Thursday, December 14, 2006

Can the Church Close the Back Door? Part 1 of 2

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—While a great deal of effort is made by churches and denominations to attract new church members, LifeWay Research’s newest study surveys the “formerly churched” to better understand why people leave.
In the summer of 2006, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources conducted a survey of 469 “formerly churched adults” – those who regularly attended a Protestant church as an adult in the past but who no longer do so. The objective of the survey was to better understand why people stop attending church – and what it would take to bring them back.

The results indicate that, while some losses may be inevitable, opportunities abound for churches to hold on to members who are headed for the door.

For full article click here.

Young Adults Are Finding Church Irrelevant

Today's 18-34 year old adults are falling away from church and finding it irrelevant in their lives, according to a recent study conducted by LifeWay. Find out what young adults are looking for and what they're running from by reading the full story.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jesus Is Better Than Anything

Jesus trumps them all! Jesus is better than Moses, He is better than the angels, better than you and anything in this world today. As believers we have to keep that prospective as we walk in this world. The Word of God is clear that Jesus Christ is the best! This may sound elementary to some, but many churches and yes I said churches are lifting angels and other things higher than Christ; clearly wrong and sinful!

What about Christmas coming up soon with all it pagan traditions. Even some Christians are lifting up Christmas trees, lights, foods, and such features of the holiday season higher than Christ. Now don't misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that it is wrong to be involved in these things as Christians, we just have to remember to not put them above Christ. Christmas is a day in which we celebrate the baby Jesus coming into the world to save mankind from sin and soon to die as a propitiation for the sins of the world. Will you keep the proper focus with me today?

John MacArthur's devotion for today speaks on this issue and I wanted to share it with you.

Click here for devotion

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Continue Witnessing Till Jesus Comes

Many people automatically think that because a person calls themself a 5-point Calvinist that he or she does not witness or believe in evangelism. Brothers a mindset like that is nothing more than sin and needs to be repented of quickly. Let us be reminded of the importance of evangelism from the great words of CH Spurgeon from his devotion for last Sun.

"I have much people in this city."Acts 18:10

This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ's property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.
Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. "Neither pray I for these alone," saith the great Intercessor, "but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word." Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. "The time of figs is not yet." The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have His own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He cometh forth with fulness of power--they must become the willing servants of the living God. "My people shall be willing in the day of my power." "He shall justify many." "He shall see of the travail of His soul." "I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong."

Sunday, December 3, 2006

A Plea For Theological Responsibility And Integrity

A Plea For Theological Responsibility And Integrity

In recent days it has become painfully evident that many Southern Baptists do not “do theology” very well. Some are apparently ill informed and sloppy. Others trying to be cute, are bombastic and irresponsible. Despite our rhetoric to be “people of the Book”, we do not know the Book very well. We do not grasp its rich theology. We are failing, and failing miserably, to obey 2 Timothy 2:15-16: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness.”

I want our students to do better. I want you to do theology well. I want you to be clear and careful thinkers, gracious and competent teachers. I want you to be able to articulate a biblically balanced theology with conviction as well as charity. I want our Lord to give you the wisdom of knowing which theological hills are worth dying on, and which ones brothers and sisters in Christ can agreeably disagree, and yet love each other and work with each other in building the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and reaching the nations with the gospel.

If you are wondering what are some of the careless theological statements I have in mind that has moved me to put this challenge before you, let me note just a few that I have heard coming from a number of different directions.

1) You cannot attract a crowd and build a church on expository preaching.
It is true you can build a crowd without biblical exposition, but you will never build a Christ-honoring New Testament Church without faithful exposition of the whole counsel of God’s inerrant Word. Further, a number of churches in our Convention have built both a growing church in terms of breadth and depth. It does not have to be an either/or scenario.

2) Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron.
Anyone who knows church and Baptist history knows how irresponsible this statement is. William Carey, Luther Rice, Adoniram Judson, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Charles Spurgeon, James Boyce, Basil Manly Jr., and John Broadus are just a few of the great missionaries, pastors, and theologians who embraced a Reformed Theology. You may be convinced that Calvinism is wrong. However, do not make yourself look foolish by saying there are no passionate, evangelical Calvinists.

