Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Answer to My Riddle, and the Invitation

In what game are the winners filled with regret, while the losers are filled with relief?
The answer: Virtual Stock Exchange. If you do really well playing with fake money, you wind up asking yourself, "Man, why didn't I do that with real money?" On the other hand, if you have a really lousy game and lose, you reassure yourself, "At least I wasn't doing that with the egg & butter money." You know, it seems like everybody runs some sort of game who has a blog. Wes Kenney did football picks. Kevin Bussey did some sort of blogger popularity game. So I thought to myself, what kind of game could I promote that would be fun for everyone involved, but would reinforce every stereotype about conservatives. Then it hit me: Greedy Capitalism! So, just click here to join our own little Baptist stock market game. I've named it the "Ledger A" Baptist Investment Club. The name comes from the life of the greatest Baptist capitalist of all times, John D. Rockefeller. At the Rockefeller Archive Center you can still see Rockefeller's "Ledger A"—his first personal accounting ledger that he started when he was just sixteen years old. Rockefeller was faithful to tithe from his humble beginnings and spent the last years of his life working full time trying to give his money away to charity. You'll need these details to join the game: Game ID: ledgeraclub Game Password: rockefeller The game will begin on Tuesday, September 3, 2007 (Monday is a holiday) and will end on Friday, November 30, 2007. After the game starts, no new players wil be admitted (if the market crashes and we all go into the hole, it wouldn't be fair for someone to join in mid-stream at $0).

A Riddle…with an Invitation to Follow

In what game are the winners filled with regret, while the losers are filled with relief? Think about it. I'll let you know later today, and I'll invite you all to participate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Posted Too Late for Anybody to Drive In from Oklahoma

Tonight at around 7:15 pm, I will take my turn in the AWANA dunking booth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good Common Sense on the Homemaking Concentration

I had compiled and uploaded the first installment of the Praisegod Podcast, a discussion of the homemaking concentration at SWBTS, when I read the latest opinion article by Gary Ledbetter on the subject. His is so good and so in line with what I said that I'm scrubbing my podcast and linking you to his article instead. A Silly, Dangerous Idea? by Gary Ledbetter

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Fifth Century Initiative

I cannot claim authorship of the following for at least three reasons. First, several people have looked at drafts for the past several months and have suggested helpful improvements. Second, the concepts articulated below are biblical and historical, and are in no way an innovation attributable to me or to anyone else alive today. Third, a great many strong leaders like Mark Dever, Stan Norman, John Hammett, Malcolm Yarnell, Paige Patterson, Nathan Finn, Tom Ascol, and too many others to count, have championed in part or in whole the concepts listed below long before I came to the scene. So, I offer this text for your consideration. In the near future I will supplement these words with related proposed actions and invite your participation.

The Fifth Century Initiative
Recapturing the Baptist Vision

Baptists embark upon their fifth century of modern existence beginning in 2009.1 Seventeenth-century Baptists asserted several New Testament precepts that we can isolate as the distinctive tenets of Baptist identity. These concepts coalesced for the seventeenth-century Baptists into a prescription of interconnected propositions for congregational reformation.

Four centuries have nearly elapsed. As the fifth century of modern Baptist existence dawns, the key New Testament precepts that define us have recently waned in influence and support among Southern Baptists. We are forgetting who we are—who Christ has called all Christians to be. At a moment when we once again need spiritual awakening and reformation, the New Testament prescription that served so well in the first and the seventeenth centuries beckons us again.

An initiative is in order to place before God’s people once again a vision for renewing the New Testament foundation of our congregations. Several tasks await faithful Baptists who would pursue this end:

