Thursday, May 29, 2008


I'm posting this for two reasons. One is the Southern Baptist Convention is coming up in a week or so and is, in my opinion, in dire need of messengers who must have the "courage of convictions" if things are ever to change in Southern Baptist life. This IS my prayer for the gathered messengers in Indianapolis.

A second reason for posting it now is because, having written this the day of Wade's resignation from the IMB and, for whatever reason, not publishing it then, and having come across it today, I believe it is a picture of living by principles or convictions that is needed by all of us, and I choose to publish it today to say "thanks" to Wade and to illustrate the title of this post.

I'm fully aware that some may question my objectivity in what I write. [Some (one) will be embarassed by it.] So be it. I will rest in the fact that in THAT day ALL true motives and purposes, yours AND mine, will be brought to light by the ONE who knows every person's heart. Until then I will continue to say what I believe to be true and pray for what I think is needed in baptist life. Having been duly warned, read now that forgotten post.


I thought of writing this to you privately as I normally do, but decided to do it publically after reading some of the comments on the post about your resignation from the BOT of the IMB..

Courage of convictions is so lacking among leaders in our nation [including religious leaders] that many will never understand the decisions you've made now or in the past. Detractors will see this-- [resignation from the IMB]-- as a victory for their side or a lack of character on your part. To me, this simply shows they neither understand character nor the issues adequately. [But that is another issue in itself.]

Friends will perhaps see this with some relief that you won't have to continue to face the pressure that has been on your person, family, or church any longer and rejoice over that fact. Or some of those friends may see it as a setback for what is right and needed and may, feeling anger, even wonder if you have capitulated to pressure.

But people who REALLY know you, and know you well, realize that it is the same guiding principle of conscience and openness to counsel that you've excercised from the outset in dealing with the attempt to use an SBC organization to hamstring, if not remove, a duly elected leader in Southern Baptist life, that you discovered when you were first elected to the IMB/BOT.

You have faced honestly, fought for personally, and explained carefully what the issues really are. That has been a troublesome and costly journey for you at a price you've been willing to pay.

Now you face the cost of another decision based on principle. The greater problem of BECOMING the issue has awakened you to the need for this action of resigning. You have chosen this course of action carefully and prayerfully. I know this to be true.

Some will not understand. But you have NEVER wanted to become the issue. You've never allowed anyone else to become the issue and when you did feel that slipping you quickly corrected it. You're now being consistent.

Someone has said "to stop short of a calling...because of fear or because of pain... is a lack of character." You've never stopped short of your calling. Someone else has said "to go beyond a calling...because of an agenda or because of a pride." You've chosen to not go beyond your calling.

For you it is, again, based on principle and is for the good of people, and will not be understood or accepted by all as the right thing to do. But, praise God, you have been and are still being true to your calling.

You said..."I deem it better to be censured by men than to be condemned by conscience." That says it all no matter the subject being addressed.


May God grant to us all a baptism of the courage of our convictions.

Paul B.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Below is a letter published as an open letter to Southern Baptists in the Biblical Recorder of North Carolina. I'm using this without permission because of that fact and the freedom to print the article given at the bottom of the page. Rodney Hammer and family are career missionaries with the SBC IMB and were written about by Wade Burleson here..

I read in a comment where this could be viewed as being similiar to a four star General resigning because of differences with the Joint-Chief-of-Staff or the President. Whether that is so or not.. I believe it is revealing something that is systemically wrong with our Convention at present. Let me know what you think.

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

My name is Rodney Hammer, and I have the privilege of being an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention. My wife and I have shared the gospel in three of the eleven regions of the IMB over our almost 18 years of overseas service, the last 10 years being in regional leadership positions. I most recently was privileged to serve the IMB and the superb missionaries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as regional leader.

I love working with the missionaries and people of CEE, but I resigned as regional leader in order to share my convictions about IMB missionary candidate policies. I am expected as a regional leader to accept, own, and support the policies of the IMB Trustees. I can do so no longer.

