Monday, October 23, 2006


I'm not sure of the blogging ethics that are in play with this new genre but I'm going to risk taking it as an opportunity to write a note to friends. If this violates something, someone enlighten me please.

I've always been accused of giving TMI [too much info] from the pulpit and it was in the context of being too free with personal information, whether it be of struggle or emotions or doubt or whatever, but I'm afraid that's the way I am. [Some people like a pastor on a pedestal and I've always refused that lofty position.] So, having given that disclaimer, here's a kind of personal note to a bunch of friends, albeit on a blogg.

I really enjoyed reading your responses to the article by Jon Zens entitled "Four Tragic Shifts Of The Church" posted on Saturday, October 7th. His web-site is It is a web page that presents material from a magazine "Searching Together" that is the publication of a fellowship of believers at Word of Life Church in Taylor Falls Minnesota. Jon Zens is the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine which, by the way, I've read for years.

Now, it is not Southern Baptist, and I don't know all the writers, but I'm very familiar with the theological insights of Jon Zens and have been blessed beyond measure by them. No one believes everything another believer holds to I would hope. But his writings are biblical sound and challenging to the extreme. I like that.

You do too evidently. The e-mails have FAR outnumbered the comments on the post. I've received e-mails literally from several nations including Japan and others. The response was very positive although many saw, as I knew you would, the challenge to "traditional" thinking and chose to ask questions and make comments to me only, thus the e-mails. I consider those private and personal on your part and will keep them that way.

My purpose in what I'm writing these days is to catch you up on my personal theological journey, which I've started doing in past posts, but I was so impressed by your response to this particular article I needed to address it. I fully understand the significant struggle that will ensue if we ever were to take seriously the message of those shifts that have been destructive and debilitating to the Body of Christ, but because of our commitment to Truth revealed and our Lord's command to make disciples, I believe we must be open and face the challenge.

One other thing. Jon's statement, just before getting into a discussion of the first of the four shifts, where he says, "I believe that it is far more important to capture the spirit of church life as we see it unfolded in the New Testament, than it is to try and woodenly replicate cultural particulars of that first century. We do not live in the first century, but the concepts and principles in the New Testament endure and will come to expression in any culture," is a profound and church-shaking reality. It is that struggle between adapting to cultural methods and staying true to preaching/teaching AND experiencing as a body those concepts and principles, that is our dire need in SBC life IMHO.

I'm going to address church life as I've come to see it in scripture immediately. It will not be in total alignment with any group, including Jon Zens group. He will be the first to see the legitimacy of that. It certainly isn't in agreement with much of Southern Baptist Church life. But that's the beauty of being a baptist. I can disagree, grow, change, and fulfil the heart of baptist life in staying true to my understanding of the text of scripture.

What I share [I need to say this] does not reflect what Wade Burleson, our son and the center of much Southern Baptist controversy today, believes. He has taught me as much as I have taught him, but he speaks for himself [and extremely well I might add] and I do not speak for him. If anyone were to assign to Wade anything I say about my own theological journey and belief system, it would be unfair to him and unchristian of them. It's, of course, not like all that many will read what I say, but you never know. :)

I told you this would be a personal word and I've fulfilled that warning haven't I. It's good to be back and, with some time off now, I hope to put my thoughts into print. My first will be my reflections on the first point of the article by Jon Zens. I've had a partial draft waiting for weeks and it is on that subject. I couldn't get it finished for today but needed to say this anyway. Bless you and thanks for being friends.

Paul Burleson

10 comments: said...

Without having read what you are about to post, but knowing your character, your belief in the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, and your desire to keep the main thing the main thing in Southern Baptist life, I will go on record with the following . . .

"Whatever your read that Paul Burleson writes cannot be assigned as my personal beliefs.

It's not that I disagree with him, but rather, I do not have the experience, insight and abilities, and Biblical knowledge that he possesses.

Give me time. Once I think through what he has written, I will predict that I will be in agreement with him 100%. Then you may freely assign to me his beliefs.

Until then, I would encourage you to study what he writes for yourself. We may all learn something."


How's that?


Paul Burleson said...

Exactly as I e-mailed you. Well done. :)


Bob Cleveland said...

**sniff... sniff**

(where IS that box of kleenex...)

Paul Burleson said...


We may turn this dog and pony show into a soap opera next. Tears will flow daily then. ;)


Anonymous said...

Glad to be considered within the group of friends you are writing! If our task is to "make disciples of the nations" then we MUST relook at the way we do church. One of the reasons the IMB New Directions was initiated worldwide is the somber realization that if we continued to operate the way we were, we would never come close to finishing the task given to us by our Lord. What holds true for the rest of the world, certainly applies to the USA as well. A critical view of how we do church is at the center of the Great Commission. As long as we continue to hold on to the familiar way we do church, and NOT seriously reexamine the NT to see how far we have gotten away from early church practice, we will never do what Christ commanded. Yes, I tend to be one of those "radicals" out there who not only really believe this stuff, but try to put it into practice! :-)

Looking forward to hearing more from you on this subject.

Wayne Smith said...


thanks and looking forward to your posts. I get an error trying to visit the web site you gave.

In His Name

Wayne Smith

Paul Burleson said...


I don't know a lot about this computer stuff, but, I called Jon Zens and he said that is the correct web address, I'm not sure what the problem is, so I'll continue to check it out.

I have it as a favorite on my desktop so I just click there. I wish I knew the technique involved in entering it in my post so you could click on it that way, but I've not mastered that yet. Sorry.


Bob Cleveland said...

Wayne: Sometimes I cut & paste a web address and get an error message if I also included the period at the end of the sentence that I cut it from. I just tried the address shown and it worked.

Or it could be they've put in an age limit, I don't know....

Bob Cleveland said...


Silly me, I forgot my comment.

I'm eagerly awaiting what you have to say. We've lived on conclusions and comments from our forefathers for so long that we may be influenced by what someone said someone said someone said someone said. I'm always thrilled by fresh, knowledgeable looks.

Wayne Smith said...


I used Google and all is well. Thanks and I have lots of reading to do.

In His Name

Wayne Smith