Andrew Peterson in Cookeville on September 6!

I can’t tell you how excited I am that one of my favorite singer/songwriter/authors is going to be back in Cookeville soon! Many readers will remember him from his performance of the Behold the Lamb of God concert at Stevens Street Baptist Church. Many others may be familiar with his work in writing the books of The Wingfeather Saga (see my reviews of the first three books in this series here, here, and here), which are apparently reckoned by some to be “children’s” books, but they are among my recent favorites.

On Friday, September 6, as part of the Humanitas Forum on Christianity and Culture, Peterson will be speaking at Tennessee Tech with a talk entitled, “The Story of Us All: Telling On Ourselves, Telling About Ourselves”. I’m fairly certain this man doesn’t know how to be uninteresting, so I hope you’ll join us! Here’s a portion of the press-release for the evening:

Storytelling and songwriting are autobiography. In fact, every created thing bears the image, in some way, of its creator. Many of us shy away from sharing our own stories because we believe they aren’t interesting or relevant when in fact our stories may be one of the most significant things we have to offer to our communities.

From Rich Mullins to Frederick Buechner to J.R.R. Tolkien, Andrew will explore the ways in which honest storytelling has shaped his understanding of the Gospel. In this talk, we’ll get a chance to hear Andrew unpack the commitment that guides his craft as a musician and a writer:  “To tell the truth, and to tell it as beautifully as possible.”

You can get the rest of the details of this talk from the Humanitas blog. And if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook I’ll make sure you don’t miss it, as I’ll be promoting this event quite a bit over the next couple weeks!

Friday, September 6, 2013 — 7:00 p.m.
School of Nursing and Health Science Building Auditorium
On the campus of Tennessee Tech
Cookeville, Tennessee
Doors open at 6:30

The 12 Days of Minor Prophecy

12 Minor Prophets

And now for something completely different…

Tonight was somewhat… unprecedented at Stevens Street Baptist Church. In an effort to help our congregation remember something of all twelve books covered in tonight’s survey of the minor prophets, our pastor, Sam Rainer, decided to add some Christmas cheer to the end of the service. So, seeing as everyone’s full of Christmas spirit, he thought, why not combine the 12 Minor Prophets with the 12 Days of Christmas? The following videos are the result. (And for those who may be horrified at what you’re about to see, rest assured that this act of levity followed 40 minutes or so of solid teaching, in a message that will be posted here tomorrow.)

In the first video, Pastor Sam explains how he came up with each of the lines for the song, and why the books are out of order:

  • In the first minor prophet the Lord said to me: A prostitute from a weird family (Hosea)
  • In the second minor prophet the Lord said to me: Two years to shaking (Amos)
  • In the third minor prophet the Lord said to me: Three fishy days (Jonah)
  • In the fourth minor prophet the Lord said to me: Four short sermons (Haggai)
  • In the fifth minor prophet the Lord said to me: Five woes to you! (Habakkuk)
  • In the sixth minor prophet the Lord said to me: Six days of judging (Joel)
  • In the seventh minor prophet the Lord said to me: Seven fighting shepherds (Micah)
  • In the eighth minor prophet the Lord said to me: Eight nights of visions (Zechariah)
  • In the ninth minor prophet the Lord said to me: NINE-vah is ruined! (Nahum)
  • In the tenth minor prophet the Lord said to me: Give ten percent (Malachi)
  • In the eleventh minor prophet the Lord said to me: Eleven punishing promises (Zephaniah)
  • In the twelfth minor prophet the Lord said to me: Twelve other Obadiahs (Obadiah)

And here’s the video of the song itself:

Since there are likely to have been others better situated to record videos, I’ll update this page with better footage if it becomes available. Enjoy!

P.S. — Thanks to Tracy Wehr for the photo at the top of the page!

Stevens Street Baptist Church Members on Twitter

I’ve noticed a lot more Stevens Street Baptist Church members on Twitter lately, including many of our staff. Since this is likely to be an increasingly-used method of communication in the coming months and years, I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of SSBC folks who have entered the Twittersphere. If you know of anyone I’ve missed, or if you or anyone else decide to take the plunge, leave a comment with the username and I’ll add it to the list.

Before I get to the list, here’s a link to a Twitter primer I wrote last year. If you’re considering signing up, this will give you the basics, and some recommended Twitter accounts to follow. After you’ve read that, you can move on to this list and follow away!

Stevens Street Staff

Stevens Street Ministries

Stevens Street Laypersons

(Alphabetical by last name)

Combing the Net – 7/7/2012

Kickstarting the Arts: Rob Bironas — Who says sports and music don’t go together? Titans kicker Rob Bironas is a big supporter of music education! (HT: School of Performing Arts)

The Crime of Circumcision — Michael Gerson’s editorial about the German district court which recently ruled that ritual circumcision is a crime is worth a read. (HT: Denny Burk)

The Apologetical Power of the Existence of Israel — Christianity Today recently published a four-part dialogue between John Piper and David Brickner (head of “Jews for Jesus”) about the relationship and attitudes American Christians should have toward Israel.

