Monthly Archives: October 2011

 

Oct

31

2011

Trevin Wax|3:22 am CT

Should the SBC Change Its Name?

Last month, Southern Baptist Convention president Bryant Wright announced the formation of a committee to explore the option of changing the name of the SBC. Blogs quickly became forums for people to discuss the merits of the proposal. Some believe the name change represents a sell-out of our historic identity. Others believe that not changing the name keeps us stuck in the past (with racial connotations even!) and hinders our future growth and effectiveness. Still others are open to a name change, but don’t like the way the current president is going about things.

I don’t have a strong feeling one way or another regarding changing the name of the SBC. But I do have some thoughts on the subject, and a few people have asked me to make them public. So, at risk of making people on both sides of this contentious debate angry, here goes nothing…

1. We’re not as big or important as we think we are.

Much of the talk about changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention assumes that people have a terribly negative perception of Southern Baptists. It’s assumed that our mission work in many parts of the country is hindered because the term “Southern” is an obstacle. Or perhaps we’re afraid people associate our name with the backwoods Baptists of yesteryear.

I may be mistaken, and I am willing to be corrected, but I doubt that most non-Christians have a negative perception of Southern Baptists. Truth be told, most non-Christians don’t even know who we are. Right now, we look a lot like the wider world of evangelicalism, which also suffers from this navel-gazing, Everyone hates us! mentality that research has proven to be untrue. It reminds me of the teenage girl who goes home from a party crying about how everyone hated her outfit, when in actuality, no one even noticed it.

Still, the acknowledgement that “we’re not as important as we think we are” cuts the other way too. It’s true that we’re not universally panned in the way some of those desiring a name-change think we are. But neither are we too big or important to refrain from considering a name change. Those who resist any idea of changing the name tend to overestimate the Convention’s importance as well, but from the other side.

So, let’s keep this discussion in perspective and remember that changing the name of the SBC will barely register as a blip in the overarching scheme of church history. We’re not so big and important in the perception of others that we have to change it. Neither are we so big and important to reject any notion of change.

2. We shouldn’t caricature people who approach this issue differently.

Some of the more vocal opponents of changing the SBC’s name believe that historic Baptist identity will suffer if the name were to change. Unfortunately, they level an implied accusation against the proponents of a name-change: They’re not really Baptist. Meanwhile, some who want to change the name have given the impression that anyone who opposes the idea must be more focused on the past than the future, or worse yet, racist for wanting to keep “Southern” in the name.

Both of these lines of attack and argumentation are unbecoming and unworthy of the Southern Baptist Convention. It would do us all well if we would assume good and godly motives on behalf of each other, and then recognize that there are good points to be made on both sides. There may indeed be sound, missiological reasons for considering a name more representative of the Convention’s direction. There may also be good reasons to refrain from going to the expense of changing the name at this time. We need not resort to caricature and insinuation of the worst possible sort when it comes to this issue.

3. Our mission should be at the forefront in this discussion.

For me personally, the most attractive reason for changing the name of the SBC is that we better describe who we are and who we are becoming. It seems strange to think that church planters in Boston or Sacramento would be planting churches that belong to a Convention whose name is regional. That said, I doubt that any of these church planters are publicly advertising their churches as Southern Baptist. It’s quite possible to belong to the Convention and yet choose for missiological purposes to not wave the SBC flag.

If our name gets in the way of the mission, then by all means, ditch the name for something better! After all, as Southern Baptists, we are a missionary people, and the impulse to cast aside anything that hinders the mission is one that we should embrace. At the same time, in a time of recession, one has to wonder whether or not the amount of expense that would be generated by all the ramifications of altering the Constitution and by-laws would be the best use of funds. We’ve just had a major discussion (some would say battle) within the Convention over the need to get more money to the mission field. It’s not wrong to wonder openly if a name-change controversy could distract from the mission, or if our funds would be better suited elsewhere.

In other words, the missiological question cuts both ways. Missiology challenges those who resist the change out of nostalgia, but it also challenges those who promote the change, particularly when it takes into account the time and expense of changing the name. Either way we move forward, let’s make sure missiology is at the forefront of this discussion.

4. We can learn from other organizations who have changed their names.

In recent years, a number of groups and denominations have chosen to change their names. Campus Crusade for Christ is now Cru. The Baptist General Conference is now Converge Worldwide. If a new name is so vague or trendy that everyone has to repeat the old name after it, it probably isn’t working too well. I hope we don’t make the same mistake.

