Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I Commit my Love to You

Back in 1982, as a college student, listening to Christian radio, I first heard a song that had an "anointing" like few I had heard before, or have heard since. The message of that song deeply impacted me.

The song is "I Commit my Love to You" by Twila Paris. That was the first time I had heard Twila Paris, who would later go on to become one of the most beloved Christian music artists of all time. Although my personal music tastes, especially in Christian music, are a bit more what some have classified as "alternative" (see my profile), I have always enjoyed and been blessed by Twila Paris’s music, due to its depth, sincerity, and creative quality.

I would love to be able to link you directly to a recording of the entire song, but ethical concerns limit me to this sample sound-clip. (The whole song is available for sale by download here.)

I would like to dedicate this song to all with whom I have expressed some disagreement or another on this blog, or through the comment section of someone else’s blog, in the past months. I do believe we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, should feel the freedom to share openly our convictions related to our understanding of God’s Word, even if this, at times, means disagreeing with someone else. However, at all times, we must be careful to treat each other with love and respect, watching our words and our hearts.

I COMMIT MY LOVE TO YOU - by Twila Paris (1982)

If, by love, we show the world
That we are His disciples
I can’t take it lightly
I commit my love to you
I will tear down all the walls
I built with my selfish pride
And I will crucify it
I commit my love to you

‘Cause when we are divided
I can hear Him crying
And I can’t be a part of breaking His heart anymore
I can’t do it anymore
So brother, I commit my love to you

And if you have offended me
You know you are forgiven
And I will not remember
I commit my love to you
I will see the best in all you do
And I will defend you
When they come against you
I commit my love to you

‘Cause when we are divided
I can hear Him crying
And I can’t be a part of breaking His heart anymore
I can’t do it anymore
When we are divided
I can hear Him crying
And I won’t be a part of breaking His heart anymore
I just can’t do it anymore
So brother I commit my love to you
I commit my love to you

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Reply to Brad Reynolds, Keith Eitel, Paige Patterson & Robin Hadaway

Dr. Brad Reynolds, Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has recently posted a series of papers on his blog, one written by Dr. Keith Eitel, and the other by Drs. Keith Eitel, Paige Patterson & Robin Hadaway, regarding supposed doctrinal and philisophical problems at the IMB under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Rankin. Earlier on this blog, I have already commented on Dr. Eitel’s first paper. The second paper, which I reproduce in its entirety here, is quite lengthy. However, I believe the issues discussed therein are of a relative enough importance to justify the length of this post.

Dr. Reynolds is a strong advocate of the views taken on both of these papers. On his blog, he has issued a challenge tp those who think they have an answer to the concerns raised on the second paper to come forth. It is in response to this challenge that I publish this post.

I must add that the views expressed in italics below, in response to the text of the above-mentioned paper, are my own, and not those of anyone else. Dr. Rankin, as I understand, already wrote his own answer back in 2003 when the paper was first written. At this point, I am not sure of exactly what Dr. Rankin wrote. It is quite possible that my own views on some of the issues mentioned are different in one way or another from those of Dr. Rankin. I, however, remain supportive of Dr. Rankin’s leadership, and the way in which he has handled these issues.

I would also at this time like to affirm my love and appreciation for Drs. Reynolds, Eitel, Patterson, and Hadaway. Although I have some sincere discrepancies with some things all of these men have written, I regard each of them to be sincere brothers in Christ, and consecrated servants of the Lord.

What follows is a direct transcript of Dr. Reynolds’ post, including the text of the Eitel-Patterson-Hadaway paper, and also my comments in italics interjected throughout…

Dr. Eitel's Second Paper w Drs. Patterson & Hadaway

Brad Reynolds: This second paper will dispel the notion that Dr. Eitel's first paper was erroneous. Interestingly, this paper did not recieve much attention by baptist news agencies and almost NO attention by fact this will be the first time many of you have ever read this!!! It was written to validate Dr. Eitel's concerns, after his first paper was accused of referencing "isolated incidences." According to one Trustee, this paper helped move the Trustees to address needed changes. Other than footnotes it is published in its entirety. It is long but revealing of 2003 and before.As one missionary pointed out recently, it is the responsibility of administrators and professors to protect their students and address concerns their students have. Thank God for the response of Dr. Patterson and Dr. Eitel and the impetus this response has provided for the restructuring of curriculum at the ILC. Now, I call on all bloggers who have wrongfully accused Dr. Patterson and Dr. Eitel concerning their papers to issue a public apology.

David Rogers: It would be helpful to know just what you mean by "wrongfully accusing Dr. Patterson and Dr. Eitel concerning their papers." I have written some opinions about their papers, but I am not sure if I have ever "accused" Dr. Patterson or Dr. Eitel, much less "wrongfully accused" them.

Drs. Paige Patterson, Keith Eitel, & Robin Hadaway

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: In keeping with a simple and yet focused discussion format, the following depicts the primary concerns raised by the "Vision Assessment" white paper written by Keith Eitel and the subsequent flow of email and letter exchanges that bring us to this meeting. A given issue is stated, then supporting evidence is offered, and finally a possible way forward is proposed. The incidences cited as examples to various issues are only representative. Numerous other instances could be noted from multiple regions over about 15 years of observed practice on the field. In other words, these ARE NOT isolated incidences. They are systemic problems running throughout the structure.

David Rogers: In my opinion, just stating that the examples are "only representative" and "numerous other instances could be noted" does not prove there are "systemic problems running throughout the structure." In my opinion, it is not objective to claim that the examples given, on their own, even if valid (to which I will respond later), are sufficient to warrant the claim of "systemic problems."

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: In addition, details supporting Eitel’s contentions have been contributed by Robin Hadaway. Some of these comments are from Hadaway’s paper, "Rejoicing Together: Balancing the Biblical Perspectives: A Missiological Analysis."Issue One: What is the precise policy and practice relating to church planting? Are we planting Baptist (not merely Baptistic) churches? If the practice is varied, what are the guidelines for determining whether we plant a Baptist church or not? To what degree are we involved in ecumenical church planting? What theological guidelines do we have to prevent this as we partner with the Great Commission Christians around the world?

David Rogers: I have dealt with the topic of "Baptist" vs. "baptistic" churches earlier on this blog. If this is the headline issue, I think we are mistaken in our emphasis. We should, in my opinion, be more interested in the advance of the Kingdom of God than labels and "denominational distinctives." The term "ecumenical church planting" is, in my opinion, a "red herring." Different people assign different meanings to the term "ecumenical," and we all know that. I think we would need to first define so-called "ecumenical church planting" and demonstrate why it is such a bad thing, before asking what we need to do to prevent it.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Observations

• SD21 data has a curious pattern for gathering the data. 10% of the entire field force was surveyed to discover a variety of things, mostly reflective of how well they’ve understood the Church Planting Movement (CPM) concepts and methods. However, the section designed to determine whether the IMB is planting Baptist churches or not is only an opinion scale from the 15 regional chairpersons of the trustee board in consultation with the 15 regional leaders. This same material could have been easily included in the field survey given to the field missionaries. This in and of itself reflects a skewed methodology, but more importantly it seems to imply that the field findings might mitigate the desired outcomes and demonstrate that we are not consistently planting Baptist churches. Rather we’re planting churches that reflect more the mix of ideas inherent in a blend of Great Commission Christian ideas, often neo-charismatic leaning and quasi Biblical (see a discussion of this GCC concept below).

David Rogers: Once again, I fail to see the problem with planting "baptistic" as opposed to "Baptist" churches. Also, the term "neo-charismatic" needs defining. I will leave judgment regarding the comment of being "quasi Biblical" for the discussion below.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • While on sabbatical in the fall of 2002, Eitel observed five different locations and the network of work in those locations in China. Consistently, there seemed to be an emphasis on the GCC partnerships as vital to the process of planting churches. Dr. David Garrison’s booklet on Church Planting draws concentric circles of levels of partnership. On paper it looks feasible, but in practice in China (Eitel has also observed this in numerous other settings), it breaks down. When pioneers are first entering a people group or city, finding any other believer to work with is an encouragement. Natural bonds of friendship and affiliation develop. The momentum of these relationships carries over and causes the concentric lines of partnership (which are designed to determine when and how missionaries should partner) to collapse. It’s easier to ignore doctrinal differences and not push Baptist distinctives in order to foster a so-called unity in planting the churches. This type of unity is superficial and will usually erupt into conflict after the initial phases of planting the churches.

David Rogers: This, in my opinion, is a biased assumption.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: In order to avoid this syndrome, some missionaries advocate and practice a method of planting so-called churches that means brand new believers are encouraged to share Christ immediately, gather a group of unbelievers together and teach them the essentials of the faith to bring them to Christ, and then in a pyramid fashion, the cycle repeats rapidly.

David Rogers: The terms "so-called churches" and "pyramid fashion" are loaded terms. I would think more specific and objective evidence would be needed before using these terms. For example, what specific "so-called churches" have been planted? And why specifically do they not meet the qualifications of legitimate New Testament churches? On what basis is the term "pyramid fashion" used? And, even if a pyramid-shaped organigram could be demonstrated, on what basis is this necessarily bad? 

