Friday, October 20, 2006

A Tale of Two Conventions

After an extremely God-blessed and anointed time at the Pioneer Evangelism seminar at the Spanish Baptist Union’s home mission workers’ retreat on Wednesday and Thursday, I am now at the Spanish Baptist Union’s annual convention, which lasts until Sunday. Thanks for your prayers during the home mission workers’ retreat. God was with us in an unusual way, and I believe we are going to see some wonderful results in the years ahead from the things we all learned during this time.

Having recently attended the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro this past June, I can’t resist making a few comparisons to the Spanish Baptist Convention in Gandía. Whereas in Greensboro, there were more than 11,000 registered delegates, in Gandía there are just over 200. Whereas in Greensboro, everyone was spread out between a number of hotels, and ate in many different restaurants, in Gandía, everyone is in the same hotel, and we all eat together. An interesting cultural note is that, in typical Spanish style, there are bottles of wine automatically placed on all of the tables at the hotel restaurant (of which the great majority, with the notable exception of IMB missionaries, partake). There is also almost certainly a greater diversity of theological views on various subjects represented among the delegates and other attendees at the Spanish Baptist Convention than among those at the Southern Baptist Convention. Among the group, there are a smattering of female pastors. The great majority of Spanish Baptists have no problem with that. Spanish Baptists continue to form a part of the Baptist World Alliance, and have a hard time understanding why we, as Southern Baptists, do not. Of the churches that are growing, it would probably be a fairly safe estimate to say that the great majority are quite open regarding their stance on the practice of miraculous gifts. No entity of the Spanish Bapstist Convention would ever dream of eliminating someone from service because they admitted to having a "private prayer language." In Gandía, there will likely be no politicians giving speeches, but there is expected to be a lively debate regarding whether Baptist churches and/or entities should accept government subsidies for church-related social aid and cultural activities.

The truth is, although I have lived for the past 16 years in Spain, my personal views on many (not all) of these topics align more closely with those of the majority of Southern Baptists than they do with those of the majority of Spanish Baptists. Many Spanish Baptists are aware that, in general, IMB missionaries take a different view on some issues than they do, yet are open to cooperate with us, and respect our views, provided we remain open to cooperate with them, and respect their views. Many of my closest friends in the world, as well as servants of the Lord for whom I have a deep love and respect, are here present at the Spanish Baptist Convention.

Wolfgang Simson, author of the book Houses that Change the World, and one of the most influential leaders in the worldwide House Church movement, says some things in his book, and in person (I have had several opportunities to hear him), that are very insightful, and, I believe, helpful, as we are working to see the Great Commission fulfilled. He also says some things that, in my opinion, are a bit too radical, and of which I am not completely convinced, from the standpoint of a proper contextualization of biblical ecclesiology. However, there is one thing I heard him say on one occasion with which I am in complete agreement. Upon being asked "What is the best thing we as Western missionaries can do to help facilitate church planting movements in other parts of the world?," he responded: "Find a national believer who is on fire for God, and pour gasoline on his/her fire."

Among Spanish Baptists, and especially among the Spanish home mission workers who were at the Pioneer Evangelism seminar these past couple of days, there are a good group of men and women that fit this description. There are others from other denominations and groups of Great Commission Christians who also fit this description, with whom I am happy to work as well. I strongly believe that if we are going to see many disciples made, and churches multiplied, in places like Spain, it will not be through the efforts of Southern Baptists alone. Some of the groups and individuals God is using, and who He is going to continue to use, do not dot every "i" and cross every "t" just like we do. It is my hope, though, that we can be humble enough and strategically perceptive enough to not let this get in the way of doing what we can to come alongside of them, encourage them in their struggles, and "pour gasoline on their fire."

13 comments:

Tim Rogers said...

Brother David,

I pray your convention goes well. I can only imagine the joy and unity you are feeling at this time as you interact with and probably renew friendships.

You made an assessment about doting "i's" and crossing "t's" that I do whish to speak to. It is not that I believe everyone should cross their "i" and dot their "t" the same way I do. I am just advocating they cross their "t" and dot their "i".

Blessings,
Tim

Debbie said...

Your post is what I pray for the Convention here in the states. This is exactly the way it should be.

Anonymous said...

