FBF 86th Annual Fellowship Reflections (Part 1 of 5)

FBFI 2006 Annual FellowshipThis past week, I packed my family up in our blue Plymouth Voyager minivan with a duct taped carrier [1], and drove west to “the wickedest city in the world outside of Paris.” Foder’s California 2006 inserts a tidbit for the wary tourist. “Loose, tolerant, and even licentious are words used to describe San Francisco.”

The word tolerant should be discussed and debated. Especially after Democratic assemblyman Mark Leno whined back in March over 25,000 evangelical youth in a city rally, saying they’re “loud, they’re obnoxious, they’re disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco.” So much for the tolerance touted by the liberals, reminding me of Kevin Bauder’s recent words. “Those who prattle most about tolerance have also become the most notorious for imposing draconian speech and conduct codes” (SI article, 6/3/06). Surely, Christ’s intolerance is the way, best for all. [2] The God-Man who tolerated no sin fought the wickedness of men’s hearts by laying down His life.

After a three-year study in Romans with the brethren in Idaho, I am motivated by the inclusive zeal of Paul. It is to the “loose, tolerant, and even licentious” Gentiles that the apostle felt compelled to reach with the glorious Gospel, knowing that God would create “vessels of mercy” out of the sinful lump of humanity. At the moment, I could not imagine a better place in America than Hamilton Square Baptist Church (HSBC) for hosting the 86th Annual Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (FBF) and fleshing out the theme of “A Light Shining in the Darkness.” For it is only Christ’s Gospel alone that can truly liberate any soul from a personal “Hellcatraz,” transporting the condemned heart by grace alone from the rock of despair to the Rock of Ages.

Curious, I discovered from Tim Sneeden that approximately 800,000 people reside on a 46.5-square-mile jut of land between San Francisco Bay and the frosty crests of the Pacific Ocean. To some this might be small, but for an inter-mountain farm boy like me, I excitedly anticipated the trip. I felt ready to climb all the “famed 40-plus hills ” Well, who cares if the tallest peak tops the scale at only 938 feet.

When our family found the light beige stucco walls and red roof of HSBC, I yelled to the kids, “Eureka!” Just think of the grand Gospel history in this place, going all the way back 125 years to Gustavus Shroeder. If the Lord tarries, may God grant this place another 125 years of Gospel proclamation squarely in the heart of the city.

I find it interesting, even after death, that the historical fundamentalist W.B. Riley exerted his influence all the way to San Francisco. Placing myself in the context of his day, I could see why he was reluctant to withdraw from the Northern Baptist Convention. I would be hesitant, too, in abandoning support of the faithful men remaining yet in the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society. (Clear back in 1849, the story of missionary, Dr. O.C. Wheeler, sent by the ABHMS to San Francisco, is a rousing story—worth the short read. [3]) But when Riley, declared by William Jennings Bryan as “the greatest statesman in the American pulpit,” died almost 60 years ago, American Baptist evangelicalism decided on new inclusive experimentation rather than obeying the mandate of Romans 16:17.

Yet not following the path of Billy Graham (Riley’s chosen successor for leading northwestern schools) the Wenigers–Arno Q. and G. Archer–ministered in California as Baptist militant separatists and established the San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary [4] in 1958. David Beale wrote that these men “grew up under Riley’s ministry.”

It was almost 40 years ago (1967, the notorious “summer of love” in San Francisco), the acting president, G. Archer Weniger of the Foothill Baptist Church in Castro, California, led the change of renaming the “Conservative Baptist Fellowship” to the “Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of America.” And on February 21, 1968, Arno Weniger and the HSBC withdrew from the CBA of A.[5]

In my opinion, it is quite significant when Tim Sneeden writes to me, “Pastor Innes celebrates 30 years in San Francisco as we celebrate 125 years as a church. He and Dr. Arno Weniger together make up over 50 percent of the history of pastoring HSBC. Pretty amazing, huh?” Yeah, I think so, knowing Arno was the 11th pastor of the church.