  • The Restoration of Biblical Literacy: None of the initiatives stipulated in this document are feasible in their fullest sense apart from a concerted campaign to acquaint the Southern Baptist people with the sacred text. Southern Baptists must develop viable congregational strategies for pursuing biblical literacy among our members.
  • The Pursuit of the Great Commission: New Testament congregations are a construct intrinsic to the gospel and universally relevant to all people, cultures, and ages. Our congregations must visit afresh the Divine imperative to reproduce themselves throughout the world, embracing opportunities to engage the task with greater vigor than before.
  • The Proclamation of the Gospel: Southern Baptists must regain a confidence in the power of the unadorned gospel to win the lost and to effect a lifetime of transformation. A confidence in the converting power of the gospel is in many ways the theological premise underlying the entirety of the Baptist vision.
  • The Recovery of Regenerate Church Membership: Southern Baptists must restrict membership to visible saints.
  • The Defense of Believer’s Immersion: Troubling signs of erosion have appeared on the bedrock of Baptist belief—the ordinance of believer’s immersion. Southern Baptists must assert not only the biblical certainty of this doctrine, but its biblical importance. Christian immersion is the nonnegotiable initial act of obedience for every Christian disciple.
  • The Development of an Updated Southern Baptist Church Covenant: Many issues have emerged in the past century to pose new challenges to congregations. An updated covenant would greatly assist in recalling Southern Baptists to covenantal accountability as foundational to congregational life.
  • The Renewed Exercise of Biblical Church Discipline: Several leaders have done significant work to commend to Southern Baptists the biblical mandate for church discipline and to provide practical guidance for the recovery of church discipline in lapsed churches. Building upon this work, the Southern Baptist Convention must assert these reforms not merely as one way to “do church” but as the New Testament model for mutual accountability among Christians.
  • The Rehabilitation of Congregational Church Polity2: Baptist polity has far too often degenerated into the unholy pursuit of personal agendas. After an embarrassing hiatus, Southern Baptists have found once again the New Testament basis for congregational church governance. Now we need practical guidance to demonstrate how to restore the Lordship of Christ in the midst of congregational church governance.
  • The Mobilization of the Universal Priesthood: Southern Baptists do well to consider one of the most robust New Testament doctrines for Christian mobilization—the recognition of all believers as members of a universal Christian priesthood with responsibilities for spiritual service. If the members of the congregation are all regenerate, then all are obligated to participate in the congregation’s mission.
  • The Revitalization of Cooperative Association: Pragmatism and an inappropriate competitive spirit have sometimes marred relationships between sister congregations. Also, the waning of Baptist identity has diluted the fraternal doctrinal accountability that has historically marked the relationship between churches in their associative bodies. Southern Baptists need to recover a healthy cooperative life that encourages healthy congregational life.

1The year 1609 is, if nothing else, the first year to which the vast majority of historians—successionist or non-successionist—can point and identify genuine Baptists. Whatever disputed Baptist existence occupied 1608, the modern phase of the movement begins in 1609.

2Congregational church polity describes a broad category of polity with many viewpoints on such matters as the number and role of elders.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How Much Money Have You Made Off Your Health Insurance This Year?

$1,333.21…that's my answer. Some of you may remember my post from last October in which I announced my decision to switch from Guidestone's HealthChoice 1000 plan to the HealthSaver 2600 plan. My new plan is a government-recognized HDHP (High-Deductible Health Plan), which qualifies me to have an HSA (Health Savings Account). My new plan's premiums are significantly less than the premiums paid for the HealthChoice 1000. The difference in cost is going each month into my HSA. Also, any medical expenses that I have paid out of my HSA this year, I'm reimbursing back into the account (even under my old plan, I would still be paying on my deductible). As a result, my HSA now contains the amount given above, about equally split between a Money Market account keyed to a Visa Checkcard and a set of investments in various Guidestone Funds. Folks, that money is mine. I get to keep it in that account as long as I wish. I could spend it on avgas if I wanted (with significant adverse tax consequences). But most importantly, by my calculations I'll enter 2008 with better coverage than my old health insurance plan provided (because I have this stockpile of cash to cover deductibles that I didn't have before), and not long after that, I'll basically have zero-deductible health insurance. And all of this has happened without me or my church paying a dime more than we've been paying all along. I don't plan to take advantage of zero-deductible health insurance, because I want to keep saving money into that HSA to carry into retirement. I regard my HSA as part of my retirement planning strategy. Let's face it, I'm VERY likely to have health care expenses in retirement if Jesus tarries that long and leaves me alive that long. I could pay for them out of my 403b (and pay taxes on the money withdrawn to do so), or I can accumulate money in the HSA (tax-free on the way in like my 403b) and pay for my retirement health care out of there (tax-free on the way out very UNLIKE my 403b). But the best thing about the HealthSaver 2600 is that I am doing my part to solve the health care crisis in the United States. My HSA has made me a consumer once again regarding medical care. My treatment choices now cost ME real money. As a result, I'm growing stingier every day. I don't run to the Farmersville clinic when I think I might have the flu—I tough it out. I always still had the flu when I left the clinic anyway…now I have the flu AND more money still in my HSA. One reason health care costs keep skyrocketing is because we have a system where the consumers are often not directly paying the bills. Well, I'm no longer a part of that problem. Has your health insurance given you any money this year? If not, right now, while next year's church budget is being planned, might be a really good time to start talking with your church leadership about the potential benefits of an HSA.