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: While this is indeed a great evangelistic tool, it does not foster maturation of the church, leadership development nor establishment of long-term vision or stability for the church. It seems to rely almost exclusively on the early sections of Acts as a foundation for this model while ignoring the patterns of maturation found in the Pastorals and General Epistles. Nevertheless, this rapid reproduction allows the missionary to avoid the doctrinal issues that come with GCC partners yet they do not compensate for it by taking the time to "commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

David Rogers: I believe this is a false dichotomy. Rapid reproduction is not necessarily contrary to church maturation and leadership development. While some missionaries may have a natural inclination to avoid in-depth discipleship and leadership training, I do not see the evidence that this is happening across the board in systemic fashion with IMB missionaries. The ideal to which I believe almost all, if not all, IMB workers would at least give verbal assent, is churches that multiply as rapidly as possible, while at the same time making authentic, biblically-sound disciples of Jesus Christ. There is an inherent tension between these two issues, and sometimes we may get off-balance in one direction or the other. But to say that missionaries intentionally seek rapid reproduction as a means to avoid doctrinal issues, is, I believe, unwarranted and disingenuous.
Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • In Islamic contexts, the GCC influences are stimulating unhealthy contextualization patterns that undermine New Testament Church Planting much less anything Baptist. For example, a missionary wrote to me about this very issue. He stated that someone working with Frontiers had come to teach them about how to establish C-5 Islamic churches.

David Rogers: It is not good enough to just throw out the term "C-5 Islamic churches" without specifically referencing the doctrinal problems involved. Certainly, in Islamic settings, questions regarding contextualization need to be seriously studied and considered. Some, no doubt, err on the side of too much contextualization leading to syncretism, while others on the side of too little contextualization, leading to a presentation of an essentially foreign Gospel. Since none of us were present at the presentation referenced here, I think it best to withhold judgment without more specific information. And, even if, on this particular occasion, lines were crossed into unhealthy contextualization, nothing is proved regarding systemic problems throughout the organization.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: This missionary goes on to say that another GCC partner was willing to call someone coming from an Islamic background that is in a C-5 church plant a believer even though that person emphatically denies the deity of Christ.

David Rogers: Once again, just because one "believer" is confused about doctrine, and happens to be involved in a so-called "C-5 church plant," does not demonstrate anything to me. There will always be those who misunderstand, miscommunicate, or distort the essence of any movement. Does one bad apple spoil the whole bunch?

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Yet, this approach to CPM is encouraged and doctrinal concerns are subsumed to foster a so-called unity. Conversely, Dr. Hadaway reports that his strategy in Sudan called for starting Baptist churches (and calling them Baptist) from the beginning. This work has grown through the team Hadaway started and others have continued to over 85 churches and 100 "outreach groups." His rationale for the persecuted world was "since it was illegal to start any kind of church in Sudan, one might as well start an illegal Baptist church than an illegal non-defined church."

David Rogers: I have no problem with Dr. Hadaway advocating the strategy he advocated in Sudan. But just because one particular strategy may have shown good results in one setting does not mean it must necessarily be "cookie-cutter" duplicated in every setting around the world.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • In 1992 Hadaway (then an SC) attended a strategy meeting where SC’s were encouraged to partner with Eastern Orthodox churches in their strategies.

David Rogers: Why not say here in what specific ways the SCs were "encouraged to partner with Eastern Orthodox churches in their strategies"? Could we not possibly be talking about level 1 or 2 "Strategic Relationships" here?
Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Dr. David Garrison (then a CSI administrator) said at this meeting, "It does not matter the gender of the pastors of the churches with whom you bring into your areas."

David Rogers: Grammatically, I am unsure what this quote means. If it means what I think it means, though, we must remember that this was in 1992, 8 years before the BFM 2000 revision. Once again, if I am understanding correctly, this is not talking about IMB missionaries as women pastors, but rather, the possibility of cooperation (once again, the specific type or level of cooperation is not mentioned) with churches that have women pastors.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: In addition, SC’s were encouraged to include charismatic groups such as the Assemblies of God denomination in their strategies, including church planting.

David Rogers: Once again, there are many different possible ways to "include charismatic groups such as the Assemblies of God" in strategies and in church planting. The SC model involves reaching entire people groups with the Gospel. A part of this is networking with all those throughout the Body of Christ who are also working with that particular people group. If Assembly of God folks are reaching people within our people group for Christ, and planting churches among them, are we to completely avoid them, or ignore them, as we think through our strategies to see our people group evangelized? I would think we must, rather, take them into account, and think together about how we might be able to help each other out, in order to maximize the total evangelistic effort. This does not, however, necessarily involve Baptist missionaries teaching or promoting Assembly of God doctrine.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • In late 1996/early 1997 Hadaway (then a supervisor of SC’s) attended a meeting called by David Weston to plan to enter the country of "Narnia." CBF representatives (husband and wife) were invited by David Weston to this meeting and attended to take part in the evangelism and church planting strategy. They were introduced as CBF representatives in the meeting Hadaway attended. Although today’s SC’s are given the Garrison document concerning concentric circles of levels of partnership, it is still up to each SC how he or she applies the guidance. Each SC has the freedom to partner with whomever they desire.

David Rogers: Once again, what is so patently wrong with CBF representatives participating in a joint planning meeting? Should we "blackball" anyone associated with CBF in anyway from any of our SBC-related activities just because we hold a grudge against them? It was not stated that the CBF representatives were in anyway speaking into IMB workers’ strategy. But, even so, if some CBF workers happened to have some good ideas regarding mission strategy, should it be anathema to even listen to what they have to say?

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • These and numerous other examples can be offered but suffice it to say we’re likely not involved in the formal Ecumenical movement per se, but we’re heavily involved in the Evangelical version of ecumenism by default due to a lack of careful partnering and questionable church planting methods.

David Rogers: What is so bad about the "Evangelical version of ecumenism"? I’m not saying there may not be certain levels of cooperation with certain groups that would be problematic. But to say in "broad strokes" that the "Evangelical version of ecumenism" is a default evil to be avoided is a little extreme, in my opinion, and demands a more specific justification.
Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Possible Solution

• For all forms of church planting, any partners involved should be inherently in agreement with the BF&M 2000. This will provide a clearly Baptist blueprint for the established pattern of the church and all GCC’s should be able to agree with these beliefs or we should only partner with them on more superficial levels, if the doctrinal differences are not so significant as to undermine partnering at all.

David Rogers: This would mean effectively eliminating even many Baptist Conventions and Unions around the world from church planting partnership, and for all practical purposes, leaving us, as foreign American workers, to "break the missional code" all by ourselves. I think that comment #14 on my last blogpost, by British Baptist pastor Robert Dando in response to the BFM stipulation regarding "closed communion," is very enlightening regarding this: "In one sense people may know, this is a old, old question for those in the UK as it was pretty much settled in the early 19th Century here, and there are very, very few "closed" (I think the historic term is "strict") communion churches here." This distancing of ourselves from even other Baptist Unions, in fact, is a trend I have observed in recent years, and the results we have been getting from it are not very encouraging, as far as the number of churches planted and disciples made.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Since 1963 missionary candidates have been allowed to become missionaries without totally agreeing with the BF&M. Missionary candidates have been permitted to register their disagreement with particular points of the BF&M as long as they agree to " teach in accordance with and not contrary to" the 2000 BF&M. However, such allowances place missionaries in the uncomfortable position of ministering counter to their own beliefs- something difficult, if not impossible to do. When IMB leadership asked the Region Leaders (RL’s) and Vice Presidents to sign the 2000 BF& M, two RL’s could not sign the document. One RL resigned his position, while the other signed with an annotation. The IMB is the only SBC agency that allows their personnel to disagree with specific elements of the BF& M. Seminary professors at the six SBC seminaries cannot object to points of BF& M and agree to "teach in accordance with and not contrary to" the BF & M. Presently, even ADJUNCT professors teaching at our Southern Baptist seminaries must sign the BF&M 2000 without annotation. We are in the interesting situation where we have many missionaries and even some Regional Leaders who can serve with the IMB in responsible capacities but could not teach even as a visiting professor at one of our six seminaries. This issue was discussed in early 2002 at an IMB senior Management meeting attended by the President, Vice-Presidents, and the Resident Regional Leader (Hadaway). John White introduced the subject by calling for a "post decision analysis" of how IMB leadership had handled the BF&M 2000 issue. In response to John White’s call for free and honest discussion, Hadaway said, "If anyone cannot sign the 2000 BF&M without annotations they should not be missionaries." The President asked me, "So you would disagree with the IMB’s long-standing policy of allowing missionary candidates to note their points of disagreement with the BF&M." Hadaway replied, "Yes, as other SBC agencies do not given their employees this option." Therefore, IMB trustees could better insure that missionaries will follow the BF & M if all missionaries who are appointed to supervisory, RL, and Vice-Presidential roles are not allowed to express points of disagreement with the BF & M. If the trustees do not desire to revisit the BF&M issue with regular missionaries who have signed with annotations, then this board should appoint only applicants who can fully affirm the BF&M. In addition, those who are appointed to supervisory positions (SC’s, Strategy Associates, Richmond Associates, Administrative Associates, and Associate Vice-Presidents) and those who are elected by trustees (RL’s, Vice-Presidents and President) should affirm the BF&M without annotations.

