Friday, March 31, 2006

Loving Each Stone

The title of my blog, "Love Each Stone", comes from the Contemporary English Version’s rendering of Psalm 102.14: "We, your servants, love each stone in the city, and we are sad to see them lying in the dirt." The context, from a New Testament-enlightened point of view, appears to be world missions…

Our Lord, the nations will honor you, and all the kings of the earth will praise your glory. You will rebuild the city of Zion. Your glory will be seen, and the prayers of the homeless will be answered. Future generations must also praise the Lord, so write this for them: 'From his holy temple, the Lord looked down at the earth. He listened to the groans of the prisoners, and he rescued everyone who was doomed to die.' All Jerusalem should praise you, our Lord, when people from every nation meet to worship you (vv. 15-22).

The "building" motif comes into play repeatedly throughout Scripture. Sometimes it is a wall that is being built (as in the case of Nehemiah), sometimes a temple (Ephesians 2.19-22 & 1 Peter 2.4-8), and sometimes (as in this passage in Psalm 102), the entire holy city of Zion. Theologians have different opinions as to how much of this applies to the Church, the Body of Christ, and how much to an even broader Kingdom of God. Differing eschatological views also determine whether we are talking about gradual transformation of earthly social structures, or transformation of the lives of individuals in the context of a Church called apart to radical obedience along the narrow path of non-conformance until the Millennial reign of Christ, and the sudden introduction of a completely new social structure.

I personally see our "end-vision", at least on this side of the Millennium, to be that described by Paul in Ephesians 4.11-16…

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. We must stop acting like children. We must not let deceitful people trick us by their false teachings, which are like winds that toss us around from place to place. Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love.

As we are working towards this goal, there are millions of individual "living stones" (1 Peter 2.5) which are, as it were, "lying in the dirt" (Psalm 102.14). The master plan of "rebuilding spiritual Zion", is made up of the combined efforts of God’s servants, down through history, from every nation and culture, as well as every denomination and Christian tradition, to "love each stone", to see to it that each and every one who has been called to inherit eternal life is "picked up from the dirt", "dusted off and polished", and "helped to find their special place in the wall", fulfilling the ministry God has given to each one.

In Nehemiah chapter 3, it is interesting to note that each clan and family had their own section of the wall on which they were working. However, no one was working on their own separate wall. The lesson for us is clear: No individual group of believers has a monopoly on the rebuilding of spiritual Zion. It is only as each of us does the part assigned to us that the work will be finished according to the master plan of the Master Architect, in the way He designed it to be.

It is because of this, I believe, that it is so important to have clear that the Great Commission is given to the entire Body of Christ, not just one part of it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bottom-line Loyalty

On my last post, Denominationalism, I said that "I have some opinions of my own on this issue." In general, I included all of the quotes and references I included because I pretty much liked what each one had to say. I especially identify with Pastor Al Meredith when he says:
I am a Baptist by conviction and by choice. But there is a higher, deeper conviction than that which claims my loyalty. By a miraculous working of God I have been born again into the family of faith, the church universal, the Redeemed from every kindred, tribe, nation, and generation.
I want to make one thing clear. I am not against the Southern Baptist Convention. Evidently, if I were, I could not with a good conscience remain a part of it. I believe Douglas Blount (see Denominationalism post) makes an excellent point in his reference to C. S. Lewis's illustration of the hallway and the various rooms. I also think D. G. Tinder's observation is very astute:

One response has been to oppose denominations and urge all true Christians to leave them and meet simply as churches of Christ, Christian churches, churches of God, disciples, brethren, Bible churches, evangelical churches, and similar inclusive names. Despite obvious appeal in times of denominational confusion, strife, and declension, the reality is that no such movement has anywhere attracted most Christians to itself. Instead this has been just another way of increasing the number of denominations, and sects, usually with the group's reluctance to admit it.
The problem, for me, is whenever we put our loyalty to the denomination we are a member of in front of our loyalty to the Church Universal, the Body of Christ around the world.

On my Coming Clean post, I said:
I believe that the vast wealth of spiritual, human, creative, and financial resources represented by the SBC make up an excellent platform from which to serve the Lord and work together with His Body around the world for the advance of His Kingdom.
As long as I continue to believe that the Southern Baptist Convention serves as the best platform for helping me in my small part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the advance of the Kingdom of God (tasks given to the Body of Christ at large, and not just Baptists, in my opinion), I will remain a loyal Southern Baptist.

I am grateful for people like Al Meredith (though I have not had the privilege of meeting him personally). I believe he is representative of the majority of grassroots pastors and members around the SBC, who also long to see the Lord glorified through greater unity and cooperation with fellow members of the Body of Christ in other denominations, congregations and assorted ministries.

At the same time, I have been a little surprised and increasingly concerned about what appears to be an effort on the part of some to move the Southern Baptist Convention in a more "denominationalist" direction. Some have linked this with the Landmark movement of the 1800's.

In the meantime, there are many "younger leaders" (and undoubtedly, some who are not so young) who are beginning to ask themselves whether or not "the Southern Baptist Convention serves as the best platform for helping [them] in [their] small part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the advance of the Kingdom of God" (see, for example, the comments section on Steve McCoy's Churches Louder than Blogs post on his Missional Baptist Blog).

I, for one, as an IMB missionary, and a concerned Southern Baptist, join with others in urging those who are considering "jumping ship" to not do so quite yet. There are a lot of really good, strategic, and biblical things going on as a result of the continued cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists. However, if the day were ever to come in which, before God, I were to arrive at the conviction that excessive denominationalism within the SBC outweighed the comparative contributions the SBC was making to the Body of Christ at large, I would have to reconsider my position.

For now, I remain a loyal Southern Baptist, and ask you to please continue to support the IMB and the Cooperative Program. But my "bottom-line loyalty" is to the Church Universal, the Body of Christ around the world.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Many times, we can discuss matters with those who have a different opinion than us, and never make any headway, because there are underlying presuppositions which cause each one to see the matter at hand from different perspectives. In such a case, it may be futile to discuss the surface, up-front, issues, without first dealing openly with the deeper root issues which undergird them.

In my opinion, one such "root issue" for us as Southern Baptists is the question of denominationalism. There is plenty written on why we believe we as Baptists have a more biblical understanding of various doctrinal questions than other denominations. That is not the issue I am talking about. What I am talking about is the whole question of why do we as 21st century Christians organize ourselves as denominations in the first place. What purpose does our denominational affiliation play in our Christian service and discipleship?

While I have some opinions of my own on this issue, I would love for various of you "theological thinkers" out there to give some input on this issue by adding your comments to this post. In order to "get the ball rolling", I am including several quotes which I think are very relevant in regard to these questions...

First off, let's start with the Apostle Paul. 1 Corinthians 1.10-17...

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Next, I would like for you to carefully consider an article in the Elwell Evangelical Dictionary, by D. G. Tinder, entitled "Denominationalism". It would perhaps be more "user-friendly" for me to copy the entire text here, but to avoid any complications with copyright questions, I invite you to click on this link, read the article, and then return to our discussion here.
Next, several important quotes from various writers included in the book Why I am a Baptist, edited by Tom J. Nettles and Russell D. Moore.

On pp. 150-51, Al Meredith, in his article "A Baptist-Tested by Fire", says:

I am a Baptist by conviction and by choice. But there is a higher, deeper conviction than that which claims my loyalty. By a miraculous working of God I have been born again into the family of faith, the church universal, the Redeemed from every kindred, tribe, nation, and generation. God has a wonderful fascination with diversity. If you doubt that, consider the untold trillions of snowflakes, each with its unique design. And the body of Christ, though all redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, is wondrous in its incredible diversity...

Here is unsettling news. Southern Baptists, for all their resources and organizational power, will never reach the world for Christ. Neither will the Pentecostals or the Methodists, or any other particular corner of the kingdom. If any one of us could do the job, we would have to remove John 17 from the canon of Scripture. No, if and when the world is won to Christ, it will happen when believers of all denominations lay aside (not forget) their differences and bond together under the banner of all those who trust in Christ alone and seek to follow him.

