With all of the questions being asked by so many people, I figured it would be appropiate to find out what the VP candidates are thinking. I contacted Brother JD and asked him some of the questions that Wade Burleson answered on his Blog. I also asked him why he would allow his name to run for 2nd VP when it really had no influence. Though, I am on VACATION I have taken out the time to post these questions. I will be back on Monday and will then be able to make comments and receive comments. I strongly encourage you to support Brother JD. He has a heart for missions. I asked about his CP giving and he has defined for me SBC Causes as giving directly to the IMB XCom. NAMB, our Seminaries and other causes that are directly associated to the SBC. While North Carolina is changing to more conservative causes I believe you will see The Summitt increase their CP giving.
1.) What does the term “missional” mean to you within our denominational context? Do you see any valuable messages for the SBC coming from the Emergent Movement? What harmful messages are coming from the movement?
Greear—Like every movement, the emerging church raises some good questions. They have helped us see through some traditions we have that have nothing to do with the Gospel. They have reminded us that the church’s business is the Gospel, not politics. Perhaps most importantly, they have reminded us of the need to be involved with the poor of our community. Somehow we forgot that last thing, and to our shame. I’m glad we are starting to recover it.
At the same time, the movement is very broad—with a lot of positive and negative elements. Guys like Mark Driscoll and Ed Stetzer have basically given us a new packaging of the orthodox Gospel. May their tribe increase! Other guys, like Brian MacLaren, have all but sold the farm. I wrote a response to a book that I thought represented some of the best, and some of the worst, of the emerging movement, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. It was presented in SBC Life and you can still find it online, and it crystallizes a lot of my thoughts on the matter.
All in all, the whole movement seems to me a bit over-reactive. I am thankful for some of their correctives, but I’m not as pessimistic about the church as some of them seem to be.
2.) Cooperation has become the mantra for many pastors who are voicing their concern that many powerful political players in the SBC have an agenda to narrow the parameters of cooperation along specific, doctrinal boundaries that go beyond the BFM 2000. Would you agree with that statement? What is your position regarding these new IMB policies regarding Baptism and a Private Prayer language? In what ways should Southern Baptists cooperate with other denominations and entities in order to fulfill the Great Commission in the world?
Greear—This is a hairy issue, and I must confess that I don’t know all the elements involved. On the surface, I disagree with the decision of the Trustees. I think that the Baptist Faith and Message, 2000, is fully sufficient for setting our doctrinal parameters. I think any attempts to tighten those parameters should be voted on by the convention at large. However, I also know that some of what the Board did was a response to some things happening on the field. I like the idea of this year’s Convention calling for the appointment of a team of theologians and pastors to study the issue and report back to the Convention on it.
3.)There are a growing number of young leaders in our denomination that have embraced a “reformed” view of the doctrines of grace. I recently attended the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville. There were close to 3000 pastors at this conference and over 70% of attendees were 20-40 years old. Do you believe Reformed Theology is a threat to the SBC and the Great Commission? What value, if any, is there in having a denomination that allows for theological diversity within the boundaries of the BFM 2000?
Greear>–I was at the Together for the Gospel Conference, and I loved it. It was not about “Reformed Theology,” but about the core doctrines of the Gospel which any Gospel loving pastor adores. The “Affirmations and Denials” were carefully worded so that the essentials of the Gospel were emphasized. Almost any orthodox Southern Baptist could have signed on to them. Mark Dever, one of the conference organizers, told me that was intentional. He does not believe the finer points of Reformed theology should divide the Convention. I do not either. Among our church leadership we have a few guys who would consider themselves “5 pointers,” and some who would be decidedly against that. There are some who couldn’t name the 5 points if their life depended on it. I tell our church leadership that their view of the finer points of Calvinism is not an issue with me until it becomes one with them. Let’s keep the Gospel central in our Convention.
4.)What is your opinion of the Executive Committee’s recent call for the convention to only appoint leaders from churches who give at least 10% of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program?
Greear>–Our church does not give 10% to the CP. We do, however, give over 10% to SBC joint missions (CP, seminaries, IMB, NAMB, exec committee, etc). When you factor in all the other money we give to other missions efforts (campus crusade, etc), our missions giving is over 20%. Neither of these figures include the money spent by our members to go on various trips.
I agree that a church should not be stingy or self-focused in their spending, and that 10% is a great number to begin with in missions giving. I also agree that the main vehicle for Southern Baptists is the Convention’s missions efforts (cooperative missions is why the SBC exists, after all!). But I would pull back from defining what a church must give. I believe we ought to let the local church be autonomous here.
5.)While there is only one announced candidate for President, there are three announced candidates for 2nd VP. What is the appeal to being 2nd VP in the Southern Baptist Convention? Isn’t the position in reality a “lame duck” position?
Greear>–Ha! Yes, I am under no illusions of grandeur. The amount of influence in this position is probably equal to the accompanying salary. But to serve the President by helping him to keep his finger on the pulse of the SBC would be a great honor. If the fact that I am “younger” and that our church does not do things exactly like older, more traditional Baptist churches do them can be an encouragement to other younger guys, then I am glad to be nominated. That seemed a long and confusingly worded sentence.
