Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Monthly Archive: October 2013



October 2013



What Does a Missional Spirituality Look Like?

Written by , Posted in Books, Culture, Ministry, Missions, Spirituality

Missional SpiritualityOver the past year, I’ve spent a good bit of my time thinking about the nature of evangelical and Baptist spirituality. In the coming months, I will probably share some of my reflections here and there on this blog. I’m not certain of what will ultimately comes from these musings, besides (I hope) my own spiritual growth and some material to pass on to my students and church members.

One of the more interesting books I’ve read recently is Missional Spirituality: Embodying God’s Love from the Inside Out (IVP, 2011).  The authors, Roger Helland and Len Hjalmarson, are Canadian evangelical leaders. Furthermore, Helland is a Baptist and Hjalmarson is a Mennonite, so these two brothers are uniquely positioned to think about missional spirituality from the perspective of low church, free church, baptistic evangelicals. While I don’t agree with all of their conclusions or emphases, I have found them to be helpful conversation partners as I have been pondering the relationship between spirituality and mission.

As I was thinking of the best way to mention Missional Spirituality on this blog, I came across a helpful summary of the book by Scot McKnight.  What follows is not a bulleted list excerpted from Helland and Hjalmarson, but rather McKnight’s summary of the emphases put forward in Missional Spirituality.

1) Practicing union with Christ: abiding in Christ is what discipleship is all about. Focus on John 15:1-17.

2) Practicing obedience: “the spiritual life is the surrendered life.”

3) Practicing humility.

4) Practicing missio reading and prayer. Not just prayer that fosters intimacy but prayer that fosters love for others, the Jesus Creed.

5) Practicing worship. The problem is defective views of God; we need an expansive sense of God’s grandeur and majesty and glory.

6) Practicing enchantment. Attentiveness to God’s handiwork.

7) Practicing Christ-mindedness.

8) Practicing faith-thinking. This is about theological reflection to learn to think our way into the goodness and glory of God and what God is doing in this world. Theological imagination can be developed.

9) Practicing gratitude.

10) Then a series on “From all your strength”: practicing treasure-talents-time, loving God from our treasure, loving God from our talents, and loving God from our time.

11) Practicing loving your neighbor: by practicing presence, by practicing refuge, and by practicing hospitality.

While I would perhaps tease out some of the details differently than the authors of Missional Spirituality (and McKnight), I think this list is a helpful starting place. I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Missional Spirituality and give it a close read.



October 2013



On Trying to Scare the Hell Out of People (Literally) at Halloween

Written by , Posted in Ministry

Timothy George has written a very insightful piece for his latest contribution at On the Square, titled “The Gospel of Ghoul.” In the essay, George looks at the popularity among some evangelical and fundamentalist churches to host Judgment Houses or Hell Houses around Halloween. He notes that this trend is simply the latest manifestation of hellish dramas, which have been popular since at least the Middle Ages. (I also make this point in my church history classes.) He also notes these dramas provide a picture of hell that is heavy on speculation, reflect some of the odder pathologies in American culture, and attempt to scare people into making spiritual decisions. I would highly encourage you to read the essay.

I confess that I’m a veteran of many Judgment Houses. My home church used to put one on every year, and I participated in three or four of them in high school and college. As an evangelistic thespian, I have committed suicide many times, had premarital sex on numerous occasions, and partied like it was 1995, 1996, and 1997. I’ve also been saved several dozen times. When I was about seventeen, I thought that Judgment House was a great way to reach people with the gospel. After all, well over half the baptisms in my church every year came from decisions made at Judgment House. Then reality set in.

In 1996, around two hundred people made decisions related to our Judgment House. I know because I helped count the decision cards every night. Of those decisions, many of which were made by members of other churches, we baptized around 30 people. I remember being particularly excited to see several of the more popular teenagers at our high school go under the water and join our church. Fast forward to 1998, and I remember almost the exact moment when it dawned on me that not one of the people we baptized in 1996–not a single one–was still active in our church. Almost all of them still lived in my hometown, virtually all of them were still members of our church, but none of them was involved. I can think of a few that literally never came back to church after getting dunked. Many of them lived in such a way that you would never know they had signed a decision card and been baptized just a couple of years earlier.

Before you make the suggestion that the problem wasn’t with the evangelism strategy, but with post-decision follow up, believe me when I say we tried to follow up with all these folks. We visited many of their houses, invited them to get plugged in, etc. I talked to many of them myself as part of our weekly Tuesday night visitation program. They just flat weren’t interested in the things of God, their Judgment House decision and subsequent immersion notwithstanding. Truth be told–and it pains me to write this–most of them didn’t hear the gospel at Judgment House. Some of them probably heard the gospel when they talked with a “decision counselor” after the production, and I’m truly thankful for that. But they didn’t hear the gospel in the drama itself. What they heard was that hell is really hot and terrible, and if we believe that Jesus loves us a bunch and doesn’t want us to go to hell, then we don’t have to go to hell. They heard (and witnessed) a caricature of the good news.

