Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bart's Analysis of Ed's Analysis of the SBC

Dr. Ed Stetzer has offered his analysis of the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention arising out of his interpretation of Lifeway Research's latest report on ACP figures. The ripples have spread throughout Christenblogdom (see several reactions traced here). Stetzer on the same day recorded an interview with Chris Elrod (available at SBC Voices) discussing the report.

I suppose the reaction has been precisely what we all might expect—everyone in Southern Baptist life has used the statistics as a "See, I told you so" for whatever they presently dislike about the SBC (Calvinism, a dogged insistence upon being Baptist, the Conservative Resurgence, not chasing the culture fast enough). Along with every "See, I told you so," has been a stern "You guys just don't get it," in reply to the other groups' "See, I told you so."

And, of course, I'm eager to join the party and assert that the situation addressed in The Fifth Century Initiative is precisely the cause for the present Southern Baptist malaise. In fact, Ed's very next post supports the theory that a return to regenerate church membership alone would do wonders for our evangelistic effectiveness, even if nothing else in the SBC changed.

Eventually, somebody is going to ask how so many people can look at the same numbers and come to such vastly differing interpretations of the data. Some of those who are so enthusiastic about abandoning any hope of arriving at a clear interpretive answer with regard to what the Bible says are the most emphatic that we must all come to the one and only uniform interpretive answer with regard to what the latest ACP says (I love irony). But maybe it will be helpful for me to go a different direction with this post. Why does Ed see these numbers as calling for one set of actions in the SBC, while I see them calling for another? Perhaps a starting point for an answer will be to examine things that I think are presumptions that I do not share with Ed.

First, I do not agree that Southern Baptists are still doing what we did in the 1950s. The only people who say such things are people who were not alive and ministering in the 1950s. In the 1950s Southern Baptists were faithfully going to church three times weekly. They had robust Discipleship Training programs ongoing. They had two evangelistic crusades (which they called revival meetings) every year. Some of these would last two weeks. People in the churches not only attended, but they also invited lost people to come to these meetings and sought their salvation. The Southern Baptist Convention was able to coordinate a nationwide revival strategy entitled "A Million More in '54" during the 1950s.

Now, setting aside the discussion as to whether a similar approach would work today, can anyone with a straight face suggest that the Southern Baptist people are doing today what they were doing in the 1950s? One might make a very cogent case that the problem with Southern Baptists is that we have stopped doing what we did in the 1950s and can't seem to find the resolve to do it again. The members of my congregation are not 1950s people, they are not emulating the 1950s. They weren't alive then. They can't emulate the 1950s. But even if they were 1950s people—even if they just stepped out of Marty McFly's Delorean—a people busy sharing the gospel are doing their jobs as Christian witnesses. I firmly believe that a geek, a dork, a cowboy, a jock, a prom queen, a Napoleon Dynamite, a wallflower, or anyone else can be equally effective in sharing the faith just by being equally persistent in sharing the faith. Sometimes it just seems like Ed is suggesting that the world can't hear us share the gospel until they think we're cool. Ed probably wouldn't say it in those words, but that's what it sounds like. I don't agree with that presumption, because the power is in the gospel, not in our contextualization of it. And no, I'm not opposed to contextualization, I just think that the power is in the gospel and not in the contextualization.

Second, I do not agree that Southern Baptists can improve our missional PR by becoming less controversial. I agree that the world often regards us as controversialists. I agree that many people know us more for what we're against than for what we're for. But here's the thing: That's not a phenomenon that has anything to do with private prayer language, the relationship between eternal security and baptism, or even the inerrancy of scripture. Most lost people don't even know what those things are. Those who know us by what we're against, well, they know that we're against homosexuality and abortion and universalism. They know that we dare to think that the Bible teaches that Jews and Muslims and most Catholics are going to Hell. They've never heard of the Conservative Resurgence. When they complain that Christianity is divided and fractious (in my experience of witnessing to hostile lost people), they're talking about the fact that there are so many denominations of Christianity and they're talking about the crusades or the Civil War or the Civil Rights movement. They're not talking about appointment guidelines for the IMB.

