So, we blew up the website in the past week, partly over a post over at Les Puryear’s other blog. (Who has more than one blog? Oh, yeah, I used to, then I got too lazy to keep up with them both. Anyway, nothing wrong with that.) There’s much to contemplate on how that got responded to, but I’ve been looking at it and thinking about it. Copying his 10 posts with response here (and expecting him to point out how I’ve taken it wrong.)
Pastor-blogger Puryear pointed out these 10 things as the problem with the SBC.
1. Preachers who reject that the Old Testament moral law is still valid today. Hard to argue with that, is it? Doesn’t the moral law forbid: murder, adultery, theft, envy, divorce, and corrupt priests? Certainly we should all understand the moral law in light of the New Testament, including the teaching of Christ that equates hatred and lust with murder and adultery. Ultimately, though, I don’t know of anyone who would disagree here: if you throw out the first covenant, you misunderstand the second (new) one as well. So, a preacher that teaches murder, theft, spiritual corruption as acceptable? Yep, he’s a problem in the SBC.
2. Preachers and Seminary professors who teach that the biblical principle of storehouse tithing is not valid today. The principle is perfectly valid, since it’s an old covenant principle. If you’re living under the Levitical Law, you’ve got to tithe according to it. Overall, the idea of truly biblical principles being discarded would be problematic. To hold out Levitical tithing is helpful: it’s one more thing that we fall short in and need the grace of God.
3. Churches who hold no one accountable for their actions. This one’s self-evident. Those of us in ministry are here to serve the church, denominational leadership is there to serve the churches, and we should be held accountable for our actions. Further, churches that cannot bring a grace-filled accountability among the body are in trouble. Yet it is our drive for numerical success and earthly satisfaction (like buildings and programs) that drives a church to hold onto a membership list that doesn’t reflect disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our problem that matches here is this: we have not built true Gospel-oriented community that keeps us faithful to the cause. We’ve built motivational speaker platforms and need to grow beyond it.
4. Seminaries who are churning out Calvinist pastors who have no place to go in today’s SBC churches. Discounting the graduates of SBC seminaries that originated in other denominations and went back, this reflects a definite problem. Why? If a person is a Christian with a Calvinistic (just the basic, not the burn-the-heretic, baptize the baby totality) understanding of salvation, there should always be a place for them. Churches are crying out for Sunday School Teachers, workers, committed members, and further. If no SBC church will take these, there’s a problem. Here in Arkansas, I think the stat is that 10% of churches are pastorless at any given point (remembering, not citing). If the problem is that we are creating seminary grads without the maturity and commitment to go wherever needed to serve the Lord, it’s certainly a problem–but it’s not the “SBC” problem. They’ll go elsewhere. Unless that’s the problem, that the Calvinists are leaving, I’m not seeing the beef: there’s always work to be done.
The problem could be this: we’re graduating too many people from seminaries. This is true: we’re graduating missionaries we can’t send, teachers we can’t employ, and so forth. This dilutes the energy of the seminaries and uses resources better spent elsewhere to train highly moral and Biblically educated insurance salesmen. So, it’s a valid complaint.
5. SBC leaders who promote planting new churches as an evangelism strategy when it is really for the purpose of providing places for Calvinist pastors to work. To my Calvinist brethren: if the lives, efforts, results, and effects of a church-planting strategy do not reveal this as a baseless criticism, then there is something wrong with how you’re doing it. If the appearance is that all we’re doing in planting churches is providing a pastor-work program, then it’s failing. Because if a pastor who wants to reach the lost sees it that way, how do the lost we’re trying to reach going to see it? So, if that’s what’s happening, it needs corrected. If it’s not, then more clarity, more accountability will help show this to be untrue. Until then, an SBC pastor like Les Puryear is one of the supporters of the work to whom we owe accountability. Let’s help clear this up.
6. The devaluing of SBC state conventions and local associations.: By both national-level speakers and leaders and by states and associations themselves. When an association can’t seem to explain why it exists or what it does, other than hold 2 senior adult meetings a year, it’s devalued itself. Somewhere along the way, Associational Missionaries became “Directors of Missions” when they shouldn’t really direct anything. The whole of the SBC, a church-driven mission support structure started trying to fit in a powerless-bishop routine to hold out the liberals and hold in the conservatives. Some haven’t gone that way, some have—and the division is painful and harming the work. When an AM or state convention employee won’t help a church it devalues the work. When those positions seem to go as jobs programs for unemployable seminary grads, it devalues the work. When a church gets “too big” to work with their brethren, that’s a problem too.
