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On the Removal of Paige Patterson and Next Steps for the SBC

Wed, 23/05/2018 - 5:00pm

Hard times require honest conversations.

Three weeks ago, I published an article that called on Paige Patterson to do the right thing for the Southern Baptist Convention and retire.

Between that article, and last night’s events, much has happened.

Beth Moore wrote in response about how she has been treated. Then, a group of SBC women spoke up. A group of men followed. And, yesterday, another woman spoke up with more disturbing allegations.

My Agenda

I’ve not written much more on this, because my focus is not on Paige Patterson; my focus was on the message that was being sent to (and about) women, and what was best for the SBC.

In my article, I wrote, “If Patterson preaches at the SBC, he will, because of his past work, get a standing ovation. Every news story will point to that moment, tie it together with the accusations against Paul Pressler, and say that Southern Baptists don’t take abuse seriously. And it’s not just a public relations crisis. It’s a message to women that we must not send.”

We have not even reached the SBC annual meeting, but since I wrote that article, Paige Patterson’s response has already created the incalculable damage about which I wrote. When he stated that he “[had] nothing to apologize for,” the future I feared became the present we watched unfold.

The SBC sent a message to women we did not want to send, about their value and our view of our friends and coworkers who are women, showing that, for many, it was not just a message, but it was reality.

The damage has been stunning.

But, thankfully, SBC women spoke up. They said, “Enough.” They led.

Trustees

SBC entities (like Southwestern) are governed by trustees, who volunteer their time for an often thankless job. When people ...

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Paige Patterson Out After Southwestern Trustees Vote

Wed, 23/05/2018 - 1:00pm

Decision follows Southern Baptist leader’s apology to women for past comments.

He clarified. He defended. He apologized. And now, after weeks of controversy, Southern Baptist icon Paige Patterson is no longer president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

School trustees announced early Wednesday morning that Patterson, one of the most powerful and influential figures in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), had become the seminary’s president emeritus overnight, appointing theology dean Jeffrey Bingham as interim president.

After deliberation that went on past 3 a.m., the board voted him into paid retirement, complete with an on-campus home where he and his wife can live as theologians-in-residence.

“After much prayer and a more than 13-hour discussion regarding challenges facing the Institution, including those of enrollment, financial, leadership and institutional identity, the Board determined to move in the direction of new leadership for the benefit of the future mission of the seminary,” they said in a statement.

Patterson becomes the second president in SWBTS history to be forced out of the role. The only other was Russell H. Dilday, who was dismissed in 1994 as part of the Conservative Resurgence, the wave of denominational leadership changes orchestrated by Patterson himself.

Decades after his rise within the SBC, the 75-year-old recently ended up in the center of #MeToo-era criticism targeting his approach to abuse, divorce, and women, which led to bigger questions over his efficacy at the helm of its second-largest seminary.

The board affirmed that Patterson had ultimately complied with reporting laws on assault and abuse. The outgoing president spent a few hours meeting with the trustees and with his own leadership cabinet during the long, contentious session ...

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Bigger? Or Better? Yes, Your Church Has A Choice

Mon, 21/05/2018 - 1:24am

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you’re maximizing growth, you’re also maximizing success.” (Bo Burlingham, in Small Giants)

Better churches become bigger churches. Right?

Maybe not.

That’s been the rule of thumb for businesses, too. And it’s no more true there than it is for us.

As it turns out, constant growth doesn’t work for the majority of churches or businesses. Yet they can still be successful at what they do.

Small Giants

This week, I finally got around to reading Bo Burlingham’s Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead Of Big (how could I resist, right?). Written more than ten years ago, it followed 14 companies that chose to limit their growth for a variety of reasons.

Some limited their growth to keep it more personal and intimate, some because a smaller size fit the skills and goals of the leadership, some because they felt it was the best way to maintain quality control, and so on.

But they all had one thing in common — an obsession with making their business better, combined with the belief that staying small was the best way for them to do that.

But how do we keep getting better if we’re not getting bigger? And what does this have to do with church and ministry?