So, if we could wave a magic wand and make all of the blog wars of the past two years vanish overnight, that wouldn't get anyone's attention outside our little ghetto. The only reason that the recent climate change statement had legs press-wise is because it was interpreted as an in-your-face toward other Southern Baptists, and therefore, as a controversy. Unless and until we are prepared to jettison biblical morality and compromise the gospel, we're not going to improve our PR status in this world. Ed Stetzer knows the research well enough to know that our stance on homosexuality alone is a huge obstacle for young lost people when it comes to the SBC.

But, Ed Stetzer is not prepared to jettison those things. I know that he's not. And they can much more readily be attached to our declining numbers than can our internecine debates. If Ed wants those debates to end, it must be for other reasons or because of some way in which he conjectures that the two topics are related.

I do not agree that declining numbers alone are a clarion call for action in the SBC. I think that there is a clarion call for action in the SBC, but the indicators are in our eroding beliefs and anemia in obedience to Christ's commands. If we were solid in our theology and faithful in our obedience to share the gospel, live transformed lives, and order ourselves biblically, then we shouldn't change no matter how much our numbers might decline. Stetzer's quote from Cal Guy measures the pragmatic impact of a person's theology in terms of what believers do, not in terms of how unbelievers respond to what believers do. Ultimately, our theology must make some account for Matthew 7:13-14.

I can count on my hands and feet the number of Southern Baptists I know who ever present the gospel to anybody. And I've been a member of six SBC churches in three states over a period covering more than three decades. Unless I've just been extremely unlucky in my acquaintances, these facts alone indicate a problem regardless of our membership numbers.

I say this because there are bad ways to chase numbers. Joel Osteen has great numbers, and you call tell from the videos that Ed's not on the same page as Osteen. We've got to have a different standard by which we can measure fruit, and we need to promote those standards of biblical obedience rather than statistical benchmarks.

I do not agree that we are necessarily losing the leaders we need to survive into the next century. Having a promising ministry in a local church is not the same thing as being a potential leader in a network of churches. Different tasks require different skills and callings. William Carey was pretty ineffective as a local church pastor, but brilliant as a missionary translator and strategist. James P. Eagle was never any more than an itinerant bivocational pastor, with no formal pastoral training and no record of significant accomplishment as a pastor, yet he is the patriarch of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and gave strong leadership to the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1890s and 1900s. We ought always to be careful of thinking that we can identify whom God will or will not raise up to lead His people. Here's a thought experiment for you: Our denominational contests of the past three years have witnessed the emergence of key leaders on the respective sides. How many of them could you have identified or predicted five years ago?

How many lapsed Southern Baptists are becoming key leaders in some other denomination? From my observation, most of the individuals whom I would guess that Stetzer has in view are choosing to forego denominations entirely and either do their own thing in isolation or work in some small homogenous group. If the Southern Baptist Convention is becoming small and homogenous, it is more likely because it is emulating these people than because it is rejecting them. For whatever my opinion is worth (and I'm sure you'll all tell me!), a great many people reject working in established denominations for the same reasons that they reject working in established congregations—they want to work in a context in which they can do things the way they want without having to convince anyone else. Such is not the mark of our great potential leaders of the future, IMHO. They're great at leading people who are already going in the direction that they want to go.

In conclusion, Ed Stetzer and I agree about a lot of things. Maybe Chadwick Ivester ought to Photoshop Ed Stetzer and myself into some sort of photo. Ed can leave me at home on his next trip to an Acts 29 meeting, but I wish I could have been at the Building Bridges Conference with him. It's a mixed bag. We agree about some of the things in his blog post that has precipitated so much gnashing of teeth. In some areas, I believe that Ed proceeds from a few false assumptions. But we ought to be careful to make the distinction that Ed himself has made in his comment stream. One can join Ed in having recognized a problem in the SBC long before these ACP data came out—one can see clearly the symptoms—without agreeing with Ed about his diagnosis or his prescription. If the denomination's vital signs are diminishing, then that just makes it all the more important that we choose the right prescription and administer it with rapidity and resolve. That's why I'm spending time engaging the SBC in its decision making process, because I think the need is just that important and the prescription is clear.

41 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Bart,

If it prompts SBC'ers to admit there IS a problem, it'll have gone a long way.

Bart Barber said...

Bob,

I'm not sure whom you mean by SBC'ers nor what you identify as the problem.

Do you mean SBC laypeople who are awash in complacency and fail to share the gospel? Lifeway Research's report won't budge them an inch.

