Ascol Interviews Axed MBC Church Planter Kevin Larson

Over at the Founder’s blog, Tom Ascol provides an excellent interview and insight into the tragic motion the Missouri Baptist Convention made to de-fund their own church planters. Kevin Larson, pastor of Karis Community Church, answered several questions which, if anything, should help us realize that these decisions made at an executive level are affecting real people and their family, churches and their ministries.

A couple things to note from the interview. Kevin is a graduate of Southern Seminary (which I currently attend) and also checked into NETS, a great church planting program in the New England area. Kevin was a member of Clifton Baptist in Louisville under the leadership of Drs. Tom Schreiner and Bruce Ware (Schreiner ordained him). His ecclesiology is heavily influenced by Dever and IX Marks, preaches lengthy expository messages every Sunday, and has a high view of church membership. Sounds like the kind of church planter we need to be de-funding, doesn’t it?

Here’s some notable quotes:

“While at Southern, I honestly hadn’t heard anything about Acts 29, but, in my view, an abstinence only view would be unthinkable by virtue of students having sola scriptura beaten in their heads everyday.”

“We are so grateful for the support the MBC has provided. But, I do think the executive board’s decision is wrong and discouraging. Although they do have the right to make that decision, I say that the further narrowing of parameters of cooperation does not bode well for the MBC’s future.”

“In Missouri, I think this is about alcohol, yes, but it’s ultimately about power. Who will control Missouri Baptists? By the way, I have even heard rumblings that the group’s next target in Missouri will be Calvinism.”

“The average Southern student thinks Driscoll is fine, Tim Keller is amazing, and can’t understand what all the fighting is about. Why? Because Dr. Mohler and his faculty teach sola scriptura and the other four solas of the Reformation. And that makes this whole issue pretty simple.”

“Well, those mainline denominations are graying due to liberalism. Young people want something true and something worth believing and dying for. But the SBC, I’m afraid, could gray and ultimately die because of legalism. If this is allowed to persist and grow, it will push young Reformed, expositional preaching, church disciplining, and gospel cherishing guys like me out to the curb. I am convinced this is the case.”

Thank God for brothers like Kevin Larson! His response reveals that Karis Community Church is more than a just a name–it’s who they are. It’s not easy responding with such gracious and gospel-driven restraint, and if this whole deal does anything, I pray it points us to the future of SBC with men like Kevin. I am also thankful for men like Steve Tanner, Jerry Field, and Jim Shaver who have given their full support. May God turn the MBC probe light into a spotlight that offers us encouragement and hope through the churches and ministries like Karis Community Church.

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6 Comments on “Ascol Interviews Axed MBC Church Planter Kevin Larson”

  1. Tim Powell Says:

    But the SBC, I’m afraid, could gray and ultimately die because of legalism. If this is allowed to persist and grow, it will push young Reformed, expositional preaching, church disciplining, and gospel cherishing guys like me out to the curb. I am convinced this is the case.

    What do you think this will look like in SBC life? Do you think there’s enough diversity denomination-wide to handle guys like this (one whom I hope to be one day) without major collapse? Or will the SBC die and something rise to take its place? Speaking from personal experience, I know the issue of Calvinism alone (and the fact that Southern is churning out Calvinists left and right) is absolutely unacceptable in a lot of the SBC churches I’ve been a part of. The church where I grew up, for instance, would NOT hire a Calvinist pastor, no matter what. But when I asked I deacon on the search committee about it, he said, “Yeah, we wouldn’t hire one. A lot of people said they didn’t want one. [pause] Hmm. Calvinists. What do they teach again?”

    So that alone exists as a spectre in the minds of a lot of SBC people. But not only with that, but when you have guys who actually want to throw people out of church because they’re adulterers, we really have a problem! The same church where I grew up, as a matter of fact, did nothing to a man who was sent to prison for tax evasion. It wasn’t even that he repented; it just wasn’t talked about, and he was welcomed back when his term was up. And I don’t think this kind of church is an anomaly in the SBC.

    So what do we think this will look like in ten years? I’m assuming we’ll lose at least half our members–because guys who actually have an ecclesiology will take all the 1500 people of the rolls that haven’t been there in 15 years and can’t be found by the NSA. But large scale, do you think the churches that are out there will be able to take the pastors that their seminaries are putting out?

  2. Tim Powell Says:

    *diversity denomination wide in the churches

  3. Tim,

    What I think you are finding is that many of the young Calvinists are hesitant to enter churches that are openly unwelcoming to them. Rather, they have really developed a synergy for church planting, which as we are seeing, is being fueled mostly by non-SBC networks (A29, Tim Keller, Sovereign Grace, etc.).