Upcoming Conference Opportunities

The Family: Reclaiming a Biblical View of the Family, Womanhood, and Manhood

SWBTS's Center for Leadership Development will present The Family conference September 13-14, 2007 in the Smith Center. Speakers include the Pattersons, Dr. Russ Moore, Dr. Mark Liederbach, Dr. Tom Eliff, and Dr. Richard Land. No topic is more timely, and these speakers are qualified to dispense just the prescription that the families in our churches need. I highly recommend this conference.

Engage Conference

Prestonwood Baptist Church will host the 2007 Engage Conference October 22-24, 2007. Keynote speakers will be Jack Graham, James Macdonald, James Merritt, and O. S. Hawkins. Keith and Kristyn Getty will provide worship leadership. Teaching responsibilities will prevent me from attending the whole thing, but I may sneak in for Tuesday and part of Wednesday. All of the preachers are top notch. Graham has a real heart for encouraging younger pastors. I attended a Paul-Timothy event at which Hawkins spoke, and he gave some very helpful, practical advice that has helped me ever since. I've never heard the Gettys in person, which motivates me strongly to attend. If any of you plan to attend Engage, please let me know. You'll only be a few miles from Farmersville, and I'd love to meet you face-to-face that week.

Four Southern Baptist Pastors Launch "SBC Today"

Robin Foster, Wes Kenney, Tim Rogers, and Joe Stewart have announced the launch of a new Southern Baptist blog entitled SBC Today. All four are veteran bloggers. I've been asked to contribute occasionally. I will gladly do so as a guest author, but I plan to continue my own blog, primarily because I think the name Praisegod Barebones is so much cooler than SBC Today. Allow me to be the first to express publicly the wish that SBC Today will host compelling dialogue about the ideas that face us as Southern Baptists today without devolving into the shameful mechanics of personal vendetta and attack. Below is a copy of their press release. The site was announced first at Wes Kenney's current blog. It appears that Robin Foster will be blogging primarily at SBC Today rather than at his previous blog. There is a significant opportunity for SBC Today soon to become the premier conservative blog in the SBC blogosphere.

Monday, August 20, 2007 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Four Southern Baptist pastors have announced their intention to launch a new blog that grows out of their conversation about a renewed focus in biblical discipleship and Baptist identity. The pastors are Wes Kenney, of Valliant, Oklahoma, Robin Foster, of Perkins, Oklahoma, Joe Stewart of Littlefield, Texas, and Tim Rogers of Statesville, North Carolina. All four have already established blogs of their own. Kenney, who will share blog administration duties with the other three pastors, said that SBCToday.com will launch September 10 and will feature articles and audio files on subjects ranging from theology to sermon delivery to building a godly household. According to Kenney, the blog will showcase articles from “some of the best and brightest in Southern Baptist life.” The four founding pastors will post articles that function very much like a standard blog with comments and dialog. The articles from guest contributors, as well as the audio files, will not allow comments. “As a fifth century dawns for churches called Baptist, there is budding a renaissance of Baptist beliefs. In an effort to aid and participate in this revival of Baptist distinctives, we’ve decided to launch this new blog,” Kenney explained. “We also believe this discussion can be carried on in a courteous and respectful manner. We hope that we can highlight and clarify the distinctives that made Baptist churches a mighty force in missions and evangelism. Our sincere intent is that God will be glorified through the renewed focus on these foundational matters.” For further information, contact: Robin Foster (405)547 1222 rfoster@sbctoday.com Wes Kenney (580)933 6940 wkenney@sbctoday.com Tim Rogers (704)876 2264 trogers@sbctoday.com Joe Stewart (806)385 4414 jstewart@sbctoday.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Plumbing