Dave Miller said...

It is absolutely clear to me that this data proves that everything I have said in my blogs is correct, and everyone who has disagreed with me is wrong.

Those who disagreed with me are he reason that we are declining.

The only solution to the convention's problem is to agree with me more.

Bob Cleveland said...

Laypeople who don't share the gospel has been going on for years. 33 that I know of.

That's part of the picture. So is acceptance of members who aren't involved and never come.

And IMO a Sunday School system that lures people in by making them think it's about them, not about serving God.

Easy church membership that leads people to think just belonging is good enough.

Refusal to stop "inflating" numbers (Ed Stetzer's phrase), or to even address it at the SBC level.

And other things at the national level that I think have not escaped God's attention.

from the middle east said...

Brother Bart,

This is off-topic, but one of your statements caught my eye. You said, "Ed can leave me at home on his next trip to an Acts 29 meeting, but I wish I could have been at the Building Bridges Conference with him. It's a mixed bag."

This seems to imply that you do not approve of the Acts 29 Network. Is this the case or am I misreading you? If it is the case, why?

Peace to you my brother,
From the Middle East

Bro. Robin said...

Bart

Again, excellent analysis. It is all how one wants to read the numbers. Unfortunately, you will not be invited to state evangelism conferences or other venues to give your perspective on the matter.

Robin

Jonathon said...

THe Conservative Resurgence was a tremendously important period of time for the SBC! I praise the Lord for men like Adrian Rogers that stood and fought for the word of God and led the convention through tough times.

However, and leave it to the young guy to raise the question, I see another serious fight coming. Calvinist and non-calvinists are at each other's throats.

Example, Jerry Vines Ministries putting on the "John 3:16 conference in response to T4G. Ergun Caner calling Calvinists worse than Muslims...which is just idiotic coming from a Seminary President.

I raise that issue simply to say that if we are going to be effective in reaching our neighbors for Christ, we must stop infighting. We will never be at total peace, but the fights are getting larger, not smaller.

When James writes to persecuted Christians he calls them to stop fighting and quarreling (4:1-3). Satan loves to use disunity within the ranks of God's people to hinder their effectiveness.

We must be an army of mobilized believers who stand as one! Wishful thinking from a young pastor.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bob,

You write; And IMO a Sunday School system that lures people in by making them think it's about them, not about serving God Why would you want to get lost people serving God before they get saved? It seems that Sunday School was put together to be a place for teaching lost people and should be geared to them, instead of teaching the saved on how to serve God. It seems that discipleship groups is where we are supposed to teach saved people about serving God. Did I miss what you were saying?

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Dave Miller,

Ok, I agree with you. Does that mean that our decline has started back up? :>)

Blessings,
Tim

Bob Cleveland said...

Tim,

I think you did get it. I see Sunday School as a place to teach the Bible to those who should be living their faith. I've not seen its primary purpose as winning souls; that's the purpose of the students living their faith every day.

As to the system which says come and hear, that's what's built the body about which folks are now discussing how to go about .. or maybe whether to go about trying to get to a membership that's even saved ... regenerate ... at all.

Discipleship training is also the poorest-attended meeting of the week anyway. Except prayer meeting, but THAT'S another story.

from the middle east said...

Brother Tim,

I'm probably not the most well-versed in traditional baptist things (Sunday School, Training Union, etc). However, in previous Sunday School classes I have attended, those in attendance were all church members. Is this not typical? Again, I'm not questioning what you are saying, just asking for help from someone who has more experience in this area.

What do you guys do for these "discipleship groups?"

His grace be yours in abundance,
From the Middle East

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bob,

Historically, I believe you will find that Sunday School was set up to fulfill two purposes. One purpose, and the main one, was to be the outreach arm of the church. Along with that purpose was to assimilate those lost into the life of the church, thus the reason for church members to be in Sunday School.

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers said...

Brother/Sister from the middle east,

We are currently developing a survey for our Sunday School to determine if our people see it as it was historically set up. I am not certain that our people see it that way. When we get the surveys back, we are planning to revamp the Sunday School as the people view it.

Our Discipling right now is only in FAITH or some other type of strategy. However, we are seeing more and more people desiring to be discipled because the Sunday School lessons are not geared to discipleship.

Blessings,
Tim

from the middle east said...

