Friday, April 20, 2007

Theologically-Driven Preaching

Tom Ascol recently posted a helpful pamphlet written by Daniel Akin on the need for theologically-driven preaching in the SBC. Perhaps it's helpful for non-SBC churches as well.

By: Daniel L. Akin

The Conservative Resurgence gave Southern Baptist a second chance but it did not secure our future. Has there been a Resurgence? Yes. Has there been a Restoration? Doubtful. Have we experienced genuine Revival? Clearly the answer is no.

Eight Theological Essentials for Southern Baptists in the 21st Century

1) The non-negotiable of a regenerate Church (John 3; Rom. 3; 2 Cor. 5; Gal. 3)
  • First, we need to make it clear that church membership is a privilege, not a right.
  • Second, we must preach against easy believism and reject any form of a compromised gospel.
  • Third, we must be careful with respect to our own theological integrity concerning infant or early adolescent baptism that lacks a clear understanding and confession of the gospel.

2) The essential nature of believers baptism by immersion with a biblical appreciation for its significance. (Matt. 28; Acts, Rom. 6)

That baptism involved a particular member (a believer), mode (immersion) and meaning (public identification with Christ and the believing community) is grounded in New Testament witness and has been a hallmark of Baptists throughout their history.

We must see evidence of regeneration for those we baptize. The baptism of young children must be administered with the greatest possible care.

Baptism should be viewed and emphasized as a first and necessary step of discipleship and obedience to Christ. We will reject as inconceivable the idea of admitting anyone into our membership without believer’s baptism by immersion.

3) The recovery of the lost jewels of church discipline and genuine disciple-making as essential marks of the Church.

Church discipline is clearly and repeatedly taught in the New Testament, yet most do not preach on it or practice it. Jesus addresses it in Matt. 18:15-20 and Paul does so several times in 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 6:1-2; and Titus 3:9-11.

Theologically it is to disobey the plain teachings of Scripture and ignore the necessity of church discipline in maintaining the purity of the church.

  • First, we must preach and teach our people what the Bible says about church discipline.
  • Second, we must begin to implement church discipline lovingly, wisely, gently, carefully and slowly.
  • Third, we must apply discipline to areas like absentee membership as well as the specific list provided by Paul in 1 Cor. 5.

4) The emphasis and practice of a genuinely Word-based ministry (2 Tim. 4:1-5)

For those of us who profess to believe in both the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, there must be in our churches what I call "engaging exposition."

We must advocate an expositional method with a theological mindset under an evangelical mandate. It is preaching that models for our people how they should study, interpret and teach the Bible.

5) The vision for a faithful and authentic biblical ecclesiology (Acts. 2; Eph. 4; Pastorals)

  • First, there must be the 4 marks of 1) a regenerate Church membership, 2) the Word, 3) the Ordinances and 4) Church Discipline.
  • Second the local church should be elder/pastor led and congregationally governed. Here, in my judgment, there is room for flexibility in terms of patterns, structure and implementation.

As we move forward in this century, Pastors will need to give particular attention to a theology of stewardship and discipleship.

The members of our churches must move from being shoppers to buyers to investors.

6) The continued nurturing of a fervent missionary and evangelistic passion that is wedded to a healthy and robust theology (1 Thess. 1; Eph. 4:11-16; Jude 3-4; Rev. 5)

No church will be evangelistic by accident.
First, there are multiple ways churches can do missions and evangelism. That we do it is the key.

Marketplace evangelism which can reach into the workplace is an area needing attention, strategizing and training.

Youth and student evangelism needs renewed emphasis.

Theologically and biblically, we must challenge our people to evangelize without bias or prejudice, loving and going after the exploding ethnic and minority groups where we live.

7) The teaching and preaching of a 1st century biblical model for church planting (Acts 17)
The 21st century is more like the 1st century than has ever been the case in our Western culture.

We are losing America and the West because we are losing the great metropolitan areas where there is a concentration of people.

  • First, explore creative methods, but make sure that they are faithfully filtered through the purifying waters of Holy Scripture.
  • Second, be wise fishers of men.
  • Third, we must ask God to raise a new generation of godly and gifted church planters and missionaries.

8) The wisdom to look back and remember who we were so that as we move forward we will not forget who we are

The Southern Baptist Convention today is not the Southern Baptist Convention of your parents, and certainly not your grandparents.

