Thursday, June 26, 2008

FC 08 Update

The Lord has been incredibly gracious to us throughout the conference. Only two sessions remain. Tonight, Andy Davis will speak on the importance of Scripture memory. His discipline in this as well as his instruction on it are challenging and encouraging. Tomorrow morning, Phil Newton closes the meeting with a message on bringing reformation to a church. Phil has the unusual experience of having planted a church and then leading it through a significant reorientation in polity and doctrinal vision. It will be great to hear from both of these pastors who are capable, faithful expositors of Scripture.

The conference has been live-streamed and each session will be available via archive after this week. So far, over 2200 people have logged in to watch some or all of the sessions.

EDIT: Audio recordings of each message are being made available here. The first 5 messages are already up.

Each message has been substantive, helpful and warmly received. Ed Stetzer's talks on the theme were particularly challenging. But, don't take my word for it (or anyone else's for that matter), listen to them for yourself. It will be well worth your time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

FC 08

The 2008 Founders Conference begins today. Stetzer, Baucham, Nettles, Whitney, et al will speak under the theme, "Lengthening the Cords and Strengthening the Stakes." Our host church, Bethel Baptist in Owasso, Oklahoma, will provide a live stream of the sessions, which begin today at 3:30 PM Central Time. Click here for the link that will take you there.

Tim Brister is liveblogging the conference, so you can check out his report here.

Tue 24 3:30 PM--Ted Christman, Exposition of Psalm 1
Tue 24 6:30 PM--Andy Davis, Dangers in Reforming a Church

Wed 25 9:00 AM--Tom Nettles, Biographical Sketch of Daniel Marshall
Wed 25 10:30 AM--Voddie Baucham, Building a Solid Doctrinal Foundation
Wed 25 6:30 PM--Ed Stetzer, Keynote Address

Thu 26 9:00 AM--Don Whitney, Reforming Through Discipline
Thu 26 10:30 AM--Ed Stetzer, Keynote Address
Thu 26 1:30 PM--Tom Nettles, Leadership Dialogue
Thu 26 6:30 PM--Andy Davis, Importance of Filling Your Life with Scripture

Fri 27 9:00 AM--Phil Newton, From Planting to Reforming

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Read this post!

Not this post. This one. It is by Nathan Finn, who teaches at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Finn understands the issues that are confronting modern Southern Baptists and articulates them as well as anyone. As a historian, he is not easily swayed by myopic characterizations of what Baptists have been or ought to be. His thoughts on the Conservative Resurgence (CR) are refreshingly free from any political posturing or fear mongering. The quotes that he provides from the two key architects of the CR (Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler) are very instructive for all Southern Baptists who desire to move forward in the ongoing effort to see Jesus Christ honored in our churches and His Gospel boldly proclaimed throughout our world.

Go read his article. Then pray that the Lord will grant Southern Baptists wisdom and humility to recommit ourselves to obeying the Great Commission without reservation.

Friday, June 20, 2008

SWBTS on Resolution #6

Even Southwestern Seminary, of which I am an alumnus (MDiv, 1983, PhD, 1989), has commented on the resolution on regenerate church membership. The following is taken from their June 20, 2008 e-newsletter.
Southwesterners contribute to SBC church membership resolution
by Keith Collier

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- Several individuals from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary made significant contributions to the resolution on regenerate church membership adopted at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, June 11.

One of the contributors to the resolution was Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, and an alumnus of Southwestern. Barber's submission was taken from a resolution approved by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in November, which was originally drafted by Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern.

Yarnell was also responsible for helping amend the final resolution adopted by the SBC. Yarnell co-edited the book Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, which addresses the need for regenerate church membership and church discipline.

To view the entire resolution, visit

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Survey of Comments on Resolution #6

There have been many comments on Resolution #6 that was passed at the Southern Baptist Convention last week. Daily newspapers as well as religious news outlets have run stories about it. Several Baptist state papers have published the Baptist Press release about it and some have offered further commentary. Of course, many blogs have also commented on it.