I know you have read Grosey's comments about Australia and how different the beliefs of many Australian Baptists on eternal security and other issues have become as a result of the chairsmatic infiltration. In my country it is the same - the Baptist churches that have become charismatic no longer believe in eternal security, baptism by immerison, and many other things that I had thought were Baptist biblical distinctives. They have the name Baptist on the door - but belief wise they have strayed far from Baptist doctrines. I would suspect that your charismatic leaning churches thee will follow the same path - and then as a result the non-charisamtic churches will move in the other direction totally resisting any working of the Spirit. I have been to Europe 36 times in my life and probably spent severla years there total - I relaize not as much as you - however I have noticed in the conventions where there is a strciter adherence to some of the Biblical principles Baptists have long stood for - in those conventions there seems ot be growth whereas in those where they have a much broader tent - the growth is slow. I realize there are cultural factor in play here and so it would be hard to make a totally accurate assessment - however I predict that the Spanish broad tent will eventually become so broad that it may well collapse unless there is some sort of course correction. It may eventually come to a point however where there attempt to broaden the tent further (maybe in the area of gay rights, abortion or other areas) will cross even your line and at that point how will you "cooperate"? Is there a point where the tent becomes too broad - and yet if you advocate for a broader tent - don't be surprised if eventually it becomes broader than you had anticipated.

Strider said...

Great post David. I would like to respond to Annonymous' concerns. There is an assumption here that unless we are in control then Satan will build his church. The Bible says that Jesus will build His Church. I am not in fear of the charismatics. False doctrine has always been a problem in the church and we should lift up the truth but I will not assume that the enemy is going to win. Read Revelation again. Jesus wins. The Charismatics are not our enemies. They are our brothers who have been deceived in some things. They are our brothers and have much to teach us as well. It is not our tent to decide how wide it should be. It is His Church. We must all be obedient to Christ to do exactly as He tells us. Jesus withdrew from fellowship from noone but many withdrew from him. We must be the same. We are to invite in all who will come with out watering down the truth of His word. We must trust Him to build His Church. The failures that we see around us are not the results of lack of control but of lack of giving control to the only one who can weild it.

David Rogers said...

Anonymous,

As I read back over my post and your comment, I realize I should perhaps make it a little more clear the Spanish Baptist Union is NOT being overrun by Charismatics. The majority of the churches are almost certainly not Charismatic. However, upon looking down through the list of churches on the Annual Report, the ones that show a significant amount of baptisms year in and year out tend to be the more open ones in regards to the practice of spiritual gifts.

Anonymous said...

By the same token cessationists or continualists are not our enemy - so why are so many people blogging about. If God is in control and is ultimately going to win - which He is - then why be vigilant for truth at all? Why not allow infant baptism - after all the Anglicans are not our enemies they are our brothers. I am sorry - I guess I do not understand your logic - the Sovereignty of God does not preclude the reposnsibility of man to b fore vigilant for the truth

Strider said...

David, I am not sure that this is the conversation you want in this comment string but I will reply to Anon again.
Yes, we must fight for the truth, uphold the truth, and live the truth. But how? So much of our history has been fighting heresy with creeds and laws. Galations is pretty clear that having begun by the spirit will we now continue in the flesh? If someone disagrees with us we pass a law. When did Jesus ever do that? He continually confronted people with love. He was not afraid of being run over or having his movement hijacked by charismatics. In the end it cost him his life. This is our example. I am quite confident that David can attest what I am saying when I say that fellowship with folks who don't agree with us has not resulted in many SB M's turning to infant baptism or giving up eternal security. In my ministry I have had the opportunity to influence many great Christian workers who love the Lord but differ on some issue. I believe that it honors our Saviour to befriend these, work with them, and together let God teach us and grow us up into Him. We attack wrong ideas with love, not the law. I don't judge my brother, I fear the Lord alone and allow Him to judge His servants. I think you can tell by the way I am writing right now I am not wishy-washy and I don't let things slide by. I just choose to model our Lord in addressing the problem.

Anonymous said...

I guess the issue is not how we deal with others - I totally agree with your approach and it would be similar to the one I use - HOWEVER - it is an issue of how we operate agencies which we give our money to support. I personally try to work with the charismatic Baptist churches in my country to try to get them to a more Biblical position. I recently worked with a worship team of 6 young people - all of which spoke in tongues when they were leading worship - but three of which had never accepted Christ. However most of these churches do not support the Convention - and do not want to work with the other churches. As a result the convention continues to grow weaker as other churches continue to be lead downt he same path - churches started by our missionaries who toiled and labored - and then 10 years later to see the church leave basic Biblical doctrines and not respond to any sort of loving correction. Again I affirm your approach - however I think an organizaiotn does need to set and define parameters rather than allow what is politically correct at the time define the organiation.