Sitting on wooden pews, resting my feet on hardwood floors, listening to beautiful organ music, enjoying the cool breezes from two stories of rectangular windows, gazing on the high vaulted ceilings, I realized that this conference in San Francisco was “one of the FBFI’s most unique annual fellowships.” I would strongly encourage you to purchase the conference recordings for full presentation. [6] But here is my synopsis of the conference sessions. And remember, I am just an FBF Idaho spud.

I have broken each of the 10 sessions into the following: 1) An introduction to the speaker, 2) brief notes of the message, and 3) my personal reflections, now days later. The article is quite lengthy (30 pages, presented in five parts) but hopefully pays respect to the months of work put into this conference. Please feel free to skim the article and locate the session that are of interest to you.

Tuesday, June 13

Session 1: Fred Moritz–Christ, the Light for a Dark World

Introduction to Moritz
Fred MoritzBorn in 1942, Fred Moritz grew up with a “strict fundamentalist” upbringing and “never reacted” to it because of his parents’ “consistent and genuine Christian lifestyle.” He later received his B.A. from Pillsbury, M.Div. from Central Seminary, and D. Min. from BJU. He is currently executive director of Baptist World Mission (www.baptistworldmission.org) [7] in Decatur, Alabama. Probably the most notable impressions he has had on me prior to this conference are his books: “Be ye holy”–The Call to Christian Separation (BJU Press, 1994) [8] and Contending for the Faith (BJU Press, 2000).[9]

Message from Moritz

Using Isaiah 8:19-9:3 as his text, Moritz proclaimed the title of his message, “From Gloom to Glory, from Darkness to Light.” His beginning reiterated the gloom realism of our day–issues on abortion, marriage, bioethics, national tyrants, terrorism, and global violence. During the 1800’s, people were optimistic and man-centered, but then came the holocaust, famine in Africa, and the slaughter under Stalin in Red China. Mankind hadn’t arrived at truth. And since they couldn’t discover truth, they concluded there was no absolute truth; hence, we have the postmodern era.

The gloom is desperate. The first chapter of Romans reveals the pattern: darkness, depravity, and then death. But the glory is weighty. There is a path from gloom to glory, from darkness to light.

But back in Isaiah’s day, the Northern Kingdom lay in dimness. Moritz outlined the spiritual darkness of Isaiah 8.

I. Gloom in the Darkness of Sin

  • The Cause–a deliberate, willful, decided rejection
  • The Corruption (v. 19)
  • The Conviction (v. 20)–that comes from the standard
  • The Curse–hungry, fretting, cursing the king whom they made god. (Moritz told the story of a possibly demon- possessed woman, screaming profanity at believers, on one of his missionary travels.)

During his preaching, I could hear SFPD sirens wailing beyond the open windows. And then Moritz burst forth with the light of Isaiah 9

II. The Glory and Light of the Savior

  • The Promise of God’s Glory
  • The Personification of God’s Glory (Matthew 4:13)

Though God “lightly afflicted [considered worthless, valueless] the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali” at first, “afterward did more grievously afflict her” (Isa. 9:1). It was here in the text that Moritz sensitively explained that the Hebrew verb (not a manuscript issue) communicated not “afflict” but “glory” or “honor.” [10] How did God show honor? “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (v. 2).
Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God’s glory. Notice all the references to the Servant Messiah in Isaiah (42:6; 49:6; 50; and 52:13 through chapter 53, etc.)

In the midst of the spiritual and moral morass, God in His grace shows His glory. It is our job to herald the Gospel in our cities. We must proclaim the light of God’s glory in the person of Christ to the ends of the world.

My Personal Reflections on Moritz’s Text

Right on Grant Avenue in the middle of Chinatown, a place of throbbing tourism, I felt like standing in the middle of the intersection and pointing people to the large letters below the church tower clock of Old Saint Mary’s. “Son, behold the time … flee from evil.” Look to the Light above the gleaming pagodas and dragon-entwined street lamps. Hail to the One full of grace.

