Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wayne Grudem on "Ministering Together"

In the compiling of the book Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views, each of the four main contributors first wrote their main essays defending their respective views. Next, each one wrote a response to each of the original essays. After this, all four of them, together with editor Wayne Grudem, met together for a two-day closed-door conference to further discuss their views and differences before composing their concluding remarks. At the end of it all, Grudem himself makes some closing remarks. Given the issues being talked about lately within the SBC and parameters of cooperation, I believe Grudem’s closing paragraphs are especially poignant:

Could we minister together? My second comment has to do with relationships among pastors who differ over these issues, taking myself and the four authors as a test case. In reflecting on all that has now been written and said, I have wondered what would happen if, by some unusual work of God’s providence, the five of us somehow found ourselves together in a church where we were the only five elders and where we could agree to share the pulpit ministry equally among ourselves. Would it work? Would we stay together, or would we inevitably form five different churches?

I don’t know what the other authors might say, but my answer is this: I think we would have to work hard to find some "neutral" vocabulary that we as elders could use to refer to certain experiences and phenomena in the life of the church. I think we would have to work hard at allowing a variety of kinds of home fellowship groups with different emphases and different styles (and perhaps different things happening!). I think that we would have to spend regular hours in prayer and earnest discussion together to be sure that the overall focus of the church was on Christ and the advancement of his kingdom. I think that we would have to work hard at letting the congregation know that, though we differed on certain doctrinal matters, we greatly appreciated each other’s gifts and ministries.

But after acknowledging those challenges, and yet knowing these other four men as I do, I really think that it would work. I think that we could live and minister and pray together. I think we could offer pastoral care to one another and to each other’s families. I think that we would frequently know times of incredible depth of intercession together for the work of the church. In fact, if this were to happen, I think that it might even be the most exciting and enjoyable time of ministry that any of us had ever known. And I think that the Lord himself would take delight in it and would enjoy fellowshipping with us and blessing us, and would tell us,

How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down upon the collar of his robes.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.



Bro. Robin said...

Bro. David,

It has been a while since we conversed, but one thing that struck me in his comments is the fact, a system would need to be in place for this to happen and a level of accountability would need to be maintained so no one would create disunity. I don't believe you fall in this camp, but there is still a push in our convention to eschew doctrinal accountability. Accountability is needed if unity will survive.

Another item in what you copied from Dr. Grudem, if anyone had differing beliefs, neutral vocabulary would need to be used. I am not sure I am comfortable with "neutral" vocabulary. I wish he could give a specific example to help clarify.

Also, I believe he is speaking about a local church setting. Accountability would be easier to maintain than in a larger cooperative effort that includes other churches from across the country and possibly the world.

I also noticed that he said the way to unity is division. They would have to separate themselves in order to focus on kingdom building. I really haven't thought this one through, but it seems odd that unity would be created in a system that purposely divides itself in order to make people feel comfortable in differing styles and gifts.

I think it would be great to dialog with Dr. Grudem further on this. I have respected his work for a long time and I think his systematic theology is the best on the theological scene today.

Thank you for your efforts on the field David.

Bro. Robin

Kevin Bussey said...

I hope we can minister together. We are all going to be in heaven together. David, I appreciate your spirit!

Anonymous said...

I've never read Psalm 133 this way, but I was just thinking of my two sons. Literal blood brothers. And how incredible it is for Tara and me when they are playing together, enjoying one another, and not fighting.

And, here's a comment just for thought. I really don't know if this is true (what I'm about to say about Robin's comment), but it came to mind as I read Bro. Robin's comment. He asks for a "system" and has concern about neutral vocab. As I read it, as an attorney, I felt like I was seeing someone who was trying to spot issues and problems like an attorney would do.

Now, here's the good part....I just wonder what would happen if we stopped trying to find problems and holes and issues in the living out of God's principles??? Like, what would really happen if we just took God's word at His word and we obeyed principles like Ephesians 4 and 5 and didn't worry about whether someone might take advantage? I mean, if we were to love and give selflessly, then no one can take advantage, right? Because we are giving. period. We don't expect a return.

David Rogers said...


From my experience on the mission field, the closest thing to a "church staff" or "ministry team" is a "church planting team." At this level, it is at times a bit difficult to work well together, if team members have different core values.

At a wider level, I believe these difficulties are more easily dealt with. As a supervisor, for example, if I know a colleague who is accountable to me is not a "good fit" for a particular ministry situation, or on a particular team, I will look for another situation or team where he/she will be a better "fit."

There are all sorts of issues, beyond just views of miraculous gifts, where this happens all the time.

I do not see this as disunity. I see it as good management.

