Three questions with Ed Stetzer

Communications Staff — May 26, 2009

Towersonline recently caught up with Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research & LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence, for three questions. The questions are:

  1. What are the two biggest issues facing conservative evangelical Christians today?
  2. How can the SBC be culturally relevant and engage younger leaders?
  3. What is your favorite urban vacation spot and your favorite non-urban vacation spot?

Question: What are the two biggest issues facing conservative evangelical Christians today?

Ed Stetzer: Missiology and ecclesiology.

Twenty years ago you didn’t have to worry about ecclesiology because everyone knew what a Presbyterian church or a Baptist church should look like. Now people are asking what expression of a New Testament church would be most appropriate in their context. So they’ve got to figure out what a New Testament church is. A lot of people don’t want to think about that, so they say, ‘Well, it should look like what it always looked like.’ But we’ve got to think biblically about what a church is and then how it expresses itself in its cultural context. That’s the ecclesiology.

Missiology asks what strategies we should use to most effectively expand the Kingdom wherever we’re sent. Right now people are asking, ‘How much culture do we engage?’ ‘How far is too far to engage in culture?’ And that’s a huge debate. Denominations that don’t confessionally define those things are going to struggle. I think a confessional definition like the article on the church in the Baptist Faith and Message is helpful.

Q. How can the SBC be culturally relevant and engage younger leaders?

ES: I think ultimately the convention has to refocus. It’s become a place where sniping is the order of the day rather than focusing on missions. I think those things have to change. I‘m encouraged that increasingly people are seeing that it’s time to focus on the Great Commission. We need to stop talking about everyone else and start talking about how to reach the lost for the glory of God.

With young leaders — Southern Baptists are going to have to decide whether they want to say to their children, ‘You can come only if you look like us, sing like us and act like us,’ or whether pastors who are 40 and older are going to say, ‘My sons are in the ministry now, and I‘d like them to feel welcome at the Southern Baptist Convention.’ The problem is that you cannot welcome them and also not affirm them. We want to say, ‘You come. You can do church any way you want to. But just don’t do it at the Southern Baptist Convention.’ They don’t work that way. So I think ultimately the fathers of the Southern Baptist Convention are going to have to determine whether they want their sons to be leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. We’re going to have to make it a lot more open methodologically and a lot more relationally connected than it is right now.

Q. What is your favorite urban vacation spot and your favorite non-urban vacation spot?

ES: I was born and reared in New York City, so I love to go back to the city. We go to Manhattan and we do some things with churches and networks up there. I don’t have a country place. I‘m a city boy. So my second favorite place to go has become Chicago. We call it our second city now and actually go to Chicago more than New York because I‘ve joined the faculty at Trinity.

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