Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Church

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 identifies the church in the following words:

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

In our day the church of the Lord Jesus has come under great attack. It is of great interest to me that these attacks have come not from without the church but rather from within. Some are attempting to remove any emphasis upon the local congregation and are attempting to redefine the church as only the Body of Christ. While this particular attack is not new it is more aggressive today than ever before. Statements such as “not dividing over tertiary doctrines,” “breaking down barriers between denominations,” and “agreeing on Jesus” seem to abound.

Historically Baptists have been identified by doctrine and motivated by mission. While I recognize that we have no creed, it has always been true that Baptist have proudly ascribed to our periodic confessions. They have helped to define who were are and what we are about. It is difficult for me to see how doctrines such as our two church ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the two church officers, Pastor and Deacon, and our historic polity which recognizes the individual believer as a participating member are “tertiary.”

Those who desire to break down barriers between denominations are ignorant of history. The reason we have the many denominations of our day is that people have, through study of scripture, arrived at different conclusions as to what it says. Almost without exception these have been honest and sincere people who have felt it necessary to separate from other Christian groups based on a doctrinal difference. While we can and should work with other groups in matters of civil or moral concern, we should maintain our doctrinal convictions. It seems that the clamor for diversity is most often for the Baptists to set aside their convictions for the sake of unity.

One of the loudest cries is “We should agree on Jesus and not divide over other matters.” Which Jesus do we agree on? The Jesus who is full and final atonement for sin or the Jesus who has only made a down payment for our sin debt and we must be baptized, join the church, and live a sinless life in order to be saved. The Jesus who is full and final atonement for sin or the Jesus who died on a cross but we have to have a second work of grace identified by speaking in an unknown tongue to be saved. Forgiveness for sin is found in Jesus’ finished work on Calvary. He paid it all.

Each generation of Baptist life has faced similar challenges. Is it possible that we are more intelligent that our Baptist forefathers, better scholars, more enlightened than those who paid a great price for us to arrive where we are today? I think not. While the Bible is our final authority in matters of faith and practice we should not be so arrogant as to think ourselves wiser and more discerning than those who walked before us. If we fail to learn from history and those who walked before us, we do so at our own peril.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Do you think yourself wise? Then there's a donkey inside your waistcoat.”

- C. H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let's Go Soul Winning

People are lost, doomed, damned, and destined for an eternity in a devil’s hell. Yet the average church member does absolutely nothing to attempt to bring their neighbors, friends, co-workers, spouses, and family members to Christ. This is true in both the pulpit and the pew.

Bloggers debate over the nature of the church, the doctrine of the church, and the history of the church while they do little to cause the church to be the church. While I recognize the import of these discussions, we must not allow them to divert us from the task of winning the lost to faith in Christ. Our first and primary responsibility is to go into a lost and dying world with the gospel and win them to faith in Christ. If we fail at this point we will ultimately fail. History teaches this, scripture teaches this, and the Holy Spirit in our heart teaches this.

When soul winning and evangelism cease the church becomes as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. This is a problem that must be remedied. The time has come to stop making excuses and placing blame. The time has come to fall on our faces before the Lord and ask Him for Holy Ghost power that can change the world. Today is a good day for every born again believer to make a fresh commitment to the New Testament task of Soul Winning.

Let’s Go Soul Winning!

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“A leader’s first task is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”

- Dr. Marvin R. Gibson

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good Deacons

Across a number of years I have listened as pastors complained about the men that served with them on their active body of deacons. I have listened to the stories of difficult meetings and contentious conversations. I have even observed as some moved to or attempted to move to an elder rule form of church government. While they publicly proclaimed the change was an attempt to be more biblical (I do not believe the elder rule model to be the biblical model), they privately shared that their goal was to restructure so they did not have deacons telling them what to do.

I must confess these conversations and attitudes have always been a little puzzling to me. God has been gracious to me in giving to me and the churches that I have served, Godly men whose desire was to walk along beside their pastor and assist me with the work of the ministry. Deacon meetings have been punctuated by a spirit of encouragement and desire to see God’s work go forward. Does this mean that the deacons I have served with have always been in total agreement with me? No! There have been and I suspect shall be in the future, times when one or more of the deacons I serve with have kindly told me that my suggestion or leadership direction was not wise. Upon further prayer and discernment they have been correct and their counsel saved me from future difficulties.

