January 31, 2012

Voddie Baucham and Shepherds’ Conference

by Austin Duncan

I am a youth pastor, and Voddie Bauchaum is my friend. Those two facts may seem contradictory, but I assure you that they are not. And when I describe myself as a youth pastor, I’m talking about a Wednesday night youth-grouping, beach-day footballing, summer-camp preaching, small-group promoting, lock-in hosting, real live youth pastor. For me “chubby bunny” isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s a mandate.

And yet Voddie and I are friends. We talk on the phone. Our families have mingled. We have eaten Mexican food together. I’ve been to his church and he’s been to mine. We’ve talked about football and fundamentalism.

Our uncommon bond has a unique origin. I first met Voddie at the 2011 Shepherds’ conference under rather uncomfortable circumstances. I was presenting a seminar session on The Family Integrated Church, a movement that rejects age-segregated ministry in the church. I had been asked about the FIC movement for several years and had decided to present a longer consideration and critique of both Voddie’s book Family Driven Faith, and the wider movement that he helped found. I wanted my critique to be fair and gracious and helpful for both youth pastors and pastors in Family-Integrated-type churches.

I had no idea that Voddie would be attending the conference, and you can only imagine how surprised I was when he showed up to my seminar (which was titled “Family Matters: Does the Bible Demand Family Integrated Ministry?”) If you’ve ever met Voddie or seen him preach, you have probably made note of at least one of his attributes; the man is huge. Battleship huge. Let’s just say I noticed him when I walked in the room.

Register by clicking icon

But what struck me about Voddie is that after critiquing his movement for over an hour, this descendant of Anak approached me and was… complimentary. He was gracious, and we immediately made plans to have dinner together. At dinner, he kindly received my criticism of the movement in which he is a founder and a reformer. He found much of my critique of the movement to be on point, and there was plenty that we were able to disagree over. A few weeks later, he and the elders of his church (Grace Family Baptist), invited me to come deliver the same critique at a weekend conference they were hosting. His church was as humble and gracious as he was, and we have been friends ever since.

Why do I relate all this? Because Voddie has been invited to be a keynote speaker at this year’s Shepherds’ Conference, and ever since that invitation was made public, I have received numerous emails and phone calls from pastors asking why Voddie was invited. Responses ranged from flabbergasted to frustrated. Some pastors had contended with divisive people who were critical of their work with youth and used Voddie’s book as their rationale for being divisive in their church regarding youth ministry.

And honestly, this response caught me off guard. Shepherds’ Conference has often had those outside of the Grace Community Church box come and speak. We have had continuationists, and Presbyterians both come (by the way, I also love Ligon Duncan…we are probably related), and I find it hard to believe that a philosophy of youth ministry is a bigger deal than the nature of the kingdom or the use of the spiritual gifts.

But some pastors apparently feel like having Voddie speak at Shepherds’ Conference is tantamount to John MacArthur siding with those who want to fire youth pastors. To those pastors, let me just point out that three-fourths of Grace Church’s campus is devoted to some sort of youth ministry, I have been the youth pastor here, and inviting Voddie is not John’s subtle way of saying “we’ve been doing it wrong.” And frankly, if a pastor is unable to give a coherent explanation for why he believes in youth ministry, then he has bigger problems than who is in the speaking line up.

So allow me to explain why you should be excited to hear Voddie speak at this year’s Shepherds’ Conference.

1. Voddie believes the Bible is his authority. I have a hard time thinking of something that matters more than this. He backs up his beliefs with integrity and a refusal to compromise the truth, even at his own personal expense. He understands that the Trinity is more important than how you do Sunday School.

2. Voddie has a robust ecclesiology. One of my greatest critiques of the FIC movement is its misplaced authority. But this is simply not true at Voddie’s church. At GFBC, the 1689 London Baptist Confession is studied and adhered to, and the Scripture receives the priority. This is not an ecclesiological free-for-all built around the whims of every father in the congregation. These precious people love the church and understand that their dad is not their pastor. This passion for the church permeates his preaching.

3. Voddie thinks pastors and fathers should be spiritual leaders in their homes. Strangely enough, he generates controversy for precisely this point (you would think the only ones against this would be old Rev. Eli of Shiloh and his lecherous sons). Voddie sees this as complementary to his love for the church. He teaches that fathers are not their family’s pastors, but that they are the spiritual head of their household, and it is the church’s job to train the men how to lead—which is preceisly what he will be preaching on next month.

4. Voddie is a theological genius. Having a conversation with him reminds me of much I have to learn. He freely (and accurately) quotes from church history. He has command of theology, politics, culture, and history. He is certainly one of the most astute and insightful people I have ever met, and he uses his knowledge for the glory of God. Consider his recent explanation of why James MacDonald sent him home from the Harvest men’s conference. Voddie channeled his inner Athanasius and his inner Thomas Sowell to make a point that is both evidence of his theological conviction and a demonstration of his towering intellect.

