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Certain Truths in Uncertain Times - A Review of Nathan Crockett's Presentation at the BJU Pastors/Wives Fellowship

Monday, April 26, 2010

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently had the privilege of attending a Pastors/Wives Fellowship in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania sponsored by BJU. In my first post on the conference, I made some general comments and introduced the speakers and topics. In my second post on the conference, I reviewed and commented on the first session by Dr. Bob Jones, III.

In today's post, I will review and comment on the second presentation of the day, "Certain Truths in Uncertain Times: Timothys and Pauls working together for the cause of the Gospel" by Nathan Crockett.

I don't believe I have ever heard or met Nathan before, but I believe one of his brothers came to our church (Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury) a couple of years ago as the leader of a BJU Ministry Team. I also had the privilege of hearing his father, Dr. Leigh Crockett of Grace Baptist Church of Anderson, Indiana, many years ago when I was a ministerial student at BJU. Some of you may remember Dr. Crockett was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer a few years ago and was cured in such a way that it puzzled the doctors and he was interviewed on Good Morning America at the time - one news story on the situation can be found here.

I appreciated Nathan's workshop very much. His task, it seems, was to basically approach the Paul and Timothy scenario from that of a Timothy. (He is a fairly young man - I would guess no more than 30 at this point.) While he made some introductory comments about Understanding the Times in which we are living, the focus of the session was on the Paul and Timothy relationship.

Nathan was kind enough to send a copy of his entire notes - including the quotes he used and all the references, but I want to take most of my comments here from the notes that I took that day on the handout that was given.

As he began the initial part in regards to Understanding the Times, he made a comment that "Scripture gives examples of changing a method without changing the message" and he used the examples of Paul at Mars Hill and Jesus' approach to different people - Nicodemus (John 3) and the Samaritan woman (John 4).

In the area of Understanding the Times, he discussed understanding the world around us and dealt with a number of the characteristics of the day in which we live (such as Technology- driven, Consumed with the present, Pluralistic, Sensual, Fast-paced, etc.) and understanding the church today - including a consumer mentality in which the "church is full of window shoppers and church hoppers." He discussed some of the errors of the day in the church (both old and new errors) and how that we are seeing the same errors spilling over into Fundamental churches.

He then offered some "Biblical Solutions" towards the situation in the world and in the church - nothing ground-breaking, but true, nevertheless. The five things specifically mentioned were as follows:

1. Expect the world to be worldly
2. Offer people something distinctively different
3. Value eternal souls
4. Speak the truth in love
5. Trust God


After dealing with the times, he dealt with Pauls Understanding Timothys and then Timothys Understanding Pauls.

In the Pauls Understanding Timothys, he commented that he asked some of his other young friends training for ministry what they perceived to be the strengths and weakeness of the previous generations. He mentioned appreciation for many things (such as witnessing zeal, faithfulness, strong convictions, etc.) but focused on the perceived weaknesses - of which he listed the following.

1. Lack of mentoring
2. The rut of tradition
3. Unfair evaluation of certain evangelical ministries
4. Preaching concerns
* issue-oriented (rather than theologically-driven) preaching
* lack of expositional preaching
5. Unnecessary divisions


In addressing the Timothys understanding of Pauls, he encouraged the Timothys to understand five things.

1. The need for loyalty
2. The need for humility
3. The need for dialogue
4. A respect for tradition
5. A respect for age.


As I listened to Nathan, I was encouraged to hear his heart in this area and I think that he overall has gotten a lot of things right in his presentation. The nature of a presentation like this limits the ability to have lengthy discussions about each of these areas, however, I do believe that many of these things are worthy of a longer discussion - and the nature of blogging is that we can have that longer discussion - assuming that some of you folks would like to participate in the discussion.

Before anyone jumps on me (or Nathan) about the list of weaknesses, I would like to note three things. 1. This list is given as "perceived" weaknesses. Whether we would agree that these are truly weaknesses of the older generation, we can at least agree that many young men perceive these things in the older generation of Fundamentalism (no matter where we personally fall in that dynamic of old or young). 2. These are necessarily broad-brushed statements. Surely even those who brought them up to Nathan and Nathan would acknowledge that these things are not true of every one in the previous generation. When you paint with a broad-brush, you usually paint a lot of areas that should not be painted. 3. These are the observations of a number of young men - young men Nathan describes as "cream of the crop" type young guys committed to Fundamentalism - and not Nathan's observations alone. (In fact, some of these areas were not on Nathan's radar - for instance, he had the privilege of being mentored by his father, who was also his pastor and feels that he has received a lot of mentoring.)

While I have some quibbles with some of the things in Nathan's presentations (which I plan on bringing out in the follow-up posts), I appreciate Nathan's tack in this area much better than the bombastic and often bloated sounding criticism of the "older generation" of Fundamentalism offered by some of its critics - including some who still claim to love at least the "idea" of Fundamentalism.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

6 comments:

Don Johnson said...

Hi Frank

A few thoughts on these complaints:

1. Lack of mentoring

This is mostly whining, in my opinion. While it can be helpful to have an older adviser, it isn't always possible, and usually is only available on the older adviser's terms, not the young wannabe's. Mostly, I think, the younger preacher needs to get busy and get to work. Having a 'mentor' will not prevent you from making mistakes, so you might as well forge ahead and make your own mistakes. You'll learn.