As long as we emphasize our differences and use them as issues for censorship and division, a watching world will scoff at our claims for the King of Love. As long as we speak out to a secular media in condemnation of our brothers in Christ, the world will conclude that Christianity is just another man-made contrivance to inflict misery on others in order to advance personal agendas. I am a Southern Baptist by choice and conviction. I am committed to our doctrine and ministry. But I am also a member of the wider family of God, the body of Christ universal. All who have turned from their sin and trusted Christ as Savior and Lord are my brothers. And though we may disagree on certain particulars, we are family.

Can we not, here and now, purpose in our hearts never publicly to criticize a brother in Christ? Can we not commit ourselves to finding issues of commonality with those of like faith but different denominations? Can we not work together selflessly with all those who name the name of Jesus as Savior and Lord to reach an unbelieving world? The lateness of the hour demands it. The desperation of our generation compels it. The prayer of our Savior himself dictates it. So be it.
On pp. 173-74, Douglas Blount, in his article, "A Mere Christian, and a Baptist Too", says:
After all, in the preface to Mere Christianity, [C. S.] Lewis himself writes: "I hope no reader will suppose that 'mere' Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions - as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable."

Of course, it seems obviously important that one not confuse one's own denominational context with the church, as if no one outside it belongs to Christ. But it also seems important - though perhaps less obviously so - that those who remain in the merely Christian hall cut themselves off from the very fellowship which my friend desired to promote. For fellowship comes within community, and Christian communities are located within Lewis's rooms, not his hall. Nowhere else can one find the warmth, rest, and nourishment which come within those rooms, within those "existing communions."
On pp. 211-12, Carl F. H. Henry, in his article, "Fifty Year a Baptist", written in 1958, says:
All Protestant groups today, including the Baptist denominations, face a common problem. Can individuality of missionary enterprise be maintained in the totality of Christian onslaught against paganism? Can Baptists vindicate their uniqueness without discrediting the legitimate Christian status of other denominational groups? Must they grant the validity of all other denominations in order to share passionately in the ecumenical conflict with non-Christian religions? Can Baptist distinctive be preserved and promulgated without endangering the larger unity of Christian witness? Will the broader perspective reduce the Baptist focus?

Anyone profoundly loyal to Baptist convictions but who also grieves over the spirit of fragmentation that has ailed Protestantism since the Reformation (which the Baptists claim to antedate) must reach some decision. A continuing deferment of solution to these problems from one generation to the next can only lessen confidence and respect for parental status and authority.

As I see it, Baptists are not so much interested in promoting the Baptist denomination as such in the world as in advancing the one church that Christ heads through the Baptist witness. But we should not feel that to realize this purpose require surrender either of Baptist distinctives or of denominational fervor. While the Baptist tradition if for us the preferred medium to communicate the life of Christ in his church, we do not on that accord deny that some measure of genuine Christian status attached to other traditions, even as we are quick to admit that something less than full Christian status often intrudes into our own!

We decry homicidal competition in Christian enterprise. But we do not consider a one-denominational monopoly that virtually cancels Protestant free enterprise the means to an ideal religious climate. We believe that denominationalism can serve as a unitive rather than as a divisive factor. In other words, I do not think that Baptist and ecumencial interests necessarily conflict.
On p. 225, C. Ben Mitchell, in his article "So What's a Nice Southern Baptist like me Doing in a Place like This?" says:

In my own view, Southern Baptists are uniquely indebted to their non-Southern Baptist evangelical kin. We have a huge membership, plentiful resources, and growing respect. Southern Baptists need to come alongside their evangelical brethren, many of whom struggle daily for financial and other resources, to assist them as together we bring the glorious gospel of the risen Christ, and its social and ethical implications, to new generations. If I'm right that evangelicals "carried the water" for Southern Baptists early in the resurgence, then Southern Baptists should work harder out of respect and gratitude to build intentional partnerships with our evangelical comrades.

Hopefully, the future is bright for Southern Baptists. We face a number of important challenges in the twenty-first century. Our size, which is in so many ways a blessing, can become a liability if we fail to equip, mobilize, and get our arms around this gentle giant known as the Southern Baptist Convention. Frankly, we don't have a history of playing well with others. In the face of the cultural pressures that we feel, there is a tendency for us to move toward isolationism and separation. Instead, we must build new bridges with evangelicals and other non-Baptists who share our basic world-view. At the same time, we must affirm wholeheartedly that which makes us Baptists. The way ahead is not easy, but by God's grace, it will be exciting and fruitful.
What do you say?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I am Encouraged

As I have had time to gather a bit more information and reflect upon that information, I personally am a lot more encouraged by the outcome of the Trustee meeting in Tampa than I was at first. It does indeed look like God is moving, and answering prayers! I know that some have expressed concern that what people like Wade Burleson and Rick Thompson are saying on their blogs has been "censored" in a great part by the new policy passed by the BoT regarding "trustee accountability". However, no one is obligating Wade and Rick to say the positive things they are saying about the meeting. As we all learned as children, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
At the same time, many are concerned, and I believe rightfully so, that the free flow of information not be cut off. In regards to this, I want to quote what I first wrote as a comment on Rick Thompson's blog a few days ago. The context of the quote is a conversation related to "where do southern baptists draw the line of expectation for missionaries that they fund?" and "the issue of what a new church plant will hold to doctrinally on essential and non-essential (but important) issues...if your partnering with GCC's who aren't Baptist in denomination or theology." Here's my quote...
Under IMB New Directions, our objective as missionaries has shifted from that of we ourselves planting new churches one by one to that of facilitating church planting movements, in which, God willing, the great majority of the churches eventually planted may never even know our names or see our faces. This makes it really tricky to keep up with statistics. But, in the long run, I believe gets us much further down the road towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

In a true denominational system, in which all the churches are doctrinally accountable to a centralized organization, it is much easier to keep up with and control what is being taught out there in the churches. But if you believe in the autonomy of the local church, there are always going to be some who "get out of hand". That's the "nature of the beast".

I believe the SBC is justified in expecting that those they fund truly represent the ideals of those doing the funding. The problem is that the great majority of those doing the funding are limited in their perspective of cross-cultural ministry. And their limitations of perspective sometimes lead to expectations which get in the way of doing things in a more effective and Christ-honoring way on the mission field.

That is why the IMB staff is made up primarily of people who have significant cross-cultural experience themselves. The Board of Trustees exists, as I understand it, as a liaison between the funders (The SBC churches) and the fundees (the missionaries, as represented by IMB staff).

All of this means that it is not as simple to sort through as some people would like it to be. One of the keys, in my opinion, is a good fluid relationship between the IMB staff and the Board of Trustees, in which each is able to communicate their concerns and feel they have been heard and understood by the other.

It is also of vital importance that the points of view of the missionaries in the field be taken into consideration, as well as those of the SBC church members "in the pews" who are giving their money to support the missionaries. In my opinion, all of the "controversy" related to the new policies, Wade, etc. has ended up doing a great service to the cause of missions in that it has opened up some very interesting new channels for communication (i.e. blogging) between many, who up till now, have not been able to communicate so freely.

In summary, yes, I feel that SBC churches have a right to know what the missionaries they send out and fund believe and are teaching on the field. But I also believe that we can do a better job at obeying God and working towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission through partnering with other "GCCs", even though they may not cross every "t" and dot every "i" just like us. And we all need to do a better job of communicating with each other, in order to help each other to understand why these things are so.
As I said at the beginning, I am encouraged by the results of the Trustee meeting in Tampa. At the same time, though, I think we all need to think creatively about how we can keep the channels of communication open between all the above-mentioned parties, and, just as importantly, not fall into the trap of "disparaging" one another in what we say.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Apparently Conflicting Reports

Some apparently conflicting reports are coming out of the IMB Board of Trustees meeting in Tampa this week. See...