David Rogers: As I have previously indicated on this blog, I personally signed the BFM 2000, (as well as, upon appointment, the BFM 1963) with an annotation indicating my discrepancy with "closed communion." If this recommendation were followed to the letter of the law, I would be eliminated from missionary service. I find it hard to believe the majority of SBC constituents would be pleased with this, if they were to know the details.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Issue Two: How many of our IMB missionaries are involved in the neo-charismatic movement, and what is presently being taught and advocated by staff concerning "spiritual warfare"?

David Rogers: Once again, the term "neo-charismatic" needs further definition.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Observations

• Each year, Eitel leads three short-term mission teams of students somewhere in the world to engage the fields and contribute to the evangelistic and church planting strategies of numerous SC’s worldwide. When working in a Central Asian country in the summer of 2001, the region sponsored a "spiritual warfare" workshop for our students as a preface to engaging in prayer walking through a city. The individual leading the workshop was seconded to the IMB from Frontiers and said he wasn’t taking an extreme approach to spiritual warfare. However, he studied at Fuller Seminary under John Wimber, Peter Wagner, and Charles Kraft. He definitely showed strong influence if not full embrace of their extremist positions e.g. territorial spirits, new revelations, and a complete lack of understanding whether seeking after spirits is more important than simply speaking the Gospel. When prayer walking, we were strictly told not to talk to the people of the city but only to be open to a word from the Spirit.

David Rogers: Just because someone studied at Fuller Seminary under John Wimber, Peter Wagner, and Charles Kraft does not mean they fully embrace their ideas. I wonder what type of ideas Dr. Eitel himself was exposed to while he was working on his doctorate at the University of South Africa. In my opinion, to say "He definitely showed strong influence if not full embrace of their extremist positions e.g. territorial spirits, new revelations, and a complete lack of understanding whether seeking after spirits is more important than simply speaking the Gospel" is a personal opinion of Dr. Eitel. Since I was not there, I am unable to judge whether or not this was indeed the case. Dr. Eitel may think that I myself show strong influence from Wimber, Wagner, and Kraft, since I too have read many of their works, and have gained some interesting insight from them. I definitely do not accept everything they have said or written, though.

In any case, the fact that someone from Frontiers came to give their perspective on spiritual warfare to a group of IMB workers in Central Asia, even if his views were extreme, does not trouble me so much, as long as our workers were given opportunity to debate and point out the extremes in what he was saying. IMB workers, at least for the most part, are responsible adults, and are able to sift through the teaching that is being offered to them from the outside. Sometimes it is good to be exposed to new ideas, and to be aware of trends from the greater evangelical world. As 1 Thessalonians 5.21 says: "Test everything. Hold on to the good." And a couplet I learned in high school: "Read all the books upon your shelf, but do the thinking for yourself."

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Career missionaries often speak of problematic workshops where such ideologies are given and without any critical biblical reasoning allowed. They’re often made to feel as if they are not fully Christian if they even raise a question about the legitimacy of any aspect of such a presentation.

David Rogers: Once again, the use of the term "often" is, in my opinion, overly subjective to be of any use, unless there were further specific information given to back it up.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Missionaries on the field are implementing these things. One lady missionary felt she had to exorcise her curtains of evil spirits. Many who embrace these things are taking it in without thinking it through biblically. Most that fall prey to these strange doctrines have had little or no theological education and don’t have the tools with which to analyze what they’re hearing.

David Rogers: Once again, the terms "many" and "most" are pure conjecture without specific evidence to back them up. The only example of "these things" the missionaries on the field are "implementing" is of one lady. And, even in this particular case, without giving any more specific details, I believe I have good reason to question the validity of the use of the phrase "exorcise her curtains of evil spirits." The last time I checked, cleaning your house of potential evil spiritual influences, and "exorcism" are completely different things.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Possible Solution

• Short-term solution would be to redesign the workshops throughout the field structures and bring the subject into biblical balance. Primarily, creating a "reactive" not a "proactive" approach to dealing with the demonic world. That is, be proactive about speaking the Gospel and only stop to deal reactively with demonic issues when/if necessary.

David Rogers: If John says "the whole world is under control of the evil one" (1 John 5.19), Paul talks about opening eyes, turning people from darkness to light, and "from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26.18), and Jesus sent out the 12 and the 70 with authority to cast out demons (Luke 9, 10), I am not sure it is extreme to be "proactive" in dealing with the demonic realm. I intuit a different approach to the realm of the demonic on the part of the authors of this paper to that of my own. If my view can be demonstrated as unbiblical, I will be happy to dialogue about it, and adjust my views accordingly. However, I suspect a larger percentage of Southern Baptists than the authors would want to admit would also be sympathetic to my view. As these questions are not dealt with in the BFM, I believe it would be unfair to impose them as expectations on all IMB missionaries.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Long-term, strengthen the required biblical and theological requirements for appointment to give the missionaries better depth understand of Scripture and practice in analyzing issues theologically.

David Rogers: I have my M.Div. from Southwestern Seminary, having transferred in a number of credits from Mid-America Seminary. Apparently, my studies have not kept me from coming to the views I espouse on these issues. Maybe, if I got my doctorate, I would be able to discern the error of my ways. ;-)
Seriously, I think theological education is a good thing, in general. But, in my opinion, based on 16 years of international missionary service, more seminary education does not necessarily translate into greater effectiveness on the mission field. Of course, missionary candidates need to be adequately trained, but sometimes the skills needed on the mission field are somewhat different from those taught in our seminaries.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • The IMB receives career, associate and apprentice missionaries from many theological seminaries. In addition, the IMB receives ISC (Journeymen, Masters and ISC) missionaries who have not attended college at all. Since the missionary force comes to the IMB with such varied backgrounds it is no wonder that different beliefs and practices come into conflict with one another on the field. Theology and PRACTICE courses are needed at MLC so that missionaries understand the acceptable parameters for personnel.

David Rogers: I personally went through MLC in 1994. Although it was not perfect, I, in general, felt I received a good base of training, in both theological and practical issues, during my time there, and left feeling I had a pretty good idea of "acceptable parameters for personnel." That is, unless my own thinking falls out of line with the parameters alluded to here. Of course, since I have not been present for subsequent orientation sessions, I cannot objectively comment on the content of them.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Issue Three: What is the policy and practice of the IMB regarding gender roles? Are women placed in supervisory roles such as Strategy Coordinators over men? Are women encouraged to learn to baptize converts and administer the Lord's Supper? Are women urged to be the de facto pastor "leaders" of house churches or any other missionary assignment like the Strategy Coordinator role?


• One lady student, while serving in her 2+2 assignment, was asked if she wanted to be the SC for a particular city. She declined sensing it was best for a man to serve in that capacity. When the male SC and his wife went home and chose not to return, a lady SC was put in his place. Our student was suddenly ordered to perform the ordinance of baptism for a set of new believers. She was distraught as these are exactly the kinds of things she wanted to avoid. She did more than her share of evangelizing, but she didn’t think it was right to perform pastoral-like functions. Until she appealed to a higher authority that intervened and got her SC to relent, she was in a predicament. The lady SC, by the way, had never been to seminary, was middle-aged, and divorced yet served in a pastoral-like role. Our student thus described the conflict she felt having to sign the BF&M 2000 and then being taught to perform both ordinances while at the MLC (a practice that has only recently been stopped, at least temporarily).

David Rogers: Of course, anyone "ordering" a missionary colleague to "perform" baptisms is out of line inasmuch as it represents a very poor leadership style. I definitely think the preferences and convictions of this 2+2 missionary should have been respected. It is instructive, from my perspective, however, that the higher authority did have the wisdom to intervene in this case, indicating this was perhaps an isolated incident, rather than something endemic in the system. Personally, however, I believe the idea that "performing ordinances," necessarily linked to a "pastoral-like role," comes much more from our denominational traditions (as inherited from Roman Catholic, and later Protestant Reformation traditions) than from the Bible. Although the BFM does state that both ordinances are "church ordinances," it never states that their "performance" is a prerogative limited to pastors.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Curtis Sergeant, the former associate vice president for Strategy Coordination, has had significant input in the design and implementation of the MLC curriculum and teaching of the CPM methodology, especially over the past 2 years. He interprets the BF&M 2000 very strictly and concludes that as long as lady missionaries are not serving specifically as pastors of local churches, then the IMB is in compliance with the document. Yet, he turns around and says in an email correspondence to Eitel, " . . . if anyone asked me, I would certainly have nothing against it [having ladies administer the Lord’s Supper] . . . All disciples are ministers, however, including women." Again, in the MLC handout he uses to teach on CPM methodology, he concludes by giving the reader an impression of what the newly established church might look like. "They [the churches] frequently have women in key roles in the church. Women are viewed as ministers, as having spiritual gifts just as much as men, even in patriarchal societies." Again, in his D.Min. Project, he affirms this same value with the fine line of distinction affirming that a lady should not "pastor" a local church but may do all the ministries of a pastor e.g. administer the ordinances, teach, and lead. By emphasizing that the New Testament requires multiple elders in a local congregation, women can fully participate in leadership roles without holding the title of "pastor", functionally circumventing the restrictions he acknowledges elsewhere. Sergeant has had significant influence on the SC structure on the field in numerous regions. He states in his Project that over the course of the years he personally taught 727 SCs (Strategy Coordinators) and was the primary resource person for 150 others (see page 14 of his Project). Additionally, in his present role he teaches hundreds of new missionaries headed to the field and encourages ladies to assume leadership roles that are pastor-like, even the performance of ordinances.