Biblically, we have a parallel to this with Paul & Barnabas, when they decided to split up, and decided to form new teams, respectively, with Silas, and John Mark. Yes, at first, they had a good "dispute" about it. But later, I believe, they maintained fellowship, but just realized it was better to work on separate teams.

For His Glory said...

Bro. David,

I believe that the importance of your "voice" these days in SBC life cannot be overstated. I find your writings to be gracious, thoughtful, and courageous enough to address the issues within our SBC family.

Thank you for the effort that you give to the blog and I pray that God will give you favor with men. May God bless us with denominational and agency leadership that will strive toward unity in the essentials, liberty in the non essentials, and charity in all.

Darren Casper
St. Louis

Rusty said...

Your last several post have been very insightful and thought provoking. I would hope that we can continue to work together under the umbrella of accountabilty that has been in place to find unity. My worry is that the parameters of accountabilty continue to change at both the national level (IMB)and in the field, and this will make unity impossible. When field supervisors (and those in the states) use parameters outside of the BFM to hold missionaries accountable it can only lead to witch hunts and personal attacks. I had hoped that after the changes to the BFM there would no longer be an issue of "doctrinal purity" for those serving overseas. Maybe I am just naive to wonder why we have had a system in place that has seemed to work so long and missions and ministries prospered and now it is "broken" because we want to redefine the "parameters". I am afraid many confuse unity with uniformity- there is a difference. God bless you and the grace in which you present and discuss these topics.

Grosey's Messages said...

Thank you for the post.
I was in a similar position to the one that Grudem foreshadows:
I had one elder who was gung ho for tongues etc,
I had one elder who was gung ho 3rd wave.
I had one elder who was open (his wife was gung ho on tongues).
I had one elder who was open but cynical.
And I was the cessationist.
Can it work? The only differnce was that I was the main preacher.
We saw 100% growth in conversions and church membership in 4 years.
We built a great auditorium etc.
We saw the pentecostal stuff become less important and Christ being magnified.
We were able to host significant events : Conferences and crusades with Bill Yaeger, Tom Elliff, Errol Hulse...
We had regular half days of prayer and even saw people walking past the building converted on the spot!
The Third waver became more conservative and set up Sowers International (Open Air Campaigners) in Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and planted a few hundred churches.
The exteme tongues guy helped me plant a new thriving church near an army base, at which one of the world's new young conservative baptist theologians was converted.
It all worked well until a guy who was unqualified to be an elder held the church to ransom to be an elder came on the elder board. We took him on to contain him.
The church and elder board had made slight shifts to a more conservative position. For the sake of power this fellow took a more liberal and charismatic theological position. For the sake of power, (and ignorance), he set up a splinter group. The church is now one fifth of its size.
It can work, provided that the flesh doesn't dominate and there is respect for the others viewpoint. Each of the original elders accepted the others differences in theological perspective and met together sometimes twice a week for prayer and elders conferences.
Personally, I think Chuck Swindoll's big 4 are more often the reason for destruction in churches than theological differences: the lust for Power Pleasure , Finances or Fame seem to be the real cause of strife in churches.
Love ya guys even though we may differ.

Anonymous said...


While I personnally fall into the open, but cautious (cautious that the tongues being practiced are biblical Acts 2 tongues) view, I certainly rejoice in the ministries of those who differ.

Can we disagree on this issue and affirm and support one another within the kingdom? Certainly. Within the SBC? Possibly. Within a specific congregation? Doubtful. I personally believe there needs to be a clear teaching within a local body, which is why I affirm a primary (if not single) elder rule within a church.

If you would allow one further comment: I'm sure you hear this all the time, but the ministry of your father was instrumental in my life at a crucial point, even all the way in Upstate NY. Much of what I am as a pastor is directly impacted by what I learned from his blessed sermon tapes.

Brad Guenther

Perry McCall said...

I agree with the spirit of everyone's comments. I think pastor Brad's thoughts are probably the most realistic. My concern does rest mostly at the local level. The bottom line is that all of these positions are not correct. They are irreconcilable. I personally am still working through scripture
trying to come to my personal convictions. I am concerned that we are falling into the trap of allowing experience to dictate the meaning of scripture. Admittedly, I am skeptical towards the practice of gifts but genuinely undecided. However, I read a comment recently that stated, "Who am I to say they don't speak in tongues?" I appreciate the sincerity but the scriptures determine whether or not some has or hasn't spoken in tongues. If the cessationist interpretation is correct, then nobody is currently speaking in tongues. The gifts are in operation or they are not. Scripture must be the standard not personal experience. Now, if somebody more able than me could solve the interpretive problem and let me know I would greatly appreciate it:)