Check out Part 1 on Word-Centered Preaching… and check out the video of the Kimyal people receiving the New Testament for the first time.
Another area in which our ministerial walk has not quite matched our conservative talk is in the area of Biblical Counseling. As a pastor, it never ceases to amaze me the way that the people in Southern Baptist (and most evangelical) congregations have the tendency to draw a radical distinction between the elements of 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Most believe that God has given us (in the Bible) everything we need for “life” (namely eternal life), but what they don’t often see is that He has also given us everything we need for “godliness.” In other words, most of the people in our churches believe that the Bible is sufficient to save, but is somehow insufficient to sanctify. And it is at this point that we come face to face with the stark reality that the reason most of our people believe this distinction is because this is precisely what they have been trained to believe.
What else are they to conclude when every book their pastor told them to read for pre-marital and/or marital counseling talks more about principles of psychology and communication than about what the Bible says regarding marriage? What else are they to conclude when every time their pastor is posed with a difficult issue in the life of a member, his default reaction has not been to reproof or exhort that person, but to refer him/her to a “professional” so that he/she can be “diagnosed” and the appropriate prescription ascertained? What else are they to conclude when their pastor’s preaching points them to “tips” and “principles” more than to the depth of their depravity and the solution God has provided in Christ not just so that they can be justified, but also that they may be sanctified? Do we really believe that the Bible is power behind true “life-change”? Do we really believe that God’s Word alone, and not the voice of secular wisdom, brings about true “abundant life”? Do we really believe that we are what the Bible says we are, that we have what the Bible says we have, that we can do what the Bible says we can do? Do we really believe what the Bible says we should believe…really?
One final area in which there seems to be a disconnect between our words and our work in the SBC is in that of Mission. I recently heard from a young minister who attended a popular “ministry” conference that was attended by thousands from various “ministry” and “leadership” responsibilities across the nation. He told me about one of the authors/speakers who spoke there and the invaluable leadership insight he provided for his hearers: “leaders should always strive to be humble.” At first, I had to admit my relief that such a timely and appropriate word was given to such a vast audience of current/future leaders. But then, my friend informed me of the follow-up line, “Leaders should strive for humility, because humility just works.” Is this really why leaders should strive for humility? Not because the Bible says we should, but because it “just works?” We can roll our eyes. We can shake our heads. Or, we can turn right around and realize that this kind of thinking is merely the logical conclusion of what we’ve been preaching for quite some time.
When church-growth is more about method than message [Check out Scott Wilson’s Post, “The Word Grows: A New Testament Plan for Church” and “Does Inerrancy Really Matter?”]. When leadership is more about charisma than character. When results are measured more financially and fiscally than by faithfulness and fruit of the Spirit, what are we communicating? The church of the Lord Jesus is not followed by an “Inc.” The Great Commission is not merely another program or initiative to be executed and evaluated according to the principles of worldly wisdom and pragmatism. Rather the church is the Kingdom counterculture. The church is the outpost of Christ’s rule and reign. The church is the beacon by which the “manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). And remember, Christ has not entrusted His mission to CEO’s and Moguls, but rather He has given it to the “the things that are not” (1 Cor 1:28).
Before being delivered over for crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” (John 17:17). The question that comes to us, as Southern Baptists in the 21st century, is this: Will we truly be a people of the Book? Will we truly be a people of the Word? Will we truly be a people of the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth? Our only answer can be…so help us God!