Certainly, this text is powerful The text must be preached more By my life, I want people to see how God, instead of scrapping a worthless piece of junk like the empires of men would, salvaged me through the compassionate, redeeming work of the Light of the world. This Light not only shines, but also brilliantly re-crafts to the demonstration of His great glory.
Chuck Phelps

Session 2: Chuck Phelps–Dispelling the Darkness in Order to Bring Joy to Your City

Introduction to Phelps

What comes to my mind is that he is a ministry-management guru, pastoring Trinity Baptist Church (www.tbcnh.org) [11] in Concord, New Hampshire; and that I just saw him as a conference speaker in a brochure mailed to me by Ron Comfort’s ministry.

I confess. I sat in my chair before his session with a bit of gnawing cynicism. I was not too interested in learning how to dispel paganism by marvelous programs. A local fellowship could drive themselves into sheer exhaustion trying to compete with the city-wide LDS programs of boy scouts, primaries, teens, ladies, door-to-door visitations by the local missionaries, home-teachings, singles, canneries, Deseret Industries, bookstores, neighborhood barbecues, multimedia movies in the theaters, [12] beautiful buildings, etc.

I have an extreme distrust in believing efficient programs or sharp management methodology will shatter paganism. Sure, men can accomplish great things when “the people is one, and they have all one language” (Gen. 11:6) and a commitment to work. One in purpose, communication, and goal can build something enormous such as the tower of Babel. But God operates in a way where He alone gets the glory. Zechariah 4:6 rings loudly in my ears. In the Mormon country of the inter-mountain West, collective strength or personal abilities will not bring about the revolutionary change lasting for eternity.

I admit–and please understand my heart as being nonjudgmental–that I am more attracted to the decentralized, loose organization of Romans 16 in Rome than large local fellowships with multiple Sunday morning services. It would be house churches more like that of the dear brother Paul Janke type than a George Barna type. But inadvertently, behind my outward cloak of infidelity toward the typical church program mantra while sitting in the pew, I longed for Chuck like Nehemiah of old or Spurgeon of the last century to arouse my heart to what great tasks God desires to accomplish through a local group of believers committed to Him. The dedication of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the 1880’s is a choice example of ministry dedication engulfing a city with Sunday school outreach, an orphanage, alms houses, almost two dozen mission agencies, more than 30 different service groups, and last of all–the mighty power of a fertile pen.

Message from Phelps

Boy … was I surprised … Phelps smacked me on top of my cynical head when he told us all to turn to the text, Acts 7:59-8:8. And I deserved it, not knowing the man.

In the introduction, Phelps placed the text within the book outline he sees in Acts 1:8. Chapters 1-7 are reaching Jerusalem; chapters 7-12 deal with Samaria; and chapters 13+ describe Antioch and the beyond. It is in chapters 6-8 that Dr. Luke starts talking like a teenager with all the “megas” in his vocabulary (6:8; 7:57, 60; 8:1, 2, 8 ).

Truly, when the Mega of the megas is preached, as a result there is mega joy in the city. Do you covet such joy in your city? [13]

How do we have joy? Smiles in the streets?

1. It requires the death of a disciple (7:59-8:3).
Phelps explored the nuances of “devout men” (and how they broke the Mishnah), “great”, and “havock”; and then he spoke of how the death of one activated the estimated 30,000 to 50,000 believers in Jerusalem. He further vividly illustrated the far-reaching influence of disciples’ deaths through the examples of Robert Murray McCheyene, David Brainerd, and Jim Elliot. [14] Are you willing to die for your city? And then the preacher linked how we have got to take seriously the idea of dying daily and the presenting ourselves as a sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). Concerning missions, too few are willing to go.

2. It requires not diaspeiro but a willful dierchomai (8:4).
(Frankly, someone who attended the conference needs to help me with the wording of this point. At the time, I was swirling in the emotional ramifications of the first point.)