Even if you want your church to grow but it isn’t, you still have a choice about helping the small church you lead become better.

Your Church Has A Choice

Not everything (or even most things) in Small Giants applies to the church world, but what does is quite striking. Let’s take a look at a few of the takeaways from Burlingham’s work that can readily be adapted to what we see in church leadership. (Note: all parentheses are mine.)

“Virtually every mass-market business (church leadership) bestseller … has concentrated on the people in and the practices of large public companies (big churches). … ...

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How Southern Baptist Leaders Aided My Escape from Abuse

Fri, 18/05/2018 - 2:18pm

Christian men helped me end a violent marriage. Their voices matter now more than ever.

A few weeks ago, Paige Patterson’s comments on domestic violence went public, setting off a Twitterstorm of condemnation and support. Thousands of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) women have since called for his resignation. For the many women who were willing to sign their names to the statement, there are dozens of others suffering in silence who will never come forward.

I know, because I was one of them.

I was raised as a Baptist pastor’s daughter in a small town in Indiana. I spent most of my youth sitting in the front pew, listening to my dad’s sermons. After graduating high school, I married my high school sweetheart, and together my husband and I continued to be active in my dad’s congregation. From the outside, we were part of a perfect, multi-generational Baptist family. Behind closed doors, however, I suffered physical, emotional and spiritual abuse at the hands of my husband.

After years of soul-crushing torture, I gained the courage to walk away from my marriage. We had tried multiple rounds of counseling, but the abuse was relentless. After crying out to God for help, I clearly felt him release me from my marriage, so with the loving support of my parents, I filed for divorce.

Soon after, I was called to a meeting with our church’s deacons, who informed me that I would undergo church discipline for my decision to divorce. One even said, “If you do this, God will never use you.” My ex-husband received no reprimand for the abuse, though he didn’t deny it. By contrast, I eventually had to withdraw my membership and move away, and my father was fired as the church’s pastor for his role in supporting me.

I would like to believe that my story is an anomaly. But these ...

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The Family Feud that Changed the Shape of Christian Higher Education

Thu, 17/05/2018 - 1:00pm

What makes a college “evangelical” or “fundamentalist?” The dividing lines weren’t always so clear.

Let’s say you attended Wheaton College, Gordon College, or Biola University. Or perhaps you’re an outsider who just thinks highly of those schools. If so, you might be turned off by a book that groups them together under the label “Fundamentalist U.” Don’t be.

Adam Laats, professor of education and history at Binghamton University and author of Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education, knows the difference between an evangelical and a fundamentalist. He knows, too, that it can be very hard to tell that difference, especially before the 1970s. Using the example of Wheaton, Gordon, and Biola (along with Moody Bible Institute, Bob Jones University, and Liberty University), Laats attempts to identify the distinct nature of non-denominational, fundamentalist-evangelical higher education in the 20th century. And he succeeds admirably.

Peculiarities of Definition

Fundamentalist and evangelical colleges have long grappled with many of the same issues faced by other institutions of higher education: the early 20th-century academic revolution, changing standards of accreditation, a post–World War II boom in enrollment fueled by the GI Bill, the moral upheaval of the turbulent 1960s, and the rise of campus protests.

But fundamentalist-evangelical higher education has also dealt with a distinct set of challenges: how to train missionaries, how to maintain codes of student conduct in keeping with fundamentalist mores, whether (or how) to remain true to dispensational premillennialism, how to maintain doctrinal purity, and how to quash leftist radicalism in favor of traditional and conservative Americanism. As Laats observes, “[Fundamentalist colleges] expected to do all the ...

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How To Give Money Less Power Over Your Church

Mon, 14/05/2018 - 5:24pm

A congregation's financial reality should never be ignored, but it should never be in charge.

Money is in charge of too many of our churches.

So many good congregations want to do great ministry, but their limited finances cause them to make too many decisions based on what they can or can’t afford, instead of what God is calling them to do.

It’s a trap that may seem impossible to get out of. But there is hope.

In today’s post I want to tell you about a decision our church made over two decades ago that has been a great starting point in allowing us to follow God more and money less.

