J. D. sez…no evening sessions in Birmingham at the 2019 annual meeting.

He tweeted that bit of news.

Nightlife in Birmingham:

  1. Have a leisurely, gluttonous, triple-bypass BBQ meal (need recommendations from the Birminghamians for the best spot).
  2. Find a nice park and sweat profusely while watching grass grow.
  3. For Cals…pass the evening at the Good People Brewing Company. Cals are good people, right?
  4. Most likely, attend one of the ancillary SBC org meetings who now have time for more bragging and blustering than they did when they had to squeeze in a luncheon between SBC sessions.
  5. Sit in some overpriced coffee lounge and gossip about stuff with your buddies.

This is a welcome change that fits habits of the august messengers these days.

EC not going to waste missions money on remote SBC voting…and other news

The SBC Executive Committee met this week and did a few things. Here’s a secondhand report of the highlights. Quotes are from BP:

Declined a request to study further the feasibility of remote participation in the SBC annual meeting.

Among the reasons cited: “Diverting missions’ offerings to pioneer the use of such technology (there being no known model for web-based constituent participation in any similarly-sized, deliberative body, nor even in any state Baptist convention) would be an inappropriate prioritization” and “The simplicity of conducting business at a single site is preferable to the complexity of doing so via innumerable off-site computer configurations.”

Those who promote the idea think it to be a panacea for their complaints about the SBC. That is, they believe more people think like them who, if they could, would show up at their associational office and strike a blow for whatever the cure du jour happens to be. It’s the best terrible idea around. Learn more about it here so you can at least discuss it intelligently. Good job making short work of this, Executive Committee.

Agreed to allow up to a quarter million dollars to the “SBC president’s initiative to study ways to address sexual abuse and related issues in a church or ministry context.”  J. D. Greear’s proposal on this matter was timely, astute, and needed. The ERLC will jointly do this with some group (yet to be named) appointed to do the work. I assume most of the money is for meetings, travel, and expenses. They have until February of 2020 to make a report. I would have thought that the group could have something for next year’s SBC Annual Meeting.

Agreed to put a “Baptism Day” on the SBC calendar. I’m all for that. No reason a church couldn’t delay some baptisms so that this could be a big day and encourage the convention. There are 33 special Sundays (or longer periods) already on our SBC calendar. As a pastor, I’d use three or four of these. Oh, last Sunday was “Anti-Gambling Sunday.” Did your church observe that? Here in Georgia, SBCers love the lottery because it sends their kids to college for free and mom and dad and use their savings to buy them a condo near campus. I don’t know of a single Georgia Baptist church that observes anti-gambling Sunday but I, personally, am not in favor of the lottery tax on the poor and uneducated Georgians.

Learned that some of the seminaries are requiring students to undergo sex abuse training. SWBTS and SBTS use MinistrySafe online training courses. Maybe all six do, I couldn’t find out with a quick search. This is the easiest and fastest measure that SBC entities can take to address this matter. Too bad churches cannot be required to have at least one person so trained as well. My church is implementing it, at my suggestion and because I said I would handle it and not make any of the church staff take the responsibility (and I will give a report here on the experience before too long).

Agreed that from henceforth and forevermore, unless requested otherwise, DOMs and AMs will be called Associational Mission Strategistsproving, once again, that what we do best is to rename and attempt to rebrand moribund offices, positions, and concepts. Maybe this will accomplish something. Maybe not. Can’t hurt.

Heard some good old-fashioned bragging. Seminary heads gave reports to the EC and Danny Akin reported that “Southeastern has experienced 10 consecutive years of record enrollment and is committed to being a “Great Commission seminary,” he said. The seminary’s commitment to the Great Commission was evidenced by an International Mission Board report indicating five of the 10 top missionary-sending churches in the SBC are geographically near SEBTS. I’d brag about this too (but to be fair, I’ll acknowledge that Akin was rejoicing, not bragging which SBCers would never admit to). I’m looking for the list and haven’t found it yet but other reports say that these five churches are all within 15 miles of the seminary. SEBTS is clearly a powerhouse of missionary sending for our convention. Other seminaries take note. Jason Allen of MWBTS touted increasing enrollment. SWBTS interim president asked for prayer and for members to “move forward” with the beleaguered school.

You could have gotten the live blog of the SBC Executive Committee meeting if you didn’t have anything better to do yesterday and Monday. I was extremely busy watching some paint dry but I was pleased to be able to get the reports.

The EC held an open forum and interim CEO Augie Boto fielded questions. A few, with comments from your humble hacker and plodder:

  • One member wanted to question the SWBTS Trustee Executive Committee action of firing the president. The EC asked for a formal report on the matter from SWBTS trustees but otherwise will not interfere, nor can they.
  • One member tried to skewer Russell Moore but was cut off by the EC chairman. Good job.
  • A pastor from Utah/Idaho complained that associations were “falling apart” in his area” due to funds being cut off. Yeah, NAMB no longer shovels money to a lot of places for job creation but has prioritized their funding for planting churches where most of the lost people are located. U/I has one EC rep for their 134 churches. My state has one per 675 churches…so our western colleagues have that going for them.
  • One member suggested the SBC annual meeting be held in the north. Looks like Indianapolis is as far north as we have scheduled, and that doesn’t do much for me. How about Toronto, or is it required that the meeting be held in the US? We were in Detroit some years ago but no thanks on going back there. How about Minneapolis?


The Word that Changed Our Lives (by Ashley Blosser)

This article originally appeared at Bearing His Image and is crossposted here with permission.