Our New Pastor — While it’s probably long overdue on this blog, and old news to folks around here, I do want to direct your attention to the blog of the new pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church, Sam Rainer. He’ll be joining us here in Cookeville full-time beginning on Sunday, July 29. We’re very excited to welcome him! You can also follow him on Twitter, and check out his book Essential Church: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts.

Free Music from Josh Garrels — One of my new favorite singer/songwriters (who just passed through Tennessee on his summer tour) has just launched a new website, complete with a free download of an 8-song EP. If you haven’t already, go check him out!

The FAQs: God and the “God Particle” — In case you missed it, there has been a HUGE development in the realm of particle physics this week. The folks at the Large Hadron Collider announced the possible discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson (nicknamed the “God Particle”), a subatomic particle which has been only theoretical since the 1960’s, but never observed. This website helps give you the run-down on what all this means. You can also watch this short video for a more graphic presentation of the basic idea:

Why Local Laypeople Should Care About the SBC Soteriology Debate

Though I’m writing this post specifically for the benefit of members of my own church (Stevens Street Baptist in Cookeville, TN), hopefully this will have broader appeal as well, even outside the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Debate? What debate?”

That’s probably what most people around here would say in response to the title of this article. We tend to steer clear of the various debates that go on within the Convention… like the potential name change (to “Great Commission Baptists”) proposed at last year’s SBC annual meeting, or the Great Commission Task Force debate from two years ago. For better or worse, we don’t get caught up in those conversations.

While I believe there was merit to both of those discussions, they didn’t really mean that much to the average Baptist on the street, so it didn’t matter much that we weren’t paying attention. This year, however, there’s a debate going on that really does matter to Southern Baptists everywhere. It started a few weeks ago, and will probably figure heavily in the events that will take place at this year’s SBC annual meeting, which takes place in New Orleans this week.

Here’s the debate in as close to a nutshell as I can get it:

Ever since the Southern Baptist conservative resurgence that began before my birth — but especially within the last decade — Reformed/Calvinist doctrine has been gaining influence within Southern Baptist churches. The SBC’s flagship school (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) has had a decidedly Reformed theological bent since Albert Mohler became the institution’s ninth (and current) president in 1993. Increasing numbers of young SBC pastors and lay leaders now identify as Reformed in their understanding of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation).

While there should be no reason that Reformed and non-Reformed Southern Baptists cannot fellowship and serve together in ministry, there has been growing animosity between some (on both sides), which has been thrust into the spotlight by the recent publication of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”. This document, which has been signed by quite a few prominent Southern Baptists (including five former SBC presidents and two current seminary presidents; see the list of all signers), aims to draw a distinction to Calvinist doctrine and outline a set of affirmations which they claim represent “the vast majority” of Southern Baptists.

This has sparked a lot of helpful discussion online, and nothing I could write about the document itself would add much, so at the end of this post I will simply direct you to what I have found to be the most balanced and thoughtful contributions. But what I can do is show you why I hope that many members of my church (and others like it) will get involved.

One thing that pretty much everyone who has chimed in seems to agree on is that nothing is more important than the Gospel. Amen! So while as a Reformed Baptist I disagree strongly with much of the content of the statement, I agree wholeheartedly with its authors that how we articulate the Gospel is a critically important issue. Because of this, I am thankful that this much-needed discussion is happening, and that the vast majority of the debate has been civil and charitable.

The real problem in the SBC is quite apparent at the local level, and Stevens Street is no exception: Many Southern Baptists cannot clearly articulate the Gospel. I’m not talking about the distinctions between Reformed and non-Reformed understandings of certain doctrinal points; I mean the bare-bones essentials! Whatever the causes may be, the fact is that the doctrinal literacy of the average SBC church member has become very watered down, leaving countless professing believers unable to discern between orthodoxy and heresy.

This is made painfully clear here in Cookeville by the fact that large numbers of lifelong Southern Baptists have joined churches and/or been influenced by books marked by teaching that is not just contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message, but which stretches the bounds of orthodoxy to the limit. Even larger numbers of church members continue to fill pews in Baptist churches without any real grasp on the Gospel (which does not necessarily mean that the Gospel is not being taught).

So whatever the immediate outcome of the current debate ends up being, I hope that the long-term result is increased clarity and biblical fidelity in the teaching of the Gospel in Southern Baptist churches, and increased doctrinal understanding by lay members of those churches. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about The Gospel Project, LifeWay’s new curriculum that looks EXCELLENT, and is sure to be adopted by large numbers of SBC churches (including Stevens Street).

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Corinthians 11:19). I believe that, as painful as it is to have factions within the SBC family, the result will be the advance of the Gospel.

