Monday, November 26, 2012

An Encouraging Word

Recently, I went through the last 15 years of my sermons to catalogue them according to scripture reference, topic, etc. I don't know if you have ever attempted such a task, but let me say that it is daunting at the very least. I keep a copy of every sermon via notes or manuscript and thus have the data in which to compile. As I neared completion of my compilation, I noticed a trend in my sermons that concerned me. I have had a tendency to preach sermons which challenge people to do something (be obedient, pray, read the bible, witness, etc) more than any other genre (if you will) of sermon. There is nothing wrong with issuing challenges to God's people, however, when the bulk of one's proclamations major on challenge alone, I see a problem. The problem is a lack of balance.

Yes, the people need to be challenged, however, they also need to be encouraged. Our people need more than to be constantly challenged with a little bit of encouragement thrown in. Our people also need to hear sermons with are completely encouragin without loading on more challenges. To constantly challenge with little encouragement is unbalanced preaching.

Perhaps I am the only preacher who has had this problem but I don't think so. When I read in our state papers about denominational employees speaking to local groups, invariably the report is about how the speaker issued "such and such" challenge. In last Friday's online version of my state paper, the Biblical Recorder, the three lead news items have to do with speakers issuing challenges to their audiences. Once again, there is nothing wrong with sermons that challenge, however, there needs to be a balance with sermons that encourage. Perhaps I've been looking in all the wrong places, but I rarely see encouraging sermons.

I think people can only take so much challenge preaching. After continuous doses of challenges with little encouragement, I think our people begin to tune us out and we become less effective in our preaching. In most of the pastor conferences I have attended, at both the state and national levels, I have noticed the same phenomena of mainly challenge preaching. If there is any group of people who need to be encouraged today, it is pastors of local churches, and yet, we hear very little encouragement at pastor's conferences.

In addition, your local church has many hurting people listening to you every Sunday. Many of them are at a breaking point and they need an encouraging word from the Lord. The last thing many of your people need is another challenge. Many of them are just trying to get through the day. Surely you have an encouraging word for them from the Lord. I'm going to do my best to be more balanced in my preaching. I hope you do the same.

Remember, encouragement is not just for the hospital room or funeral parlor. It belongs in the pulpit as well.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Depressed Pastors

I was reading a 2010 article in the Baptist Courier about the immense pressure under which pastors experience and found myself nodding my head as I was reading.

It seems to me that most of the pressure pastors experience comes from two sources: church members and themselves. Pastors are held up to unreasonable expectations which no single member would ever place upon themselves. While I was interviewing with a pastor search committee, I mentioned that I usually take Friday as my day off. One lady said indignantly, “Pastors don’t get days off.” I pointed out to this dear lady that even Jesus had to rest as mentioned several times in the Scriptures. Also, I asked her if she had a day off from her job. When she said, “yes,” I asked her why I shouldn’t have a day off. She didn’t have a lot to say after that.

Depression is an occupational hazard for pastors. The article says that since 2006, there have been six attempted pastor suicides in the Carolinas with four who actually died. Depression was cited in each case. Steve Scoggin, president of pastoral counseling centers in North Carolina known as CareNet, estimates that 18 to 25 percent of pastors have suffered from depression. Scoggin says that factors which may breed depression are isolation and loneliness.

Based on my own experience as a pastor for 15 years, I agree with Scoggin on the factors of isolation and loneliness in depression. In every Association in which I have been affiliated, each DOM coordinates regular pastor events for the purposes of fellowship and encouragement. Unfortunately, I have seen very few pastors attend these events. Pastors seem to prefer isolation than fellowship with other pastors. This can be a dangersous point of view.

What are some things we can do to reduce the likelihood of isolation and loneliness in the ministry? Here are a few thoughts of mine:

1. Take a day off each week.
No matter what, take some time off each week. Jesus had to rest, so do you.
2. Spend time with non-church members.
Take some time to be with people who are not a part of your church. Consider joining a civic group such as the Jaycees, Kiwanis, etc. Being a part of a civic organization can be good for ministry but that should not be the primary purpose of your membership. Make friends with people outside of your church circle.
4. Read non-theological books.
If all you are thinking about is theology, you're becoming a one-trick pony. If you like to read, choose lighter fare which will keep your interest but will not be intellectually taxing.
5. Let other people help you.
If you do all the work in the church, the only one who is growing spiritually is you. Learn to delegate. Tasks such as hospital and home visitation can be done by your deacons or other church leaders. This does not mean that you do not have to visit, but you do not have to do all of the visiting.

Depression should not be a dirty word in church circles. Just because we are Christians, that doesn't mean we are less prone to depression. Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in all of Scripture, experienced deep depression after his battle with Baal prophets on Mt. Carmel. He even asked God to kill him. God did not chastise or condemn Elijah for his depression, neither should we. The church should be a place of encouragement not discouragement. Let it begin with you and me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Social Media For Senior Adults

When one thinks of social media, one thinks of the Internet, Facebook, smartphones, etc. It's important that churches explore the uses of social media to communicate with church members, to reach out to those who don't know Christ as Savior, and to learn from theologians as well as peers.

Many senior adults have not let the Information Age pass them by. According to one study, 53% of American adults age 65 and older use the internet or email. However, many senior adults do not use social media of the Information Age. If we only use email, twitter, and facebook to communicate with our members, we will overlook many senior adults. How should the church communicate with these important members?

Social media did not begin with the Internet. People have been communicating with each other through different methods for centuries. We need to recognize and tap into social media for senior adults. And so, how can we communicate with senior adults on a regular basis?