Wade Burleson on Grace and Truth to You

Marty Duren on SBC Outpost

and Art Rogers on 12 Witnesses

and compare it to what Rick Thompson (who has voiced public support for Wade Burleson and his views) has to say on The Road We Travel.

Personally, I am a bit confused. I don't want to rush to judgment. I think I have already made known my personal views on the Board of Trustees decisions in November, 2005 and January, 2006. However, I don't want to say anything about the news coming out of Tampa now, until I feel I have the whole story.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Missions ConneXion

I know a lot of you who read my blog also read Wade Burleson's Grace and Truth to You, as well as Marty Duren's SBC Outpost. Both of them have recently mentioned the new Missions ConneXion site, and I wanted to join in as well expressing my support of this initiative on the part of John Stickley and his pastor, former IMB missionary Micah Fries. Their idea is to provide a forum for all those interested in missions, especially those on the field, to share their ideas, testimonies, and prayer requests, as well as voice their concerns about issues that affect them. The site is very well laid out, and looks easy to use. John writes that on the first day they had over 1,500 page views from visitors in at least 20 countries. So, I encourage you to check it out. In the midst of all the controversy, it looks like God is up to some very good things...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Great Commission Christians

In his excellent book To the Ends of the Earth, Dr. Jerry Rankin makes the following observation on pp. 161-62...

We had just affiliated with the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies (EFMA) in 1995 when a Global Consultation on World Evangelization (GCOWE) was held in Seoul, South Korea. The EFMA is a fellowship of about one hundred twenty diverse mission agencies. Many are rather small and specialized, but others - both denominational and para-church organizations - are quite large. When the proposal considering membership was presented to our trustees, I asked the EFMA Executive Director, Paul McKaughan, to tell us what would be said about the IMB when we were mentioned in discussions among other mission agencies. He was a bit embarrassed but proceeded to answer my question: "Large, wealthy, independent, exclusive, arrogant..." At this point I stopped him and said, "We get the idea!"

A few weeks earlier Avery Willis, Senior Vice President of Overseas Operations for the IMB, made a presentation at the large GCOWE meeting in Korea. He apologized to the more than four thousand representatives from 186 countries for Southern Baptists' working independently and thinking we could do the job by ourselves because we were so large. He asked forgiveness for our arrogance and ackowledged that if all the peoples of the world are going to hear the gospel, we are going to have to work together. He went on to pledge our cooperation in the effort to complete the Great Commission and distributed our people group research database that had previously been used exclusively by the IMB. It totally revolutionized attitudes and relationships among Baptist partners and groups all over the world who had seen us as aloof and self-sufficient.

These two paragraphs, in my opinion, describe one of the most positive and significant developments in Southern Baptist life, as well as in world missions at large, in the past century. When I first heard about this new perspective at the IMB, I was thrilled!

What concerns me the most about some of the things I am reading and hearing from some in Southern Baptists circles is what seems to me to be a possible step back from the wonderful progress we had made in the IMB in recognizing that the fulfillment of the Great Commission does not rest on our shoulders alone. Maybe I am "reading too much in between the lines", but I would urge the Board of Trustees and Southern Baptists in general to not go back on the promise that Avery Willis made to the GCOWE, and, effectively, to the worldwide evangelical community at large.

Of course, Dr. Rankin is not talking here about a "come one, come all, free-for-all". On p. 163, he adds:

Cooperation neither requires one to compromise doctrinal positions nor to sacrifice convictions concerning methodology, because cooperation and unity is not an end in itself. Cooperating with others is a utilitarian approach to accomplish a mutual objective. But there must be parameters to any partnership. When various organizations come together, seeking to impact the lostness of Unreached People Groups, a synergy can result that makes the gospel known on a broader scale than if one were trying to do it alone.

Ecumenism implies an organic unity in which each participating entity gives up something for the sake of unity. Southern Baptists would never select unity over doctrinal convictions based on the inerrant Word of God. We would never compromise essential matters of faith for a utilitarian objective. But we have seen that cooperation with others can provide an opportunity for doctrinal influence and leadership. Even Baptists have a broad diversity of beliefs and practices; it takes more than a common name to reflect doctrinal conformity and spiritual convictions that are true to the Word of God.

To all this, I say Amen! Hallelujah! What do you say?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Love Covers, part II

Here are the remainder of the quotes from Love Covers, which I think significant enough to reproduce here. I personally believe the quotes in bold print are especially relevant. Those of you who like to pick things apart doctrinally will probably find some good fuel for your fire here. There are a few points here and there in what is written below that I myself do not agree with 100%. However, I think that the gist of what is being said is important enough, that we all need to seriously reflect on it, and see how we as individuals, as well as Southern Baptists (excuse me, non-SBC readers), measure up...

"Since all born-again people are members of the Body of Christ, God extends fellowship to them regardless of their position on doctrines not necessary or directly related to the conversion experience. Since this is true, do we have the right to refuse fellowship to other believers when God Himself extends fellowship to them? In doing this, aren’t we in danger of diminishing or breaking fellowship with God Himself?"

"It is clear that God fellowships with people on opposite sides of various disputed doctrines. This suggests that, in God’s book, fellowship should be on the basis of life rather than doctrine."

"No amount of grace will ever enable all born-again people to agree on what formulated doctrinal system constitutes absolute conceptual truth."

"While the Word is inerrant, no one’s opinion of a moot or debatable point is."

"The greatest sin of the Church is not lying, stealing, drunkenness, adultery—not even murder—but the sin of disunity."

"Perhaps the most atrocious damage of disunity is displayed on the foreign mission field. When missions and missionaries, all claiming to represent Jesus and the gospel, manifest antagonism and hostility to one another, Satan alone is the winner. When inquirers and newly converted believers discover that professed followers of Jesus are fragmented, envious, and even belligerent in spirit, they are often totally devastated. To see the Body of Christ rent by proselytism, greed and jealousy is to them incomprehensible, inexplicable, and even unspeakable. It leaves the national believer totally confused, disillusioned and undone. Perhaps nothing brings greater grief to the heart of the Master than the disgrace of disunity on the mission field."

"Therefore, nothing short of heresy or open sin, which affects relationship with the Father, should be permitted to bring schism in the professed Body of Christ."

"If we understand the Word of God, schism and broken fellowship over incidental doctrines are not only sins, but heinous sins."

"Since disunity in the Body probably sends more people to hell than open sin, breaking fellowship over differences in those standards or practices which are not actually necessary to salvation is a greater sin than the supposed error which precipitated the breach."

"Dr. Packer sees an antimony in the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He suggests that both are biblical and that both should be accepted and believed. Although apparently irreconcilable, neither should be allowed to obscure or overshadow the other. If I understand Dr. Packer, he suggests that where the Bible supports the Calvinistic viewpoint, it should be accepted. Where it supports the Arminian viewpoint, it should also be accepted. It is not man’s responsibility to harmonize these apparent opposites. It is God’s."

"Much of the difference between Calvinists and Arminians seems purely semantic. Someone has said that Calvinists call their mistakes sins while Arminians call all of their sins mistakes."

"Since fellowship should be on the basis of life rather than doctrinal correctness, then shouldn’t Calvinists and Arminians bury their theological hatchets?"

"The widespread rejection of the doctrine that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the ‘baptism’ or filling with the Holy Spirit is explainable. But open hostility is not excusable, because it is the direct result of imperfect love."

"Most denominations and congregations carry a lot of cultural baggage, in worship, work and witness, which needs to be challenged."

"I’m not suggesting that fellowship requires Charismatics and non-Charismatics to worship in the same communion or officially cooperate under the same ecclesiatical umbrella. I am speaking of a spiritual and idealistic, not a formal, organizational ecumenism."

"While the great emphasis in Pentecostalism at large remains on the gift of tongues, a moderating trend seems evident in some significant circles. Without discounting the value of the gift, some highly respected leaders of the movement have abandoned the dogmatic position that the ‘baptism’ or filling with the Holy Spirit is limited to those who speak in tongues."