David Rogers: Having not gone through MLC orientation since the influence of Sergeant was introduced, it is difficult for me to comment directly on this matter. From certain things I have read, I can say there are certain elements of Sergeant’s strategy that cause me concern. However, on the particular points referenced here, as long as he is not saying that women should be pastors or elders, I see his reasoning as biblically sound. Yes, all disciples are ministers. Yes, women have key roles in the church. And, yes, in certain occasions and settings, women are called upon to teach and lead (Acts 18.26; 21.9; Romans 16.1; Titus 2.3-5). Hopefully, this would not mean occupying the office of pastor, nor teaching or "usurping authority" over men (1 Tim. 2.12).

*regarding "performing" ordinances, see previous comment.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Throughout the world, lady SC’s function and are in roles that restrict them from being a pastor of a local congregation but are unrestricted as to their ministry functions, fully assuming pastor-like leadership and decision making roles.

David Rogers: This point, as long as it does not involve specific pastoral authority in a local church setting, is outside of the dictates of the BFM 2000, as I understand it. I do, however, agree that care should be taken, in accordance with 1 Tim. 2.12, to not put women in roles of "spiritual authority" over men. The application of this in Southern Baptist life, however, has been and continues to be very subjective. What about female Sunday School teachers in mixed classes? What about female nursery directors who supervise male nursery workers? I think we need to be prepared to be consistent with this before we get overly dogmatic in our application on the mission field.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • During an SC training in Eastern South America in September of 1999 Kathy Hadaway heard a single, 25 year old female tell some other participants that she regularly "preached the main Sunday message and gave the invitations" in many Baptist churches in Brazil. ESA Regional Leader, Hadaway met with her and forbade her to continue in this practice. A year later at another meeting, Kathy Hadaway heard another single, female missionary say, "they won’t let us preach in the U.S., so we come down here where we can preach." This sort of latitude in the role of women on the mission field led to the ordination of Ida Mae Hays by a local Baptist church in Brazil in 2001 shortly before her IMB retirement. In the same service she received the title of Pastor Emeritus. Hadaway, Kathy Hadaway, and IMB trustee Johnny Nantz asked Rev. Hays to rescind her ordination in a meeting at the Atlanta airport. She told us, "I don’t want to be a pastor," and said the action by her local church was strictly honorary. Despite some misgivings the ESA trustee committee decided to believe Ida Mae Hays and graciously allowed her to retire without rescinding her ordination. However, a year later she was called to become the senior pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in North Carolina. Today she enjoys the joint titles of Emeritus IMB missionary and Senior Pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in North Carolina.

David Rogers: Once again, this does not appear to me to be representative of the IMB at large, and, as the person in question was already retired from the IMB at the time of the writing of this paper, this example seems to me to be largely anecdotal.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Possible Solution

• Fully re-evaluate the SC model. Ascertain the pastor-like functions inherent in the actual practice of being an SC. Cull out those functions and restrict those assignments to men. Create a different role with a different title to assume complimentary duties that enhance the SC’s functions in establishing churches. This complimentary role can be performed by either ladies or men as long as there is a male SC.

David Rogers: This suggestion assumes there are indeed "pastor-like functions inherent in the actual practice of being an SC," an assertion that I would personally question. It also fails to distinguish between functions that some may subjectively deem to be "pastor-like," and those the Bible actually describes as "pastoral."

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • The IMB trustees need to clarify the proper roles for all missionary women, including the issues of ordination, supervising men, preaching, and administering the ordinances.

David Rogers: This is fine with me, as long as they don’t go beyond the Bible and the BFM in their clarification.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Issue Four: What is the rationale for the approved abandonment of many of our "harvest fields in places like Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa?


• A joint, "ad-hoc committee" of trustees and senior IMB leadership designed and implemented "New Directions" in 1997. This committee recommended to the Board of Trustees the internal absorption of CSI (Cooperative Services International) into 14 (later 15) new regions (an expansion from the former 10 areas). New Directions was called "a new paradigm" of overseas leadership and was designed to have a "dual focus" to reach the harvest world and the unreached world. The idea was that Southern Baptists would have a global presence.

• A couple of years into New Directions, leadership began speaking of "Strategic Directions for the 21st Century." It became evident that the IMB planned to scale down work in the places where Southern Baptists had been working for many years (except parts of Asia). In one of the Regional Leader Forums, Hadaway asked the Senior Vice-President-Overseas, about the change from a dual focus to a strictly unreached people focus. He replied, "We’ve changed our mind." The decision to change from a dual focus to a single focus was reached by staff with minimal trustee input and was not announced to field missionaries until several years later (last Fall).

• At the Global Summit of Senior IMB leadership and the 15 Regional Leaders in August of 2003, another restructuring appeared on the horizon. In a strategy exercise Hadaway was assigned to a table with Curtis Sergeant, former Associate Vice-President for Strategy Coordination and three other Regional Leaders. Sergeant’s notes (which he shared with the group during the exercise) called for reducing the 4 America’s regions from (approximately) the current 1,200 missionaries to a projected 200 during the next 2-4 years. In addition, Sergeant called for placing about 1,200 IMB personnel in S. Asia (India), and approximately 1,150 missionaries in E. Asia (China). The President and Overseas Vice-President verbally affirmed this "strategic realignment" advocated by Sergeant and the Global Research Department (GRD) during the ensuing discussion. Hadaway asked them, "Do you think Southern Baptists are ready to support a mission board with almost 45% of their personnel in only two countries, India and China?" The response was to the effect that it had not been thought of in that way.• The software used by the IMB Global Research Department (GRD) during the Global Summit weighted every strategic category heavily toward population. In other words, the number of people in a country outweighed every other factor. The office of Strategy Coordination is recommending a radical shift based upon a one-to-one ratio of IMB missionaries to population (see Hadaway paper) instead of strategically placing personnel according to multiple factors (including receptivity and Church Growth principles). Therefore, the heavily populated countries in Asia will within four years make the IMB effectively an "Asian Mission Board" with almost 65% of all IMB personnel assigned to that continent (the 5 Asia regions). Is this the vision of the IMB trustees or the staff? Such a redeployment will mean abandoning Latin America to the charismatic influence (70% of all evangelicals in Latin America are said to be charismatic) and ignoring the plight of the desperately poor people of sub-Saharan Africa who have considerable fewer resources than most of the world.

David Rogers: Should the theoretical "abandonment" of Latin America to "charismatic influence" be a major consideration, when we are making decisions regarding the evangelization of the totally unreached and the almost totally unreached? Yes, the Great Commission includes teaching our disciples to obey all the things that Jesus has commanded us. But, I believe there comes a stage in missionary strategy when we hand over the primary responsibility for the continued carrying out of the Great Commission to the national church.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • The IMB leadership is proposing another regional reorganization. Staff’s plan calls for the America’s to be reduced from 4 to 2 regions. Sub-Saharan Africa will be reduced from 3 to 2 regions. (Asia is being reduced from 5 regions to 4 regions, but the rationale given for that was so it would not seem the America’s were being singled out). Rather than planning this restructuring with the trustees (as was done in 1997), this radical change in strategy (abandoning the harvest) and structure (reducing regions from 15 to approximately 11) was decided with little trustee input, with most trustees being informed after the fact.

• During the May 2003 RL Forum the Regional Leaders were told that due to the budget shortfall and strategic needs, the Overseas Leadership Team (OLT) and administration desired to look at the IMB organization. With this on the horizon the Regional Leaders asked to have "some input" into possible quotas or rumored restructuring. The impetus for reconfiguration did NOT come from the Regional Leaders, but from the administration and the Overseas Leadership Team. The Overseas Leadership Team had planned and proposed a similar restructuring in 2001 (Hadaway wrote the "Rejoicing together paper for that meeting), but was overruled by the President. During the discussion at the August 2003 RL Summit it became apparent that the Associate Vice-President for Strategy Coordination and the statistics office were leading the process down the reconfiguration road. During the ensuing discussion some Regional Leaders disagreed with the quota system and with a reduction in regions. However, when it became apparent that the reconfiguration would happen in the future it was understood that the Regional Leaders should support the OLT and administrations direction. However, it was not the RL’s idea.

David Rogers: It is apparent that Dr. Hadaway is distraught over the lessening of emphasis on the regions that are near and dear to his heart, having served there for many years. I feel I am able to be somewhat sympathetic and empathetic to his concerns, having served in Western Europe for 16 years, a region which does not always get a whole lot of relative "press" or resources either. However, I tend to believe, at the same time, that those in the Overseas Leadership Team are not necessarily biased towards one region or another, inasmuch as they are doing their best to objectively look at the comparative needs and opportunities in the world in which we live today, and allocate resources accordingly. Do I always like the decisions they make? No. But I am prepared to accept them, believing they have the needs of the whole world at heart.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Possible Solution

• Trustees represent the will of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Do Southern Baptists want approximately 1,200 missionaries each in China and India, and 50 each in Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, South Africa, and Russia? How would it be possible for the long-term influence of the IMB to continue in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America with this kind of emphasis? Trustees need to create a "Global Strategy Committee" to jointly decide IMB strategy to make sure IMB strategy conforms to the will of all Southern Baptists rather than staff.

