Sunday, August 30, 2009

Next Week's Baptism

Next Sunday morning in our worship services, I will baptize my son, Jim. He's six years old.

It is an action that will bring down upon me (spoken or unspoken) the suspicion or scorn of others, all of whom I count as brothers in Christ and some of whom I count as friends. Some would delight in accusing me of being a paedobaptist. Some would wring their hands that such baptisms erode the regeneracy of the church. Some would argue that, even if there is no theological basis for waiting to baptize Jim (who stands in stead for others like him), there is ample pragmatic cause in the modern state of the churches.

If they are close to me at all, and if the topic has ever arisen between us, then they know of my longstanding (long before I had children) resistance to humanly devised age thresholds governing the Christ-ordained institution of baptism. Because few topics are as important, and because this is a dialogue worth having as Southern Baptists, I offer here my own convictions that lead me to baptize Jim next Sunday morning. I gather my thoughts around three primary questions.

  1. Is there a mandatory minimum age for being converted?
  2. What is the basis of eligible candidacy for baptism?
  3. Who has the authority to set qualifications for baptism?

Is there a mandatory minimum age for being converted?

Certainly there are mandatory capacities that a person must master before being able to experience conversion. Repentance accompanies conversion; therefore, any person who is not yet capable of appreciating his own sinfulness before a Holy God, experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and demonstrating contrition and repentance—the person incapable of these things because of infancy is not yet old enough to experience conversion. Faith accompanies conversion; therefore, any person not yet capable of knowing the facts of the gospel and receiving them by faith is not yet old enough to experience conversion. In this sense, I affirm that there is a mandatory minimum stage for being converted.

If illness or other developmental incapacity caused a person not to acquire these capabilities until far into physical maturity, such a person could be ineligible for conversion until quite advanced in years, I believe.

But the question concerns not so much a minimum stage of conversion as it deals with the idea of a minimum age of conversion. To put it bluntly and specifically, would any argue that no six-year-old could possibly have experienced genuine conversion? I have not yet encountered anyone so bold as to make this argument. I would make it with regard to a six-month-old—no six-month-old exists, or ever has existed, who could possibly have experienced genuine conversion. But I would not make this claim with regard to a six-year-old. Would you?

You might think that I would take this question too personally to discuss it, since we're talking about my son here. You'd be only half right. I do take it personally, but not because of my son. I take it personally because of me. I was not six, but five years old (almost six) when I was converted. I testify today, God bearing witness with me, that I at that age understood that I was a sinner, understood that my sin was against God, understood that damnation awaited me for my sin, understood that I could not save myself, understood that Christ had died for my sin on the cross as my substitute, understood that Christ had risen from the dead after three days, understood that Christ wanted me to repent of my sin, understood that I needed to place my faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins, and understood that I must confess Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I consented to all of those things at that time.

What's more, I did all of this under the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit. If that was not the Holy Spirit dealing with me in conviction when I was five years old, then I have never known His voice—not in my dramatic calling to preach when I was eleven, not in the many stirrings and reproofs and blessings that have happened since then. In my experience, that was the time when I met the One who has walked with me through so many mileposts along the way in my life.

So, if you would argue that no six-year-old could possibly have been converted, then I suggest that you bring your best game. You're going to have an uphill climb convincing me.

If not, then I'll be glad to enter a conversation with you about how frequently God births again human beings of various ages, as well as means that God might use to secure those earlier, less frequent, conversions when He so chooses. Certainly I do not believe that God converts every six-year-old, nor do I believe that every six-year-old is capable of conversion at that time. I would not even argue that the majority of six-year-olds are in a position to comprehend or experience all that conversion entails. I am merely advancing the point that there are some people even as young as five years old who genuinely do experience conversion.

What is the basis of eligible candidacy for baptism?

Along with most formal statements on this point from Baptists, I confess and believe that only "a believer" (BF&M Article VII) is the rightful candidate for baptism. The basis of candidacy for baptism is conversion, and only conversion. Churches hear the testimony of professed believers and baptize those who are (to employ the Puritan language here) "visible saints," or who appear to have been converted.

