The afternoon began with a short flight into the Nashville airport after which Tracy & I met our good friend Doug Baker and a couple of his coworkers to make the 2 hour drive to Jackson, TN. We arrived, got checked into the hotel and headed over to the beautiful Union University campus. We got started right off the bat with Dr. Ed Stetzer.
Dr. Ed Stetzer
As usual Stetzer was well researched, incredibly specific and right on point. Stetzer spoke on whether there is a future for denominationalism. Stetzer’s message included a number of issues that I’ve heard him speak about before, but he was more pointed than I have ever seen him be before. His message included some fantastic points that I found particularly appropriate. For a very thourough review of the entire talk, you might want to check out Trevin Wax’s thoughts. Click Here For our purposes, however, I thought I would mention just a few points that I thought were high points.
1. Stetzer made it a point to emphasize that if denominations are going to have a future it will only be as they understand their role to assist the local church rather than functioning to do ministry for the local church. We continue to see a renewed emphasis on the local church within our convention which I applaud with tremendous excitement! Stetzer said, By reaffirming that the denomination exists to assist churches in carrying out their mission, we are also affirming that the denomination’s role is not to carry out the mission for the churches.
2. Stetzer made a fantastic dilineation between internally focused churches gathering together around missional cooperation and denominational networks which have devolved into organizations that are tribal and exist to simply facilitate self-preservation. Stetzer said: But excessive introspection can cause spiritual paralysis. The one who becomes overly consumed with his or her own sins and failures can become impotent for the kingdom of God. Excessive introspection turns the Christian in on himself instead of toward the mission.
3. Stetzer emphasized the importance of our confessional statement, which for Southern Baptists is the Baptist Faith & Message. Stetzer said that confessional statements serve 5 purposes for denominations. 1. A statement for denomination. 2. A standard for denominational agencies. 3. A source for local churches. 4. A sentry against moving left. and 5. A shield against excessive distinction.
While Stetzer dealt with a number of other topics, these are the ones that resonated the most with me.
Dr. Jim Patterson
Dr. Patterson’s message started with an incredible bang. While it may seem difficult for some of you to consider, he actually grabbed our attention by donning a Phillies jersey, a wig & sunglasses and then proceeded to rap for us a concise 400 year history of the Baptist tradition. After that Patterson proceeded to provide a more extensive explanation of the 400 year Baptist history that he had previously rapped about. Dr. Patterson was an extremely engaging speaker who did a fantastic job walking through the historical pattern of Baptist thought and influence.
Although Dr. Patteron’s talk was an intriguing look at Baptist history, and a good knowledge and appreciation for history is important in any tradition, I didn’t get a whole lot of “take home” quotes from it. I’ll tell you this, though. I would have loved to have the rapping professor for a class when I was in college. 😉 The students at Union are blessed to have him.
Tomorrow is an exciting day, starting right off in the morning with a discussion of the nature of the Gospel. I’m very excited about that and then the opportunity to hear Dr. Timothy George speak in chapel at 10 should be fantastic too. I’ll attempt to put together another recap tomorrow night! Until then I’ll attempt to keep you updated with as many Twitter updates as I can possibly produce! 😉 Check it out at http://twitter.com/micahfries