Strider said...

I see the problem you are facing. But I repeat making laws and drawing lines in the sand is useless. The churches that are falling away and the 'believers' that are going down wrong paths would not be served by a rule that says we will disfellowship with you if you don't tow the line on any given point. The answer is a personal relationship with Jesus and a model of deepening that relationship through the Word alone. If God's Word is our ONLY authority and we live that out and teach our disciples to live that out then that is the firmest footing we can give them. Substituting our rules and laws for the authority of scripture plays into the hands of the enemy we face. The root problem in charismatic life is not tongues or signs it is authority. We must model a life that is totally under Jesus' authority. In our work we say that EVERY discipleship question is answered by,'What does the Bible say?' Many of the 'harmful' Charismatic leaders that you deal with are the sole authority for their people. When we start making up rules and laws we do not confront them- we join them and then too often lose in the personality contest that follows.
Sorry David to hijack your blog with this discussion. I will not speak on this again here.
Anon- please don't read that last statement to mean that I have definitively solved anything- I know we have a long way to go on this. But not here.

Grosey's Messages said...

Well, I heard an amzing stement this week. did you know that the greatest hindrance to chuch growth is trained pastors? Only untrained ones have the anointing of God.
Who said this? our new Baptist Union regional superintendant.
Why? Because untrained men respect his authority.
Anyhow, David, just out of interest, in your opinion may I ask if the diversity of the Baptist Union of Spain is from the indirect (or direct)influence of Ruschlikon Seminary in the 80's and 90's?
Rushlikon was strongly Barthian at that time and trained somne of our inclusivist pastors in Australia.
"Inclusive" usually means pro gay as well.
Steve

David Rogers said...

Grosey,

There are a few pastors and leaders in Spain who studied at Ruschlikon, but not very many.

I don't know of any pastor (not saying there may not be some I don't know of) who is "pro-gay" though.

Regarding "trained" and "untrained" pastors, I believe it is a hindrance to the growth of CPMs, or to any type of church multiplication, to require all in pastoral roles to have formal seminary education. However, that does not mean that the less training you have the more useful you are for Kingdom of God. Also, it has been my experience that there are many who are "self-trained" or who have had a good "mentor" who are deeper in their knowledge and application of the Word of God than some with Ph D's in Theology.

Rzrbk said...

David,
Thank you for this thoughtful look at your relationship with the Spanish Baptist Convention and churches. I can relate to much of what you have shared. Last week we had the annual convention of the churches in the area where I serve. We all stayed at a camp ground and ate our meals together in the restaurant on the grounds. Our attendance would have been about the same as yours. Even though drinking is much more accepted here than in the typical SBC community, I have never witnessed any of our pastors drink an alcoholic beverage at a meeting. That may be out of respect for the early missionaries here who were strict teetotalers. Our missionaries are today also although I do not think we could claim the same respect. We also have one or two women pastors but that is not an issue here. A few of our churches have charismatic tendencies but I have not observed that they are growing faster than those who are not charismatic. We are also members of the BWA and it would be almost impossible to explain to them why the SBC is not.
Your last two paragraphs were very instructive. I agree with the concept of coming alongside them and pouring gas on the fire. I wonder, since New Directions how that has worked out in your part of the world. How have missionaries shared the vision of CPM with the conventions and how is it accepted? I have heard that in many places little was done to explain CPM and almost nothing was done to listen to the concerns of local believers. I have never felt we did all we could to bring our traditional conventions and churches on board with what we were trying to do. In fact in some cases we almost drove them away in our zeal to be on line with our new strategies.
Ron West

David Rogers said...

Ron,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I would say that it appears New Directions has played out in Spain in a very similar fashion to your country of service. I, personally, think that New Directions brought about some very needed changes. But, we could have done a much better job at communicating the changes with our national partners. In the long run, I think that not taking the time necessary to bring our national partners on board with us is really going to prove to be a "thorn in our side." Little by little, I am doing what I can to try to mend some of the gaps, and look for new ways we can work together. But, in many cases, it is definitely an uphill climb.