1. Newsletter
One of the main ways of communicating with senior adults is through a church newsletter. Senior adults still read newspapers and they like to read church newsletters. If you are not publishing a regular newsletter, you may want consider writing one. You can make it fancy by creating the newsletter in Microsoft Publisher or you may want to just type up something in Microsoft Word. A monthly newsletter will be greatly appreciated by the senior adults in your church. Here are some tips on how to create a newsletter.

2. Telephone
Another way that most senior adults communicate is by telephone. Many senior adults call each other daily to check on each other and see if they have any needs. The telephone is their most valuable commnication tool. How can the church use the telephone to keep their members informed? A telephone tree system is a great way to update all members, not just senior adults about special meetings, reminders, prayer requests, announcements. etc. There are several phone tree systems out there for you to check out. The phone tree that we used at my last fulltime church was Calling Post. At that time, we could purchase 1,000 calls for less than $50. Everything can be setup via telephone or computer. We found it to be a very good tool for accurate dissemination of information.

3. Breakfast Meetings
In most every church, there is a group of men who meet for breakfast in a local restaurant nearly everyday. These men talk about anything and everything. I joke with them that they are solving the world's problems. The savvy pastor will become a part of this group of men for fellowship and to communicate church information. We should not neglect face-to-face communication with senior adults.

These are just a few of the ways that a pastor can improve communication with senior adults. I'm sure that you can think of many other ways to communicate with these precious people. Senior adults want to know what is going on in the church. If you're not using the same social media they use, they will miss most of the information you are trying to share with the church.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Sinner

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you will be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

I stand a few feet from a mirror and see the face of a man who failed,...who failed his Maker. Again. I promised I wouldn't, but I did. I was quiet when I should have been bold. I took a seat when I should have taken a stand. If this was the first time, it would be different. But it isn't. How many times can one fall and expect to get caught? Your eyes look in the mirror and see a sinner, a failure, a promise-breaker. But by faith you look in the mirror and see a robed prodigal bearing the ring of grace on your finger and the kiss of your Father on your face. Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior. Your eyes see your guilt. Your faith sees His blood. Max Lucado

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Priesthood of the Believer: A Forgotten Doctrine?

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" 1 Peter 2:9
One of the tenets of biblical congregationalism if the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer, based on 1 Peter 2:9 and other scripture passages. The priesthood of the believer has been one of the  Baptist distinctives which has been cherished down through the centuries.

The priesthood of the believer has been mentioned in the preambles of both the 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Here's the statement from 1963:
"Baptists emphasize the soul's competency before God, freedom in religion, and the priesthood of the believer. However, this emphasis should not be interpreted to mean that there is an absence of certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified."
Here's the statement from 2000 :

"Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God."
And so, how does the doctrine of the priesthood of the believers or sometimes called the preisthood of believers work practically in the Baptist church? I will let Dr. James Leo Garret, Jr. address this issue:
"The Baptist model of a church rests on the concept of the priesthood of believers. A church is made up of persons who have exercised their God-given competency by believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord and by voluntarily associating with a particular fellowship of believers.
Each believer priest in the fellowship is equal to all of the others. Therefore, no one is in authority over all. Thus decisions are made by the community of priests seeking to know the will of the head of the church, the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. They do this by prayer, Bible study, meditation, discussion and decision."(emphasis mine).
Dr. Thomas White has this to say about this doctrine:
"Congregationalism also rests on the larger scriptural theme of the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:9), in which all believers possess the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17), and thus can receive guidance of the Lord and have direct access to the Lord without the need of a human intercessor. This presupposes a congregation of members who are all regenerate and in touch with the Holy Spirit otherwise known as regenerate church membership." 
Dr. Wayne Grudem has weighed in on the benefits of congregationalism over other forms of church polity:
"Historically, false doctrine often seems to be adopted by the theologians of the church first, by the pastors second, and the informed laity, who are daily reading their Bibles and walking with the Lord, last.
Therefore, if the leadership begins to stray in doctrine or in life, and there is no election by the congregation, then the church as a whole has no practical means of getting hold of the situation and turning it around. But if the officers are elected by the church, then there is a system of “checks and balances” whereby even the governing authority of the church has some accountability to the church as a whole."
Even that old Reformer, Martin Luther believed in the priesthood of the believer, though perhaps not exactly as we Baptists do. Here's a statement from Luther:

"By virtue of their spiritual priesthood all believers “unto the end of the world” possess the inherent right to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments [a good Baptist would say Ordinances]. Since, then, all Christian believers are entrusted with the means of grace, it is their privilege to call pastors, or ministers, who in their name publicly apply the means of grace. Cf. Luther: “That some are chosen form the multitude is done for the reason that they, as representatives of the congregation, should administer and execute the office, which they all have.”

It is clear that the priesthood of the believer has been a baptist distinctive for centuries and is one of the foundational doctrines which support congregational polity.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Some Advantages of Being a Bi-Vocational Pastor

The President of our SBC Executive Committee, Dr. Frank Page is spending time with small church pastors in Missouri this week. Approximately 53% of these pastors are bi-vocational. Dr. Page has always been a champion of small churches as evidenced one way by his appearance at our Small Church Leadership Network Conference in 2008.

For the last two years, I have been a bi-vocational pastor of a new church plant in North Carolina. Being bi-vocational makes a tough job even tougher. However, the advantage I see in being bi-vocational is that the church has to take on more of the load of visitation, evangelism, and ministry. This model helps our members to grow in theiir faith and and is good way of making disciples. Also, I believe this model is closer to the early church than the way we do church in suburban and urban areas.

Right or wrong, many suburban churches expect their fulltime pastor to do most of the work and the congregation stands back and lets him do it. That's not to say that many small churches with bi-vo pastors don't have the same expection, but my personal experience as a bi-vo pastor is that more members are willing to minister during the pastor's absence.