We argue for conversion as the basis of candidacy for baptism against the paedobaptists, who argue that, at least for some people, a milestone of physical development (i.e., birth) is the basis of candidacy for baptism. Those eligible for baptism are those, irrespective of whether they have been born again, who have attained to at least the age of zero. The historic Baptist idea (if not perfectly the historic Baptist practice) has not been to argue that paedobaptists have merely found the wrong age for at which to baptize people (zero rather than, say, thirteen, for zero is just too young), but rather to argue that age is the wrong basis entirely for baptism, which must be extended to all and to only those who have been born again.

When we credobaptists say that we will not baptize any younger than eighteen-year-olds, it seems to me that we have wandered away, yes, from our Baptist theological underpinnings, but so much more importantly, from the New Testament theology of baptism that makes the new birth the sole criterion adjudging whether one be eligible for baptism. "If you believe with all your heart you may [be baptized]." (Yes, I believe that Acts 8:37 belongs in the Bible).

So, to make it all specific and personal, if my son has legitimately experienced conversion, and if our church nonetheless were to forbid him to be baptized (or if I were to do so as his father), then by our actions we are stating that the new birth is not the basis of candidacy for baptism. At best, we are saying that new birth plus something else is that basis. In which case we need to amend all of our confessions of faith and start being more honest about our beliefs with regard to baptism.

Who has the authority to set qualifications for baptism?

Ultimately, this is a question for churches rather than for individuals to address, but I do not believe that even churches have been authorized by the Lord to make requirements for baptism that are not made in scripture. We have from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, a positive command in scripture that we are to baptize disciples. To determine that there are disciples whom we will not baptize, or will not baptize yet, is to set our own terms for when we will and when we will not be obedient to Christ's command.

Our theology of the Lord's Supper as expressed in the Baptist Faith & Message (that baptism is pre-requisite to participation in the Lord's Supper) is based upon the presumption that it is a matter of unrepentant sin for any genuine believer in Christ to persist in an unbaptized state. I say this not to open the argument in this thread with regard to the proper extent of communion (for we'll have plenty to discuss in the main point of this post, I imagine), but merely to attempt to demonstrate that Southern Baptists have indeed considered unbaptized believers (apart from some unavoidable incapacity such as faced the thief on the cross) to be persisting in sin.

If this be granted, and if my son has genuinely been born again, then for me to refuse him baptism for a decade is nothing more and nothing less than for me to obstruct his obedience to Christ. That's serious business. For one thing, that's not the lesson that I want to be teaching to my son. For another thing, I don't want to answer to the Lord for such an action. He has commanded baptism, and I do not believe that I have the authority to countermand his instructions. Nor do I believe that our congregation has that authority, even with all of the unique authority that the congregation has.


I think we have every reason to examine carefully candidates for baptism in order to be earnest about determining whether they have been born again. Frankly, I've baptized some 40-somethings who gave every appearance later on of being false professors. We Americans live in a spiritual terrain noted for rocky soil, if you get my drift, and it is a good thing that we want to be more circumspect about whom we baptize. Setting a minimum age for baptism is, in my opinion (and saying it as charitably as I know how without sacrificing clarity), an unbiblical, cheap, cop-out substitute for the difficult work of seeking evidence of genuine conversion in those who profess to have been born again.

The very young who profess conversion? Push back and resist them. (We have!) Make them persist adamantly in their profession. (We have!) Make them give you a testimony of conversion in their own words. (We have!) Cut absolutely no theological corners in making sure that they understand the gospel. In fact, none of those things are a bad idea for adult professors either, are they? But none of those reasonable actions require setting up arbitrary man-made barriers that negate what is one of the simplest and most evident truths in scripture: Those who have genuinely been born again have an immediate obligation to obey Christ's command to be baptized.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Economic Lemonade

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!" So says the old proverb. With high unemployment, tight credit, and forecasted deficits rising with each passing week, we certainly have our share of economic lemons around us. Here are some of the positive things I see brought into my life from the economic downturn:

  1. The gifts of God's people are more sacrificial and therefore, in a sense, more meaningful in difficult economic times. You remember the story of the widow's mite, don't you? As you get closer to her economic stratum, your faithfulness to give reveals more and more the depth of your commitment to honor God with your substance.

