Posts Tagged ‘church’

As you look on the church landscape, youth are leaving the faith in droves. The modern church, overall, is struggling to reach the next generation with the gospel. What has happened? Whether for good or bad, men, for many years, have been inventing solutions or brainstorming ideas without fully relying upon the foundation of God’s Word. God, however, is greater than man, and as the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways higher than ours and His thoughts than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). We have substituted the greater for the lesser – God’s wisdom for man’s ideas. Jesus said that he who hears His Word and does it, is like a man that built his house upon a rock, and when the storm came, it stood firm. On the other hand, he who rejects His Word, is like a man who built on the sand and when the storm came, the house fell (Matt. 7:24-25). Shouldn’t the church, as a whole, abandon the sandy ideas of man and shamelessly return to the firm rock of the Word of God? God’s Word sufficiently identifies how youth are to be reached. For more information on this issue, please see the film Divided, which is a documentary on age-segregated youth ministry in America. Watch it for free (for a limited time) at http://www.dividedthemovie.com. For an in-depth study, the book A Weed in the Church delves into the topic and more thoroughly handles the Scripture passages that address ministry to young people. For other details or to help spread the message, visit ‎http://alt.dividedthemovie.com/

Meaningless Membership: A Southern Baptist Perspective
By Al Jackson Print
What do Britney Spears, Brad Pitt, Bill Clinton and Al Gore have in common? If you answer, “All four have been members of Southern Baptist churches,” you move to the head of the class.

These four individuals are found in the branch of Christianity that also includes Al Mohler, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Bowden, and Billy Graham, among others. Our Southern Baptist churches include their share of prominent personalities. Some bring honor to our denomination. Others bring dishonor.

MEANINGLESS CHURCH MEMBERSHIP IN THE SBC

The purpose of this article is to answer the question, How has meaningless church membership adversely affected the Southern Baptist Convention?

The question assumes that membership in many Southern Baptist churches has little impact on how those members think or live. Historically, Baptists have affirmed regenerate church membership, which implies that every church member should walk in holiness and purity. Yet the widespread reality today is otherwise. A person can walk in ways that bring great shame to the name of Christ and yet remain a member in good standing in a Southern Baptist church.

The meaninglessness of membership can be seen in the number of Southern Baptist church members compared with the number of people attending Sunday worship. Convention-wide, there are 16 million members. But only 6 million people show up on a typical Sunday. Where are the other 10 million Southern Baptists? Some are providentially hindered, but surely not 10 million.

Apparently, the twentieth-century Southern Baptist revivalist Vance Havner was right when he said, “We Southern Baptists are many but we’re not much.” After the convention-wide crusade to add one million new members to Sunday School rolls in 1954— “A Million More in ’54”— Havner famously said, “If we get a million more like we got in ’54, we’re sunk.”

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF MEANINGLESS MEMBERSHIP?

The Southern Baptist Convention is most likely far smaller than what we report. And our membership rolls most likely contain a multitude of unregenerate individuals. Our Baptist forefathers would view our present condition with shock and horror.

What are the consequences of such meaningless membership?

It Gives a False Assurance of Salvation to Multitudes

First, the failure to practice church discipline and maintain integrity in our church rolls gives the multitude of “inactive members” a false assurance of salvation.

It is common for a man or woman to join a Southern Baptist church, but then to stop participating in worship and fellowship—sometimes for decades. Yet when the church says or does nothing, the individual continues to believe he or she is saved. This is the case because of our refusal to obey God in the matter of discipline.

We often say that we love inactive members too much to discipline them. Actually, our lack of discipline reveals our lack of love for these people who give little or no evidence of the new birth. Many such people are under the just condemnation of a holy God. This is the greatest and most grievous consequence of allowing them to maintain church membership without church involvement.

It Harms Our Gospel Witness

Second, the fact that so many Southern Baptists live in open disobedience to God’s commands and have little involvement with their fellow members greatly harms our denomination’s gospel witness.

Hypocrisy within our churches is common, and Southern Baptist churches almost universally fail to practice church discipline. As a result, Christ’s bride is stained and soiled when she should be progressing toward radiance, holiness, and blamelessness.

Church history professor Tom Nettles has said that “holiness should pave the way for evangelism.” In other words, the holy lives of a congregation should undergird its gospel witness. Those who proclaim the gospel of God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus should be able to point to an assembly of believers who are new creations in Christ.

Sadly, many lost men and women have been able to point to their own moral superiority when comparing themselves with the immoral and deceitful lives of church members. As a result, they feel justified for not trusting in Christ.

It Makes for Some Ugly Business Meetings

Third, meaningless church membership periodically reveals its ugly face at church business meetings.

The typical Southern Baptist congregational meeting is characterized by routine motions and decisions. However, occasionally, when the Spirit begins to move in God-glorifying ways, unregenerate church members who haven’t been seen for years suddenly appear at business meetings. The result is not pretty. God-glorifying initiatives are halted, and godly pastors are often voted out. The occasions on which this has happened are too numerous to count.

