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CLC can be prophet, priest for convention, Dockery says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention needs the Christian Life Commission to serve as prophet and priest in the midst of a chaotic culture shaped by the influences of “secularization, pluralization and privatization,” Union University President David Dockery said March 3 at the CLC’s 1997 seminar.

The role of the SBC’s ethics and religious liberty agency remains an important one for the convention and its institutions, as well as the evangelical Christian community, the president of the Jackson, Tenn., Baptist college said at the CLC seminar, held this year at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

“The SBC needs you to guide us through the challenging issues that arise within our contemporary, corrupt culture,” Dockery said of the CLC. “The evangelical world needs your prophetic voice to remain constant and faithful during a time of growing tolerance and laxness among professing Christians and churchgoing people.

“The SBC needs the CLC to be a prophetic voice as we enter a new century. Beyond that, we need you to be a priestly ear and responsive heart to help us hear and interpret and understand the modern, even postmodern, world in which we live.”

The church has lost much of its influence in a society marked increasingly by relativism and pagan spiritualism, he said.

The culture instead, Dockery said, has been shaped by:

–Secularization, “the concept of life without the intervening guidance of a divine being.”

–Pluralization, “which says that all values are of equal validity, which says in effect that no convictions about values have any validity.”

–Privatization, the separation of the public and private spheres, which means a person’s faith often has no impact on such areas as business, politics and marriage.

Dockery compared today’s church to the Thyatira believers to whom one of the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 was written.

“While the church (at Thyatira) had many noble qualities, it failed because of its tolerance of theological and ethical error,” he said. “It was commended for spiritual service, faith and patience, but it was rebuked for lax discipline and its tolerance of evil manifested in cultic practices of the corrupt prophetess Jezebel.”

The basic message of one verse in the letter “is that more activity is not necessarily a more effective ministry unless it is impacting the lives of people where they live in their contemporary world,” Dockery said. The SBC often is like the church at Thyatira, he said.

“We too have more ministries, more age-group strategies, more conferences, more concerts, more books, more activities, more meetings, more committees, bigger offerings, bigger budgets and nicer buildings,” Dockery said. “We have more, all of which are good and commendable, but the question is more significant than mere size or the quantity of activities. The question for us is effectiveness. Are we penetrating our culture? Are we so entangled with it and infatuated by it that we cannot impact it?”

The CLC has an opportunity to assist both SBC institutions and churches in meeting the challenge of reaching the culture, he said.

“Some SBC institutions may have lost touch with the churches,” Dockery said. “Some approaches to Christian education, with its overspecialization, border on irrelevancy. The CLC … can be an indispensable link to bring the academy and churches together again as co?laborers for the cause of Christ.”