Voddie and I may disagree on how to implement our philosophy of ministry (especially as it pertains to reaching and training the youth in the church). But Voddie and I agree on much; we agree that youth ministry done without ecclesiastical conviction has disastrous results. We agree that a youth pastor assuming (or belittling) the parental role is folly. We agree that parents should be the primary spiritual influence in the Christian home. And we agree that the church is the one institution that God promised to build and bless.

So to my Mountain Dew chuggin youth ministry compatriots: come to Shepherds’ Conference. I will be sitting in the front row smiling ear to ear, excited to hear my friend preach the Word, because I know he’s a man who lives his convictions, loves his family, believes the Bible, and will be a profound encouragement to the shepherds of God’s people.

P.S.

Voddie has handled this ER2 debacle with tremendous wisdom, grace and doctrinal clarity. His example should be sufficient to demonstrate that MacArthur’s invitation to him as evidence of wisdom being vindicated. I’ve worked for John for 8 years now, and  it just keeps happening; he will make a call that is outside of the box, and people will say, “What’s up with MacArthur?” And then a few months later, we all say, “Oh…wow, that was a really good call.” A year ago we obviously had no idea that Voddie would have the opportunity to stand for biblical conviction in a way that many prominent evangelical leaders have been apparently unwilling to demonstrate. So, I am impressed by John’s desire to have Voddie, and am excited to see him come.

Austin Duncan

Posts Twitter Facebook

Austin is an elder and college pastor at Grace Church in Los Angeles.
  • http://www.facebook.com/paulbyoon Paul Yoon

    If Voddie is Austin’s friend, then he is my friend.

  • http://na-dache.blogspot.com Matthew Carroll

    Word.

  • Todd Barnett

    Refreshing article!

    Thank you for including your personal experience with Voddie, particularly your mutual ability and willingness to fellowship and challenge one another in grace immediately following your seminar and thereafter.

    So important.

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Thanks, Todd. When he approached me after the seminar, several people thought we were going to wrestle. Instead, Voddie initiated that interaction and was a model of cordiality.

  • Christo

    I love this: “And when I describe myself as a youth pastor, I’m taking about a Wednesday night youth-grouping, beach-day footballing, summer-camp preaching, small-group promoting, lock-in hosting, real live youth pastor. For me “chubby bunny” isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s a mandate”. I think I’ll post it as one of my favourite quotes on Facebook. I’m also a youth pastor and you’re a great example to me. You are one of the men whom God has used to base my youth ministry on a truly biblical philosophy of youth ministry. I love your article: “Seven Reasons I Love Youth Ministry” and I reflect on it often. I know all of this is beside the point of the blog, but I saw the opportunity to let you knw what your ministry means to me and I grabbed it (I know of no other way to contact you). God bless you!

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Hi Christo,
      Thanks for the YP love. May God continue to bless your ministry. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Christo

    I meant to say: You are one of the men whom God has used to HELP ME base my youth ministry on a truly biblical philosophy of youth ministry.

  • http://twitter.com/SpencerDeBurgh Spencer DeBurgh

    Good word Austin.
    We had Voddie here at Racine Bible a couple years ago. He was bold & opinionated and also gracious & humble.
    I remember one moment when he was saying that children’s Sunday School was wack (or something like that) and a 81 year old grandma who was saved 71 years ago in Sunday School took him on.
    And he plays a mean game of corn hole. He and his son demolished me and mine.
    And you really coined one with the Athanasius/Sowell connection. Nice.

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Hey Spencer,
      I love your description of Voddie. It is spot on. He is a dear brother, I had no idea that he was a proficient cornhole player. I think cornhole would be a good addition to shepherd’s conference. But that might be the YP in me talking. Thanks for your comment, and for your work on twitter, you are one of my favorite people to follow, your tweets are a constant source of edification, humor, and great place to plunder sermon quotes.

  • Andy

    I wish I could be at the conference. Voddie has come to our church numerous times here in East, TN and lead a men’s conference and lead some Sunday morning preaching. :) Also interesting tid-bit, Voddie was getting his Ph.D. from Southeastern while I was there getting my B.A. And I even had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions while in school, wonderful man of God, and I highly recommend his books. You may not agree with all he says, but you cannot deny his sincerity and compassion and love towards others. :)

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Amen, Andy. Thanks for commenting, hope to see you at the conference when you can make it out here.