"Sometimes it is claimed that the exercise of the gift of tongues is divisive. We should understand that any issue that is controversial is potentially divisive unless it is ‘handled with love’. But it is not the issue itself that produces division. No controversial viewpoint is intrinsically divisive. All contoversy, discord, or division resides, not in the points of dissent or disagreement, but in the parties themselves. And where nonessentials are concerned, it is all because of a lack of love."

"Although those who do not speak in tongues lay the responsibility for division upon the zealousness of those who do, they themselves may also be responsible. Could it be that the hostility of anti-Charismatics may be as responsible for division as the overemphasis on tongues? Both probably share some blame."

"In God’s book, the important thing is not to settle controversial issues here and now, but while considering them, to grow in grace and in the supreme virtue of agape love."

"All theologians, administrators, and other spiritual leaders who persist in fragmentation of the Body of Christ over nonessentials may be risking the loss of eternal rank in a social order where the law of love is supreme. The question is, How are you going to explain at the judgment seat of Christ why you refused to offer fellowship to other born-again members of Christ’s Body?"

"For instance, a belief in the method or mode of water baptism is not generally considered as fundamental or indispensable to salvation."

"As a member of the same family, you are my own brother, whether you realize it or acknowledge it or not. As far as I am concerned, this is true whether you are a Charismatic or anti-Charismatic; whether you believe that everyone should speak in tongues or whether you believe that speaking in tongues is of the devil; whether you believe that the gifts of the Spirit are in operation in the Church today or whether you believe they ceased at the close of the Apostolic age; whether you are a Calvinist and believe in the ‘Five Points’ or whether you are an Arminian and believe that the ‘Five Points’ are heresy; whether you believe in eternal security or in falling from grace; whether you accept the ‘King James’ or prefer a modern version; whether you believe in baptismal regeneration or no ordinances at all; whether you are a Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, Mennonite, Amish, Seventh Day Adventist, Episcopalian, Catholic…or no denomination at all; whether you believe in female or only male ordination; whether you think that Saturday is the true Sabbath and should be kept holy or whether you think that the day is indifferent; whether you eat meat or are a vegetarian; whether you drink coffee, tea and soft drinks or only water, fruit juices and milk; whether you wear a toupee or sport a bald head; whether you color your hair or not; whether you are a pre-, a post-, or an amillennialist; whether you are a Republican, Democrat or a Socialist; whether your skin is white, black, red, brown or yellow; and if there be any other doubtful matters or silly nonessentials over which we differ…if you are born again, we still are members of the same family and organic parts of the same spiritual Body. I may think some of your beliefs are as crazy as a loon, but if I have sufficient love for God, agape love, I will not reject you as a person."

"Correct doctrine, right views of conceptual truth, can never unite the Body of Christ because fallen minds can never be absolutely sure that their positions are infallible. ‘Now I know in part’ (1 Cor. 13.12). That means that error may dilute our concepts. Therefore the Church cannot unite on that platform."

"The person who does not speak in tongues but who excels in agape love will accept and fellowship with one who does speak in tongues. They are members of the same family. Sufficient love and reverence for God will unite them. The person who speaks in tongues and who also excels in agape love will accept and fellowship with one who doesn’t speak in tongues. They are also members of the same family. Sufficient love will cover their differences. Agape love is the only thing that will unite them."

"Also, agape love is the only guarantor of truth because it is the only guarantor of total objectivity, total honesty, total freedom from bias and prejudice. Agape love is the only thing that delivers from self-interest, self-centeredness and self-love. All or any of these are certain to corrupt, distort, and falsify all views of truth. For this reason, agape love and only agape love is a guarantor of truth. Scholarship is considered the means, the process, the technique by which truth is discovered, verified and communicated. But scholarship which ignores the importance, necessity and relevance of agape love is suspect, deficient and ineffectual. Therefore, agape love is an essential ingredient to genuine scholarship. I consider this one of the most important concepts in this book."

"Only nonessentials to salvation can divide the Body because the true Church agrees on all beliefs necessary to salvation. Without such essential beliefs, no group can qualify as part of the real Body of Christ. Therefore, all division in the true Church must be over non-essentials."

"What and where is the greatest hindrance to unity? Many feel it is not primarily among the laity, because in general they seem more open to efforts to foster fellowship. If this is true, could it be possible that the greatest obstacle to unity is among the clergy, the spiritual leaders of the church?"

"The illusion that congregations and denominations can be built and held together only by divisive methods must be forever abandoned. Ecclesiastical leaders, administrators, theologians, writers and propagandists, and all others with vested interest, must cease to aid, abet and sanctify division. Religio-political ambitions must not continue to overshadow spiritual values by fostering divisive policies. Success, gauged largely by growth in numbers and finance and rewarded by political and financial advancement, must yield to a larger vision of a united Body."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Love Covers, part I

In the next couple of posts, I would like to present a number of quotes from the book Love Covers, written by the now-deceased Paul Billheimer, and published in 1981 by Christian Literature Crusade. Many who read this blog may not agree completely with all of Billheimer’s doctrinal views espoused in other writings. However, the message contained in Love Covers is a message that has significantly impacted my life and ministry, and a message to which I believe we as Southern Baptists, as well as those in the entire Body of Christ around the world, desperately need to pay attention today.

The quotes from today’s post are all taken from the preface of Love Covers

"The most important, momentous, crucial, but the most ignored, neglected, and unsolved problem that has faced the Church from its infancy to the present throbbing moment is the problem of disunity. The continuous and widespread fragmentation of the Church has been the scandal of the ages. It has been Satan’s master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined."

"What is the basis for the fellowship which represents, defines, and gives content to this unity? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the term "fellow" from the word "fellowship" denotes ultimate identical derivation. In other words, two persons being designated as fellows implies common origin, a common family relationship. Therefore the primary, fundamental and distinguishing basis for fellowship is shared ancestry rather than shared theories, concepts or opinions.

If this means anything at all it means that fellowship between born-again believers, members of the same family, should be on the basis of a common spiritual parentage rather than common opinions on non-essentials to salvation.

For centuries, fellowship within the Body of Christ has been primarily on the basis of conceptual, theological and organizational persuasions and practices. The principal thesis of this book is that in the Church, or Body of Christ, acceptance and fellowship with one another should be on the basis of common spiritual parentage rather than on common views or opinions in nonessentials to salvation."

"For the purpose of this book, the term ‘essentials to salvation’ will be considered as the minimum beliefs necessary for the new birth."

"In this book, the term ‘nonessentials to salvation’ will then be understood as doctrinal matters not related distinctly or directly to the new birth."

It is only natural that the measure or dimension of fellowship may be affected by the degree of agreement or disagreement on various phrases of divergent theological positions. But fellowship based on a common family relationship through the new birth should properly overshadow or even dwarf fellowship based on opinions not essential to divine life. In other words, membership in the same family is a more important foundation for fellowship, especially to the heavenly Father, than intellectual or theological agreement."

"This does not require the abandonment or the compromise of vital principles. It is not a plea to relinquish or reduce any convictions. No one has to give up any precept, persuasion, or canon of faith to love a ‘blood-bought brother.’ It is an appeal to cease making one’s opinions on nonessentials the basis for fellowship or unity in the Spirit.

Neither does this mean that truth in these beliefs is unimportant. It does mean that, in God’s sight, relationship is supremely important. It does not mean that such error may not damage the Body. It does mean that breaking fellowship over beliefs not vital to the new birth does more damage to the Body than the error that caused the break.

Again, this does not mean that the search for truth in other areas of doctrine is wrong. Neither does it mean that having one’s own opinion is wrong. It does not even mean that earnestly contending for one’s opinion in these matters of doctrine is a sin. This is not where the problem lies. In God’s sight, the wrong is in allowing opinions to cause a breach of fellowship between born-again members of the same family."

"According to Church history, the Church has never clearly seen at any one period the supreme importance of this truth. Can this be the one thing that has delayed the fulfillment of the Great Commission and prevents Christ’s glorious return? If so, should not every lover of Jesus give highest priority to His prayer in John 17, ‘…that they may be one as we are one’?"

Friday, March 10, 2006

Malcolm Yarnell's "The Heart of a Baptist"

I have removed the text to Malcolm Yarnell's "The Heart of a Baptist".

I need to publicly apologize to Dr. Yarnell. I misunderstood his permission to "publish our discourse" to include permission to publish "The Heart of a Baptist" here on the blog. He has just written me indicating that was not the case. It is copyrighted material. Once again, Dr. Yarnell, I am very sorry. Please forgive me.



Update: I just received the following acknowledgement from Dr. Yarnell


Thank you for removing the text. You meant no harm. But please do remove it quickly. By the way, please note that I was not one of the "ideologues" "behind" the new policies at IMB, so there is no grand conspiracy of which I am a part. I first became aware of the new policies through an article in Southern Baptist Texan. David, my motivation is that I really care about Southern Baptists and that is why I am interested in these issues.

I perceive that you are a good man, David. I believe that you are wrong in your position on believers baptism, and I do wish that you would change your mind.

In Christ,Malcolm


New update: Dr. Yarnell did give permission to link to the pdf document. I have just been made aware of that link. Click below to go to it.

The Heart of a Baptist

Important Dialogue with Dr. Malcom Yarnell, SWBTS Theology Professor

Recently, I received an e-mail from Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, Assistant Dean for Theological Studies, Director of the Center for Theological Research, and Director of the Oxford Study Program, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, responding to several of the posts I have made on this blog. Dr. Yarnell is apparently one of the "idealogues" behind the new policies passed by the IMB Board of Trustees.

I need to make clear that I do not agree with many of the points Dr. Yarnell is making. However, I believe the correspondence I have received from him, and the response I have sent him, are highly illustrative of the issues I am attempting to bring to light here. I also believe that many of you who have been following the recent developments at the IMB would be interested to "listen in" on this dialogue. On my "Coming Clean" post, I called for Southern Baptists "to 'come clean' related to what is expected of those who serve the Lord while receiving spiritual and financial covering from the Southern Baptist Convention." I believe Dr. Yarnell has done just this. I believe that if you take the time to read carefully through all of this post, and Dr. Yarnell's message "The Heart of a Baptist" , you will see more clearly than ever the issues that are at stake right now in the SBC.

Because of this, I asked Dr. Yarnell for permission to copy the dialogue we have been having here on the blog. I invite you to objectively and prayerfully read through what follows, and come to your own conclusions about how we as Southern Baptists need to deal with the issues at hand.

E-mail letter from Malcolm Yarnell to David Rogers, March 10, 2006

Dear David,

After it was pointed out to me, I glanced through the first few posts on your blog,, and was struck by a few things. First to strike me was your willingness to "come clean," which is laudable and a move of integrity. Second was the fact that you believe non-Baptists are correctly fulfilling the Great Commission. Please read the attached . It may be helpful to you. Indeed, I pray that you will see that the only way to obey the Great Commission is according to the scriptural program of Jesus Christ. It should be evident that the order given by Jesus Christ for the Great Commission is:

1. Hear the Word.
2. Become a Disciple of Jesus Christ.
3. Be baptized.
4. Obey all the Commands of Jesus Christ, which includes regenerate church membership.

In other words, to follow the ordinance of Jesus Christ is to be baptized only after believing. Other Christians and Christian churches who do not practice believers' baptism do not fulfill the Great Commission as given by Jesus Christ. This does not throw their Christianity or ecclesiality into doubt: it does cast into doubt their willingness to obey Christ fully. This is why Southern Baptists want to plant Baptist churches and not other churches: we want to be disciples of Christ, whose will is revealed in His Word, and not disciples of an unbiblical tradition.

I pray you will change your mind and your public statements.

In Christ,

Malcolm Yarnell

E-mail reply from David Rogers to Malcolm Yarnell, March 10, 2006

Dear Malcolm,

Thank you for your e-mail, and for the message you attached. I have carefully read through both of them. I appreciate the thought you have put into these matters, and your personal interest in dialoguing with me about them.

Let me say first of all, in regards to your comment affirming that I believe that "non-Baptists are correctly fulfilling the Great Commission", that, in the spirit of "that depends what the meaning of the word 'is' is": that depends what the meaning of the word "correctly" is. I would doubt that any of us, myself included, are fulfilling the Great Commission 100% correctly. I would agree that the command to "baptize" is indeed a key element. And, in my personal efforts to work towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, I hope and strive to give due importance to biblical baptism.

At the same time, though, I sense there are probably some key points of divergence between our two views. I normally would not consider it proper etiquette to critique someone's message like I am going to do now, but since I understand that you sent this to me in an attempt to convince me to change my views, I hope you will receive what I have to say with the same spirit of indulgement...

First of all, let me affirm my agreement with the vast majority of what you have to say. I am definitely "with you" in your zeal for reminding us that we are a "Great Commission" people, and urging us to be more and more consistent with our missionary calling. Where I would beg to differ is the inference and emphasis throughout the entire message that the "Great Commission" is specifically a "Baptist" thing. As I already stated on my blog-post, I am convinced the Great Commission was "given to the Church, the Body of Christ, made up of born-again believers down through the centuries from every nation, culture, ecclesiological background, and denomination." While I am all in favor of challenging Baptists to be better stewards with the "part of the wall" (using the analogy of Nehemiah 3) that God has delegated to us in the reconstruction of spiritual Zion, I must say that I am a bit "taken back" by language that seems to imply (following the analogy of Nehemiah again) that the entire "building project" has been "contracted out" exclusively to Baptists. In my point of view, if you could talk about the five Greek words you mention, directing your discourse to the Body of Christ at large instead of specifically to Baptists, it would come more in line with the general tenor of the New Testament, especially in the light of 1 Corinthians 1.10-17. You repeat several times the phrase: "Baptism is the beginning Baptist distinctive." I personally do not see a great need to look for "Baptist distinctives". I am content to believe, apply and teach the Bible, as I in "soul competency" before the Lord (with the help of godly teachers and interpreters down through the years) read it.

As you might guess, the part of your message which causes me the greatest concern is the part at the end where you say, "Christians who do not practice baptism are simply not Great Commission Christians. Southern Baptist missionaries should firmly rebuke other missionaries who do not completely fulfill the Great Commission." I personally have not heard this definition of "GCCs" yet at the IMB. Perhaps trying to get the IMB to adopt this definition is a good part of what is behind your message and many of the recent developments related to the IMB Board of Trustees. If that is the case, I am glad to receive a copy of your message. Frankly, I did not realize that the terms were being spelled out this clearly.

Once again, let me reiterate my strong belief in and commitment to biblical baptism, that I share with you. At the same, it seems to me that we probably take a different approach to the doctrine of the Body of Christ, and that of Christian unity. For me, my beliefs regarding these matters are every bit as important, if not more so, than my beliefs regarding baptism. And, I believe I have biblical warrant for making them so. In the coming days, I hope to "blog" a bit more about this specific issue. I will spell out there a little more specifically what I believe about the Body of Christ and Christian unity, and why I believe it.

I don't know if you would be open to making this dialogue we are having now public on my blog. If you prefer not to, I will respect that. But I have an idea many others who are wrestling with the same issues might benefit by the opportunity to share in this conversation as well. I look forward to hearing from you.

In Christ,


E-mail reply from Malcolm Yarnell to David Rogers, March 10, 2006

Dear David,

One of the hallmarks of Baptist identity is the embrace of a vigorous examination of Scripture as well as church life by all believers. You are certainly welcome to publish our discourse. However, before you do so, I encourage you to consult your president as to the potential ramifications of your blogs, especially since you have declared yourself to have a personal theological "discrepancy" with the Baptist Faith &Message, the confession adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board. (* see below)

Thank you for your response to my sermon. I hope I am wrong in my interpretation of your position, but it appears you have adopted an ecumenical ecclesiology. Ecumenical ecclesiology, at least that type with which I am familiar, is unsustainable because it severely undermines the biblical (and thus Baptist) emphasis on the regenerate church (e.g. 2 Cor. 6:11-18).

