Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sound Thinking about Church Planting

Ed Stetzer asserts that missiological cooperation is often the doorway to theological compromise and explains the tensions between cooperation and theological vigilance, as well as how the level of necessary theological agreement goes up depending upon what local congregations are attempting to accomplish together. Here's the link. I'm thankful to Ed for his insightful and thought-provoking answer to this question.

Andy Johnson, a pastor with Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, hits the ball out of the park dealing with the idolatry of pragmatism in church planting and missiology (here's the link). He specifically mentions Garrison's Church Planting Movements and indirectly refers to Greeson's The Camel. Johnson is a trustee for the International Mission Board.


Joe Blackmon said...

Both articles were good but that article by Andy Johnson was, as they used to say in the 70's, "Dynomite". Now THAT is someone you can be proud to have as a trustee on the IMB. :-)

Grosey's Messages said...

Yes that is a good evaluation... Scripture must always be our primary authority.
The Power!
2 Timothy 2:1Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
The Programme!
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
The Perseverance!
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Glad Ed wrote the article (in 2003), but he sort of stated the obvious. And, if starting new churches today depends upon a big partnership of existing churches--for the purposes of resource-sharing--then some compromise of some kinds definitely will have to occur--not on theology which is of the primary kind, but of secondary and tertiary, etc. (i.e., if I must adopt the attitude/actions of some blogging here, forget it!)

Reminders: it wasn't "Southern Baptists" who adopted the most recent BF&M; it was SOME Southern Baptists, and relatively few of them--other Southern Baptists stayed home from those annual meetings because they'd given up on trying to stop the utter nonsense taking place at that time (and since). A doctrinal statement obviously is important for saying who Southern Baptists are and aren't, but the current version doesn't do that for all dedicated, CP-contributing Southern Baptists (the vast majority of whom have absolutely no idea that a BF&M statement even exists, and do not care).

We don't need each other for our theology; our local churches nailed that down years ago, and will stand by what they believe whether or not another church believes the same or says so. We need each other--in terms of sharing money, manpower, materials--for worldwide missions and evangelism done in short lengths of time. We otherwise do not have to share among ourselves the hundreds of millions of dollars that Southern Baptists have and do; we can simply walk down the same street going in various directions and tipping our hats to each other with smiles while in passing--no theological big deal.

With fewer evangelical born-again Christians in the U.S. than there are atheists/agnostics, Southern Baptists had better find other evangelicals with whom we can partner for missions/evangelism on big scales; most of the folks we pass in the hallways of our own Baptist church buildings are non-evangelical born-again Christians (by Barna's definition) who have little if any interest in going on-mission with God (evangelical believers outnumbered 7 to 1?). The SBC certainly does not have all the evangelical believers in the U.S.

Keep thinking this thing through, brothers; no one here or cited here has this thing figured out completely yet. The answer is not as easy as writing a brief article in some Baptist publication and having lots of folks read it.


Joe Blackmon said...

With fewer evangelical born-again Christians in the U.S. than there are atheists/agnostics, Southern Baptists had better find other evangelicals with whom we can partner for missions/evangelism on big scales

If it means partnering with churches who have or advocate women pastors, speaking in tongues, that the Bible is not inerrant (i.e. the Bible contains the word of God rather than it is the word of God), then no we don't need to find other evangelicals to partner up with. We need to remain true to the Bible. Baptists expressed our beliefs that we intend to stand by in the BFM 2000 which is and was intended as a minimal document--it doesn't speak to each and every issue and wasn't intended to.

If I had my way, any Baptist that didn't agree with the BFM 2000 would be invited to go join up with the CBF---they'd be happier over there anyway.

Anonymous said...

But, Joe, you've pretty much shown yourself to be a mean-spirited person anyway, so what you say above that you'd desire for disagreeing Southern Baptists really doesn't surprise many folks reading here. As some of the folks you refer to--ones not particularly favoring the current BF&M statement--are my family, parents, and most friends--all life-long, CP-supporting SBCers--I take real exception to what you have to say or insinuate about them, brother. You're entitled to your opinion; just keep it to yourself if there's a chance you're talking about somebody's family--which, in this case, happens to love the Lord Jesus no less than yours (I assume), but also happens to believe that thinking like yours is what got the SBC in the bad shape it's been in since '79. Not everybody who disagrees with you is CBF, friend; many who disagree with you are ones holding to historic Baptist beliefs and you can't show otherwise.