Denny Burk told how the resolution was immediately useful in his ministry at First Baptist Church, Dallas:
"I am very grateful that the messengers voted in favor of this resolution. In the weeks leading up to the convention, I had been preaching through 1 Corinthians at the Wednesday evening worship service of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. On June 4, we made it to 1 Corinthians 5 and the topic of church discipline. I exhorted the members about the clear command that God gives to congregations to practice discipline.
By God’s wise providence exactly one week later, the convention passed resolution 6. That very night I was able to read the resolution in toto to the folks at First Dallas. I feel confident that the messengers to the SBC really served our church with the passage of this resolution."
Beyond these, I have received many phone calls and emails from pastors and concerned church members who are grateful to have the resolution as a tool to help teach their congregations about regenerate church membership and discipline.

While some think that the passing of the resolution is meaningless and a few (I have only heard about two) think that it is a bad thing, most of the responses that I have read or heard have been overwhelmingly positive.

For your convenience, below is a compilation of the sources that have been pointed out to me that have commented on the resolution (please feel free to add any others not mentioned here). Some of them discuss it at length, others touch on it briefly. What the 50 links below indicate is that the issues of integrity in church membership, regenerate church membership and church discipline are being widely discussed. The resolution is helping to get the conversations going in places where it might not otherwise ever be started. That is hopeful. And it is an encouragement to pray that the Lord will cause Baptists everywhere to reread their Bibles as they ask a simple question, "What does God call a local church to be?"

Baptist Press
Wyman Richardson
Strange Baptist Fire
Justin Childers
Thabiti Anyabwile
Denny Burk
Ted Olsen (Christianity Today)
Kelly Randolph
Ken Keathley
Nathan Finn (again)
Mike Corley
Tim Brister (again)
Associated Baptist Press
Kevin Rhyne
Norman Jameson
Micah Fries
The Charlotte Observer
Chadwick Ivester
The Tennessean
D.J. Williams
Kevin Schaub
Drew Dixon
John Killian
Danny Akin
R. Philip Blinson
Mark Kelly
Tim Rogers
Scott Gordon
Mike Lumpkin
Michael DeBusk
Terry Delaney (again)
Steve Weaver
Jerry Pearce (Southern Baptist Texan)
Anglicans United
Church Executive Magazine
Louisville Courier-Journal
Patrick McGill
Sweet Tea and Theology
Ben Wright
Tennessee Baptist and Reflector
Jim West
Seth Polk
Justin Nale
Don Brown
Wes Kenney
Ed Franklin
The Lakeland Ledger
Terry Leap
Arthur Sido
Ed Stetzer

Atheist Sloth Ethic

Kairos Journal (which is a very good online resource) has a great article about the simultaneous decline of belief and work ethic in Europe. A 2004 report by Harvard history professor, Niall Ferguson, entitled, "The Atheist Sloth Ethic, or Why Europeans Don't Believe in Work," is cited. If Ferguson is correct in his assessment (which builds on Max Weber's famous thesis in The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism), then "the European present is America's future."

On this same subject, an excellent book that I highly recommend to every Christian over the age of 14 is Wayne Grudem's Business for the Glory of God. It demonstrates the biblical foundation of starting and operating businesses that honor God, bless people and earn profit. In the growing anti-business ethos of our day, it provides a much-needed message for believers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Founders Podcast

Tim Brister interviewed me in the first of what we hope will be many Founders Podcasts. You can read about it and download it over at his blog. We talked about the upcoming Founders Conference on church planting and church renewal next week in Owasso, Oklahoma (there is still time to register) and a little about last week's Southern Baptist Convention, particularly the issues surrounding Resolution #6 on recovering regenerate church membership and church discipline in our congregations.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Heritage Baptist Church Missions Conference

Here is a great promo video of an upcoming missions conference. For more information, click the banner on the sidebar.

Monday, June 16, 2008

BP on Eric Redmond's Message

Jeff Robinson wrote the Baptist Press report on the Founders Breakfast held last week at the Southern Baptist Convention. The excellent summary of Eric Redmond's message can be found here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pray for Iowa and the Midwest

Eric Schumacher, pastor of Northbrook Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has asked us to pray for those who are suffering due to the storms and floods in his state. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Teams are on the ground seeking to minister. Pray that the Gospel of Christ will be proclaimed in word and deed as brothers and sisters suffer with and minister to those who have been affected.

Eric Redmond at Founders Breakfast--free audio

Eric Redmond, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland, and past 2nd VP of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, Texas spoke at this year's Founders Breakfast. His theme was, "The Reformation that Must Come!" It is available for free from Founders Ministries here.

This is a message that you do not want to miss!