David Rogers: The conforming of IMB strategy to the "will of all Southern Baptists" is a very complicated question. First of all, in my opinion, the majority of Southern Baptists do not have the missiological perspective necessary to make informed decisions regarding IMB strategy. That is one reason we hire staff who spend years studying missiology. Ideally, the trustees should have a much more informed view of missiological issues. But unfortunately, this is not always the case.

At the same time, I believe the recent "blogging revolution" within the SBC, especially as it relates to the IMB, is doing a good bit to educate many more people about missiological issues faced by the IMB. Up to now, the only direct contact between on-field missionaries and Southern Baptists "in the pews" has been speaking engagements during Stateside Assignments, and occasional prayer letters. For the most part, this communication has been limited to more personal aspects of ministry, rather than education on philosophical and strategic concerns. In the meantime, IMB staff and trustees have occupied the role of communication filters between the on-field missionaries and the churches.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway:
• It is impossible for the IMB to send people exactly where everyone feels called to go. IMB leadership is responsible to Southern Baptists to develop a world-wide strategy deployment. However, a balance needs to be struck between the "call of God" and the "strategy of the IMB." Many who feel called to go to some parts of the world are being denied that opportunity. At one SBC seminary there is a young qualified couple (with a baby due) graduating in May who felt called all their lives to Latin America. There were no openings in some regions in Latin America (due to the quota system) until 2005 and in some regions longer. This couple had to choose another part of the world despite their long term calling to work with a Latin American people group less than 2% evangelical. They could not understand why an unreached people group in Latin America of more than 500,000 and less than 2% evangelical was less important than an unreached people group in another part of the world. Unfortunately, many couples like this would decide to go to the mission field independently. Such couples would be supported by Southern Baptist churches, in turn causing a negative impact on the Cooperative Program.

David Rogers: I am also understanding of this concern, as my wife and I originally went to Spain with an interdenominational mission board for this very reason. Eventually, however, the opportunity opened up for us to work with the IMB, and we were appointed as career workers in Spain. At the same time, though, down through the years, I have seen various missionary units convinced that God had called them to work in a particular part of the world, when other people were able to see that they were not particularly well cut out for work in that part of the world. I have come to see the wisdom, on the mission field, of first determining priority needs, and filling them accordingly, rather than placing people according to their personal preference or subjective sense of call.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Issue Five: Finally, why is there such a de-emphasis on theological education for long-term missionary appointment? Is not the lack of theological depth worsening the problems faced on the field as well meaning missionaries are inevitably dealing with complex choices regarding the interface between culture and the claims and expectations of Christ?


• As noted in Eitel’s "Vision Assessment" paper, there is a historic trend in the SBC, especially since WWII, to see the influence of Neo-Orthodoxy. The pernicious effect of this influence is a gradual, perhaps even unconscious prioritization of religious experience over objective doctrinal truth. As we partner with GCC’s (Great Commission Christians) on the field, they are usually from backgrounds that affirm an interdenominational or non-denominational priority, and often hold varying degrees of neo-charismatic convictions. So within evangelicalism itself, there’s a downplay of doctrinal truths for the greater practice of unified partnering. So the religious existentialism of Neo-Orthodoxy flows over into evangelicalism and is known as neo-evangelicalism. We find ourselves in the middle of this pool of thought. Now more than ever there’s a need for missionaries to be keenly aware of theological trends and to know how to articulate a biblical position on any given doctrine along with an understanding of historic Baptist convictions regarding doctrine. This all means theological education must be required and emphasized for career appointment of missionaries.

David Rogers: Other than the prefix "neo," I fail to see the connection here between "neo-orthodoxy," "neo-charismatics," and "neo-evangelicalism." As a matter of fact, most Charismatics and Pentecostals tend to be more solid in their beliefs regarding inerrancy and biblical authority than many Baptists. Of course, there are those who place too much importance on experience. I am not saying that there are not excesses in the Charismatic and Pentecostal world that we as Baptists need to avoid. But, by in large, I believe this is an over-generalization, and false "guilt by association."

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Neo-orthodoxy has infected the IMB at times through the missionary training system. When Robin and Kathy Hadaway (former RL Eastern South America) were in missionary orientation in January & February of 1984, Alan Neely of SEBTS taught Universalism and Liberation Theology as truth. The Hadaway’s complained to the program (Parks’ presidency era) director of the Missionary Orientation Center (MOC) and were told by him, "every class complains about him and I’ve asked him to ‘tone it down.’" However, we later learned that Alan Neely taught these sessions to every MOC (and later MLC) class for 5 years! This Director went on to become an Area Director, an IMB Vice-President, and was a principle defender of Daryl Whiteman (See Eitel’s Vision paper) when he was criticized for his teaching at MLC in the late 90’s. This person retired as an IMB Vice-President two years ago, still in charge of the Missionary Learning Center. Trustee pressure succeeded in removing Daryl Whiteman from teaching at MLC. This underscores the necessity of recruiting leaders for senior IMB leadership positions that will take the concerns of conservatives seriously (see Eitel’s "Vision Assessment" paper).

David Rogers: I believe it is unfair to "broad brush" indict present IMB leadership due to association with those brought in under the Parks administration. I did have the opportunity to sit under Daryl Whiteman’s teaching at MLC, and learned a lot of interesting and valuable things from him. In a number of ways, he was an incredibly insightful anthropologist and missiologist. However, some of the views he advocated were probably outside of the bounds of Southern Baptist orthodoxy, and thus, the decision to remove him justified.

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Yet, within the past twelve years, there has been a consistently more flexible allowance made for those without significant seminary training. Career consultants have informed students as each policy change has come out. Initially it was an M.Div. degree with 2 years of experience required for appointment to work with church development or church planting assignments. Then the Strategy Coordinator role developed and folk could be appointed with as little as 20 semester hours of seminary. Later it was raised to 30 semester hours. Now a new policy has emerged that eliminates the need for seminary at all since the IMB cannot fund the hours at the seminaries any longer. An additional two weeks will be added to the MLC experience to compensate for seminary training.

• These short cuts are all encouraged in order to expedite or rapidly get missionaries on the field so we can complete the task. So the tyranny of the urgent commands the policy and careful preparation for a qualitatively healthier church-planting outcome is sacrificed for advancing rapidly.

David Rogers: In my opinion, there is perhaps a modicum of truth to this observation. I believe that at times there has been a tendency to elevate the goal of sending out more and more missionaries above the goal of fulfilling the Great Commission. Normally, these two should not be in conflict with each other. But there are times when the "good" becomes the enemy of the "best."

At the same time, however, I believe that the best training for missionaries does not always occur on the seminary campus.

I think my blogging colleague in Western Europe, "Stepchild," had an interesting insight here:

"Discipleship cannot be taught in a classroom. Reading a good book by a proven and experienced church planter is not enough. We need mentors. We need current practicing disciple-makers to be teaching and leading others as they make disciples.If I could have a conversation with someone of the IMB's Board of Trustees, this (among other things) is what I'd say. We need to radically rethink our approach to training and equipping disciple-makers. The bar has been set way too low. It isn't enough to have a seminary degree or to have signed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We need to be mentored. We need leaders who are currently in the thick of cross-cultural ministry to guide us in wisdom and that long-lost art of missions.Until we have such a network of relationships, we will not be able to guarantee the theological integrity of our work. We will continue to be criticized by seminary professors and denominational politicians. We will remain on the sidelines of what God is doing around the world because we are debating the science of Christianity and mission while the artists are being used to build the Kingdom."

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: Possible Solution

• Re-examine the policies that govern these types of appointments and minimally require a return to the 30 semester hour policy for all engaged in SC, church planting, or church development assignments (whether the IMB pays for the hours or not—SBC seminary education is intentionally inexpensive compared to other seminaries). Perhaps there is a need to even return to the earlier policy of requiring a professional degree from a seminary &/or enhance development of the 2+2/3 programs. Practical, hands on experience in conjunction with the overall learning structure of a full M. Div. program, only enhances the candidate’s preparation. Hence, continued development of the 2+2/3 programs with each of the seven seminaries (inclusive of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary) would seem a positive development.

David Rogers: In principle, the 2+2/3 programs are, in my opinion, a great idea. I wish I could have had that opportunity when I was in seminary. However, if the 2+2/3 programs are used as a tool to infiltrate and spy on the IMB, and promote the personal agenda of seminary missions professors, I wonder if the cost is worth it. 

Patterson, Eitel & Hadaway: • Prior to the development of the SC program (formerly NRM), everyone had to have an M.Div. (or the professional equivalent such as MRE, M. Music, M.D. or be the spouse of someone with one of these degrees) in order to become a missionary. The only missionaries who were permitted to come to the field with 30 hours were "business managers or treasurer types" who would not be interacting significantly with nationals. Hadaway served as an SC, has supervised and trained SC’s, and has supervised a region as an RL. He believes it would be best to return to the previous requirements for missionary career, associate and apprentice appointment (at least one spouse would possess an M. Div., MRE, professional graduate degree in their field plus 30 seminary hours, or age equivalent church work experience plus 30 seminary hours for older candidates).

