Louisville’s Ghosts: Pt. 2


The morning of Oct. 9, 2018, we arrived early on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for coffee and time to catch up with our old friend and digital media entrepreneur, Marty Duren. Little did we realize how the week would evolve. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll break it down over the next three posts:

Dr. Tom Nettles

As providence would have it, we had the chance to visit for about 20 minutes with Dr. Nettles in the campus coffee shop while Marty snapped selfies. When the histories of the SBC’s conservative shift are written, if Tom Nettles does not figure prominently in their narrative the books should be burned. Alongside our former professor, the late Russ Bush, Tom Nettles is responsible like few others for firing the shot heard round the convention.

Truly, if Adrian Rogers was the voice of the Resurgence, and Paul Pressler was the strategist, it is Tom Nettles who was the brains. In fact, I’ve always found it a little bewildering that Nettles hasn’t been a consistent speaker at the annual SBC Pastor’s Conference. His near encyclopedic knowledge of Baptist history couples with his profound dexterity as an exegete and an evangelist’s proper passion for the glory of God in a way that would lift such meetings toward something higher and nobler than the ministerial trivialities that often masquerade as “breakout sessions.”

Almost immediately, we started talking about social justice and the Gospel. And that’s when it dawned on me: I had been on Southern’s campus for barely 10 minutes before the conversation was about the Gospel. I had a powerful sense that this is probably commonplace at Southern, and most certainly with Nettles.

Which reminded us of our first visit to Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL, where Nettles’s close associate, Tom Ascol, serves as pastor. Earlier this year on a Sunday morning, we walked into the church and were instantly greeted by one of the most sincere, articulate, and passionate soul winners we’ve ever met.

We counted four times in the span of 90 minutes that we were either directly told the good news of salvation, given literature that explained the Gospel, or asked politely if we had trusted Christ alone for hope of eternal life. And it was completely organic, winsome, and non-threatening. Without any notion of our background, education, or spiritual condition, one of Grace Baptist’s laymen earnestly preached Jesus to a stranger who’d come to worship.

Which is to say this: People who worry about the Founders and complain that an aversion to “altar calls” indicates a lost interest in soul winning don’t get it.  These men — Nettles and Ascol — love the Gospel so much they have spent their entire lives helping others learn how to share it coherently and prophetically. My suspicion is that a consistent, faithful, and undeterred commitment to the doctrines of grace has made these men — and those whom they’ve discipled — more effective soul winners than many of their “traditionalist” critics.

Or put another way: SBC Today withers; Connect 316 fadeth. But the Word of God abides forever.

Next up: Dr. Berry Driver and the Library Staff . . .