Another advantage of being a bi-vo pastor is a steady income. I have experienced leaving a fulltime pastor job without another fulltime position in hand. It is extremely difficult because churches do not have to provide unemployment insurance and secular jobs are hard to find. Thus many pastors in this situation lose their houses, cars, etc., and destroy their credit. With a bi-vo pastor, his steady income in a secular job helps prevent those calamities from happening.

I have the greatest respect for bi-vo pastors. Sometimes they are not respected by fulltime pastors who wonder why bi-vo pastors can't get a fulltime position. For many, it is not that they cannot get a fulltime position but they choose the biblical model of of the New Testament in which being bi-vo was normal.

Finally, I commend to all bi-vo pastors a Southern Baptist organization, the Bivocational and Small Church Leadship Network. They have a plethora of resources to encourage not only bi-vo pastors but also pastors of small churches. I urge you to take advantage of this wonderful organization.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Homosexuality: Sin That Demands Approval

Sin is the refusal of men to obey the word of God. When we think that we know better than God, then that is sin. The Bible says we are all sinners. All sin is the same in God's eyes. Stealing, lying, murder, physical or verbal abuse, adultery, premarital sex: all are sin.

In addition to these sins, the Bible is clear that homosexuality is also a sin.

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. " Leviticus 18:22

"If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." Leviticus 20:13  

"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." Romans 1:26-27
In addition, it is clear that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of blatant homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-13). 

Homosexuality is not a worse sin than any other. The problem with those who are in bondage to the sin of homosexuality is they refuse to acknowledge their sin and they go even further. They demand that society approve of their sin. They embrace their homosexuality and demand that we embrace it as well. No other group of people living in sin demand approval from the world. There is no child molester group demanding approval of their sin. There is no murderer group demanding approval of their sin. Their is no prostitution group demanding approval of their sin. Only homosexuals clamor for approval from all people of their lifestyle.

Homosexuals say that when we do not approve of same-sex marriage then we discriminate against them. Homosexual spokesperson have even compared their movement to the civil rights movement of African-Americans. Listen to what African-American civil rights leaders have to say about that:

Gays and lesbians “may want to cast their fight in civil-rights terms, and a lot of people are buying it. But not the faith community and especially not the black community,” says Bishop Harry Jackson, whose Hope Christian Church has a flock of 3,000 in the Washington, D.C., area. “Many African-Americans believe gays are discriminated against, but they don’t believe marriage is a civil-rights issue,” says Jackson, who says his father was threatened at gunpoint in the 1950s by a state trooper while working on a voter-registration drive. “There are issues of acceptance, but there is no back of the bus; there are no lynchings.” There is also the ongoing debate as to whether homosexuality is an immutable trait or a choice. “It’s not immutable,” says Jackson. “And it’s not an externally observable characteristic unless you want to flaunt it.”

Indeed, some 70 percent of African-Americans voted yes on California’s Prop 8, and exit polls found similar levels of opposition among blacks for a marriage initiative in Florida that same year.

Rev. William Owens, President of the Coalition of African-American Pastors said, "I marched with Dr. King and we did not march one step to promote same-sex ‘marriage’."
Homosexauls also make the argument that they are "born that way," that is, they are born homosexual and they cannot help it. This argument doesn't hold water either. The same could said for murderers, prostitutes, liars, cheaters, etc. They say that scientists are close to discovering a homosexual gene.

Even if scientists do find a so-called "homosexual gene," the Bible is clear that every human being is born with a sin nature. The human nature is a sinful nature. And to give oneself over to one's own human nature is to sin against God. We have all succumbed to our sin nature and we are all sinners, but that does not excuse us from our responsibility to love, obey, and glorify God.
Let me make this perfectly clear: the sin of homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. Some people will say that this blog post is "hate speech." That is untrue. I do not hate homosexuals or anyone else. I love them enough to tell them what God's Word says about their behavior. I love them enough to tell them there is good news. The sin of homosexuality can be forgiven by God if homosexuals confess their sin, repent (turn away from) of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ to save them from Hell. This good news is for all sinners, not just homosexuals.

I write this because I love you. I do not want you to go to Hell. I implore you to confess your sin, repent and turn to Christ before it's too late.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Would the PCA Be a Better Fit For SBC Calvinists?

I want to ask an honest question here. I have no ulterior motive in asking this question. I just want to understand the current Calvinist mindset better. Here's the question: Would PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) be a better fit For SBC Calvinists ?

Here's why I am asking the question. It seems to me that SBC Calvinists have much more in common with the PCA than with the SBC. The only major difference I see from what I hear SBC Calvinists say they believe and the PCA adopted Confession of Faith, the Westminster Confession of Faith is Chapter XXVIII. - Of Baptism. However, I see many differences between SBC Calvinist beliefs and our own BFM2K.

Two differences are Article III - Man and Article V - God's Purpose of Grace. Article III does not support the Calvinist view of original sin but is more supportive of the article in the Trad Statement, which SBC Calvinists claim is semi-pelagian. Also, Article V does not support the Calvinist view of election. The article is almost word-for-word repeat of the BFM 1963 version. Herschel Hobbs, who was the main architect of BFM 1963, said that the article on election reflected the view that election meant that the way of salvation through Christ is the election by God and not the individual believers.

I could note many other differences between SBC Calvinists and SBC traditionalists such as ecclesiology, polity, etc., but I won't belabor the point. It is clear to me that SBC Calvinists have more in common with the PCA than the SBC. So why would not SBC Calvinists move over to the PCA?

Thanks for your response. Comments are now closed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is There a Calvinist Agenda To Reform SBC Churches?

