d Stetzer is a Christian. He’s not a Baptist. Ed Stetzer, I believe, has never been labeled or labeled himself as Arminian or Calvinist. He might not care even to be defined as an evangelical. The most common label I hear is “missional guru,” but I have something altogether different in mind. Ed Stetzer is simply a Christian. I think it would be safe to say Dr. Ed Stetzer is a paradigmatic Christian. That is why he is able to move so freely from one narrowly-defined evangelical group to another antithetical and narrowly-defined evangelical group. Sure, he takes a little heat here and there as he takes speaking engagements just wherever and whenever he feels led, but he never really suffers for it.
Although I live only about thirty-five minutes away from this year’s site of the Founders National Conference, and I just happened to be on vacation that week, I was unable to attend. I have been pouring over the audio for the past couple of weeks, however, and will have to say there wasn’t a bad address in the conference. Dr. Stetzer’s two keynote addresses were probably the best messages of the whole conference, but Voddie Baucham, Andy Davis, and Don Whitney were close behind with a three-way tie. The remainder of the pack came in just a hair’s breadth behind those four. It was all good. A couple of things impress me about Dr. Stetzer, and so I’d like to park on that for a while:
- Dr. Stetzer is consistent. I have heard him on several occasions and his emphasis is always the same. The first time I heard Dr. Stetzer was a couple of years ago here in Tulsa when he spoke to our local association. For a large man, tall as well as bulky, he sure roams the stage with a vengeance. He’ll make you tired just watching him. And he speaks without ever stopping to breathe. I’m not sure how he does that trick. But back to his emphasis: he doesn’t pick an angle or tack based on the group he is speaking to. Our Tulsa association could hardly be called Calvinistic, yet he delivered the same central theme he delivered in this year’s Founders Conference that he did two years ago, as well as every other time I have heard him speak.
- Obviously the content of that constant emphasis is the other thing I like about Dr. Stetzer, and that is his unfading passion for the glory of God, and the presenting of the gospel to lost souls as one way to execute that passion for God’s glory. I say that because I hear so many in the SBC these days banging away on evangelisim, usually bearing down heavily on numbers of baptisms, without ever so much as a passing comment on giving glory to God. Check for yourself as you listen to speakers at your average SBC conference and see if it is not so. They will speak of evangelism as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. Sure we want people to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ but it should always be “to the praise of his glorious grace ().” Just listen to Dr. Stetzer’s messages at this years Fonders Conference and you will see what I mean.
I’m not sure what to make of a post I read earlier today from 9 Marks concerning some of Stetzer’s comments at the Founders Conference. In the post by Thabiti Anyabwile there was a play on words using the phrase “functional hyper-Calvinism.” I’m not sure if it might also be characterized by a smidgen of equivocation. I’m also not sure if the post was intended to criticize Dr. Stetzer, or just provoke thought. You can read it for yourself and decide. I was going to write this post anyway, so the 9 Marks post is neither here nor there. It’s just related, and I am adding the link here to augment the post.
“Building Bridges” has been a popular metaphor recently to describe various groups unifying for the purpose of advancing the gospel. For the most part these have been good, godly groups of men desiring to honor God by advancing the gospel in a lost and dying world. [Editor’s note; 2008/07/11: I apologize for the following struck-through comments. They were made as a result of personal prejudice, and a too-quick scanning of the article referenced. The statement was totally out of line and I should have never made it. Again, I apologize.] There have been some however who, with their own special flair for equivocation, have attempted to dampen the enthusiasm of these gospel-centered unifiers. I can’t imagine why. The thing that has impressesd me about Dr. Stetzer is that he doesn’t appear to be a slave to anyone, even though he has worked high up in the SBC machine for years. He’ll build bridges to any one who longs to share the gospel to the lost. I guess he’s just a Christian. May his tribe increase in our midst. Would to God that more of us would be content to be called simply “Christian.” I’ll close with a couple of quotes from Dr. Stetzer’s first message at this year’s Nathonal Founders Conference that reflects the heart of a man focused on the glory of God, and the spreading of the gospel as one way to proclaim that glory:
Let me propose a different way. Let’s learn from one another and take the best of one another’s approaches. What we need are theologically deep churches and believers with a passion for those who are far from Christ. I want both. I want it all.
Toward the end of his first message, relating the events surrounding the first worship service in a church plant, Dr. Stetzer said the following:
God reminded me that I did everything the handbook says to do . . . and in the process of doing all that I lost my attention and my focus off the glory of God and put it on the successful planting of a church. That was a turning point for my life. And it led me to be convinced that God wants churches planted throughout the United States and the world, but he wants them planted on his agenda, for his gospel and his glory. And when we try to take his glory he’ll take it back. . . My prayer through this conference . . . is that the end result will be that his name and his fame be more widely known through the planting of biblically faithful churches.
I wanted to make a few comments about the interviews conducted by Timmy Brister, but I have rambled long, so that will have to wait for another time, if I get around to it. If I don’t get around to it, lets just say they were worth the price of admission all by themselves. Go check the messages and the interviews out at Bethel Baptist Church’s website.