  2. The Lottery Jackpot. I am opposed to the state lottery, but I have found a way for the Lord' to work good in my own heart through our lottery billboards posted around town. Whenever I see one (like today) announcing a $325 million jackpot, I take that as an occasion to breathe a prayer to the Lord and say, "Father, I'd rather be worth [whatever I'm worth] and be in your will than to have $325 million and be outside your will."

    Yes, the odds are 1:175,711,536, and yes, that's a different situation by far than actually turning down $325 million. Nevertheless, it is a good thing to look for chances to tell the Lord that He is more valuable to you than is money. Lottery jackpot billboards are one of those occasions for me, and all the more so when economic times are tight. For these difficult times are a great opportunity for us to clarify in our own hearts that we serve God and not Mammon.

  3. Economic downturns give us an opportunity to talk about priorities. We are presently planning church calendar and budget for 2010. We've done remarkably well so far this year, considering the year, but much of that is because we're not foolish spenders here at FBC Farmersville. Now, planning for next year, I find that the membership and pastors of our congregation are even more prone to have good discussions about which expenses are the most important in connection with the basic mission of our church.

    It would be great to have so much money that we could just spend and spend and spend without ever worrying about running out of money (and indeed, if FBCF has ever actually worried about running OUT of money, it has been long, long ago). But there is value...great knowing why you exist, knowing how your activities and expenses connect with why you exist, and reviewing everything carefully. If downturns in our economy force more of us to do that at our churches, at our businesses, and in our own personal lives, then that's a good thing.

I don't go out of my way to look for policies and practices that wreck the economy and make life difficult on people, but a recession we have (soon to be coupled with oppressive taxation), and we might just as well look for the good things that God will do with these difficult circumstances. Romans 8:28, remember? That's exactly what He does.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Health Care Reform and Religious Imperatives

Liberal pastors are pulling out all of the stops in their advocacy for socialized medicine. I was recently reading The Houston Chronicle's article concerning a group of liberal pastors being used by the Democrat Party to push for President Obama's beleaguered health care initiative.

The messages from these pastors, like most messages of liberal economic policies, confuse a basic ethical principle: For me to be generous with my money is laudatory and most Christian; for me to be generous with somebody else's money is neither, but is mere theft and is condemned in the Bible. The generous Christian impulse of being generous with our own money led Christians throughout our nation to start hospitals and other health care initiative in days gone by. What passes today for the "moral imperative" of "health care reform" in the plans of President Obama can be entirely summarized as covetousness for the resources of others.

Unlikely to Be Quoted This Mother's Day at Church

A recent Fox News article reveals that a woman formerly opposed to posing naked in pornographic magazine Playboy was actually talked into doing so by her own mother (see here, third story down).

Sex is being destroyed by the people who think they are celebrating it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Devotional Thoughts on Congregational Authority

Over at SBC Today I have offered an essay about the Christ-conferred authority of the local congregations. The essay is more exegetical and theological in nature. Here I would like to provide a few words about the practical worth and devotional effect of those theological sentiments. In other words, presuming that I believe those thoughts to be true, how do I act differently because of them and how is my relationship with Christ furthered by them, in my estimation.

I will offer just one example. This week a member of our congregation asked that the elders (pastors) of our congregation gather with him in accordance with the James 5 model to pray with him for his deliverance from alcoholism and for his forgiveness of the sin of drunkenness and the many other sins that accompanied and issued forth from that sin. James 5 is another of the passages that relies specifically upon the leadership of the local congregation being expected by Christ to function in a specific role to which they have been authorized by Christ.