I am in fundamental disagreement with the current IMB missionary candidate policies concerning baptism and private prayer language, and the unnecessary, extra-biblical narrowing of parameters for Southern Baptist cooperation in the Great Commission they represent. While I have other serious concerns, I believe the missionary candidate policies are most in need of redress and illustrate most significantly why change is needed.

Why should you care?

The IMB is its people. The missionaries and Board personnel are the IMB and what makes it great in so many ways. IMB personnel deserve not only continued prayer and financial support, but also a Kingdom-oriented, transparent, accountable, BF&M-aligned trustee board and missionary candidate policies and guidelines that do not exceed the only consensus doctrinal parameters of the SBC nor move us from sounder biblical moorings. Even more importantly, the unreached people groups, the unevangelized of the world's cities, and the lost without Christ everywhere compel us to biblically maximize our efforts and missionary force, not restrict it unnecessarily.

What's wrong with the policies?

The current "guideline" (a de facto policy) for IMB missionary candidates regarding baptism puts the emphasis on the faith/beliefs of the baptizer, rather than the one being baptized. This seems to be a shift away from biblical teaching and Baptist tradition.
BF&M 2000 article on baptism

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."
Romans 6:3-5 - "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and the Holy Scriptures put the emphasis on the work of Christ, and the faith and testimony of the believer being baptized into Christ, not the particularities of the beliefs of the Christian administrator of the baptism.

The new missionary candidate policy regarding baptism goes beyond the above consensus doctrinal parameters of the SBC, and scripture, adding extra-biblical stipulations concerning the church and administrator of the baptism. It also puts the IMB in the place of the autonomous, local Southern Baptist church in determining the validity of a candidate's baptism ... and worse than that insists to some that they re-baptize the missionary candidate. Organizational compliance is not a biblical reason for baptism or rebaptism. A Southern Baptist church member whose baptism by immersion, after regeneration, in obedience to Christ and as a testimony to their faith in Christ was accepted by a Southern Baptist church should be acceptable for service in a Southern Baptist entity or agency.

Private prayer language

In regards to the "guideline about private prayer language" (another de facto policy), three things should be noted.

Much of the discussion and rationale given for needing such a policy forbidding missionary candidates from having a private prayer language was that there were widespread problems regarding this among our missionaries on the field. Regional leaders demonstrated that was not and is not the case.

Many biblically conservative Baptist scholars disagree on the hermeneutic that was used to support disqualifying candidates who pray privately in a prayer language.

Our trustees were assured that the vast overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists could not and did not support the concept of private prayer language. This contention was proven false in a survey by LifeWay research last year.

I will forgo revisiting the ample cessationist and continualist viewpoints on spiritual gifts. I will simply say this ... in our IMB Manual for Field Personnel we have a robust, sufficient policy against the advocating of any particular spiritual gift as normative for all believers, or the public use and causing of division by such advocacy or practice. This policy is enforced whenever necessary, although that is rare. It has been an adequate protection against inappropriate behavior or teaching.

What we are talking about now is the forbidding of a private prayer language. Private. Prayer. We have no business going into anyone's private prayer closet who calls Jesus their Lord and Savior, nor forbidding otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from service through the IMB because they may pray differently in private than you or I may, nor judging any current or potential IMB policy-abiding missionary to privately utilize under the Lordship of Christ a gift they believe is bestowed upon them by the Holy Spirit. There was and are no field realities requiring or necessitating such a move.

Upon the outcry in opposition to these policies from many Southern Baptists, IMB trustees made minor, cosmetic semantic changes and made both "guidelines." However, they are applied as de facto policies comprehensively.

We've been led down a Landmarkist ecclesiological path by some influential IMB trustees. They used unfounded rationales to justify missionary candidate de facto policies that overly restrict and disqualify many good, conservative, God-called and otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from missionary service through the IMB.

Who is being disqualified?

Dozens and even hundreds of Southern Baptists for short and long-term service through the IMB, including some current students of our SBC seminaries, who:

are God-called to cross-cultural missionary service.

are members of an SBC church for at least 3 years.

are conservative Christians baptized by immersion after conversion as a testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ.

affirm the BF&M.

meet the qualifications for service OTHER than the new, overly narrow restrictions.

are willing to abide by IMB policy and parameters.

are willing to sacrificially go to the ends of the earth.

