Local Baptist Assocations in the 21st Century

I have been asked to deliver the message at the 2011 Fall meeting of the West Chowan Baptist Association. I'm posting the notes here for anyone who would like a copy. I also intend to post the audio after I deliver the message.

The notes are in .pdf format and are the same pages I'll be bringing with me into the pulpit tonight. That is to say there are other notes from research and outlining that are not included here. Below is the title and outline of the message.

"Is There a Role for Local Associations in the 21st Century?"
Acts 16:4-5

Outline: What would an effective and relevant local association ministry look like?

1. Encouragement in Sound Doctrine and Theological Accountability
2. Becoming a Channel of Financial Resources Rather than a Reservoir
3. Establishing, Equipping, and Empowering Churches

Available for Download:
Message Audio and Sermon Notes


C'mon Man and the NIV 2011

One of my favorite segments in all of sports journalism is ESPN's C'mon Man before Monday Night Football. They go back over Sunday's games and pick out the funniest moments. These hilarious incidents often involve a player doing something that leaves commentators and viewers wondering what he was thinking. Hence the name.

The debate over the NIV update has had some c'mon man moments lately. My purpose here is to plead with NIV 2011 critics to be fair in your criticism of the translation: not to demagogue, not to oversimplify, not to accuse translators of ulterior motives.

I want people to criticize when they find problematic passages in the NIV 2011. I hope people will publish, blog, and tweet when they see ways that we can better understand the Bible. I don't believe any translation is above question. Every translation can be improved, even if only in slight ways here and there.

What kind of criticisms am I talking about? What should be out of bounds? Here's a sampling:Continue Reading Article...

Poythress on NIV 2011

Denny Burk recently linked to an article in the Westminster Theological Journal by Vern Poythress. The article is titled Gender Neutral Issues in the New International Version of 2011.

I wanted to interact a little with this article because it makes some very valid points of criticism against the 2011 NIV. Readers of my website will know that I have been mostly positive toward the updated NIV. I still use the 1984 NIV as my main Bible for preaching and teaching. I haven't yet decided if I will use the new NIV. (I won't anytime soon because the vast majority of our church will still be using the 1984 version. But I do think this is an issue worth thinking about few years in advance of when I will need to make a choice.)

Poythress' Main Point
The main problem Poythress addresses in his article is the move from 3rd-person singular pronouns (like "he" or "him" or "his") to 3rd-person plural pronouns (like "they" or "them" or "theirs"). This move by the NIV translators is designed to show readers that the original text wasn't specifically addressing men only, but both men and women.

There's no good singular way in English to refer to a person without respect to that person's gender. It's why you've seen such awkward things in writing as "he/she" or "his or her". So to avoid that kind of awkward construction, people today sometimes use a technically plural pronoun ("them") while still meaning one person. Example: If anyone wants some water, they should take a drink from the water fountain. English teachers cringe but most of us shrug.
Continue Reading Article...

Spiritual Gifts Resources

We're working through a series on spiritual gifts at our church. I had a hard time finding resources I was happy with so made a few of my own. I also reformatted some resources I was happy with for printing and wanted to make those available for anyone who'd like to use them.

The Resurgence on Spiritual Gifts
This was the most helpful material I found. However, it was spread out across 20 different articles and the images and formatting caused most of the articles to print on two pages. So it just didn't make for good handout material. I went through, and worked on the formatting and took out almost all of the images so that each article fits on its own page and the gifts are now in alphabetical order. This makes a 10-page (front and back) handout.

Juan Sanchez Article at The Gospel Coalition
This is a one-page article I really appreciate. It discusses the drawbacks of spiritual gift inventories and provides a more biblical way of thinking about and discovering how the Holy Spirit would use us on our churches. I formatted this article to fit on one page.

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America—Spiritual Gifts Inventory
I know I just mentioned an article that discussed the drawbacks of spiritual gift inventories. That said, I think they can be useful if used with the proper disclaimers. So you can take this one online or I made a four-page printout version for in-class usage.
PDF | Pages File (if you'd like to make changes/edit)

Spiritual Gifts by Scripture Passage
There are numerous versions of this kind of thing out there. It's going to depend on some different factors as to how all of these get named and categorized. I couldn't find one I was completely happy with, so I made my own version. The names of the gifts are mostly taken from the NIV.
PDF | Pages File (if you'd like to make changes/edit)

In my reformatting, I've tried to give full credit to the original sources. My only goal is to get this in a format that's easy to use for a classroom setting. I hope it will be helpful to others as well.


My Thoughts on the SBC's NIV Resolution

So in what may be the only action the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention took that I disagreed with, a resolution against the 2011 NIV was passed overwhelmingly. It came from the floor, rather than the committee, which is highly unusual. The committee had read the resolution and declined to offer it for consideration.

The committee was exactly right. The resolution should have never seen the light of day. Such an important issue should have never been voted on by people so ill-informed about as complicated an issue as Bible translation. As much as some want to paint the issue as black and white, good vs. evil, it is not as simple as that.

As the discussion displayed - many of the people didn't even know how to evaluate the new NIV. One well-meaning gentleman stood up and said that we shouldn't condone translations that use gender-neutral language for God. I agree! But the NIV doesn't do that. The applause his comment received made it clear to me that this was an exercise in misunderstanding and misinformation.
Continue Reading Article...

