Speaker Panel: Tim Jordan, Dave Doran, Sam Harbin, Kevin Bauder, and Mark Dever
Question to Dever about the conservative resurgence in the SBC. Dever said the churches were largely conservative, but the seminaries went liberal. In the 70s, men went around to churches alerting them to the problems in the seminaries. The election of a new president was important because of the tie to trustees who hired/fired at the seminaries. 10% were theologically liberal, 20-30% were theologically conservative, rest were conservative but didn’t care much about it. By 1984, it was clear that the inerrantists were winning the battle. By 1991, the battle was over. Regarding SBC liberalism, there may be individuals who deny fundamentals but now they are all innerantists or liars.
Follow-up question: could you explain the relationship b/w your church and the SBC?
Dever: No one tells our church how to give. We choose to send some of our money to the IMB.
Bauder asks: what criteria must be met to send to the convention?
Dever: minimal contribution, $500. Out of 40,000 churches, there are maybe 500 that are classically liberal. They don’t typically give money. They hate the SBC. They appear to be SBC b/c of little old ladies who still contribute, etc.
Doran: in principle, a liberal resurgence could take place if they had enough messengers?
Dever: Yes, but they don’t care enough.
Doran: how does that jive with statements you made about SBC churches being largely unregenerate?
Dever: you should understand that, David. Our problem is not liberalism; it’s cheap evangelism and church membership.
Doran: in June, you have a gathering that is not limited to believers right?
Dever: Yes, but it’s not a church. Non-Christians wouldn’t have a high motivation to come.
Doran: I think in fall of 2005 in KY that conservatives only won by 40 votes. That would seem that there is a significant proportion of moderates etc. Wouldn’t that be true of other states?
Doran: what kind of moderates are these?
Dever: more of a southern civility who didn’t like mean Al Mohler and the yankeeization of Southern.
Doran: clearly a strategy that would 20 years would involve compromise
Dever: the peace comm.. in 86 was a compromise to achieve a larger objective
Doran: is that acceptable b/c it is not a local church
Dever: if it is part of getting the keys to the SBC than yes
Bauder: I have an acquaintance at Southeastern who has made the statement that at least in some cases, liberals have not been let go, that individuals have been allowed to retire or die. Is that true?
Dever: yes, but there is little of that right now and their teaching responsibilities have been curtailed. I’ve heard some of those specific negotiations and they have acted in as Christ-like manner as possible.
Harbin: new discussion, on the topic of elders, are you [Mark] a leader among your elders. It’s becoming a popular model even among independents. Some brothers only hear Presbyterian when they hear elders.
Dever: there are several models: Presbyterians where synods would have authority over local churches; among independents who believe there is no authority between Christ and the local church, most would say the pastor should make them, or the deacons, or the congregation; I think what should happen is a recognition of the ultimate authority of the congregation in discipline and membership as evidenced by the NT. Inside that, the elders have a special responsibility to lead. (Heb. 13:17; Jas. 3:1) In the NT, elder, overseer and pastor are used interchangeably. Tim and I were having an interesting discussion. Am I an elder? Yes. Do I have a vote? Yes, 1 of 14. Do I have more authority? Formally, no. Informally, I have 16 years of experience so there is an appreciation of that. Practical questions of polity will go to the elders; statement of faith changes would go to the congregation. Matters of principle and policy will be taken to the elders. Congregation would vote on membership issues, budget, recognition of elders and deacons.
Bauder: so when it comes to counting votes, your vote is worth one. But in other areas, you have more weight.
Dever: I do have influence but I can’t use it too much or I would undermine the other elders.
Bauder: talking about plurality of elders versus single pastor elders, if a little church of 25-30 members has a single pastor, are they sinning?
Dever: if the church is of the mind that God is only going to speak through this one man, then that would seem to go against the NT pattern.
Bauder: isn’t there middle ground? What if the church has a guy who is qualified but doesn’t have the desire?
Dever: desire is necessary for qualification
Bauder: is it biblically mandatory to have a plurality of elders?
Dever: it is biblically normal
Jordan: for clarification, my contention is when I look at biblical history, in any situation where there is multiple leaders, while I do believe in shared leadership, among leaders there has always been one among others who is the head. For example in the home, there is the husband. In the Godhead, there is the Father. In the OT, there were elders but there was Moses. My contention is that there always is a leader of leaders and that is not to be avoided but to be accepted. So you are the senior pastor, there is a rightful place of influence you have. What is your reaction to that?
Dever: I agree with you. That pattern seems least clear in the NT church. There is no command for a single elder is there?
Doran: Acts 15, the elders and James. 1 Tim. 3, single pastor, plural deacons.
Bauder: I would argue that some elders receive greater honor (1 Tim. 5:17)
Dever: I would say it is prudent to have a senior pastor. I would disagree with those who say there should be NO senior pastor.
Doran: If you adopted your approach “the first among equals” and everyone has one vote and the “first among equals” is consistently losing his vote, that would show something wrong, right?
Harbin: so you have lay elders and staff elders
Dever: yes, in fact we have in the constitution there must be a majority of lay elders
Doran: isn’t “lay elder” an oxymoron?
Dever: yes, we don’t use that term. We say “elders who are not in the pay of the church.”
[Good discussion then took place between Doran, Bauder, and Dever on whether elders should be paid according to 1 Cor. 9 and 1 Tim. 5.]
Bauder: the danger I see is that Paul teaches explicitly in 1 Cor. 9 that an elder can relinquish his rightful pay, but the danger is in a congregation’s assuming that they do not have to pay an elder.
Doran: I really appreciate the way you are teaching plurality of elders as opposed to how others have taught it. I think the reason plurality is attractive is for accountability against a deacon board. My little quibble with you is not a systemic one. So thank you for your teaching.
Bauder: I would add to that, to hear your articulation of Baptist polity is virtually carbon copy of what I was taught growing up in Baptist churches.
Harbin: Mark, you said something this morning about your staff facilitating discipleship. Can you say a little more?
Dever: I think I’ve said most of what I can say about that. Most of the discipling I do takes place when I open the Scriptures and preach and teach. But I want to see that take place across the church. And I use staff to help connect and equip believers to take responsibility for others’ spiritual growth in the church. There are all kinds of benefits. Trellis and the Vine is really good on that.
Harbin: I’m intrigued by the schedule you keep. Can you lay that out for us?
Dever: normal office hours, Mondays off. Sundays: 9-10:30 PM, we evaluate the entire day; Tuesday: morning, staff meeting; Thursday: morning, intern discussion time, 3 hours, staff attends
Doran: Talk about your preaching schedule.
Dever: I preach 50% of the time Sunday mornings, don’t want to do 75% or more. I don’t preach Sunday nights, but I always lead it.