This post is the content of an op-ed which will be published in a state baptist newspaper soon. In order to make this op-ed the best it can possibly be, I solicit comments from Calvinists and Traditional SBC folks on how I can improve this article. Comments are open for this post.

Is There a Calvinist Agenda To Reform Traditional Southern Baptist Churches?

 Recently, I was speaking with a Pastor Search Committee about a pastor search they were conducting. When I mentioned that Calvinist candidates may not be forthcoming in regard to their true beliefs, they asked, "What is a Calvinist?" I wasn't surprised that a small rural church was not aware of the Calvinist plan to reform SBC churches.

 What is a Calvinist? Calvinists believe in five specific doctrines regarding salvation which are framed in the acronym: TULIP. Here's what TULIP stands for:

T = total depravity. Man is incapable of coming to Christ without first being regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

U = unconditional election. Before time began, God predestined who He would save. Unless one is a part of this special group, known as the "elect," one will not be saved.

L = limited atonement. Jesus did not die for the whole world. He died for the elect.

I = irresistible grace. In the case of the elect, they will ultimately come to Christ because God will cause them to come through an irresistible pull from Him.

P - perseverance of the saints. The elect of God will persevere in their faith in Christ and will not fall away.

Now let me make a couple of points regarding this doctrine of salvation which Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says is our "future." Here are some of the logical conclusions to what Calvinists believe. If God chose who was going to be saved before time began, then nothing can change His sovereign decree. Thus, if you are not one of the elect, you will not come to Christ. You can hear the word of God preached but it will have no saving effect on you because you are totally depraved and cannot come to Christ unless God causes you to come to Christ. And if you are not one of the elect, God will not cause you to come to Christ. The flip side of this theology is that God does nothing to draw the non-elect to Himself, thus they will not come to Him through Christ.

The majority of these Southern Baptist Calvinist pastors are coming from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC). In North Carolina, small rural churches have been particularly vulnerable to Calvinist graduates from these seminaries because of their close proximity to churches in our state.

If Calvinist candidates, who are seeking pastoral positions in traditional Southern Baptist churches, would be honest about their beliefs, then I would see no problem. Our churches are autonomous and can choose to hire whom they please. If a church wants to hire a Calvinist pastor, then God bless them. Unfortunately, many Calvinist pastoral candidates are not revealing their Calvinism during the pastor search process in order to secure a pastoral position. Many times after the Calvinist is called as the pastor of the church, they begin to teach Calvinism in order to "reform" the traditional Baptist church in ecclesiology, polity, and worship. In many of these churches, the result is either a church split or the church is traumatized by the process of firing the pastor.

Is there an issue with pastoral candidates not being truthful to search committees about their beliefs? Apparently it is an issue that Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Seminary, thought was worthy of comment when he wrote:

“Act with personal integrity in your ministry when it comes to this issue. Put your theological cards on the table in plain view for all to see, and do not go into a church under a cloak of deception or dishonesty. If you do, you will more than likely split a church, wound the Body of Christ, damage the ministry God has given you, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of everyone. Let me give an example. I am pre-tribulational/premillennial in my eschatology. It would be inappropriate for me to interview with a church and continue the discussion if I discovered that it was committed to an amillennial position... If a person is strongly committed to five-point Calvinism, then he should be honest and transparent about that when talking to a church search committee.”

Is there a Calvinist agenda to reform traditional Southern Baptist churches? Absolutely. Ernest Reisinger, the chief architect of Founders, a Calvinist ministry, describes in great detail how to "reform" a traditional church. He even gives the agenda a name: "The Quiet Revolution." Make no mistake, there is an intentional effort to "reform" traditional SBC churches into "Reformed" (code word for Calvinist) churches.

Traditional SBC church leaders and their churches need to be informed about this Calvinist agenda. They need to be informed on how to ask the right questions to determine the true theological positions of their pastoral candidates. Not only would this process identify Calvinist candidates but other candidates who may not be a good fit for their church such as candidates who speak in tongues, candidates who believe that one can lose their salvation, or candidates who believe that the Ten Commandments are no longer valid.  But the main difference between Calvinists and other non traditional Baptist candidates is that only Calvinists are actively trying to change local SBC churches to their beliefs.

Is there a Calvinist agenda to reform traditional Southern Baptist churches to Calvinism? Undeniably, yes. In response to the Calvinist efforts to reform non-Calvinist churches, a group of traditional Southern Baptist leaders and scholars wrote a “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” There are hundreds of signatures affirming this traditional Southern Baptist view of salvation. The list of signatures include includes over 250 pastors (representing  small, medium, and large churches in 29 states), 6 former SBC Presidents, 7 state Baptist convention executives, 4 members of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 committee, over 20 associational Directors of Missions, 5 Baptist seminary and college Presidents, and hundreds of other evangelists, church staff members, and lay ministers. If you would like to stand for traditional Southern Baptist views of salvation, then I encourage you to go to the website and add your signature.

After the release of this statement, many Calvinists said they wanted unity in our convention. Traditional Southern Baptists also desire unity and I believe that unity is an attainable goal, but only when Calvinists cease trying to reform traditional SBC churches to their views.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Partner With Us For Our Next Community Baptism

Our church is raising funds so we can conduct a Community Baptism in Greensboro, NC. Will you or your church partner with us to reach people for Christ in Greensboro, NC? We covet your prayers in this outreach project. Thank you for any financial support you can contribute. All contributions are tax deductible.

Comments are allowed on this post.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Is Biblical Baptism "Easy Believism"?

