Posts Tagged ‘SBC’

   Most people that know me, KNOW me. I’m not shy about sharing my past and who I’ve been. Although, it’s hard to squeeze 36 years into a few casual conversations. So, for the first time I’m going to attempt to come clean for any and all who may care. We all have stories… this one’s mine.

  My life began and there was confusion… immediately. To this very day I have no idea who my real father is/was or how many siblings I have/had. The story is ever-changing. But once upon a time, there was me…

   I was born in Mtn. View, Missouri to a mother who had intended to have a daughter. Strike one.Five months later my older brother died tragically in a house fire began by lightning. Immediately I became the second rate replacement child, Strike two. I spent most of my young life being raised my my grandparents and my aunt and uncle because my mom couldn’t cope. At age eight, the sister I was supposed to be was born. My services were no longer required. Strike three. I’m out!

   Though my childhood was far from ideal, the Lord graciously equipped me to be a loner… and I was. My dad (not birth father) was a truck driver and would be gone for a week or more at a time. During that time, I could walk to my friend’s house a mile and a half away and stay there for a  couple of days without ever really being noticed. Although from time to time I would be almost indifferently asked, “Where were you?”

   Somehow during this time, I managed to attend church almost every week. Sometimes it was the Assemblies of God church that my aunt and uncle attended (or that he preached at for a time), but most often it was the little white Southern Baptist church near the train tracks. In either case, I genuinely enjoyed it.

   By age thirteen I found myself convicted under the preaching of the first Reformed pastor I ever know, Brother Larry. In true Baptist fashion I walked the aisle after feeling my knees kicked-out from under me and knelt at the alter. Immediately I felt the loving arm of my grandma around my shoulder, holding me, praying, and crying. It was all very surreal.

   Not long afterward we made the convoy-like trip down to the stream for me to be baptized. The event began with a potluck and one of my clearest memories thereafter was sitting in the backseat of my friend’s parents’ car and reading wrestling magazines on the way to our destination. All said it was a pretty good day.

   Two years later my parents, or most likely, my mother had a falling-out with one of the families in the church and we moved to the Christian church down the road. While there I was an active member of the youth group, but like the rest of them I was a teenager attempting to find myself. I cannot even begin to guess how many teen conferences and such would end with members of the youth group confessing who they had sex with just before the event. On a really interesting day it was with someone else in the group! And thus were the ’90s…

   During this time, I attended church more as a social gathering than as a place for worship and spiritual growth. Though most of the blame fell firmly on me, I can’t help but think that church is due a bit. Our existence was consumed with teen conferences, lock-ins, concerts, canoeing, camping, and everything but the discipleship we all needed.

   Eventually I began doing the things I was best at. Beating people up. Petty crimes. Attempting to charm pretty girls to think I was way cooler than I was. This was my life six days a week and church happened on the the other one. Even when my name would show-up in the newspaper, no one ever said a word. Of course, nothing was ever said about the “hanky-panky” in the church van or on youth trips either… We were all relatively left to our own devices.

   At age 18 I was kicked-out of the youth group and essentially kicked-out of the house. The day after I graduated, I found a job at a local grocery store and an apartment complex with a manager that didn’t do background or credit checks… thankfully. I lived in an apartment with two other guys and a cousin that never went home. We survived on a strict diet of professional wrestling, late-night adventures, and primarily stolen groceries. Oh, the times…

   Amongst our favorite activities were polluting the Mormon (LDS) missionaries that lives adjacent to us. At final count we got six of them in enough trouble that they were sent home.

   It was also at this time that I began convincing myself that my destiny was to be a pro wrestler myself. I was 6’3″, 215lbs, and had a 335lbs bench press. By all accounts I was impressive as a grocery clerk… not so much as a wrestler.

   It was here also that I met my friend’s sister… and was annoyed to do so. Years later, we’re quite happily married. But when we met we were both seeing other people and were very, very messed-up. She was a very attractive drunk and I was a very unpleasant (and very violent) jerk. Almost twenty years later she’s very attractive and sober, and I’m still an unpleasant jerk, albeit less violent.

   We were married in and attended the same aforementioned Christian church until 2008. It was around this time that the Lord began to open our eyes to some things that we could no longer ignore. False teachings had began to creep-in and eventually it simply came time to leave.

   I had continued to do battle with myself for the first several years of our marriage in a losing cause. Every time I would think I had finally changed, I proved myself wrong. Fortunately, the Lord blessed me with a wife who didn’t give-up on me, although she had every reason to. She carried the burden of our marriage for both of us when the easy thing would have been to just give me the finger and send me packing. I’ve always been very, very good at hurting people, and sadly I know I hurt my wife far more than I’ll ever know during the early years of our marriage.