It Hinders our Missionary Efforts

Fourth, meaningless membership in Southern Baptist churches hinders our efforts to declare God’s glory to the nations.

Yes, it is true that we have the largest number of missionaries worldwide of any American denomination. Our 5,000 International Mission Board missionaries span the globe. Yet this translates to one missionary for every nine Southern Baptist churches. In light of the Bible’s clear teaching on missions, is it unrealistic to think that every church should have a least one missionary serving internationally? More than 30,000 Southern Baptist churches have no missionary from their ranks. How can this be? Where is the passion to declare God’s glory among the nations?

Consider one other missionary statistic: Southern Baptists gave approximately $150 million last year to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Southern Baptists tend to take some satisfaction in knowing that the Lottie Moon Offering is the largest missionary offering in the two thousand year history of Christianity. But do the math and divide $150 million by 16 million Southern Baptists. You get less than $10 per Baptist. Apparently, obeying Jesus’ last command to “go and make disciples of all nations” means very little to many.

WHAT SHALL WE DO? RECOVER MEANINGFUL MEMBERSHIP

The picture I have attempted to paint in this article is a dismal one. Vance Havner’s diagnosis from fifty years ago—“Southern Baptists are many but we’re not much”—is as true today as it was then. The greatest tragedy of meaningless church membership is that God’s glory in his church is diminished.

A recovery of meaningful church membership is desperately needed in the Southern Baptist Convention. Perhaps then we will know something more of “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Al Jackson is the senior pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama.

May/June2011
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Here are a couple of responses to the Harold Camping rapture debacle from 2 people I highly respect. I share these sentiments …..

From Kim Riddlebarger:

“Frankly, this whole Harold Camping mess ticks me off. Since I write and teach in the field of eschatology, people expect me to say something. Yet, I’m not sure many of you will appreciate my take on this. I’m not a happy “camper.”

I see this tragic episode as one gigantic mess, which God’s people will be cleaning up for years. I, for one, am not very sympathetic to Mr. Camping, or to those who follow him. Here’s why:

1). He’s done this before. 1994? anyone??? If Camping lives much longer (he’s 89), he’ll likely do this again. As one of my favorite philosophers, Dirty Harry, once put it when his police superior questioned whether the serial killer (so wonderfully played by Andy Robinson) would continue to kill, Harry replied, “Of course he will. He likes it.” You cannot tell me that however Camping came to this particular date for the Lord’s return, and however sincere he might he be in his calculations, that the man does not love the media attention. Why else spend all that money on an “in your face” ad campaign with buses and billboards across the country? Camping likes the hubbub way too much. Since someone’s past behavior is the best predictor of their future behavior, if given the chance, Camping will do it again.

2). Camping was disciplined by his church, and never once demonstrated the slightest hint of repentance. When Camping was removed from his office for his unbiblical speculations, Camping’s response was to declare that the church age was over, and that people should leave their churches! (see Bob Godfrey’s account of this–Godfrey on Harold Camping). Harold Camping is not some grandfatherly old man who has weird views on things (every church has a few of these). This is a man, who, when he did not get his way, sought to create widescale schism and division in the church. How can we not conclude that many among his followers are schismatics who have followed their master in his sin?

3). Camping is not a theological conservative defending the faith, he’s a theological radical, and has a dangerous hermeneutic. Camping gained a following among Reformed cultural conservatives by defending the view that only men should hold the office of minister, elder and deacon, that evolutionary thought had no place in Christian colleges, and that the rampant immorality of our age cannot go unchallenged nor be accepted by Christians. Meanwhile, the “conservative” Camping was using some outlandish and distorted hermeneutical method to calculate the day of Christ’s return and telling everyone who would listen that he was right and that anyone who challenged him had no authority to do so. Since when did theological conservatives attack the perspicuity of Scripture? Or champion “private interpretation” while mocking the teaching office and disciplinary authority of the church?

4). Someone has to say it — the man is a false teacher and a kook. My sense is that Camping falls within the exhortation given by Paul in Romans 16:17 (and elsewhere) — such people are to be avoided. Camping is a false teacher, plain and simple. Anyone who repeatedly pulls the kinds of shenanigans he has should have no credibility. Non-Christians see him for what he is. Yet, Christians feel ashamed about calling him out on the same grounds–when Scripture requires that we do so! Yes, we need to pray for his repentance, and yes, we need to be merciful to those whom he has deceived. But given the way the man handles God’s word, he is self-edvidently a kook. He has no business being labeled a “teacher.” And it is tragic that he has used his vast radio empire to deceive so many.

5). The only prophecy which will be fulfilled in association with Harold Camping is 2 Peter 3:3! Scoffers will come, and sadly, Camping has given the scoffers a whole bunch of ammunition. This is why is is so vital that Christians be clear to everyone who will listen, that despite this man’s false prophecy, the blessed hope awaits all those who are Christ’s, and the day of judgment will come upon those who are not. This is a serious matter, and Christ will not be mocked.

This, then, is why it is so important to expose this man for who and what he is–a false prophet, a schismatic and a kook, lest anyone think that Jesus will not return when we least expect it, to judge the world, raise the dead, and make all things new.