Here it is.

Our church will never make a decision about doing a ministry based on what we can or can’t afford. Because if we pencil it out, we’ll never be able to afford it.

(This is part of an ongoing series, Money and the Small Church.)

Put God In Charge of Ministry Decisions

Don’t let money make decisions for your church. Let the mission lead.

Ask yourself this question: What is God calling our church to do?

Open a food bank? Be an evangelistic center? Support missions? Plant other churches?

Then do it!

You don’t have enough money to do it? Do it anyway, by starting with the parts that don’t require finances.

  • Pray
  • Assemble a team
  • Do research
  • Look for strategic partners
  • Use the currency of time
  • Put a work day on the calendar

Start small, if you must. But, by all means, start!

Never give money the power over whether-or-not to do any ministry. Just figure out how to do it in a way that is financially responsible and feasible – what the Bible calls good stewardship.

Money Should Be One Of Many “How To” Factors

When our church decided we would never let money be the deciding factor of whether-or-not to do a ministry, that didn’t mean it would be ignored, either.

Instead, we use it as one ...

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Church Succession: How to Lead Our Churches into a Healthy Future

Mon, 14/05/2018 - 3:00pm

As pastors age, they can prepare so that the transition of leadership in their churches passes smoothly and their churches are set to stay on a healthy trajectory.

Church succession can be a sticky subject and sometimes involves a lot of awkward conversations. But it doesn’t have to. As pastors age, they can prepare so that the transition of leadership in their churches passes smoothly and their churches are set to stay on a healthy trajectory.

A variety of reasons for change

A number of things can make it difficult for pastors to step down or retire as they grow near retirement age. These can range from a deep attachment to the church and a reluctance to relinquish their leadership of it, to fear of change and a resistance to enter into a season of retirement, to the need for financial security.

This last reason can come from a very legitimate need. If they have been serving at a small church, they may have no means of retirement and only making ends meet. We need to find a way to ensure these pastors are cared for while the church is allowed to continue to grow into the next season of ministry and mission.

Too often, many churches reach a point where people say, “I wish that pastor would retire.” We never want to overstay our welcome. For example, we’ve all been in situations where we invited people over and have had a great time, but then they stay a bit too long and we yearn for them to go home.

Wishing a pastor would retire is not a great start for a smooth transition of launching the church into a healthy future. When the congregation starts to long for a pastor to retire, but the pastor refuses to recognize it, it creates an uncomfortable situation. Someone trusted must go to the pastor and lovingly speak into their life, encouraging the pastor to step down.

Note that this does not mean when pastors enter their 60s we simply ship them out. It is not uncommon, ...

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One-on-One with Lon Allison on Billy Graham and Cancer

Fri, 11/05/2018 - 3:00pm

Together we can reach the world.

One-on-One with Lon Allison on Billy Graham and Cancer

Ed: Not too long ago you were diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer and have been receiving treatment. How has this impacted your faith and the way you view God?

Lon: I really didn’t know how my faith would be impacted by the news of a terminal cancer. My wife Marie, our children, and I had never faced something like this. I can now say five months into the journey that my faith is stronger than before my diagnosis about 90% of the time.

I have clung to two truths to sustain me. First is the sovereignty of God: “The Lord has established his throne in heaven. His Kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). The second great truth is his love for me and my family: “And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:17-19).

The sovereignty of God means he has authority over this situation. He has allowed this cancer to strike me. He can cure it in a nanosecond, or allow it to grow within me. He is in charge, and I deeply desire he be glorified through it.

The love of God reminds me of his goodness lavished upon me and mine with his love. He is not a tyrant God, nor an absent God. His love is always present and extravagant. Those twin doctrines sustain me. Marie and I feel we are in a bubble of grace. The news about my body is not good, but our hearts and spirits are for the most part buoyant.

The prayers of God’s people are a rich faith building support. I don’t always pray well about it, but they do. I also want to add that the promises of God mean more to me than ever. My journal is loaded ...

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Churches Renovate Their Building, On Average, Every 30 Years? Really?!

