Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rick Lance on Elder Rule, the Emergent Church, and Significant Theological Issues

The issue of elder rule has been controversial in many churches. What is your perspective on ruling elders as an expression of Baptist church polity and ecclesiology?

I subscribe to the offices of the church as stated in our Baptist Faith and Message. I am a traditionalist in the truest sense of the word. I believe in the ministries of deacon and pastor for the local church. Yet, I do believe the local church has the autonomous right to use other forms of church polity. Again, if a pastor intends on leading a church in a different way from the current practice the church utilizes, then he needs to be candid with the leadership before becoming pastor. For some churches non-traditional practices in polity are used and celebrated, and for that I can be grateful. However, I am fond of the traditional pastor and deacon led church which affords congregational affirmation in decisions and direction of the fellowship.

What is your perspective on the emergent church movement?

The term Emergent Church Movement has appeared on my radar screen in recent years, and I have sought to better understand it. I must say the term itself bothers me somewhat, but I know that there is not a perfect description which can be utilized to define and describe any movement. Based on my admittedly scant reading concerning this trend, I must say that I am concerned that there are theological deficiencies which are being presented by some who raise this banner before the evangelical world. Time will tell whether the movement is a healthy one, but at present I remain an interested and concerned observer.

What would you say is the most significant theological issue confronting Southern Baptists in this generation?

My evangelical roots and revivalist or Sandy Creek background would compel me to underscore the doctrine of evangelism as being the big issue of all generations. I guess I do theology in a three tier fashion. There are core beliefs which have to be defined which represent the first tier. The deity of Christ, the authority of Scripture and the necessity of salvation through Christ are three such beliefs. The second and third beliefs are to be debated and discussed but total uniformity will most likely never be realized. The doctrine of evangelism must be taught and personified in every generation or we will not be a Great Commission people. It must be a first tier belief for Southern Baptists in every generation or we cease being the people of God. I sense an apathetic attitude among even the strongest of believers today and this truly grieves me. I am a John 3:16 Christian who also affirms the truth of 1 John 3:16. I appeal to all evangelicals, especially Southern Baptists to be on mission with the Great Commission.


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