Some Christians want to avoid Halloween altogether, and I totally respect that decision. Others want to be evangelistically strategic at Halloween, and I understand that as well. But for those in the latter camp, I don’t think Judgment Houses and Hell Houses are the best way to proclaim Christ at Halloween. Instead of trying to scare the hell out of people this fall (literally), I have a better idea: let’s trick or treat in our neighborhoods, meet some neighbors, build relationships, and pray for opportunities to share the gospel in the coming weeks and months. At our house, we’ll be giving out bags of candy with a gospel tract to trick-or-treaters and passing out free hot chocolate and apple cider to parents. If you want to read a great essay on how to think evangelistically about Halloween, I’d recommend “Why All Good Christians Should Celebrate Halloween” by my friend and fellow Southeastern Seminary professor George Robinson.



October 2013



Andrew Fuller and His Controversies: Audio Available

Written by , Posted in Conferences, History, Theology

At the Pure FountainThe audio from the 2013 Andrew Fuller Conference are now available online. The topic for this year’s conference was “Andrew Fuller and His Controversies.” You can see a full list of the audio resources at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies website. My own lecture on “Andrew Fuller’s Critique of Sandemanianism” is available online. Other speakers include scholars such as Tom Nettles, Michael Haykin, Ryan West, Paul Helm, and Mark Jones. In my opinion, Jones’s brilliant lecture on Fuller’s response to antinomianism is particularly relevant as many younger evangelicals seem especially prone to antinomian tendencies. (Jones has a forthcoming book on this topic as well.)

If you are interested in how a pastor-theologian can fruitfully engage in theological controversy for the sake of the gospel, then I would commend these talks to you. For an earlier collection of essays that deals with this same topic, I would recommend Michael Haykin, ed., At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist (Paternoster, 2003; reprint, Wipf and Stock, 2007).

Next year, as we celebrate the 300th anniversary of George Whitefield’s birth, the Fuller Center will host its annual conference on the topic “George Whitefield and the Great Awakening.” Stay tuned to the Fuller Center website for more news related to that conference.



October 2013



My Preaching Role Models

Written by , Posted in Ministry


Adrian Rogers (1931-2005)

Yesterday, I published a post at Between the Times that recommended some fine preaching books that have been written by current and former Southeastern preaching professors. I also mentioned that I studied preaching at SEBTS with Stephen Rummage and Greg Heisler, as well as learning a lot about preaching from professors Danny Akin and Allan Moseley.

Back in 2010, I published two posts at Between the Times that discussed five of the key preaching role models in my life. The first post discussed Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines, both of whom fundamentally affected my view of preaching during the years I was finishing high school, wrestling with a call to vocational ministry, and making my first (awful) attempts at preaching. The second post discussed John Piper, Russ Moore, and Andy Davis, three pastors who shaped my understanding of preaching in college and seminary. Andy, of course, is still the senior pastor of FBC Durham and the brother whose preaching I sit under about 2/3 of the time.

So what is the takeaway? Come to Southeastern to study with some of the finest preaching professors around. And listen to as many good preachers as you can, both in person and through audio or video media.

(Image credit)




October 2013



Recommended Preaching Books by Southeastern Seminary Faculty

Written by , Posted in Ministry

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has emphasized expository preaching since the late 1980s. In fact, while each Southern Baptist seminary is different and has its own personality and unique emphases, all of our seminaries teach expositional preaching as the primary, most effective way to proclaim the whole counsel of God to his people. Southern Baptist seminaries aren’t perfect–even mine–but I can guarantee that you can study at any of them and learn how to preach expositional sermons to God’s people.

At Southeastern, we have a stable of outstanding full-time preaching professors (Danny Akin, Tony Merida, Jim Shaddix) and adjunctive or part-time professors (Stephen Rummage, Dwayne Milioni, Bill Curtis, Greg Heisler, Wayne McDill) with whom students can study preaching. When I was a student, I studied preaching with Rummage and Heisler, both of whom now pastor influential churches in their respective states, but continue to teach preaching part-time at SEBTS. I also learned quite a bit about preaching from other SEBTS faculty members, particularly Akin and and OT professor Allan Moseley.

Yesterday, Southeastern inaugurated our second endowed chair in preaching when we installed President Akin in the Ed Young Sr. Chair of Preaching. In honor of the festivities, I have published a blog post at Between the Times today listing a truck-load of preaching books written by current and recent SEBTS preaching professors. I hope you will take the opportunity to read at least some of those books and sharpen your skills in the art of expository preaching.