This is a conversation worth having, and if you’re still reading, I invite you to join it. Following are links to the most pertinent articles. I welcome your comments after you’ve had a chance to read up on the debate!

Recommended Reading

  • A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation — Straight to the source.
  • The FAQ’s — The best summary of the finer points of the debate. Consider this the “Cliff’s Notes” version if you don’t have time to read anything else.
  • Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk — Al Mohler’s response has been the most influential response from a Reformed perspective. Clear, concise, and charitable, he acknowledges the legitimacy of many of the concerns of non-Reformed Baptists, but also points out the errors in their means of addressing those concerns.
  • It Is Time to Discuss the Elephant in the Room — Jerry Vines, one of the former SBC presidents to sign the document, provided a fitting counterpoint to Mohler’s article by defending the statement against Mohler’s charge of semi-Pelagianism, while affirming Mohler’s call for civil discourse about the subject.
  • Commentary and Observations from Tom Ascol — For those who really want to get into the nitty-gritty, Ascol’s ongoing response (the final part of which was published today) is very detailed and instructive. He closely examines each of the statement’s affirmations and denials and provides a thorough response.
  • So Why All the Labels? — Voddie Baucham takes a different approach to the issue, discussing why he feels terms like “Calvinist” and “Arminian” are helpful and clarifying. I agree.

Combing the Net – 6/2/2012

40 of the Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken — Lots of a great stories behind these iconic photos. Many of them I already knew, but I’m looking forward to reading Do the Birds in Hell Still Sing?, the autobiography of the man in picture #21. I didn’t know the story behind this one, but it sounds as if it will be a fascinating tale!

Pictures of Beautiful Iran — Many Americans seem to think that Iran is nothing but a vast, arid desert. In reality, it is among the most varied and beautiful places in the world! They don’t call that region the “Fertile Crescent” for nothing…

Lehman Riggs: Cookeville Hero — Here’s a newly written article (penned by our district’s Congressional Representative) about a local hero who was himself captured in some iconic photographs near the end of World War II. In the video linked in the story, you’ll see a brief appearance by our church building, where Brother Lehman still serves faithfully in his 90’s.

What Does Paul Mean By “Able to Teach”? — Thabiti Anyabwile gives 9 considerations for discerning men who are “able to teach”, which is one of Paul’s criteria for selecting elders for the church (1 Timothy 3:2). These considerations are well worth remembering this weekend as our church prepares to call a new senior pastor on Sunday.

The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage — Sadly, pornography is a huge problem among Christian men. Contrary to what many young men believe, the temptation to consume porn does not go away after marriage. Part two of this article is here.

I Can’t Wait to See This Movie — I absolutely LOVE Les Misérables! Both the musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and the book by Victor Hugo are phenomenal, and the upcoming movie adaptation looks like it may actually do the story justice. They certainly found a great cast: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe… no slouches here! Between this and The Hobbit, I may spend the entire month of December in the movie theater.

Combing the Net – 5/14/2012

What’s a Homemaker Really Worth? — As somebody married to one, that question is nearly impossible to answer… but this article is a pretty valiant effort to exalt the worthiness of homemaking! Definitely an encouraging read for stay-at-home moms, but also  one which others will enjoy as well.

SSBC Pastor Candidate Q&A — From this link you can see updates on the entire pastor search process at Stevens Street Baptist Church from the last two years, but most notably, the May 10 update includes the responses of our current candidate (who will be preaching here in view of a call on June 3) to a list of questions on theological and ecclesiological matters. Overall, I am very encouraged and excited to meet him!

Leo Tolstoy: Youth Group President? — Eric Geiger, VP of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources, draws an interesting parallel between the moralistic effort of author Leo Tolstoy and the way children’s and youth ministry work in most evangelical churches. This is a problem which LifeWay hopes to address with its upcoming new curriculum for children, students, and adults called The Gospel Project. Our church will be taking a closer look at this curriculum over the summer, but so far it looks GREAT!

A Critical Mind vs. A Critical Spirit — I try hard to cultivate the former, but frequently display the latter. This post by Trevin Wax has been a great encouragement to me today.

[Exercising loving discernment] doesn’t mean we should turn off the critical mind. It doesn’t mean we no longer test everything according to the Word. It doesn’t mean we just accept every sincere message as being helpful and positive.

It does mean that when we critique, we do so with a spirit of love. We overlook small flaws and winsomely talk to our brothers and sisters when we see big issues. We refrain from insisting on agreement for every jot and tittle of theological precision. We don’t dismiss an idea outright just because it comes from someone outside our theological camp.

The Wild Things and Us — Here’s an article from World magazine by a Christian mom and grandmother who, like me, finds much to praise about the recently deceased Maurice Sendak’s greatest work.

And now for something amazing… check out this guy who can whistle two notes at once! (Skip the first 25 seconds or so to get to the good stuff):