Brother Tim,

Thanks brother. It makes sense to me now.

His grace, mercy & peace be yours,
From the Middle East

kws said...

I predict that the Calvinists will get the lion's share of the blame in days leading up to the SBC this summer. I had a good laugh while reading the advertisement for the John 3:16 conference on Dr. Vines website. It disclaims that this will not be a "bash the Calvinists" conference. It is to be a biblical assessment of the five points of Calvinism. Curiously,it seems from the speaking lineup that the only SBC reps. deemed worthy to make such an assessment are non-Calvinists. I'm sure it will be a Calvinist love-fest.

volfan007 said...

kws,

maybe that was the way it was predetermined to be! maybe they have no choice but to have it this way!

david :)

Bart Barber said...

kws,

What you have stated about the 3:16 conference, many of my non-calvinist friends allege about T4G. When they do so, I tell them that they are wrong.

Ben Macklin said...

Brother Bart -

I think that the problems facing our churches have much to do with cultural shifts that have changed the prevailing attitudes of today. In our town (12,000 pop.) we have as many single mothers, and blended families as we do traditional families, kids are involved in 5 times the activities and have 100 times the media / technology distractions as in the 1950's, drugs are much more readily available than at any other time, adults are bombarded with relativism, ecumenism, and a totalitarian political correctness like at no other time, and so on, and so on . . . .

In short, we are in the middle of a cultural shift that is taking our country in an entirely new direction. We are more of a melting pot now than at any other time in our history. In the 1800's, B.H. Carroll and other Baptists lamented the number of Irish Catholic immigrants flooding the west, but they were still white, Europeans, with many (but certainly not all) of the same cultural and religious norms.

Today, however, we are in a cultural shift that will forever change our nation. The voices of decency and modesty that used to keep many aberrant modes of behavior in the closet have now been overpowered by the call to toleration and equality. The problem for the church is not just how to preach the gospel, but how to preach the gospel to this culture. The redneck, meth making, father of three children by three different women is not comfortable coming into most churches even if he does repent and come to faith in Christ. There is a cultural divide we must find a way to cross that does not put hindrances to coming to Christ. What building will the tattooed man, or tongue pierced woman come to for a revival? Yes, she may come to the stain-glassed, padded pews, and organ resonating building of FBC Vernon, but she will quickly feel out of place. We would have as hard a time convincing her to come and be part of our particular fellowship as we would convincing her that Christ's transforming power can indwell her life and wash away her sins.

We have a lot to tackle if we are to be the prophetic voice that speaks to our culture, because our culture has changed and left us. I don't like it, mind you. But I have to find a way to do church that does not immediately alienate a large portion of our culture. Either that, or plant a redneck, tattoo friendly church.

The Lifeway survey may have revealed the fact that there is some problem, but it didn't tell us why we face these issues or how to solve them.

I do mean this is all honesty: All groups of Baptists still within love of one another must work to answer these enormous challenges. We can prophetically address culture

Ben Macklin

Debbie Kaufman said...

Ben Macklin. Bingo.

Debbie Kaufman said...

We also have parents who are turning their backs on the above which makes reaching these people even harder.God however can do anything.

Dave Miller said...

I do lay some of the blame for the malaise in the SBC on a form of calvinism that has developed in the SBC.

NOTE: I am a calvinist - convinced of 4 points; struggling with Biblical evidence on limited atonement. But I am a Calvinist, so my criticism is not of the nature of calvinism, but what I believe has become a deviation from the biblical teaching on God's sovereignty in salvation.

My state has seen an influx in recent years of young calvinist pastors. They are uniformly consciencious, love the Word, honor God. But some of them have seemed more interested in instituting reformed ideas than in obeying the Great Commission.

Their churches have uniformly struggled. Some have even died. In my church, the people most committed to evangelism are our most passionate calvinists. A true belief in the soveriegnty of God in salvation informs and encourages evangelism.

But, we who are calvinist have to admit that there has been a strain of calvinism in our denomination that has almost certainly contributed to our numerical issues.

Dave Miller said...

In line with my previous comment, I would make a suggestion.

I have read widely on the blogs about Ed Stetzer's comments. There seems to be a tendency to use the data (as I did in the third comment above - as a joke) to blame our blogging opponents for whatever problems exists.