7. Seminary trustees who will not stand up against Seminary presidents who are promoting Calvinism. If an institution’s trustees aren’t holding the employees at all levels, including president, to the standards expressed by the institutions rules, there’s a problem. So, yes, if a seminary president is pushing an agenda outside of the guiding rules of the institution the trustees should stiffen up and correct him. No seminary president should be promoting a theology outside the scope of the BF&M. So, if there’s one pushing more of Calvin than the SBC has approved through votes and trustees, the trustees need to correct. As a whole, in fact, part of what needs to be happening in all entities is for the trustees to exercise their overseer role: no entity president is above the scrutiny. Nor should we want one that thinks he is. So, if we’re not getting due diligence, we are in trouble, whether it be the Six, IMB, NAMB, or anywhere else.
8. Pastors who preach that the use of beverage alcohol is acceptable in moderation for the Christian. Pastors that preach anything beyond Jesus Christ crucified for the salvation of mankind are problematic. Pastors should be preaching that every aspect of life for a Christian is to be grounded by the Word and controlled by the Spirit. That we are wasting the short time we have to tell people it’s ok to drink a little is a waste of time that could declare the Gospel. Because the Gospel is not about drinking or not drinking. It’s about sinners needing a Savior. And saved sinners needing to declare that Savior.
9. Seminary trustees who defer to the Seminary president instead of providing biblical oversight. I admit to some difficulty here, because I can’t find Biblical command or warrant for a seminary at all, much less how trustees oversee one. However, if they are entrusted to verify that the resources of God’s kingdom be used one way, and those resources are not being used that way, accountability will come. At the very least, a trustee must bear in mind that they will answer to God for whether they were faithful with little things on this earth. This concern could likely be shared with all entities: if trustees aren’t doing their job, that is a problem within the SBC.
10. The withdrawal of Christians from society instead of being salt and light. This is a problem, not of the SBC, but of much of our society and the Christians within it. Of course, one cannot argue that you keep salt in salt shakers and light originates from a specific source, so the gathering of believers together at times cannot be the concern here. If there are believers who are living deep in holes and not interacting with the world around them, then that’s a problem. Not having a Christian-only sign on the Walmart, though, means that most of us encounter society somewhere along the way.
So, you see, it’s hard to actually find a fault with Pastor Puryear’s 10 points.
It’s just that he accomplished “vague” and “pointed” at the same time. Then, most of us read between the lines and found him to be criticizing us or our dear ones, and felt that criticism was unfounded. I found a couple of them pointed straight at me—maybe more, maybe less.
You see, we went and found fault with our understanding of what he meant. Now, having read a good many of Les Puryear’s blogposts, I can guess what he’s pointing at with many of them. Do I know?
No. Neither do you.
But when I worked for UPS (before I withdrew from being salt and light) we had a saying after the “get-chewed-and-cussed-by-management” meetings every day: “If the shoe fits, wear it. If not, pitch it.” (in the interest of not losing my posting rights, I edited that saying to my typical usage. Most folks said it with at least 3 extra words.)
If the shoe fits: if you’re focused on the lesser things, if you’re not watching over what God has entrusted you with, then maybe Les is right. These things reflect what is wrong in the SBC.
That we can concoct a list of 10 things like this and not hit common agreement shows a bigger problem.
What’s wrong in the SBC? We’re worried about what’s wrong with the SBC. Most of us have faults in front of us that we can fix, but we want to fix everyone else’s faults. Yes, that even applies to this blogpost. I’m trying to fix this whole issue—so, I’m a hypocrite sometimes. Let us borrow that example from Nehemiah: fix the portion of the wall right in front of your house. Focus your preaching, your blogging. I’ll focus mine. Not on or against Calvin. Not for or against NAMB. Not for or against Dave Miller’s underpaid (or overpaid) editorial role at SBCVoices.
This Sunday, I’ll preach Christ. I’ll preach Him from Genesis 15. I’ll call for sinners to repent, the lost to be saved, the wanderers to come back, all knowing that whatever happens will be the work of God and not of Doug. Will you join me? You don’t have to use Genesis 15. You’d probably preach it better than I will, but pick your own text. Even though you’ll preach better than I, you’re a better counselor, writer, Christian, Baptist, Calvinist, Arminian, Calminian, Wovenist, Calimari, or Corellian than I am, we know that God will work through us.
Can we not focus there first?