Autism. The word reverberated off of the pale yellow walls of the pediatrician’s office and settled on my stomach like bad Chinese. I knew Hudson’s development was atypical. I was aware of the impending result of the 23-point questionnaire I had completed because I had marked the wrong answer more times than not.

Deep down, I knew. But nothing could have prepared me to hear that word out loud at that moment and in that room. I hated how much weight the suggestion carried coming out of the mouth of a professional. Her tone was even, cool, and matter-of-fact. I stood across the room in stark contrast—agitated, hot, and emotional.

I somehow managed to hold it together until we made it out to the car. As I secured my beautiful 18-month-old son in his car seat, I could feel that dreaded lump begin to form in my throat. At that point, the floodgates opened and unleashed a torrent of tears. I cried all the way home. I cried off and on the rest of that day. I cried myself to sleep that night and many nights after.

On one particular day, as I sat in my self-imposed isolation and darkness mindlessly weeping, I came to the realization that the emotion I was experiencing wasn’t simply sadness. It was grief. But why was I grieving? What was I grieving? The doctor said my son might be autistic. If so, he would struggle in ways that would make life—put simply—very difficult for him. Shedding tears for my son and his plight would’ve been appropriate. But this? It was as if I was experiencing a loss—a death.

I looked down from my place in the recliner to spot my son playing on the floor. He was alive and well. Nothing about him had changed since before the word “autism” was spoken into our lives. Hudson was fine. But my hopes, dreams, and plans for him—for us—were dead. I had built our lives, our future, and the future of our home on the assumption that I would have a typical son. There would be makeshift forts, lightsaber duels, baseball practices, and sleepovers with his little buddies. There would be graduation, maybe college, then a wife and a family.

That small six-letter word cast everything I thought would come to be into the darkness of the unknown. I had assumed he would have a circle of friends. Now I wondered if he would ever be able to make just one. Would he ever become independent enough to move out, much less, take on the responsibility of a husband and father? Would he ever say my name? Would he ever verbalize what those bright blue eyes communicated whenever his gaze met mine—I love you? I didn’t know. And it was killing me.

I always believed the mercy of God to be soft and gentle like the salty streams running down my cheeks. But here it felt like a raging sea—waves crashing against all that I thought was certain and an unrelenting current pulling me back toward the Rock of Ages. I had constructed idols out of normalcy, comfort, and the good life according to the world. I had placed my hope and joy in the temporal stuff of this life, as if Eden hadn’t happened. As if our world hadn’t been tainted and broken. God in His infinite mercy abruptly reminded me that only He is truly good and perfect. Always. Constant. Unchanging. Hope and joy found in One like Him is all-satisfying and eternal.

I do not know the purpose of Hudson’s autism. I don’t understand why he must struggle in areas that come easily to his peers. Or why our family must consider and wrestle with things other families will never work through.

I do know that God is good and, by extension, His purposes are good. Because I am finite, my scope of vision is severely limited. I can’t see entirely all the ways in which God, according to His good purposes, is working in and through our daily struggles for our good and His glory. But I do see how every morning brings with it a new set of opportunities to grow in Christlikeness. There is strength to triumph. There is grace for failure. I look back over the past 5 years and I can see God’s hands providing and His arms sustaining. He is good. And I am thankful.

Social Justice Is No “Newfound Obsession” for Christians (Mike Miller)

An influential Evangelical recently lamented that contemporary Evangelicals are displaying a “newfound obsession” with social justice. I think this man needs to study church history (which I am teaching on Sunday nights, by the way). 4th century Emperor Julian (a pagan) wrote, “Atheism [his term for Christianity, since Christians rejected all the pagan gods] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew [he did not distinguish between Jews and Christians] who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans [again, the Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”

Greek philosopher Celsus was a second-century critic of Christianity (precipitating Origen’s treatise, “Contra Celsum,” or “Against Celsus”). One of his criticisms was that Christianity was reaching out to the marginalized of society (which he saw as a bad thing). In 177, he wrote, “Their aim is to convince only worthless and contemptible people, idiots, slaves, poor women, and children . . . . These are the only ones whom they manage to turn into believers.” He was wrong, of course, as the educated and influential were also being reached by the writings of men like Origen, Tertullian, and Justin, but the point is that the Christians were reaching all levels of society. One reason for that is their compassion ministries and advocacy for the most despised and oppressed.

And what in more recent years? What about George Mueller founding orphanages, William Wilberforce combating slavery, and the countless homeless, hunger, medical, and agricultural ministries founded and run by Christians? What about our fight against human trafficking and abortion? What about our efforts at racial reconciliation? Should we have just preached the Gospel all this time and turned a blind eye to the needs of people and the ills of society?

I don’t know of any evangelical that has come even close to compromising the Gospel in the name of social justice, nor do I know of any who see efforts of social justice as being decoupled from the Gospel. To claim or even imply that there is such a movement within Evangelicalism is either ignorant or dishonest, and it represents a sad and unfounded attack against brothers and sisters in Christ. And to throw around the terms “Marxism” or “Cultural Marxism” is patently absurd. In fact, I’ve noticed that most people who use those terms don’t even know what they mean.

The social gospel that only meets needs and addresses problems without preaching Jesus is misguided. But so is preaching without doing. We must preach the Gospel without shame, and we must stand for and work for justice in all spheres of life and society. This is what our spiritual ancestors did. It is not something new. So let us walk in their steps.

Dr. Mike Miller is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, TX. This post originally appeared on Mike’s Facebook page and is printed here with his permission.