How do I know these things to be true?

I have attended multiple IMB board of trustee (BOT) meetings per year now for the last 8 years. I am personally well acquainted with the methods, policies, and practices of our collective board of trustees, its leadership, and their impact on our work on the field, our support within the Convention, and upon candidates for missionary service.

It brings me no joy, and no personal gain, to express these concerns and appeal for change. I have no illusions of any real or perceived personal influence within the SBC. However, I firmly believe that God would have me express these concerns further, and to advocate for those who can no longer serve through the IMB due to these policies. I will trust God to do with it what He desires.

Regarding the policies, I sought to dialogue and express my concerns along the way. I waited, prayed, sought counsel, and asked for wisdom and peace from the Lord to move on when they were enacted two and a half years ago. While I sought to address the overseas committee and entire trustee board unsuccessfully, I did internally discuss with staff, my regional committee and some trustees for almost one year. After those efforts I made one public appeal for reconsideration of the rationale given and the policies that were enacted. I was formally reprimanded. I accepted that and submitted myself again to senior leadership and to the policies and direction of the board.

The IMB BOT received much concerned feedback and decided to review the policies on baptism and private prayer language. Again I waited, prayed, sought counsel from scripture and others, dialogued with some trustees and asked for wisdom and peace from the Lord to move on. I repeatedly requested the opportunity for myself and other regional leaders to give our perspective and field input into the review process. It was finally granted after many months. But then our field leadership input that the policies hurt our legitimate candidate pool, the work and morale of many missionaries on the field, and the lack of any field realities requiring such policies was summarily dismissed.

I have sought to pray, understand, yield, reconsider, search the scriptures, and dialogue with senior IMB leadership and trustees about these concerns and policies over the last two and a half years now. I have submitted to them. I have watched as the supposedly softened "guidelines" are implemented as de facto, hard policy and many a good missionary candidate is turned away. I know of some personally, I hear of many others. I am expected as a regional leader to accept, own, and support the policies of the IMB trustees. I can do so no longer.

I had to resign my position as regional leader because of my biblical convictions and leadership from the Lord to dissent further and to advocate for those Southern Baptists who cannot serve through the IMB now, and have no voice.

I believe part of the reason for the decline in the SBC is the unnecessary narrowing of parameters for Great Commission cooperation. I know for sure it is keeping us from getting many additional Southern Baptist missionaries, turning off a younger generation of future missionaries and leaders, and harming the confidence of some IMB missionaries in their stateside supporters and trustees.

I simply want to appeal to our IMB trustees and Southern Baptists to return to a sufficiently conservative, yet broader consensus and parameters reflected in the BF&M 2000 for missionary service through the IMB. I am asking that all born again, bible-believing, BF&M affirming, otherwise qualified Southern Baptists who are called to overseas missions and desire to serve through the IMB be allowed to do so ... for the glory of God, the betterment of the SBC, and the sake of making disciples among all nations.

Respectfully submitted,

Rodney L. Hammer, regional leader

Central and Eastern Europe, IMB-SBC

P.S. Let me state unequivocally that I love our IMB trustees in the Lord. I appreciate their voluntary service. I recognize that they love the Lord Jesus Christ and wish to see Him glorified among the nations as well. I appreciate that they have put up with my own faults as well. There are many who serve with no agenda other than faithfully supporting Southern Baptists' obedience to the Great Commission, and to send and support God-called Southern Baptist missionaries. Some have worked behind the scenes to resist the implementation of these policies and opposed these practices. A few have dared to publicly dissent until such was also voted out of order. I appreciate them greatly. I also love and appreciate those with whom I disagree.

[From me..Paul..what do you think?]

Paul B.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


The answer to the question raised in the title to this post is one being debated widely in the blog world. Whether the answer one gives is "yes" or "no" I read one of the better statements about our condition by a young SBC pastor in Middletown Delaware named David Phillips. Rather than clog the blogosphere with more words of my own, I decided to post his words and do so with his permission. Let me know what you think in the comment section if you wish. Thanks David.

