"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Getting the Saved Unsaved So They Can Be Saved Again

Yesterday after our fourth and final on-campus worship service I met a family of four in the Guest Reception. They lived forty miles away in another city but had come to Emmanuel for three consecutive weeks and were asking about becoming members. When I asked what attracted them to Emmanuel I received a startling response: "We just want to attend a Southern Baptist church where the focus is not on getting the saved unsaved so they can be saved again."  I questioned the very nice husband and father of two as to what he meant. He explained that he wished for his wife and children to attend a church where they could be taught of Christ, what it means to draw life and joy from a relationship with Him, and not hear the pastor try to convince believers that they really are not saved as he continually and repetitively pleas for people "to walk the aisle" to be saved. He announced he and his family had, indeed, found a spiritual home at Emmanuel.

Gerald Harris of the Georgia Index, the newsletter for Southern Baptists in Georgia, has written an editorial, opining on the negatives of what he calls the "rise of Calvinism" in the Southern Baptist Convention. Gerald slams what he perceives as less than enthusiastic evangelism and unhealthy church plants in the SBC, both a result of the resurgence of Calvinism.  Gerald conjectures that the proposed new name for the Southern Baptist Convention will be the Great Commission Baptist Convention, but closes his editorial by stating, "If that is the suggested name and if we dare vote for it to be our new appellation we dare not defame it with half-hearted evangelism and church plants that wither away in five years."

Hmmm.

Gerald, you and I have never met, but we both are probably not on the friends list of Southern Baptist Calvinists. I disagree strongly with their view of women, their congregational polity de-emphasis, and their seeming fear to fully implement New Covenant teaching in their churches. Many of those whom you oppose in the SBC do seem to me to be more Presbyterian in polity and practice than historic Baptist.

However, we should at least thank our Calvinist Southern Baptist friends for one thing they have done. They are rooting out the destructive 19th century Finney decisionism theology that has rotted the foundation of the Southern Baptist Convention like wormwood and/or gut rot. People are absolutely tired of Southern Baptist preachers who use formulaic evangelism during worship services and turn Southern Baptist churches into liturgical halls of decisionism. "Sir, we would see Jesus," is the plea of our people, and the one thing we can thank our SBC Calvinistic friends for is that their focus has been more on God's commitment to us than our commitment to God. True life and real joy come from Him. Jonathan Edwards got it right when he surmised that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. It is impossible to be satisfied with Him when we constantly turn the gaze of our eye within.

So....

Be careful Mr. Harris. I am in agreement with you that Calvinism presents a problem within the Southern Baptist Convention, but you are making a wrong diagnosis. The problem is church polity, gender equality, and pastoral accountability. It's not evangelism. We should give our SBC Calvinist friends a big bear hug for helping Southern Baptists see that getting the saved unsaved so they can be saved again is equivalent to spitting in the face of Jesus Christ and trampling on the blood of the New Covenant.

Agreed?

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm reading a Finney book on revival right now and find his teachings not at all what I have been taught he said.

But then, I am only a few chapters into the book.

But overall, I agree that we so often leave Jesus and God's grace and love out of our services in our zeal to get the women in line, badger those that refuse to disbelieve everything that bears the tag "science", and generally promote some power hungry men to the office of local baptist pope.

I've found a local pastor--female--who preaches the pre CR Baptist messages. Of course, she isn't Baptist, but the services there are very Christ centered and meaningful.

I think I'm home.

Linda

Johnny D. said...

Wade, your post here goes a bit deeper than I want to go with my reply. Here's why - the opening paragraph made me think of my one and only experience I had with trying to join an SBC church.

I felt that we were led to join a large, local SBC church. We went down front at the invitation and were introduced by the pastor to the congregation. As the service closed, we were led into the back and seated at a table with a counselor. He shoved a packet of material at us (I assume it contained church info) and told us to return that evening to be baptized. I was pretty naive back in those days, but one thing I was sure about was that we had been properly baptized in water, and before being dunked, we both confessed our faith in the Lord Jesus.

As I told this gentleman that we'd been baptized in a protestant church, he wanted to know if we'd been baptized "in a like faith." I replied with the true fact that we'd been baptized in a Christian & Missionary Alliance Church. He didn't know what that was. I said, you know, "the denomination that produced R.A. Torrey and A.W. Tozer? Even Billy Graham was affiliated with the CMA at one time."

It wasn't enough. He kept insisting that we needed to be baptized again. But now his excuse became, "It will show your obedience to the pastor." It was at that point that I said to my wife, "Let's get out of here." He withdrew the packet of material he'd given us and said we could only join if we came back to be baptized that evening. I replied, "We're not joining, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm not as in tune with the Holy Spirit as I thought I was - because I felt we were led to join this church." I also told him that I thought the only reason they wanted us to be baptized again was to meet a quota. "Every Sunday since we've been coming here, someone announces how many folks were baptized last weekend. Well, I'm not going to help you meet a quota." We left.

The whole thing really was embarrassing and disappointing on so many levels.