Your comments about a conservative approach to God's Holy Word go without saying--sort of a "duh" kind of statement.

Karen in OK said...

Since some of the missionaries I keep up with are big on orality strategies, I thought it meant basically trying to witness to people who are illiterate even in their non-English language.

There was a passing reference to it in Andy Johnson's article but no real explanation as to why it is a problematic method. Can you direct me to anything else on this?

Joe Blackmon said...

The people belly-aching about the Conservative Resurrgence, in my experience, whine about (a) women not being allowed to pastor (b) the fact that men and women have different roles in the home and (c) the language being strengthened about the Bible being rather than containing the Word of God and that line about interpreting the Bible through Jesus being taken out (that was an important part of the mainstreamer playbook--it allowed them to ignore parts of the Bible they didn't like). The fact that we had churches like Broadway Baptist and have churches like FBC Decatur in the SBC is ironclad proof not only that the CR was necessary and a good thing but that there is still work to do within the denomination.

Oh, I'm still scratching my head over here trying to figure out why it matters that your relatives and other mainstreamers give to the CP.

Anonymous said...

Alleged Conservative Resurgence.

Joe, the photo next to your name: is that you with 2 of your children, grandchildren, or related children? If so, and you can't figure out about a person's relatives, then you may need another occupation (auditor/accountant?)! Be careful, brother.

bapticus hereticus said...

Joe: The fact that we had churches like Broadway Baptist and have churches like FBC Decatur in the SBC is ironclad proof not only that the CR was necessary and a good thing but that there is still work to do within the denomination.

NASHVILLE - People Standing for Jesus Baptist Church, the most prominent church in the SBC released a report today in a press conference that indicates it is the only remaining SBC church and will rename itself at the end of the year to Last People Standing for Jesus Baptist Church. When asked by a reporter attending the announcement if the church had effectively led SBC efforts, pastor Adrian P. Barnett The Second asserted that the question could not be definitively answered at this time. "We have members in our church that some of us are deeply suspicious about and are in the process of removing them from our fellowship," said Barnett The Second, "and after we have done that, we plan to reassess our situation and that of the SBC."


Anonymous said...

. . . Eventually, the congregation plans to refer to itself as Last Person Standing for Jesus Baptist Church--which, as objective bystanders easily can see, is certain to happen before very long.

Joe will be that person, it appears. Way to go, Joe!

Bart Barber said...

Joe, we're going to dwindle away to nothing if we remain so intolerant. The only way to achieve the robust growth of the CBF (they reported a 20% decline in offerings & attendance this year) is to learn from their amazing tolerance for any theology (or none at all). We also need to adopt the social gospel to avoid dwindling, since the groups that adopted it in the last century fared so well by it.

Or, you and I could be more concerned with obedience to the Lord, and we can leave the results to Him. Maybe we just ought to stick with that.

Bart Barber said...

Man! It is hard for me to comment by iPhone. I'll not be doing much of that!

Anonymous said...

. . . After Joe dis-fellowships Bart!

Joe Blackmon said...


That was pretty funny.


bapticus hereticus said...

Trustee Admonishes Member, Evaluates CBF
July 9, 2009
by bapticus hereticus

FARMERSVILLE, TX - Newly elected trustee of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, pastor Dr. Bart Barber, offered an assessment of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship today in response to a fellow Southern Baptist Convention member's lack of graciousness toward other SBC churches. Elected as a trustee at the 2009 annual meeting of the SBC, Bart stated that he was "humbled and impressed with the solemn responsibility and honor entrusted" to him and that he desired not to "disappoint [the Lord] in this sacred charge." CBF, according to Barber, has an "amazing tolerance for any theology (or none at all)." In reply to Dr. Barber's gracious assessment of CBF, the fellow SBC member responded with "Bart, That was pretty funny."


Chris Johnson said...

Brother Bart,

There are times that the SBC (as a political movement) does not display “theological vigilance” as advertised and gets sidetracked with many other issues. That’s not to say that the SBC is necessarily deficient in its theology, but rather …there are churches that are well beyond some of the triviality displayed within the politics of the SBC collective and its subsequent condensed theology.