David Rogers: Upon finishing this reply, I want to reiterate that I am not, and could not, in any way speak officially for the IMB, in relation to the concerns raised. It would be beyond the scope of my experience to determine whether there are (or were at the time of the writing of Eitel, Patterson & Hadaway's articles) or not systemic problems throughout the entire organization. I am at this time merely responding to the particular information included in this article, on the basis of my personal observations, as well as to Brad Reynolds' inference that, if no one gives an adequate reply to the things written here, he will take it as a tacit acknowledgement of their validity.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Reply to Nathan Finn's "Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord's Supper"

For some reason, the site, run by Southwestern Seminary, seems to be directed especially at defending supposed Baptist "denominational distinctives," and, consequently, discrediting the views of those, like myself, who take a more open view of interdenominational cooperation among evangelicals, on various topics.

The most recent article, or "White Paper," to appear on is "Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper," by Nathan Finn. I am somewhat familiar with Mr. Finn, by way of his blog, The Fullness of Time. I have found Mr. Finn to be, in general, a gentleman and a scholar, and appreciate the objective and irenic tone present in his writing. I would venture to say that I would be in total agreement with 95% of his views on theological issues, and am quite confident I could have wonderful Christian fellowship with him. However, it just so happens that some of the topics on which he chooses to write are those on which I happen to differ with a certain segment of Baptists, who, in my opinion, are attempting to make a certain definition of so-called "denominational distinctives" a rallying point for a further narrowing of parameters of cooperation in Baptist life, both in the States, and on the international mission field.

Earlier on this blog, I took a public stand indicating my belief in what I would call "semi-open communion," which is the view that sincere believers, who have never been baptized as believers by immersion, but who, on the basis of their study of Scripture, have come to the conclusion that infant baptism is biblically justified, may be admitted to participation in the Lord’s Supper, as long as they, on the basis of a self-examination of their conscience, feel they are being obedient to the Lord’s commands. This would not include those who have been specifically excluded, by way of legitimate church discipline, from participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Lest anyone misinterpret what I am saying, let me make crystal clear here my unreserved commitment to the biblical doctrine of "believers' baptism by immersion."

Since Mr. Finn’s paper on "Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper" is 15 pages long, I will not copy the whole text here. In order to understand the full context of both his points, and my answers, below, I would recommend reading here the entire paper first.

Without drawing this out more than I have, it would be impossible for me to comment on every detail of what Finn has written. Also, I have not bothered to comment on a great deal of the content of the paper, because I have no substantial disagreement with many of the points covered. There are also a few points that I have bypassed, because I did not consider them to be of relative significance in relation to the rest of those on which I do comment.

Having said that, here are some excerpts of what I consider to be some of Finn’s most significant points, and my answers to them…

Finn: While many Protestant denominations also refer to these practices as sacraments, most Baptist churches prefer to call them "ordinances," emphasizing Christ’s command that each be an ongoing practice in local churches.

Rogers: While I would agree that the term "ordinance" is appropriate, and even though, at this point, it does not seem to me to be a major point worth arguing over, I would point out a slight discrepancy here, in that, I do not see where in the Bible it ever indicates that these "ordinances" are to be an ongoing practice specifically in "local churches." In my opinion, this is, at best, an inference, and at worst, eisogesis.

Finn: In fact, many have argued that the major difference between Baptists and the great Reformation traditions is the Baptist emphasis on a believers’ church versus a "territorial" church or "tribal" church.

Rogers: I definitely agree that biblical teaching seems to favor a "believers’ church" ecclesiology. At the beginning of the "Baptist" movement, those publicly identified as "Baptists" (along with other Anabaptistic groups) almost certainly took the lead in promoting the concept of a "believers’ church." However, in today’s more diverse ecclesiological landscape, I do not see that it is fair to imply that "believers’ church" ecclesiology is in anyway the sole domain of those who answer to the name "Baptist."

Finn: Proper baptism must be performed under the auspices of a true church, and the proper administrator of baptism is a representative of a local church.4 (footnote references "What Makes Baptism Valid?" by Dr. Thomas White)

Rogers: I am not ready to concede this point quite yet. Dr. White himself has admitted that his paper was not "focused on defending Scripturally that the ordinances do in fact belong to the local church," and has indicated his intention to write another article in which he further develops this point. (see the comment section on this post).

Finn: First, baptism represents the Christian’s initiation into the church.

Rogers: I do not necessarily see Mr. Finn arguing differently here, but just in case, I would point out that this is "initiation into" the Universal Church, and not the "local church." I would agree, however, that by logical deduction, when we are baptized into the Universal Church, we simultaneously become members of the local expression of the Church, or the "local church" if you will, in the locality in which we live.

Finn: Second, communion represents the unity of the church. Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 10:16–17, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

Rogers: Once again, I would counter that the reference to the "church" here, from a biblical framework, is primarily to the "Universal Church," rather than the "local church." That is, in communion, we are primarily celebrating our essential unity with the Body of Christ around the world, and through the ages, not just our unity with the other members of our particular local congregation.

Finn: Third, notice also that these verses indicate that communion, like baptism, represents our union with Christ. But whereas baptism represents our initial union with Christ at conversion, the Lord’s Supper represents our ongoing identity with the Savior as his committed followers.

Rogers: I would add here, that our union with Christ, as head of the Church, necessarily implies our union with all those who share a common relationship with us as part of the Body of Christ, recognizing the same Christ as Head of that Body.

Finn: Many scholars believe that the term "body" is not referring to the individual but rather the entire congregation—the corporate dimension.

Rogers: For this very reason, I believe it is important that we "discern the body" correctly in its extent. For me, the "body" we are "discerning" is made up of all of the saints throughout all of the ages.

Finn: Finally, the Table looks in anticipation toward the end of the age and the coming marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6–9).

Rogers: Because of this point, I also believe it would be ironic, if not tragic, to systematically exclude from the Lord’s Table here on earth those with whom we believe we will share it at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Finn: This practice of requiring immersion before communion has been variously referred to as "close," "closed," "restricted" or "strict" communion. Because all of these terms communicate the practice negatively—and Baptists certainly do not like to think of following biblical precedent as a negative act—I have opted to normally refer to this practice more positively as "consistent communion."

Rogers: In my opinion, this position is not "consistent" with biblical teaching, and thus, I take exception to this term.

Finn: The fact is almost all Christian traditions require baptism before one can participate in the Lord’s Supper. The quarrel does not concern the practice itself, but concerns the fact that Baptists do not recognize sprinkling, pouring or even some biblically irregular immersions as valid. The difference is not in the practice of restricting communion to the baptized, but in not recognizing other modes of baptism as biblical.

Rogers: For me, whether or not other denominations or traditions require "baptism" or "sprinkling" or "christening" for church membership, is relatively irrelevant. The question is does the Bible require it or not. I would agree, however, that those who are living in a continued state of unrepentant sin and open disobedience to the Lord’s commands should not be considered as legitimate participants in the Lord’s Supper.

Finn: What I am claiming is that consistent communion has been the majority practice in Baptist history.

Rogers: Once again, for me, what Baptists of other times may or may not have practiced, is relatively irrelevant. The crucial question is what does the Bible teach.

Finn: We can attribute this move toward open communion to a variety of causes. Among moderate/liberal Baptists, consistent communion is rejected out of a desire to be ecumenical. Many moderates also claim that consistent communion is associated with Landmarkism, a view of Baptist life that refuses to recognize non-baptistic churches as true churches. Many Reformed Baptists reject consistent communion out of a desire to allow other Reformed Christians (most of whom are Pedobaptists) to participate in the ordinance… Conservative Southern Baptists sometimes reject consistent communion because of a desire to be welcoming to other Christians who are visiting their church. It seems likely that many others practice open communion out of either theological ignorance or methodological laziness.

Rogers: I myself believe in what some may term "open communion" and others, upon truly understanding it, might prefer to term "semi-open communion." But, I do not at the same time "plead guilty" to any of the above five motives adduced for holding to this view. My sincere reason for holding to this view is quite simply because I believe that it is most consistent with biblical teaching.

Finn: If the universal practice of the New Testament was believer’s baptism by immersion, then it only stands to reason that churches practiced consistent communion; there were no "baptisms" by sprinkling or pouring.

Rogers: Precisely because of this point, I believe we are stretched to find any example of how the leaders of the Early Church would have handled the question of someone who was genuinely convinced of the biblical legitimacy of infant baptism. Although I can very well imagine them attempting to convince them of the error of their belief, I believe the evidence is inconclusive that they would have excluded them, as a result, from participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Finn: The case for consistent communion can also be made from specific texts. In the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18–20, the proper order of the ordinances is implied in Jesus’ Command… the order is baptism before observance; baptism precedes communion.

Rogers: I believe this interpretation of this verse "proves" more than what Mr. Finn would be comfortable with. If I understand him correctly, by the same token, we should not continue to "make disciples" of those who have already been baptized, since "disciple-making" precedes baptism in chronological order. Or, perhaps Mr. Finn equates "making disciples" with "making converts."

Finn: Acts 2:41–42 states the proper order even more clearly: "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."

Rogers: Once again, I have no problem admitting that baptism before participation in the Lord’s Supper was the normal New Testament practice. The problem is the New Testament historical references do not deal with how the New Testament Church might have responded to someone who was convinced that the Scripture taught "infant baptism."

