An Honest Question for Fellow Southern Baptists

Southern Baptists, as with any denomination, have distinctive characteristics. One of the distinctive traits is a belief in the autonomy of the local church. This means that every local congregation is invested with full authority to fulfill its ministry. Baptists do not believe in a hierarchical system above the local church because none is found in the New Testament. No earthly headquarters can exert authority over a local church.[1] As a Southern Baptist, I affirm this view, though I may have some hesitations to the wording that are neither here nor there. Yet, under the umbrella of this distinctive, some personal concerns have arisen regarding whether or not autonomy of the local church can be taken too far. To be clear, there will objectors to my limited understanding that may assume that what I am suggesting is establishing an ecclesiastical hierarchy in the Southern Baptist Convention. This is by no means the case. I fully ascribe to the teaching that “a church should co-operate with others, but its affairs are never to be controlled by others.”[2] I am in agreeance with Dr. J. Clyde Turner that, in its relation to other churches, “no church, however strong and influential, has any authority over another church, no matter how small that church may be. No group of churches can tell another church what it must, or must not, do. They may offer advice, but the individual church will decide what it will do.”[3] I also concur that, in relation to denominational bodies, “there are associations and conventions in which messengers from the churches meet for counsel and co-operation, but these bodies can exercise no authority over individual churches.”[4] I want to clearly communicate that I wholeheartedly affirm the following:

 

The local congregation is autonomous, that is, it derives its authority from within. In all matters of organization, polity, and general procedure the members of the body act in accordance with their own convictions and on the basis of their interpretation of the will of Christ. This, of course, should always be under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. No church or group of churches has any authority over any other church. Each church is free and independent. The members of the church meet in executive session and draft their own constitution, write their own bylaws, elect their own officers, and conduct their affairs as they choose.[5]

 

My question of the autonomy of the local church is not a question of whether or not a church has the right to operate as they see fit. My question is more concerned with the cooperation of local churches. Specifically, what are the parameters for disfellowship with local churches who put forth false doctrine and are they too lax? Southern Baptists have historically risen to the challenge against liberal doctrines such as arguments against the authority, sufficiency, and inerrancy of the scriptures. For that, the convention must be applauded. They have also historically stood firm on convictions regarding a complementarian understanding of gender roles as well as a biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Furthermore, Southern Baptist voices have grown louder in recent years concerning the rampant killing of the unborn. They have stood their ground, firmly planted upon the Word while a liberal society has made accusations against them. For this, I am very thankful. My concern is not with these issues. My specific concern is with a perceived quiet influx of mystical, charismatic, and word of faith teachings. (To be fair, this may be a skewed perception on my part.) My broad question is this: Where exactly do Southern Baptists draw the line for disfellowship?

 

*Please understand that this post contains no sarcasm or accusations. It does, however, contain concern. I genuinely desire to know the parameters of disfellowship within our Convention. I do understand that the pendulum could swing too far the other way resulting in nitpicking each local congregation. I simply have an honest desire to understand any policies in place.

[1][1] Kelley, Charles, Albert Mohler, and Richard Land. Baptist Faith and Message. Lifeway: Nashville, Tennessee. 2000. Pg. 88.

[2] Turner, J. Clyde. These Things We Believe. Convention Press: Nashville, Tennessee. 1969. 115.

[3] Ibid. 115.

[4] Ibid. 116.

[5] Tribble, Harold. Our Doctrines. The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention: Nashville, Tennessee. 1936. Pg. 109-110.

Advertisements

Tilling the Soil: Devotions to Prepare the Heart for Worship

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”-Matthew 1:21

            There is nothing more beautiful to the ear of the true Child of God than the ringing out of the news that Jesus came to “save His people from their sin.” How often we are prone to wander from His paths! How often we fall short of the glory of God! How often, like sheep that have gone astray, do we find ourselves seeking out other pastures that seem pleasurable to our eyes and our bellies! Yet, over the reports of our wanderings echoes loudly the joyful sound that “Jesus saves!”

Upon reflecting on who we once were, the things we once did, and the views and attitudes we once held—which leave us with a bitter taste in our mouths—we hear the bells of freedom toll loudly, “For our sake, God made him to be sin, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God!” We remember, every so gratefully, that “God presented Him as an atoning sacrifice through faith in His blood, in order to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had passed over the sins committed beforehand.”

It truly is a happy day when we take the time to reflect and remember that Jesus washed our sins away, threw them as far as the east is from the west, never to count them against us because Christ paid it all. As you approach the worship gathering, do so with this in mind: “By God’s grace, He has saved His people from their sin.” Approach repentantly, gratefully, and worshipfully.

The Prince of Preachers?

Fair warning: This post will not have a true conclusion. There is no deep theological musing nor application in this post either. In fact, this post is mostly conjecture. Now, on with the show. 

I have often referred to Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) [adding the date seemed more scholarly] as the “Prince of Preachers.” Now, I did not come up with this term. In fact, I believe the first time I ever heard the term was either during a sermon by Dr. Josh Buice or in a Baptist History class in seminary. I looked up the origin of the term “prince of preachers”, and the first link I was given was a wiki page for Joseph Prince. You were way off, google. From what I gather, however, [and I am sure Christian George could correct me if I am wrong], is that he was coined the “prince of preachers” after his death. This, then, brought about the question in my mind, “Would Spurgeon had liked that term?” Would he humbly reject it, be ok with it, or demand to be called something like “The Titan of Textual Preaching?” That was dumb. Sorry. Anyway, as I was reading a biography of Charles Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore, I came across a section that spoke of Spurgeon’s objection to and protest against the term “Reverend.” This is a term that I, too, do not particularly like, but I think my reasoning is different than his. His is legitimate. Mine is “it makes me sound old and that maybe you might expect too much out of me.”

Dallimore noted, “Spurgeon rejected the title reverend. He said it was a remnant of Romanism that the Reformers ought to have dropped. But his publishers inserted it before his name at the head of his printed sermons, and the fact that for some years he did not forbid it was probably a concession to those who felt they were honoring him by using it. Finally, in 1865, he had the practice stopped. He urges his students to use instead the scriptural term pastor.”[1] What I gather from this is that Spurgeon did not necessarily have an issue with titles, but rather the use of unscriptural titles.

Interestingly though, Spurgeon did use the term “Prince of Preachers.” But it was not in reference to himself. In his 1873 sermon on the Beatitudes (also referred to as “The Most Blessed Teaching” in the book God Will Bless You; a compilation of various sermons from Spurgeon), Spurgeon said, “One enjoys a sermon all the better for knowing some of the preacher. It is natural that, like John in Patmos, we should turn to see the voice which spake with us. Turn hither then, and learn that the Christ of God is the Preacher of the Sermon on the mount. He who delivered the Beatitudes was not only the Prince of preachers, but he was beyond all others qualified to discourse upon the subject which he had chosen. Jesus the Saviour was best able to answer the question, “Who are the saved?” Being himself the ever-blessed Son of God, and the channel of blessings, he was best able to inform us who are indeed the blessed of the Father.” [2] 

Here we see that Spurgeon refers to Christ as the true Prince of Preachers. This is what sparked this inquiry in my mind. Spurgeon did not like the employment of terms in reference to his position to be outside of those which scripture has laid out. In addition, he referred to Christ as the “the Prince of Preachers.” Now I ask your honest opinion, do you believe Spurgeon would have us continue to employ the term “prince of preachers” in association with his name? I fully understand it is an endearing term to honor a great man of faith. What say you, brothers?

_____________

[1] Dallimore, Arnold. Spurgeon: A Biography. Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh. 2014 ed.  p.48.

[2] http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/3155.htm