"The Southern Baptist Convention appears to be in decline. I say appears because the “Bagdad Bob’s” of the SBC are poo-pooing recent membership numbers that demonstrate this is a stark reality. There has been a firestorm over this release, especially in the commentary provided by the head of Lifeway Research, Ed Stetzer. People at all levels of the convention leadership are exhibiting different reactions. Some are upset, while others are acknowledging reality, and still others are wondering why it took so long to get published.

Being a Southern Baptist, and pastoring a Southern Baptist Church in Delaware, I felt I needed to weigh in on this issue. I, in general, do not blog about SBC issues, but this is as much a missiological issue as it is a SBC issue. It should wake up not only the American church, but the SBC about the state of the church in this country.

I want to first address the importance of this decline in the SBC. For years, we have been told that the reason other denominations were in decline was the move toward liberal theology. I guess we were wrong, because it appears theology was not the factor. With the reality that the SBC likely has tipped and is on its way down, this is very disconcerting for many. This is especially distressing for the oligarchy leadership who think they own the SBC. The move toward conservative theology has produced the lowest evangelism rates and the tapering off of membership since before the takeover began. I am conservative in theology; however conservative theology alone does not move one toward evangelism. Thus the conservative resurgence did not lead to a Great Commission resurgence convention-wide.

Second, it demonstrates a fallacy within the Southern Baptist Convention. For some reason, we thought we were the last and only hope for America. We raised our voices with a triumphalism and arrogance that said, “Look at us! We know how to reach people.” We do not believe that we need to work with anyone else; we have it all figured out. Now we have to begin to eat crow. Rumor has it that a good beer or glass of wine makes it go down easier.

I also want to note what did not cause this decline.

1. We did not decline because churches are cleaning up their membership roles. A few may have jettisoned members they could not find in the past 15 years, but to say that enough of them did that to cause a decline in membership overall is silly.

2. We did not decline because we lost our Baptist identity. Some are raising this issue, namely that our great time of growth happened during a period when Landmarkism was a movement in parts of the SBC, though it was rejected in the early 1900’s. This teaching, which borders on heresy because it denies the use of the Old Testament and the New Testament teaching of the universal church, has arisen again. There is a neo-landmark resurgence in the SBC today with leaders like John Floyd and past and current IMB trustees as well as entities like Southwestern Seminary (Let us not forget that SWBTS is providing theological education for a Landmark Baptist College in Texas). The growth of the SBC and Landmarkism is neither correlation nor causation. It is more like chance or coincidence.

3. We did not decline due to statistical error or manipulation. These are numbers from the reporting tool Southern Baptist’s use. This was not a poll.

Here is why I think the Southern Baptist Convention is in decline. It is not exhaustive, just random thoughts from someone who interacts daily with people inside and outside the SBC.

1. We are not ordering our work around the mission of God. We are ordering everything around our identity. Southern Baptist have historically organized around the mission of God. Now those want to play in the game have to organize around a neo-landmark view of baptist identity according to some. Instead of jumping into the work of the kingdom there is fighting over what a Southern Baptist is. Again. Most pastors, especially young pastors, abhor this rhetoric and just want to see God’s kingdom built. As such, they are aligning themselves more with people outside the convention than within. Many are leading their churches away from the SBC. Many SBC trained pastors are starting churches not aligned with the SBC because of this.
And I’ve said many times in many places. Alan Hirsch has noted that when a denomination looses its missional focus, there has never been one to regain it. We have lost our missional focus. We lost it years ago. Apart from the sovereignty of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit in revival, we will continue this decline.

2. We have not acknowledged the post-christian, post-christendom culture that is the United States. For some reason we still assume that Christianity is the dominant worldview in the country. We preach as if it is, we share our faith as if it is, we run programs as if it is. But it is not the dominant worldview in the country. In fact, it is becoming more and more irrelevant because the church has become more and more irrelevant.

