Monday, March 26, 2007

New Location for The Bridge

On Easter Sunday we plan to celebrate New Life and a new location for our church. Renovations on the office and Sunday School/seminar space started last week and are supposed to take only ten days. We believe we'll be ready by Easter Sunday for the service in the large hall on the ground floor and for Sunday School space at our 7th floor location. After that, we'll begin to settle into our new office space. We're in the process now of choosing paint, carpets, furnishings, etc. A busy time.

Please pray with us that we will honor the Lord with our worship and reach many people with the Good News of His love and power to change their lives. My message will be "Come Alive!: to a Better Way of Living".

With this post are a couple more photos. The main hall and front entrance are pictured below in the Jan 8 post.

Monday, March 12, 2007

McLaren in Malaysia

On March 3rd and 5th, I got the chance to meet and converse a bit with American pastor-teacher-author and spokesman of Emergent Village, Brian McLaren. He was invited by our mutual friend and Malaysian pastor Sivin Kit to stop over in Malaysia on his way to Australia. (That's Brian and Sivin in the photo.)

I’m glad I went to the conference and the dinner that Sivin and several others organized. I listened closely to Brian’s provocative talks, interpretations of Scripture, and wide-ranging stories. I wrote elsewhere that his approach to theology and evangelism intrigues, inspires, and troubles me, all at the same time--which is, I think, the kind of reaction he is hoping for from pastors like me (I’m only five years his junior.) I found Brian to be very down-to-earth, approachable, and eschewing of any VIP treatment. He genuinely wants to interact and learn from others--especially in the "two-thirds world". This is refreshing. I also appreciated the insights of the several Malaysian church leaders and thinkers who engaged him in public conversation.

Brian’s visit prompted me to hurry and read one of his many recent books before he arrived, A Generous Orthodoxy, and to look again at Reinventing Your Church, his first book. I bought that book (now republished as The Church on the Other Side) back in 2004 as part of a small bundle of books for the elders of our brand new church to read and discuss. And in 2006 I bought A Generous Orthodoxy to see what all the fuss was about regarding Emergent ideas and Brian McLaren. When I heard he was coming to KL, I thought I should at least go ahead and read what I bought! Maybe I could ask an intelligent question. (Turns out I did a lot of listening and thinking and processing instead.)

What attracts me most about Brian and the whole emerging church movement is the combination of humility and passion--humility expressed through listening in conversations with Christians and non-Christians about truth and ultimate reality, and passion expressed in reaching present and emerging generations with the Good News of Jesus through patient and serving relationships.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything Brian writes or says, but that’s ok. The conversation can sharpen us both, if we’re willing to listen to one another and keep conversing, rather than shut down too quickly and lazily label the other as an opponent. Too many of us Christians operate this way over theological, political, and moral issues.

Thank you, Sivin, and thank you, Brian, for your “quiet revolution of hope”. I believe Jesus is calling us all to be revolutionaries in His cause--to participate in passionate actions and humble conversations for the purpose of world transformation. And all the while, we must stay in intimate connection with Jesus lest we get off track. "Thy Kingdom come, Lord, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Baptist History, Identity, and Charismatic Gifts

In response to an article in the Florida Baptist Witness, I wrote a letter to the editor which he declined to publish saying that, despite my deep Southern Baptist and Florida Baptist roots, seminary education and pastoral experience, it would be inappropriate since I was "not now a Southern Baptist." I thought I would post it here and invite any comments. (BTW, the Background Info below was for the editor's benefit, not for publication.)

20 Feb 2007

Dear Editor,

I’m compelled to write regarding your recent article on Baptist identity and charismatic gifts today. ("Is charismatic theology historically Baptist? The current debate in SBC life concerning ‘private prayer language’ may hinge on whose Baptist history is correct.") I do not believe your question can be satisfactorily answered by an appeal to Baptist history. The beliefs and practices of yesterday’s Baptists should not be determinative of Baptist identity today -- understood and appreciated, yes, but not determinative. Here's why...

Baptists have sporadically experienced revivals and movements of the Spirit, no doubt, but we have not, until modern times, seriously interacted with biblical scholarship on this issue. So, with a nod to Baptist history and historical theology, I believe it's more important to do theology for today. Every generation must understand and apply the Scriptures to its own context. And if our Baptist identity is affected, so be it. We must remain people of the Book, even if today's interpretations challenge yesterday’s identity.

I do not equate private prayer language with Spirit-fulness but I do believe it is a valid gift and sign. Other New Testament gifts and signs are just as valid and even more needed today for ministry today (teaching, prophecy, discernment, healing, casting out demons, etc.) I speak as one serving as a missionary pastor in Malaysia.

Maybe these are the last days in which God is pouring out His Spirit on all flesh, giving dreams and prophecies and other renewed gifts to men and women. I don't want to be one who says, "But we've never allowed that manifestation of the Spirit before!"

I dream of more "Word and power" churches in the SBC. We need a fresh wind of the Spirit blowing through all His churches, including and especially Southern Baptist ones.

Sincerely in Christ,
Todd Nelson

Background Information:
  • Tampa native; former youth pastor at Tampa Baptist Church (1981-83)
  • Former Univ. of Fla. Baptist Campus Ministry summer missionary to Miami Beach
  • Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary MDiv (1986) and PhD (1994)
  • Founding pastor of an international church in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia