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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Reason #3 (Ready for Reformation?)

I am giving ten reasons why every Southern Baptist (especially pastors and denominational leaders) should read Dr. Nettles' Book Ready for Reformation?: Bringing Authentic Reform to Southern Baptist Churches. At the conclusion of these ten reasons will be a brief review/critique of the book. Often times when someone is looking for a church, they are asked what type of church they are interested in. For instance, people describe churches in such terms as "missional", "emergent", "Reformed", "traditional", "progressive", "fundamental", or "liberal". In addition to these titles, there is the pragmatic emphasis which shapes a church, such as "seeker-sensitive", "purpose-driven" or "liturgical". These answers which we provide are indicative of the people whom we are trying to reach. They are superficial titles for superficial Christians. We are not concerned with what they believe, for we ourselves are not concerned with our own doctrinal positions. We want what works, and we want people who will buy in with us to whatever works to accomplish a certain goal. Churches are therefore shaped by pragmatic perks rather than theological truths. At best, churches these days will attempt to provide a sound byte form of what they believe. Certain catch phrases or "vision statements" are meant to sum up what the church is about. These cliché’s are somehow to give a visitor a clear definition of what the church believes. Yet it is these simple statements are woefully insufficient and remind us of how far we have gone from building our churches on the truths of God's Word. We must get back to defining who our churches are by God's Word. The contours of faith cannot be shaped by overgeneralizations such as "missional" or "emergent" or "Reformed", for to ten people these titles can mean at least eleven different things. Nor can we simply give a marquee answer to the fundamentals of our faith. Furthermore, to place preeminence upon being programmatic is outright problematic. The church is the "pillar and buttress of truth", and we must stand or fall on our doctrinal distinctives and get back to the essence of Church as defined, described, and defended in God's Word. Dr. Nettles points us to a serious need for a healthy confession in our churches and denomination. Just recently, it has been shown where even our denomination leaders have deviated from the Baptist Faith and Message (2000). There are others who say, "We have no creed but Jesus," yet that very statement is a form of creed itself. The question is not whether or not one has a confession, but rather what kind of confession. The Baptist heritage is full of great confessions, most of which have been ignored for at least the last century. Nettles explains that churches established confessions "by which they defined their mission and disciplined their membership" (18). He adds that creeds have not only declared the faith of Christian communities but has served "to test and expose the character of dishonest men, who, under the plea of believers, entered the church to pollute its doctrine and to divide and scatter its members" (18). If we allow our churches to define their mission, vision, and beliefs by some trendy and transcient ideas such as being "purpose-driven" or "seeker-sensitive" or any other fad, then our churches development with die along with the trend. To discover real reformation is to rediscover a confessional faith that gives exposition and characterization to the "unbroken streams of truth which flow from into the mighty river of truth" (14). A church without any historical or biblical roots will most assuredly be like the seed which fell among shallow ground and bore fruit for a moment but withered away. The only fertile soil for a church to define itself and defend itself against impurity and immorality is a healthy confession. Let me conclude with a few more comments by Nettles: "A true reformation must recapture the willingness as well as the historical and biblical aptitude to embrace a strong confession of faith. While the idea of doctrinal integrity and confessional fidelity has been given some thought and has played an important role in certain aspects of the beginnings of reformation, the implications of giving serious attention to the full range of doctrines in the confessions remains to be explored. If we only recapture the symbolic idea that confessions are important and represent a willingness to be stewards of the mysteries of God but fail to deliver faithfulness to the particular articles contained in the confessions, we invite theological decline and spiritual ineffectiveness" (26). My assumption for the reason why so many churches do not have a healthy confession is because the leadership does not want to spend the time it takes to be theological astute in the core beliefs of the Christian faith. There are more important things like business meetings, staff meetings, new leadership paradigms to adopt, buildings to finance, etc. I dream of the day where pastors and lay people sit down and discuss the precious truths of God and consider themselves as "stewards of the mysteries of God" rather than "masters of the methods of man." Trackback: Reason #2 (Ready for Reformation) Reason #1 (Ready for Reformation) My Response to Ready for Reformation Ready for Reformation??? Baptist Confessions: The Abstract of Principles 1st London Baptist Confession (1644) 2nd London Baptist Confession (1689) The New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833) The Baptist Faith and Message (2000)

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