3. We do not understand the Gospel and do not know how to share it. The typical SBC’er only knows that the Gospel gets you into heaven and keeps you out of hell. If they share their faith, it comes through theologically questionable and simplistic presentations like FAITH. But the Gospel is so much more than that. The Gospel is about transforming every aspect of a person and culture. It brings wholeness, healing, and peace, and begins the journey back to the Garden, where man was in perfect relationship with God. It transforms cultures socially, politically, economically, and relationally. It is not just about getting out of hell.

4. We do not know how to provide community outside the church building walls. Recent research by our denomination also indicates that unchurched people don’t want to come to church. Southern Baptist do not know how to create third spaces, places to interact with unchurched or dechurched that are not in a church setting. Americans are some of the most lonely people in the world and are looking for good relationships. But we only want to create “Christian Alternatives” instead of good, family friendly, have-nothing-to-do-with-church-stuff places where people can connect relationally. We have not trained our people to do anything but invite people to church. This is something Jesus did that we do not know how to do.

5. We refuse to contextualize. The mosaic that is our culture requires us to communicate in different ways to different people. Southern Baptist do not do this, or in some cases find it biblically reprehensible to do this. The problem is that every part of our reality is constructed based on context, culture, experience, and sensory information. We either don’t believe that or we choose to ignore it. We must start where people are and move to the Gospel, not start with our view of the Gospel and force people to understand it on our terms.

6. We are running out our most creative and missional people. They are being rejected based on methodology. They are being nit-picked to death. They do not fall in lock step with the SBC oligarchy. They want to reach the world for Christ and they have the energy and creativity to do so and they are rejected. So why even bother? I know were it not for our local association and state convention, we would not be Southern Baptist anymore. Our people don’t care; in fact, the reality is that if most of them knew we were SBC before they got to the membership class, they would not have joined.

All of the above are things that can be changed.

But what really is needed in our convention is repentance. It is time for those with blood on their hands from the conservative resurgence to “man up” and confess the ungodliness, slander, and vilification they participated in. They need to repent and resign their positions. I agree that we must be true to the scriptures, but the labeling of conservative people as liberal was a sin. It is time to be confessed. Our denomination will go as its leadership goes, and until the leadership openly confess their sin as it relates to the conservative resurgence, our denomination will continue to decline.

It is time for the churches in our denomination to shut down programs and fall on their face in prayer, confession, and repentance, and to cry out for the salvation of those we know who are not Christ followers.

It is time to organize around the mission of God, not the mission of the SBC.

It is time for the SBC to begin acting like humble missionaries, not triumphalist culture warriors.

It is time for the SBC to put the Holy Spirit back into His proper place as the third person of the Trinity, and get the Bible out of that spot.

The last and only hope for America is not the SBC. It is the Holy Spirit sweeping through the hearts of people. Can Southern Baptists be part of that? Yes, if we are willing to do it God’s way, not ours.

Written by David Phillips

Again, thanks David and well said in my opinion. If any of you would like to read other things David has to say go here....

Paul B.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Mary and I will be celebrating 49 years of marriage the 28th of this month. I was eighteen and had just finished my first year at Oklahoma Baptist University and she was seventeen and had just graduated from Edmond Highschool. [Now Edmond Memorial] In fact, she graduated on a Tuesday night and we married two nights later on Thursday evening at First Baptist Church, Edmond Oklahoma.

I was already pastoring, having been called to my first church as pastor a year before when I was seventeen. We had three children in the first four years and__ after the doctor explained to us what was causing it__ the fourth wasn't born until nine years later. We had a lot to learn in more ways than one.

I've been writing about women in life and ministry and decided to show the one who is much of my inspiration for both in my own walk. She is the one who defines real christianity for me in a present day human picture. She is real, brutally honest about herself to herself and others and her own person through and through. She knows the reality of Christ as He is and reflects Him in ways she doesn't even see. She loves but is not blind, helps but knows boundaries, gives but doesn't enable and is, as I said, my personal inspiration for much of life itself. I live better because I know and love her.

I'm writing this now for a couple of reasons. One is I want to. Another is I'm not ready with my next post. But the real reason is I want you to know the one who is the example for everything good I ever say about women in life and ministry.

Paul B.


I thought it might be good to show you the way our 13 grandkids see us.