Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Interview with Dr. Turner Part 2

Here's part 2 of my email-based interview with Dr. Turner:

What ideas do you have for helping churches partner together to accomplish Great Commission tasks outside of the traditional channels of Association and State Convention?

First, I believe that the most effective thing a church can do to help fulfill the Great Commission is to participate in the Cooperative Program of the SBC. If you are in a very large church, and want to fulfill the Great Commission, at best you can only make a difference in a few of the countries of the world. And you are unlikely to ever consider some people groups, such as Haitian immigrants in the U.S. or Kiowa Native Americans. In this very large church, you might be able to do a good work in a third world country, but even your church will be limited in its ability to reach France. Through the Cooperative Program, you can participate in an honest effort to fulfill the Great Commission. So, I would suggest that the Cooperative Program be the foundation on which you build a Great Commission focused church. In addition to the CP, your church can partner with other churches to help fulfill the Great Commission, and while it is not necessary that you work through your associations and state conventions, they will enhance and serve your efforts. Why search for a church who wants a partner in reaching Peruvian urban dwellers, when your state convention and association exist to help do this?

Have we as Southern Baptists gotten too involved in American politics to the detriment of fulfilling the Great Commission?

Yes! We have elected “our candidates” over and over, to find they appoint liberal judges, scorn our values, and become ineffective quickly. While I have no illusions about “unchristian” candidates either, I have decided that I’d rather have power with God than influence in politics.

If you were to choose a seminary program today, would you relocate or serve a church and utilize distance learning opportunities?

If I were choosing a seminary, I would relocate and go to school full time, but that is because I am a “get it over with” type of guy. Distance learning is a good option for many. My only concern about it is that it limits the opportunities to be exposed to lots of different approaches to ministry. I have always profited from talking with and learning from those who have already done the things I have to do.

Do you think we need a complete seminary program in Arkansas?

I wish we had a complete Master of Divinity or Theology degree offered in Arkansas. And I have worked with OBU and Mid America on this. However, it does not seem likely to occur anytime soon.

Do you see it as likely, with the possible economic changes, that more churches will go to bi-vocational ministers in the coming years?

There is some indication that this may happen, but I do not think that the economy is the reason. If anything, I think the economy will cause sincere believers to reorder their priorities in a Biblical way. The reason churches may go to bi-vocational ministers is that very few young men are surrendering to a pastoral ministry. Seminaries are at record enrollments, but few are preparing for the pastorate. Preachers should begin to add a call to ministry to their invitations.

What advice can you give to ministers about their marriages and families? What about to churches seeking to strengthen marriages and families?

I have strong feelings about this. We all know children of ministers who have abandoned the faith. But these individuals are memorable because they are exceptions, rather than normative. One piece of advice is that a minister should not use his family to excuse his laziness, poor planning, or weakness in some are of ministry. We should never say, “I am not going to sacrifice my family for my church” when in reality, we are unwilling to do the hard parts of our jobs without regard to our families.

But there must be balance. Whenever possible, you should involve your family in your ministry. I was not able to go to all of the band concerts and ball games in which our sons participated, but they went with me to make hospital visits, and evangelistic contacts, and pastoral visits. We even invented a game that sharpened their analytical skills and observational skills on these visits. And we prayed together for the people we visited. One of our sons is a missionary with the IMB, and the other is an active, supportive layman in his Southern Baptist church.

Additionally, we never expected our children to do anything or refrain from anything because I was in the ministry, but frequently we reminded them that we lived the way we did because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us and expectations of us.

Churches seeking to strengthen marriages should develop strong Sunday School ministries with good teachers. A Sunday School teacher will know his/her class well and will minister effectively to the members and their families. The most effective marriage counseling will come from a caring Sunday School teacher who will explain to husbands that deer season is not synonymous with being single again.

The conclusion tomorrow...

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