We now have several generations who know almost nothing of William Carey and Adoniram Judson, Bill Wallace, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. They do know nothing of Boyce, Broadus, and Manly; Carroll, Robertson, Frost, Mullins and Truett.

They have never heard Criswell, Rogers or Vines preach, and they are not really sure who they are.

In creative and dynamic avenues fitting a 21st century context, we need to retell the Baptist History story in a way that will grab the attention and stir the hearts of our people. And we need to do it, at least in part, from the pulpit.

The North Carolina evangelist Vance Havner said, "What we live is what we really believe."


truthkeeper said...

A lot of good stuff in the post. The only problem I have is all the stress put on membership. Why can't we leave people figure out for themself if they want to become members once they are saved. It seems like we rush them into membership before they even know what the other streams of Christianity have to say or how they go about following Jesus. I'm not talking about the new off the wall groups but true born again beleivers.

Jim Kahler

Shawn Abigail said...

Good points, but you are unlikely to have a church that practices Biblical discipline if the Pastor's ability and success are judged by the number of people in the pew. In almost every case of discipline, people end up leaving (even when when someone who was under discipline repents). Numbers go down, and the Pastor's job is on the line.

FellowElder said...

Actually, my experience is just the opposite with church discipline. I think a man and the leadership of a church needs to be prepared to see people leave who don't want the loving care of discipline when necessary, and a church needs to be careful in the exercise of discipline by being sure it's (1) warranted and (2) there is a context where membership and fellowship are meaningful. But when that's in place, usually the people of God are humbled, thankful, and stirred to further love and good deeds when discipline is conducted.

This is why the emphasis on a healthy understanding of membership is so important, especially for the new/young convert. It's in the context of such covenant commitments that they'll get the love, care, instruction, fellowship, and oversight necessary to growth in Christ.


Shawn Abigail said...

The problems can be somewhat mitigated if a church is taught the Biblical principles of discipline before there is a crisis. Likewise, when people ask to be received into fellowship, there needs to be a clear understanding that this is a church that practices discipline on those (hopefully rare) occasions that warrant it.

truthkeeper said...

Good evening Thabiti,
Being new to this whole blog thing I’, hoping you see this post!

You replied to me post:
This is why the emphasis on a healthy understanding of membership is so important, especially for the new/young convert. It's in the context of such covenant commitments that they'll get the love, care, instruction, fellowship, and oversight necessary to growth in Christ.


My question once again is why the forced membership?? I don’t see a lot of membership talk in the NT. It almost seems as if your saying without membership in your group there can’t be any of the things you mentioned above. I thought that when someone came to accept Jesus as savior they were at that moment in covenant relationship with the rest of the body. Are you saying that someone can’t be saved and grow to maturity outside of your group?? I’m not liking what the emerging movement has become but some of this is what drove them out the doors of the organized church. I’m not wanting to drag this out but if you have time you can visit my blog to get an idea of where I’ve been and what drives my thinking on all of this.
Looking forward from hearing from you!!

In Christ,
Jim Kahler

FellowElder said...

I'll try to find time to take a look at your blod.

In the meantime, I think what I'd is that I'm not advocating "forced membership." I'm not sure what you mean by that term.

It seems to me that some notion of identifiable membership (commitment to a local body of believers) is assumed or implicit in most of the NT's teaching on the local church. For example, when Paul writes to the church of Corinth instructing them to put the man in adultery "out of your fellowship," (1 Cor. 5:1-8) it assumes some identifiable group to which he belongs. It also assumes that group has some standards for belonging. In other words, membership is there implicit. ! Tim. 3 and Titus 1 specify qualifications for leadership in the church. Again, this presumes that their is some followers to lead. That's just a couple of examples.

Now, I'm not suggesting that there is some chapter or book of the Bible dedicated to membership that details how it is to be done, etc. There is liberty for each church's practice. But I do think the evidence, though implicit, suggests that some form of membership was normative in the NT context and should be normative in our day.

Moreover, while a person certainly can find and does find meaningful membership in some other forms (small groups, friendships, etc.), and while I would encourage those other forms, those forms are not to take the place of belonging to and contributing to the whole/entire church.

I take it from Eph. 4 and other places that it is God's intent that the local church, with officers dedicated to the task, that is to be the main location, instrument, and context for the discipling and maturing of believers into Christlikeness. And that requires something far more concrete in terms of membership and belonging and commitment than most churches practice today.

I hope that helps,