3 Questions with Nathan Finn

Communications Staff — February 2, 2010

Nathan Finn serves as assistant professor of church history and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Are you encouraged by what you have seen among Southern Baptists, particularly young Southern Baptists, since the annual meeting last summer in Louisville?

Finn: Generally speaking, I have seen a lot of excitement about the Great Commission Resurgence. I think there is still a lot of questions and there are a lot of folks who are still confused about it; they’re not 100 percent sure what the purpose of the task force is and you can tell that by reading some of the blogs and the discussions going on in state papers. But the vast majority of young people I have talked to are at least hopeful that something good is going to come from it and that we’ve established at least part of a road map to a productive future for the Southern Baptist Convention.

How do young pastors and leaders best serve in a local church where they are shepherding a congregation that is part of an older generation of Southern Baptists?

Finn: I think it is important for younger ministers to become bilingual. We don’t have trouble talking about missionaries and church planters becoming bilingual and thinking contextually in places where they are serving, but every pastor or minister does contextualization and the primary thing for them is learning the language of the area. So, when a young man goes into a church with older folks who have gone through the Southern Baptist system and are part of that system, then that young man needs to learn how to exegete where those older adults are. That young man also needs to help them see the difference between some of the good and bad tendencies of that older programmatic identity and also to help them figure out how to connect with a community that is never going to be in a world of Training Union or Royal Ambassadors.

How important is it for the younger generation of Southern Baptists to learn about the lives and ministries of great men of God from the last generation of Southern Baptist life, men like Adrian Rogers, Paul Pressler and W.A. Criswell?

Finn: I think there are two things we’ve got to do as we pass on the faith to the next generation. On the one hand, we’ve got to do catechesis and we’ve got to pass on our beliefs and I think everybody gets that and we’re talking about that and that’s fine.

The second thing we’ve got to do is pass on our stories. We’ve got an entire generation that is coming up that, not only have they not heard W.A. Criswell preach, they don’t know who Adrian Rogers is. The world is changing and this next generation is coming from a totally different context. We’ve got to convince them that all of our stories, including — and maybe even especially — the story of the last 30 years, are something they want to become a part of and they want to be in continuity with. If we don’t do that, then I think some are going to be Southern Baptists by convenience, others will be Southern Baptists by conditioning, but fewer and fewer are going to be Southern Baptists by conviction. So it’s not only passing on our beliefs, but passing on our stories as well.

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