A Deeper Heritage

Ben Stubblefield

Appomattox

It’s with some trepidation that I put my thoughts together on the Stars and Bars. The heated public policy debate illustrates the tension-points between our nation’s liberties. “Heritage,” one says, “so leave it be.” “Hate,” says another, “so take it down.” Leaving aside public policy for a moment, I think the Christian community, the prophetic voice within the world, has a clearer word to its own community. Let’s disregard whether or not we should leave it flying in public spaces (tax-funded buildings, etc.). Rather, let’s consider the question more particularly Christian-ly: Would we let the Confederate flag fly in our churches?

Put that way, the answer appears obvious, except, perhaps, to the most die-hard heritagionalists. At the end of all things, Jesus doesn’t have a sketch of The General tattooed on his thigh nor are the 144000 singing Dixie while posting the Stars and Bars in the New and Holy City. And, by…

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The Inconsistencies of Tolerance

Pastor – Leader:

Tolerance is still a pretty trendy topic. The USA Today recently ran a poll illustrating how Americans and Japanese viewed each other. Among the 5 categories evaluated, one of them was Tolerance. It’s fascinating that that would even be a category, but not surprising. Tolerance is a virtue of democratic, free peoples, and Japan has been considered just that for half a century.

But the question the article didn’t explain, and what is worth looking into is: “What is tolerance?”

DA Carson’s look at the Intolerance of Tolerance demonstrates that the meaning of tolerance has changed significantly in the past few decades. The irony, as others have pointed out, is that those may claim to be tolerant are very intolerant towards views they find offensive. I don’t mean that they don’t like other peoples’ views. I mean that they work to marginalize, silence, and (in some cases) use the power of the state to suppress those views from the public square.

There’s lots to say, (and more is said here!) but this phenomenon could be summarized as a confrontation between secularism and everybody else. Secularism, while claiming moral neutrality or ethical agnosticism, is anything but. While claiming tolerance for all, enforces restrictions upon beliefs and practices that it will not tolerate. While claiming objectivity, does not provide sufficient reason for its reasons.

This is, I believe, the fundamental oversight of the whole movement of secularism. It brings huge presuppositions and philosophical and epistemological commitments about what human beings are, why we are what we are, where and what we’re headed for in the future, good and evil, right and wrong, without remembering that those same ideas might be wrong. Tolerance in a free society isn’t best expressed by forcibly coercing our neighbors into keeping their beliefs and their practices out of the public eye. That’s not tolerance; that’s totalitarianism. Tolerance is letting our neighbors disagree and abide by their their commitments in the public realm, knowing that we are all hoping to find the best way forward. It’s precisely because we all know that we’re human, limited, and finite that we let ideas and their adherents exist. After all, while we may believe ourselves to be right, there is always the chance that we aren’t. And we can’t pursue the noblest, purest version of the democratic project, without competing beliefs in the public realm. We can’t do that if we silence each other, especially if we silence each other under the hypocrite’s banner of Tolerance.

For more on this interesting subject, check out this podcast or The Intolerance of Tolerance.

Pastor Ben

The Intolerance of Tolerance

Pastor – Leader:

This organization did a big survey to discover the top list of objections that the unchurched or de-churched (people who grew up in church and have since left) have against evangelical Christianity. The first one on the list is Intolerance. It’s pretty fitting given today’s RFRA discussion.

I’m talking about it for a few minutes today on the new podcast: The Front Porch (click the title). It’s the first episode, so you’ll have to be patient with the recording quality and the sundry run-on, jumbled sentences. But it’s worth some of your time.

We’ll discuss these things for a few episodes beginning today on The Front Porch, which you can subscribe to by clicking here. You can also access more from our teaching ministry at www.fbcjackson.net.

Before you get too far, remember that this book, The Intolerance of Tolerance by DA Carson, should be a book on your shelf.

Pastor Ben

Indiana, the RFRA, and Galaxies Far, Far Away

From Pastor Ben:

The news outlets have been abuzz about Indiana and RFRA. I don’t have time to provide links to all the 5-15 minute clips of heated debates between the “heroes” and “villains” in the country. The civil rights arguments are coming out all over again, along side of “wrong side of history” rhetoric, and adjectives like “ridiculous,” “bigoted,” “narrow-minded,” and the list continues.

It’s fascinating to watch how this RFRA has focused solely on LGBTQ questions in public debate, and virtually nowhere else. I’ll play along for the purposes of this post, but I do think this RFRA is bigger than that.