In recent discussions on other blogs with those who believe in Calvinism, I have a noticed a curious perspective that continues to raise its head. The curious perspective to which I refer is that one has to answer a set of questions to the satisfaction of a pastor before one can be baptized. Even David Platt alluded to this in his sermon during the SBC Pastor's Conference when he chastised our churces for "easy believism." 

In Holy Scripture, do we see anyone requiring a sinner to go through a questionnaire before he or she was baptized? Absolutely not. The model we do see in Scripture is preaching, response,, baptism,
then teaching. The Great Commission is very clear about how to make disciples.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. Matthew 28:18-20

Let's pay very close attention to what Jesus said. Jesus said for us to go and make disciples of all the nations. I hope we are all clear on that. Now watch this. Immediately following his imperative for us to make discples, He tells us how to make disciples. The first thing we are told to do is baptize and then teach. Baptize and teach. Baptize and teach. This is the biblical formula for making disciples: baptize and teach. Notice it is not teach and baptize. It is baptize and teach.

This formula is exactly what we see happening in the New Testament. First, there is preaching, then people respond, they are baptized and then they are taught. We see these principles in how John the Baptist conducted his ministry (Matt. 3:1-6, John 3:23). We also see these principles in Jesus and His apostles (John 3:22). In the book of Acts, we see Peter preaching and more than 3000 people were baptized that day (Acts 2:36-41). I don't imagine the apostles interrogated 3000 people on whether or not they completely understood the intricacies of the atonement. The Scripture says, "those who gladly received his word were baptized" (Acts 2:41a).

One final biblical example of this biblical formula is found in Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). The Holy Spirit directed Philip to a divine encounter with the man from Ethiopia. When Philip preached Jesus to him, the Ethiopian asked, "What hinders me from being baptized?" Now notice what Philip did not do. He did not take the Ethiopian through a theological quiz in order to make sure he knew what he was doing. He did not tell the Ethiopian he had to take a baptism class or a new member class before baptism. What did Philip say? He said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." The Ethiopian replied with a confession in Christ and was baptized immediately.

Are you hindering the lost from being baptized? Are you requiring the lost to jump through theological hoops before they can be baptized? Are you reversing the biblical formula for making disciples and insisting on in-depth teaching prior to baptism? If you are, then I submit that you are not practicing the biblical principle of making disciples.

Throughout the New Testament, we see the discipleship process as preaching, response, baptism, and then teaching. Any other approach to making disciples is unbiblical and is man's requirement, not biblical teaching.

When someone gladly receives the word of God, baptize them and then begin to teach them how live a life that is pleasing to Christ. Do not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit by implementing artificial obstacles to someone coming to Christ. If this is easy believism in the eyes of men, then so be it. I will choose to follow the biblical model. 

Comments are open on this post.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Response To Calvinists' Calls For Unity

Now that Traditional Baptists have gotten together to organize responses to the insurgency of Calvinism into Traditional Baptist churches, they are attempting to portray themselves as taking a "high road" and appealing for unity. Where have I heard this tactic before? Oh yeah, that's the same tactic that Moderate Baptists tried to stem the tide of the Conservative Resurgence.

I appreciate their calls for unity. Unfortunately as long as one group is trying to "reform" Traditional SBC churches, there can be no unity. Traditional Baptists have not compromised the unity; we have revealed an already existing fracure in unity..

When Calvinists make a conscious decision not to go into Traditional SBC churches and try to reform them to Calvinism, then there can be unity. The ball is in their court.

Comments are allowed on this post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Opposition To Calvinism

Bob Hadley has a great blog, entitled, SBC Issues." I especially recommend his recent post entitled "Objections to Calvinism Simplified for the Average Person." Give it a read. Bob expresses the opinion of the majority of Southern Baptists in this post.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Finding Our Voice

Former SBC President, Dr. Jerry Vines, has written an important blog post that everyone should read. You can find it here. I am so glad that Traditional Southern Baptists are finding our voice and solidifying our message in regard to what the majority of Southern Baptists believe. Thank you, Dr. Vines!

Friday, June 8, 2012

No Way Out?

Over at SBC Today, I put the body of this post in the form of a question to Dr. Jerry Vines, whom I greatly admire as a wonderful man of God and with whom I completely afree on the issue of soteriology. I am posting my remarks here in order to solicit your ideas, opinions, etc., on whether or not Traditonal Baptists and Calvinists can truly cooperate in the SBC.

The differences between Traditional Baptist soteriology and Calvinist soteriology are stark. I don't think I need to discuss those differences in this thread as there are many blog posts that outline said differences.

Our doctrine of salvation will determine how we do missions at home and abroad. Our doctrine of salvation will also determine what kind of churches we will plant with funds provided by faithful baptists in the pew. In essence, our doctrine of salvation is the soul of our convention and has a huge impact on how we serve our Lord.

Foundational doctrinal differences will not allow us to fund Methodist or Presbyterian church plants, so how can we resolve to fund churches which teach doctrine with which the majority of Southern Baptists do not agree?

I understand that tertiary doctrinal issues should be allowed for differences of opinion, however, in my humble opinion, our doctrine of salvation is not a tertiary issue; it is a foundational, principle doctrine of Southern Baptists.

Therefore, I would like to hear your thoughts on how you think we can ever resolve this issue of our differences on the doctrine of salvation. Personally, I do not see any path of resolution because Traditional Baptists will not compromise their position on soteriology nor will Calvinists. What do you think?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why Traditional Baptists Are Not Semi-Pelagians

It's really been interesting to watch the response to the recently published statement of Traditional Baptist belief from our Calvinist brethren. If you read the comment section of the post (more than 700 comments), you will see that Traditional Baptists are being accused of heresy and even blasphemy. The particular heresy that we are being accused of by our Calvinist brethren is Semi-Pelagianism.