6.)In our consumer-driven culture many churches take a pragmatic view of ministry that allows for almost any method as long as it produces the desired results. The internet is a buzz with talk of a fire truck baptistery at FBCS, fully equipped with confetti canons. Is this methodology defensible from a theological perspective? How do you respond to those who criticize such methods.
Greear>–I believe that that “baptistery” in question was recalled and is no longer in operation, and has been acknowledged to be a mistake. I’m not sure if its fair to continue to beat somebody up for things which they’ve acknowledged to be a mistake. But yes, I am opposed to all “gimmicky” evangelism that obscures the Gospel’s message that repentance is toward God and for the purpose of knowing and pleasing God. As John Piper says in his new, excellent book, God is the Gospel! I think that such gimmicks are not befitting of the Gospel.
7.)Critics of the “mega-church” paradigm would say that there is a problem with churches which are already large launching satellite locations rather than planting new works. For example, it leaves the appearance that the senior pastor is drawing attendance based on personality rather than sound preaching because his work is not producing more senior pastor-caliber believers; it masks over discipleship with “spectator” Christianity. How would you respond to those critics?
Greear>–They certainly raise some good points that ought to be soberly considered. I know that it is possible for a senior pastor’s ego to be the driving motive, and that it is very possible for that approach to yield only shallow believers. But I would not presume to judge the heart of each church that has taken that step. I do not think that “multiple campuses” violates any clear Scriptural mandate, and so I am not opposed to it in principle. But I do think the critics raise some necessary words of caution. Perhaps grace is in order here, knowing that we each must give an account of ourselves to God. Due to some growth issues, our church is having to consider some of these very questions.
8.)There are some who believe that membership numbers in most SBC churches demonstrate a lack of integrity because many of these people are on our membership roles, yet never darken the door of our churches. Do we need to change our view of membership as a denomination? Would a revival of church discipline be beneficial for us as a denomination?
Greear>–Absolutely! Membership seems a joke in most Southern Baptist churches. Church discipline is almost non-existent, especially in large or megachurches.
Most churches have a huge number on the membership role; a smaller number in attendance, and an even smaller number involved in “discipleship” groups. We are trying, at the Summit Church, to turn that on its head. We want fewer members than attenders, because we want our membership to mean something. We want more people in discipleship than we have in attendance, because we believe that small group Bible studies are a very effective evangelistic tool. Have we (the Summit Church) succeeded in accomplishing all this yet? Not hardly. But we have taken some real steps to get there. I am pleased that we have much fewer members than attenders now.
9.)Apart from your weekly study of the Bible, what are some of most important books you have read recently which have influenced you in the ministry?
Greear>–R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God is something I’ve been in recently that has been absolutely wonderful. I’ve also been going through Augustine’s City of God. Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat is not a Christian book, but it was a great help in giving me a better grasp on what’s happening in the world. I just finished Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. I would read everything that guy has ever written. Humility by C. J. Mahaney was a very convicting book. Earlier this year I went back through the Chronicles of Narnia—those things never get old.
10.) What are the most important objectives for the SBC in the next 10 years?
Greear>–I believe we must ask some very serious, sobering questions as to why our baptism numbers are not increasing. Our leadership year after year has called for a dramatic increase but we have yet to see real fruitfulness in this area. I believe we must humble ourselves before God and ask “Why?” If we have operated in pride, we must confess that. If we have loved money and power and the praise of men rather than the Gospel, then we must repent. If mega-churches or convention influence or a reputation as a revolutionary have become idols for us, we must repent. Each man and woman must humble their heart before God to let Him judge the thoughts and intents. But I believe we must ask God why we are not living up to the vision He has given consistently to our leadership. I am the first in acknowledging that I am sick over how much my heart goes after those things I just mentioned. May God be merciful to us!
Also, in an age in which younger pastors grow less and less committed to the Convention, I think we ought to redefine exactly why we have a Convention. As I understand it, the primary reason for the Convention is to facilitate cooperation in church planting, at home and abroad. All other functions of the Convention are secondary to, and subservient of, that end. We can find other associations for other ends, but we need the unity of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to effectively cooperate in church planting. I think when guys hear that they need to be Southern Baptists because of the pastor-networks it provides, or because such unity helps our evangelism or humanitarian efforts, or so we can make strong political statements, or whatever, they think, “I can find a more effective association of Christians to accomplish that elsewhere.” And there are tons of good evangelical networks! But church planting requires a confession of faith with the specificity of the BF&M. That is why our church remains committed to the SBC.
I would like to thank Brother JD for his openness and honest in his answers. As you can tell even though he is being nominated by someone connected in the “establisment” he speaks for himself under his understanding of God’s leading. Also, he points out something that went on the blogs for weeks and that is the baptistry at FBC Springdale is not in use and was acknowledged as a mistake. May I remind some of the nay sayers Jesus addressed an issue that is similar to what I have seen on the different blogs “He who is without sin,. . .”