While all of North American Christendom is discussing baptism, allow me to contribute a somewhat lighter discussion topic: What's the most bizarre baptismal plumbing that you have confronted? When I served at First Baptist Church, Mill Creek, OK, I found quite a riddle facing me upon the occasion of my first baptism—how to get water into the baptistry. The fixture itself was constructed from pieces of plywood into a simple box rather than the molded fiberglass installations often encountered. A three-foot painting ladder had been sawn in half at its apex, the back portion discarded and the front nailed in place to form steps down into the baptistry from stage right. At the other side, a section of garden hose snaked into the baptistry. So, I traced the hose into an anteroom, where it terminated into an outside-type water faucet threaded into the top of a water heater. Good! We'll have warm water. I opened the faucet, but nothing came out. So, I started looking around, trying to diagnose the problem. The water heater input was plumbed into a section of PVC pipe. I followed the pipe along an interior baseboard until it turned a 90° elbow and disappeared into an exterior wall. I needed to determine where the water was being obstructed. I went outside and discovered, just where the inside pipe went into the wall, an external faucet on the outside of the church. "Good," I thought to myself, "I can check to see if there is water here by turning on this faucet." But I couldn't turn on the faucet. It had been jammed. Open. But no water was coming out. Now I was really puzzled. Obviously, there was no water to this point in the plumbing, and I couldn't find any other external faucets or internal fixtures in the area to check. In fact, there were no other signs of any plumbing at all in that section of the building. The bathrooms were far away in another section of the church. I went there to make sure that I hadn't happened to start trying to fill the baptistry when the water was somehow shut off to the entire building. The sinks in the bathrooms worked just fine. Then I happened to glance up on top of the water heater in the men's bathroom. I normally didn't pay much attention to the water heater, because it didn't heat any water—it was broken. The water in the bathrooms was all cold. But there, at the pressure-release valve of the water heater, was a severed section of garden hose connected with a hose clamp and then coiled neatly atop the water heater. The moment of enlightenment dawned—surely that's not how this is supposed to work! I picked up the hose on top of the water heater and found that it terminated in a female end. Stretching it out, it was just the perfect length to go outside the bathroom, out the external door, across the church yard, and to the jammed, inactive, external faucet near the baptistry. The hose neatly attached to the faucet. Returning to the inoperative water heater, I flipped up the lever on the pressure-release valve, sending water into the hose, backwards through the external faucet, through the pipe inside, and into the water heater. A light switch inside gave power to the only working water heater in the building (except for not having a permanent supply of water). Once the heater had time to bring a tank of water up to temperature, opening the makeshift faucet on the top sent hot water into the homemade baptistry. Some things they just don't teach you in seminary.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Of Muslims and Mohler's Triage

This post is the culmination of a series of posts. For your convenience, I list them all here:

  1. Reading the Camel: Before
  2. Of Muslims and Mormons
  3. Of Muslims and Mohammed
  4. Of Muslims and Mohammed: Redux
  5. Of Muslims and Mars Hill
  6. Of Muslims and Middle-Eastern Culture
  7. This Post: Of Muslims and Mohler's Triage

The results of my July sidebar poll were overwhelming. More than 97% of respondents believed that reverence of Mohammed as a prophet and of the Qur'an as valid scripture were incompatible with Christianity. To become a Christian necessarily involves, for the Muslim, the rejection of the prophet Mohammed and the Qur'an—or at least so say I and most of you. The book The Camel does not include these concepts in its presentation of the gospel to Muslims.

So, this is an issue dealing with the very nature of the gospel. A bona fide tier-one issue.

Obviously, I have no problem with taking a stand on tier-two issues. I'm even willing to offer a forceful opinion on tier-three issues, although these ought not to mark denominational boundaries. Anything in the Bible is worthy of discussion and our earnest attempts to understand it. But we're constantly chided for daring to acknowledge the existence of genuine tier-two issues. We're told that we should only draw lines on tier-one issues—only in connection with the gospel itself.

Well, here, by definition, is a tier-one issue. I am not asserting thereby that every question regarding the Camel has been definitively settled, but I am asserting that the subject matter is the very nature of the gospel. This is a tier-one question.

I've found myself wondering often whether the "irenic" among us really want to discuss even tier-one issues—whether there is an implicit and false presumption that tier-one issues were all settled long ago and therefore that the task of earnestly contending for the faith does not remain for us today.