  • rc sproul jr

    Austin,
    Thank you for this. My only concern is your apparent level of surprise that at least on FIC guy doesn’t match up to the devil-horned caricature painted by too many FIC opponents. (And to be fair some on my side of this issue have returned the favor.) What I love about your piece is not only that you speak well and accurately about my friend, but that this piece exhibits the right way to accomplish the purported mission of the Elephant Room. No drama here, no pay-per-view, no one even watching. Just two godly men talking about what unites them, and where they yet disagree. Perhaps better still I’m excited that you are encouraging people to come out and hear Voddie break open the Word. His heart is as big as his body, his wisdom as deep as his voice. Dr. MacArthur will be glad he chose Voddie, as I was to have Voddie at Reformation Bible College’s conference last fall. Voddie brought it, and how. Only wish I could be there for the event. God bless you, and those under your pastoral care.

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Hi R.C.,
      You and your family have been in my prayers lately. I am grateful for you. Thanks for your gracious comment. It is too easy to demonize (one side is the militant, rogue, homeschooler who hates the church and the other is the creepy, youth pastor trying to corrupt the children) but its harder to respond with grace. But that’s exactly what we must do. Voddie is not my opponent, he is my brother. Again, thanks for stopping by.

  • http://twitter.com/guspidal Gus Pidal

    You had me at “Athanasius” and “Thomas Sowell.”

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Gustavo! Good to hear from you, I am grateful your ministry in Spain, we miss the Pidals and pray for you often. J-Mac got me into Sowell, Nate Busenitz got me into Athanasius. Thanks for commenting.

      • http://twitter.com/guspidal Gus Pidal

        Thanks for your prayers brother! Thomas Sowell has one of the best quotes EVER! “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings”– We should apply this in our ministries!

  • LexxRegenerate

    THis is great. i am so encouraged by Voddies stance on biblical truth. It is for such a time as this that God will lift up men that have not bowed their knees to baal.

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Thanks, Lexx, glad it was encouraging.

  • Casey

    Thanks for telling us about the Shepherds Conference and how that all went down with Voddie last year. I think many of us wonder how the conversation went. I wonder what happened when a guy bigger then you came into the room and you were critiquing his ministry position. Truly he is a man of humility to listen to someone critique his own ecclesiastical model of youth and see the problems with it. That is encouraging to see you both sit down as two mature men in Christ listening to one another (1 Cor 11:1). It brings joy to my heart to hear your story. Thanks for sharing Austin and keep up the great work you are doing at Grace Community Church!

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Your welcome, Casey. A lot of folks have asked me about the aftermath of that critique. One reason I wrote this was to answer those questions. Thanks for visiting.

  • Pingback: Voddie Baucham is speaking at Shepherds Conference « Strengthened by Grace()

  • Anonymous

    Austin: Great post! I love this! I love the respect and love you have for someone with a different (non essential) point of view. This is how we SHOULD be as the church. I read Voddies post about the whole ER2 and subsequent mens conference and he handled it with wisdom and humility. And even though I am a fan of the Elephant Room concept of open dialogue and agreeing to disagree then parting as brothers, I also agree with Voddie’s take that they (ER2) kinda “stepped in it” with T.D. Jakes. Anyways, Im encouraged by your take. And let me first say that I listen very regularly to Dr. MacArthur and have grown so much from his teaching, especially on theology. That being said, you obviously have more experience with Dr. MacArthur than I do, but I don’t see him (or GCC) making many calls that are “outside the box” (the Grace Church box that is). I usually see him (and others like Phil Jonson) coming, both guns drawn at anyone that has even the slightest difference in methodology, style, mode of delivery or take on non essentials. So it is very encouraging and I am also “impressed by John’s desire to have Voddie, and excited to see him come.” Thanks Austin.

  • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

    Hi Billy,
    Thanks for your comments. The other reason I wanted to write this post is to direct people to read Voodie’s post on ER2 and the men’s conference. I found it extremely insightful. I am NO fan of el salon del elephante, and would be unable to write a gracious critique of that thing. I have appreciated the coverage at pyro this week. Frank Turk and Phil Johnson’s posts have been spot on. As for Pastor MacArthur, I have never met a more gracious man. On the radio you hear him preaching strong, at GCC you see him ministering tenderly to the people. He constantly beats us (the pastoral staff) to the hospital visits. He hangs around after service for an hour answering people’s questions. He is a dear, pastoral, and kind man. One thing he has taught me, is that pastors must be patient with people and impatient with the truth. Thanks again for your comments, Billy, and for stopping by.

  • Agutierrez

    As a YP and your friend, I feel the need to say, “Chubby Bunny Fo Life”!

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Thanks, Andrew. I can always count on your support in matters of major significance to ute ministry.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome article! Thank you!

    • http://twitter.com/austintduncan austintduncan

      Thanks for your encouragement, Csrima.

      • caleb

        Austin,

        I certainly appreciate the ministry of GCC. It is a pillar church in so many ways. As a lead pastor at a local church I have seen the FIC movement divide children and parents (ironic I know) and become very divisive within local congregations (leading to unnecessary splits).

