Wednesday, March 05, 2008

ANTIOCH NETWORK OF CHURCHES

I wrote this originally as a comment on Wade's blog but decided to put it up as a short report post [with small additions and clarifications] until my next installment of "Growing Older."

It is in reference to the meeting I shared with 30 or 40 other men and women this past Monday and Tuesday in Arlington Texas. It was conceptually birthed and hosted by the Cornerstone Baptist in Arlington and her Pastor Dr. Dwight McKissic. You'll be hearing much more in the days, months, and years to come, the Lord willing.


Suppose, hypothetically, a person and fourteen others get together to support a idea to provide some funds, if possible, for someone who might need a little help in getting to a ministry God has called them to in spreading the gospel. To do so, the fifteen of them, decide what they can agree on as to the message of the gospel. In other words, what the message is that needs to be heard and must be believed to be saved. [Then that little group clearly states the essentials that are necessary to actually believe the unique exclusivity of the true gospel message. They call it their 'statement of faith' meaning for the gospel message to be the true one.]

Agreeing there, they decide, the fifteen of them, that their differing views on lesser truths will not be an issue for them to promote the gospel. In fact, they will even sing together, pray together, give together, share together, believing their unity is NOT, and never SHOULD be, uniformity but, rather, that their eyes stay fixed on Jesus when they're together which is their real essential when they gather together. They learned this in First Corinthians, Acts 11 and 12, from where the Antioch name came for the network and other places in scripture.

They agree that when someone teaches, they should be true to how they see the text in the lesser things but will always practice a spirit that says, "this is where I am on this but my enjoyment of praise and worship of our Lord with you is NOT dependent on you agreeing on this point with me. In fact, I won't demand you must agree and you won't demand I can't believe this." [Referencing whatever lesser thing they are talking about.] That is their commitment.

Someone might, in the course of sharing a homily, mention their belief in a private prayer language, for example, but they would know full well someone present believes, perhaps, that those gifts have ceased. [The mode of baptism would be another example.] Further, there is an unusual spirit of respect among those fifteen for the Spirit's responsiblity to make clear to each, as He wills, those things that need to be taught, [the lesser things] once the claims of the gospel have been responded to in one's life. But that will be wherever that person choses to affiliate with other believers locally in a church.

Were someone to join in worship with any one of the fifteen local fellowships represented in that group, they would hear the clear articulation of the variously held views on such things. But this little group of fifteen is not trying to be a local church, a denomination, a religious institution of any kind. They just want to be a part of a few people who want to love Jesus together, give money so that Jesus may become known, and love on one another as different as we all happen to be, and believe me, hypothetically, those fifteen are different.

Further, hypothetically, suppose that little group of fifteen is open to ANYONE joining them in the desire to enjoy Jesus and each other and get the gospel out in some new and fresh ways. [Knowing the exclusivity of the gospel message they hold to.] Would you NOT want to be a part of that small group? If not...then don't. If yes...then by all means..do.

Now, you may ask "Bro. Paul, why don't you just come out and say that's how you view that group?"Okay, I will. Just change the fifteen to thirty-five, and you have my view of what I experienced in Arlington. It won't replace my local church fellowship at all. It won't even replace my denomination.

But it wasn't half bad. In fact, it was plumb good. [In Oklahoma you can't get better than 'plumb.'] :)

Paul B.

8 comments:

Bryan Riley said...

I wish I could have joined that first meeting. It's exciting to hear about and we will be praying for the ministry of the gospel that is formed and supported through the network.

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul...I was with you on Monday night...the one who spoke with you about always enjoying the father-son response on Wade's blog and the one telling you when I finally figured I could be saved and assured of it...the stats in the Texas SBC went down...
It was reallynice to finally meet you and Wade and I really enoyed myself...great article!

Ron Fisher

traveller said...

Thanks for sharing your wisdom again. These are the best of times and the worst of times. The best part is that God's Spirit is clearly moving in many exciting, refreshing and new ways. The counterbalance to that is so many seem to work against the Holy Spirit when his work does not fit preconceived ideas.