On the other hand, there may be an easier way to go about a name change – a way that avoids the exorbitant costs associated with changing the Convention’s constitution and yet still allows us to be Southern Baptists with a new moniker. We could adopt a fresh name that describes who we are, and still maintain “Southern Baptist Convention” for clarifying purposes. In a nutshell, a DBA (“doing business as”) is the name of a corporation that is different from the legal or true corporate name as on file. We could be the Southern Baptist Convention “doing business as Great Commission Baptist Fellowship” or something of that nature. This would give us the opportunity to avoid a bitter and public controversy. It would also keep costs down.

Conclusion

Whatever Southern Baptists choose to do with our name, I hope that we will keep missiology at the forefront of our thinking. The big issues are God’s kingdom and our representation as Christ the King – not our denominational brand and history. His name is what we must care about most passionately, not our own.

 
 

Oct

31

2011

Trevin Wax|2:30 am CT

Worth a Look 10.31.11

 What to look for in a potential group leader:

We just look at our group and go “sure, that sounds nice, but…nobody in here could be a leader.” I think I’ve heard that more than anything else and when I start to dig, the reason for this is that we are often looking for an “ideal” instead of a few tangible signs that this person is headed in the right direction.  Here are some things I look for…

The 20 Unhealthiest Cereals. (Whatever the list says, Fruity Pebbles is still my favorite!)

 Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel:

Does Reformation theology matter today? Absolutely. It is tempting to think of the Reformation as a mere political or social movement. In reality, however, the Reformation was a fight over the evangelical gospel itself. The reformers argued that God’s free and gracious acceptance of guilty sinners on the basis of the work of Christ alone is at the heart of the gospel. While the political and social context has changed since the sixteenth century, nevertheless, this issue remains at the forefront.

Brothers, We Are Not Gate Agents:

As a pastor, I’m scared of becoming nothing more than an earnest gate agent. I’m afraid of calling people to places I’ve never been. Of course, pastors are humans too. None of us have arrived. There must be room for aspiration and inspiring ourselves (so to speak) even as we try to inspire others. But my fear is that I would keep preaching about God, without really communing with Him. That I would stir people to obedience I don’t really take seriously. That I would speak earnestly of an affection for Christ that I am not earnestly pursuing. I give so many sermons and talk about God so often, I fear that I may end up exhorting people with exhortations I’ve learned to ignore.

 
 

Oct

30

2011

Trevin Wax|3:38 am CT

Solomon's Prayer for Wisdom

“You have shown great and faithful love to Your servant, my father David, because he walked before You in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. Lord my God, You have now made Your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. Your servant is among Your people You have chosen, a people too numerous to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:6-9, HCSB)

Notice several parts of this prayer:

  • The prayer is rooted in Solomon’s trust in the good and faithful character of God.
  • The request is rooted in Solomon’s recognition of God’s grace in establishing him as king.
  • The prayer demonstrates Solomon’s humility. He describes himself as a servant, a youth, and without leadership experience.
  • The request is made from a self-giving perspective, as Solomon seeks wisdom on behalf of God’s people.
  • The request itself begins with the desire for obedience and only then moves to issues of discernment of good and evil.

I love the next verse too: “Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this” (v. 10).

 
 

Oct

29

2011

Trevin Wax|3:20 am CT

The Apostle John's View of Technology

Here’s how John Dyer uses the example of the apostle John in order to help us think through issues related to technology:

We mentioned the apostle John’s view of technology found in 2 John 12, where he wrote, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

John was comfortable using the communication technology—pen and ink—of his day, but he did so with a set of values that were contrary to the tendencies built into the technology of writing. Whereas a letter requires that one isolated person write a message and then another isolated person later read that message, John says that his joy is never complete until he is physically present with his community.

And yet, aware of this problem, John used writing because he understood both its helpfulness and its problematic value system. From that perspective he was able to use technology in service of the embodied communal life that Christ taught him. When John could not be physically present with his community, he was comfortable using technology to communicate with them. But he was always careful to state that he considered technologically mediated relationships to be inferior to embodied relationships.

For John, both embodied and disembodied communication were “real”; he simply believed that only face-to-face reality offered him “complete joy.” The great temptation of the digital generation is to inadvertently disagree with John and assume that online presence offers the same kind of “complete joy” as offline presence.

Our problem is not that technologically mediated relationships are unreal, nor is the problem that all online communication is self-focused and narcissistic. Rather, the danger is that just like the abundance of food causes us to mistake sweet food for nourishing food, and just like the abundance of information can drown out deep thinking, the abundance of virtual connection can drown out the kind of life-giving, table-oriented life that Jesus cultivated among his disciples.