If one reads the definition of Semi-Pelagian in the 2nd edition of "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church": Semi-Pelagians "maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace supervened only later."

Now the portion of the statement of Traditional Baptist belief that is accused of agreeing with the Semi-Pelagian heresy is Article 2. Here is Article 2 in its entirety.

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15
There is nothing is this statement that even hints that we believe that one comes to Christ without the initiation of the Holy Spirit. The fact that we believe that each person has a free will and either makes a choice for Christ or not, does not constitute Semi-Pelagianism. The Article specifically states that we deny that anyone can be saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel. This statement affirms the opposite of Semi-Pelagianism. We do not initiate salvation; the Holy Spirit is the initiator.

So in regard to the statement of Traditional Baptist beliefs affirming Semi-Pelagianism, such an accusation is incorrect.

P.S. Typically I do not allow comments on my blog because my schedule does not allow me adequate time to moderate such comments. I wish moderation was not necessary but due to the vitriol which some commenters use, moderation is necessary. Having said that, I am opening comments on this post for those who wish to honestly, rationally, and calmly discuss my thoughts on this issue. If you do choose to comment, please be patient with me as I have very little time to moderate the comments. I will do my best to get your comment up as soon as possible. May God richly bless you.

A Statement on the Beliefs of Traditional Baptists

With the current attempt by Southern Baptist Calvinists to takeover the Southern Baptist Convention, several traditional baptist pastors, including myself, have been working on identifying the differentating factors between Southern Baptist Calvinists (Reformed) and traditional Southern Baptists.

A previous document which attempts to identify some differentating factors is my document entitled, "Differences Between Reformed Southern Baptists and Traditional Southern Baptist." Another document has been released on SBC Today's blog entitled, "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation."

I encourage you to read this document and be informed about the what traditional Southern Baptists believe as opposed to Southern Baptist Calvinists.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Pastor Search Committee

I believe one of the most crucial problems facing churches today is a poor fit between pastor and congregation. For example, if a pastor search committee hires an Arminian pastor for a Calvinist church, that is not a good fit from a theological perspective. The unsuspecting church will probably rise up in revolt when they hear their new pastor preaching on losing one's salvation and prevenient grace. This problem is not the fault of the church or perhaps even the pastor, if he was diligent to explain his theological views. No, ultimately the fault lies with the Pastor Search Committee.

The Pastor Search Committee (PSC) is given the responsibility by the church to search for the pastor whom will help that church grow, mature, and reach the unsaved. The church is trusting that the PSC will bring a recommendation of a new pastor who will lead the church to flourish, not die on the vine or split. I believe that every PSC honestly seeks to do its job in a manner that will be a blessing and not a curse. However, we continue to see huge disconnects between new pastors and churches which result in church splits or pastor termination. How are we to solve this problem?

One way in which I hope to assist in the resolution of this pervading issue is to begin a brand new blog entitled, "Pastor Search Committee Update." In studying this issue, I have found a lot of good resources which are available to PSC's. The problem is that the best information is scattered throughout many different church administration documents. I hope to bring the best of those resources to light in this new blog. Also, perhaps I will be able to contribute an idea or two which may be helpful.

Please pray for the PSC's all around the country. They need our prayers. And please tell your friends about the new blog. It is my prayer it will be a blessing to PSC's everywhere.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Church's Cry For Help

The influx of Calvinism into our local churches continues to cause division. Here is a portion of one person's email to me after reading my booklet, "Differences Between Reformed Southern Baptists and Traditional Southern Baptist."

My husband and I have been a member of a small Southern Baptist church for 25 years. My husband was raised in the community where the church is and attended the church as a child. It was not until after we married and moved near the church that he was saved became a Sunday School teacher and Deacon.

I was saved at age 8. I am 64 years old. My father was ordained a Deacon in our church when I was four years old. I was raised in a Godly home by loving parents.

Seven years ago our church called a pastor to serve. The search committee seemed exhausted when they called him and the chair made the statement "I hope we have done the right thing."

We embraced the pastor and his family. Our family tried often to get to know our new pastor, but, he was not easy to know and his wife was even more difficult. They were kind and sweet but not the type pastor and wife we had known in the before. They did visit the sick (only when asked to do so), they did not check on the congregation, etc. In fact, it seems we made him a little nervous. He is most comfortable in his study on his computer. In fact, we have learned he has recently written a book on Calvinism while we are paying him a salary to serve our church.

At first we noticed he didn't offer altar calls. Later, when the deacon body asked if we could have a revival he said, "he did not believe in revivals as revivals started within a congregation." We have not had one in several years. He never has asked but one person to fill the pulpit in his absence except for a few people who have joined the church since he became pastor.

Then, we learned he is of the Calvinist belief. I am so sorry to say I was 60+ years old, had been raised in a large Southern Baptist Church and did not know who John Calvin was nor what Calvinism embraced. I started studying everything I could get my hands on. I asked the pastor for help. He gave me scriptures. I told him I did not agree with his theology. Big mistake.

The deacons have visited with him about his beliefs. Most of the deacons do not agree with what has become arrogance. However, there are three men who have joined the church since he became pastor who embrace his beliefs.

I am very, very worried about our church. I fear we are headed for a very ugly split. I do not think this is the will of God. I visited with the Chairman of the Deacons (who by the way is a new member of the church and is a sweet man and a Calvinist) and told him that had our pastor been up front with us during his interview we would not be in this situation. It seemed to go over his head. He asked me if I believed the Word of God.
I just want to thank you for writing the booklet which I found on my Kindle today. I am deeply troubled over what you described in the booklet and how it has happened in our church.

