Friday, July 20, 2007

updating my understanding

In the past I wrote a series of posts entitled A New Kind of Church (pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, . I took a few shots from those posts, mostly from Salvationist friends (you know what they say about defensiveness), but it was never my intention to bash any of the denominations that I covered. In fact, my initial goal was to give credit to those denominations for the spiritual and doctrinal input that they had had on my life. Still, through those posts and through the couple of years that I’ve been blogging, I have taken a few shots at the denomination that I grew up in, and so I write the following as an attempt to be transparent and show the areas where I continue to learn and grow.

One thing that I’ve really come to understand in recent years is that the things that most frustrated me about my childhood church are things that aren’t exclusive to any one denomination. In fact they’re found in most churches. Things like politics, and greed, and an unwillingness to change, absolutely disgust me, and I’ve found them in all denominations. In fact, my Salvationist friends will find some humour in the fact that, among the three reasons Jamie and I gave for deciding to leave the Southern Baptist Church and start work with the Salvation Army, was because we were sick of politics. Haha! Is that the irony of all irony or am I simply understanding Alanis Morissette’s definition of it? Either way, I would like to go on record as saying that I have come to love my childhood denomination again, even if many of the churches throughout the West leave me wanting more.

One of the main reasons for this reawakening in my life, I have to say, is because of a group of SBC missionaries that we’ve encountered while working over here. Missions and church planting have long been the SBC’s strength. As a child, we spent every Wednesday night learning about missions (actually, we spent every Wednesday night playing basketball, but we were SUPPOSED to be learning about missions!). In fact, Jamie went to University on a partial scholarship due in large part to her being involved in that study of missions as a young person (thanks GA’s!) The missionaries we’ve encountered here are here under the sponsorship of the local Salvation Army church that we worship at on Sundays. The UK government requires a missionary to be sponsored by a local church (Jamie and I are here on the same visa) and, as the Baptist church in this country will no longer sponsor SBC missionaries (The SBC is considered waaaaaaaaay too conservative for UK Baptists), our local church has taken up the cause. Because of that, and the fact that there are no SBC churches in this country, we actually have five SBC missionaries that worship with us, are a part of our cell groups, and even volunteer in several of our programmes, and a couple of them volunteer with Jamie and I as well. We’ve not only found these people to be hard workers, and very encouraging and supportive, but they’ve got a massive heart for the lost and, unlike many of the SBC churches and pastors we’ve encountered and worked with over the years, these guys are pretty radical in their approach to evangelism. To be honest with you, that’s probably why they’re missionaries rather than local pastors (although, isn’t a missionary also a pastor???)

The other thing about these guys that have concerned me for my own denomination is their understanding of theology and, in particular, the methods they’ve learned concerning evangelism. In fact, I’m due to meet with one of them this coming month to learn a “new” method for making the gospel clearer to other cultures. As the guy sat and told me about the method, I knew immediately that it was something that would be invaluable to our local ministry.

So I say all of that to say that, while I still challenge the effectiveness of many churches throughout the west, I was wrong in suggestion that this denomination as a whole was ineffective. After all, Jamie and I are a product of it and look at us!


(Incidentally, does every city have a Cheers now???)

Comments on "updating my understanding"


Blogger Trent said ... (3:12 PM) : 

Falls Creek, I'll let Tim explain what that is, has been in an 8 year plan to build a new tabernacle, worship center. It seats 7,000 people. It cost over 30 million dollars.

The campaign to raise money for this thing has gone on for several years, and is continuing.

Now, the part that is interesting is that a series of articles has been published using statistics to justify the expense of the structure. Honestly, the statistics are amazing, but I think that regardless of the statistics there is something else shown in this that I love about Southern Baptists in Oklahoma. We love our young people.

Now that may not be true for every church in every city, but it is true for the big picture.

When I get frustrated about missionaries being required to sign certain forms to be eligible for service, or seminaries reacting against new strategies by booting professors that don't tow the bottom line, or even the politics that were required to get the tabernacle built here at Falls Creek, I try to remember that we do love our young people.

So Tim, thanks for pointing out that the grass is patchy on the other side of all of our fences.


Blogger Dr. Brandon Keaton said ... (7:56 PM) : 

You know I did not grow up in the SBC, but I understand the struggle of leaving a childhood denomination and the identity crisis that ensues. I often feel that people misunderstand my happiness with my new denomination as total disdain for my former church and nothing could be further from the truth. I am grateful for what I learned there and how it predisposed me to thinking about the world. If I had not lived it, then I would not be able to look at my new fellowship with any clarity. And I agree that the grass is not always green, but when you are where God wants you to be, you can begin to look past the grass to the harvest.


Blogger Cari said ... (4:53 AM) : 

See, Trent, here's my argument FOR the New Tabernacle at Falls Creek...remember sitting in 1000 degree heat listening to an old preacher scream and holler for an hour about hell? All you can think is, "I bet it's cooler than this place..."

My daughter is planning to go do some mission work next year in Europe somewhere. The SBC GO! campaign for students has been to Germany, and next year the UK. If it all pans out, it will be a great opportunity, one that I couldn't normally afford her, but as the next few years go, I'd like all of my kids to go. She has this amazing heart for winning the lost, for being something to someone, and I'll be darned if she got it from me, although recently my ideas have changed.

Tim, today, I'm so dissillusioned with my church, I can't see straight. The politics have all but driven me away, and I see you in your ministry, in your element, and I'm a little envious. I wish God would call me away, even to the big church around the corner. (That's not a euphamism, it's a literal big church around the corner.)


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