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 9:00am

A church building doesn’t have to be big, fancy or cutting-edge. But it needs to facilitate the mission.

Uh… Wow.

Every 30 years?

Yes, those are the stats, according to a church renovation expert I heard at a recent conference.

By the time his company is called in to help a church renovate their sanctuary, lobby, exterior or anything significant, it’s been three full decades since any part of their facility has been updated in any meaningful way.

That’s. Too. Long.

Updating On A Budget (Or NO Budget)

I’m aware of how costly it is to update church facilities – especially in a smaller church that may not even be paying the pastor. But there’s an alternative to waiting thirty years to do anything, then breaking the bank to overhaul everything at once.

Look around your church building and ask this simple question. “What part of our facility is currently the least effective at doing what we want it to do?”

Then fix that.

One piece at a time.

Paint, repair, clean, update, declutter.

That last one can have big impact. Toss the clutter.

Most church buildings can undergo a significant upgrade without costing a penny just by getting rid of the build-up of excess stuff that regular attenders fail to see, but that newcomers have to wade through. (I recently heard about a church that had an upright piano stored in the men’s room, of all places!)

Make Your Building More Ministry-Friendly

Church buildings should serve the ministry. So take the part of the facility that’s doing the poorest job of moving the ministry forward and upgrade it.

Not everything at once. One part at a time.

Then, after that’s done, look around again and ask “now, what’s the least effective part of the facility?” and get to fixing that.

If you do that regularly you’ll never find yourself in an ...

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Southern Baptist Women Launch Petition Against Paige Patterson

Mon, 07/05/2018 - 4:35am

Controversy over past remarks leads Southwestern Seminary to announce special board meeting.

A growing group of Southern Baptist women called for Paige Patterson to be removed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) on Sunday, due to what they claimed was his “unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality.”

Patterson, one of the most influential leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has faced widespread criticism in recent weeks for old remarks, including a discussion of divorce in cases of abuse and multiple comments on women’s appearances.

“We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson’s past remarks,” stated an open letter to SWBTS trustees, which grew from 100 to more than 1,000 signatories on Sunday night. “No one should.

“The fact that he has not fully repudiated his earlier counsel or apologized for his inappropriate words indicates that he continues to maintain positions that are at odds with Southern Baptists and, more importantly, the Bible’s elevated view of womanhood,” states the letter. “The [SBC] cannot allow the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way.”

The letter comes from scores of Southern Baptist women, including leaders such as: Karen Swallow Prior, a Liberty University professor and research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention; Lauren Chandler, an author, worship singer, and wife of The Village Church pastor Matt Chandler; Jennifer Lyell, a vice president at SBC-affiliated B&H Publishing Group; and Amanda Jones, a Houston church planter and daughter of Bible teacher Beth Moore. (Victims’ advocates such as Rachael Denhollander and Mary DeMuth also signed on, as did some men, though the petition is intended for women at SBC churches.)

Signatories ...

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What the Bible Says about Abuse Within Marriage

Wed, 02/05/2018 - 3:37pm

God hates the oppressor, and suffering for the sake of suffering isn’t spiritual.

Note: Malachi 2, ‘I hate divorce.’ Said by guest as 5:2, says “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect.”

In 2000, Paige Patterson was asked about women who are abused by their husbands. Here’s what the now-president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said:

It depends on the level of abuse to some degree. I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel. There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help. I would urge you to understand that that should happen only in the most serious of cases. . . . More often, when you face abuse, it is of a less serious variety.

These comments recirculated on social media over the weekend, not surprisingly sparking fierce criticism of Patterson’s remarks.

On Sunday, Patterson released a statement where he clarified that his happiness in the situation came from seeing this woman’s husband return to church. He also said that physical or sexual abuse should be reported to the appropriate authorities, “as I have always done.”

Patterson also stated that, “I have also said that I have never recommended or prescribed divorce. How could I as a minister of the Gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce.”

Patterson’s statement seemed to suggest that abuse was not included as one of the ways in which divorce is biblically sanctioned. But that understanding isn’t really a biblical one, says Justin Holcomb, ...

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