KFUO AM, St. Louis, Radio Interview

Paul Clayton of KFUO in St. Louis will interview me today at 9:05 AM about the SBC annual meeting and Resolution #6. The program can be heard on the internet via their website at the link above.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On Corporate Repentance

Questions have arisen about the propriety of corporate repentance in light of resolution #6 on regenerate church membership passed this week by the Southern Baptist Convention. Is repentance only individual? Is it ever right for those who are not personally guilty of particular sins to feel compelled to enter into corporate repentance with other believers for those sins?

Daniel 9 gives us an answer to these questions. Nowhere does the Scripture record any of his sins. Of course, that doesn't mean that he did not commit any, but it is significant in light of the prayer he prayed in Daniel 9. Daniel is in Babylon as a result of God's judgment on Judah. Through his study of the Prophet Jeremiah's words, he became aware of what was happening to them as well as God's promise of restoration (9:1-2). It was because of the conviction that came to him from the Word of God that he "turned [his] face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes" (3).

Read Daniel's prayer. He makes "confession" and says "we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, ..." (4-6a). This kind of language is repeated throughout his prayer.

Daniel saw himself in solidarity with his people. As such, he prays in a first person perspective. "We" have sinned. This is appropriate for God's people whenever we are seeking Him for corporate needs--whether for our family, city, nation, church or convention of churches.

That is why the call for repentance in Resolution #6 is appropriate. I have never intended that it be a resolution geared only toward certain churches. It is written in the first person, not second or third. By God's grace, our church has practically addressed these issues in years past and seeks to practice responsible church membership. Nevertheless, as Southern Baptists we see ourselves as a part of a convention that needs to repent for the way that we have neglected church discipline and failed to live up to the ideal of a regenerate church membership. I gladly accept the call to repentance. We certainly have not done everything perfectly ourselves and we are not afraid to acknowledge the legitimacy corporately repenting. In fact, we express corporate repentance every Lord's Day in our worship times.

The Gospel sets us free to deal honestly with sin and to repent. Christ died for our sins and forgiveness is promised to all who confess sin (1 John 1:9). Christians have no reason fear repentance. In fact, being a Christian means living in repentance and faith daily.

Churches ought to be encouraged to repent of our sins of not loving and caring for our members as we should. What might happen if churches all across the SBC began to examine these issues and humbled themselves corporately before the Lord? Perhaps we might see the stirrings of genuine revival.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

SBC-Indianapolis #4 - The Resolution passes

The Resolution Committee brought before the convention a Resolution (No. 6) "On Regenerate Church Membership and Church Member Restoration." While I appreciate the committee's work on bringing something before the convention, I was disappointed that significant language was excluded from their report. Bart Barber and Malcolm Yarnell shared my disappointment. There were no clear statements baptism, Lord's Supper, discipline or repentance. In addition, there was no clear indication as to why such a resolution was necessary and nothing about denominational servants encouraging churches who try to implement changes in practicing regenerate church membership and church discipline.

I expected some of these deficiencies, but found the overall proposed resolution weaker than I had anticipated. Bart, Malcolm and I discussed what we should do. I had prepared a proposal to amend several weeks ago. We decided to use this proposal, with the addition of a statement on baptism either from the original Barber-Yarnell resolution or a separate, simpler statement written by Malcolm.

We also agreed to stand at microphone #11 together to make the proposed amendment. Somehow, Dr. Yarnell got separated from Bart and me and wound up at microphone #5. Bart and I realized as the presentation of the committee was about to begin that he would not be joining us at mic #11. The two of us were standing together as I was preparing to state our proposed amendments (transcribed in part in legible fashion by my lovely wife, Donna ;-) ). As I was trying to get recognized by the chair, Dr. Yarnell was recognized by Dr. Page to speak to the resolution. Malcolm proposed his amendment on adding the language of baptism, Lord's Supper and discipline in the "Whereas" section.

