Sunday, October 01, 2006

DG: Speaker Panel (Saturday Afternoon – Baucham, Piper, Carson, Wells with JT as moderator)

JT: Dr. Wells, it seems accepted in society that people are spiritual but not religious… can you expound on this?

DW: I am hugely relieved that Mark has left, as I was feeling a little bit overdressed. It is an extraordinary moment culturally speaking. We remember the 70’s when advocates of secular humanism felt that they were about to be triumphant. In the wider Christian public, you have people defining themselves as spiritual people. America is like a Sweden in its cultural elites trying to preside over its India in its people.

Like all cultural shifts, there is good and bad. Now the Gospel about spirituality and Christ is just another part of the whole frontier.

JT: Dr Carson, we appreciate you for writing learned commentaries and campus missions. What has changed in missions on the campus? How has your message changed?

DC: 35 years ago, an atheist was a Christian atheist – that is the god they were not believing in. There is massive ignorance of the Bible. Full-orbed Gospel preaching means staring further back. To be honest, I rarely see conversions right away – what I do is the set up for what has to come in the months ahead.

Some of the new generation is so biblically ignorant, that they don’t automatically reject.

JT: What do you do differently?

DC: Depends on how many meetings there are. If I have time, I start with Genesis 1 and 2 and the beginnings. Then try to play out in how we look at life. Then I speak of the god that does not kill rebels. The God who legislates – 10 commandments. The God who becomes a human being then the god who declares sinners just. The God who is very angry. The god who wins. Although it is very rare to get this much time.

JT: Tim Keller said he did not know of a short systematic presentation of the Gospel that includes the meta-narrative.

DC: There are better things and worse things. There are a lot of good little things. Vaughn Roberts has a little book. The Two Ways to Live – Matthias Media. Christway Media dot com.

JT: Rev. Bauchum, you have developed an approach called expository apologetics. Can you explain that?

VB: There are no new objections to the Gospel. The NT writers were dealing with and answering these objections – so we should use these categories. These answers are memorable and authoritative. And hopefully they are impactful.

Example: Revelation – why do you believe the bible. 1 Peter 1. I try to use the texts in context.

JT: Dr Wells, I was struck by a footnote in which you described the missional nature of theology. What does it mean to be contextual and missional?

DW: Mark sounded so far out and pushing the boundaries, but when I say those things, I sound so stayed… and it’s not right. I want to be hip, man!

In the front of Above All Earthly Powers, I retell a scene of a fictional country. [You can read that at home.] Theology is about timeless Truth. But it needs to be brought by god’s people into their own particular context. This has become an agitated context! Some missiologists are arguing that people can receive Christ without leaving Islam or Hinduism. So, there is no church… because to be baptized is to be killed. Here is where a line has been crossed which is fatal to the Gospel.

If I had a critique of expository preaching it is that they too often do not apply the truth of the Word, unpacking it, was enough. Preachers need to do that next step, and make sure that the truth they are preaching intercepts with what is going on inside people’s minds. So line is drawn so clearly, that people know they are being obedient or not.

JT: Dr Carson, do you have any books or advice on evangelistic preaching in the church context?

DC: you should download messages of men who preach well and see conversions. Listen to 8-10 strong ones so you don’t ape just one. Listen to the speakers who are here. Guest services can be held. You work extra hard at explaining everything. Go for user-friendly authenticity.

JT: Dr Piper, a lot of pastors might be discouraged by the size of their church. What encouragement would you give to the small town small church pastor?

JP: Feeding the flock of God is the most precious and high calling in the world. “Feed my sheep.” There is always room for growth! Every one of these guys discourages me – so in one sense that is life. It is a great thing to rest in the calling God has given you. There has got to be witness in smaller populations. It is just that we cannot abandon the city! Faithful loving exposition is what you must do. God loves rural people.

DC: There are different degrees of gift. If we are doing something wrong, then we must fix them. On the other hand, I was brought up in French Canada. There were very few churches there. My Dad was faithful through the lean years. God works on another scale. I made a resolution when I was young man to never stop going to small and insignificant works. Be faithful where you are.

JT: On the issue of black and not-so-black. There are many churches that long for greater diversity. How can they bring this about?

VB: The church we just planted in April has 150 people. My family is the only black family in the church. Nobody is saying to the black churches, where are all the whites?

In some ways we feel called to be missionaries to the not-so-black cities. Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Houston. We reflect that. Diversity does not mean that something is better. They haven’t tried to do it. Other places are trying to do it, but see no success at it. Are they worse off? I don’t think so. Deal with the issue of the sin of racism and the sin of classism… but not try to make a church what it is not.

DC: Every year I meddle in the lives of a few M.Div. students. Which guys? The ones who can speak to anybody. There are some who seem to be gifted by God to talk to anybody. I want them to be pastors in the city.

JT: Dr Wells, you wrote winsomely about the dangers of consumerism and the need to exalt the supremacy of Christ – what do you do in your own personal life to cultivate humility and the tyranny of the urgent.

DW: I have been extremely grateful to go to Africa each year. You realize that America is what is not normal in the big picture of the globe. The way we think about our things is most often what ruins us. In Malawi this past summer, of all the pastors I talked to, not one of them had only one church. One fellow had 14. People dying of AIDS all the time. No nuclear families left – the alive adults take up the kids of dead relatives. Households get too big. I realize I am living in a different universe. I plan my retirement. Most countries in Africa have a life expectancy of upper 30’s.

JP: A few words about Mark Driscoll. There is so much variety on the scene in America that the litmus test must be theology. If he has those 9 things in his right hand, and I will argue that sometimes things in our left hand can subtly undo what we hold in our right hand. Sometimes our cleverness can hurt us. But when you get the right hand correct, you are cut off from a lot of people. I don’t like the word “missional!” Anyway, what I really want to know is what is in your right hand.