A new tack might be helpful. If we who are calvinists would examine calvinism and see where we have gone wrong, if reformers would examine their words, actions and ideas, if Baptist Identity folks would examine their ideas and actions - we would be way ahead.

Each of us needs to look at ourselves, not our opponents, to reach a solution.

(Bart, this is a general observation, not meant to criticize your comment.)

CB Scott said...

Ben Mac,

Are you familiar with the work of William Strass and Neil Howe?

They are the pioneers in the study of cultural shifts.

They say that patterns of social movement recur over time. They call it "cycles of history."

They relate cultural shifts as "turnings." A turning occurs about every twenty years within a "cycle of history."

They lay out a cycle of history in four turnings (cultural shifts).

The cultural shifts, according to Strauss and Howe, within a cycle of history go as follows:

1. First Turning = HIGH = an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individual individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.

2. Second Turning = AWAKENING = a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.

3. Third Turning = UNRAVELING = a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.

4. Fourth Turning = CRISIS = a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

There are those who say we are in a Fourth Turning (Crisis) in our world today. It started around 2004.

OK, that makes us no different than all the cultures of history if we adhere to the idea of a "cultural shift." We are no different than any people before us who lived in their particular cultural shift in a cycle of history.

What then, is the answer?

Do I believe God is unchanging?

Do I believe the gospel is unchanging?

Did, in fact, the gospel enter some cycle of history in the person of the incarnate Son of God during some period of cultural shift, if cultural shift is a social reality?

Has that same gospel, handed down to us by saints of old, lost its power to save men, women, boys, and girls if it is preached, taught, and shared in its fullness and unchangeable truth to any and all no matter what cultural shift in which they find themselves living?

Therefore, if cultural shift is true and the unchanging gospel is more true and more proven to transcend all history, in all cycles, in all cultural shifts what am I, as a Christ-Follower, to do?

I am to deny myself, take up the Cross of Jesus, and proclaim the same gospel, in the same ways as did Paul at Mars Hill when he went into that culture during an evident shift long ago, fulfilling the Great Commission, in the power of the Holy Ghost, and leaving the results to Holy God, that he may glorify Himself in the Day of the Lord whenever that absolute and complete last "CULTURAL SHIFT may occur.

Therefore, and in conclusion, let us take the gospel, door-to-door, proclaiming it as the Good News of salvation to all who will hear, knowing that it has the power to change all people, no matter their socio-economic background or cultural position in life.

Southern Baptists have the gospel, we have sound doctrine. Let us therefore confront this culture we are in with the gospel we have been graciously given by Holy God and compromise nothing of it or its faithful doctrine and sacrifice ourselves for it and let the Devil take the hindmost parts with concern about our cycle of history or the cultural shift we find ourselves.

OUR JOB IS TO BE FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL GIVEN US AND PROCLAIM IT TILL DEATH OR THE COMING OF THE LORD.

Cultural shifts may, in fact, be real. But, be assured, the gospel we have and the doctrines we hold dear as Southern Baptists will stand in this cultural shift we find ourselves as it will in the next if Jesus tarries His coming.

The only thing that will make us impotent to face this culture is if we compromise the gospel or biblical doctrine we have been given in the providence of Holy God. In doing so we will go the way of many before us and be nothing and worthless in the advancement of the Kingdom.

cb

kws said...

As one who attended both of the T4G conferences, I can give you a major difference. T4G was never presented as an SBC conference. It was not hosted by or affilliated with any SBC church, institution or entity. It's hosts and speakers recognized significant differences in theology without diminishment and celebrated our common understanding of the doctrines of grace. What I have seen from some involved in the John 3:16 conference is a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of what most SBC Calvinists believe and teach (see Dr. Vines sermon at FBC Woodstock). The fact that there are no Calvinists on the program seems to erode any good that was accomplished through the Building Bridges meetings of last year. I am all for vigorous study discussion and debate,(which is how I arrived at my theological position) not the systematic dismantling of theological straw men.

Andrew Hebert said...

Amen brother.

Bart Barber said...

Ben,

People in the 1950s didn't just show up to church for revivals. Laypeople in the pews went forth with confidence and pleaded with people to be saved as a part of their daily lives. I am not trying to portray the era in an idyllic manner—the church in the 1950s had profound problems. But the idea that people in any era have seen evangelistic fruit by merely sitting on their haunches is a myth (and by that word I mean precisely what our liberal friends really mean by it when they call Genesis 1-11 a myth—that it has no factual basis in reality).

