Houston, We Have a Problem: 12 Theses on the Church’s Mission

by Jared Moore on May 7, 2013 · 14 comments

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

I think one of the greatest problems plaguing the SBC is our emphasis on pragmatism (If it works, do it). Ministries are constantly evaluated based on numbers, not faithfulness. The harvest is often praised at the expense of praising the faithfulness of the gospel-seed-planters and gospel-cultivators. We should be telling the next generation of pastors to pursue faithfulness to God regardless how many repent and believe. Faithfulness should be praised instead of numbers, since God alone gives the increase. We should rejoice over the planting, watering, and the harvest. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

1 Corinthians 3:5-9

Andreas Kostenberger, professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote these 12 theses on the church’s mission. These 12 Theses need to be nailed to the door at the SBC in Houston, TX June 11-12, 2013:

1. The church’s mission-in both belief and practice-should be grounded in the biblical theology of mission.

2. Reflection on the church’s mission should be predicated upon the affirmation of the full and sole authority of Scripture.

3. The church’s mission should be conceived primarily in terms of the church’s faithfulness and responsiveness to the missionary mandate given by the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Scripture.

4. The church’s understanding of its mission should be hermeneutically sound.

5. The church’s mission is to be conceived ultimately in theocentric rather than anthropocentric terms.

6. The church’s mission, properly and biblically conceived, is to be trinitarian in its orientation, but not at the expense of neglecting the distinct roles of the three persons within the Godhead.

7. The contemporary context of the church’s mission, while important, ought not to override the church’s commitment to the authority of Scripture, its need to be grounded in the biblical theology of mission, and the understanding of its task in terms of faithfulness to the gospel.

8. The church is the God-ordained agent of his mission in this world today.

9. The way in which the kingdom of God is extended in this world today is through regenerate believers acting out their Christian faith in their God-assigned spheres of life: the church, their families, their workplace, the societies in which they live (Eph 5:18-6:9; 1 Pet 2:13-3:7).

10. There is no true lasting social transformation apart from personal conversion through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

11. Human organization does not necessarily entail a lack of acknowledgment of God and his initiative in mission.

12. The church’s task today is to nurture, renew, and plant churches composed of a spiritually regenerate membership and constituted in keeping with the biblical teaching regarding church leadership.

You can read Kostenberger’s reasoning for the above theses here. The article is worthy of your time and attention.

We cannot start a revolution when we so choose. Only God can change a man’s heart. Yet, revolutions always begin somewhere, through the preaching of someone. May we rebel against the rebellion against Scripture in the SBC. May the SBC 2013 in Houston be the beginning of a revolution of sorts… a return to a biblical understanding of the church’s mission.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

1 Joshua T May 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm

“We cannot start a revolution when we so choose. Only God can change a man’s heart. Yet, revolutions always begin somewhere, through the preaching of someone. May we rebel against the rebellion against Scripture in the SBC.”

Amen. Thanks for sharing these words (even the ones that aren’t yours) Jared.

2 Clark Dunlap May 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I thought we had a week or two before we heard “Houston, We Have a Problem”

3 Tom Fillinger May 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Jared,

What you do not define you cannot measure.

The SBC claims to make disciples but there is no declared and operative definition of what a disciple is.

I pray that the facade and charade that the SBC has 16.3 million members will finally be unmasked and repented of. God is not likely to ‘start a revolution’ until there is repentance of this pride and flat out dishonest metric by which ministry effectiveness is evaluated.

The primary problem is not any ‘ism’. Rather it is . . . .

Jesus did not command us to make converts. His command is to make disciples.

In Grace,

4 Max May 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

“Jesus did not command us to make converts. His command is to make disciples.”

Well, both actually.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)

You can’t be a disciple, unless you are convert. You can’t become a new man until the old man passes away.

5 Joshua T May 9, 2013 at 11:31 am

Max,

Not to disagree sternly with you. But we need to recognize that the Bible does have two uses for “disciple”. There are disciples who reject Jesus and eventually leave Him because His teaching is too hard (John 6:66). A general statement like “You can’t be a disciple, unless you are convert” is not truly consistent with Biblical language.

The rest of your post I enjoyed. Thanks for the words. :-)

6 Christiane May 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm

The bringing of Christ to the world is the mission of the Church

7 Jess Alford May 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm

One of the major problems today is there are too many disciples that haven’t been converted. I have been complaining about this for years.

The days will come when we say, what have we done? 2Tim. 3rd. Chapt.
states in the last days, people will have a form of Godliness, a form of anything will not get the job done.

8 Tom Fillinger May 8, 2013 at 7:44 am

If they are not converted they are NOT disciples.

9 Jess Alford May 8, 2013 at 11:24 am

Tom,

Judas was a disciple.

The devil has his own disciples, he is able to transform his disciples into angels of light.

10 Tom Fillinger May 8, 2013 at 11:52 am

Jess,

A ‘disciple’ is simply a follower or a learner. When we get to the root of the issue the SBC has scores of people who are members of churches but they are not regenerate. The metric to determine if one is a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ is TRANSFORMATION not membership.

The SBC has no definitive and operative definition of what a disciple is. What you have not defined you cannot measure. What you cannot measure you can not hold accountable. Try to apply the one another commands of the NT to many people that are members of SBC churches and tell me about the response you get.

11 Jess Alford May 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Tom,

We are saying the same thing, except I am saying it more eloquently, and not as harsh. Gee, the nerve of some people. lol.

12 Stuart May 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I’d be curious to see #5 fleshed out, with examples.

I’m a bit removed from SBC politics these days, but I’d also appreciate some enlightenment (background or explanation) re: the statement, “…the rebellion against Scripture in the SBC.” Where is this taking place, and by whom?

13 Jared Moore May 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Stuart, pragmatism is everywhere in the SBC. Evaluating our ministries based on pragmatism instead of faithfulness to God is rebellion against Scripture. I assume one would simply need to look at his local association of churches to find examples of pragmatism.

14 Stuart May 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I found my answer to my question about #5 in the primary source.

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