While praying, I made specific reference to Christ's promise that any two of us could gather in agreement and depend upon the power and authority of heaven to be behind us. I then prayed with all of my heart for this brother's deliverance. I believe that the full power of heaven was moved in response to our prayers, and that it was moved in a way that it would not have been moved by my solitary prayer for him. This realization causes me to find value in exercises of the James 5 type, and it gives me a greater love for Christ and desire to serve Him to know that He listens and acts in the midst of such circumstances, even when they are populated with believers as frail and flawed as we are.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Frill Is Gone....The Frill Is Gone Away

A No-Frills Convention?

A recent experience set me to thinking about our cooperative work as Southern Baptists.

A few nights ago our local television news program announced that Dallas-based Southwest Airlines was inaugurating service to Boston’s Logan International Airport from Love Field. It is the kind of story that has grown commonplace in Dallas, from where Southwest’s empire continues to expand, gobbling up routes from lesser competitors. At the conclusion of the story, the reporter employed a phrase that really caught my attention: She referred to Southwest as “The no-frills airline.”

In some quarters, I’m sure that the phrase “no-frills airline” is bandied about as an insult toward companies like Southwest. It subtly diminishes Southwest’s loyal customer base as those who can’t afford the frills. It fends off comparisons by placing Southwest into a different category—other airlines’ profitability and timeliness and customer service should be compared with other “frills” carriers, and not with those in the wholly separate “no-frills” class.

My time spent flying commercially has gone very disproportionately to Southwest Airlines. I’ve flown a little on now-defunct Piedmont Airlines; some on US Airways; some on ASA; some on Northwest; some on Delta; some on ValuJet; some on regional carriers Lone Star, Big Sky, and Mesa; and a fair amount on the other Dallas-based carrier, American Airlines. I’ve flown on Southwest Airlines more than I’ve flown on all of those other airlines combined. My reasons for flying on Southwest mostly have to do with the cost (probably like your reasons, if you’ve flown Southwest a lot). I would be willing to consider paying more if I had any reasonable expectation that I would be getting something valuable in return. Nevertheless, my flying experience does include time spent on both “frills-included” and “no-frills” airlines.

Having seen both sides, I sometimes find myself wondering what the frills are.

The Good Leg

Consider, for example, my most recent flying experience with American Airlines. We left from DFW airport bound for Heathrow on a beautiful Boeing 777 airplane in the American Airlines livery. I took my seat back in row 36. When I sat down, I noticed two things. First, I saw that every seat had its own little TV screen (the 737s in the Southwest Airlines fleet don't have that). Second, I saw that the TV screen for my seat wasn't working.

That's no big deal for me—a non-functioning TV screen. Like I said, I never have my own TV screen when I fly. Certainly I'm not some spoiled person who has to have a TV screen in order to suffer through a flight with hoi polloi. Nevertheless, as we wended our way over the North Atlantic, I came to discover some nasty side-effects of my broken TV. The only way to turn on the light is with the TV controller, so there go my plans to read on the trip across the Atlantic. The only way to summon a flight attendant is with the TV controller, so I hope I don't need anything. The only way to listen to the instructions for filling out my British Customs form (which I'll now have to do in the dark) is on the TV, so I hope that I guess correctly.

Mine was one of a block of about 15 seats that had non-functioning TVs. Several other passengers requested from the flight attendants that they fix the TVs (I did not). Flight attendants promised several times that they simply needed to go up front and reset the units. “Any minute now…,” you know. We landed in London eight hours later with the TVs still not functioning.

That was the good leg of the trip. Nothing but a few minor inconveniences.


After a wonderful 10 days of mission work in London, we boarded American Airlines 87 bound for Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The direct flight to Dallas (#51) had been full when we booked our travel, so we were stuck with the connection at ORD. Flight 87 departed late while American found standbys to fill empty seats and arrived late in Chicago, but we had planned enough time between the flights to leave us a little bit of breathing room. Twenty minutes late, we disembarked our second American Airlines 777 of the voyage.

Again, coincidentally, we had flown in row 36 (the TVs worked this time). American's 777s are outfitted with 42 rows, so we were pretty much in the back of the airplane. Consequently, we were pretty much the last people off the airplane and the last people in line at Passport Control. Ours was not a speedy trip past the CBP personnel—by the time we had cleared passport control and had moved to the baggage carousel, flight 87 had been on the ground for a full 40 minutes.

