Southern Baptists Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism: Union University, Oct 6-9, 2009 (Live Blog-Day 2, Hal Poe, Timothy George, Duane Litfin, Ray Van Neste)

Union-University-F0AA0EACDay 2 of  “Southern Baptists Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism” at Union University

Hal Poe–“The Gospel and Its Meaning: Implications for Southern Baptists and Evangelicals”

Concerning evangelism in the 20th cent, ‘American evangelicals reduced the Gospel to a ‘presentation’…as many in American culture began to ask questions, however, many of the answers went beyond the standard answers of the presentation…’  Various presentations/plans include Crusade’s 4 Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosion, and the Roman Road.  These essentially follow John Stott’s outline in Basic Christianity.

What happens when this way of Evangelism ceases to answer questions the culture asks?

“The Gospel answers the issues of every culture/person, but a Gospel presentation answers very particular issues and questions of a person at that time…A presentation that works well in America may not work well in China.”

“Maybe 2 out of 100 ‘Christians’ really know the Gospel.”

“Fulfillment of Scripture is a vital aspect of the Gospel!”

“…Paul always rooted his teaching in the Gospel.  The Gospel is not only the message of how to be saved, it is also the message of how to be saved…Christian practices and beliefs that are not rooted in the Gospel are not Christian.”

“The judgment is part of the good news…He’s going to bring the story to an end, and it’s good news.”

“Peter, Paul, and John had the same Gospel.  Where did Paul get his Gospel?”  Paul is clear that he received his Gospel through a revelation from Jesus Christ;  eight fundamental components to the Gospel.

“Brothers and sisters, I think we have a real challenge in recovering the Gospel…there is an American problem of reductionism, and I encourage you to do something about it.”

Timothy George–“Baptists and Their Relations with Other Christians”

Jude begins by stating that he wanted to write about “our common salvation” but God has impressed upon him to write something else; namely, fides qua.

The Faith” is the essential content of the common kerygma.

In our “no creed but the Bible” context, what we really mean is “no creedalism.”  “I say, God give us creeds, but no creedalism.”

The confessions of faith are like guard rails on a mountain road.  The road is Jesus Christ, but you need guard rails as we are tempted this way and that.

My Faith, there is an objective content, a deposit that is given by God but there is an aspect of the faith that must become “mine.”

The Faith, and My Faith taken in isolation from one another has caused real problems.  The Faith w/o My Faith results in a dead orthodoxy.  Contrarily, My Faith w/o The Faith ends up in a sloppy sentimentalism.

The Church’s Faith—what is the church?, it is local, congregational, particular and covenantal.  But it is also universal, ecumenical, one, Holy and Apostolic.  So the church has both a local and universal dimension.

The Church’s Faith is a public Faith, one that we cannot keep to ourselves.

Conclusion: We need a Faith that is The Faith, Our Faith, and the Church’s Faith.

Duane Litfin–“The Future of American Evangelicalism”

“It almost appears to me that the diaspora of Evangelicalism may be a useful metaphor for the movement itself.” (This follows Litfin’s comments that Wheaton, IL was at one time a sort of “Mecca” for Evangelicalism, but has begun to disperse.)

Evangelicalism is increasingly difficult to define.  Therefore, the movement is impossible to control b/c of it’s natural “sprawl” due to the lack of formal structure.  Denominations are able to make clear who they are/are not, but evangelicalism simply cannot do this.

Thinks Evangelicalism is still a helpful term, but fears the future of evangelicalism will continue to “sprawl” and spread with a difficutly defined identity.

Three Implications for the SBC:

1. Baptist Polity is well positioned for the decline of denominationalism—perhaps a good strategy would be to maintain the strengths of the denomination while avoiding the pitfalls of denominationalism

2. Due to developments in Evangelicalism, the SBC will probably become less insular

3. Don’t depend upon Evangelicalism as a movement–encouraged SBC to embrace being Evangelical, but not to depend on “Evangelicalism” to define them.  Rather, be certain to remain Christ-centered, Gospel-centered, and Word-centered.

Ray Van Neste–The Oversight of Souls: Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life

‘If pastoral ministry is going to thrive in our churches, we must regain an understanding that pastoral minsitry is an oversight of souls.’

Preaching is not the primary task of pastoral ministry, rather we preach as an outflow of oversight.

Good preaching is essential, it’s just not all that is needed.

“Careful oversight may not make us famous since people cannot download our oversight on their ipods”…but it is essential for our preaching to be heard.

What is meant by “watching over souls”?

– It means more than the pulpit.  It is public and private.

-“I fear most those ministers who preach well, and who are unsuited to the private nurture of their members.”(Richard Baxter)

‘I’ve heard many advise young pastors not to get too close to their members; rather, keep a professional relationship so that if rebuke is needed it is easier.  This advice is not only unbibilcal it is downright ungodly!  Faithful are the wounds of a friend.’

(Many quotes throughout history from pastors concerning shepherding the flock)

The oversight of souls is central to pastoral ministry. We have been entrusted with a people who are feeble and frail like us.  Our goal is to shepherd them well.