Another issue you may want to consider is an apparent lack of appreciation for the local church as the focus of the New Testament. The universal church is affirmed in Scripture, but the overwhelming emphasis of the inspired Word, as our Baptist forefathers recognized repeatedly, is upon the local church. This is why Baptists stress the local church, too.

As for the definition of a Great Commission Christian, perhaps Dr Rankin could enlighten us concerning his definition of the term and the biblical basis for that definition.

In Christ,


*Note from David: I have consulted with Dr. Rankin regarding this, and received his blessing to communicate openly.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Under What Banner?

From my point of view, a good bit of the disparity of views brought out by recent developments related to the IMB Board of Trustees hinges upon the approach one takes to the following paragraph in BoT Chairman Tom Hatley’s recent letter to SBC pastors:

After all, these special leaders will be representing Southern Baptists while they are starting churches in the field that are also distinctively Baptist. They will be financially supported by Southern Baptists. Therefore, we are right to expect their ministries to be more in line with our heritage and doctrinal core than those of other denominations or belief systems. We are not an ecumenical movement, determined to send anyone who wants to go to the field. We are Baptists, and therefore we are only sending Baptists.

Upon reading this paragraph, on the surface it seems reasonable. By human standards, it almost certainly is reasonable. However, by biblical standards, I am not sure that it passes the test of obedience to God and conformity to his will.

As a missionary, I consider that I am sent out first and foremost in obedience to Jesus’ Great Commission. Nowhere in the Great Commission (nor in other parts of the Bible) do I read "Go ye therefore and start Baptist churches". Nor is the Great Commission, as I understand it, given exclusively to Baptist churches (unless, of course, you are Landmarkist, and regard only Baptist churches to be true churches). The Great Commission is given to the Church, the Body of Christ, made up of born-again believers down through the centuries from every nation, culture, ecclesiological background, and denomination.

Yes, we are Baptists, because we agree on a certain set of biblical doctrines based upon our common interpretation and acceptance of the Word of God. And yes, we cooperate together with other like-minded churches in our missionary efforts, because we believe that is a wise stewardship of the resources God has commended to us. Also, as good stewards, we try to ensure the missionaries we send out are doctrinally sound, and faithful to the teaching of the Word of God.

Although it doesn’t say it directly, Hatley’s paragraph seems to imply that we are sending out missionaries, as it were, "under the banner" of Southern Baptists. Biblically, I think it would be more correct to say we, as Southern Baptists, are doing our part to cooperate with the Church around the world to fulfill the Great Commission, "under the banner" of Jesus alone.

I would agree with Hatley that we are not an "ecumenical movement", if what he means by that is an attempt to work towards an organizational union of all the different local churches and denominations. However, if the implication is that, as Baptists, we do not worry much about the unity of the Body of Christ at large, and how we can better join hands with other believers around the world to work together at fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus gave to all of us, I am not sure if I can in good conscience "sign on" to that vision.

Monday, March 06, 2006

"Our Lord, you are our King forever and will always be famous. You will show pity to Zion because the time has come. We, your servants, love each stone in the city, and we are sad to see them lying in the dirt. Our Lord, the nations will honor you, and all the kings of the earth will praise your glory. You will rebuild the city of Zion. Your glory will be seen, and the prayers of the homeless will be answered. Future generations must also praise the Lord, so write this for them: 'From his holy temple, the Lord looked down at the earth. He listened to the groans of the prisoners, and he rescued everyone who was doomed to die.' All Jerusalem should praise you, our Lord, when people from every nation meet to worship you."

Psalm 102.12-22 (Contemporary English Version)

Coming Clean

I have observed with great interest and concern recent developments related to the IMB, most specifically the new policies passed in the November meeting of the Board of Trustees, and the motion to recommend the dismissal of Wade Burleson from the Board in the January meeting. On Jan. 24, I sent an e-mail letter addressed to each of the trustees, expressing my concern, which I feel I should now make public.

During the past weeks, I have read the blogs of various individuals commenting on these matters, as well as the comments sent in from many others in response to these blogs. It has been of particular interest to note the amount of comments sent in by anonymous IMB missionary colleagues. I understand and appreciate the need of some colleagues to remain anonymous due to security concerns. I am concerned, however, about the perceived climate of fear and mistrust which has led many to remain anonymous, primarily due to concerns about possible reprisals from within the Board. I would like to make clear that I am not so much criticizing those who have chosen to remain anonymous as I am expressing concern over the perceived organizational climate which has apparently motivated their desire for anonymity.

I personally would like to "come clean" regarding my views on "private prayer language" and "charismatic tendencies" within the IMB. Since my college days, I have had a great interest in the "charismatic movement" and in the various differences of opinion related to the practices related to it. This interest has led me, as the Bereans in Acts 17:11, to "search the Scriptures" in order to determine "whether those things were so". My study of Scripture has led me to the conclusion that the so-called "sign gifts", including those of tongues and interpretation of tongues, continue to be valid for today (especially 1 Cor. 1.4-9; 12-14; Heb. 2:3-4).

This conclusion, for me, has several important implications. I have not personally had the experience of "speaking in tongues". In accordance with my understanding of Scripture, this is due to one of two things, either: 1) I for some reason, in my spiritual life, have placed some barrier in front of something God would want for me; or 2) God, who distributes each gift to each individual as He sees fit (1 Cor. 12.11), has not seen fit to give me either the "gift of tongues" or the experience of "speaking in tongues". I personally believe it is due to reason # 2.

At the same time, I do not automatically question the validity of the supposed experiences of brothers and sisters in Christ who profess to have had the experience of "speaking in tongues". I have known and enjoyed Christian fellowship with a number of believers, both within Baptist life, as well as without, who have professed to have received from God at one time or another the supernatural ability to "speak in tongues". If I did not accept their testimony as valid, this would leave me, as I see it, with only two other possible alternatives: 1) they were dishonest, and intentionally sought to deceive me and others regarding their experience; or 2) they themselves were deceived, interpreting some sort of psychologically induced experience as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Although, in the case of some individuals, I do not completely rule out the possibility of either of these two alternatives, in regards to many, if not the majority, of those I have known who have professed to "speak in tongues", I have a very hard time, based upon the Christian testimony and fruit of the Spirit evident in their lives, attributing their profession to one of the two above-mentioned alternatives.

This, in turn, has led me to the conclusion that in my missionary work for the advance of God’s Kingdom around the world, I need to work together with these brothers and sisters in Christ, just the same way that in the body, the eye needs the hand, and the head needs the feet (1 Cor. 12.21). I, at the same time, am well aware of many of the aberrant doctrines and practices frequently associated with the "charismatic movement", and affirm the need to be discerning regarding false doctrine. However, it has been my observation, that many brothers and sisters in Christ who profess to "speak in tongues" do not at the same time advocate either the classical Pentecostal position that those who have not "spoken in tongues" have not received the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" or various extreme practices frequently associated with the "charismatic movement". In the country of Spain, in which I minister, many of the warmest-hearted Christians I know, with the greatest evangelistic and missionary vision, profess to "speak in tongues". Many of these happen to also be Spanish Baptists.

While I am in this process of "coming clean", I might ought to add, at the same time, that a couple of years ago, in accordance with the request of IMB leadership, I signed the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 statement, indicating my essential agreement with it. At the same time, we were asked to specify any points within the statement with which we had any possible discrepancy. At this time, I specified the following line, referring to baptism, under Item VII on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper:

Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.

My reasons for specifying that line were that I do not find clear Scriptural justification for it. Based upon my understanding of Scripture, the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the unity of the Body of Christ based on a common faith in the grace of God made possible by the sacrificial atonement of Jesus at Calvary, not lock-step agreement on secondary points of doctrine. Perhaps in New Testament times, there was such agreement on the matter of believer’s baptism that there did not exist such a thing as true believers who had not been baptized by immersion subsequent to their conversion. However, I find it hard to harmonize my understanding and corresponding application of the principles of Scripture with the exclusion from the Lord’s Table of a true brother or sister in Christ, who, due to differing conclusions based on a serious study of Scripture, sincerely believes that their infant "baptism" experience meets the qualifications of authentic obedience to Christ’s command.

