To God Be the Glory: Celebrating Two Years of Ministry
A Message from the Helwys Society Forum
In the winter of 2009, three of us perceived the need for an online venue where believers could engage issues confronting the church. With this basic but simple thought, the Helwys Society Forum (HSF) was born. In late February 2010, the Helwys Society posted its first essay on the Forum. Since then, we have posted nearly 75. To God be the glory. For more information concerning our origins, please see our History and Purpose.
In just two years of operation, much has changed. When we began, we only posted essays—one every two weeks among five contributors. Now we post essays weekly, and we’ve added many resources for our readers, including book reviews, interviews, and book recommendations. This time last year we made major modifications to the website. We thank you for your positive feedback. We also added a sixth contributor, as well as guests.
When we began the HSF, above all else, we hoped to bring glory to our God. And we believe that God is accomplishing this. He has worked through meager efforts in tremendous ways. For example, in August 2010, Matthew Bracey wrote an essay on creation care, “Christianity and Environmentalism.” Since then, the content of this essay has reached a much wider audience: ONE Magazine published an adapted version of it in February-March 2011, and Moody Radio South’s New Day Café program interviewed Matt concerning this essay for their emphasis week on biblical stewardship—“The Earth: God’s Creation, Our Responsibility.”
Similarly, W. Jackson Watts has written an important piece on the problem of singleness in the churches, “The Scandal of Singleness.” This essay has also been picked up for publication in June 2012. Other members’ works have also received publication. In addition, one of the most pleasant surprises is how the Forum has gained a wider readership beyond our own denomination. While the HSF is committed to the Free Will Baptist tradition, we are convinced that there is much upon which conservative evangelicals can agree, given their common convictions about Scripture, the value of church history, and the historic creeds and confessions. Indeed, God is doing His work. We thank Him for it, and we pray that He continues to work through our efforts.
In addition to giving our readers a cursory look into what God has done through the HSF since its inception, we also want to highlight some of our past essays. Below, each contributor introduces an important, but possibly unfamiliar, piece. We explain what prompted us to write these pieces, what we discovered, and what we hope God will accomplish and has accomplished through it. To God be the glory.
Matthew Bracey: “All Together Now” (June 2011)
Issues of race have historically plagued humanity and, sadly, Christianity. This is especially true of American Christianity in the South. As Christians our first concern should always be what the Bible has to say about a given issue. Race issues are no exception. What has the Bible has to say about this delicate, yet important, issue? And what does it mean for us today?
What I discovered from Scripture was the oft-overlooked theme of reconciliation (cf. Eph. 2). God has reconciled believers to Himself in Christ, and as a result, reconciliation among believers is possible in Christ. Scriptures concerning creation, salvation, and end times make this point abundantly clear.
When I wrote this essay, I hoped that God would work through it to address these deeper issues in our culture. Though we’ve come a long way since the 1960s, we still have work to do. For example, not six months after I posted this essay, Free Will Baptists regrettably made the headlines (December 2011) when a church in Kentucky banned an interracial couple from attending its church. The point is all-the-more clear: We must work to embody Christ’s Spirit of reconciliation in our dealings with all persons, especially those of other ethnic backgrounds.
Jeremy Craft: “Reclaiming the Supper” (July 2011)
“Why do Christians partake in the Lord’s Supper? And what does it actually mean for those of us who partake in it?” These were personal questions that I had, which served as the catalyst for this particular essay. Although I grew up in church, still I could not answer these questions.
Many of my peers in seminary loathed the memorialist understanding of the Lord’s Supper, even criticizing me for holding this view. They argued that the memorialist view devalues the meal and derives it of its meaning. For them, Baptists practice the Supper so little because they hold to a memorialist view. And to some extent, I could understand where they were coming from.
This spurned me to address three points in regard to the meal. First, I felt that many sacramentalists did not give an adequate evaluation of the memorialist view, even presenting caricatures of memorialism in some cases. Second, I wanted to explain what the supper means and what happens when we partake in it. This is an issue not usually addressed by memorialists. Third, I wanted to encourage Baptists, and particularly Free Will Baptists, to partake of the meal with more regularity because of the immense spiritual benefits it has on our lives, and how God uses it in our personal sanctification.
Ryan Johnston: “Why Are We So Worried About Church Growth?” (June 2011)
This particular essay was, and still is, something about which I am very passionate. My motivation for writing it was not necessarily church growth, but church health and vitality. I believe it is essential for any pastor or leader of a church to realize the importance of relying upon the Scriptures as the sole, sufficient authority for shaping the church’s practices. I received encouraging feedback from this article that generated good discussion concerning contextualization, programs, and ministries—and even what church practices are biblical or unbiblical.
The solution to the epidemic of modern church growth practices is far from easy, but it must be pursued diligently. My continued desire is that this work may be referenced, but most importantly, that pastors and church leaders may search the Scriptures for sustaining theological growth among churches for the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom.
Phillip Morgan: “Accounting for Accountability” (August 2011)
This essay was birthed from my own troubles as a quasi-Christian teenager. I was saved and baptized before I can clearly remember, but my life showed little if any change until I was twenty years old. I came to the realization then that any kind of real faith in God necessitated a change in my heart and life.
Since then, I have tried to understand the unfulfilled state of my Christianity before the age of twenty. By extension, I have wanted to understand why so many of the children I grew up with have left the church, even though they were all reared in good churches and homes. During this time, I came across Gideon Yoder’s The Nurture and Evangelism of Children. This book has proven incredibly helpful to me in forming a thesis concerning these issues.
What I concluded was this: Rightfully so, we want all to follow Christ, especially our children. However, we can’t rush it. We must make sure that converts understand the basics of what they are committing to. Therefore, as Christians it is our responsibility to disciple and confirm new converts so that they stay the course. I believe that if we are more intentional in these matters, we will stem the tide of the departing youth from our churches.
Jesse Owens: “When Hatred Is Close and Benevolence Is Far” (March 2010)
The Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite works by C.S. Lewis. While many of this book’s themes stand out, this concept of “near hatred” and “far love” uniquely struck me, for I am guilty of this very thing. For example, we eagerly support mission works in other parts of the country or world, yet we treat our neighbors with contempt. It’s easy to love a nearly imaginary, distant people group. It is much more difficult to love our very tangible neighbors. I therefore wrote this essay in part to confront my own sins. However, I sense that this is an issue with which other believers also struggle.
From its inception, I prayed earnestly that God would first change me. And it is a continual struggle for me to consistently love both my Christian brother and my neighbor. But Christ calls me to test my faith by examining whether or not I love the brethren. In other words, if I love my brother who I can see, I know that I love God who I cannot see (1 Jn. 4:20,21). And how can I know that I love God if I do not share the Gospel with my neighbor? These are daily tests that I have sought to faithfully apply to my life since this piece.
W. Jackson Watts: First Things for Christian Apologists” (March 2011)
It is fashionable today to read any of the countless books published annually on Christian apologetics. And while this represents a resurgence of interest in the life of the mind among conservative evangelicals in many ways (a positive trend, no doubt), it also has come at a price. As a Free Will Baptist who has done much academic work in philosophy and apologetics, I’ve become convinced that evidentialist-driven approaches to apologetics not only depart from sound theology, but they simply aren’t as effective as we often believe.
We frequently argue with modernists using apologetic approaches that both (a) aren’t Scripturally sound, while (b) adopting their own problematic epistemology in trying to refute them. Neither of these is acceptable in my mind. I’ve tried to offer a brief sketch of what might be a way forward in a postmodern era for Free Will Baptists and evangelicals at large to think about the apologetic task.
To God Be the Glory