Thursday, June 21, 2012

This is Where the Healing Begins

I've been saying all week that the real elephant in the room of the SBC is Generationalism, not Calvinism. Now, that may not be obvious, because there are older guys who fall in line with the "new Calvinists," and younger guys who are holding the "anti-Calvinist" line. But we are looking at the wrong issues. Today I had the opportunity to see the real problem up close and personal, and hopefully take a step toward building a bridge that will help us move beyond this. And this opportunity didn't arise at the Convention Center or at Cafe Du Monde, but on the airport shuttle van.

Along the way, I was pressed into a sardine-like seating arrangement with two older pastors. Mindset, and not age, is the real issue, but these guys were in their 60s and 70s, and have been pastoring for a long time. They struck up conversation with me. We began small talking, and one of them said, "Young man, is this your first convention?" I said, "No sir, this was my fifteenth convention." They had a look of astonishment on their faces, as they both acknowledged that this was in fact, their first convention. One of them said, "Wow! Fifteen years! So, you were there when the Conservative Resurgence started?" Suddenly I realized that I had a lot of 'splainin' to do. I explained to them that I came in on the tail end of the battle, when Patterson was elected president, and the motion to revise the Baptist Faith and Message was passed. I told them I was there in 2000 in Orlando when we adopted the new BFM, and that was the last convention where there was any real significant "Resurgence" issue on the floor of the Convention.

Now it was my turn to be astonished. One of the men asked me if Paige Patterson was a conservative and when the Resurgence began. I explained to them that Patterson was one of the architects, and Adrian Rogers was the first Resurgence president. They said, "In the 1990's right?" I said, "No, in 1979." So I continued to share with them about the history of the Resurgence. They were enthralled and excited as I recapped the events that brought us to the place we are today. I was amazed that they didn't know these things. So, I asked them, "Did you come to the convention because of Fred Luter's election?" They both acknowledged, "Well, that was part of it, but also because we are concerned that the Calvinists are going to divide the Convention." One of them said, "Don't get me wrong, I believe that God elects those who are saved, but I don't know who they are, so I share the Gospel with everyone!" I said, "Oh, so you ARE a Calvinist?" He said, "No, not me!" I said, "But sir, that is what every Calvinist I know believes. My Calvinist friends all believe that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that occurs through the preaching of the Gospel that brings the elect to salvation." He said, "I never knew that! I thought Calvinists believed that since God is going to save those who are predestined, we don't need to preach the Gospel." I talked through that issue with them both.

Then I proposed my thesis to them. I said, "Brothers, I believe the real issue is generationalism, and I believe that both sides are at fault. I am kind of stuck in the middle. I am 38 years old, but I've been in the ministry for 17 years. So I am too young to be old and too old to be young. But here is what I see. I see guys who are younger than me who have no respect for guys your age and with your experience. And that is sin. But I also see guys your age, with your experience, who do not trust anyone under fifty (tongue-in-cheek). This is THEIR Convention. They suffered through the liberal years, and they fought hard during the resurgence, and now they are afraid they are going to lose it to the young guys, many of whom just happen to be Calvinists. But Calvinism is just the scapegoat. If these young guys weren't Calvinists, they'd still be uneasy about the future of the Convention they fought so hard to save. And that is sin as well. So brothers, what we need are conversations like this. Men my age and younger need to show a deep level of respect and honor for you guys. But men older than me in the Convention need to begin to talk to young guys in a caring 'older brother' way (as opposed to a cantankerous grandfather way), and hear their hearts -- their passion for the Bible and the Gospel -- and begin to show a little more trust of the rising generation." The men seemed to both be in agreement with what I was saying.

It was a joyous conversation, and these men would probably agree. We were all smiling and nodding our heads in agreement with each other as we talked. Sadly, we arrived at the airport with a lot of ground left to cover in our conversation, but I am so grateful to God for the opportunity to have that conversation today. And I would say to all my older and younger brothers that conversations like these are what we need more of. I need to have more of them. You need to have more of them. Let's begin to show more respect, honor, and trust for each other, and move this thing forward in the right direction. We can build the bridge better if each side begins building toward one another. It's conversations like these that will be the beginning of healing for us. 

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