To the point: what is challenging to watch in these discussions is the fact that the interlocutors are conversing from different, far-apart moral galaxies. Underlying assumptions about what is good, and how we can determine what is good, what we can know about ourselves, how we ought to conduct our lives, and what is an unassailable right are things that are almost never discussed in the forum of an interview. There is only time (or perhaps interest) on TV to argue about the fruit of the ideas, and not their roots. More sadly, I’m not sure many people really care to think through first principles. Maybe I’m just whining, but I don’t think I am. The prophetic voice of Niel Postman is screaming somewhere.

And that’s really where the issue is – it’s much deeper than “You like gay people and I don’t” kind of demagoguery.  People who think RFRA is the mind-progeny of some back room fundamentalist, Christian conspirators scheming ways to keep, for example, our gay friends from pumping gas at a gas station owned by an Indiana evangelical seem to have trouble conceiving of any other potential situation where the government might force a corporation (sole proprietor or otherwise) to violate a reasonably held religious belief in the public square. In other words, I think many in the public forum still can’t recognize how anyone could really believe marriage and the proper design for human sexuality is well-preserved within the union of one man and one woman. I mean…really? That’s moral universe number 1.

And then others who don’t empathize with the initial outrage may have trouble understanding the world that our gay neighbors or relatives have grown up in. And let’s be clear: for anyone that has a same-sex attraction, the world writ large has not been compassionate. In many cases, their treatment has been downright awful. The outrage is understandable, and even enhanced particularly when it’s coming from a different moral galaxy. That is to say that advocates for the LGBTQ perspective have a tough time understanding how anyone could think that marriage is an institution of due privilege and right for one particular kind of human relationship. It is, they suggest, absurd and arbitrary and burdensome to exclude any persons from access to a federal, tax filing status. What’s the big deal? And this is moral universe number 2.

The collision in the public square isn’t the result of people who like gay people and those who don’t. That’s what it seems like based on the news outlets and temper tantrums thrown by corporations exiting their commerce from the state. It’s the consequence of fundamental conceptions of what human beings are, what we ought to be, and how we know what we are and what we ought to be. That discussion won’t make it to a prime-time segment. But it sure would bring some clarity, and it might cool some heads because we could recognize that we’re in a democracy wherein people are free to live in different moral galaxies, be they 1 or 2, 3 or 4, etc. The role of our government is not to force us into one or the other, but to ensure that we don’t unnecessarily use the power of the state to force each other from galaxy 2 into galaxy 1 or galaxy 1 to galaxy 2. The trouble comes when we refuse to understand our moral identities, and therefore portray each other as insidious or through and through villainous. The calming effects of reason and working to recognize fundamental presuppositions aren’t catchy nor do they make for sellable news headlines. But they are soothing.

Pastors, remember your call to see through the noise, and address the heart of the matter. Remember the core issues involved and that you have been shown infinite grace. Be gracious in turn.

A Matrix for Bible Reading and Bible Reading with Another Person

Darryl Bruson, the pastor at Tibbie Baptist Church, developed a helpful 7 question diagnostic as a resource for pastors and Bible reading. It helps, I think, in at least three ways.

It may help you through your own, personal Bible reading. While reading, it’s easy to get side-tracked and forget to “get” the passage. This rubric helps keep you on track.

It’s also useful to help prepare a Bible lesson/sermon/talk. If you can competently answer the questions below, you can explain the Bible to others without too much trouble.

Finally, I’d recommend it as a tool for having a “quiet time” with a church member or someone that you’re discipling. Too often, I think we over-emphasize solitude, as though the Lord can’t speak to us when someone else is in the room. I’d encourage you to have a devotional with someone or a couple of people whom you are discipling. This process can guide your conversation.

Here they are:

  1. What is the main point or key verse in this passage?
  1. What other passages in Scripture does this passage relate to or bring to mind?
  1. What does this passage teach me about God?
  1. What does this passage teach me about mankind (me)?
  1. Based on this passage, is there a sin or sins to repent of?
  1. Based on this passage, is there an action or actions that I am compelled to do?
  1. What are some main ideas and truths that I can share with my family and others from this passage?

Guest Post: “Another Big Mistake That Young Pastors Make”

Hands PrayingRecently I watched a video at the Gospel Coalition from Tullian Tchividjian, Russ Moore, and Voddie Baucham. entitled “The Biggest Mistakes that Young Preachers Make.” They discussed the tendency that young preachers have to preach to impress people or to live up to the expectations of their seminary professors. Russ Moore pointed out that they don’t need to be overly sensitive to criticism and to take the “long view” in ministry There is much wisdom in their words and any young pastor will benefit from them greatly..