That actually concerned Dr. Barber and I, because we had hoped to have all of the proposed amendments offered at once. After some discussion, Dr. Yarnell's proposed amendment passed. Dr. Barber then decided to go stand at another microphone in hopes of speaking for my proposed amendment. When I was finally recognized by Dr. Page, I read my proposed amendments. The substance of them follows:
Whereas the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,266,920 members in Southern Baptist churches; and

Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week;
RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the any failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further

RESOLVED that we humbly encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches,
After giving my written and typed notes to Dr. John Sullivan to take back to the platform, I was allowed to speak to the amendment. Following is the subtance of what I said:

Brothers and sisters, last year the convention passed a resolution affirming the legitimacy of corporate repentance. Surely, if we need to repent over anything in the SBC it is true that we need to repent over how we have failed in maintaining biblical standards in the membership of our churches.

Dr. David Dockery, President of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, a Southern Baptist Statesman who is second to none, and author of the highly acclaimed Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal--a book endorsed by Danny Akin, Thom Rainer, Timothy George, John Sullivan, Morris Chapman, Frank Page and Jimmy Draper, was interviewed last week about the very subject of this resolution.

I want to read the brief excerpt from his insightful comments. The article said,

[Dr.] Dockery affirms the call for repentance expressed by one of the resolutions proposed for the annual meeting.

"We need to repent of our lack of concern for biblical faithfulness in our concern and care for church members," he said. "We need to repent of the way the way we often allow people to join local churches without stressing the covenantal aspect of membership. We need to repent of the fact that we have largely neglected any aspect of church discipline that would have helped us begin to address some of these matters."

Brothers and sisters, surely we can all say, "Amen!" to Dr. Dockery’s call for repentance by affirming the amendment to this resolution.
After the chairman of the Resolution Committee, Darrell Orman, spoke very kindly against my proposed amendment, asking the "mothers" of the various resolutions related to this issue to "let the baby live," and citing how all 5 pastors on the committee had exercised appropriate oversight in their churches in maintaining responsible church membership, my brother, Bill Ascol, was recognized by the chair to speak for the motion. He cited John Dagg ("when discipline leaves the church, Christ goes with it") and previous resolutions where the SBC had expressed repentance over issues related to slavery. Then he said that we should indeed let the baby live, but we should make sure that it looked like a "Southern Baptist baby."

The amendment passed by about 2/3 of the vote (according to Dr. Yarnell) and the amended resolution then passed overwhelmingly. It was encouraging to see.

Many, many people have expressed their appreciation for having this resolution on the record. At least a dozen pastors have already told me that they intend to read it to their churches in an effort to shepherd their congregations into healthier streams of responsible church membership. Some of these have had tears in their eyes as we spoke.

A resolution has no binding authority on a local church. But perhaps the Lord will use this to promote the ongoing work of biblical renewal in many churches across the SBC. Pray that this will be the case.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SBC-Indianapolis #3

In what must have shocked many observers Johnny Hunt won the presidential election on the first ballot with nearly 53% of the votes cast. Frank Cox received only 22% and the other candidates considerably less.

This presents an interesting study in influence and prognostication in the SBC. Several bloggers came out with strong endorsements for Cox, one going so far as to announce him as "the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention." It's a good thing for this blogger that we are not living in Old Testament days! ;-)

To my knowledge, only one blogger endorsed Johnny Hunt. Nathan Finn wrote a thoughtful post on why he believed Hunt would make a good president of the SBC.

I am not sure what all of this means, although a couple of observations come immediately to mind. Whereas bloggers were credited with helping elect Frank Page two years ago, this year, they don't seem to have had much, if any influence (with the possible exception of Nathan Finn). Or maybe the influence of the blogs was simply felt in other ways...perhaps by what was not blogged over the last couple of months. Who knows?

Dr. Page's President's address was very good--definitely worth hearing. He spoke on John 4 and stated that repentance is what God requires when we come to see ourselves as we really are.

Dr. David Dockery spoke this afternoon from 3 John and did a wonderful job arguing that, for the sake of truth, we must work to be both cooperative and confessional. This is another message worth hearing.

Tomorrow, I plan to offer an amendment (if necessary) on the resolution related to membership that may come to the floor of the convention. The Resolutions Committee's first report is scheduled for 9:05 AM (Eastern time) tomorrow. You can catch the live stream here.

SBC-Indianapolis #2, Founders Breakfast

Eric Redmond hit a homerun in his message this morning at the Founders Breakfast. He preached out of 2 Chronicles 34 on "The Reformation that Must Come." It was bold, courageous, insightful and prophetic. An audio of the message will be made available as soon as possible, hopefully, by the end of the week at the latest.

You will definitely want to listen to this one.

