Robert Smith: “The Church’s One Foundation”

This evening’s session is a community worship service highlighted with a message by Dr. Robert Smith from Acts 8:26-40 titled “The Church’s One Foundation.”

“Speak Lord, your servants are listening.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

We preach an inalterable, unchanging gospel in a changing world.

Our theology must be a theology of the feet and not just a theology of the seat.  Phillip went.

In Acts 8 we have a Kodak moment.  A glimpse of the kingdom. I better get ready to see in the kingdom of heaven who don’t look like me and don’t dress like me.

Too much preaching has become Christologically deficient.

Jesus Christ is still able to save.  Phillip preached Christ.

When the Samaritans heard the message about Christ and saw the accompanying signs, they believed.

When life breaks down, Christ breaks through!  Job – “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.”

God will put us in situations where there will be no explanation of the victory, but that God did it!

We are very close to becoming binarians.  We believe in God the Father and God the Son, but minimize the Holy Spirit.

You can’t understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit, no matter how many PhDs you have.

When the Ethiopian Eunuch believed he had a new position.  He previously couldn’t enter into the temple, but now he has access into the presence of God.  We were once all eunuchs, but we who were once strangers are not given access into the very presence of God.

Get the audio!

Ray Van Neste: The Oversight of Souls: Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life

Ray Van Neste speaks on the nature and future of pastoral ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life.  He draws on a number of Biblical passages, as well as writings of historical personages advocating the oversight of souls as true pastoral ministry.

Preaching is not the heart of pastoral ministry.  It is oversight.  We do not shepherd souls to preach, we preach as a means to shepherd souls.  Pastors must be involved in the lives of their people.

Careful oversight may not make us famous since people cannot download our oversight onto their I-Pods.

Drawing on John 10:11-15, Van Neste offers a model of pastoral ministry from the shepherding work of Christ.

  • The shepherd sacrifices himself for the sheep.
  • The shepherd knows the sheep.

In Hebrews 13:17, pastors are shown to have authority, but only as those who watch over souls.  No mention is made of drawing crowds and building buildings.  Watching implies protecting and a willingness to pursue those sheep who might go astray.

In 1 Peter 5:1 these same ideas are present.  Likewise in Acts 20:18-21, 28.

Some advise pastors not to get too close to their members.  This is not good advice, it is ungodly.  Rebuke ought not be delivered if its too easy.  It’s the wounds of a friend that are faithful, not the cool correction of a hired hand.

See also 1 Thessalonians 2:1, 7-12, 19-20.  Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is recommended as an exhortation to this kind of pastoral oversight.  Pastors must know their people in order to be able to minister to them.  Churches must not become so large as to prohibit the members knowing each other, or the pastors from knowing the members.

Duane Litfin: The Future of American Evangelicalism

Duane Litfin is now serving in his seventeenth year as Wheaton College’s seventh president. He holds an undergraduate degree in biblical studies and a master’s degree in theology. His two doctorates are from Purdue University (Ph.D., Communication) and Oxford University (D.Phil., New Testament). Dr. Litfin is the author of several books, most recently Conceiving the Christian College (Eerdmans, 2004), and his writings have appeared in numerous journals and periodicals.

Litfin’s topic is the future of American Evangelicalism. He plans to address denominationalism, then evangelicalism, before looking at Southern Baptists.

In the past thirty years we have seen the diaspora of Evangelicalism.  The movement from Fundamentalist to Evangelical during the 1940s and 1950s was not a doctrinal shift, but a less strident version of the same doctrines. But during the past few decades we have seen a sprawl of evangelicalism.  The movement is becoming increasingly diverse.  This movement cannot be policed like the SBC can.  The SBC had to do what it did and was right to do what it did.  But it cannot happen to Evangelicalism.  The diversification of thought within the Evangelical movement is inevitable and will increase.  The term is a fluid term and terms come and go.

For the SBC:

1.  Baptist polity is well-positioned for the decline of denominationalism.  SBC churches can maintain the strengths of a denomination without any of the weaknesses.

2.  This may be an opportunity for the SBC to be less insular.  Evangelicalism needs the voices from the SBC.

3.  Don’t put your dependence on Evangelicalism as a movement.  Don’t distance yourself from Evangelicalism, but don’t put too much weight on it.  Stay faithful to the truth and the SBC may be the means of keeping Evangelicalism relevant well into the future.

Timothy George: The Church, My Faith, and the Church’s Faith

Jude 3

The Faith. The Faith is the central content of the Christian kerygma.  This is what we proclaim to the world of what God is done in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed and later in the Nicene Creed. Though it is common to hear “No Creed but the Bible”, what is often meant is neither creed nor the Bible.  If the phrase means to reject creedalism, then it is appropriate.  Scripture always rules over any creeds.  Any creed should be able to be revised by the Bible.  Creeds imposed by the Civil authorities are to be rejected.

We must be careful to pass along the Faith and not to betray it.  Confessions of Faith are like guardrails to keep us on the road. We should not mistake the guardrails for the road.  But the guardrails are necessary.