Phelps pointed out that no respecting Jew liked the half-breeds but not Phil in Samaria. And think of Jesus. In those very centers, He went (John 4). Will you go to the places undesirable–urban centers or smelly African villages?

3. It requires the declarations of a disciple (8:5).
Philip was a kerutz, a herald. It is not just the apologetics reasoning, like what we see in Genesis creationism presentations. It is not just relationship bridge building or the use of electronic devices. We are to preach! And preach it boldly!

4. It requires loving, Spirit-led devotion.
Could it have been a temptation for Philip in Samaria to say, “Lord, have you forgotten me?” In humor, [15] Phelps made a personal confession. “I don’t like the cold weather. But look where the Lord has had me minister. Maybe I should say, ‘Lord, not Hawaii!’”

Phelps warned against being bitter, carrying a chip on our shoulder, settling only in our comfort zone, and pursuing hobbies and sidebar activities that consume our time. The primary focus of our devotion must be preaching!

He gave a moving example of a man in 1934 who was given two choices: 1. A place with a pulpit, a parsonage, and prestige, or 2. A place really needing a missionary heart. The man, Monroe Parker, picked #2. And through his Kentucky campaign, he later clipped coupons through the present ministry of Chuck Phelps.

It is heart not headiness that must characterize our ministry. And in the midst of our striving for theological accuracy, we must have a heart of love for people.

My Personal Reflections on Phelps’ Text

It comes naturally to preserve and pamper our lives, to seek the comfortable path, to embrace life’s transitional changes only when it would benefit us financially, socially, or physically. But are we people of the Gospel or not? Death. Burial. Resurrection. How deep are we in the belief of this? The results are staggering–the deeper the faith burial to self, the greater effusion of joy. But we simply don’t crave joy enough, too content with our little joys.

I loved hanging off a cable car on Nob Hill, eating chocolate at Ghirardelli Square, savoring clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, watching sea lions at Pier 39, panting up Telegraph Hill, and browsing through the sights of China Town. I enjoyed the beauty of the Japanese Tea Garden in the center of the huge Golden Gate Park and then later immersing myself completely in the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean west of Noriega Street. I captured thrills on Rollerblades as my son and I screamed from one side of the Golden Gate Bridge to the other, dodging the walking pedestrians.[16] And rotating in slow 360s, gawking with mouth wide open, my spine tingled as I stared straight up into the Redwood canopy of Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods National Park. It was all fun.

But my great joy and privilege was to walk with my family and to share Gospel literature all the way up Castro Street and from the gay Castro area, moving west all the way down Haight Street to the roaming groups of homeless in the Golden Gate Park.

I hungered to see joy in the city of San Francisco. I will never forget the grin from ear to ear of a grandmother in the Haight-Ashbury district. She looked up at me, just beaming. “I am a Christian, too.”

But in meditation of Phelps’ text, my mind raced to the implications of other Scriptural passages. I tend to think that in the heavenly city (the swank $5- to $25-million-dollar homes on Pacific Heights don’t even come close in comparison), there will be different levels of joy. The more intensely we cling to and live out through faith Christ’s Gospel by grace in this life, the more piercing experience of joy unimaginable toward Christ in the life to come.

________________________
1. Duct tape is the fundamental tool for a redneck Idahoan.
2. David Innes had a number of interesting pamphlets on wall shelves at the front entrance of Hamilton Square Baptist Church. One of those was “Homosexuality–A Right? … A Wrong?” by Presbytery of Southern California (The Orthodox Presbyterian Church). The Presbytery write, “The love which the Church is called to exercise is not modeled on the modern ideal of toleration which leaves its recipient unchanged, but on the redeeming love of God in Christ, a love which brings not only forgiveness but also life-transformation. Christ’s people, then, must show this kind of love for our homosexual ‘neighbors’ in at least four ways: A Call to Repentance, The Hope of Deliverance, Humble Compassion, and Patient Encouragement.”
3. Associate Pastor Tim S. sent me an 18-page article titled, “The Story of Early Bapist History in California” (Prepared at the request of the California Baptist Historical Society, 1888, and read before the Society at Sacramento, April 13, 1889 by O.C. Wheeler, D.D., LL.D.) Here is just an excerpt of God’s calling upon Wheeler to go west:

