What do you think? Are Southern Baptists, as a group, “better off or worse”, than the larger group in America that we are a part of, known as “Protestant Evangelicals”? How do we Southern Baptists fit into that larger group? Do we set the curve, or are we a part of the curve? When it comes to doctrine, faith, and practice, how do we stack up with the larger group? I just read Tom Ascol’s post which discusses the push in the SBC for decisions and baptisms, and how low the retention rate is one year later. He goes on to say “When this is the typical fruit of typical evangelism–the kind that focuses more on getting decisions than making disciples–it is impossible to think of every reported baptism as a person rescued from hell.” It looks to me like we are probably no better off than the larger group we are a part of.
The following is a sampling of what I have been reading, but mostly listening to, in the past few weeks. Mostly discouraging, it has made me think that the SBC needs to quit quibbling over minor issues, such as alcohol resolutions, private prayer language, and baptism policies in the IMB, and start worrying big time about education, discipleship, and the gospel. I believe that these minor issues are just symptoms of a much larger problem, which is a largely uneducated, undiscipled, and unregenerate church.
First, listen to the audio from the September 15th broadcast of the Albert Mohler Radio Program titled Which Comes First: Allegiance To God Or Country?, in which Dr. Mohler discusses a recent study done by the Pew Research Center which indicated that only 62 percent of American Evangelicals said that God came before country. That means that 38 percent polled don’t understand that our citizenship is in heaven. I wonder how many of those polled were Southern Baptists.
Another podcast that I listen to on a weekly basis, this one from the September 3rd broadcast of the Whitehorse Inn titled Zeal Without Knowledge The following are interesting exerpts from that podcast. The whole program is well worth listening to also:
(Speaking of modern Evangelicals) “The Gospel is gone (Rod Rosenblat).”
“The leader of the second Great Awakening, in many ways, was Charles Finney. And he wasn’t an Arminian. I don’t want to give Arminians a bad name. He was a Pelagian. . . . He said that the church is basically a society of moral and social transformers. Finney gave rise to both liberal activism and conservative activism (Michael Horton).” “Jessie Jackson and Jerry Fallwell both have the same theological father, and it’s Charles Finney (Kim Riddlebarger)”
“All kinds of different political positions that are identified either with the left-wing side of the aisle, or the right-wing political side of the aisle, were all comprehended in this one revivalistic movement that has now split into liberal Protestantism and conservative Protestantism, but it’s all basically moralism (Michael Horton).”
“If our hearts are going to be on fire, the way God has made us is that the conduit to the heart is the mind. Mindless zeal has no virtue to it whatsoever . . . I don’t know of any issue in the church today that’s more grave, more serious, has more lasting consequences than the debate over imputation, a word that most evangelicals don’t even know what it means. But there you’re talking about the very heart and soul of the gospel itself. . . The term “Evangelical” is a misnomer in this day and age. How can in the world can you be an Evangelical, and never heard the term imputation? . . . The tragedy is that Christians think they know the Cross, but they don’t. You remember the theme of the Reformation, post tenebras lux, after darkness light, but now the gospel has receded once more into the darkness. It’s eclipsed, even in the so-called Evangelical church. If you ask an ordinary self-proclaimed Evangelical what the gospel is, they’re saying “getting purpose for my life”, “having Jesus in my heart”, “having meaning to my existence”, “having a personal relationship with Jesus”. Those are all nice things, but that’s not the gospel. The gospel has a content of the person and work of Jesus, whose work is appropriated to us by faith, and by faith alone (R. C. Sproul).”
And if that isn’t discouraging enough, listen to the September 17th broadcast, also from the Whitehorse Inn titled Pursuing Faith in a “Follow Your Heart” Culture. The second quote is of an audio clip on the program. Here again, the entire audio of this program is worth the listen.
We’re talking about the importance of words, and particularly what do you do with a so-called religion of the Book, what do you do with a religion that says “faith comes by hearing the word preached. What do you do with a faith that says you have to be grounded in the teachings of Scripture, a text? What do you do if that is your faith and you live in a culture that says “What are words for?” (Michael Horton)
“We see it even in the seminary setting, where we get much of the cream of the crop of the churches of the reformed world. Twenty years ago, when I was the academic dean here at Covenant seminary, the students who came in and took the remedial Bible test, at that time, twenty years ago, one third of the incoming students did not pass the Bible test, two thirds did. Here, twenty years later, it’s exactly the opposite. Two thirds of the students do not pass the Bible test, one third do. There’s been that large a transition even in a half generation of the Bible knowledge of the best of those coming out of Christian homes, and the most wonderful of our churches. It’s the erosion, not only of Biblical knowledge, it’s the erosion of family, it’s the erosion of church, it’s just the way in which our culture has more and more attacked the family as well as the church. (Brian Chappel, President, Covenant seminary, St. Louis, MO)
You have read what I have stated before, but I’ll say it again, we in the evangelical community have a problem with seeing authentic faith from those who are “converted” in our churches. We experience many, many responses to our “gospel call” when we offer them. We have churches that are baptizing by the hundreds, if not thousands, and yet we find that many, if not the vast majority of these “converts” are falling away from the faith within a short period of time. Ray Comfort has claimed that 80-90% of “converts” fall away from their faith within the first year after their “conversion.” Billy Graham has been known to claim that somewhere in the area of 75% of the church is lost. Jim Elliff makes the claim that the Southern Baptist denomination is, on the whole, unregenerate.
Even yesterday in church my pastor began his message with similar statistics: “Three-quarters of all Americans claim to be Christian. . . If this is so, then where are they, as far as influence in the culture?”
So, what do you do? Where do you start? Does any body have a clue? Does anybody even care? Sometimes I wonder. What do you think? I’d like to know.