And yet in all of that time, not one of our flight's bags had arrived yet.

That's right: The entire 777 airplane (which was almost entirely full) had disembarked, walked to Customs, cleared Passport Control, and had found a perch encircling the carousel to await the arrival of their bags, and the baggage handlers in all of that time had not managed to deliver a single bag from the belly of the airplane. We waited ten more minutes for the bags to arrive, and then the first of them came.

From our luck so far, you can guess by now where our bags came in the sequence of those from our flight, can't you? All three of our bags came in the final ten bags to be unloaded into the carousel. Yikes!

By now, I was worried. It was 1:58 PM. Our connecting flight to DFW was scheduled for departure at 2:20 PM. We still had to re-check our bags and make our way to a different terminal in order to make it to our Dallas-bound flight. We ran…RAN…with our bags to the re-check agent. As we got into line, we breathlessly told the agent: "We've got to hurry; we're booked connecting onto flight 2331 and it leaves in just twenty minutes!"

"Actually," she said, "It just left three minutes ago."


As it turns out, here's what happened. American Airlines booked us on a connecting itinerary from Heathrow to DFW that included a tight connection from flight 87 to flight 2331. Then, they decided to change the time of flight 2331. They pulled it forward fifteen minutes from 2:20 to 2:05, all without bothering to tell us. They claim that they tried to email us. I have several other emails from American Airlines, but I never got that one. My wife never got this email either. We had provided American Airlines with telephone numbers, but they never tried to contact us. No ticketing agent at the gate ever bothered to mention, "By the way, do you realize that your home-bound itinerary is now an impossibility since we've changed the time of your connecting flight?" No kindly agent at Chicago met us when we disembarked AA87 to say, "You've only got a few minutes to make your flight to Dallas! Let us do everything we can to help you make it home!" Then, after changing the flight time, they sent the flight away even earlier than the scheduled time, again, all without telling us.

Well that's a major breach of faith and inconvenience, but it shouldn't be an insurmountable problem, right? Because DFW is a major hub for American Airlines. American's international headquarters is at DFW. There are going to be a lot of AA flights to Dallas, right?

Is That Dell Griffith Over There?

And there were. There were six of them, in fact. All overbooked. American Airlines informed us that they were not going to get us to DFW. We conceded the fact (with a smile…in fact, the ticket agent remarked in surprise that we were taking it all so cheerfully) and offered a Plan B—could American Airlines at least get us to Houston? After several minutes of frantic computer work (we’re thankful for that guy in Chicago), he was able to book us from Chicago to Miami to Houston, where my in-laws agreed to pick us up at the airport a full 25 hours after we first set out on our journey (we supposed) home.

Our flight to Miami was yet another Boeing 777, so we had no problem finding our way to the very last row of seats. Tracy grew up near Miami, where her Dad worked for an airline, so she knows something about the local layout. One of the terminals at the airport is apparently under construction at present, so our flight received a gate assignment at “the old Pan-Am terminal.” This portion of Concourse E sits out as a remote island on the tarmac, separated from the remainder of the facilities.

The Captain taxied our jet up to the gate and allowed an automatic parking device to place us at the gate. If you’ve flown, you know the drill. The engines shut down. The passengers all stand up. The overhead bins all open. The lines in the aisles form and then wait for the door to open. We waited…and waited…and waited.

Finally, the loudspeakers broke the silent anticipation with the Captain’s voice. The automatic parking device had failed. The ramp couldn’t connect to the airplane successfully. We might have to wait while they get a tug to drive over, mate up with the 777, and reposition the airplane. And we did have to wait for precisely that.

We offloaded the jet and marched out into the now-dark-and-gated terminal shops of an airport that had already seen its bedtime come and go. As I mentioned before, our island of gates was separated from the other terminals (including our connecting flight to Houston). The only way off our island was a train (Floridians love a monorail), and our throng from Chicago pressed into the boarding area for that train.