In openly stating my personal views on these issues, I am motivated by more than merely arguing the legitimacy of my perspective. I am convinced that beside myself, both in the IMB, as well as in many other areas of Southern Baptist life, there are quite a few others who hold either the same views or at least views similar to those I have expressed above. If such is indeed the case, I do not believe it is a healthy dynamic to feel the need to remain secretive about such views, for fear of reprisal.

Just as I have "come clean" about what I believe, I believe we as Southern Baptists, through the due processes which have been established, need to "come clean" related to what is expected of those who serve the Lord while receiving spiritual and financial covering from the Southern Baptist Convention. I, and I believe many more like me, want to know if there is still room under the Southern Baptist umbrella for those who believe like me. If the answer is yes, I will rejoice. I believe that the vast wealth of spiritual, human, creative, and financial resources represented by the SBC make up an excellent platform from which to serve the Lord and work together with His Body around the world for the advance of His Kingdom. If, however, the answer is no, I, in good conscience, will need to seek another platform from which to serve.

In either case, I am convinced that God’s work will go on, and that He will continue to use all of those He calls out, in harmony with His Body around the world, with the purpose of "showing forth the praises of him who hath called (us) out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2.9).

Jan. 24 letter to IMB Trustees

Jan. 24, 2006

Dear IMB Trustee:

After much prayer and thought, I have decided to write and express my concerns to each of you regarding the developments at the IMB which have been in the news recently. I am writing, first of all, as a missionary of the IMB, who having dedicated 16 years of his life to ministry in Spain, has a lot of investment at stake in the future direction of the IMB. I am also writing as the son of Adrian Rogers, with a sense of stewardship of the heritage I have received, as well as concern for a God-honoring and accurate representation and application of my father’s spiritual legacy. I can only wish my Dad were here today to share his wisdom and leadership skills in relation to the situations we are presently facing. It is impossible for me to know exactly how he would have responded regarding each detail concerned. I do, however, believe I knew my Dad well enough to give a general approximation of what he may have thought regarding these issues. At the same time, I acknowledge that each of us is ultimately accountable to God, and our understanding of His will in the light of His inspired Word, and not to the opinions or memory of any fallible human being.

Having said that, I must say now that I am concerned with what seems to me to be a general direction on the part of the Board of Trustees, much of which I have only recently been made aware. It would seem to me that much of the ground gained for the glory of God and the advance of His kingdom through the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC, in which my father played such an integral role, is in danger of being commandeered in a new, more extreme direction.

Specifically in regards to the direction of the IMB, I believe some very helpful adjustments in focus and parameters have been made in the wake of the "conservative resurgence". We, as Southern Baptists, have been able to clarify that a steadfast commitment to the authority of God’s Word, and a proper understanding of "all things whatsoever I have commanded you" preclude any a la carte self-styled commitment to "missions" as our bottom line. We, at the same time, have made what I understand to be a greater push towards the evangelization and discipling of all the ethne of the world than ever before. Though we as Southern Baptists are definitely not perfect, and have undoubtedly committed many errors, it is my opinion that God’s blessing has been upon the Southern Baptist mission enterprise in a mighty way during this time.

I also believe that God has used the spiritual and strategic leadership of Jerry Rankin to help us make bold steps of faith, and to open our eyes to what God is doing around us, and to how we, as Henry Blackaby would put it, can "join Him in what He is already doing". After having recently read the book, To the Ends of the Earth, I am not hesitant to say, in the light of 16 years of international missionary service, as well as whatever spiritual insight God may have given me, that I believe that God has given us as Southern Baptists a great gift in Jerry Rankin, and that His blessing and anointing is upon Dr. Rankin’s leadership.

I am especially encouraged by Dr. Rankin’s emphasis that the kingdom of God is broader than the Southern Baptist Convention, and that God’s way of working entails using the entire Body of Christ around the world, with each group and member making their own unique contribution working together in a beautiful kaleidoscope of service to Christ towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I am in agreement that we need to be careful to discern who are our true partners in the glorious task that Jesus has given us, and to not compromise biblical convictions, especially regarding essential doctrine, on the altar of "false unity". I am concerned, however, that there appears to be a drive on the part of some to "rein in" the progress we have made in these areas, giving an undue emphasis on certain points of doctrine, which, in my opinion, are not clearly spelled out in Scripture, and seeking to narrow the parameters of biblical cooperation a few steps beyond the healthy adjustments we had already made.

Specifically, I do not think the recent policy change approved in the November Trustee meeting disqualifying missionary candidates who acknowledge having a "private prayer language" or those who were baptized by immersion as believers outside of a church deemed to be doctrinally compatible with Southern Baptists is a move in the right direction.

I myself do not practice a "private prayer language". However, in the course of my Christian ministry, I have known many fellow servants of Christ who have professed to have had this experience and for whom I have the utmost respect, due to their evident love for Christ, His Word, and His work, as well as sterling Christian character. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this, as there are as well with otherwise perfectly orthodox believers, who do not practice a "private prayer language". At the same time, while I recognize that sincere, godly interpreters of the Word of God take the view that certain supernatural gifts ceased at some time in the past, it seems to me that other equally sincere, godly, and objective interpreters of the Word of God have come to different conclusions.

I personally do not see how putting this new limitation upon Southern Baptist missionary service is going to make a positive difference in our faithfulness to Christ or in our effectiveness in carrying out His Great Commission. It does concern me, though, that some otherwise perfectly qualified candidates for missionary service might be disqualified because of this, especially in light of the previously existing policies limiting public expression of glossalalia and the "persistent emphasis of any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive to the Baptist fellowship".

I also feel that the new policy stating that "baptism must take place in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer" and that "a candidate who has not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his/her Southern Baptist church as a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches" does not have scriptural justification and goes beyond what Southern Baptists have traditionally accepted. Others have already written eloquently, exposing the flaws in Landmarkist ecclesiology. I imagine most, if not all of you, are well familiar with the arguments on both sides of this issue.

I would like, however, to point out the biblical example of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, which leaves the question of any local church "sponsorship" or "supervision" of the baptism very much up in the air. We also have the testimony of the roots of the Anabaptist movement, in which the initial "baptizers" had not yet been scripturally baptized themselves.

I am not saying that those who approved the new policy change on baptism are necessarily sympathetic on the whole towards Landmarkism. However, I do recognize the policy as reflective of at least one "plank" of Landmarkist argumentation, and a "plank" for which I believe there is no biblical basis. And, it concerns me that we, as a denomination, may be making steps in that direction.

Another related issue that is on the minds of all involved has to do with the proposed dismissal of Wade Burleson from the Board of Trustees. Since I was not present during Trustee meetings in order to personally observe Mr. Burleson’s behavior in that setting, I must reserve judgment regarding that. At the same time, I have carefully read through Mr. Burleson’s "blog", and reflected deeply both upon the ideas expressed therein, as well as the tone in which they are expressed. My opinion is that, while Mr. Burleson, just like any of the rest of us is not perfect, and may here or there say things which might be able to be expressed in a more circumspect manner, what I have read there written by Mr. Burleson is a long way from amounting to, in and of itself, "slander", "gossip", "broken trust" or "resistance to accountability".

It would seem to me that if the Trustees are indeed accountable to the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, and to the churches which comprise it, then Mr. Burleson acted in good faith making known to those who have the bottom line responsibility for decisions made something of the issues involved behind those decisions. Before the "conservative resurgence", it was frequently argued that many of the various boards and committees of the SBC were out of step with what the majority of Southern Baptists believed, and thus, it was necessary to make Southern Baptists aware of what was going on. In my concise but humble opinion: "what’s good for the goose is good for the gander".