Finn: Only immersion truly communicates the believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection. This means in Baptist churches that practice open communion, a Pedobaptist may be adequately representing his ongoing union with Christ by participating in communion, but he has never had his initial union with Christ properly represented through immersion. As a result the theological relationship between the two ordinances is at best disjointed, and at worst it is entirely overlooked. Only consistent communion churches adequately represent the believer’s union with Christ in their observation of both ordinances.

Rogers: While I would agree that, by failing to submit to believers’ baptism, the Pedobaptist has not adequately represented his/her union to Christ, I would argue that we would symbolically be denying the reality of his/her essential spiritual union to Christ by not admitting a sincere, though mistaken, Pedobaptist, to the Lord’s Table with us.

Finn: The Argument from Baptist History

Rogers: Once again, the practices and beliefs of Baptists in other times are for me, relatively irrelevant. The question is: Were they biblically justified in the position they took or not?

Finn: Objections to Consistent Communion. First, as noted earlier in this paper, unity is only one theme present in the ordinance. The supper is as much about growth in grace, commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection, and mutual accountability as it is the unity of the body.

Rogers: While I would agree that the Lord’s supper is about "growth in grace," "commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection," and "mutual accountability," it is still also about "the unity of the body." It is not biblically consistent to act as if "three out of four ain’t bad."

Finn: Second, consistent communion is practiced by most Pedobaptist churches (excluding the liberal/ecumenical churches), at least as they understand the ordinances. In other words, Baptists place no more restrictions on the Table than non-Baptists; we simply disagree with Pedobaptists about what constitutes biblical baptism.

Rogers: Once again, from my point of view, this is not about what Pedobaptist churches may or may not believe and practice. It is about what the Bible teaches.

Finn: Third, far from showing a lack of brotherly love, close communion advocates restrict communion to the baptized out of love for both biblical truth and the Pedobaptist who rejects that truth. It is the hope of consistent communion Baptists that the practice will be used by the Holy Spirit to convict Pedobaptist Christians that believer’s baptism by immersion is the only true baptism.

Rogers: I agree that, out of love, we should try to convince Pedobaptist Christians of the need for believers’ baptism. I just do not think that also implies excluding them from the Lord’s Supper as a device to "drive home the point."

Finn: A fourth criticism, again closely-related, is that the ordinance is the Lord’s Supper, and hence it is inappropriate to exclude any of the Lord’s children from the Table. This really gets at the crux of the issue. Many open communion Christians argue that the Lord’s Supper is a Christian ordinance, given to the church universal. As such, it can be practiced by nearly any group of Christians who have some sense of commitment to each other.

Rogers: I agree that the issue of "Christian ordinance" or "church ordinance" is an important issue in regard to this question. But I am not sure if the whole thing "rises or falls" based on our view of this. In any case, Acts 2.46 says the believers "broke bread from house to house." If we agree that this "breaking of bread" included the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, then each of these "house" celebrations of the Lord’s Supper must have been in individual autonomous "house churches." Personally, I am more convinced that the New Testament churches functioned more like what we today would call a "cell church," in that, all of the believers in a particular city came under the spiritual oversight of one united group of recognized elders, met together as a large group whenever possible, and also met together in assorted small groups scattered throughout the city, mostly in homes.

It may perhaps be argued that each of the separate home meetings were "authorized" by the elders of the "city church" to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and thus, it was still carried out, effectively, as a "church ordinance." This may well be the case, but, in my opinion, is based upon conjecture, and, even if it were to be demonstrated, still does not add anything to the argument against "open communion."

Finn: Ecumenism, even among evangelicals, should not be achieved at the expense of New Testament practice.

Rogers: While I agree that "Ecumenism, even among evangelicals, should not be achieved at the expense of New Testament practice," I would counter that division among evangelicals should not be justified on dubious interpretation of New Testament practice.

Finn: A final argument against consistent communion is that it "de-churches" other Christian traditions, rendering them more or less invalid or false churches… In fact, I will candidly admit that many otherwise-healthy Baptist churches are "irregular" in that they do not consistently practice church discipline, a clear aspect of New Testament congregations.

Rogers: It would seem that, in interest of "consistency" on this point, it would be necessary to exclude believers from "Baptist" churches that do not practice church discipline from the Lord’s Table as well.

Finn: Conclusion. The issue is not about pleasing Pedobaptists or our open communion fellow Baptists. The issue is pleasing Christ by following the pattern he has given to us in the New Testament. Our Baptist forefathers were often persecuted and at times even martyred for their understanding of the ordinances. What a tragedy it will be if contemporary Baptists dishonor their memory—and the name of Christ—by compromising on a consistent view of the relationship between baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Rogers: I hope it will be evident from what I have written here that I am not interested in pleasing Pedobaptists, "Open Communion" Baptists, or "Closed Communion" Baptists, so much as I am interested in being faithful to the teaching of the Word of God.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute

After a special 4-day trip to the States, I am writing this in the airport in Amsterdam, waiting on my connecting flight to Madrid. I was in the States in order to participate in a special promotional event for the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, which was held on what would have been my father’s 75th birthday.

One of Adrian Rogers’ biggest dreams, in the last few years before he died, was to take the years of wisdom and experience the Lord had given him as a pastor, and transmit it to younger pastors, both in the United States and around the world. He said he knew he was in the "transfer zone," and the time had come to "pass on the baton" in the race of faithfulness we are all called to run. On several occasions, in my father’s final months, he was able to do just this, by way of a 3-day seminar called "Maturity, Ministry & Management—What Every Pastor Ought To Know" under the auspices of the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute (ARPTI). His dream was to have continued on during his retirement years, dedicating a significant part of his time and energy to this strategic ministry.

By God’s grace, one of the final ARPTI seminars that was offered was also professionally filmed, and the entire three days of teaching, 20 hours altogether, have now been made available by way of a set of 10 top-notch, high quality DVDs. My brother, Steve, who had partnered with my father in the creative and administrative aspects of ARPTI before his death, has taken on the calling of continuing on this ministry of training pastors. Even though my father is no longer able to be there personally at the ARPTI seminars, now, by way of large-screen video projection, the actual dynamic of a live ARPTI seminar has been captured, and has already been tested out before a live audience of participants, with very encouraging results.

The 3-day ARPTI "Maturity, Ministry and Management" seminar is divided into three main sections, covering the following topics …

Introduction — What Every Pastor Ought To Know
Session I • The Pastor’s Job Description—Elder, Shepherd, Bishop
Maturity —The Pastor as Elder
Session II • The Pastor’s Personal Integrity
Session III • The Pastor’s Spiritual Priority
Session IV • The Pastor’s Marital Fidelity
Session V • The Pastor’s Sexual Purity
Ministry —The Pastor as Shepherd
Session VI • The Sermon’s Exposition
Session VII • The Sermon’s Preparation
Session VIII • The Sermon’s Illustration
Session IX • The Sermon’s Presentation
Session X • The Sermon’s Invitation
Management —The Pastor as Bishop
Session XI • The Pastor’s Pastoral Assignment
Session XII • The Pastor’s Spiritual Authority
Session XIII • The Pastor’s Personal Leadership
A Few More Thoughts — Something Extra
Session XIV • Practical Ideas as well as Questions & Answers

The target audience is both bi-vocational pastors who have not yet had the benefit of a full-fledged seminary education, as well as experienced, seminary-trained pastors who are looking to refresh themselves and "sharpen their tools" in key personal and practical aspects of ministry.

One of the most exciting developments for ARPTI has been a recent partnership with Global Pastors Network to make this teaching available in many different languages and venues around the world in the coming years, as part of a massive strategic alliance to win 1 billion souls for Christ and plant 5 million new churches in the next 10 years. Translation in Spanish is already well underway, and should be available soon.

If you are interested in learning more about the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, or would like to enquire about the possibility of hosting a ARPTI event, you can get more information here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Denominational Distinctives

Back at Southwestern Seminary in 1989, I remember one of my professors talking about how the younger generations do not have much denominational loyalty, and how it used to be, whenever someone moved to a new town, they always looked for a church of the same denomination, but now, denominational affiliation was not near as important a factor as it used to be. Then, this professor talked about our need, as Southern Baptists, to educate our young people about our “denominational distinctives” or “Baptist identity,” lest we wake up to find ourselves losing members and influence as a denomination.

I remember thinking to myself: “This guy, and others like him, are fighting a losing cause. It’s true. My generation does not have much use for denominational labels.” Of course, there are sociological reasons for this. The spirit of post-modernism, moral relativity, and tolerance are certainly “in the air” and contribute to this dynamic. There is a growing distrust of institutions, and especially of institutionalized religion.

But, as an “insider,” to a certain extent, in the “Conservative Resurgence,” I don’t see this as an issue of “conservative,” “moderate” or “liberal.” Yes, there are “liberals” who are strong proponents of the “ecumenical movement” a la the World Council of Churches, et al. But there are also those, like myself, who are strong defenders of the inerrancy of the Bible, and are generally conservative in doctrine, who see as part of their commitment to the authority of the Bible, a concomitant commitment to the biblical doctrine of the spiritual unity of the Body of Christ. At the same time, there are “conservatives,” “moderates” and “liberals” who are all more “denominational” in their mindset.