Social media follows the device paradigm in that it masks the long, sometimes arduous process of friendship and makes it available at the press of a button. Yet, just because social media follows the device paradigm does not mean that we should abandon it any more than we should abandon air-conditioning. Though such speculation is rarely useful, we can only assume that if the apostles were alive today, they would continue using the technology of the day. Yet, as John modeled for us, they would do so with their value system in mind, always seeking to use technology in service of embodied life, not as a replacement for embodied life.

- John Dyer, From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology

 
 

Oct

28

2011

Trevin Wax|3:49 am CT

Proselytism, Depth, and Urban Legends: Kingdom People – Years 4 & 5

Kingdom People was launched five years ago this week. Today is the last day for revisiting some past Kingdom People posts. Here are some notable posts from the fourth and fifth years of this blog:

“In Defense of Proselytism: Talking Points for Brit Hume” (January 11, 2010)

As Christians, we must recognize that before we can make a robust defense for the Christian faith, we may have to clear the air by making a case for evangelism in general. After having listened to some of the remarks made about Brit Hume, I have compiled a list of common objections to “proselytism” and why each of them are unpersuasive.

Jennifer Knapp and Larry King: Why We Always Lose This Debate (April 26, 2010)

I’m convinced that we continue to lose the argument about homosexuality and Christianity because the traditionalist almost always makes his case within a conversation that has been framed by the opposing viewpoint. The Christian doesn’t lose the argument at the micro-level. The argument is lost from the beginning because of how the discussion is framed.

Building Deep Relationships Before Sharing Christ? Impossible! (November 9, 2010)

It’s true that effective evangelism usually takes place after trustworthy relationships have been built. But something is amiss when we can “get to know” people well over a period of months and never talk about Jesus.

So You Want to Go Deeper… (January 6, 2011)

I once met a youth pastor who was so frustrated with accusations of “shallowness” and demands for “more depth” that he told me, “Fine! If they want to go deeper, I’m going to go so deep it drives them nuts. I’ll drown them in depth!” Not exactly the best posture to take as a disciple-maker of the next generation.

I didn’t like the youth pastor’s attitude. But I did understand his frustration. Sometimes it’s hard to please the people clamoring for “deeper” teaching because everyone seems to have a different idea of what “deep” is.

Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition (April 27, 2011)

Those of us who are entrusted with the task of expositing the Scriptures in a local church must take care to verify our sources, illustrations, and stories. No matter how helpful an illustration may be, it is dishonoring to God if it is untrue.

Here are a number of urban legends that get repeated in sermons. Some are more pervasive than others, even appearing in commentaries and scholarly works…

 
 

Oct

28

2011

 
 

Oct

28

2011

 
 

Oct

27

2011

Trevin Wax|3:25 am CT

The Shack, Screwtape, and Culture-Making: Kingdom People – Year 3

This week, I’m taking a break from posting new content, and since this blog is turning 5, we’re taking a look at some past Kingdom People posts. Here are some notable posts from the blog’s third year (2008-09).

I’m convinced one of the reasons people like this blog is because of the interesting people who agree to be interviewed here. Blogs that are all about the blogger usually bore me, primarily because none of us are as interesting as we think we are. So I try to point people to interesting people that I run across and interesting ideas that deserve a hearing.

One of the most interesting people I’ve interviewed here at Kingdom People is Andy Crouch. I sent him a few questions about Culture Making, which he answered at length. Crouch’s work is provocative and engaging, and even when people disagree with his conclusions, his work serves to stimulate good discussion about the creation mandate. “Interview with Andy Crouch” (January 9, 2009)

During Kingdom People’s third year, I also began posting more regularly about pro-life issues, beginning with this post after Obama’s election titled “Can the Pro-Life Movement Succeed?

The 2008 presidential election represents a major setback for the pro-life cause. President Obama will likely replace two or three judges on the Supreme Court. His replacements are sure to maintain the majority opinion that favors Roe vs. Wade.

Despite this major setback, the ascendancy of Obama to the highest office in the land fills me with tremendous hope that the abortion debate will be turned around in this country. Why?

I also started writing more regularly about issues related to the Southern Baptist Convention. My favorite post on SBC matters is where I tried to imitate C. S. Lewis by offering Screwtape the demon’s perspective on Convention matters. “Screwtape on the Southern Baptist Convention” (March 30, 2009)

The fact that we lost the battle over the Book almost caused me to lose hope. But we still have a chance. The gospel and the cursed Commission are the tools the Enemy has used against us all these years. You will do well to make sure that these Baptists focus on everything else.