In a comment on an earlier post on this blog, Wade Burleson made me aware that items concerning the Camel have come to the table in IMB board meetings. Here is an example of a tier-one issue coming before one of our trustee boards. I have completed my analysis of the Camel, and will leave the ball entirely in other people's courts—Greeson's to make revisions, the IMB's to reconsider its endorsement, other missionaries to share how they correct the Camel in their practice, someone to demonstrate where the Camel is incompatible with C5 and C6, someone to make a convincing case for the compatibility of Christianity with revering Mohammed and the Qur'an, etc.

As I watch how other people deal with this issue (or ignore it altogether), it will tell me a lot about whether people are opposed to needless division only, or whether they are simply opposed to certain personalities, or even to the idea of theological distinctives at all. Certainly there exists the temptation to take every question, even a tier-one issue, and sweep it all into the category of tier-three. This temptation is especially pronounced among ecumenists, as evidenced by the current status of the World Council of Churches. Let us remember that they did not start out where they are today, but eventually succumbed to the temptation to demote biblical doctrine to the category of adiaphora in virtually all cases. Dr. Mohler had a name for the result of succumbing to that temptation. Let us pray that any advance of such an approach will fall to defeat within the Southern Baptist Convention (and indeed, wherever it may be advanced).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Of Muslims and Middle-Eastern Culture