If there was at any epoch in American History a time when the culture was friendly to the gospel, then it came about simply and only as the fruit of people charging out into a culture unfriendly to the gospel and presenting the gospel anyway. Many of the men who planted churches in our part of the world 150 years ago did so wearing six-shooters to defend themselves against the armed opponents who waged war against the advance of "religious civility" into the frontier. We delude ourselves and denigrate our predecessors when we pretend that their way of doing things is the source of our problems.

This generational blame-game (not that you're participating in it, even if I think that you are defending some of its foundational precepts) is odious in the sight of the Lord.

Ben Macklin said...

cb

I don't disagree with you. Who does among us? One premise I might not completely buy into, though, is that this cultural shift is normal. Yes, there have been great periods of upheaval and renewal, but we live in an age in which media is influencing cultural norms like never before. I don't see big shifts away from past upheavals; I see those upheavals validated by an aire of inclusivism and hyper-toleration.

Do we need to take the gospel door to door? YES! Our church does that more than any church I know of. On May 18th we will simultaneously visit 650 homes, conduct 7 worship services around town, host 2 different events to reach kids in two different parts of the city, mow yards, fix houses, and do it all on Sunday morning instead of regular worship services. We ARE doing IT, as best as we can figure out what IT is.

My point is not that we need to stop doing what we are doing. Indeed, we need to do vastly more. But when we reach the constituent parts of our ever-diversifying culture, will they come to our homogenous people groups called the typical Southern Baptist church (mostly white, mostly conservative, mostly middle class, etc.)?

A growth model for the coming years has to take into account that we live in a different world than we probably want to. It would be great if the vast majority of our culture were just like me (clean, un-addicted, in a stable marriage, with a 401K, etc.), only lost and waiting for me to share the gospel with them. One problem we must face is that we better relate the eternal, unchanging truth of Jesus to a culture we may not feel comfortable being in, or else we will be increasingly irrelevant.

But brother, we are in lock-step agreement on the vast majority of points. Amen, let's reach them for Christ!

Ben Macklin

Ben Macklin said...

Brother Bart -

I think you mistook my comments as an attack on previous methodologies, or a defense of an emerging church movement (maybe). People in every era have faced enormous challenges to the gospel; we studied the same Baptist History - we know the issues in the 19th and 20th centuries especially.

BUT, in many programmatic, architectural, musical, and paradigmatic ways, our churches reflect something (SOMETHING) of a stasis mentality.

Brother Ben

P.S. I wish we lived closer to one another so we could still sit around and discuss theology.

Jamie Steele said...

Bart,
Excellent post as always.
Why do numbers go down?

Some say Calvinism. That is laughable. How many non calvinist do you know that really share their faith. Probably few. Besides how many SBC churches are lead by Calvinist. Few. Not enough to change the #'s that much.

Also- nothing guarantees a person will come to Christ if we share our faith with them. We act like sharing the Gospel is magic.
This is why many SBC churches are trying so many gimmicks to get lost people to like church.
When i was lost if I went to a church that played HElls Bells i would laugh my way out of the service. Or if they showed old 80's rock videos, please.

This is enticing the flesh of the church not the lost.

CB Scott said...

Ben Mac,

Am I to understand you do believe that we should go door-to-door even in this postmodern culture with the gospel of the Bible unapologetically?

Are you also saying we should invite the lost to our homes and eat with them and befriend them without pretense just as did Jesus when he walked upon this earth?

If you would agree to the above; would you also agree we should go among the lost today with a "cup of cold water" in one hand doing real ministry and providing opportunity at the call of the Spirit to share the gospel in the other hand?

If that is the case I want to explain my reasons for posting these comments here.

On the blog of Tim Rogers an individual told all who were in a comment thread there we should come here to Bart's place because you had made strong support to reinforce their position that going door-to-door was a terrible mistake for us to make in gospel ministry today due to cultural prohibitions against its relevance.

I hope you take the time to read that comment stream and you will see better my motivation for this comment.

May we work together for the gospel, door-to-door, person-to-person, ministry-to-ministry till Jesus comes.

cb

Ben Macklin said...

cb

??????

