not necessarily a Driscoll fan.

So, it appears that Driscoll at SEBTS the 2009 version came off without a hitch.  I am continually finding myself praising Dr. Akin for his vision and integrity in standing up to the inevitable criticism that must come with bringing Driscoll on campus for events, and am thankful that the SBC has a man like him who can hopefully take the reins as the more traditional “Church as bomb shelter” leadership of the SBC starts to fade away.  Listening to Driscoll and Mahaney at this conference was an incredible experience, and I will attest, along with the 1400 other people who were there, that the presence of the Lord was rocking in that chapel over the weekend.  The SBC is in dire need of a youth resurgence, and thanks to the foresight of men like Danny Akin in calling the speakers that he did, hopefully this will occur sooner than later.

Embracing the Multi-Faceted Gospel- Tim Keller on Contextualization

January 25, 2009

As a follow-up to yesterdays post on contextualization, I would like to point you guys towards some resources by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. This past year he gave both a magazine article as well as a couple of messages which all dealt with the idea of “one gospel” and the “different forms in which that one gospel can be expressed.” Pastor Keller is an amazing teacher, scholar, and communicator (as evidenced by the deep respect paid to him by many young reformed ministers), and his views on the appropriateness and extent to which contextualization should be used by Christian evangelists are among the most complete and well-developed that you will find anywhere. If you have time and are interested in this topic it will be well worth your investment to check these resources out.

Tim Keller- The Gospel in All its Forms (article)

Tim Keller- Dwelling in the Gospel (sermon)

Tim Keller- Persuasion (sermon)

Visitors Not Welcome?- Analyzing the Relationship Between Acts 29 and the SBC

January 23, 2009

One of my focuses with this blog is to actively engage the ideas and rhetoric of Christianity as it is practiced and taught in western culture.  In the past I have done series such as The Laodicean Project and Rebuilding the City which focused on how we should be viewing ourselves as the Church and how we should move forward with the Great Commission in a way which is both biblically faithful and culturally appropriate.

Two groups which I think have an eye towards doing this (one maybe more than the other, you decide which) are the Southern Baptist Convention and the Acts 29 Church Planting Network.  Both of these organizations have an arm which focuses on planting young, growing churches in major urban areas of North America and around the world (in fact, Acts 29′s sole purpose is for the evaluation, commissioning, support, and further instruction of urban church planters).  Both groups have a high view of the Scriptures and both are determined to see transformation wrought out of an understanding that Christ died so that we may live.

However, there are some issues where they don’t see eye-to-eye.  Over the next little bit I will be hitting a couple of these, starting today with an article I just posted over at SBC Voices entitled Acts 29 vs. the SBC (One Year Later).  This post takes a look at the December 2007 dust-up between Acts 29 and the Missouri Baptist Convention and the fallout since.  Soon I will also come to you with reports from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where Acts 29 founder Mark Driscoll will be participating in there 2009 collegiate conference, and from the Pastor’s Conference at First Baptist Jacksonville where this year Matt Chandler, pastor of the SBC and Acts 29 affiliated The Village Church, will be delivering two messages.

Tomorrow I will have up a post giving an argument for contextualization coming from the Bible.  As well, you can check out a post I did last year entitled “Dirty Words and Beer” that offers a cursory handling of this debate.   Hopefully you will find these resources helpful in thinking out where you stand and will engage in discussion over these pertinent and highly volatile issues.