Paul Burleson said...

Bryan,

Trust me when I say you will LOVE the approach being taken relationally by the Network. AND, may I say, they WILL love you when you do make connection. [Which connection I predict will happen.]


Ron,

It was an absolute pleasure to meet you. Next meeting time you and I MUST have breakfast together. Let's agree now so if anyone asks us we'll already have made plans. [They can certainly join us if they desire. :)]


Traveller,

It is really a strange time. In some ways I think it is the deadest time spiritually [A form without power or godliness] I can remember in local churches and denominations that I'm familiar with and I'm in churches all over the convention/country regularly.

This would discourage me except I know the character of God which is best illustrated by what Stuart Briscoe told me when he did a bible conference for me in Wichita Falls Texas years ago just after beginning Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee. He said a friend asked him "Why there? It's a graveyard for Evangelicals. Stuart answered his friend, and I quote..."I serve a God who brings life out of deadness and something out of nothing, so I choose to go to the deadest place I can find." The rest is history.

With that in mind...I'm trusting that kind of God to work in our dead situation [churches/denomination] to bring life. I trust it will happen in individuals, groups of people [Like Antioch Network Of Churches] and even our denomination. [And other denominations as well.]

By the way, let me know the minute you publish anything on the Internet on the Kingdom.

Kevin Bussey said...

Paul,

Why do you think SBC'ers are so closed minded to working with other believers. My experience growing up in a Para-church ministry was that the SBC pastors looked suspiciously of my father's ministry. But it was YFC and Billy Graham was the 1st employee.

It smacks of arrogance to me. I had coffee last week with a cool pastor who used to work for Kenneth Copeland! We didn't talk about what we disagreed on, but what we do agree on. I would work hand and hand with him before many of the SBC pastors I've met. Sad.

I sure appreciate you.

Dave Miller said...

You are killing me. under a comment I made on Outpost, you wrote PMUOTFFL...

What on this earth is a PMUOTFFL?

Can you eat it?
Is it in your private prayer language?

You can't leave me hanging like that. I am too curious.

Paul Burleson said...

Kevin,

I have to admit that all my ministry I've faced people in SBC life who didn't understand why the churches I pastored would use people like Navigators or material like Evangelism Explosion and a host of other non-baptist people and methods. They often thought, and even said to me occasionally, that I was disloyal to the Convention.

Before the "resurgence" I was mildly black-balled at worst and thought unbaptistic at best by using such men, methods and material NOT associated with the Convention. Remember...this was thirty-five or so years ago.

After the "resurgence" I was thought of as BBed at worst and unbapt at best... for holding to certain beliefs...continuing reality of the gifts is an example, [though I don't personality have any gift of tongues, public or private]... that my SBC friends thought of as slightly less that heretical.

I think Southern Baptist Convention people, not all but far too many, have forgotten that the Convention is a tool given by God and is not to be thought of as sacred. Much like the people of Israel, centuries after God gave them the brass serpent as a gift for healing, found themselves facing the destruction of that serpent because they were worshipping it instead of the God who gave it.

The SBC in the last fifty/sixty years, the time of my experience with our denomination, has made the same mistake as Israel...or is at least very close to doing so.

This reflects bad character spiritually, not bad belief only. May God save you and me from this failure is my prayer as we minister.

May we NEVER be more caught up in what we're doing or how we're doing it or what we believe more than we are caught up in Who He is and who we are by His Grace. He doesn't need us or our Convention. We need Him. It is THIS that changes our relationship with people who call Jesus Lord to one of love and grace. Whatever minor doctrines or different methods they hold that are different to ours will not diminish that love and grace.

Bob Cleveland said...

Maybe the Antioch thing is precisely the sort of thing that SBC churches should be doing, instead of defaulting to just sending money and an occasional "visitor" to the great commission, as it were. Maybe it's high time folks stop yammering about what others are not doing, and got about it ourselves.