The first group embarked upon the train ride. The doors closed. The lights flashed. The time expired. The doors opened again. The first group of people were still there, staring right back at us. The train was broken.

By this time, we were laughing instead of crying. I was tweeting the whole episode as it occurred. References to Steve Martin and John Candy in “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” were spreading like wildfire.

The powers-that-be sent over a bus filled with outbound passengers for another red-eye flight. Our pilot and flight attendants begged the bus to take us back to the main terminal with them on their return. They refused: “We’re going to fix the train!” And eventually they did so, but it is really difficult to see why they couldn’t allow a few connecting passengers at the very least to ride an empty bus on a trip that it had to make anyway.

We did finally make it over on the train. We did finally catch the 737 to Houston Intercontinental. We did finally make our way overland from Houston back to Farmersville. We did have all of our belongings with us when we got there. The trip from Heathrow to home finally did in fact succeed.

But nothing about it felt “frilly.”

Polite Non-Responsiveness

Along the way we never grumbled, never spoke a cross word, and never took out our frustration upon any American Airlines employee. Upon our arrival at home, friends and family said, “You really should contact American Airlines. They should give you a free flight or something.”

I decided that I would contact the airline. After all, it had been a pretty dreadful experience. If nothing else, they at least ought to get feedback—an appraisal of their performance from someone affected but not ill-tempered. Thus I first determined to tell my story. I looked for a phone number to call Customer Service for American Airlines. I found none. I called the main number and had the most delightful conversation with a computer (such a friendly android voice it had), but after repeated tries I could not convince it to allow me to speak with a person.

Finally, I found an email form by which I could tell of our disappointing experience. The form is carefully constructed to prevent you from having anyone’s actual email address at American Airlines, mind you. The length of what you can send them is carefully limited as well.

I decided that I should ask for something very modest. No free round trip tickets to Hawaii. No all-expense weekends at the Waldorf-Astoria. Instead, I decided to ask for something that I had seen the airlines give away to people before just for signing up for a program or whatever. So I asked American Airlines to give us double AAdvantage miles for the trip. That wouldn’t add up to enough miles for us actually to upgrade a flight or attain some “elite” status with American. The only way that this “gift” would be valuable to us at all or would cost American Airlines a penny would be if we came back to American Airlines as a continuing customer. It seemed to me the perfect request, since it involved both a concession on American’s part and a commitment on our part to fly American Airlines again several more times. A brief glance at my past frequent-flyer history with American Airlines would immediately reveal that there has never been a period in my life when I have flown with American enough for me to have used these miles to do anything—my request, if valuable or costly at all, would require me to become a far better customer to American Airlines than I have ever been in my life. They really could have incentivized me to start a long-term relationship with American Airlines, but they squandered that opportunity.

In three rounds of very polite back-and-forths, the folks at American Airlines flatly refused my request. They also stridently maintained that none of this—their late flight from Heathrow, their sluggish baggage handling in Chicago, their unilateral changing of my flight time—none of this was actually their fault at all. With regard to their changing of our flight time, they told us that they just have to do this sometimes. In other words, they do not regard this is an exception, but as a part of the range of things that we should expect possibly to happen when we fly with American Airlines—your flight just might leave thirty minutes earlier than they told you. They said all of this with a refined niceness likely washed through the advertising and legal departments, and the conversation was very pleasant—utterly unsatisfying, but pleasant. And in the end, neither side got what they should have wanted: I didn’t receive double miles for the trip, and American Airlines certainly received no intention on my part to purchase future tickets from them. I hear that British Airways has excellent customer service. If I make the two trips to London that are possible next year, I'll soon find out about British Airways's service, I promise you.

The sad part of it all is that American Airlines has the best pilots in the world, the best flight attendants in the world, and every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, these people have to serve in a system (maybe it's the fault of management?) that offsets their incredible competence and conscientiousness by its disregard for the passenger.

Frills Up and Down My Spine?

