Les Puryear's responses to questionnaire
Puryear is one of six candidates Southern Baptist messengers will consider. Baptist Press asked each candidate to participate in a survey of mostly standardized questions, but the questionnaire included at least one query individualized for each candidate.
Puryear's answers to the questions posed by Baptist Press follow:
1) What has God done in your life and ministry to prepare you to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention?
I have pastored for 11 years and worked in the business world for 25 years. I believe I have a unique combination of a solid theological foundation with a practical business approach to getting things done. Also, God has given me a passion for encouraging leaders of small churches. Since small churches comprise the overwhelming majority of our convention, I think it's time that more small church leaders were involved in convention leadership on a national level.
2) If you are elected, what would be your priority message for Southern Baptists?
My priority message for Southern Baptists is that we need to get out of our church buildings and get into our communities and beyond, to engage the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.
3) What do you believe is needed to see churches more effectively bringing people to Christ and making disciples?
Our churches should strive to be more intentional about being missional to reach the lost for Jesus Christ. The IMB reports over 600,000 baptisms in 2007, while we report less than 400,000 in the USA. Perhaps it's time for our churches to take more of a missionary approach to reaching our communities for Christ.
4) Decline/plateau in membership, baptisms: What do you think the future holds for the SBC?
If we, as a convention, repent of our apathy for evangelism and missions, then I believe our future is very bright. It's time for every SBC church to get serious about doing evangelism and missions, not just talk about it.
5) Regenerate church membership: To what extent do you see regenerate church membership as a significant concern in the Southern Baptist Convention?
Regenerate membership should be a huge concern for every church. If we are adding members to our churches who have not been regenerated, that is, born again, then we have a real problem. As I see it, one of the foundational assumptions of a congregational polity is that the congregation is being led by the Holy Spirit. Unregenerate members do not have the leading of the Holy Spirit, therefore they can only view issues through a fleshly perspective. Ultimately, I believe an unregenerate membership leads to strife and division in the church. I thank God that Tom Ascol has been working diligently to bring this issue to our attention for the past two years.
6) Calvinism: Do you see any reason for non-Calvinist Southern Baptists to be concerned about a renewed emphasis on Calvinism in some Southern Baptist churches and seminaries?
Since I am a Calvinist, I don't see why any non-Calvinist should be concerned about the reappearance of Reformed theology. Many of the original leaders of the SBC were Calvinists. I think those who fear Calvinism have an unfounded view that Calvinism leads to a reduced emphasis on evangelism and missions. What some are calling Calvinism is actually hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism says that we should not evangelize or preach the Gospel to the non-elect. I do not know of any Calvinist in the SBC who holds to that position. We are called to preach the Gospel to everyone and most Calvinists whom I know in the SBC are very passionate about evangelism and missions. I think rather than worrying about Calvinism impacting evangelism and missions, we need to find out why 51.5 percent of our churches do not support missions either financially or through prayer support. The problem in our convention with evangelism and missions is not Calvinism, but the apathy of our churches to engage the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.
7) The IMB trustee guidelines governing baptism and private prayer language in appointing missionaries: Do you think their action was needed and appropriate?
I do not agree with the implementation of these policies. The SBC as a whole has not stated a position on these doctrines, therefore I view these as non-essential doctrines and as such, should not be used as doctrinal policy for any SBC board or agency.
8) The role of the Baptist Faith and Message: What do you see as the proper role of the Baptist Faith and Message when it comes to governing SBC entities and employees?
I am on record as supporting the Garner Motion from last year's convention, which called on the trustees to abide by the wishes of the Executive Committee which stated that the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a sufficient guide for establishment of doctrinal policy. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a consensus statement of the essentials of what Southern Baptists believe. I do not think that any SBC board or agency should make doctrinal policies which have not been addressed by the convention as a whole.
9) You wrote on your blog that you felt like you were somewhere between Baptist and Presbyterian. What did you mean by that?
I hold to a Reformed position regarding soteriology [the doctrine of salvation]. I also believe in a regenerate membership and the use of church discipline. Until very recently, these have not been the majority views of most SBC churches. These positions have been more indicative of Presbyterian churches. However, I also affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 without any caveats. Therefore, I hold to the essential beliefs of Southern Baptists and to some which are more Presbyterian in nature. That is what I meant by that comment. I am happy to say that I see more and more Southern Baptists joining me in these views, so I am encouraged to see this movement in the SBC.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.