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SBC DIGEST: New book weighs denominations' future

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--A new book edited by Union University President David S. Dockery examines the role that Christian denominations play and where they are headed in the future.


"Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism," published by B&H Academic, includes chapters from a variety of Southern Baptist and evangelical leaders based upon their presentations at a 2009 conference at Union.

Ray Van Neste, associate professor of biblical studies at Union, and Jerry Tidwell, Union's senior vice president for university relations, served as the conference coordinators and assisted with the book.

In the book's preface, Dockery writes that the world has seen significant changes over the past 50 years, and Christian denominations that reached their peak 50 years ago are now struggling to discover their place in a new age.

"The contributors to this volume are not pessimistic about the future; we are hopeful, largely because of Christ's promise to His church," Dockery writes. "Yet, we recognize that we find ourselves at a propitious moment when important questions about change, continuity, unity, and diversity need to be raised in light of the challenges around us. We not only want to raise the questions but look for answers that are faithful to our confession and our heritage."

Dockery cites the numerical decline of many denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, and a lack of denominational loyalty from younger leaders.

"The disconnect has been created by rapid changes in our culture, which have been understood by a younger generation of leaders who desire greatly to engage these cultural shifts and respond to them in a gospel-focused manner," Dockery writes. "We want to encourage the next generation of Baptist and Evangelical leaders toward wise stewardship of that which has been entrusted to them. We pray that God would favor them with great wisdom and abundant grace."


The book is divided into three sections:

-- "Denominationalism: Historical Trends, Future Challenges," with chapters by Dockery; Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources; D. Michael Lindsay, author of "Faith in the Halls of Power" and newly elected president of Gordon College; and Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University.

-- "Evangelicals and Southern Baptists: Identity, Beliefs, and Ministry," with chapters by Duane Litfin, who served as president of Wheaton College for 17 years; Van Neste; Tidwell; Harry L. Poe, the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union; and Mark DeVine, associate professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School.

-- "Southern Baptists: Understanding the Past in Order to Explore the Future," with chapters by James A. Patterson, university professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union; Nathan A. Finn, assistant professor of church history and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern; and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The book is available at LifeWay Christian Stores or at online retailers and

NEW HOPE -- "Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living" by Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation is this year's resource for the 2011 Baptist Doctrine Study from LifeWay Christian Resources. The companion study is being utilized by churches across the country to better understand missional living.


Stetzer is vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources; Nation is director of ministry development for LifeWay Research. However, the authors wrote Compelled by Love while serving as church planters in Georgia.

"When we started writing this book, the word 'missional' was quite popular among church leaders," Nation recounted. "Because of the popularity of the word, exploring the motivation behind this 'missional' movement seemed needful. With Compelled by Love, there is a specific aim -- to push the concept of 'missional' out of the church leadership library and into the lives of everyday believers."

"We can talk about being missional churches," Stetzer reflected, "but to see that, we need to be churches of missional people compelled by the love of Christ to live on mission for his Kingdom."

Each year, Southern Baptist churches are encouraged to participate in a denomination-wide study during the month of April that focuses on an aspect of doctrine, but churches and individuals can participate any time.

Compelled by Love, from New Hope Publishers, the publishing division of WMU, can be purchased online at LifeWay Christian Stores and at It is also available in Spanish ("Impulses pot el Amor: El casino mas excellent al estate de visa missionary"). Also available are Lifeway's small group studies, "Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living." and Live in the Word (Growing Disciples series).


Adapted from reports by Tim Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University, and Julie Walters, corporate communications team leader for national Woman's Missionary Union.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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