My travels with Southwest Airlines may not feature many frills, but my bags always fly free, the flights dependably depart on time and arrive on time, and I am always pleased to receive precisely what I bargained for when I bought the tickets. American Airlines has obviously worked hard to train their staff to put a friendly face before the customers. We never had any unpleasant experience with any human representative of American Airlines. Also, American Airlines offers first-class seats (that we can’t afford), airport lounges filled with liquor (that we don’t drink), “platinum elite” perks (like getting to walk into the airplane early), and things like that. Southwest Airlines offers none of these things, focusing instead on having airplanes that get you where you want to go safely and on-time. Those are the "frills" that give me happy shivers about an airline. There's a reason why Southwest Airlines is perpetually profitable and American Airlines is not. Success comes from doing the main thing reliably well.

Before I end my airline travel narrative, I want to say that I, too, enjoy and embrace the sentiments articulated by the comedian Louis CK on the YouTube video "Everything's Amazing; Nobody's Happy." The point is not that our life was ruined by American Airlines. We went to London and back in a matter of less than two days traveling time. That truly is amazing. The point is simply that American Airlines should get back to a focus on that—restoring a reliable travel infrastructure to use the miracle of flight to get people from point A to point B—taking responsibility for that service and focusing less on the so-called frills. Flight is a miracle that a lot of companies sell. Some do it better than others. I get to make choices when I fly. American Airlines may very well know why I fly, but that's not what I need from them. I know why I fly; I need someone who knows how to make that flight happen safely and on-time with minimum hassle.

A No-Frills Convention!

I believe there is a parable in this whole experience for us Southern Baptists, both in Texas and beyond, and that's my point in writing. In our adolescence, I see the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as a “no-frills” cooperative body, which I celebrate. A lot of the programs and employees and institutions that other denominations or cooperative bodies have, we don’t have. We do, however, have a great and efficient system for linking congregations to grow healthier themselves while planting other churches in Texas, in North America, and around the globe. I like that. I don’t want the “frills”; I want the dependable focus on the main thing. Fellow SBTCers, let's be so very careful as our convention grows older not to mess that up.

On the national scale, as our North American Mission Board envisions another chapter in its existence and as our Task Force imagines the best future for all of our Southern Baptist Convention entities, I want to encourage them to focus less upon public relations and less upon ancillary frills. First and foremost, let us have a Southern Baptist Convention that knows what the basics are and accomplishes them predictably and satisfactorily.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

London: Post-Christian or Pre-Revival?

There's no doubt about it: London is a city who has seen brighter days spiritually. For example, we saw a toy set today: A big boat with pairs of toy animals on the big boat and a little man with a white beard. Noah's ark? Maybe in Dallas. In London, that toy was labeled an "Animal Ark."

For reasons like these, some people refer to London by the term "post-Christian." I would like to encourage you, if you are a Christian believer, not to consent to that terminology. Do you know that Christ is finished with London? I do not. Heaven forbid that I should label any people or any place "post-Christian" and thus conclude that Christ's work is finished in such a place. I have enough faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to believe that He can reach anywhere He so desires.

At Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park, I noted that all but two of the speakers were talking about God. Here we are, in "post-Christian" Europe, and everybody's talking about Jesus. Many heckling, to be sure, but the only accurate way to characterize the discussions at Speaker's Corner is "pro-Christian" vs. "anti-Christian" and certainly not "post-Christian."

I choose to believe that London is pre-revival, not post-Christian. Abbey Road Baptist Church is small—REALLY small—but the church is almost entirely populated with young adults. The young adults in this church are excited about the Lord Jesus Christ. They worship with passion, they serve with zeal, and they pray without ceasing. They want to see London won for Christ.

Will we simply surrender the English to Satan? The Yankees? The Canadians? The French? The Germans? The Spanish? If we do so, let us not abandon them under the pretense that we had no choice and could not do otherwise. To say that is the blaspheme the name of the omnipotent God and to sully the reputation of the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us instead pray for pre-Revival London and pre-Revival Europe, and let us sacrifice to see revival come to this land and these people who, after all, were used by God to give the Christian gospel to pre-Revival America.