Almost four months away, this year’s Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference — the first in the GCR Era — promises to be something totally different. Different is not always a bad thing, but radically different may not necessarily be a good thing either.
As the speakers and worship leaders for the Pastors’ Conference were announced, some Southern Baptists began to express varying levels of concern about some of those who were invited to participate (see here, here, here, and here). Most of the criticism (rightly so) has focused on the invitation extended to Jamar Jones — “Executive Director of Music and Fine Arts at the Potter’s House Church of Dallas, Texas, Bishop T.D. Jake, Senior Pastor” — to lead instrumental music at the Phoenix Pastors’ Conference.
Others have well expressed the theological concerns of having someone associated with a “Oneness Pentecostal” church lead music in any capacity at a SOUTHERN BAPTIST PASTORS’ CONFERENCE. Perhaps as a response to those concerns, Mr. Jones’ bio and the link to the Potter’s House Church were removed from www.sbcpc.net (the official website for the Aspire 2011 Pastors’ Conference) sometime on Tuesday, February 22. There is still no word as to whether Mr. Jones has been officially disinvited.
Under the circumstances, Mr. Jones should not participate in any leadership position at this year’s or any year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference (at least as long as he is associated with a “Oneness Pentecostal” church such as the T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House). But, this begs the question, “Why was Mr. Jones invited to lead instrumental music at the Aspire Pastors’ Conference to begin with?” I would further ask, “Are there no gifted and called Southern Baptist worship/music leaders who could have led instrumental music at this year’s Conference?”
I cannot even begin to answer the first question. While I do not ascribe any ulterior motives or ill-will toward those who invited Mr. Jones in the first place, I believe it is but one piece of evidence (along with the church planting theme and the other announced speakers) that the first GCR era Pastors’ Conference reveals a language barrier that risks the Balkanization of the SBC.
Throughout the Conservative Resurgence, Southern Baptist Conservatives of all stripes spoke a primary language — the Bible is the authoritative, inerrant Word of God — that united us in missions and ministry. In a post-CR SBC (and we are in a post-CR world, no matter how proponents of the GCR try to spin it as a continuation of the CR), we are no longer speaking a predominant language. In fact, there are several primary languages that are vying for supremacy within the Southern Baptist Convention.
The 2011 Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix is but the latest example of the language barrier that will continue to divide us as Southern Baptists. This division can be seen most clearly in the stated purpose of this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference (h/t: Rick Patrick):
Compare this year’s Conference to those led by such men as M.E. Dodd (who had the vision for the first Pastors’ Conference) and Baptist giant Herschel Hobbs:
“I instituted the Pastors’ Conference in 1935” Dodd writes, “under a deep sense of need for it…A good, spiritual pastors’ conference could prepare a fine atmosphere for the Southern Baptist Convention. The growing attendance, spirit and expression of appreciation have justified it.”
“Hobbs believed the conference was ‘designed to be a preaching ministry in which the brethren could hear some of our preachers and receive inspiration there from.’”
I have no doubt that there will be preaching at this year’s Aspire Pastors’ Conference. I’m just not sure that it will be its primary purpose. Networking (the new buzz word spoken in some SBC circles) apparently will be one of the main purposes for the Conference (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I haven’t decided if I will attend Aspire. However, if there were another conference for pastors this year in Phoenix, one where my language was spoken (or at least represented), I would look forward to some good, ole-fashioned preaching (not that there’s anything wrong with that either)!