Wednesday, 20 February 2013

New John 3:16 Conference in Atlanta

Check out the new John 3:16 Conference sponsored by Jerry Vines, in Atlanta. A course is actually being offered there for credit through Leavell College, taught by my boss, L. Thomas Strong, Dean of Leavell College: Issues in Contemporary Theology.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Baptist Hymns and Hymnals

Many Baptists (Southern Baptists and other Baptist groups as well) are currently using the Baptist Hymnal 2008, or one of its many prior versions (1991, 1975, 1956, etc.). In the hopes of a future revision, I'm keeping notes mostly on what songs should have been included but were excluded. I've been at this a long time, posting on Facebook, but I decided it is time to keep a running list.

  1. We Shall Overcome. What hymns do you sing if you want to reflect on themes pertinent to MLK day? Well, here's an obvious one. It is difficult to understand why this song is not included in the 2008 version (although we might well understand why it was excluded in earlier versions). 

Morehouse College Men's Chorus: 

Roger Waters' stirring rendition (ignore the video which appropriates this iconic civil rights song for a propaganda piece against Israel for those living in Gaza):

2. Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven to the tune Lauda Anima (Goss). It appears in the Baptist Hymnal with a different tune, Lauda Anima (Andrews). But the Goss tune is so much more magisterial. Here is a rendering at St. Paul's Cathedral for some "Jubilee Service"--I'm not sure if it's Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee service, although it was sung at her wedding. Note that it is introduced as one of England's most beloved hymns. Note also how vigorously this crowd of dignitaries and ordinary folk sing. It starts out a bit slow for me, but grows to great heights in the last verse:

The magisterial text can be found here:

There is a new text written by a Regent Alumni that has been adopted by Regent College as its alma mater; the new text (which I'll post some day) is entitled "Regent's of Our God and Savior"

3. He Lifted Me. Baptist Hymnal 1991 was the last time this Charles Gabriel hymn was included. Here's a nice contemporary setting of the text of the hymn: Another hymn on the same theme is omitted from the new Baptist hymnal:  "He brought me out of the miry clay...." And here's a not-to-be-missed rendition of it in congregational worship:

Friday, 11 January 2013

Sample Baby Dedication

Presentation of (child's name)
  1. Parents bring all their children forward to stage
    1. Father, Mother and Infant stand center
    2. Other children stand to piano side
  2. Grandparents & Extended Family forward to stage—stand on organ side
  3. Scripture ReadingPastor Jim
"Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deut 6:4-9)
  1. Vows:  By coming here today, is it your intention to swear to God before these many witnesses that you will raise (Child's name) in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?  If so, please answer "We do" to the following questions.
                                                              i.      Do you here this day recognize this child as the gift of God, and give heartfelt thanks for God's blessing?  We do.
                                                            ii.      Do you here this day dedicate this child to the Lord who gave him to you?  We do.
                                                          iii.      Do you here this day pledge that you will do your utmost to teach him God's Word and his way of life?  We do.
                                                          iv.      Do you here this day promise to give this child every possible benefit of the nurture that comes from belonging wholeheartedly to the people of God, the Church?  We do.
Do you here this day pledge to set the example before him in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity?  We do
  1. Commendation of grandparents and greatgrandparents
    1. Scripture:  "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Tim 1:5).
    2. From generation to generation
                                                              i.      Older men and Older women to teach the younger ones
                                                            ii.      Thanksgiving for faithfulness for these many years
    1. Vows for the Witnesses
(To the congregation) By being here this day, you too show your love and devotion to Mason Jude and to his parents.  Do you also promise to be faithful to him, and to model before him the way of the Lord?  If so, please answer, "We do."  We do.
  1. Special Music:  (Vocalist who happens to be the grandmother sings while holding baby)
  2. Scripture and Blessing Pronouncements
    1. Participants chosen by parents comes up one at a time
    2. Stands in center, pronounces scripture and blessing
    3. Facing congregationholding Baby
  1. Dedication:  Pastor Jim
    1. Holds baby
    2. Assurances of God's love and care
    3. Pastor's wish
                                                              i.      Scripture:  Matt 11:25-26, 28-30
                                                            ii.      To find peace in Jesus
  1. Prayer of Dedication
  2. Participants return to seats

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Have I ever told you what I really think of the contemporary worship band?

  • How short would my preaching career be if I insisted that the sound system blast my voice as loud as the band's music?
  • The quickest way to kill congregational singing is the worship band, whose music is so loud that no longer does the Christian church sing to "one another" songs and hymns.
  • The unity of the church is seriously impaired by these ephemeral praise songs that have a currency of about 8 months, and will not get passed down to future generations. Thus, the old folks who have served the Lord faithfully for 50 years do not share the joys of the songs of Zion with the younger generation.
  • And don't get me started about the light show. When did the church's worship become a rock concert?
  • I guess the worship band's music is so uninteresting, so uncaptivating that it has to be blasted as loud as possible.
  • And I guess that the text of the music of most contemporary praise songs must be so mediocre that one must gin up the emotions by excessive use of musical tricks.
The tragedy of this is that our denominational institutions actively promote the contemporary praise band movement--with all the above characteristics, and so incidentally promote the demise of congregational singing. We send our youth to camps and conferences featuring really cool people playing the same five or ten songs over and over again, with great expertise, and they get hooked on the sensational. And when they return to your typical Baptist church with its musical limitations, they think songs like "No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus" and "And Can It Be" are boring and unrelatable. Our seminaries even might be doing the same thing. 

