Friday, March 31, 2006

migration or harvest? part two

It looks like I didn't do my homework very well. Two days before my previous post Thom Rainer, another Southern Baptist, made the following statements in another Baptist Press article:

The numerical evidence seems clear. The American church is dying. We are not reproducing Christians. American church growth is typically the transfer of members from one congregation to another, rather than the conversion of the lost. I guess I could blame the churches, her leaders, and stubborn church members. But I must confess that I too often fall short in my own evangelistic zeal. Sometimes I get so busy that I fail to do the main thing.

Perhaps the first step for all of us is the confession of our own sins of disobedience, our own failures to take the evangelistic mandate seriously. Perhaps if we determine that the problem begins with me, then we can be a part of the solution.

Note, Rainer's comments are the result of analyzing evangelical churches across denominational lines not just the SBC. It sounds like we have more to be concerned about than Southern Baptists migrating to our churches. We need to consider whether we are simply paying lip service to the "evangel."
How many evangelical churches does it take to raise one convert sounds like a joke gone horribly wrong. We need to join Rainer in recognizing this problem by falling on our faces.


Blogger Jack said...

I'm not confident that what we preach to people is even the real Gospel half the time. At 2nd Baptist Houston I heard Ed Young Jr. preach during a Fourth of July event that becoming a Christian was a matter of "pledging allegiance to Jesus", like we do to the flag. Lots of people falsely believe that it's the going forward that saves you, or praying the prayer, or the baptism. A lot of Baptist churches are functioning Campbellites, in my opinion. The Baptist churches seem to have as big a back door as they do a front door -- people hear a 10-minute message, pray a prayer and get baptized, but I think a lot of these "converts" were never really understood the Gospel. Just like Charles G. Finney's bogus, works-centered "Christian revivals", that ended up actually contributing to the secularization of the Northeast, because his "converts" didn't stay, and the "Christianity" he preached didn't regenerate!

But we must beware Rainier's mechanical view of conversion -- meaning, it's also the unbelieving world's fault for being indifferent or rejecting. They aren't robots in whom we can just push buttons and "cause" conversions by using the right music, psychology, or a particular invitation style.

Monday, April 10, 2006 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Jack, the way you describe the "mechanical view of conversion" is in fact very congruent to what good ol' Chuck Finney was doing in his revivals. I read Surprising Insights From the Recently Unchurched a while back and there is a dimension to it that emphasizes looking like a church that is attractive to outsiders (i.e. having clean bathrooms and a nice children's program and such) but that seems like a given to many of us (I would hope). At least in that book there was a consistent emphasis on having strong biblical teaching in the church. If Rainer is able to convince many in the SBC of this need in his capacity as President of Lifeway, then the future of the SBC is bright.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger D.R. said...

Jack, as a Southern Baptist, I agree with your general assessment of Baptists (at least of the non-Reformed variety). That is why I am thankful that Calvinism is growing in the denomination and at least three of the big 6 seminaries, Calvinism is a dominant view. Calvinism, mind you, isn't the answer to the problem, per se, but the idea of Lordship (or Schreiner's and Piper's nuanced Means of Salvation view) is. And generally "works-based" preaching, as you have labeled it, has a theological problem with Lordship salvation. It's just not easy enough or formulaic. It's too much like Jesus in Luke 14 and not enough like the prooftexting methods they employ (like stripping Romans 10:13 out of its context and chanting it like a mantra).

So, I would say, hold on. The tide is turning. After all, in my lastes blog post I reported that Baptist Press has officially gotten something right and published John Piper's article, "Don't Waste Your Cancer." It may be that those in the SBC are about to wake up from an almost century long sleep to find that the methods they have employed are no longer effective because they never were Biblical.

But as for Rainer, I wouldn't take what he said here and speculate too much from it. If you have read his books and knew the guy, you would have a better frame of reference for what he is saying, which I don't think is best understood in how you took it. As far as I know he is sickened by modern church growth methods and he has written books to prove them uneffective, using his crack research teams at Southern Seminary.

But in the end, I think Decisional Theology is losing strength in the SBC. It's evident from those in the leadership that are getting angry and getting loud about it. They have even gone far enough as to blame Calvinism, as if the movement is large enough now to cover the multitude of sins committed in evangelism by those under their tutelage. So hold on Jack and watch what happens in the coming days in the SBC. There may indeed still be a Edwardsian-Whitfieldian revival left in the old denom.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 1:13:00 PM  

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