3) Five-point Calvinism is the same as Hyper-Calvinism.
This statement again demonstrates historical ignorance. Hyper-Calvinism is a particular movement that appeared in the mid 1700’s that rejects the mandate to share the gospel, denies man’s responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, and in some instances runs perilously close to making God the author of sin. The overwhelming majority of five-point Calvinists would reject each of these positions. Spurgeon, himself a five-point Calvinist denounced in the strongest measure these errors in Spurgeon and “hyper-Calvinism.”

Now, those of you who know my theology know I am not a five-point Calvinist. I believe Unconditional Election is not incompatible with “the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures” (Abstract of Principles, art. IV), I affirm a Universal Provision with a Limited Application as it pertains to the Atonement, and I believe Effectual Calling to be a much better way to describe a significant aspect of the salvation process than Irresistible Grace. Further, anything that weakens the missionary passion of the church and the evangelistic favor of an individual is both dangerous and useless to the Church. Perhaps what some mean by “hyper-Calvinism” is extreme Calvinism or Calvinists with an attitude. I have met more than a few in my lifetime and to be sure, they were not of much value when it comes to the health of the church and reaching the lost. Still, we need to be honest with history and accurate with the facts. Mischaracterizations are of no value on any level.

4) Calvinists are worse than Muslims.
The irresponsibility of this statement is tragic. It is one thing to disagree with your brothers and sisters in Christ on a point of theology. It is incredible that you would place them in the category of unbelieving militants who murder innocent victims in the name of Allah.

5) Jesus was a Calvinist.
Theological foolishness is not limited to one theological perspective. In a Pastor’s Conference a few years ago one of my pulpit heroes made this statement. Recently a friend of mine wrote a book with one of the chapters entitled, "Christ, The Calvinist.” Such statements are wrongheaded, and yes, again irresponsible, at several points. First, the statement is historically chronistic. Second, it is Christologically disrespectful. Jesus is the Lord. He is the King. He is God. Our Savior is the grand subject of Christian theology. So whether it is Whitefield, Boice (men I greatly love and admire), or whomever, to call Jesus a Calvinist is theologically misguided and pastorally dangerous. Yes, Jesus believes God is sovereign but He also taught man is responsible. Yes, Jesus taught, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44), but He also gave us the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20).

6) You cannot teach your young people theology.
I have a simple and direct challenge: try it. Try it and see what happens. I suspect you will be wonderfully surprised. I suspect some of you will be significantly put to the test!

Though I could say much more let me conclude with a simple but helpful beatitude: “Blessed are the balanced, for they will avoid unhealthy extremes.” This is true in doing theology. This is true in our speech. This is true for all aspects of the Christian life.

I love you and thank God for you. May you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Christmas.

Daniel L. Akin

Friday, December 1, 2006

What Does Predestination do to the Task of Evangelism?