Contextualization through Indigenization Most foreign missionaries spend years trying to make the Gospel fit contextually into the Muslim community. The movement I was now studying seemed to leapfrog over contextualization directly to indigenization as it naturally took on the cultural complexion of the Muslim community from which it sprang, because it was led by Muslim-background believers. We had not realized how much local Christianity in the country was identified with Western culture. As we drew closer to the Muslims we were trying to reach and to our Muslim-background believer partners we began to see things through their eyes. In their eyes Western Christianity was associated with the same American culture they viewed on television, leading many of them to reject the Gospel as an extension of American culture. Muslim-background believers overcame this obstacle by rejecting Western culture and, along with it, Western expressions of Christianity. Yet they were able to embrace the Gospel within their own cultural patterns. As a result the Gospel found an indigenous home and was able to spread rapidly through their community. -The Camel (2007), 39.
Western culture is not a Christian culture. We cannot deny that Christianity, more than any other system of religious thought, has impacted Western culture. However, I think the best we could say about modern European culture or American culture is that Christianity is the most prominent religion against which our culture is in rebellion. As I critique The Camel, let me be clear on several points:
  1. I recognize and am heartbroken about the degree to which Western culture serves as an excuse in other parts of the world for people in their rejection of the gospel.
  2. I do not believe that missionaries ought to be converting people to Western culture.
  3. I do not even assume that missionaries to Muslims will be Westerners. One of my colleagues in Ph.D. studies was a Korean native who had grown up as a missionary in South America from Korea. We're not the only ones on the block doing missions. I should hope that the things I have pointed out in The Camel would be equally objectionable to a Korean missionary, an American missionary, an Uzbekistani missionary, or a Kenyan missionary.
I suppose it frustrates many of us to know that many people in Muslim countries associate Christianity with what they see coming out of New York or Hollywood. For all of our lack of understanding how their culture works, there is obviously some reciprocal misunderstanding as to how our culture works. This is a land of religious liberty. We have a number of Supreme Court decisions and federal laws designed explicitly to prevent the inculcation of Christianity into several of our most powerful cultural institutions. Furthermore, frankly, we suffer from an astounding impotence in our churches (something Baptists could combat more successfully among our own ranks if we returned somewhat to our Baptist roots, I think). We must further acknowledge that within American culture there is a Christian subculture, an Evangelical subculture within that, and a Southern Baptist subculture that probably lies somewhat within the Evangelical sphere and is somewhat distinctive from it. These subcultures are not perfect expressions of Christianity, but neither are they completely disparate from Christianity. Also, some items ought to unite Christians of any culture into a common Christian culture. Nevertheless, we ought to avoid the transmission even of our Christian subcultures in missionary work, because in so doing we tend to transmit our weaknesses better than we transmit our strengths. I do not know why it works that way, but I presume that it has something to do with human sinful depravity. So, to sum up, American missionaries ought not to be transmitting American culture, and American missionaries ought not to be transmitting religious subcultures from America either. They ought to make every effort to transmit the Bible. For a specific example in which I can echo some of the sentiments expressed in The Camel, I have been to churches in other parts of the world who worship by singing nineteenth-century American hymns with lyrics translated into their language. Personally, I would rather that they write their own music for worship that is culturally appropriate. But while we note the vast distance between American culture and Christianity, it seems to me that very little attention is being paid to the fact that Muslim cultures are significantly more serious and efficient about embedding Islam into their cultures than we are at embedding Christianity into ours. In many of the Muslim nations in view, national law is built around sharia. Holidays are Islamic religious holidays. Many of the names are stridently Islamic names. My good friend Dr. Emir Caner says that his full name means "Prince of Islamic Conquest." The last time I checked, "Prince of Christian Conquest" was not a very popular name choice for American baby boys! When we consider the concept of new believers coming to "embrace the Gospel within their own cultural patterns," does it matter not at all whether that culture is thoroughly steeped in a false religion? Isn't the risk of syncretism proportional to the degree to which we "translate" the gospel into a culture thoroughly shaped by a false religion? Does taking a step away from a culture thoroughly enmeshed with a false religion necessarily mean taking a step toward "Hollywood" culture? Are these the only two suitable destinations? I think not. One point of disagreement between Greeson and myself regards his "Firm Foundations" point #8:
8. A Gospel that translates. Finally, it is important for readers to know that unlike Islam, which is bound forever to the Arab language and culture, we have a Gospel that translates. Every time the Gospel enters a new culture, it must be translated into the language and worldview of that culture. This is part of the genius and power of the Gospel: It translates eternal truth into local forms and expressions just as God in Christ translated Himself into a particular human form and Jewish expression. . . . .<discussion of John 1> While it is biblical and appropriate to translate the Gospel into the language and culture of the Muslim community, we must never confuse the use of Arabic names for God (Allah) and Jesus Christ (Isa al-Masih) with an endorsement or acceptance of the Muslim religion. Bridges are built to take us from one place to another and should never become an end in themselves.
I affirm with Greeson the need to translate the gospel into the language of the Muslim community. But what does it mean to translate the gospel into Muslim culture? To aspire to do so presumes, it seems to me, that one possesses a pretty sharp scalpel and a pretty steady hand for the separation of the conjoined twins of Islam and Islamic culture. As I said above, Islamic societies have proven much more adept at interweaving their religion into virtually every aspect of their culture. It seems to me that, when we're talking about so-called "cultural translation," the phrase "the gospel" denotes the very things that cannot and should not in any sense be "translated." We can draw upon the tools of analogy and illustration to explain the gospel, and these tools will necessarily change from culture to culture. I know that I preach a little bit differently at an Ozark rural church than I do in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But the gospel preached is something that I carefully, doggedly, deliberately seek not to change to fit the culture. Certainly, we see the deformed mutations of Christianity that populate America. We see how the gospel has been translated into the American Dream as the "Prosperity Gospel." We've seen the gospel translated into Southern racial segregation as the Ku Klux Klan. This idea of the "cultural translation" of the gospel has been, it seems to me, among the most damnable things in Christian history. Why, again, would we want deliberately to cultivate this approach to Christianity among Muslims? In the New Testament, we have Jews, Greeks, Romans, Ethiopians, Turks (to speak anachronistically), Egyptians, etc., etc., etc., but we have only one gospel. The goal of The Camel is to translate the gospel into "Muslim culture." Yet if we wind up with mosque-attending, Qur'an-toting, Mohammed-revering, salat-performing folks as the end product of our efforts, I fear that what we have done, rather than the translate the gospel into "Muslim culture," is to translate the gospel into Islam. <edit>A good friend has provided this link for us all to consider on the subject of Christian-Muslim relations. Unbelievable!</edit>

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Full Week…

…both personally and in blogdom.