    I think the challenge before us is to channel the resources through a church planting initiative that will facilitate future church planting efforts that are distinctively Reformed and convictionally Southern Baptist. That, for the past year, has been a major passion of mine which I have been working on offline.

    All the pastors and ministers who are not welcome in the SBC as it is are not should not be left with the only alternative to serve in non-SBC churches. We should create an avenue for these seminary students to partner with other like-minded SBC churches to accomplish church multiplication and Great Commission ministry without the bulky overhead of the SBC bureaucratic superstructure and political fencing.

    The rift is not only theological but generational. So while the former may be transcendent in nature, the later is transient. “This too shall pass” if you know what I mean. However, there is much that can and should be done now. That does not mean we labor and envision with intemperance or impatience but with discernment and gospel-centered strategies that will most effectively accomplish the long-term goal of planting, reforming, and building healthy and reproducing Southern Baptist churches.

    I see 2008 to be a year where many of the dots are connected regarding the Gospel Resurgence and future consensus. It already began at the Building Bridges Conference with men like Akin, Rainer, Ascol, and Dockery together. I think it will only continue. We really need to lend our support and backing to these men who are courageously steering the future of the SBC in a different direction, even from their fellow Conservative Resurgence warriors. My prayer is that the years of frustration and pain endured will be overcome by the dawning of a new day in the SBC. I am not naively optimistic, but I have reason to hope for better days ahead, especially with hearing of churches and ministers led by young men like Kevin Larson.

  4. Oh, I should also mention that the 2008 National Founders Conference will focus on church planting. I know Stetzer will be there but am not aware of the full line-up. Those of you making summer plans might want to take note.

  5. Marc Backes Says:

    Tim Powell & Brister / et all..

    You are bringing up good points. Tom Ascol and now TBrister have brought to light the face of this decision, and I’m so grateful that people now get to read the words of guys like Kevin Larson directly instead of having them represented to them by third parties…

    But this post gets to the heart of: “What about the future? What about future planters?” I am one of those future planters. The reason I’m following the words of Kevin and this decision so closely is (Lord willing) I am planting just 20 minutes away from him in Jefferson City over the next 12 – 18 months with relocation coming sometime this summer.

    So as I read all of this, I’m left wondering and praying, what should I do. I am planting in the city that houses (for the time being) the MBC. I’m planting in a city where the people who made this decision call home. I’m planting in a city that is 40% Catholic and 20% unclaimed by any denomination. If Tom Ascol asks not just me but ANY of the 9 Acts29 churches in Missouri those questions, he’s going to get roughly the same answers.

    So what do I do? These events wont’ deter me from planting (that’s already moving forward and in the early stages). But they do give me pause. And they make me extremely hesitant to develop any relationship with the MBC. Why? Because the MBC has made it clear they don’t want me. They don’t value me as a planter simply because I affiliate with a network and don’t believe alcohol abstinence is the only biblical position.

    So when you ask what’s the future of the SBC/MBC? The reason new church planters won’t go there is not because we don’t value our Baptist roots. It’s because they don’t value us and have categorized us essentially as unbiblical. I admire Kevin’s patience and restraint in his comments towards the MBC and will try to follow his example. But the truth remains, and everyone should remember this. We are being kicked out – we are not leaving. There’s a big difference.

    The ball is in the the estalishment’s court. Not ours. It is their decision now to determine how proactive they will be in developing relationships with us. Not the other way around. They made the decision to dis-associate. Not us. And I’ve learned a long time ago growing up in Jefferson City….don’t go where you ain’t wanted. You’ll only waste a lot of time and have a lot of emotional turmoil that you don’t need.

    Sorry for the long post…but as a “planter in the Acts29 pipeline”…I wanted folks to know how a future planter is interpreting this decision…

  6. Marc,

    What you said is what I have been trying say as well. The younger generation isn’t leaving the SBC. The SBC is leaving us, and that’s what makes it so difficult. I have great respect for the heritage and history of the SBC and all that God has done in the past 162 years of its existence. But the kingdom of God (contrary to what some Southern Baptists think) is not contingent upon the SBC. Our final authority is Christ and His Word, and when the time comes where are forced to decide between a denomination and Scripture, we must break, though it be with tears and great regret. I hope that day never comes.

    I do find it remarkable that the SBC have time and again carried the presumption that the younger Southern Baptists have been “demanding a seat at the table” regarding leadership. However, when the facts are presented, what you find is the younger generation looking for a more gospel-centered, mission-oriented partnerships than to be named to a committee to perpetuate the bureaucracy.

    What lies before us is a decision to focus all our energies and efforts on local churches, church planting, and mission work around the world. Yes, that may mean that this generation gets left in the cold from a denominational standpoint, but I would rather be pursuing the heart of God and left in the cold than to be chasing the wind.

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