I hope I wasn't too far off topic, but that whole incident came to mind as I began to read your post. I thought I had forgiven those folks for that whole thing, but I guess on some level I still need to forgive and forget.

Wade Burleson said...

Johnny D,

Not off topic at all. Baptismal inquiries into churches of 'like order' are as bizarre as aisle rituals for salvation.

Wade Burleson said...

Linda,

I respect your ability to discern Finney immensely, and would be interested in what you conclude after your study. The think that bothers me about Finney is decisional ritualism -- taking the sinner's eye of faith off Christ and placing it within himself.

Glad you found a home!

Wade

Lamar Wadsworth said...

Good word, Wade! Bill Leonard has spoken about the same concerns you raise, describing it as a "perpetual return to the beginning to make sure you got it right." Salvation is a way of life in the present, not just a transaction in the distant past. Dale Moody called it the "punctiliar fallacy," equating salvation with the moment of conversion. Moody said that both sides of the "once saved/always saved" debate are equally caught up in the "punctiliar fallacy."

Bob Cleveland said...

If you're preaching the truths of the Bible and walking with Jesus, you're making disciples.

Those who preach "Five reasons the Devil doesn't want you to walk the aisle", you're trying to make converts.

I suspect the latter may outnumber the former in the SBC, judging by the collectively miserable track record of SBC churches in making disciples, as reflected in the fact that most of our members aren't even coming to church.

Which, incidentally, nobody seems to want to address.

B Nettles said...

The problem is church polity, gender equality, and pastoral accountability.

Wade, I wish you wouldn't lay these at the door of Calvinistic Baptists. It's a problem with many Baptist churches, reforming or trad. 20th century, general or particular.

I consider a plurality of elders to have a strong Biblical basis. As with anything operated by us, it can be abused. The strong pastor model of many non-Calvinistic churches has abuse also. The role of women issue is NOT a Calvinistic issue. There are many prominent non- and anti-Calvinists that are abusive. Pastoral accountability can actually be improved with elders vs. "senior" pastor/associates/ministers.

Equating Baptist Calvinists with problems in these areas simply because some of the strong spokesmen with whom you disagree are also Calvinistic is disingenuous. Calling Baptist Calvinists Presbyterian is also wrong; Baptist churches are independent congregations and Presbyterians, most of them, answer to a higher authoritarian organization.

B Nettles said...

BTW, I completely agree with your assessment of decisionism in the SBC.

Scott said...

Wade- I read your blog often, but this is my first time to comment.

Being relatively young in ministry, I seeking discernment on church polity. My background is in SBC churches, whose polity has been/is congregational. However, as you have noted, many calvinist pastors (which is who i mainly listen to, as I believe that is what the scriptures teach) adhere to and teach "elder led" church polity.

Ultimately, my question is, do you have any books, teaching, etc. that would be beneficial in explaining congregational "rule" and the biblical support for it?

Thank you for your assistance

wadeburleson.org said...

Bill,

I respect your opinion on these matters. I have found, in my own experience, that 'elder' rule is usually a euphemism for some kind of mystical authority over other people that has no basis in the New Testament. I realize men of much greater learning and higher quality of character disagree with me. :)

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
I believe a deacon is to be a servant leader to help lead the congregation to be led by the Holy Spirit in keeping with ‘individual priesthood’.

B Nettles said...

Wade,

My personal experience in an elder-led church (6 years now in the same church) has been extremely positive and much healthier than the nominally congregational situation I experienced for 23 years. Those churches which say they are congregational often have the same mystical attitude toward "the pastor" that you assign to a plurality of elders.

I see nothing in Scripture which hinders a church from having a group of wise, trustworthy men taking the responsibility of guiding the daily ministries of a local church, and the church in return giving deference to their planning. I would prefer to have a group rather than one (wisdom in many advisors), and I would prefer to have people who seriously consider that their leadership has definite effect on my soul here on Earth. This group also should lead one another under Christ. This is what I see in my church now. While they aren't perfect, our elders definitely seek the best for the ministry of our church, and they aren't on a power trip.

Too often, the congregational model defers to the question,"What does the preacher want to do?" which is the same as having a single authority figure. I have seen it result in poor decisions because the pastor was not knowledgeable or was too biased. And I have experienced more push-back, authoritarianism, and ignoring of questions in "congregational" and "committee-run" non-Calvinistic churches than at my current elder-led Calvinistic Southern Baptist church.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pastor Wade!

As I said, I am only a few chapters into Finney and may find much with which I disagree.

So far what I AM agreeing with is the concept that if the Holy Spirit leads a person to pray for the salvation of another person it is because God is prepared to bless that person with salvation.

Very reformed thought, seems to me, although he wasn't known for reformed thought :)

I'm also in agreement that if revival is occurring, and we start bragging about how "we" are causing it, God walks right out the door and revival is over.

But just generally so far, even though I've been taught he taught a mechanical "just do this and that and folks will get saved" what I am reading is just the opposite.

More of a first deal with God and make sure you are right with God, and then keep the focus on God rather than man's means.