My faith. There are two words in Latin for faith:  assensus and fiduciaAssensus is the Faith.  It is essential, but it is not enough.  It is the objective content of the gospel.  But more is needed for salvation.  One must possess fiducia which is the utter dependence upon God’s grace, apart from any merits of one’s self.  At conversion The Faith, becomes my faith.  As long as the Faith remains detached, as a mere system of doctrine, we are not yet regenerate.  Has the Faith become your faith?

The Church’s Faith. In the history of Christianity, the Faith and my faith taken independently of each other have resulted in some dangerous extremes.  The Faith without my faith leads to a dry rationalism.  My faith without the Faith becomes a sloppy sentimentalism.  The Church’s faith is rooted in the objectivity of God’s revelation of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Nothing will be more important in the future of Christianity, then the question of what is the church.  We must recover the confessions and catechisms of the church to see what they tell us of the Church’s faith.  The Church’s faith is meant to be sung as well as said.  It needs to be prayed as well as proclaimed.  We need to recover the great hymns of the Christian faith.  The Church’s faith is a public faith that cannot be kept to ourselves.

We must declare the Faith, which must become my faith, and which must come together to say to all the world that this is the Church’s faith.

Tuesday at Union University

The conference, Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism, began Tuesday at Union University with two sessions which lay important frameworks for the sessions which are scheduled to follow. Dr. David Dockery, president of Union University, has put together an excellent program that matches well-qualified speakers with important topics. The two sessions on Tuesday night featured presentations by Dr. Ed Stetzer and Dr. James Patterson. Stetzer addressed the topic of “Denominationalism: Is There a Future?” and Patterson provided a survey of four hundred years of Baptist history. Both of these topics are obviously foundational. First, as Stetzer himself joked, if he answered “no” to his topics question, then we could all just go home and skip the rest of the conference. Patterson’s address provided a helpful summary of the history of Baptists that will allow the conference attendees to better assess where we are now as more specific topics are addressed throughout the remainder of the conference.

Stetzer at Union

Stetzer at Union

Ed Stetzer answered “Yes” to the question in his session’s title regarding whether or not denominationalism has a future. The conference continues. Stetzer says that denominations have a future because they are inevitable if churches are going to cooperate together to fulfill the Great Commission. This is the only kind of future that he believes denominations should have. A future in which churches are cooperating together increasing to accomplish God’s mission in this world, the salvation of lost men and women. Denominations can become problematic if they become more self-focused than focused on the mission. This is a tendency of denominations as they grow with more staff and more ministries. We can become more interested in self-preservation than in the proclamation of the gospel to the lost. In order for denominations to be effective in the future, Stetzer believes that they must have a confessional basis that provides doctrinal uniformity in beliefs (as in the BFM), while at the same time allowing for methodological diversity in worship styles, etc. Some denominations pride themselves on their doctrinal diversity, while maintaining a methodological uniformity through a strict liturgy. Southern Baptists must do the opposite to survive in the future.

James Patterson

Patterson Rapping

James Patterson provided a helpful (and humorous) summary of 400 years of Baptist history in about an hour. He began with a Baptist history rap which he does for his students. You must get the audio for this. Patterson began by acknowledging the importance of Nicene Theology and Chalcedonian Christology for Baptists. He also noted the contributions of the Anabaptists of the Radical Reformation and the Magisterial Reformers. The rest of the presentation was organized by the four centuries of Baptist life (beginning of course with the 17th century). Patterson noted key developments and challenges in each century.  Patterson concludes with the following admonition:  In light of our messy past, we need humility in celebrating our heritage, as well as a recognition that we too will ultimately be judged.

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

I’m preparing to leave for Jackson, TN tomorrow for the conference “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism” which is being hosted by Union University.  I will be blogging live from the conference.  I plan to post my immediate reactions to the sessions here on this site, while posting my reflections on each day of the conference on the website of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.  I will also be providing updates from the conference using my Twitter (@steveweaver) and Facebook (  accounts.   The conference hashtag for Twitter is #uuconf.

The schedule for the conference is as follows:

Tuesday, October 6

  • 5:00 p.m. Ed Stetzer: Denominationalism: Is There a Future?
  • 7:00 p.m. Jim Patterson: Reflections on 400 Years of the Baptist Movement: Who We Are. What We Believe.

Wednesday, October 7

  • 8:30 a.m. Harry L. Poe: The Gospel and Its Meaning: Implications for Southern Baptists and Evangelicals
  • 10:00 a.m. Timothy George: Baptists and Their Relations with Other Christians (G. M. Savage Chapel)
  • Noon Luncheon Address – Duane Litfin: The Future of American Evangelicalism
  • 2:00 p.m. Ray Van Neste: The Oversight of Souls: Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life
  • 7:00 p.m. Corporate Worship: Robert Smith, preaching, (G. M. Savage Chapel)