Now to my question. Now that we are IN this situation. How can we, in a God pleasing way, endure and how can we, while holding on to our beliefs we have had for 140 years, continue without a horrible church split. I can love him, I can sit through his boring sermons that are never "fleshed out" but I cannot live through his arrogance. It was not that way in the beginning. It seems now he wants to make our church into a Reformed church. I do not find that Godly. And, I seek help in understanding how to get through this most difficult time. My husband has tried to talk to him, and other long time church leaders have tried as well. He uses words we do not understand and we leave more frustrated that ever. Where do we find help?

Do you hear this dear Christian's anguish? Do you hear the cry of the unsuspecting church member who is being run over theologically and personally by Calvinists? This is where the rubber meets the road. This is no longer a theological debate. This is damaging the local church. Do you care enough to help stop it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Christian Toolbox has announced the release of a great new app for Christians for only $0.99.. It's called the Christian Toolbox. Here's the description of the app:

Are you a Christian who wants to grow more spiritually mature? Do you want to share and defend your faith with others? Do you want an app that will allow you to be in God's word everyday no matter where you are?

Say hello to the Christian Toolbox.

An all-in-one tool that gives you access to:

• 50+ bible tracts that encourages you to share your faith with others.

• an extensive topical index which shows you exactly where in the bible it speaks about over 280 different topics.

• a daily devotional that will give you an uplifting and edifying word from God everyday.

• a daily bible reading plan that provides you with an easy to use way to read the bible in one year.

• an informative guide that compares Christianity to other religions. We show you what the bible says about various topics and compares that with other religion's texts teach to show you what they really believe. Religions that are compared include Islam, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Hinduism, and Scientology.

• a fun quiz to test your knowledge about various topics in the bible.

We are always striving to provide you with the most helpful and easy to use tools to edify the body of Christ in an entertaining and easy to use way. Updates will occur every three months and suggestions are always welcome at

Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad.Requires iOS 5.0 or later.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What The Bible Says About Accepting Jesus Into Your Heart

It may be hard to believe but there are a group of people in the Southern Baptist Convention who argue that a non-believer should not accept Jesus into their heart. This group of people are called "Calvinist" and "Reformed." They are coming out of two seminaries in droves: Southeastern (Wake Forest, NC) and Southern (Louisville, KY) seminaries. If you are in a traditional Southern Baptist church, you might want to avoid hiring a pastor who self-identifies as a "Calvinist" or Reformed."

Dr. Steve Gaines, Bellevue Baptist Church, has a great word about the biblical support for accepting Jesus into your heart.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Community Baptism II

We had our second Community Baptism yesterday. To say that it was a great day would be an understatement. We were privileged to baptize seven souls into God's kingdom.

One young man came to Christ last March and hasn't found a church home yet. He came from 60 miles away to get baptized.

Another young man is mentally challenged but he knew that he trusted in Jesus. Before we immersed him in the water, I suggested that he might want to hold his nose. He declined. After we brought him up from the water he said, "I should have held my nose."

One young lady said she was scared because she couldn't swim. I assured her we wouldn't let her go and she was courageous enough to follow Christ in obedience in baptism. She didn't let her fear keep her from being obedient.

An older lady said she was nervous. She came out of the baptismal water with a huge smile on her face. I told her that I could see Jesus in her face. She said she could feel Him in her. It was awesome.

This is what being a pastor is all about---helping people come to Christ in humble obedience. I love our Community Baptism days.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Out of Order!

Megachurch pastors are a funny breed. The ones with whom I am acquainted are really pleasant, godly guys but they all have the same flaw. Their flaw is in their church they always get their way any way they choose to get it.

This past year we saw the megachurch mentality in full view when SBC President, Bryant Wright, took it upon himself to appoint a committee to study a name change for the SBC. The only problem with that was President Wright did not and does not have the authority to appoint a committee which has not been approved by the messengers of an annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Apparently President Wright either did not know about this little detail or he did not care. Megachurch pastors are so used to getting their own way, that Wright was probably operating out of megachurch mode by instinct.

Unfortunately, the SBC name change committee is not a valid committee approved by messengers of an annual meeting, therefore, any recommendation that this rogue committee may bring before the next annual meeting should be ruled "out of order." If we allow this unauthorized committee to bring a recommendation to the floor then we will be setting a dangerous precedent. Future presidents may think they have carte blanche to create any committees to study any issues they wish, whether the convention knows about or not.

One other point is that messengers should not allow President Wright or anyone else to present the committee to the messengers for their approval after the fact. This also would be a dangerous precedent.

Personally, I think the committee came to the right conclusion in not changing the SBC name, but the point I'm making in this post is one of principle, not of committee recommendations. The SBC Name committee has not been authorized by the messengers of the SBC, thus any recommendations should be ruled out of order.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How To Avoid Hiring a Calvinist Pastor

Many unsuspecting churches have unknowingly hired Calvinist pastors which has resulted in church splits, fired pastors, and broken churches. This post is intended to assist church search committees with identifying Calvinist pastors who apply for their vacancies and enable the committees to make an informed choice.

Calvinism is becoming firmly entrenched in our seminaries (Southern & Southeastern) as well as our entities (Lifeway & NAMB). At the end of each seminary semester, new Calvinist ministers are graduating and looking for a place to preach their Calvinist doctrine. While a majority of Calvinist graduates from our seminaries have indicated a desire to plant churches (and the current NAMB has been recreated to accomodate their desires), many Calvinist graduates will apply for positions in existing traditional churches. My own experience with church search committees has been that they ask very few church polity or theological questions in interviewing for a vacant pastorate. This is unfortunate and if search committees are to avoid hiring Calvinist pastors, this must change. Most Calvinist pastors won't self-identify to a search committee that they are Calvinist so what should a church search committee do to avoid hiring a Calvnist pastor? The answer is ask specific doctrinal questions.