Not finding--so far--much that the church growth movement people would like. So far finding--much to my amazement--much in common with some very reformed writers.

But as I said, just a few chapters in and that may change.

Linda

Aussie John said...

Wade,

Rex's comment prompted me to think of an experience I had at the first deacon's meeting in the second church in which I was privileged to be pastor.

We began the meeting by looking at what Scripture says regarding deacons, and I explained that deacons were servants of the church. As I spoke, one deacons stood up so quickly he nearly spilled everything off the table around which we sat.

With an extremely loud voice he declared,"I am no mans servant!"

What a difference it makes to a congregation when deacons understand what a servant is and find contentment and fulfillment in functioning as such.

Our Lord, Himself described Himself as "one who serves", a servant, why would we want to be recognized as anything more?.

wadeburleson.org said...

Bill,

My personal experience in an elder-led church (6 years now in the same church) has been extremely positive and much healthier than the nominally congregational situation I experienced for 23 years. Those churches which say they are congregational often have the same mystical attitude toward "the pastor" that you assign to a plurality of elders.

Yes. I see that as well! Good point, Bill.

I see nothing in Scripture which hinders a church from having a group of wise, trustworthy men taking the responsibility of guiding the daily ministries of a local church, and the church in return giving deference to their planning.

Agreed! My only point is if your leadership is ONLY men, you miss out on half the body. Our LEADERASHIP TEAM at Emmanuel is MEN AND WOMEN.

I would prefer to have a group rather than one (wisdom in many advisors), and I would prefer to have people who seriously consider that their leadership has definite effect on my soul here on Earth. This group also should lead one another under Christ. This is what I see in my church now. While they aren't perfect, our elders definitely seek the best for the ministry of our church, and they aren't on a power trip.

Amen. The Leadership Team brings recommendations to the church from the pastoral team. The pastors oversee and shepherd and lead, and the Leadership Team brings accountability and wisdom and assists in direction and speaks to the church on behalf of the pastors in terms of recommendations.

Too often, the congregational model defers to the question,"What does the preacher want to do?" which is the same as having a single authority figure. I have seen it result in poor decisions because the pastor was not knowledgeable or was too biased. And I have experienced more push-back, authoritarianism, and ignoring of questions in "congregational" and "committee-run" non-Calvinistic churches than at my current elder-led Calvinistic Southern Baptist church.

Hmmm. I think we agree on most things. I am attempting to protect the biblical understanding of the priesthood of every believer. I believe the congregational model gives the sense that every member counts in the kingdom, but I sure recognize the need for those with gifts, maturity and wisdom leading.

Thanks for your comments!

wadeburleson.org said...

Rex Ray,

Amen!

Aussie John,

That would be a funny anecdote were it not so sad! :)

Rex Ray said...

Thanks Wade,

After being a charter member in 1944, we returned over ten years ago to a small country church.

At our last deacons’ meeting, I was surprised to hear I was to have a ‘going-a-way party’ as a deacon since I’d be 80 in March.

I’ve never heard of such; much less seen it in writing.

Maybe the ballot in our church bulletin for new deacons tells why: “Deacon-leaders”

Anonymous said...

Pastor Wade--I'm a few more chapters into Finney's book now, and still finding gold among the dross but oh--one particular teaching is such heinous dross!

I believe in evangelism, and I believe in obeying the Lord.

But the idea that if I fail--whether due to rebellion or simple human failing--others will burn in hell for eternity while I still enjoy heaven--simply gags me.

My understanding of election tells me that if I fail to take the good news to my neighbor, and God designs to save my neighbor, it is I myself who misses the blessing. God can and will use other means to reach my neighbor.

The overwhelming guilt his teaching would engender is beyond my comprehension. How could one sleep at night? Wouldn't you be so fearful and guilt ridden dealing with that sort of God as to be paralyzed?

What of grace and mercy?

Linda

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
Our church bylaws state:
“Deacons should have the same scriptural qualifications and Christian walk as a pastor…”

1. “When more deacons are needed, church members will be given a ‘ballot recommendation’ to be returned in the offering plate, office, or mailed in.”

2. “The pastor and deacons shall review the recommendations and determine if they are qualified.”

3. “After an examination by the pastor or deacons, and with their acceptance, they will be presented to the church for approval by a majority vote.”

Under Termination of a pastor:

“The pastor will leave at the request of either the pastor or the church.” In either case…”

Wade, since our bylaws don’t cover termination of deacons, it looks to me like they would leave the same as pastors, and not by a rule of being 80 that I think exists only in the mind of a CEO decision.

If you don’t mind me asking, how do your church deacons leave?

wadeburleson.org said...

Linda,

"But the idea that if I fail--whether due to rebellion or simple human failing--others will burn in hell for eternity while I still enjoy heaven--simply gags me."

Bingo!

:)

Thanks.

WatchingHISstory said...

I am so glad to read this, Wade. The SB I attend (not a member because of the BF&M) uses this decisional formula ovwer and over insisting everyone get their baptism on the right side of their salvation.