This question raises grave concerns about the mission of the Church. It is particularly weighty for evangelical Christians. If personal salvation is decided in advance by an immutable divine decree, what is the sense or urgency of the work of evangelism?
I will never forget the terrifying experience of being quizzed on this point by Dr. John Gerstner in a seminary class. There were about twenty of us seated in a semicircle in the classroom. He posed the question: “All right, gentlemen, if God has sovereignly decreed election and reprobation from all eternity, why should we be concerned about evangelism?” I breathed a sigh of relief when Gerstner started his interrogation on the left end of the semicircle since I was sitting in the last seat on the right. I took comfort in the hope that the question would never get around to me.
The comfort was short-lived. The first student replied to Gerstner’s query, “I don’t know, sir. That question has always plagued me.” The second student said, “It beats me.” The third just shook his head and dropped his gaze toward the floor. In rapid succession the students all passed on the question. The dominoes were falling in my direction.
“Well, Mr. Sproul, how would you answer?” I wanted to vanish into thin air or find a hiding place in the floorboards, but there was no escape. I stammered and muttered a reply. Dr. Gerstner said, “Speak up!” In tentative words I said, “Well, Dr. Gerstner, I know this isn’t the answer you are looking for, but one small reason we should still be concerned about evangelism is that, well, uh, you know, after all, Christ does command us to do evangelism.”
Gerstner’s eyes started to flame. He said, “Ah, I see, Mr. Sproul, one small reason is that your Savior, the Lord of Glory, the King of kings has so commanded it. A small reason, Mr. Sproul? Is it barely significant to you that the same sovereign God who sovereignly decrees your election also sovereignly commands your involvement in the task of evangelism?” Oh how I wished I’d never used the word small. I got Gerstner’s point.
Evangelism is our duty. God has commanded it. That should be enough to end the matter. But there is more. Evangelism is not only a duty; it is also a privilege. God allows us to participate in the greatest work in human history, the work of redemption. Hear what Paul says about it. He adds a chapter 10 to his famous chapter 9 of Romans:
For “whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15).
We notice the logic of Paul’s progression here. He lists a series of necessary conditions for people to be saved. Without sending there are no preachers. Without preachers there is no preaching. Without preaching there is no hearing of the gospel. Without the hearing of the gospel there is no believing of the gospel. Without the believing of the gospel there is no calling upon God to be saved. Without the calling upon God to be saved there is no salvation.
God not only foreordains the end of salvation for the elect, he also foreordained the means to that end. God has chosen the foolishness of preaching as the means to accomplish redemption. I suppose he could have worked out his divine purpose without us. He could publish the gospel in the clouds using his holy finger in skywriting. He could preach the gospel himself, in his own voice, shouting it from heaven. But that is not his choice.
It is a marvelous privilege to be used by God in the plan of redemption. Paul appeals to an Old Testament passage when he speaks of the beauty of the feet of those who bring good tidings and publish peace.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tiding of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the LORD brings back Zion.
Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:7-9).
In the ancient world, news of battles and other crucial events was carried by runners. The modern marathon race is named after the Battle of Marathon because of the endurance of the messenger who carried the news of the outcome home to his people.
Lookouts were posted to watch for the approaching messengers. Their eyes were sharp and trained to the subtle nuances of the strides of the approaching runners. Those bearing bad news approached with heavy feet. Those runners bearing good news approached swiftly, with feet sprinting through the dust. Their strides revealed their excitement. For the watchmen the sight of a runner approaching rapidly in the distance with his feet skimming over the mountain was a gorgeous vision to behold.
So the Bible speaks of the beauty of the feet of those who bring us good news. When my daughter was born and the doctor came to the waiting room to announce it, I wanted to hug him. We are favorably inclined to those who bring us good tidings. I will always have a special place in my affections for the man who first told me of Christ. I know that it was God who saved me and not that man, but I still appreciate the man’s role in my salvation.
To lead people to Christ is one of the greatest personal blessings that we ever enjoy. To be a Calvinist takes no joy away from that experience. Historically, Calvinists have been strongly active in evangelism and world mission. We need only point to Edwards and Whitefield and the Great Awakening to illustrate this point.
We have a meaningful role to play in evangelism. We preach and we proclaim the gospel. That is our duty and our privilege. But it is God who brings the increase. He does not need us to accomplish his purpose, but he is pleased to use us in the task.
I once met a traveling evangelist who said to me, “Give me any man alone for fifteen minutes and I will get a decision for Christ.” Sadly, the man really believed his own words. He was convinced that the power of conversion rested solely in his powers of persuasion.
I don’t doubt that the man was basing his claim on his past track record. He was so overbearing that I am sure there were multitudes who made decisions for Christ within fifteen minutes of being alone with him. Sure, he could make good his promise to produce a decision in fifteen minutes. What he couldn’t guarantee was a conversion in fifteen minutes. People would make decisions just to get away from him.
We must never underestimate the importance of our role in evangelism. Neither must we overestimate it. We preach. We bear witness. We provide the outward call. But God alone has the power to call a person to himself inwardly. I do not feel cheated by that. On the contrary, I feel comforted. We must do our job, trusting that God will do his.

HT: R.C. Sproul

I would also recommend reading John MacArthur's sermon entitled Chosen by God.