Founders Conference: David Wells to speak in Owasso

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There's a great opportunity coming up later this month for Tulsa-area Christians with an interest in sound theology and a concern for the lack of interest in same which prevails in much of the evangelical realm.

Dr. David Wells is professor of historical and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Wells will be speaking at this year's National Founders Conference, to be held June 26-29 at Bethel Baptist Church in Owasso, Okla.

This is the 25th annual conference of the Founders Movement within the Southern Baptist Convention. The word "Founders" signifies the group's aim to promote within the SBC the doctrines of grace that were held without apology by the founders of the convention. That doctrinal heritage -- and the accompanying theological depth -- was lost around the turn of the 20th century. Awareness and understanding of the Reformed (Calvinistic) doctrines of grace is growing in the SBC, as is acceptance. One of America's most prominent Southern Baptists, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is Reformed, and he and his colleagues throughout the SBC seminary system are influencing the next generation of SBC pastors.

The theme of this year's conference is "God's Truth Abideth Still: Confronting Postmodernism." They couldn't have picked a better keynote speaker. Wells has written a series of challenging and brilliant books on the culture's abandonment of the notion of truth and its influence on evangelical Christianity.

The first book, published in 1993, was No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology. It had its origin in an offhand comment by one of the students in the required theology class that Wells taught. The student told him that he had struggled with his conscience about whether to take the course:

Was it right [the student wondered aloud] to spend so much money on a course of study that was so irrelevant to his desire to minster to people in the Church?

As I look through the book, I find my pencil marks on every page. Here's one section I found worthy of note, beginning on page 293:

The vast growth in evangelically minded people in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s should by now have revolutionized American culture. With a third of American adults now claiming to have experiences spiritual rebirth, a powerful countercurrent of morality growing out of a powerful and alternative worldview should have been unleashed in factories, offices, and board rooms, in the media, universities, and professions, from one end of the country to the other. The results should by now be unmistakable. Secular values should be reeling, and those who are their proponents should be very troubled. But as it turns out, all of this swelling of the evangelical ranks has passed unnoticed in the culture. It has simply been absorbed and tamed....

Here is a corner of the religious world that has learned from the social scientists how to grow itself, that is sprouting huge megachurches that look like shopping malls for the religious, that can count in its own society the moneyed and the powerful, and yet it causes not so much as a ripple. And its disappearance, judged in moral and spiritual terms, is happening at the very moment when American culture is more vulnerable to the uprooting of some of its cherished Enlightenment beliefs than ever before, because it knows itself to be empty....

Here's another, from a couple of pages on:

It may be that evangelicals will never recognize their pious self-absorption for the cultural thing that it is because conformity is a powerful force in the evangelical world, and it quickly stifles lone dissenters. Nevertheless, reality will take its toll. The publicized exodus of various evangelicals into the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches in recent years is simply a notable symptom of widespread disquiet in the evangelical world. Many ordinary believers are disillusioned with their churches, with their ministers, and with the larger evangelical empire, which has failed in the business of making known the character, acts, will, and purposes of God in the larger society and in embodying these in the kind of service that has the ring of spiritual authenticity about it.

The good news is that the intervening years have seen the beginnings of the kind of reformation for which Wells called. In addition to the growth and influence of the Founders movement in the nation's largest Protestant denomination, a trans-denominational movement emerged in the late '90s, the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals, which, in its Cambridge Declaration, reaffirmed the historic solas of the Reformation and set each one against its opposing tendency in modern evangelicalism.

The classical Christian education movement has emerged, helping Christian children develop a Christian worldview which is grounded in timeless truth and preparing them to engage the broader culture equipped with that worldview. The movement stands in contrast to Christian schools which were all about isolation from the world, hiding out in a tidy evangelical subculture and preaching to the choir.

World Magazine brings that same idea to the field of journalism:

We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it. Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God's perspective. We distinguish between issues on which the Bible is clear and those on which it isn't. We also distinguish between journalism and propaganda: We're not willing to lie because someone thinks it will help God's cause....

We cover all aspects of the news: national, international, and cultural; politics and business; medicine, science, technology, and sports. We have feisty columns and religious reflections. We even have cartoons and a page with funny or strange stories of the week. But what matters the most is this: We believe in a God who tells the truth and wants us to do the same.

An affiliated organization, World Journalism Institute, is engaged with the task of preparing Christians to work as journalists in the mainstream media. The curriculum includes both basic journalism skills and the development of a Christian worldview.

These are hopeful signs, but postmodernism, with denial of the very notion of truth, is still a strong influence in the culture at large and, through the culture, in the church.

The National Founders Conference ought to be well worth attending. Because the target audience is pastors, the schedule isn't convenient for those of us with 8-to-5 jobs, but Wells is speaking at two evening sessions. Although Founders Ministries is focused on the SBC, I see nothing in the online material that would exclude pastors and laymen of other denominations from registering.

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W. Author Profile Page said:

The reason evangelicals have had little impact on American society is easy to explain.

For all of the growth in recent years seen with the evangelical movement, the growth of the number of folks who don't go to church has gone up much more.

According to the Barna Group in 2004:

"Since 1991, the adult population in the United States has grown by 15%. During that same period the number of adults who do not attend church has nearly doubled, rising from 39 million to 75 million - a 92% increase!

"These startling statistics come from the most recent tracking study of religious behavior conducted by The Barna Group, a company that follows trends related to faith, culture and leadership in America. The latest study shows that the percentage of adults that is unchurched - defined as not having attended a Christian church service, other than for a holiday service, such as Christmas or Easter, or for special events such as a wedding or funeral, at any time in the past six months - has risen from 21% in 1991 to 34% today. [...]

"Interestingly, if the minority of unchurched adults who are born again were connected to a church, the resulting increase would be nearly 13 million new people - more than have joined the nation’s churches in the past decade combined.

"Among the theological differences uncovered were that unchurched adults are less likely than others to believe the Bible is accurate, that Jesus was sinless, that Satan is real, that salvation is through the grace of God, and that God is the creator and present-day ruler of the universe."

When you have the number of secular people growing at a much faster rate than evangelicals, the best the evangelicals are going to do is going to be a wash. And with secularists' staggering growth, the movement to orthodoxy isn't going to help much, either.

Liz said:

Thank you so much for this information, for me and for all of the Tulsa area. This is an important conference with pertinent information for churches. Your readers need to make an effort to attend and encourage their pastors to attend.

Will it be podcast?

Merlin said:

I am a member (not an officer) of Bethel Baptist Church in Owasso. Persons from other demoninations may attend the conference. In fact one of the best speakers last year was a Presbyterian Pastor. While Bethel Baptist Church is by all means a Southern Baptist Church,we are proud of our Reformed Theology or Calvanist doctrines. We emphasize that it not about us, it is all about God.

If someone plans to attend the Founders Conference, to get there from Tulsa, take Hwy 169 to 86th St. N, go West on 86th St N to N Cedar. Bethel will be on the NW corner. Our website is

I don't know about a Podcast, but last year the Founders made audio CD's available, and I believe you could order DVD video of the conference.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 1, 2007 11:20 PM.

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