This is the third, and hopefully last, installment of my comments on this year’s TMABC annual meeting, held last Sunday evening, October 7. In the first part I briefly described the great things happening at TMABC, structurally any way. In the second part, I outlined a couple of things that should be a cause for concern. In this third part I intend to point out specifically what concerns me about Dr. Frank Page’s keynote message.
- The text cited for the message has nothing to do with churches not doing what God has called them to do. This passage is clearly referring to individuals and groups of people, and all of humanity’s need for repentance.
- Although the vine dresser is identified as Jesus, a great opportunity is lost to show a beautiful picture of our great savior patiently and lovingly saving sinners and interceding for them. The Law says “Cut it down, it’s useless.” while Sovereign grace says “No, I will work a work, and it will bear fruit.” Matthew Henry speaks of the vinedresser in this way: “The dresser’s intercedes for [the fig tree.] Christ is the great Intercessor; he ever lives, interceding. Ministers are intercessors; they that dress the vineyard should intercede for it; those we preach to we should pray for, for we must give ourselves to the word of God and to prayer.”
- Dr. Page’s unqualified statement that there is no correlation between suffering and sin is exactly the opposite from what our Lord teaches, from this passage and others, and denies the orthodox understanding of original sin and its consequences. From Genesis 3:16-19, to Romans 8:18-23, and all the way to Revelation 21:4, the connection of suffering to sin is evident. If Dr. Page meant by his statement that there is no direct correlation between suffering and sin, I would agree, but he didn’t say it in that way, and he should have for clarity’s sake.
- The tone of this message betrayed an unhealthy emphasis on church brands. The continued existence of the SBC seems to be the reason to get on the ball. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of hell would not prevail against his kingdom. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:11 that God has a purpose, and he works all things according to the council of his will. God’s kingdom will not fail. We should be more worried about carrying on kingdom business than whether or not that business has the SBC logo on it.
I am afraid that this kind of preaching is more common from Southern Baptist pulpits than we realize. I listen to a lot of sermons over the internet. I have family and friends throughout Oklahoma who go to Southern Baptist churches. For the most part there appears to be more fluff than meat out there. Most sermons are long on inspirational stories, moralism, and therapy, but very short on sin, hell, and a full, vibrant gospel. I have no doubt that just about all of the pastors mean well, but that won’t cut it when the souls of untold numbers are at stake, here and abroad.
We go from one program to another, thinking a change will cause church growth, baptisms, and the like. After all, numbers is what we want, isn’t it? We even try the un-program approach to programs, such as the “Small Church” and “Missional Model.” It is kind of like a sailor painting his leaky boat a different color, hoping that will fix the problem, yet it keeps on leaking, about to sink. It doesn’t matter what the “color” of your program is, you are going to have to fix the boat itself. God has entrusted the Church with a message to be delivered through the foolishness of preaching, and preaching anything less than that message is disobedience to God. TMABC is strategically positioned to play a vital role in helping member churches regain that message, if we will just bring in the right speakers.
Or the alternative: If the HMS SBC is too leaky to be fixed, then let’s get a new boat. We got real work to do.