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Innovative outreach among topics of 5th young leaders dialogue

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (BP)–“Revival never started with denominational servants, but with young, dynamic, passionate, convictional leaders,” James T. Draper Jr. said in opening the fifth in a series of dialogues with young leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Those of us who have tried to provide leadership are about to pass the mantle to you,” said Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. “Take this denomination and change it to meet the needs of your churches.”

The March 17 session drew 125-plus attendees who expressed their concerns about the present and their hopes and fears about the future of the SBC. The Atlanta-area session was held at North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville.

In addition to Draper, Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White, North American Mission Board President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord and host Pastor Frank Cox were on hand for the gathering, which began in small groups in which participants could share their various reflections. Two hours later, Draper conducted a plenary session to field comments, observations and questions.

Several younger pastors stated that their innovative ministries and worship styles need to be validated by the convention’s leadership. Todd Dionne, minister of education at Mountain View Baptist Church in Thomaston, Ga., commented, “In order to reach the people in this post-Christian culture, some of us have had to overcome the model of ministry that has been in place for so long.”

Dionne continued, “Too often we have put methods and models of ministry on an equality with Scripture. That is unfair. We need the present leadership to validate our newer, more innovative approaches to ministry as biblically sound.”

Draper responded by agreeing that convention leadership “must guard against saying, ‘If it’s innovative, it’s heresy.’”

Dionne concluded his remarks by saying, “You restored doctrinal integrity for our convention, now validate us. Our methods may be different, but our doctrines are pure.”

Tim Hunter, pastor of Horizon Fellowship in Loganville, Ga., added, “We’ve heard about the theological battles, but maybe our emphasis now needs to be on missiological battles. We need to be more concerned about building a horizontal kingdom than a vertical kingdom, by that I mean we need to be more concerned about building more churches than building big churches.”

Danny Garrett, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga., echoed the concerns of others who expressed an interest in getting larger churches to help smaller churches so that the feeling of competition could give way to a spirit of partnership.

John Morgan, pastor of Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston, Mark Corts, former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Larry Wynn, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, were cited as those who have had a mentoring ministry among younger pastors.

Scott Kindig, who serves in the Georgia convention’s student ministries, exhorted the pastors, “I haven’t met a leader who is critical of younger pastors who are doing God’s work and leading people to faith in Christ. So, if you need a mentor, I encourage you to go get one.”

Reccord commented, “When I was young I made a serious mistake by thinking that more mature believers didn’t want to be available to me. I discovered that the very opposite was true and among those who mentored me were Bill Bright, Leighton Ford and Roy Fish. If there are folks you would like to mentor you, go for it.”

In light of the conservative resurgence dating back to 1979, a number of dialogue participants said another resurgence is now needed –- a resurgence to unleash the emerging leaders so that together Southern Baptists can reach every segment of society, from the “builders” to the “mosaic” generations.

Jeff Hawkins, pastor of Belmont Baptist Church in Calhoun, Ga., noted “two things that pastors have to deal with in the church that may cause them to lose their jobs. First, there is the matter of contemporary worship, and second, there is the matter of how churches are governed. We need to inform our people about the biblical role of the pastor and the deacons.”

Draper replied, “Unfortunately, we have all too often defined the role of the pastor by [business luminaries] Peter Drucker, Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch. We need to define that role by the Bible. If you [pastors] are marked by the average statistics, half of you will be fired before you retire.”

Draper added, “This convention can’t unravel fast enough to hurt me. I will end my ministry at LifeWay in February, but I love this convention too much to sit by and not attempt to set it on a course to succeed in the future.”

Richard Mark Lee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sugar Hill, Ga., remarked, “We need to have this kind of discussion in Georgia. I am pro-SBC, but I don’t know if I ever want to be a part of the convention political process. I have a mission field to reach, and that is a fulltime responsibility. However, I think these meetings are good because they build bridges and help us get connected,”

White responded, “We will do more of this. I believe we need to be innovative. You will never hear me be critical of contemporary worship. I’m just not.”

Marty Duren, pastor of New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford, Ga., stated, “We hear the word intentional transition. That is good. We don’t want there to be a revolution in order to take over. Don’t ask the young leaders to take over unless you are willing to pass on the reins of leadership.”

Draper explained, “When I say take it, I mean receive it. When I went to college I discovered that freshmen had to wear those beanies. The sophomores hazed us. They tried to torment us, but one day we discovered that there were almost twice as many freshmen as there were sophomores. So we decided to haze the sophomores. There are more of you than there are of us now. Take the baton as good stewards of a great entrustment.”

Billy Godwin, pastor of Ephesus Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga., asked, “We didn’t shed blood to preserve this denomination; when you look at us, what concerns do you have as you contemplate passing the mantle to us?”

Draper confessed, “The years of resurgence were difficult. We lost friends. Families were split. A lot of us were attacked. Some suffered character assassination. Perhaps we have been hesitant to let go because we are afraid you may embrace something that is not scriptural. We may also fear that we will drive you to go somewhere you don’t want to go, and we fear that you will accept something other than a biblical foundation.”

Reflecting on the meeting Randy Reese, pastor of New Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Mansfield, Ga., commented, “To me, the answer to what we are facing in the convention is the anointing of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and a sweeping revival. We are in a battle. We must be doctrinally sound, but folks who don’t hold to that view, people who won’t even accept the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message are influencing us.”

Reese continued, “The 2000 BF&M is a confession, not a creed. A creed is something we can believe; a confession is something we must believe. I do believe what we have done today is a step in the right direction.”

Danny Presten, a church planter in downtown Atlanta, leading a congregation that is meeting at a Starbucks, admitted, “I have never thought much about the convention. I came to this meeting to find out what it means to be involved in the convention. I think I’d like to have a say in the convention, but I don’t know how that will take shape. I know I have a responsibility to the convention and I want to know what it is.”
Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, online at www.christianindex.org.

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