Monday, June 09, 2008

SBC-Indianapolis, #1

The Pastors' Conference is over but not without some noteworthy comments coming from the various messages. Though I didn't hear it myself, I heard on good authority that Charles Lowrey actually said in his message that God told him to get "baptized again" as an encouragement for others to get baptized who might be hesitant...and he was advocating this for the pastors to whom he was preaching!

I also have reason to believe that Wednesday morning the Resolutions Committee will bring out a resolution dealing with church membership issues, but that what they bring out probably will not have a statement calling for repentance. If that is so, then I will, as I have indicated previously, try to amend the resolution appropriately to include a simply call for repentance. I have also been given an assurance by the author of another of the resolutions submitted on this subject that he will, if he can get to a microphone, speak in support of such an amendment.

Stay tuned. I will try to give updates as I am able.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Iron Sharpens Iron radio interview from Indy

Monday, June 9, 2008 I will be interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio show, "Iron Sharpens Iron" at 3PM Eastern time. The show can be heard in New York & Connecticut on WNYG-1440AM Radio. It is also can be heard on the web via Chris's blog or at the station's website. We will be discussing the reformed roots of the SBC as well as the resolution on integrity in church membership that I hope will make it out in some form at the Southern Baptist Convention this week.

I met my wife in Indianapolis tonight after preaching at Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky this morning. That is a wonderful church and I was greatly encouraged by the privilege of worshiping with them. Pastor Ted Christman is an old and dear friend. He and his fellow pastors have done a great job shepherding God's people there. I hate to be away from my home church on Sunday but the wonderful time of worship with the family at Heritage made it easier to bear today.

Indianapolis is hot and humid. I am grateful that we are not being affected by all of the flooding that has taken place elsewhere in the state. The SBC Pastors Conference continues tomorrow followed by the annual SBC meeting Tuesday and Wednesday. The Founders Breakfast will take place before the first session Tuesday morning. Eric Redmond will be preaching and we are sold out but trying to arrange to squeeze in a few more who want to come.

Already I have bumped into a few friends and acquaintances. Several have asked if I know when the Resolution Committee will bring out their report. I don't, but I suspect it will be Wednesday morning.

If I have time, I will post any thoughts or reflections I have on the proceedings of the next few days. The presidential election and Resolutions Committee's report are the two main business items on my radar.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Dockery on integrity in church membershp

Dr. David Dockery, President of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, was interviewed for a Baptist Press article regarding the topic of inflated membership rolls in Southern Baptist churches. He offers some helpful insights, such as this:
"We need to highlight the foundational matters of church membership," Dockery added. "We need a fresh understanding of the Gospel; the relationship of saving faith to sanctification, maturation and spiritual faithfulness must be recaptured. Beyond this, we also must recover the New Testament's teaching on church discipline."
The article also made references to the resolutions before the Resolutions Committee for next week's annual convention.
Dockery affirms the call for repentance expressed by one of the resolutions proposed for the annual meeting.

"We need to repent of our lack of concern for biblical faithfulness in our concern and care for church members," he said. "We need to repent of the way the way we often allow people to join local churches without stressing the covenantal aspect of membership. We need to repent of the fact that we have largely neglected any aspect of church discipline that would have helped us begin to address some of these matters."
Amen. This is why I will gladly support any resolution the committee brings out on this subject as long as it includes a clear call for repentance. If a proposed resolution does not include such a call, then, as I have previously indicated, I will do my best to get to a microphone and offer an amendment to include such a call.

Isn't it refreshing to hear denominational statesmen like Dockery speaking so plainly and lovingly about these kinds of vitally important issues? We need more leaders like this. And we need to pray for and encourage the few that are currently blazing the trail.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An unbelievable deal on an outstanding book

Fred Malone has written what Al Mohler calls "one of the most important books on baptism to appear in at least the last two hundred years." After going out of print last year, that book, The Baptism of Disciples Alone, is now available again in a revised and expanded edition.

Founders Press is offering an incredible pre-publication deal on this new edition for a limited time. Until June 20, 2008, this 319 page hardback book (that retails for $29.95) can be purchased for $15.95. This is an internet only special and orders must be placed via the Founders Bookstore.

