Founders Ministries Blog: What should we discuss for an encore?

The above post is a follow-up to a blog entry by Tom Ascol over at The Founders Blog, concerning the possibility of Johnny Hunt being nominated to the SBC presidency, and subsequently what characteristics should we look for in a Convention president.

One comment in the original post introduced the suspected “anti-Calvinist” stance of Pastor Hunt.  This snowballed into a debate of Calvinists vs. non-Calvinists (forgive the labels, they are adoptive from the debate), that exceeded 240 posts.  Much of the debate was not on the merits of either position, but ended up being attacks of one group on the other.

I, myself, commented over at Friesville in response to Micah’s take on this entire ordeal, and I felt as if I should migrate some of those thoughts here, as well:

I like Johnny Hunt, he has a tremendous testimony, and he has made a
phenomenal impact on his community. He has an exceptional love for
young pastors and a desire to help them. Certainly we disagree
theologically; and if I thought he would try to use his two-year term
as a polemic to abolish “Calvinism” (another label I am not entirely
comfortable with) from the SBC, I would likely be spurned to more
action against his election. However, I highly doubt that is the case.

Certainly,
I have other thoughts on who I would like to see nominated. In the end,
the majority will win, and I think that is fair and right. I hope we
[the SBC] can continue to champion the autonomy of the local church,
agree on the commission (“make disciples”), allow for variety of
methods, and accept theological differences (to the extent that the
gospel is still proclaimed).

Am I naive to think that Johnny Hunt would not destroy the SBC?  Is it foolish to think that in spite of my theological differences with him, that I think his dynamic personality and love for pastors will make him an exceptional nominee?  There were those who have worked for him that commented in Ascol’s original post as to why he may not be perfect, but I would have to agree that they are likely biased (I can’t say all good things with respect to all the pastors I have served under).  I am concerned with his character and his positions in reference to Reformed theology, but certainly, as Ascol points out, the latter of those concerns is not going to bring the end to Reformed thinking among many SBCers.

Up to this point, we are not comparing nominees.  We have just seen those who want to attack the current (anticipated) nominee.  I know of nothing that would necessitate anything less than my full-support for Johnny Hunt as President of the SBC.  Until another candidate is presented, I believe he is the best man for the job (if he’ll accept it).

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EDITOR’S NOTE: At the time of this notation, this post is pushing 5 months old. Because of recent comments, I feel it is necessary to clarify the context of this post. As you read this post, please note that I have only visited Turtle Creek Community Church once, and that was for their very first (launch) service. There has been no attempt to typify what TCCC’s ministry looks like today. If you have questions or concerns about TCCC, please contact them directly and do not use any comments made here as an excuse to not worship with them. The majority of this post is just opinion and is not intended to distinguish between a right way and a wrong way. I continue to have concerns with TCCC’s doctrine, but this is assuming that they hold to similar doctrines as the denomination that they have aligned themselves with. None of the comments thus far, however, have ventured into this disucssion. With that, I invite you to read and respond as necessary.

This is a belated post. Last Sunday My family and I visited Turtle Creek Community Church. This was their “launch” Sunday. They had some Christmas related services in December, but this was the official kick-off. As we are on our “sabbatical” we really wanted to see what other churches are doing. Since I am interested in church planting, I was very interested in how they pulled off the first service.

We received a very nice mailer that told us of the event. We arrived in a hailstorm at the elementary school in which the services were being held. It was actually rain when I dropped the family off at the curb, but by the time I looped the parking lot, “all hail broke loose.” It was confusing finding the nursery for lack of signage and guidance, but we eventually dropped both kids (1 and 3 years old) in the same classroom (We were slightly disappointed at this point that they had nothing more stimulating for our 3 year old, but our expectations were likely too high anyway.). We found a few friends to sit with that we had not seen in a while. They have been in the area for a few months and have yet to find a church home in which they would be happy.

The service was ok. I hate to be judgmental, because I doubt I would do it any better in foresight. However, the pastor was not as smoothe or polished as I had hoped. The music was good, but there was no interaction. The congregation did not sing at all. I recognize that they are trying to reach unchurched people, and unchurched people might not yet feel comfortable in participating, but I still think this was a poor choice.