“On the first of November, 1848, as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jersey City, N.J., I attended, at the First Baptist Church of New York, the usual Monday morning ‘Minister’s meeting.’ While the exercises were in progress, a messenger from the rooms of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society, which were immediately overhead, whispered in my ear, ‘Dr. Hill, the Secretary wishes to see you in his room.’ I went immediately; he took a seat at my side, laid his hands on my shoulder, and without any preliminary remark said: ‘We want you to go to California as our pioneer missionary.’ I replied: ‘I have been here, in Jersey City less than a year, and the work has so developed, and is now in such progress that I would not exchange my pulpit for any other in the United States. I cannot go, sir.’ To this the Secretary responded: ‘It is because things are in such shape in your church and work, that we want you to go to California, and we think you must.’ My positive reply was: ‘No, sir; I will not leave.
“This interview was daily repeated, with such variations in motives presented as the Secretary and his associates thought best adapted to secure their object, for sixteen days. During this time numbers of the most influential clergymen of the denomination brought all the power of their influence to bear upon me, among whom was the venerable Dr. S.H. Cone, pastor of the First Church in New York and President of the Society proposing to send me out, who after exerting all his powers to convince me of the greatness of the work and my personal duty to undertake it, stopped short and said, ‘But do you know where you are going my brother? I would rather go as a missionary to China or Cochin-China, than to San Francisco. Don’t you stir step, my brother, unless you are prepared to go to the darkest spot on earth,’ a statement of which I was often reminded by the scenes through which I was called to pass in subsequent years, and on the morning of the sixteenth day, after a night of prayer, without sleep, and at the close of an unusually earnest and agonizing season of family devotions, a burden as distinct as that which rolled from the shoulder of Bunyan’s Pilgrim, at the foot of the cross, was removed from my shoulders, and my wife and I arose simultaneously and without the interchange of a word, both broke out in the song: ‘To God I’m reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear; He owns me for His child, I will no longer fear.’ ”
Also in the article, there is a beautiful Gospel example of a baptismal service in the bay area, reflecting glorious transdenominational unity above absolute uniformity. Unfortunately, modernism and tolerant neo-evangelicalism has made blah for the younger generations in America much of what use to be zesty and delicious citywide experiences for the hearts of saints. A case example from church history in San Francisco is Billy Graham and Bishop Pike at the Grace Cathedral, “a place of religious immunity, anonymity, and unity.”