Why I'm Glad We Changed Our Church Covenant

Earlier today our church voted, with little opposition to adopt a revised constitution. There are several issues in the revision I'm glad we were able to address: deacon selection process, naming the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as our official statement of faith, moving our normal revival services date to a more convenient time.

We also added our church covenant to the constitution. The covenant was adopted in 1896 at the same time the church was founded. It is similar (identical?) to most church covenants adopted around that time period. Overall it was a very biblical, helpful statement about many aspects of life together as a church family.

However, in adding the covenant to our constitution, the church also decided to amend one clause in the document. Where the previous text read that we pledged to "abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior." The church adopted new wording for that clause so that it now says that we pledge to "abstain from the abuse of drugs and intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our savior."

So we added drugs as a concern and also changed from 'abstaining from the use' to abstaining from the abuse." So the new language does permit the use (but not abuse!) of alcoholic drink. More importantly, in my mind, is that we now no longer have this extra-biblical requirement for church membership.

Here are some reasons I am glad we made this change:
  1. It allows us to avoid adding to biblical commands for salvation or church membership. Regardless of whether you think drinking alcohol is a bad thing or not, I hope we can all agree that someone should not be denied church membership or disciplined out of church membership for occasionally drinking alcohol in moderation. The way our covenant was worded, we were actually saying: "If you choose to drink, you cannot be a member here." That should send chills down your spine—to think we would elevate an extra-biblical command to that level.
  2. It moves us closer to being grace-centered, rather than law-centered. It is all-too-common (especially in this area of the country) for people to mistake Christianity with moralism. In most people's minds, Christians are people who "don't do" this and that. I'm glad to take a shot at that misperception by taking out one of those common "commandments" of moralism.
  3. It allows us to take our covenant seriously. For years and years (long before I ever arrived as pastor), we've had members who have chosen to drink occasionally. So when we read our covenant together, that clause reinforced the idea that we didn't really mean what we were saying—that it was ok to not take this covenant seriously. So, if we were to begin taking our covenant seriously, we're faced with one of two choices: (1) Discipline those members who drink, or (2) Change the covenant.
  4. It reminds us to think biblically about human regulations. It reminds us that "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch" have only the appearance of wisdom. But they lack any value in actually restraining sensual indulgence. (Col. 2:21-23)

I hope that this will not be construed as a desire to promote drinking in people who have chosen not to. I also hope this will not be seen as a reason for people who have chosen to drink to drink more and more often. That is not my intention nor the intention of our church. I recognize that it could be misconstrued that way by some. But we must stand on the Bible. We cannot add our own preferences as criteria for joining God's people, the church.


I Won't Fly Because of the TSA

Over the past six months, I've slowly made the decision that I will not fly commercially until the TSA enhanced security measures are removed. Commentary on the issue is widely available, but I wanted to post some of the things that have caused me to come to the conclusion I have.

Below are some videos, articles, and quotes from people who have some personal (way too personal) experience with the TSA.

Former Miss USA in Tears After Being "Searched"

6-Year Old Girl Groped in Security Line

Pregnant Teacher Harassed for "Explosives"
"The lady then called for backup because they said they found “traces of explosives” on my hands. I asked if it was policy to search and profile young pregnant women who obviously did not come into contact with ANYTHING explosive or dangerous, and asked why they searched my wallet without asking me. They did not respond."
Read about the whole incident here.

Woman Accused of Embezzlement by TSA for Having Checks in Pocket
"Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. A TSA officer said, 'Hey, I've always been curious about these. Do they work?'
Read more here.

Rape Victim Refuses Intrusive Pat-Down, Thrown to Ground and Handcuffed

Another Woman in Tears Because of Invasive Search
I started to cry…. "I don't want you to touch me," I said again… It didn't matter. Latex fingers felt under my bra, inside my waistband, all with a Southern accent narrating. "Now I'll touch your breasts. Now your stomach." It went on. "Now turn around."
Read the whole thing here.

You can find plenty of similarly disturbing stories here:
We Won't Fly.

Most Popular Bible Translations

Ed Stetzer points out the Christian Booksellers Association have released the list of best selling Bible translations for this year. NIV was #1, KJV #2. ESV came in at number five and HCSB at 6. Check out the list here.


Is Facebook Making Us Depressed?

I'd like to point you to an article by Dr. Russell Moore that makes a great point: we only show and tell the good parts of our lives online, for the most part. So when you look at Facebook, it tends to depress you because it seems like everyone else is having so much more fun than you.

Take a look here. Dr. Moore is always worth reading and I thought this one particularly worthy of sharing. Moore says:

Slate magazine cites a paper in a social psychology journal that started with an observation about how college students felt more dejected after logging on to Facebook. There was something saddening about “scrolling through others’ attractive photos, accomplished bios, and chipper status updates.” The students’ moods were darkened because they believed everyone else was happier than they are.

Journalist Libby Copeland speculates that Facebook might “have a special power to make us sadder and lonelier.” How can this be, though, when Facebook is generally so, well, happy, brimming with smiling faces and beautiful families? Well, that’s just the point.


Lecrae Interview

Great interview by Justin Taylor with Christian Hip-Hop artists Lecrae and Trip Lee.

Justin Taylor Interview: Lecrae Moore and Trip Lee from Crossway on Vimeo.

Here's one of my favorite Lecrae songs. You can find his iTunes page here.

Don't Waste Your Life - Lecrae (Official Music Video) from Edd Blott on Vimeo.