Calvinists believe in five specific doctrines which are framed in the acronymn: TULIP. Here's what TULIP stands for:

T = total depravity. Man is incapable of coming to Christ without first being regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
U = unconditonal election. Before time began, God preordained whom He would save. Unless one is a part of this special group, known as the "elect," one will not be saved.
L = limited atonement. Jesus did not die for the whole world. He died for the elect.
I = irresistible grace. In the case of the elect, they will ultimately come to Christ because God will cause them to come through an irresistible pull from Him.
P - perseverance of the saints. The elect of God will persevere in their faith in Christ and will not fall away.

Now let me make a couple of points regarding this doctrine which Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary says is our "future." These are some of the logical conclusions to what Calvinists believe. If God chose who was going to be saved before time began, then nothing can change His sovereign decree. Thus, if you are not one of the elect, you will not come to Christ. You can hear the word of God preached but it will have no saving effect on you because you are totally depraved and cannot come to Christ unless God causes you to come to Christ. And if you are not one of the elect, God will not cause you to come to Christ. The flip side of this theology is that God does nothing to draw the non-elect to Himself, thus they will not come to Him through Christ.

With this type of theology, it really doesn't matter whether a church is active in missions or not. If God has selected who is going to be saved and He is going to make that happen, then the elect will be saved whether or not we do missions. The same also applies to the unsaved. In Calvinist theology, if you are not one of the elect, then nothing anyone does will help you get saved. The bottom line is there is no practical compelling reason to do missions for a Calvinist.

Is that what your church believes? If it is, then, great, hire a Calvinist pastor. If not, then avoid a Calvinist pastor. Ask specific questions about theology to the candidates for your church vacancy. If you ask them if they believe in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, even Calvinists can honestly say yes to that question because our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is too broad of a theological statement to weed out Calvinists. Ask them about every point of the TULIP acronym. Ask them who can be saved. Ask them who Jesus died for. Ask them if they believe God chose who was going to be saved before time began. Be specific.

Asking specific doctrinal questions is very important to the overall pastor search process. If your church believes in the Rapture, then you should ask pastoral candidates if they believe in the Rapture. If your church believes that the King James Version is the only proper bible, then ask the candidate what he thinks about bible translations. If your church doesn't believe in evangelizing children until a certain age, be sure and ask your candidates what are their views on child evangelism. Some will say that these theological matters are secondary and should not be important in the life of a church. Perhaps that sentiment is true, however, churches have split over lesser concerns, thus it is vital to the future health of your church that your pastor is as close as possible theologically to the existing membership.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sermon Toolbox App

I am very happy to announce that Sermon Toolbox is now available in the App Store in iTunes $1.99. It is an app that my son and I created as a tool for pastors, sunday school teachers, elders, deacons, and any other leaders in the church to use to help them write sermons/lessons. I have a few promo codes I can give to my friends ,so if you're interested, please let me know.

Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad.Requires iOS 5.0 or later.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting Used to the Dark by Vance Havner

A great sermon from Dr. Vance Havner. I think this describes perfectly how we are becoming more like the world instead of more like Jesus. May it be a blessing to you.

Getting Used to the Dark by Vance Havner

Monday, January 9, 2012

Does Daddy Go?

  Daddy had a little boy,

     His soul was white as snow.

  He never went to Sunday School

     Cause Daddy wouldn't go.

  He never heard the Word of God.

     That thrills the childish mind,

  While other children went to class,

     This child was left behind.

  As he grew from babe to youth,

     Dad saw to his dismay,

  A soul that once was snowy white,

     Became a dingy grey.

  Realizing that his son was lost,

     Dad tried to win him back.

  But now the soul that once was white,

     Had turned an ugly black.

  Dad even started back to church,

     and Bible study too;

  He begged the preacher,

     "Isn't there a thing you can do?"

  The preacher tried, failed, and said

     "We're just too far behind;

  I tried to tell you years ago,

     But you would pay me no mind."

  And so another soul was lost,

     That once was white as snow;

  Sunday School would have helped,

     But Daddy wouldn't go.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Guide

An explorer attempting to travel in and map unfamiliar territory came
to a place where he had to cross some very high mountains that were
rugged and threatening. Knowing how risky his task would be, he
searched for a qualified guide.

One man offered his services for a considerable sum of money. "Have
you ever traveled through those mountains?" asked the cartographer.
"No," the man said, "but I’ve been part of the way and have been told
how to proceed from there." The cautious explorer said, "I’m sorry,
but I will not risk it."

Another person volunteered, and he too was asked, "Have you ever
been over those mountains?" "No, but I’ve been to the top and looked
down on the way that leads where you want to go." The explorer considered
his offer. Then he said, "No, I’m afraid to trust myself to your leading.
I want to travel with someone who has been there already."

Finally a man was brought to his camp who said he knew the way.
"Sir," he explained, "the place you are going is my home — and I
am returning there in three days. I will lead you through the mountain
pass and show you my home." The traveler knew immediately that he
had found his guide.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Do You Struggle With Contentment?

How do we know if we are struggling with contentment? Alistair Begg gives this list,

1.Thoughts of money consume my day

2.Other peoples success makes me jealous

3.I define success in terms of what I have rather than what I am in Christ

4.My family is neglected in my pursuit of money and things.

5.I close my eyes to the genuine needs of others.

6.I am living in the paralyzing fear of losing what I have.

7.I am prepared to borrow myself into bondage.

8.God gets my leftovers, rather than my firstfruits.