Here's some good congregational singing.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Expanding Educational Opportunities for Free Will Baptist Pastors & Church Leaders

 A primary mission for every church and denomination is to teach and train its pastors and church leaders. This is probably more challenging for Free Will Baptists than for other denominations, given that so few Free Will Baptists have an MDiv, the standard ministerial professional degree (see my blog article here: ). Pastors whose detailed study of Scripture or ministry is dependent solely upon their personal experience or upon a previous mentor or pastor (who himself may have not been formally trained),
are typically less capable of training church leaders than their peers who do have formal training for ministry.

This blog article sets forth a plan for the denomination to increase educational and training opportunities to support its churches in its mission

"to equip [God’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming" (Eph 3:12-14).

This plan is designed to be largely self-supporting and to employ resources already available, more or less, to the denomination. The plan is similar to that already in use by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where I serve as assistant registrar in the undergraduate program. It may also be compared with programs such as Church Leadership Institute offered through various state associations of other denominations, but is adaptable to the needs of Free Will Baptists.

This plan would be spear-headed by the denominational school, Welch College which would offer courses through satellite locations in areas where large numbers of Free Will Baptists are concentrated. Courses would be offered at three levels: Certificate, Bachelor’s, and Graduate.

The lowest level of courses would lead to a Certificate concentrating in some area of Christian training. These could include:

·         Certificate in Preaching
·         Certificate in Pastoring and Church Administration
·         Certificate in Evangelism and Church Planting
·         Certificate in Biblical Studies
·         Certificate in Theology
·         Certificate in Christian Education
·         Certificate in Youth Ministry

The certificate program would not have any prerequisites; even those without a G.E.D. or high school diploma could enroll. Each certificate would consist of eight standardized courses, four to six of which are core to the program (e.g., New Testament Survey, Old Testament Survey, Free Will Baptist Doctrine, and Spiritual Life), allowing 2-4 courses to reflect the specialization of the particular certificate concentration. Each course would meet on a selected day of the week or on certain weekends, for a total of 8-12 hours instruction (e.g., 4-5 Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:30, or the first and third Saturday of a given month, from 10:00-2:00, or possibly from 10:00-4:00). A student could complete a certificate perhaps in 6 months, or a year or two, depending upon the scheduling set by the college and host site.

Courses would be offered at any location, so long as there is a site host and at least eight students enrolled for the course. For example, the pastor of a growing and active Free Will Baptist Church in Chattanooga might initially contact Welch College about hosting certificate courses, and then survey the church’s membership and community to see what level of interest there is for the courses. If there are 8 or more students committed to the program, then, as the sponsoring institution, Welch College would designate the church as a satellite campus, and begin the courses.

Prior to the start of the courses, Welch College would have to recruit a qualified, dynamic teacher to teach the offered courses, and to establish qualifications for prospective faculty. At the certificate level, academic qualifications would not be as stringent as they must be for the Bachelor’s and graduate levels. So, for example, an instructor with a Bachelor’s degree with extensive Free Will Baptist ministerial experience or specialization might qualify to teach a course on New Testament Survey, even though he may never have attended seminary.

Since Welch College would be partnering with the site host (e.g., a Free Will Baptist Church), there would be minimal overhead expenses. Compensation for the instructor would be paid from the course fees which would be around $100-125 per course. An administrative fee of $25 for first time students should be sufficient to fund administrative work at the sponsoring college.

The high impact of the certificate program on the local church can hardly be exaggerated. The program would afford the opportunity of highly involved members to improve and inform their ministerial skills, as well as an opportunity to reflect deeply on their calling. Other church members who are less involved would be introduced to ministry and Christian studies, and may become more confident about stepping into various leadership roles. Church members would forge closer relationships with each other, and share a common vision of ministry. The program has often been the background for many-a-student’s ministerial calling. The host church would also develop a reputation as providing good opportunities for church members, and become more and more influential in the community and in its local association of churches. This would filter up throughout the denomination and be transformative.

Once the certificate program takes off, local associations might require prospective ministers to complete a certificate for ordination, to increase ministerial competence in the association.

In like manner, but requiring more rigorous standards, would be the Bachelor’s Degree. This degree program would be based on the same courses required by the sponsoring college (Welch College), subject to regional accreditation rules and regulations. Students would be able to take a limited number of courses at the satellite location, but would eventually transfer to the main campus in Nashville. Instructors would have to have higher academic credentials and compensated accordingly. Course fees would be comparable to that of regular campus courses, with other incidental fees as necessary.

The major advantage of this program would be to allow students to take Free Will Baptist college courses for credit at venues that might be more convenient for some students. Many colleges have expanded with great success by offering courses at satellite locations. Once Welch College begins to offer graduate programs, Free Will Baptist ministers might have more opportunities to get Free Will Baptist training at these satellite centers.