For some time now, there has been a “battle” to define “real” Baptists. Some emphasize such “Baptist distinctives” as “the priesthood of the believer,” “soul competency,” and “freedom of the will.” Others choose to place more emphasis on such things as “closed communion,” “cessationalism,” and “total abstinence.”

Now, however, that the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC has, for all practical purposes, been “consummated,” there are those, it seems, who are not content without a battle, and who have maneuvered to make “denominational distinctives” or “Baptist identity” the “next assignment” of the “Conservative Resurgence.” This can be seen through the smattering of conferences and seminars organized by Baptist institutions, entire seminary courses on these issues, articles in Baptist publications, as well as public communication (including blogs) by Baptist leaders. When all is said and done, there are a lot of Kingdom resources being used, essentially, to defend and promote a certain denominational mindset. It seems like for more and more people, “Baptist identity” is becoming more and more of a “hill on which to die.”

I, personally, don’t see what’s the big deal. I support the Cooperative Program, because I think it is a good way to be good stewards with the Kingdom resources with which God has entrusted us. I am grateful for the support I receive as a missionary, and for the help I received from the SBC in paying for my seminary education. As a “biblical conservative,” I have no problem with emphasizing the teaching of biblical doctrine. I think we do well to talk about, and teach “biblical ecclesiology.” I have no problem with teaching “believers baptism by immersion,” nor any of the other doctrines in the Baptist Faith & Message (*with the exception of “closed communion”). We must, in fact, teach the “whole counsel” of Scripture. I am not arguing for reducing our teaching to a minimalist “lowest common denominator.”

What I don’t get is why it always has to be posed as “Baptist identity” and “denominational distinctives.” Why can’t we just teach the Bible? Why can’t we just major on being “Christians”? Also, why do we insist on putting unnecessary barriers in front of lost people (who don’t give a flip about our “denominational distinctives”)?

One day, when I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, I don’t know exactly what He will ask me. He may well ask me about how good a job I did at being faithful to His Word. He may well ask me about how good a job I did at being obedient in fulfilling the ministry tasks He gave me to do. He may well ask me how good a job I did at loving lost souls. And he may well ask me how good a job I did at loving my brothers and sisters in Christ. But I seriously doubt He will ask me how faithful I was at defending my “denominational distinctives” and promoting “Baptist identity.”

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Implications of the IMB Tongues Policy: The McKissic Incident

I have been comptemplating what I might write about this important issue here on Love Each Stone. But in the meantime, Alan Cross, at Downshore Drift, has just posted pretty much exactly what I would have written, if I had taken the time, and had the "smarts" to do it.

I strongly recommend you go now to Implications of the IMB Tongues Policy: The McKissic Incident and read what Alan has to say.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Power of Prayer(walking)

On August 23, fellow "m-blogger" Ken Sorrell, posted the following on his blog Returning to Biblical Missions:

Last week during our Strategy Coordinator Church Training, I was asked a question that was both new to me and caught me somewhat offguard. The question was basically, "Why do we believe that Prayer Walking is a valid missions activity or strategy since we have no biblical evidence to support such a practice?" Others privately mentioned to me that they had heard of conversations in the states that believe it is not appropriate for volunteers or missionaries to be part of this application of a prayer strategy.

In the comment section, I wrote the following:


I believe there is no biblical warrant to say God hears our prayers any more on a "prayer walk" than in our "prayer closet." But for some reason, it seems like we are able to hear God better (SEEMS LIKE) when we are observing with our physical eyes what we are praying about and seeing with our spiritual eyes. And I cannot explain exactly why, but we have experienced some pretty incredibly specific answers to prayers that were prayed in the context of various prayer-walks and prayer-walking teams with which we have been involved. I mean really incredible stuff. I'll probably have to save that for a whole post sometime. Also, we have had prayer-walk teams from the States go to various towns and meet the pastors and believers there, listen to their testimonies and prayer requests, and then pray together (many times while I translated back and forth) with them. The encouragement this offered to the local believers, as well as the inspiration and encouragement to pray offered to the prayer-walkers, was invaluable.

As anticipated in this comment, I would now like to give testimony to several of the extraordinary ways the Lord has used prayer-walking in our missionary ministry in Spain…

Back around 1998, when I was still missionary pastor of the Baptist church in Badajoz, one Saturday, we announced to the church members that we were going to have a prayer-walk in the neighborhood around the church. A small group showed up, made up almost exclusively of the most dedicated "prayer warriors" in the congregation. At one point on the prayer-walk route, Mari Carmen, in my opinion a very spiritually mature and sensitive lady, commented that she felt led by the Holy Spirit to pray that, if at that time there were believers living in Badajoz, who for some reason or another were not active in a local church, God would lead them to return, and get active in church.

If you knew the context of the evangelical churches in Badajoz, you would realize that this request was quite unusual. In Badajoz, there were basically 3 evangelical congregations, and for all practical purposes, all of the evangelical believers already knew each other. Given this context, it was somewhat unlikely that there would be believers in town that we did not already know.

However, the next Wednesday evening, at our weekly prayer meeting, an elderly couple walked in, and said that they were believers who had been converted years ago when they lived in Barcelona. But since moving to Badajoz 10 years ago, they had drifted away from the Lord and had never gotten involved in church. As we began to ask them more, we discovered that they lived at the very corner where we had stopped and lifted that request to the Lord. That was approximately 8 years ago. To this day, Francisco & Antonia, the elderly couple, are still faithful, active members in the church, and have been a great blessing to many people. One of their grandsons eventually married the daughter of the Spanish pastor who followed me at Badajoz. This couple (the grandson and the daughter of the Spanish pastor) have now joined our IMB colleagues as part of their church planting team in the nearby city of Cáceres. Another grandson has recently become the youth director, together with his wife, at the church in Mérida we planted after moving from Badajoz. Just coincidence? You may choose to believe so, but you will never convince me.

But wait. The story doesn’t end there. Several years later, we invited a team of volunteers from our home church, Bellevue Baptist, in Cordova, Tennessee, to come and "prayer-walk" together with us throughout all the region of Extremadura. This dedicated group of spiritually mature brothers and sisters in Christ were willing to give of their money and time to come with the sole purpose of getting to know the believers and the work in Extremadura first-hand, and intercede before the Father "on site with insight" as we journeyed together from town to town, interviewing, and praying together with various Christian leaders.

As I was giving them some orientation for our time together, I told them the story of Mari Carmen, and her prayer that God might bring any believers who were not in church back to church, and how God had miraculously answered. Later that week, in the midst of our prayer journey itinerary, I spontaneously decided to stop briefly in Fregenal de la Sierra, a small town of about 7,000 inhabitants, which had been the birthplace of Cipriano de Valera, one of the translators of the Reina-Valera Bible, which is basically the equivalent of the King James in Spanish. I told the group about Cipriano de Valera, and that we did not know of any evangelical believers living in this town at that time. Upon hearing that, one of the ladies in the prayer-walk team, remembering the story of Mari Carmen, decided to pray the same thing—that if there were any believers living in Fregenal, that they would make themselves known and get involved in church. I remember thinking to myself, "Good intentions, but she just doesn’t understand. If there were believers living in this town, there is no way we would not already know about it."

Fast-forward several months…. News gets to us that a Christian couple named Paco & Pepa, together with their teenage daughter, had been living in Fregenal for years, but had never sought out and gotten involved in a church, since there was no church in their town. They had since gotten in contact with the missionaries in the neighboring town of Zafra (about 15 miles away), and begun to attend services there, as well as open up their home for evangelistic Bible studies in Fregenal.

But wait. There’s still more. Encouraged by the Lord’s blessing, the following year, we decided to invite the same prayer-walk team from Bellevue back for another prayer journey throughout Extremadura. I was able to share with them the miraculous answer to prayer in Fregenal, and we were able to go back to Fregenal, and meet and pray together with Paco & Pepa, who were at that time hosting an evangelistic campaign in their town. After that, we continued on to Jerez de los Caballeros (pop. 10,000), a very historic town that had once been under the governance of the Knights Templar, and, to our knowledge, had never had any evangelical presence. As we prayed in Jerez, another member of the team felt led by the Lord to make the same request—If there were any believers living there, they would make themselves known, and get involved in church and in serving the Lord. Once again, I thought—Well, we’ll see…

Fast-forward several months again... Julio, the new pastor at Badajoz, receives a phone call from Karlo, a young dentist from a Baptist church in Peru, who had moved to Jerez de los Caballeros several months earlier. He was looking for a church to attend. Upon learning there was no church in Jerez, he began to attend the church in Badajoz (about 60 miles away). The year after that, we were able to go back with still another prayer-walk team (made up of many of the same people) and pray together with Karlo, in Jerez de los Caballeros. He confirmed to us that roughly about the same date we had been there the year before, he had sensed from the Lord the need to seek out a church, and get involved in ministry. Today, Karlo and his fiancée are meeting together with believers in another town, and reaching out, giving testimony for the Lord, not only in Jerez, but also in several other towns in the vicinity that do not have any evangelical church, with the goal of seeing new churches established.

Back to the original question: Is prayer-walking a valid missions activity or strategy? I’ll let you decide…