Personal Busyness
One of my favorite occasional institutions at FBC Farmersville is "Staff Night" at the Wednesday Evening Meal. Twice a year our ministry staff cooks the Wednesday meal for our congregation. This was our week. We try to make the event special. This week, I attempted something I had never done before—we treated the congregation to an all-you-can-eat shrimp boil. If you ever cook for your congregation, I recommend that you consider it. I was able to obtain 80# of headless 36-40 count Gulf Brown shrimp for $3.30 per pound. We cleaned out the local Wal-Mart of Zatarain's Shrimp Boil and Cocktail Sauce. Potatoes, onions, lemons, corn-on-the-cob, and the shrimp all go into a big pot and boil. The great thing about this meal is the ease with which you can prepare it for a large group. The potatoes, onions, lemon, shrimp boil, etc., only cook for 15 minutes. The shrimp and corn then go in for a mere 1 minute boil. The whole mixture steeps for a while. An entire cycle takes around 25 minutes. If you have multiple pots going, you can easily keep a large group of people well supplied with peel-'em-and-eat-'em shrimp and all the fixin's. I made a forty-eight-hour trip up to see Mom. Jim and I had been to Arkansas in May for Decoration Day, but Tracy and Sarah had not been there since February. We won't be able to go back until Thanksgiving. We had a good visit, even if it included a fatiguing 2:30 AM arrival in Lake City, AR, on Thursday and a long day of driving today.
Blog Activity
I came home and discovered 69 unread blog posts awaiting me. Two items in particular somewhat involve me, and therefore demand comment from me. Both involve SBC Outpost. One could describe my relationship with SBC Outpost as critical. Actually, I think that SBC Outpost is an excellent blog—a rotten journalistic news source but an excellent blog. I disagree regularly with SBC Outpost, but the site is very successful at generating readership and does so without overtaxing the contributors. So, I've carped at SBC Outpost for pretending to be more journalistic than it is, and I've been critical of the idea that high-ranking SBC employees have endorsed SBC Outpost. The endorsements were removed, and now, Dr. Rainer at Lifeway has publicly rescinded his endorsement. I'm glad that he clarified things. I wish that none of it had happened. I tried to include in my writings the possibility that some of the endorsers did not intend to endorse all that SBC Outpost had become. Good for Dr. Rainer for clarifying where he stands (er…does not stand). Also, several contributors to SBC Outpost have left the site, including Micah Fries. I'm delighted. I fear that Micah may have taken my criticism of SBC Outpost as personal criticism toward him. To tell you the truth, I almost never had Micah in mind when I was writing about SBC Outpost. Micah is a reasonable sort of guy. I think that the big winner this week is Micah Fries. Because of the position I'm in, it will be difficult for some to regard those as sincere sentiments, but they are. I was contacted at one point about the possibility of creating a sort of "shadow" site—a conservative version of SBC Outpost. I wasn't really interested, because that wasn't my calling and because I don't like tit-for-tat…no creativity involved in just mimicking someone else's actions. But now, I think there is a real opening for someone to create a site that actually does some of what SBC Outpost promised (sincerely, on Micah's part, I'm certain) but was unable to deliver. If someone could create a site that would take a positive, uplifting approach to current SBC events, facilitating discussion of ideas without publishing personal attacks, I think that they would be bringing something edifying and worthwhile to Southern Baptist life. I would be thrilled to contribute occasionally to such a site.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Baptist Church Covenants: Suggested Resource

Things have started rolling along over at WikiCovenant. Some thoughtful additions have been made. We've already gotten into the alcohol question, which was anticipated. There's plenty more to discuss. I hope that all of you will come over and join the discussion. If you really want to get serious about this, you might check out the following book: Deweese, Charles W. Baptist Church Covenants. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1990. Deweese's book is a compendium of various church covenants, ancient and modern, from Baptist life. If you can't find it on the shelves of your favorite bookstore, it is included on the Baptist History CD-ROM from Baptist Standard Bearer, which you can order online. And now, just as I post this, I see that Nathan Finn has bested me in suggesting covenant resources.

Monday, August 13, 2007

WikiCovenant

What ought a Baptist congregation's church covenant to contain in this day and time? With an equal admixture of eager anticipation and sheer terror, I announce the WikiCovenant project. It is a wiki page containing, at this moment, the text of J. Newton Brown's church covenant from his Baptist Church Manual of 1853. This is the text that has become the most popular church covenant among Southern Baptist Churches. A wiki is a web page that is fully editable by those who view the page. So, I'm opening Bro. Brown's text to you for editing. The interface is the same as that of WikiPedia. I invite the Baptist web community to produce a new Baptist church covenant. I believe that it would be helpful for Southern Baptists today to give some increased attention to the matter of church covenants. I inaugurate this project in the furtherance of that cause.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A New Look

I'm monkeying around with the site. Doubtless, it will turn out uglier than it was before, but it will be mine!