2. The rut of tradition

I don't believe it is true, generally.

3. Unfair evaluation of certain evangelical ministries

I don't believe this one is true either. I think the young fellows need to realize that the older fellows have been around the block a few times and might have a bit more discernment than they do.

4. Preaching concerns
* issue-oriented (rather than theologically-driven) preaching
* lack of expositional preaching

I stoutly resist this complaint, especially the lack of expository preaching. I personally use an expository style, but I am not so narrow-minded as to insist that this is the only legitimate preaching style. I think that we are being sold a bill of goods on the current over-emphasis on expository preaching. My personal use of it is because it is easier than other styles... I'm just not good enough to pull the other ones off.

5. Unnecessary divisions

On this one, I think there have been some unnecessary divisions in the past. But one has to acknowledge that "unnecessary" is a subjective term. Your "unnecessary" might be different from my "unnecessary".

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Frank Sansone said...

Don.

Thank you for your response.

I was hoping that you and some others would chime in, because I do think it would be profitable to look at these things.

As I mention, I don't necessarily agree with the criticisms, but I do agree that they are often "perceived" by the younger.

Anyway, I will have much to say very soon. (But we are taking my daughter out for her birthday this evening :) ).

Frank

Andy Efting said...

Frank,

Nathan has preached at our church a couple times over the past few years. We have appreciated his ministry with us and I know that the students at BJ love him as a teacher. He takes a very personal touch with his students, even in his very large "Intro" classes.

Andy Efting said...

I think the concern about expository preaching dovetails with a general dislike for issue-oriented preaching that, by its nature, tends to be topical and tends not to be handled very well. Add to this the fact that many these days don’t like how the more authoritarian and boisterous have tended to come down on the various hot-button topics (e.g., drinking, versions, dress, entertainment, Calvinism) and so if preachers just preached through books, then they wouldn’t have the same opportunity to go astray in these areas.

Outside of some notable exceptions, I have been personally very disappointed in how some subjects/issues have been dealt with from the pulpit, even when I agree with their conclusions. Many men don’t know any other approach than to exercise the authority of their position as pastor when dealing with issues. They don’t know how to work exegetically through various Bible passages to make a truly Biblical case for their position. So, even though I think we ought to deal with issues, I, too, sometimes think it would be better not to do it at all if you when you do it, you stink at it.

The younger guys are not the only ones promoting expository preaching, btw. Dr. Minnick had an article in Frontline a few years ago and the one right philosophy of preaching (or similar) in which he proposed expository preaching as the primary and most beneficial form or preaching. I tend to agree with him and here is why:

1. I think one of the most important things that pastoral ministry should do is to help their people think like God. There is no better way to do that, imo, than to work through the logic and progression of a passage within the context of a whole book. Not only do you get the point of the passage, but you get how God thinks about the whole thing and why and how things should fit together in our minds. God doesn’t just give us bare lists of things to believe and do – He gives them in the context of logical thought.

2. Without working through books, the temptation and danger is that the pastor will get into a rut of preaching the same points over and over again. These are things that he knows, are right and important, but eventually become monotonous and pedantic to the people in the pew. Expository preaching forces the preacher to deal with difficult texts and new ground.

3. Expository preaching then will tend to emphasize the things that God wants emphasized because they come up over and over again in Scripture. If there is rut, it is a God-inspired rut.

4. I have found, because I try to teach this way, that this method really helps when it comes to difficult/debated passages. When you have the whole context of a book in mind, often many of the competing interpretation options go away because the overall context.

5. This method also helps people in the pew read and study the Bible on their own. When I was younger, I tended to read my Bible until I got to a “good” verse and then meditated on that verse, pretty much in isolation. Maybe I would underline it, so I could quickly find all the good verses. I was looking for Spiritual cookies. And while there is certainly some value in that, I think a more spiritually mature method of Bible reading and study should go well beyond that. But if the preacher is only preaching the nugget passages, how does the congregation move beyond that?

Those are just some of my thoughts, for what they are worth…

Andy

Frank Sansone said...

Sorry it is taking me so long to get back to this. Lord willing, I will be replying tomorrow.

Frank

Don Johnson said...

Hi guys,

Andy, I completely agree with you on the value of expository preaching, especially in a pastoral ministry. I am a Minnick-trained preacher, so I am not sure how I could to otherwise!

However, my objection to this complaint is not that I am against expository preaching. And, yes, I have heard some pretty bad examples of topical preaching over the years. But there are guys who think they are expositors who are just as bad!

However, I am really concerned about this holier-than-thou attitude you often hear, the sneering against other forms of preaching, etc. ALL of the textbooks on preaching with which I am familiar list several different approaches as legitimate. The Prince of Preachers himself was no expositor. And I have heard some tremendously powerful topical messages that accurately used the Scriptures. I am currently going through some old tapes I had from Bible Conference in the 70s and elsewhere. Many of these messages were not expository. But they were tremendously useful and powerful.

I suspect, Andy, that your comment about younger guys not liking the conclusions of the preacher is perhaps telling. To make the preaching style may be a convenient whipping boy when the main thrust of the message is not to one's liking.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3