Ministry of Reconciliation and the SBC
The Ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)
By Scott Thomas, Acts 29 Director
August 25, 2009
Some lively discussion has taken place in a Southern Baptist blog regarding our ecclesiology and the giving covenant. Baptist Press (a Southern Baptist Publication) picked up many of the errors of that blog concerning cooperation between Acts 29 churches and Southern Baptist Churches. I have never written a blog that attacks another person or organization and I am not about to start now, but it seems that some clarity is needed.
We are not sure why one denominational publication is obsessed with Acts 29 and continues to publish information without checking with us. It seems odd at best, and agenda driven at worst, to publish information about what Acts 29 believes and practices without ever checking with Acts 29 leadership.
We are glad to have SBC churches in our fellowship. They give to the Cooperative Program and we are glad. They are governed as elder-led churches (rather than elder-ruled churches). And, they have expressed to me that they would like it if the misrepresentations would end and we could focus on the gospel, mission, and church planting. I am assured by Southern Baptist leaders that the attacks by those in the SBC are not representative of the larger convention. The annual Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville overwhelmingly endorsed and affirmed younger leaders, the leadership of men like Akin, Stetzer, and Greear, and that change must take place rapidly and radically to be more about the gospel.
My goal is to reconcile the relationships between Acts 29 churches and Southern Baptist churches so that we can spend our time, money and energy planting gospel-centered churches and not interacting through blogs and comments ad infinitum, ad nauseam. It felt like “death by brothers” as our Vice President, Darrin Patrick succinctly commented on Timmy Brister’s blog
Here is the timeline:
- August 18, Tim Rogers wrote a blog about the Acts 29 Covenant as it impacted the giving toward Southern Baptist initiatives. He found an old covenant tucked in our website that was outdated and took it to task. I tried to convince Mr. Rogers otherwise about his interpretation of our policies (outdated or not), but we were not able to agree on the interpretation of what “primary funding consideration” means. In a rather postmodern way, Mr. Rogers thinks that he is a better interpreter to describe the meaning of our covenant than we are.
- August 21, Robin Foster wrote a blog "Acts 29 and Southern Baptist Policy" where he argues that the previously mentioned Acts 29 covenant is not harmonious with the Baptist Faith and Mission (BF&M 2000) based on our elder governed statement. Again, in this case, a blogger believes that he can better interpret what our covenant means than we, as the Acts 29 leadership, can.
- August 21, I wrote the SBC Today leaders an email and asked for a “Cease Fire.” I said, “I do not believe we are as polarized as some of the articles suggest. We are both autonomous, evangelical, Christ-believing, salvation by faith, mission-minded, pastor-equipping, Bible-submitting, church planting organizations led by biblically-qualified pastors. We are united by the gospel and divided by preferences, styles, semantics, verbiage and tradition. For some of the SBC churches, we differ in soteriology but can still cooperate voluntarily in spiritual harmony for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom.”
- August 21, Baptist Press published Mr. Rogers’ SBC Today blog on their site.
- August 22, I received an invitation to be a guest on SBC Today Podcast. I am praying about this, but it appears to me that those involved have made their conclusions already and did not check the facts. And, then, even when they had the facts, did not want them. So, I am not seeing any benefit for the Kingdom in this.
- August 24, Timmy Brister wrote his blog that tried to point out Mr. Rogers’ alleged errors. Brister also recently wrote a blog about the Baptist Press being perceived to attack Mark Driscoll and Acts 29
Below is the current covenant that we use with our members. I will add my comments in parenthesis to explain how Acts 29 applies these things. Acts 29 church planters and their elders covenant together according to the following essentials. This covenent was introduced to our member churches in June of 2008 and implemented in June 2009.
Acts 29 church planters and their elders covenant together according to the following essentials:
- We agree that our church will meet all biblical requirements for elders, including that the church will be governed by a plurality of qualified male elders. (We believe that the local church determines how it is “governed” by its elders. Some are called elder-ruled and many others are elder-led like SBC/Acts 29 pastors JD Greear, Daniel Montgomery and others.)
- We agree with the theological beliefs of Acts 29 as a Christian, Evangelical, Missional, Reformed network. (We work with, encourage, consult, offer training, resources, systems and prayer for many church planting networks and denominations regardless of their theological position).
- We agree to be an active church planting church. This means that when we begin our public services we will give 10% of our internal tithes and offerings—not monies raised from outside the church—to church planting, 9% under local elder authority 1% to The Acts 29 Board Fund as follows: (The goal for this is to encourage our churches to set the DNA as church planting churches. Acts 29 does not have a funding mechanism like the Cooperative Program. Rather, the 10% giving reflects a commitment of Acts 29 churches to keep the priority of being a network of mission-driven, multiplying churches who dedicate a significant portion of their budget to planting more gospel-centered churches. Because Acts 29 holds to the autonomy of the local church, each church determines where and how that money is spent, whether it is to a Cooperative Program, a local church plant, or a foreign church plant. Furthermore, all funding of church plants is given directly to the church plant. Acts 29 central offices do not handle this transaction so that each church planter will be in a relationship with its donor church pastors).
- Primary funding consideration shall be given to Acts 29-approved planters. (primary funding consideration means that we ask our planters to first consider another Acts 29 church plant, but it is not required. If they want to give to the Cooperative Program, we encourage them to do so AND give to church planters.).
- 1% of your general income will be given to The Acts 29 Board Fund (This voluntary fund is a new concept to promote foreign missions training, emergency relief, pastoral couples' retreats and is administered by the board—you will not see that on the old covenant that some bloggers found).
- However, denominational and network-affiliated plants must honor their agreements with other affiliations and we will arrange the terms on a case by case basis. (For those who hold to a dual affiliation like PCA or SBC or others, their primary funding consideration should be to their sponsoring organization).
- Furthermore, each plant must also honor any agreement with a funding Acts 29 church. (With existing Acts 29 churches, other agreements can be made in exchange for their support, although I am not aware of any said agreement).
- We acknowledge that it is the spirit and not the letter of this principle which is most important, and are willing to extend grace as needed to churches that are financially struggling. (Acts 29 does not check on where and how much an Acts 29 church gives and no report is required. We want our churches to be multiplying and generous churches but understand that special circumstances affect a church’s ability to fulfill the covenant. We are seeking gospel health with our churches and not cash dispersements).
- If a church plant leaves Acts 29 either of their own choice or for disciplinary reasons they are expected to repay their Acts 29 funding donor(s). (This is written to hold those who receive funding from Acts 29 churches accountable for their financial help).
- If a church plant dissolves whether or not they repay their funding is determined by their covenant with their sponsoring church. (This is also included to hold those who receive funding from Acts 29 churches accountable for their financial help).
It seems that the gospel will best be imaged as we humbly seek to voluntarily cooperate together for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom and for God’s glory.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
I want to thank Scott Gordon for his humble and thoughtful SBC Today blog written to thank Mark Driscoll for his ministry. This was received as a gesture to recognize God’s grace in other’s ministries—even if we disagree.