Who ever dedicated themselves to being my spokesman certainly does not go to my church. BUT, are you sure they weren't confusing Ben Cole with Ben Macklin. In this confusing blog world last names are very important.

Tim Rogers....I'll have to look that one up.

Ben Macklin
Vernon, Texas
(close to Oklahoma, but worlds away)

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Dave Miller,

You write; I am a calvinist - convinced of 4 points... I just want to call your attention to something that has been a pet peeve of mine since I began hearing about Calvinist and Non-Calvinist. I believe it would be better to use the word Reformed for someone in your position. To say one is a Calvinist and only agrees with 4 points espoused by the council of Dort, would be considered reformed. The reason being is the Council of Dort was convened in order for the followers of James Arminius to openly and fairly defend their positions against some of the teaching of John Calvin's. The Arminians presented what is called The Five Articles of Remonstrance. In response to The Five Articles of Remonstrance, the council of Dort countered with what has become known as The Five Points of Calvinism.

Thus, to be a 'Calvinist' one should believe in all 5 points. However, if one believes in only 4 points, as you, or three points, as I, would would only be considered reformed in theology. Meaning we believe in the theology of all the Reformers, just not the full 5 points of Calvinism. (Remember, John Calvin was not the only Reformer)

Just some food for thought as one tries to express accurately what one believes.

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Jamie,

Hells Bells? You are a harder rocker than your redneck self personifies.

What if you were in a church where they played Simple Kind of Man or The Devil Went down to Georgia? As a lost person, how would you respond to that?

Blessings,
Tim

Dave Miller said...

Tim, nomenclature is difficult. I don't use the term reformed, because I do not accept the typical reformed view of eschatology (I am still hanging on to the hope of the Rapture!) and I have not liked much of the teaching on sanctification that I have heard from reformed folks. So, I do not use the term reformed because to most it implies 5-point, amil or preterist, with a whole system of doctrine and practice behind it.

I believe that salvation starts in God's will, not ours. The best description is perhaps "4-point" but as you said, many calvinists dispute that. If you don't buy the whole system, you aren't part of the club.

I find that most places I go, I am a misfit.

Maybe I will coin a new word. A 4-point Calvinist, Baptist by conviction, who believes strongly in human responsibility before God, who is mildly dispensational, pre-mil, pre-trib - we will call him a "Davist." I have always wanted my own movement.

Some would say another word is "confused."

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Dave,

When I use 'Reformed', I mean it in the use of the 5 "Sola's". If I follow your prescription of the term, then are you saying that you follow Calvin's view of Ecclesiology?

Next we will discuss how many angels dance on the head of a pin. :>)

Blessings,
Tim

Dave Miller said...

Tim,

No. I am saying I do not follow "reformed" views on eschatology, ecclesiology and other minor points. That is why I have had trouble figuring out a pigeon-hole description of my views.

I have no trouble with the Solas of the reformers. If that is all "reformed" meant, I would gladly embrace that term.

I have tended to call myself "calvinistic" because I believe in God's sovereignty in salvation, but have not bought the whole system.

I have yet to be convinced that any of the systems have a monopoly on truth. Dispensational, covenant, reformed, even Baptists (probably why we have disagreed on a few blogs). As I have studied the Bible, I have found truth in many systems (still looking for some from the Arminians, but...) but have not become completely enamoured with any of them.

Dave Miller said...

I just figured something out. When I am tired and worn down, I blog. It keeps me from doing my real work.

I have blogged more today than I have in the last two weeks. Probably means I will have to give it up the rest of the week and do some real work.

CB Scott said...

Dave and Tim,

And maybe that is why we should seek to be identified as "biblicists."

Did I spell that right?:-)

cb

Dave Miller said...

Great CB,

That is probably my favorite word. However, the problem is that it can be a kind of pejorative as well, if I use it wrong.

"I am a biblicist, who just reads, interprets and applies the Bible."

But does that not imply that if you disagree with me, you might not be?

If I had to use only one term, though, biblicist would be it.

CB Scott said...

Dave,

I know there would be room for the two of us because of our excellent eschatology.:-)

I guess it would be OK to call other biblicists also even if they have the wrong view of the end tines and ain't smart like us. :-)

cb

Dave Miller said...

I think it is clear to all that we are slightly superior, CB