It was after church last night at Arby’s when my pastor tossed the papers across the table at me. “You’ll find this interesting reading.” he said. With a wry grin he continued: “The first page is a letter sent to me last week, and behind that is the response I fired back the very next day.” The front sheet was a photocopy of a form letter sent to Dear Board of Directors Member, and was from the Arbuckle Baptist Association. What took my breath away was the signature at the bottom: Terry Mott, DOM. Thirty-two years ago he was best man at my wedding. The whole thing suddenly became strangely surreal by the fact that my pastor was not aware of our relationship, and that the letter had been sent to him by mistake, as he had rotated off the board just last year. “No mistake.” He said, “Providence.” What else could a Calvinist say?
The Arbuckle Baptist Association is a sleepy little band of thirty-one SBC churches located in two rural counties in south-central Oklahoma. The counties of Garvin and Murray contain about 40,000 souls between them, and the largest towns in them have populations of about 6,500 and 5,000 respectively. This last month, in their associational meeting, those present and voting at the ABA decided to draft a motion, and send it on to the upcoming (this week) BGCO state convention. The intention of that motion was to “take a public stand against reformed theology.”
As I was gleaning information, Brother Google made it plain to me that there was the beginnings of a feeding frenzy in Bloggsylvania. To be sure, it looks like a juicy story, on the surface. The quick facts I dug up, as you can see, however, clearly show that this isn’t some metro-mega association. And I can assure you Brother Mott does not have horns, one eye in the middle of his head, or even pointed ears. It saddens me to see people imply that someone is not a Christian because he does not hold to the doctrines of Grace, and yet nothing more is known about him, save what is contained in a brief bit of associational business.
I know the man, however. We came to Christ in the same church, in the same way: by means of an altar call. God saves those who are his. It doesn’t really matter whether or not they realize the correct order that regeneration took place in their lives. Although I have not seen or spoken Terry in over two decades, I can confidently say that today he is trusting in the same Blood and Righteousness as I. Never forget that God can draw a straight line in the dirt with a mighty crooked stick.
Shortly after my marriage, Terry and I took very different paths. Terry finished his bachelor’s at Oklahoma Baptist University, and became a cog in the SBC machine. My wife and I, frustrated with the shallow SBC-church life in a state-college town, joined a small, rural, independent, reformed-baptist church, some fifty miles away. For the next quarter-century we quietly raised a family, and grew in grace. The children are all grown and married now, and we have found ourselves, strangely for the last seven years, back in a SBC church. Don’t ask. It’s a long story.
The previous paragraph was so that I could say that I have been to both sides now. My pendulum has done busted out both sides of the clock, so to speak. Right now I am somewhere in the middle. I don’t care how many points you hold to. I just want to know if you love the Lord Jesus Christ, and if you yearn to live like it makes a difference. Yes, the SBC drives me nuts; makes me want to bite nails and spit. Grandchildren and their parents struggling to find God-honoring, Christ-centered churches will make you that way. But I have found enough “Calvinists” who are more interested in expositing the petals of a TULIP than leading men to Christ, that I can partially understand why some men might want to draft an anti-Calvinism motion and send it on up the line.
Let me ask you brothers of the Reformation, when do you cross over and become so much a Calvinist that you cease to be Christian? Though you be a strident five pointer, and have not love, what have ye? Brother Mott is certainly mistaken in his intent, but he is still a brother in Christ. Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to blog about these things. Maybe we should be much quicker to pray to God seeking grace and charity, and strive to find real ways to build bridges, instead of going to another of our party’s confabs with snappy titles like “Building Bridges.” Someone took the time to build a real one to me.
So what about the letter stapled to this mis-sent letter? What did Pastor say? I didn’t get permission to tell. I can tell you that after my pastor made his position plain, he concluded with, not a clenched fist, but an open hand extended out.