The message was poor (in my not-so-humble opinion). It was 20 minutes into the message (after having incorporated 2 movie clips) before the Bible was even opened. Again, I am in favor of the multimedia, but the Bible has to come out strong, because it is the gospel (found in the Word) that is our only hope at change.

I have labeled this post “Another ‘Community Church,'” because this is the 3rd “Community Church” that we have visited within a month’s time (see prevous post). I must reiterate here that you never know what you are going to get. In this case, the plant is part of the Church of God (Anderson) denomination. This is a major strike mark against them from my perspective. Here are some of the beliefs from my COG brethren (I would disagree with the majority of these statements):

The Church of God, as well as other Holiness Churches, as well as the Methodist Church they came out of, teach a salvation by grace thru faith in the Lord Jesus Christ initially, but one must maintain good WORKS and remain faithful to the Lord in order to remain saved, as do all other Holiness Churches. Thus many outside observers would say this is a salvation of grace plus works. Instead of receiving the free gift of Eternal Life, Holiness Churches teach one receives PROBATIONARY LIFE when one trusts Christ as Saviour.

The Church of God, as other Holiness Churches, believes that a person who has been saved and born-again can achieve SINLESS PERFECTION in this lifetime. In an act subsequent to trusting Christ for salvation, which some call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or SECOND BLESSING, one is said to be cleansed at that moment from ALL inward sin…and it is ‘eradicated’ when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit.

The Church of God and other holiness churches believe that once a person has become a born-again Christian that he can ‘Sin willfully and SEVER his relationship with Christ’. Thus, the Church of God believes that Salvation can be LOST after one has been truly saved, and that person can end up in hell after all. Wesleyans reject the doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved, otherwise known as ‘Eternal Security’. All other Holiness Churches, as well as the Church of God itself, believe Salvation can be LOST and reject the Baptist doctrine of ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED teaching of Eternal Security. This is known as ‘Arminian theology’ and is a tenet of Holiness Churches.

The Church of God also sees a third ordinance as FOOT WASHING. They believe Jesus’ example of washing the disciples feet was meant to be repeated as an ordinance in local churches today amongst believers, but none of these ‘ordinances are considered mandatory conditions of Christian experience or fellowship.’

The Church of God does allow and ordain WOMEN PREACHERS. In fact, the first women preachers in America began in the Holiness Movement of the later 1800’s.

(these quotes were excerpted from http://www.gospelcenterchurch.org/churchofgod.html, this site is not related to, nor sponsored by the Church of God. It is a church’s site that shows the difference from Baptist’s and other churches’ beliefs.)

I can hope that God will use Turtle Creek to reach some with the gospel, but the gospel is not good news unless it is eternally secure. This will not cause me to cease from fellowship with these brothers and sisters in Christ. I can only lovingly encourage them to the truth. However, it is unlikely that I would revisit this new plant.

Livid with Labels

January 28, 2006

I struggle with labels. I don’t know what label I even want put on me. There are certainly many labels that I would immediately reject, but no label is definitively specific.

In a conversation with some new (Christian) friends, the history of my vocation was discussed in which I told them that I was most recently on staff at a Baptist church. They quickly (without shame) responded to this with, “Oh, you’re one of those.” What was I to do, I was on the defensive now. I did not want to stand in support of what every person who labeled themselves a “Baptist” had done, nor did I want to disregard the many godly, compassionate, freedom-loving Baptists that I have been in fellowship with. Not to mention the fact that I do align most closely with Baptistic theology.
On another post this week, I made reference to “Community” churches and the lottery that is inherent in visiting one of these. You really never know what to expect.

Finally, I have had a few use the term “emergent” when referring to me. This has become a very loose term, and a label I do not currently wish to wear. The positions of those who would consider themselves emergent vary in drastic ways. If I were to be tied to someone in that movement, I would choose Mark Driscoll over Brian McLaren (although Mark probably does not use the emergent term in relation to himself, there are certainly many that have used the term of him.).

All of this thought today was prompted by an excellent and humorous response to McLaren by Driscoll on Christianity Today’s blog. Enjoy.

Should I submit my resume?