I have attempted to approach the relationship of pastor and deacon as one of a team working toward the same goal. Deacons have been my counselors, encouragers, confidantes, and point men. Because I believe the work of deacon to be a sharing of the ministry God has given me, the deacons I have served with have preached, led Bible studies, led prayer meetings, baptized, made soul winning visits, and made hospital and homebound visits. They have shared the work that God has called me to and made it much more fruitful.

Thank God for the men that serve in the New Testament Office of Deacon.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.”
-Margaret Millar

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dr. John Sullivan

This past Thursay evening I was privileged to participate in a service honoring Dr. John Sullivan for twenty years of service as the Executive Director-Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention. Across these years I have been blessed personally by the influence that Dr. Sullivan has wielded in my life. He and his dear wife Nancy are fitting role models for every pastor and wife. Their commitment to Christ, to Southern Baptists, and to one another is exemplary.

Allow me share a portion of my remarks at the service honoring Dr. Sullivan and his dear wife Nancy.

Florida Baptists have enjoyed living in the ever increasing shadow of this great man of God. Dr. Sullivan is unequaled in his abilities as a visionary and leader. He is uncompromising in his commitment to his faith, his family, and Florida Baptists. He is unusual in his generosity to the people of God and his love for the work of God.

The author of the fourth Gospel writes,
John 1:6-7
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

Surely, as we survey the past twenty years, Florida Baptists can rejoice and say with the sainted Apostle, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John …

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“When people go to work, they don’t leave their hearts at home. We may live in a high-tech world, but leadership is still a high-touch job. “

-Lee J. Colan, Passionate Performance

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Baptist College of Florida

This Monday and Tuesday it has been my privilege to preach at the chapel services of the Baptist College of Florida. This is the 16th consecutive year that I have done so. I also serve as the chair of the Administrative Committee of the Baptist College of Florida Board of Trustees.

The Baptist College of Florida is one of the best kept secrets in Southern Baptist life. Her president Dr. Tom Kinchen is in his 19th year as president of the college. He has done a wonderful job of leading this school to stay true to the Word of God, expand her ministry, and increase both enrollment and endowments. Dr. Kinchen and the faculty are raising up a generation of Baptist leaders that will impact the world with the gospel. Dr. Kinchen is genuine visionary.

Preaching at the chapel services of the college is one of the pure joys of my ministry. The opportunity to interact with both the Godly faculty and the eager student body is a blessing. The services were worshipful and uplifting. One of the real treats this year was Ruthi was able to join me and sing on Monday, her singing is always better than my preaching. God gave me wonderful freedom to preach His Word.

It is exciting to be identified with this fine college. I appreciate the wonderful people of Southside Baptist Church that view this use of my time as an investment in the next generation of Southern Baptist life.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“The difference between visionaries and dreamers is that visionaries make the dreams come true.”
Walter R. Mueller

Friday, February 6, 2009

Why ?

Today, I am beginning a new journey into the blogosphere. I must confess that I do so with a high level of trepidation. I find myself wondering if there is a need for another blogger and do I have something to say worth reading. However, for the journey to be completed it must first be begun. So I begin.

The title for this blog is “Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World.” Surely, we are living in a world that seems to be unconnected. Many lives lack direction, guidance, and meaning. Admittedly I do not have all of the answers for the challenges that people are facing in our day. But, I shall endeavor to deal with the many questions that life proposes to us.

Because I am pastor of the Southside Baptist Church in Sarasota, Florida (and proud to be her pastor) I will share from time to time events and experiences that will reflect that commitment. I will, at times, share my heart and convictions. I will, at times, reflect upon Southern Baptists (again, of whom I am proud to be part) and how we are handling our responsibilities to reach the world with the gospel. I will, at times, share my personal commentary on world, national, and local events.

It is my plan to post at least once each week. Because it is my conviction that the words of others can shape our lives I will, in each post, share a quote that has impacted my life in a positive way.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

- Steve Jobs

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