It is probably good to remember that the local churches (of which the SBC has the opportunity to bring cooperative value) are the individual “theological vigilant” entities. Or, at least have the best opportunity for theological vigilance. The SBC itself (the cooperative), by sheer volume and through political compromise is at best average in theological vigilance at any time. So, if the SBC continues to be cooperative,…it is the individual churches that allow for the cooperation and vigilance.…. and if a time arises that the SBC in its average polity may begin to vary theologically it is up to that individual church in an act of stewardship to determine the value of its cooperation. Sometimes I get the sense that members of the SBC put more stock in the SBC (political) than in the power vested by Christ in members that are members of one another locally. Thus we get this unusual competition born out of a wrong direction of emphasis.

Some people attribute Baptist squabbles something like Paul and John Mark’s little scuffle where everyone wants to be like Paul, even while the other folks pretend to be like Paul.

We are living in interesting times.


Stuart said...

Karen in OK,

I don't see where anyone else has addressed your comment, so I'll give it a shot. Orality strategies basically recognize that not all of the world's 7+ billion people learn the way Western Europeans and North Americans learn. With some cultures, it's a question of literacy vs. non-literacy. In other cultures, they may be literate, but remain "oral learners".

Though it was just a passing reference in the article, to speak of "orality strategies vs. biblical literacy", as if they're somehow incompatible or in competition with one another is a false dichotomy.

Dr. David Sills at Southern Seminary is a very good resource if you're interested in learning more about oral strategies and "good" contextualization. (The qualifier "good" is unfortunately necessary because some have used it as a license to be unbiblical.) He is deeply committed to the Word of God, and writes from an informed perspective on matters related to missiology and cultural anthropology. His website is

Stuart said...

Bart et al.,

I may be in the minority, but to me Garrison's CPM book comes across as much more descriptive than prescriptive.

So, we acknowledge that given the same experiences and data he had to work with, we might organize the book differently or come to different conclusions. Or perhaps we might try to look more specifically for the theological and ecclesiological factors at play in the circumstances moreso than the practical. We also have the benefit of a decade to evaluate and ponder, so we see the book's shortcomings all the more clearly. But it strikes me as at least a little bit unfair when people criticize the book as promoting numbers or pragmatism over Scripture. The reality is that the numbers were there, and we have in the book an imperfect attempt to describe the key factors and commonalities. In a sense, what Garrison did in CPM is not that unlike what Thom Rainer has done in most of his recent books.

If there's an argument to be made, it's that people have erred in trying to use Garrison in a PRE-scriptive manner. To me, that would be a much more valuable discussion than most of the discussions I've seen or read where Garrison is concerned.

Bart Barber said...

Karen in OK,

I would say that, although you can obviously present the Christian gospel without directing a person to read the Bible and can have Christian believers who do not read the Bible, you cannot develop Christian maturity among disciples without bringing people to read the Bible. If Andy Johnson is highlighting the danger that "orality strategies" may be an opening of the door to an acceptance of the Medieval status of the church, complete with priestcraft and mediated followers incapable of accessing the Bible for themselves (and that's precisely what I took him to be doing), then I think his warning is well issued.

Praise God that we are seeking to carry the gospel to the illiterate! Previous generations of Christians viewed learning to read as necessary to the full maturity of Christian discipleship. I agree with them.

Bart Barber said...


You should contact ABP and seek a position writing for them.

bapticus hereticus said...

Bart: You should contact ABP and seek a position writing for them.

bapticus hereticus: my reason for posting such is that given your position as a trustee at SWBTS you will need to measure your statements more carefully else your credibility will likely be attenuated, thus attenuating your influence on the board.

Joe Blackmon said...


I SERIOUSLY doubt anyone on the SWBTS would be offended about what Bart said regarding the Cooperative-with-anyone Baptist Fellowship.

Anonymous said...


Midieval priestcraft notwithstanding, the following article might prove helpful to you.

Stuart said...

Sorry, that wasn't supposed to be a was me.

Stuart said...

Well, the link got truncated, so I suppose I'll try again before wishing this thread farewell.

bapticus hereticus said...

Joe: bh, I SERIOUSLY doubt anyone on the SWBTS would be offended about what Bart said regarding the Cooperative-with-anyone Baptist Fellowship.

bapticus hereticus: then, by all means, Joe, encourage Bart to continue with these types of comments. and should he, do you think other SWBTS board members and other seminary board members will be impressed by the quality of his speech and judgment?