January 27, 2006

I came across this link where someone posted an actual job posting (names removed).  For anyone considering ministry, this is an extreme.  Be sure to read the comments: I’m not looking for a job…

I am going to make a confession: “I’m not sure what I believe.” Does that make me unfit for spiritual leadership? Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that I have convictions about (deity of Christ, inerrancy of original texts, virgin birth, etc…). However, there are some things that I have yet to settle on, and I am beginning to think that I never will.

For example, origins. My current position is what has been historic in my family, literal six-day creation, young earth. I say this is a “position” and not so much a “conviction” at my present point in life. I have no problem with the theology of creation and a strictly literal interpretation of the first ten chapters of Genesis. I also, am willing to fellowship and give credence to my brothers and sisters that hold to a broader understanding of these Scriptures (I don’t feel it is necessary to elaborate). My real question is, “Can a pastor teach that ‘we just don’t know’?” There are godly men on both sides of the argument.

Another example, for me, would be eschatology (the study of end times). Evangelical Christianity has been saturated with the Left Behind position of Dispensational Premillenialism. Historically, that is the position my family has held; but I know too many godly men that disagree with it (men I respect).

I believe God gave us the full revelation of Scripture so that we could get a glimpse of what happened at the beginning and what will happen at the end. However, the questions being asked now in our culture, are not questions that we asked in the first century (or earlier).

As I pray about planting a church, I will be the kind of pastor that is not afraid of questions, even questions pertaining to the controversies presented here. I am also not afraid of the answer, “I don’t know.” Should I be? I once hear Glenn Beck use a phrase on his talk show, “the truth as I currently understand it.” I don’t think this is an attempt at political correctness; rather, I see it as an admission that I am not infallible.

I am in favor of continued studies in these areas of controversy, but I am not in favor of letting them be controversial and points of contention in the family of God. I would agree to disagree. I am willing to admit that I might be wrong.

My focus as a pastor (should God grant that honor) will be on the here and now. There is some importance in knowing how we got to where we are, and to knowing what the future holds; but primarily, I want to see people follow Christ. I want to emphasize obedience to God and fulfillment of the mission Christ left for us. Remember, this is a pilgrimage, a journey that will not be complete in this life. We want to continually come closer to fulfulling the law of Christ. Come, walk with me.

a future church plant?

January 9, 2006

I don’t know how you got to this blog, but it could have been by one of two addresses. This blog is hosted by WordPress and is found at https://nmabry.wordpress.com. However, I currently own the domain name of www.pilgrimagecommunity.com and I have it forwarded to this blog.

More than 6 years ago, I was riding along a local road when the thought came to my mind (whether divinely or randomly) that I should plant a church. Furthermore, the name “Pilgrimage Church” came to mind as well. I immediately registered the domain name of www.pilgrimagechurch.com. After a couple years, I let that expire (foolishly), settling on the name “Pilgrimage Community.”

The word church is derived from Greek words meaning “Lord’s house.” I believe the New Testament concept of an ekklesia is much more closely related to “community” (note, I am speaking of the concept of what we find in relation to the NT ekklesia, not the specific Greek definition for the actual word). I suppose there is also the part within me that immediately thinks of certain structure paradigms when I hear the word “church” that caused me to lean toward “community.”

What kind of “community” do I envision? I would like to start as a “house church.” I would simply start meeting with a group of people in my home. We would meet for Bible Study, prayer, a common meal, or for simply fellowship. The idea of a geographically centered church is what appeals to me most. Recently, I left a staff position at a more traditionally structured (Southern Baptist) church. In the course of driving to the place of meeting, I passed numerous churches that taught a similar doctrine. I am not of the opinion that everyone should attend the closest gathering to their home, but why can’t it be that way?

If God saw fit to bless, another house church could be borne out of the original. Continuing in that process you develop a group of house churches. I would certainly consider at that time pushing for a corporate gathering of all involved. You could gather corporately once a month, or even every week. The point is, small groups are the foundation.

Too often the leadership in established churches foresee the benefits that the congregation could receive with a strong small group ministry. However, it is hard to demonstrate the importance of small groups and build support for it when the church has reached its current plateau without such.

These are just some preliminary thoughts. There will be many continuing thoughts in the future concerning the philosophy I will maintain in planting a church.