This subject connects well with young pastors because they know instinctively that they need to work hard on their preaching. Yet there are other areas of pastoral ministry that young preachers fail to think about deeply. There is one area in particular that is easily neglected.

When the apostles designated seven men to carry out the ministry of feeding widows, they did so that they might give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. Most young pastors get the ministry of the word right as they spend hours locked up in the study getting ready to preach. They want to preach well, and rightfully so, so they take this part of the ministry seriously. They often neglect the other side of the apostolic example and fail to pray for their people. This usually happens because it does not feel as urgent as getting ready to preach. No one really knows whether or not a pastor is praying, but they will definitely know if he is not prepared to preach.

Pastors must prioritize the ministry of prayer and give themselves to it in the same way that they give themselves to the ministry of the word. Our people need our prayers, and we need what happens to us when we pray for them. Praying for people softens our heart towards them and helps us to rely on God’s Spirit to work in their lives through our preaching and ministry.

Practically, I would recommend that pastors pray for 5-7 families every weekday. This keeps you praying for people regularly without it feeling like an impossible task. For the families that you know what is going on in their lives, you can pray specifically for their needs and areas where you hope to see God at work in their lives. For the families that you don’t know what to pray for, ask them the next time that you see them or call them and ask. The conversation goes like this, “I pray for you and every family in our church regularly and I wanted to know if there was anything that you would like for me to specifically pray about.” Write it down, pray for it, and ask them about it after a period of time.

This will change the way that you pastor, but it will change the way that you preach as well. Knowing where the people in your church are struggling or facing difficulties helps you as you apply God’s word to their lives each week. It also helps as you are planning future series. If there is an issue that you see across the whole spectrum of the church, choose a book of the Bible or plan a short series that will address it.

We know that we cannot neglect the ministry of the word, but let us not neglect the ministry of prayer either.

Scott Slayton is the lead pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, Alabama. He graduated from the University of Mobile and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to Beth for ten years, and they have three daughters. He blogs on life, theology, the church, and mission at scottslayton.net.

Deacons

Buddy Grey, from Hunter Street Baptist in Birmingham, gave a fantastic presentation on the biblical role of deacons at our 2014 Pastors Conference.  While other denominations may be more familiar with a different leadership structure than the proto-typical Baptist church, the material is spot-on and applicable for any church maintaining the office. It’ll take 10 minutes to browse through this booklet and it is certainly worth your consideration.

Here is the link: Grey on Deacons Page 1 / Grey on Deacons Page 2 / Grey on Deacons Page 3.

BSS

Pastors Conference @ FBC Jackson

FBC Jackson

Friends,

We’re excited to launch ShepherdTogether – a ministry for pastors by pastors – at this year’s Pastors Conference.  We’ve got a few objectives with this, yet another website, that (we hope) justify its existence.

1. We hope this will be a place to share ideas and aid each other in our ministry efforts. We know, of course, that there are lots of digital assists in the tech-world. What we hope to do here is provide a common “meeting room” that can be a helpful one-stop for the busy pastor, who may not have time to sift through the myriad of.coms/.orgs, magazines, and book titles.

2. And let’s face it: sometimes the best thing in the world is just to sit down and listen to an experienced, veteran pastor. We’re going to give some awesome old-school pastors a platform to share some stories with us that will be rewarding, to say the least, in addition to thoughtful posts by our more regular contributors.

3. Some of the material will be oriented by geography. If you’re in Alabama, we’re going to talk through some Alabama-specific topics, share resources, and plan some get-togethers that the rest of the world may not find do-able or relevant. Sorry, world. If you ain’t in Alabama, you’ll just have to miss out.

4. A practical focus. So much of today’s resources are philosophical in nature…”thought-focused.” We’re certainly going to have plenty of that, but we’re also going to focus on practical matters. Sometimes, you don’t really need another article on a theological topic. Sometimes you just need to know how to plan an evangelistic strategy, budget, conduct staff reviews, find vendors, schedule the church calendar, get some quick sermon outlines or notes.  We’re going to get specific about those categories also. We think that’s an itch out there that nobody scratches for pastors. Get your back-scratcher out, because it’s coming.

5. Networking. Pastors need to know each other so they can encourage each other. We can do it faster and better in the digital world.

You’ll start to see the database and blog notes rolling out over the next few weeks. It will take time to build our resources, but you’ll enjoy it, no doubt. We’ll introduce our first set of contributors in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned, check back in in a week or so, and link your RSS feeds. Looking forward to our work of Shepherding Together.

Ben