        I know that R.C. Jr wrote an article a while back which basically said that churches that choose to present every person complete in Christ through “segregated” SS classes and home bible study groups, etc are not sinning. That to call such ministries (that are Word/Christ-centered) sinful is a form of legalism. I agree 100%. To have a nursery, a children’s church, or a teen ministries is a matter of wisdom and preference that each local church needs to make (with qualified elders leading the way).

        I would like to know where Voddie has publicly gone on record to correct the extreme positions within the FIC camp? I’m not saying he never has I’m saying I’d like to know where he’s done this so i can point people to those clear statements. I think he and R.C. Jr need to speak out clearly not only against the many errors that are present in some many children and youth ministries but against videos like this http://www.dividedthemovie.com/

        Please point me to Voddie’s public statements to help relieve some legitimate pastoral concerns here. Also will you be selling all of Voddie’s books at Shepherds Conference?

  • William Dudding

    Cool, I’m glad that they’re adding a fresh face to the Shepherds Conference line up. It’s been the same line up since 2007 I think.

  • Mike

    I knew very little about Vodie Bauchaum before last year’s Shepherd’s Conference. I sat in on you seminar (A wonderful presentation by the way: Informative, convicting and gracious.) and wondered about this guy (Vodie) you mentioned. When I heard he was speaking at this year’s conference I wondered “Why?” But after reading his response to the ER2 mess and reading your observations, I am excited to hear him preach the word. With his passion for the word and love for Christ and His church, (evidenced by his response to your presentation last year, your testimony and his response to ER2) I can only rejoice that Dr. MacArthur didn’t consult with me concerning his plan to extend an invitation to Vodie to speak at the 2012 SC. I am looking forward to the conference and hope I can “fight” my way through the crowd to meet him and shake his hand.

  • Henry

    As on onlooking Brit I think Voddie is an excellent man. I think it has been shameful the way he has been treated/ostracised just because of his controversial FIC stance, and am glad to have started seeing various blog posts around that speak more truly of him. Thankyou.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.ming.lin Tim Lin

    I admit it Austin. I attended your seminar during last year’s Shepherd’s Conference precisely because I had heard Voddie might make an appearance. But, far from a theological bar fight, your presentation was winsome, humorous, humble, and most importantly biblical. Voddie’s response (from my vantage point two seats behind him) was good-humored as well.

    Now, after reading about his gracious follow-up to your critique, as well as his honest (and thunderous!) dissection of the EC2 fallout, I am more excited than ever that he will be included in the Shepherd’s Conference!

    Thank you for sharing this example of how to debate and disagree while gaining a friend and brother.

  • Pingback: Recommended Reading | A Quiet Heart…()

  • Lily Cole

    “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” great job exemplifying that in this article and in your relationship with Voddie.

  • Christanutt

    I LOVE AND THANK GOD FOR VODDIE!!!! Hearing him is what set me on this path!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caleb-Andrea-Kolstad/100000835384566 Caleb Andrea Kolstad

    Austin,

    I certainly appreciate the ministry of GCC. Grace is a pillar church in so many ways. The Shepherd’s Conference is in a class by itself. As a lead pastor at a local church I have seen FIC methodology divide children and parents (ironic I know) and become very divisive within local congregations (leading to unnecessary splits).

    I know that R.C. Jr wrote an article a while back which basically said that churches that choose to present every person complete in Christ through “segregated” SS classes and home bible study groups, etc are not sinning. That to call such ministries (that are Word & Christ-centered) sinful is a form of legalism. I agree 100%. To have a nursery,or a children’s church, or a teen ministries is a matter of wisdom and preference that each local church needs to make (with qualified elders leading the way).

    I would like to know where Voddie has publicly gone on record to correct the extreme positions within the FIC camp? I’m not saying he never has I’m saying I’d like to know where he’s done this so i can point people to those clear statements. I think he and R.C. Jr need to speak out clearly not only against the many errors that are present in so many children and youth ministries but also against FIC videos like this http://www.dividedthemovie.com

    Please point me to Voddie’s public statements to help relieve some of the legitimate pastoral concerns that I believe are out there. Also will you be selling all of Voddie’s books at Shepherds Conference?

  • http://www.achilles.tv/ David

    Austin,
    I went to the Shep Fellowship site to download your talk from last year – “Family Matters.” It may be that the site has been hacked. Any attempt to download an mp3 take me to a rogue domain name. You might want to have the web team look into it. I was looking forward to downloading the message. Is it online anywhere else?

    • Anonymous

      All messages are having that problem, it seems to be a global site problem.
      I looked for his msg. elsewhere and couldn’t find it David.

      • David

        The messages are working now on the main shepherds’ Conf. site. Thanks!