I fear what lies in store for us. The Enemy will not give up on these people. So neither should we.

For the first three years of blogging, an inordinate amount of my focus was on reading and reviewing books. I’ve backed off the reviews a little bit in recent years, but I still like to tackle the books creating the most conversation. The Shack was one of those books:

We should never let a cultural phenomenon go by without wondering about the reasons for its popularity. Here are a few reasons I think The Shack is so popular…

 
 

Oct

27

2011

Trevin Wax|2:01 am CT

Worth a Look 10.27.11

“Hacked!” – a fascinating article about how vulnerable your own email account and all your personal history may be:

As email, documents, and almost every aspect of our professional and personal lives moves onto the “cloud”—remote servers we rely on to store, guard, and make available all of our data whenever and from wherever we want them, all the time and into eternity—a brush with disaster reminds the author and his wife just how vulnerable those data can be. A trip to the inner fortress of Gmail, where Google developers recovered six years’ worth of hacked and deleted e‑mail, provides specific advice on protecting and backing up data now—and gives a picture both consoling and unsettling of the vulnerabilities we can all expect to face in the future.

If you don’t have perseverance, you won’t make it as a songwriter:

Instead of writing ten songs for your next album, write 50 and whittle down to your ten best. Volume is your friend. It will give you more choices, and the sheer amount of work it requires will cause you to improve over time.

Why the Ascension Matters:

What the Ascension says about Christ is just the start of its impact to the Christian life. Indeed it is through our union with Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we can be assured of salvation and begin to glorify Christ and not ourselves.

I am really enjoying the new weekly podcast from World magazine: “The World and Everything In It”. It’s like NPR from a Christian worldview.

 
 

Oct

26

2011

Trevin Wax|3:54 am CT

Wright Interviews, Gospel Definitions, and Politics: Kingdom People – Year 2

As this blog turns 5 this week, I’m pulling out some posts from the archive and giving them new life. Yesterday, we looked at several posts from Kingdom People’s first year. Today, we’re jumping into Year 2.

The most monumental blog post of Kingdom People’s second year was the podcast and lengthy transcript from my sit-down conversation with N.T. Wright - “Interview with N.T. Wright – Full Transcript” (November 19, 2007). I had been reading Wright since my years in Romania, primarily his work on Jesus. I had recently begun to read up on the controversy surrounding his views on justification and Paul. Wright agreed to an hour-long interview at Asbury Seminary, where he answered a number of questions related to his life and work as well as the current discussions of justification. A few months later, I sat down with Bishop Wright again in Nashville to discuss his book Surprised by Hope. In the second interview, I brought up specific criticisms from Mark Dever, Doug Wilson, and other pastors and theologians.

One of the longer blog posts I wrote in 2008 was called “Don’t Replace the Substitute!” I registered my concern with replacing reductionistic, past presentations of the gospel with newer presentations that were equally reductionistic:

When I evaluate a gospel presentation, I try to imagine what kind of disciple the presentation will produce. The gospel presentations of past generations have given us individualistic Christians without an understanding of the missio Dei and the nature of the church. They need to be fixed.

But I hope we don’t trade the inadequate presentations from the past with other inadequate presentations. I can see future generations who have grown up with this newer presentation asking questions like, “What does the gospel say about my guilt? How do I know I’m okay with God? How can I be sure I’ve been doing enough for the Kingdom?” And eventually, we will have self-focused, self-centered Christians who have turned introspective precisely because the gospel presentation they heard and believed did not say much to them about that.

During the spring of 2008, I began gathering a number of definitions of “the gospel” in an ongoing series titled “Gospel Definitions.” As far as I know, the result became the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the Internet today. Carefully working through these definitions was instrumental in helping me develop the ideas that would turn into the book Counterfeit Gospels.

Also of note during the blog’s second year – the 2008 presidential campaign. I did quite a few posts about the campaign, including this one, which analyzed what we learned from the campaign slogans of both candidates: “Yes We Can? What Our Campaign Slogans Tell Us About America” (September 16, 2008).

“Yes We Can” has become the mantra of the Obama campaign. ”Country First” has become the tagline for the McCain camp. No doubt these easy-to-remember slogans will help the strategies of both campaigns. But Christians should carefully consider both the commendable and the condemnable aspects of these sayings.