Thursday, October 8

  • 8:30 a.m. Mark DeVine: Emergent or Emerging: Questions for Southern Baptists and North American Evangelicals
  • 10:00 a.m. Daniel Akin: The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Noon Luncheon Address – Michael Lindsay: Denominationalism and the Changing Religious Landscape in North America
  • 2:00 p.m. Jerry Tidwell: Missions and Evangelism: Awakenings and Their Influence on Southern Baptists and Evangelicals
  • 6:00 p.m. Banquet
  • 7:00 p.m. David S. Dockery: So Many Denominations: The Rise and Decline of Denominationalism and the Shaping of a Global Evangelicalism

Friday, October 9

  • 8:30 a.m. Nathan Finn: Southern Baptists and Evangelicals: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation
  • 10:00 a.m. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.: Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism (G. M. Savage Chapel)

Great Conference Next Month at Union University


Next month, I  will be attending what promises to be a great conference in Jackson, TN on the campus of Union University.  According to the conference webpage, the conference promises to address “some of the most vital issues facing Southern Baptists and Evangelicals as we prepare to move into the second decade of the 21st Century.”

The conference, which is being held in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Baptist movement, features an impressive lineup of Baptist theologians and historians.  Those slated to present at the conference are Duane Litfin, Michael Lindsay, Timothy George, Albert Mohler, Robert Smith, Danny Akin, Ed Stetzer, Steve Harmon, Mark Devine, Nathan Finn and Union University’s own David Dockery, Ray Van Neste, Jerry Tidwell, Hal Poe and Jim Patterson.

You can register online through September 30th, but I encourage you to register soon to ensure your spot at what promises to be a historic gathering.  Cost for the conference will be $85, which will include four meals and three continental breakfasts.

Previous conferences of this kind sponsored by Union have become touchstones for conversations in Baptist life and this one looks to be of a similar quality.  Papers from previous conferences have been published by Crossway Books in the volume Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future.  Don’t miss the chance to be at this conference, if at all possible.

If you are unable to attend, I will be providing summaries throughout the conference on this site.

“Amsterdam 400”: A Quatercentennial Celebration of Baptist Witness

In celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the modern Baptist movement, the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is capping off its annual conference with an action-packed evening that will be opened up to the entire seminary community and the general public.

6:45 pm “Spirituality of Historic Baptist Hymnody:  A Hymn Sing” (BROADUS CHAPEL)

The evening will begin with a hymn sing highlighting the contributions of early Baptist hymn-writers to the historic repertory of congregational song.  Hymns by seminal Baptist figures such as John Bunyan, Benjamin Keach, Joseph and Sammuel Stennett will be featured as will the contributions of later Baptist leaders including Adoniram Judson and Basily Manly, Jr.  Manly’s pioneering role in the preservation of historic Baptist hymnody will receive particular emphasis.  The hymn sing will be led by Dr. Nathan H. Platt, Asst. Professor of Worship, and will be open to the general public as well as those attending the Fuller conference.

7:45 pm “ ‘We Believe with the Heart and with the Mouth Confess’: The Engaging Piety of John Smyth and the Early General Baptists”  (BROADUS CHAPEL)

The evening continues with a special lecture by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell (PhD, Oxford), Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the piety of John Smyth and the early General Baptists.  This lecture is to commemorate the commonly understood origins of Baptists in 1609.  This final plenary session of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is open to the seminary community for free.

9:00 pm “Reformed and Anabaptist:  Strengths and Shortcomings of Two Traditions”: A Late Night Discussion between Drs. Yarnell and Haykin (NORTON 195)

The evening concludes with a late night discussion originally inspired by a Twitter exchange between Drs. Haykin and Yarnell!  This promises to be an interesting evening as these two humble scholars discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Reformed and Anabaptist traditions, while at the same time demonstrating how such interactions should be conducted.  Both SBTS’s Towers and SWBTS’s The Hill have featured news stories on the dialogue between Drs. Haykin and Yarnell.  Don’t miss this!

While these Tuesday evening events are free, registration for the entire conference is still open. There is a student rate and at least seven books will be given away to all registered attendees.

Audio of Conference on Holy Spirit Now Online

Dr. Michael Haykin, professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, led a conference on the Holy Spirit on Saturday on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit at Farmdale Baptist Church (where I pastor).  The MP3s of the conference sessions and Q & A session are below:

Early Registration Rates for AFCBS Conference on “Baptist Spirituality”

Each year the Andrew Fuller Center sponsors a major conference devoted to some aspect of Baptist thought and life.  This year’s conference is scheduled for August 24-25 and has for its theme “Baptist Spirituality:  Historical Perspectives.”  This conference is marked by great speakers, great fellowship, and several free books provided by the graciousness of publishers who sponsor the event.

Featured plenary speakers in 2009 will include: Crawford Gribben, Robert Strivens, Greg Thornbury, Kevin Smith, Tom Nettles, Greg Wills, Gerald Priest, Jason Lee, and Malcolm Yarnell. Other established Baptist History scholars, as well as several Ph.D. students will be presenting papers on the conference theme during the parallel sessions.

Until May 31st, a special rate of $75.00 for regular attendees and $45.00 for students (use code 09303108 when registering) will be available.  You will still be able to register up until the week before the conference, but it will cost $10.00 more.  You can register now by clicking here.  For more information about the conference, including lodging information and a schedule of the plenary sessions, click here.