Pastoral Theology at the Midwest Center for Theological Studies

This week I have been teaching a course in pastoral theology for the Midwest Center for Theological Studies in Owensboro, Kentucky. MCTS is a confessional school that is committed to providing training for pastoral ministry. It was founded and is overseen by pastors for pastors. Sam Waldron is the founding Dean.

Eddie Goodwin, the registrar, emailed me today with a link anyone who is interested to join us via interactive livestreaming for today's and tomorrow's classes. Sessions begin at 4 PM Central time. In one of the sessions tonight I have asked my wife, Donna, and our kids to be available to discuss issues and answer questions related to the pastor's homelife. They will be joining us from Cape Coral in a video conference. If you are interested in popping in for a few minutes or in joining us for all of the classes, go to this link, sign in and follow the instructions.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My take on SBC presidential politics

Now that the Democratic presidential primaries are over we can turn our attention to some real presidential politics, namely, the race to become president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Frank Page concludes his second term next week in Indianapolis. He was the long shot winner of two years ago in Greensboro, when very few of the "movement conservatives" in the SBC gave him much of a chance. In fact, some lobbied pretty boldly against him. I am sure I am not the only person who got emails questioning his conservative credentials and warning about the return of the CBF if he were elected.

Two years ago from this very day I wrote a pointed critique of Page's book, Trouble with the Tulip. What he had written raised serious doubts in my mind about his understanding the doctrines of grace. I have been told that this book was revised and was reprinted in 2006 and now more properly distinguishes between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. If what I have heard is true, then it would serve as one more example of the kind of humility and meekness that has characterized Dr. Page's presidency.

It has been refreshing to have had a president who didn't travel around the country declaring how great the SBC is and who did not ignore the huge problems that we are facing. It has also been encouraging to have a leader who did not see it as his duty to beat the drum for the entrenched powerbrokers of SBC.

Prior to the Greensboro convention two years ago, I commented on the announced candidacy of Johnny Hunt. In no way could I have imagined what that blog would ultimately become. Due to the arrival of a couple of fomer Muslims who began launching theological scud missiles in the comments, the point of the original post was quickly forgotten. What I wrote then, however, I still believe today.

Though I am not very interested in SBC presidential politics I have been somewhat amused at just how much the process leading up to the election next week has mimicked our national presidential politics with promotional websites, endorsements and stumping. There are six candidates (so far!) who have announced that they will be nominated. You can read their answers to a Baptist Press survey here. A number of people have asked me who I am endorsing. The answer to that question is easy. No one. I am not even sure who I am going to vote for.

It is not that I don't care at all. I just don't care about this election very much. The things that make me care at all have to do with some of the institutions and agencies of the SBC--primarily, the International Mission Board. It doesn't take much denominational awareness to recognize that there are many in the SBC who would love for Jerry Rankin, the President of the IMB, to take an "early retirement." I wish his detractors would simply come out publicly and lay their cards on the table rather than shoot at him from the shadows.

The Board of Trustees adopted new policies on baptism and private prayer language a couple of years ago. I think the former policy is unwise and points us in the direction of Landmarkism and the latter is unnecessary and probably was intended, in part, to embarrass Rankin. This action by the IMB BoT, in my mind, may be the most important issue to be considered in deciding who to vote for in the presidential election.

Who would I want to be the next president? The following considerations will inform my vote.

I think that having Frank Page as president has been good for the SBC. I would not want to see a man elected who would feel compelled to catapult us back to the trajectory we were on three years ago when the denominational kingmakers strategically crowned the next man-in-waiting a few months before the convention. Anyone who is being endorsed by status quo champions would by that very fact make me a little suspicious.

I would be hesitant to vote for anyone who thinks that the new IMB guidelines are good policy. The case has yet to be made that the new baptism requirement squares with Scripture, Baptist history or contemporary needs. Avery Willis, Johnny Hunt and Les Puryear all have expressed concerns about those policies.

I would someone who is a convictional conservative. Though some have cast the election in terms of a candidate that conservatives will vote for (Frank Cox) and candidates that others will vote for, I don't see it that way. To my knowledge, all of those running are theological conservatives. They are not all "party men," but they are all, I think, inerrantists.

It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out. No doubt there will be more than one vote because it is highly unlikely that any one of the six will get a majority on the first ballot.

If you are going to be in Indianapolis, it would be great to say hello to you. I will be at the Founders Breakfast on Tuesday morning.

I am Tom Ascol, and I approve of this message.