At this point, I would like to reiterate it is impossible for me to know exactly how my father would have addressed each of these points. Each of us is our own person. However, having grown up under the wings of this great man of God who has been so influential in Southern Baptist life, I can honestly say I think that he would be in general agreement with the gist of what I am saying here.

How each of you respond to this is between you and God, taking into consideration your accountability to the SBC as well. I pray God will give you the grace and wisdom to act in a way glorifying to His name and advantageous to the advance of His kingdom.

Your co-laborer in the Harvest,

David Rogers

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What my Daddy has Given Me

The following is a tribute I wrote for my Dad a few days before he went on to be with the Lord on Nov. 15, 2005. I had the privilege of reading it at his bedside the day before he died, and also of reading it publicly at his funeral service.

I today consider myself to be a very blessed person because of the great privilege God has given me of having had Adrian Rogers as my father. I believe our Heavenly Father has his reasons for giving each of us the parents and situations that he gives us. And, indeed, for some reason, many people grow up with parents and life situations far from what might humanly be considered ideal. In faith, I must trust God’s wisdom as far as they are concerned. I myself for sometime struggled with being a "PK" (preacher’s kid), and with my family continually being in the spotlight. But, as I have grown older and more mature, I have come to see more and more how extremely blessed I have been, and to embrace the fantastically rich heritage that God has given me through my father.

What are some of the things he has given me?

He has given me the gift of generosity. Not only have I myself on many occasions been the recipient of my father’s great generosity – I have also learned from him what it means to be generous. Especially in his latter years, as God blessed my mother and him materially, I have observed as they have sacrificed for the welfare of their children and grandchildren, as they have held out their hands to help the poor and unfortunate without looking for recognition, and as they have sought to invest wisely in God’s kingdom around the globe. Thank you, Daddy, for teaching me what it means to be generous.

He has given me the gift of courage. I have had the privilege of having a "front-row seat" to observe the actions and reactions of a true hero. I have learned what it means to take a stand, when the easiest thing to do was stay quiet. I have learned what it means to hold to convictions. I have learned what it means to take risks and bold leaps of faith in order to see to completion visions given by God. Thank you, Daddy, for teaching me what it means to be courageous.

He has given me the gift of integrity. Thanks to my Daddy, I grew up believing fathers were people who could be trusted. I have never had to wonder whether or not, behind the scenes, my father was what he purported to be in public. He was not a hypocrite. He never proscribed standards for other people that he himself was not sincerely striving to live by first in his own life. Thank you, Daddy, for teaching me what it means to have integrity.

He has given me the gift of love for people. Unlike myself, God made my father to be an extrovert. He has always been naturally at ease in making conversation. But, beyond that, I have observed down through the years, that behind his extroversion is a deep, sincere concern about and for what happens to other people. He has never been too busy to listen sincerely to whoever it might be, and to make them feel that they, at that time, were the most important person in the world to him. Thank you, Daddy, for teaching me what it means to love people.

He has given me the gift of acceptance of others. It is undeniably true that in public my father has been known more as a champion of conservative values than as a "bleeding-heart liberal". But up close, in his personal life, my father has shone as an example of liberality when it comes to not judging or discriminating against those different than he. He has been loved by people of all races and backgrounds, precisely because he himself has truly loved people of all races and backgrounds. I myself, in many ways, am "wired" differently than my father. And, in our family, we all have our idiosyncrasies. However, I have observed on many occasions how my Dad has gone out of his way to affirm the uniqueness in each of us. Thank you, Daddy, for teaching me what it means to accept others.

He has given me the gift of enjoying life. Growing up in the Rogers home, there was never a dull moment. My father has always had a tremendous sense of humor. He has always had a new joke to tell. He has been passionate in his support of his favorite teams. He was physically active, and played fun games with us. He took us on trips, and led us to experience new adventures. The importance of his place in society has never led him to act as if he were too dignified to have his moments of "silliness" with his family, and even, at times, to let a few others in on the secret. Thank you, Daddy, for teaching me what it means to enjoy life.

He has given me the gift of serving as a model father and grandfather. Because of what I have observed and learned down through the years by way of my father’s example, I today feel much better equipped to be a father, and whenever that time may arrive, a grandfather. Because of my father, I know what it is to be truly loved. I know the gift of conscientious discipline that has never once crossed the line of abuse. And, as if it were the "cherry on the top", my two sons have also been the beneficiaries of the special treasure of having a grandfather who has strategically and passionately invested in their lives, giving to each of them the very best he has had to give. Thank you, Daddy, for loving us, and being such a great model as a father and a grandfather.

He has given me the gift of serving as a model husband. To anyone who has had the privilege of spending much time close to my father, there is no doubting the great love and affection he has had for my precious mother. He has honored her. He has provided for her. He has protected her. And he has been openly affectionate towards her. Through good times and bad times, they have stuck together. And we, as children, have always felt the security of having parents whose love we knew was indissoluble. Thank you, Daddy, for loving Mom, and being such a great model as a husband.

He has given me the gift of love for God’s Word. From the time I was born, I have always been a "PK". I have been in church every Sunday. I have heard countless sermons, the great majority of which have been preached by my father. As I have grown older, and been in Christian ministry myself, I have had my eyes opened to the great temptation of slipping into the routine and making ministry just another profession. But today I feel I am much better equipped to stay on course and not lose heart due to the foundation of a true, heartfelt conviction of the power of God’s Word I have received by way of my father. For my father, knowing, explaining, and living by the principles of the Bible have not been just a job, but rather a driving passion that has flowed from the core of his being. Thank you, Daddy, for giving me a love for God’s Word.

And, most important of all, he has shown me the way, through his words and through his deeds, to have a deep, personal relationship with Jesus. More than anything else, my father is a man who has been transformed and molded by the grace of God in his life. Yes, it is true that since birth, God gifted my father in some unique ways. But, at a level much deeper than that, I know that my father has been what he has been for me and for many others, not primarily because of his natural talents, but rather because he has obeyed the call of God upon his life, and has been profoundly impacted by a sublimely practical and deeply personal devotion in his daily life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of what I have observed down through the years in my father’s life, I can say today I know what it is to truly be a Christian. Thank you, Daddy, for loving Jesus, and for showing me what it means to have a deep, personal relationship with him.

Yes, indeed, I have been truly blessed. I today am an extremely wealthy man. And I have the challenge before me to be faithful with the great treasure that has been entrusted to me. At times, I feel overwhelmed by that challenge. But, thanks to my Dad, I believe I have the tools I will need to go on. And I will go on, because the same grace of God that touched his life has touched mine as well. Thank you, Daddy, and thank you, God.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cultural Learner

After 16 years of living in Spain, and much reading and reflection on the subject, I can't say I believe I know a whole lot better how to reach Spaniards for Christ than when I came. One thing I think I am learning, though, is that if I am to be used by God in any significant way, it will be through the path of the cross and the path of humility. And that means pain and being humbled.
I'm not advocating just being quiet and accepting the status quo. Sometimes the most humble thing to do is "step up to the plate" and say what needs to be said, without worrying too much about the consequences. If I believe God has given me insight into a particular issue, I am being selfish and a bad steward it I don't share that with others. But I've got to always remember that "while knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church" (1 Cor. 8.1). Attitude is everything.
As North American IMB missionaries in Europe, we hear a lot about things like "postmodernism", "church planting movements", "simple church", etc. And I'm not saying it's bad to read up on these things, and to have opinions. But so many times it is easy to fall into the trap of "I know best what this country needs".
More and more, I sense God leading me to concentrate on loving each stone, that is, each individual God is using as living stones to build up his spiritual temple (2 Peter 2.5). As a missionary in Spain, I believe this especially means my Spanish brethren. I need to honor and respect them, and do what I can to help each one to occupy the place in the "spiritual wall" that God has assigned them. It also includes my missionary colleagues.
I pray God will give me the grace to continue to see myself as a "cultural learner" and never think I have arrived at the point of being a "cultural expert".