4. In one of HSBC’s literature racks on the wall, I picked up an easy to read, little booklet, “The Baptist Story” by Dr. David Potter. He taught for 12 years at San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary. Now he serves as a missionary in Hungary under Baptist World Mission. I plan on giving this booklet as a short, handy reference to a brother in our church, requesting to read some more info on Baptist history.
5. Consider my family heritage. My great grandfather took seminary classes at the University of Chicago Divinity School. My grandfather, reared in that environment, acquired some modernistic belief, especially in evolutionary theory. But as a young medical student, he married my grandmother who was reared in Ohio and rooted in godly Methodism. They moved to San Francisco and lived near the famous Haight-Ashbury intersection during his training as a medical intern. After the internship, my grandfather practiced medicine in central Oregon where they also settled down in a CBA church. After my dad, a chemist, married mom, they moved to Idaho in the mid-60’s and ministered in an American Baptist Church. But when I turned 4 in 1973, they enrolled me in a little Christian school operating out of an independent Baptist Church, pastored by John Lovegrove. There you have in a nutshell some of the generational history of the Elons. Each generation of men in our family has become more conservative in ecclesiastical associations. Go figure.
6. Individual CD’s (One CD per session) are $5 each. The entire conference on 12 CDs is $48 per set. Shipping is $5.
7. I explored the whole website for the first time. I found prolific Canadian blogger Don Johnson on there. Small world. Some would note that the 2005 policy for requiring missionaries to use only the KJV when in the U.S. or at BWM conferences to be somewhat controversial. Though freedom is given to the almost 200 missionary families to operate according to personal conscience, this policy seems to be an honest attempt to receive KJVO brethren with love. The 23 points in the “1961 charges resulting in BWM” is fascinating. So are both articles, “Dispensationalism, The Church, and The New Covenant” by Bruce Compton and “An Open Letter to the ‘Gentlemen’ Fundamentalists” by Noel Smith (Agreed. We must mark those given to deceitful chrestologia, Rom. 16:18 - “moral talk that appears to be kind and loving.”) And seeing staff member, Jack McLanahan, brought me many pleasant memories of his warm, Christian heart. I am sure I was a humorous illustration during his days with GIBM, when I had every one of my Visa traveler’s checks pick pocketed in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, just after leaving the bank. Aaaugggh! This Idaho boy learned a lot that summer of 1990.
8. The book contains six chapters (1. Holiness—The Foundation of Separation, 2. Personal Separation, 3. Ecclesiastical Separation, 4. Separation from a Christian Brother, 5. The Spirit of the Separatist) and two appendices (A. Etymology and Uses of Biblical Words for Holiness, B. Harold John Ockenga’s Press Release on “The New Evangelicalism”). The select biography, topical index, and scriptural index are helpful for information. Chapter 4 is intriguing with the input of quotes by Donald Grey Barnhouse, Jack Van Impe, Tim Lee, Walter Handford, Rolland McCune, Ernest Pickering, Robert P. Lightner, Robert Delnay, BJU faculty, and Don W. Bixby on the matter of “secondary separation.”
9. The first chapter in this book is titled, “What is a fundamentalist?” Moritz interplays the perspectives of Larry Pettegrew, Rolland McCune, James Barr, Carl Henry, George Masden, Ernest Sandeen, Grant Wacker, William W. Ayer, David Beale, David Cummins, Robert Delnay, Bob Jones Jr., Jerry Falwell, and Charles Colson. I am sure that Ayer’s equation of modern day fundamentalism = apostolic Christianity sparks interesting discussion.
10. Note the English rendering in other English translations, “more heavily oppressed” – NKJV, “make glorious” – NASV, and “will honor” – NIV. Disagreeing with the KJV and NKJV rendering, I would agree with Moritz. The word cabad, to make weighty in this context, is a glorious work.
11. I highly enjoyed Kurt Woetzel’s article, “A Discussion With Robert Shaw.”
12. Every LDS ward building has a gymnasium. My son’s latest YMCA basketball practices took place regularly this spring in one of them. Have you seen the latest LDS movie, Church Ball? It stars actor Coleman. Seagull Bookstores have been mass marketing “Church Ball” – Ward Stake (Tournament Edition) basketballs.
13. Ponder the material of chapter 7, “Great Joy in the City” in Matt Recker’s book, Behold the City (Greenville, BJU Press, 2002).
14. Sad review (San Francisco Chronicle, June 13, 2006) on the End of the Spear DVD being released—“Based on the a true story about missionaries speared to death in the Amazon 50 years ago by a tribe they were seeking to help, this Christian-themed drama about redemption has almost no redeeming qualities as entertainment. You have to keep reminding yourself that this tragedy, brought on by a terrible misunderstanding, really happened in order to be moved by its far-reaching impact, particularly on the son of one of the slain missionaries. TV actor Chad Allen plays both the missionary and his son with a forced cheeriness, and Jim Hanon directs with a total lack of subtlety. It’s sad that this sincere but inept movie doesn’t do justice to the real people whose story it tells. Rated PG-13. 112 minutes. – R. Stein.”
15. Chuck and his wife sat two seats behind me on an open top tour bus. Just listening to his interaction with other men, I thought the guy to be hilarious.
16. In my excitement, I completely missed the big signs declaring rollerblading illegal because of safety reasons. Oops.

———–
Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University. But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10).

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