   Then came the night… In early 2011 while sitting at my drawing table late one night, the Lord drove me to my knees and quite literally crushed my spirit. Over the span of a few hours, what seemed to be every horrible, thoughtless, vile thing I had ever done came back to visit me. It was as though I could feel the pain of what I’d caused so many others, but most of all my wife and children. I stayed curled into a ball on that cold floor, sobbing uncontrollably until nearly 5am. I had believed all along that even though I did some bad things, I was still a good guy. That night I learned that I was the dregs of humanity!

   Then, at once it all stopped… A calm fell over me and I felt peace for the first time in my life. All I wanted to do was to wake-up my family and hug them, but I didn’t. I vividly remember just saying “Thank you.” and passing-out from exhaustion.

   After years of living a lie, I awoke feeling like I’d been given a second chance. Shortly afterward the Lord made clear that even though it was impossible, He wanted me to go to seminary. My wife and I sat in amazement of the reality of the acceptance letter that should have never came…

   In January of 2012, with no place to live, no money, and no sensible plans to speak of, our family set-out on faith and made the move to Kansas City and to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Shortly before we arrived I received a call saying that our apartment was ready and just that quick we went from being homeless to… home.

   God has clearly had his hand in this entire adventure as time and time again we have been taken care of when situations appeared bleak. Above all else, the Lord has shown Himself through taking a marriage that should rightly have been long-over to creating a marriage that that is rock solid!

   Today I have a wonderful home, with amazing kids, and a wife who means more to me than I can even begin to articulate, great friends, a terrific church, and a bright future in the ministry. All that I lack is the guilt and self-loathing that was taken from me that night on the floor in my drawing room. God is so good… and so very patient.

   As the Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” This is my story and it’s only begun. What’s yours?

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   I grew-up in church. A good church even. A little white Southern Baptist Church in a town of 600 people, located right next to the train tracks. I learned so much in that church. It essentially set the framework for my theology from a young age.

   Through various circumstances, the details of which I’m not entirely clear on, my family and I left that church and joined a church just up the road. It was billed simply as a Christian church, presumably of the independent variety; which as a rule, are loosely associated with either the Church of Christ or the Disciples of Christ. Either way, they maintain a more liberal theology than the SBC.

   Near the end of my almost sixteen year run with the aforementioned church, the theology of my wife and I began to charge (or perhaps evolve) and so did that of the church. As they began adopting some of the teachings of the Emergent movement of that time (specifically from Rob Bell and his Nooma video series), we began to take hold of a very Calvinistic view of Scripture. The two views clashed quite violently and we ended-up back at the SBC church I’d left years before (which coincidentally, was non-Calvinistic).

   So, what am I apologizing for, as per this post’s title? During the early days of our foray into Reformed theology, we (specifically me) fell headlong into the ditch of Calvinistic elitism. We believed that  because we had what we felt was a deeper understanding of the person of God that we were in some way superior to our Arminian brethren. I picked many, many fights and honestly, was a real jerk. Unfortunately, being a jerk seems to be the rule more than the exception amongst Reformed believers.

   So, for all the people I was a complete schmuck to, I’m sorry. To anyone I was a theological bully to, I’m sorry. To anyone who’s spiritual walk I questioned or assaulted, I’m sorry. I’ve done a lot of growing since that time. Please forgive me.

   So, where does that leave my theology?

   Oh, make no mistake, I’m still very much Reformed. Although maybe not enough to really consider myself a Calvinist anymore, at least not in the 5-point sense. I’ve just chosen to no longer make that fact the hill I die on or the standard by which I gauge someone else’s salvation. I am completely over viewing Christianity as a divided camp. We’re either in it or we’re out. Division amongst Christians does nothing but cause a weakened defense against the enemy, and we need all the fortification we can get!

   If we can agree on the essentials of the faith (which we’ll address another time), the rest will work itself out and you are my brother or sister in Christ.

   Say goodnight, Gracie.

 

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   As I mentioned in my last post, I’m just not a very good Southern Baptist. Or, more accurately, I’m not a very good Southern Baptist according to SBC tradition.

   One of what could potentially be many examples of this is my view on consuming alcohol. You know… booze, the hooch, firewater, the sauce, aqua vitae, the hard stuff. Frankly, I see no proof that the Bible condemns drinking such adult beverages.

   Sure, people have their arguments about wine in the Bible having a lower alcohol content or people diluting it with water. Sure. Maybe. Honestly I have my doubts, but that’s not the point. The fact is, I cannot find enough evidence to take the same hardline stance against alcohol consumption that the SBC historically has.

   To clarify, I am not talking about getting poo-faced or drinking until your armpits smell like gin. I’m talking about a drink after work with friends, a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer (or two) at the ballpark (although you may need to take out a loan to purchase said beers). Naturally these scenarios do not apply to lightweights that start seeing flying pink elephants and singing Cher karaoke after one PBR. We’re referring to grown-ups here.

