This question was asked to “me” publicly in the Biblical Recorder by Steve Davis, pastor of a really exciting NC church, Spout Springs Church, in Cameron. Here is the original question, and here is an answer (though, I must add, though I am on the task force, I am not an officially recognized spokesperson for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, hereafter “GCR.”)
I can certainly understand Steve’s question… and hate that it has to be asked. But I understand why it is, and I can answer pretty confidently “no.” I might have to go back and review what Danny Akin actually said in that message, but I am quite sure that no “acid test” regarding style has been given in the GCR task force talks about what should be considered “acceptable preaching.” And I have worn jeans to every GCR meeting except one, and that was because my wife bought me a kickin’ new pair of dress pants I wanted to show off.
Regarding preaching, Danny Akin’s (who is a close friend) concern is that preaching be biblical and Gospel-centered. That is actually a direct quote I heard Danny say this past week… And I’m certain that “biblical” and “Gospel-centered” is something we can all agree are non-negotiables for Baptist preaching. We all have opinions, perhaps strong ones, about the best way to ensure we are doing that… some may believe it ought to be “verse by verse” exposition, others maybe feel more freedom in creative packaging. I certainly have opinions on that. But style is not nearly as important as substance. And style (reasonably speaking) will not be, and should not be, a defining issue for a Great Commission Resurgence. Until someone can get me a chapter and verse citation for why preaching must be verse by verse, it will not be a defining issue for us.
If it helps, Steven Furtick, while not on the GCR, is a good friend of mine that I speak with regularly (read Steve’s original question for context on that one). And it is also worthy of note that Andy Stanley is a keynote speaker at this year’s pastor’s conference.
My own preaching style, for whatever it is worth, is a mixture of “book” studies (currently we are in a series called “Mystery & Clarity” through Ephesians) and topical series. Last year we were about 2/3 book study and 1/3 topical, and some messages were mixtures of both. John Stott said in his excellent little book A Preacher’s Portrait that a Bible teacher is a “steward” of God’s word. House stewards in Paul’s day were charged with feeding the children what the parents had bought for them. A good steward knows how to balance the children’s meals, and how to serve it to them in a way they will eat it. In the same way, we must know what our people can handle and how best to serve it to them. Thus the good pastor, I believe, is certainly committed to teaching the “whole counsel of God,” but also knows his audience and serves it to them in a way that they can get it. How to do that is the sacred charge of each pastor, and we may disagree on the best form of that, but it is not a reason for division.
And, for the record, we call the “platforms” at most of our venues “stages,” and if anyone refers to the band as the “praise team” we immediately put them under church discipline.
A Great Commission Resurgence will be built on the centrality and priority of the Gospel, not on a particular style or way of dress. (I’ll be talking more about this at our upcoming Advance the Church event this Thursday, though the audience there will not be exclusively Southern Baptist.)
And, to note, every time I’ve gone to meet with the IMB I’ve worn jeans and an untucked shirt, too. Please don’t tell my mom.