I’ve had plenty of time now to think though the Board’s new hiring policies regarding baptism and tongues. I’ve decided that I don’t like them, but it’s probably not for the reasons you might think.
The trustees have made it clear that the new restrictions are not retroactive; that is to say, they don’t apply to those of us that are already on the field. But the new policies nonetheless affect me directly. How? I’m glad you asked.
I have a job request on the books. The new policies shrink the pool of candidates from which this job will be filled. “But that,” you might say, “is the point.” I understand that the trustees were trying to keep people certain people from being hired by the IMB; namely, those who speak in tongues and anyone who was baptized by someone with bad theology. Though I’m not aware of any place where we’ve got charismatics in the field, I understand that the trustees want to be sure their missionaries share the Board’s interpretation of certain scriptures. My problem is that these decisions essentially guarantee that I won’t get the type of church planters I’m looking for.
I’m not looking for people who speak in tongues or who might have been baptized by someone outside the SBC. I am looking for people who would defend the service of such individuals. I’m looking for people with a real understanding of what the Bible actually says about things like baptism and tongues. You see, our church planters often fall into the trap of teaching interpretations of scripture rather than the scripture itself. Our concentration on church forms and models has led to us planting churches that are hardly indigenous, and our focus on teaching our interpretations is like replacing the scriptures with an SBC-approved commentary.
So the new guidelines don’t just rule out the Charismatics. They rule out anyone open to a different understanding of passages like Acts 8:36, when the Ethiopian asks Philip a pertinent question:
“As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
How would I answer the Eunuch’s question? I probably wouldn’t be able to say, “Well, we can’t baptize you here and now because, well, the two of us don’t count as a church, and because I’m still not sure you fully understand the ramifications of eternal security.”
A byproduct of the change is that the type of person we’re looking for is so tired of the politics, infighting, and bullying, that they’re not applying to be sent by the IMB.