   So what’s with the SBC’s stance then? Well, the fact is there wasn’t always such a stance. For that matter, alcohol consumption was nothing less that common amongst Christians for most of Christian history. Some of the iconic figures of alcohol innovation were indeed Christians, including clergy. So, what changed?

   In the early half of the 1800’s there was a little thing called the Temperance Movement that basically tried to rid society of booze as a whole. It was actually quite effective, at least in limiting the sale and transport of alcohol. From this came Teetotalism, which was a full abstinence from any and all alcoholic beverages. It was this mindset that infiltrated several denominations, although many soon lost their gusto for it. But not the good ol’ Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC officially denounced strong drink in 1896 (with the order to excommunicate anyone known to imbibe or sell any form of libation) and have largely held onto the stance ever since.

   What’s my angle? I really don’t have one from a personal perspective. I’ve never been much of a drinker. I’ve historically been a fan of a shot of tequila (no salt or lime, please and thank you) or whiskey here and there, but that’s about it. I suppose if I have an angle, it’s this: We in the SBC have, for far too long, used the Bible to support a stance that the Bible simply does not support, and that needs to change.

FACT: The Bible does not condemn the responsible, moderate consumption of alcohol.

FACT: The Bible does strongly condemn drunkenness. Numerous times.

   That, in my opinion should be our stance, otherwise we’re sort of just being legalistic jerk-bags who people just roll their eyes at. What about you? What do you think? Comment and let me know.

   Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.Image

 

 

  

It’s a peculiar thing, one’s theology. It’s the means by which we know and understand the God of the universe. Yet, even though He is NEVER changing, my theology seems to be EVER changing.

So, here is a short and far from exhaustive list of the things I’ve learned since the Spring semester of 2012 that have helped to mold my theology. When you hear the chime, turn the page…

  1. Though having spent the majority of my life as a Southern Baptist and currently attending a Southern Baptist seminary, I am very likely the worst Southern Baptist in the history of the convention. When referencing the term in your thesaurus, you will find my name under “antonyms”. It’s not even that I’m opposed to SBC polity and standards. I simply just stink at being Southern Baptist. Don’t even get me started on the Teetotalism thing… (look it up kids).
  2. I’ve played on both teams, but now who’s jersey do I wear? I was raised in a very Arminian church and in recent years have waved the flag of a 5-point Calvinist, but now I’m neither. Or I’m a lesser degree of both. I’m not sure. There’s a good chance I’m a Molinist… (look it up kids).
  3. Contrary to what I’ve always been taught, I don’t believe Southern Baptists have an exclusive stake on Heavenly real estate. Though not explicitly taught it, I would now gladly stand with any member of any denomination with a right understanding of Christian essentials. These would essentially be summed-up in the 5 Solas of the Protestant Reformation… (look it up kids).
  4. It’s okay to be a little charismatic, even if John MacArthur disagrees. Within reason. Nothing too weird.
  5. The Authorized King James Bible was not handed down by angels on a golden thread to be the only reliable source of God’s communication to us. Mind you, I like the KJV. I really do. However, let it be said that any pastor preaching from a biblical translation (not paraphrase) in modern language is not necessarily apostate.
  6. Women can be deacons. It turns out it was in the Bible the whole time. Who knew? Although it should be stated that a clear understanding of the intended definition of the office of deacon should be applied here.
  7. We cannot expect the lost to come to us. We must go to them. Kinda makes sense. Why would a lost person with no interest in religion casually stroll into a church on Sunday morning apart from a potluck?
  8. Hyper-Calvinists are mean and Hyper-Arminians really know nothing about the God they serve. Let me explain here before I get stoned by the masses. Hyper-Calvinists tend to show little concern for the lost by leaving salvation firmly in the sovereignty of God. Therefore they’re mean because they never personally show the love of Christ to anyone through evangelism. On the flip-side, Hyper-Arminians don’t know the true nature of God because they view salvation as a choice man makes with God merely waiting on the sidelines hoping they choose Him (like the fat kid in P.E. who really wants to play dodge ball).
  9. I have zero interest in a doctorate. At first I thought it would be cool to be Doctor Benjamin. However, after seeing the toll it takes on these poor men and women who commit years to earning the title of “Doctor”, I think I’ll pass.
  10. The “social gospel”, which I spent years bemoaning… is actually a part of THE Gospel! Ain’t that something? It turns out that while evangelism is our number one priority, we have a direct, irrefutable command to also feed the hungry, clothe the poor, care for the destitute, and love those who we so desperately want to hate. More on that it future posts.

So, that’s it for now. There’s so much more I could include, but then what would I have to write about later?

Sleep well planet Earth.