Some Fridays my team wins. Other games my team loses. Most Fridays you will find me running up and down a basketball court early in the morning. Most of us are there for the exercise. All of us are there to win. We are too old to let the loss linger too long. If the less than precise playing does not do it then our sore bodies outlast any disappointment at any loss.
All too often concern for who wins outweighs the possibility of discovering how we all may win. Ray Sanders and me shared an e-mail conversation in the wake of The Baptist Messenger’s coverage of the Henderson Hills Baptist Church now postponed vote on “Baptism and Church Membership.” We may not have agreed at every point, but we did agree it is always good when people are agitated
to think through what they believe. Everyone wins when thoughtful deliberation is under way. If we can navigate the Guardians of Truth we may be able to think more deeply about our own convictions.
For example, Wes still maintains the way he read the HHBC documents he believes the church would allow membership without baptism, He notes Pastor Newkirk asserted the opposite and this pleased Pastor Kenney. I have maintained from the time I read the very same documents it was not possible to experience “full membership” under the proposed change. If a person cannot teach nor be in leadership it cannot be consider full membership. Much discussion ensued as
to what the bible said about the matter. Pastor Rick Thompson weighed in yesterday pointing out the conversation should lead to greater discussion on “regenerate church membership.” The variety of tangential issues HHBC raised tended toward issues of the relationship of Scripture to Tradition and in some case the relationship of Scripture to our “confessional statements.” There can be little doubt Ray Sanders’ assertion to be true,
when we can get people thinking about what they believe he says, “Hooray!”
One issue I cannot find anyone willing to tackle is just how we address the relationship between Church (my shorthand for Kingdom of God) and church (my shorthand for local church). Pastor Mark Walters, Moderator of Capital Baptist Association, wrote a piece on his perception of CBA’s action and the charge of “intrusion.” [While this post is not about that charge, I would like to note that anytime a resolution offered by a volunteer body that speaks directly to members of a church bypassing its leaders borders
on, if is not in fact, intrusion. In fact, an appeal to members to vote in one way or another, especially when it is widely known the leadership will present “for” the issue and couching it as praying for the will of God is akin to calling the action by the leadership of the church a violation of the will of God.] In response to Pastor Mark’s post I commented,
There are certain contextual issues in the Acts passage that must be considered. At that time there was but “one” church. It is easy to link Church (my shorthand for Kingdom of God) and church (my shorthand for local church). Once the missionary work ensued, and likely facilitated by those in Acts 2, the construction of a theology that ties Church and many churches is important. Add to that the eventual rise of denominations and the context is not so easily brought forward especailly when the foundation for the
argument lies in a narrative description of the organic consequence of an unprecedented experience. Even more, add the mix of a populist eschatology, believed by most at the lay level, that emphasizes the Kingdom as entirely future and now finding a healthy way to connect Church and churches is further removed from the first century context.
I am not certain, but in my conversations with fellow pastors and at least one staff member at HHBC, these issues complicate in a way our confessional statement does not so easily clarify. I find HHBC attempting to solve something of the integrity issue we SB’s face when we purport to have a large membership but the number who come looks more akin to a “remnant.”
I noted on my blog that this appears to connect with Tom Ascol’s offerred resolution to find integrity in our membership reporting. Something I would think any pastor would long for – a day when membership actually meant something.
Glad to interact with you and enjoy your thoughts.
So here we are wondering just what happened with the “vote.” Pastor Newkirk noted on his blog something of the issue without stating the specifics. Certainly something of the practical outworking of this decision needed further attention. I could venture a guess but speculation only clouds the issue. The logical issue to flow would have been discussion about the “mode” of baptism. Al Mohler weighed in offering “respect to his Presbyterian
friends” that the mode as significant as the act. We come back to the issue of the relationship of Church to church, Kingdom to local church. If baptism and communion belong to the Church, The Kingdom what does it look like in context unlike any in the New Testament. Now, that is worth thinking about.
The issue does derive from a person’s eschatology – what is God intending to do. We cannot escape the implications for our ecclesiology – how does the local church relate to the Kingdom. And, in the end, we must answer the question, “what is the Kingdom of God?” We can answer these questions from our Tradition. What is our answer from the Scriptures? This will require thoughtful deliberation, something beyond the “Trail of Blood.”