And frankly, it is sad that so many Christians expect non-Christians to do our job for us.”

From Dr. James White:
On Open Letter to Harold Camping of Family Radio

Dear Mr. Camping:

In July of 2009 you and I engaged in a debate on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program concerning your teaching that the church age had ended and that Christ would return on May 21, 2011. I trust you recall our exchange. I am also aware that you have at least seen my book, Dangerous Airwaves: Harold Camping Refuted and Christ’s Church Defended. I have been seeking to warn people about your teachings, sir, for about a decade. I know others have been warning the church about you longer than I.

Mr. Camping I am writing to seek your repentance and the most God-glorifying outcome of the debacle of your failed May 21, 2011 prophecy/teaching. I am not writing to engage in debate with you. The time for debate ended on May 22, 2011. It is now time for you to repent and seek to undo the massive damage you have done, first and foremost, to the cause of Christ.

Let me first list the items you need to repent of, openly and publicly (for you are a public person, and your teachings were disseminated all around the world).

You need to repent of your abuse of the Bible, based upon claims of latter-day opening of understandings no one else has, allegedly, ever had, based upon the horrific misreading of the books of Revelation and Daniel. The Bible is not a code book, Mr. Camping, and it never has been. You have attacked the grammatical/historical means of honoring the intention and meaning of the original authors, and in so doing, have turned the Bible into your own private playground where you, and you alone, set the rules. You decided that certain numbers have certain meanings, and you alone decided which numbers could be added to others. You told your audiences that you were simply teaching the Bible, when you were doing nothing of the sort. Unless you honor the intention of the original authors, which means doing difficult exegetical work, studying languages and backgrounds, you have no business saying you are representing the Bible. This has been your primary error for decades on end, and I know I am not the first minister of the gospel to seek to correct you about this. Your utterly fallacious means of interpretation of the Bible has led to the mockery of the Christian faith all around the world, and you alone must repent for your willful rejection of the correction offered by many to you over the years.

You need to repent of your repeated date-setting, and your twisting of those Scriptures that plainly state that we do not now know, and will never know, the date of the coming of Christ, until it happens. You have been proven wrong multiple times now, and it is time for you to admit that you have been in error every single time you have argued that we can, in fact, know.

You must repent of your many unbiblical teachings, teachings which have grown out of your rebellion against Christ’s Church. First and foremost, you must repent of your attack upon the church. You must return to the church (I would suggest the local Christian Reformed Church from which you made your original defection) in repentance and seek to place yourself under their care, repenting for your schism. You must openly and publicly abjure your teaching that Satan rules in the churches, and that all ministers of the gospel since 1988 are, in fact, servants of Satan. You must call all listeners of Family Radio to return to their churches with repentant hearts. You must instruct them to seek to learn to read the Bible aright, to seek to interpret the Bible in light of its original meanings and intention, not as a secret, gnostic code-book.

You must likewise abjure and repent of the other false teachings you have been promulgating, including, but not limited to, such teachings as Jesus having died twice, your new annihilationism teaching, etc. You once held to mainly orthodox views, but, when you refused godly counsel and went out on your own, you planted the seeds of your own destruction, which have now sprouted, over night it seems, into the crop of condemnation you now rightly face.

You must likewise repent of the perversion of the gospel you have been teaching, wherein you have not only removed repentance and faith under the guise of “works” (neither are works, both are the gifts of God to His elect by His Spirit, but remain part and parcel of the gospel call), but you clearly, in these last days, added belief in your own May 21, 2011 teaching to the gospel itself, saying that those who did not believe this teaching would experience eternal torment. You have been preaching a false gospel, Mr. Camping, and you must repent for this.

The time for haggling and debating has passed, Mr. Camping. Your teaching has been disproven, and your only hope is to be found in complete repentance from your false teachings. I fear if you seek to rescue your reputation, you will end your life under the wrath of God. Your unwillingness to listen to counsel has already caused great damage to the cause of Christ. You have one final chance for redemption, sir. Do not remain stiff-necked. Repent and turn from your ways.

James White
Alpha and Omega Ministries

A great and very accurate article.

Acceptable Calvinism (by Bill MacKinnon)

Well, it has finally happened. Calvinists in the SBC are finally being told to hit the road. We have felt our unwelcome for some time now but until recently no one has had the courage to simply tell us to go. I considered posting links, but let’s face it, you know where to go to find your favorite anti-Calvinist commentary.

Now of course the folks I (and you) have in mind will object, claiming that they never said that they wanted all Calvinists to leave the SBC. They will no doubt claim that they work fine with Calvinists and are even friends with some of them. Technically, I have to admit, this is true. I have not truly seen any universal calls for the exit of all Calvinists from the SBC. There are, it seems, some Calvinists who are welcome to remain. It does not take long to find out which Calvinists those are, but I thought I would do the heavy lifting, and compile all the necessary attributes of “acceptable Calvinists.”

Acceptable Calvinists do not hide their Calvinism when they are looking for a ministry position, but if and when they do find a ministry position, they must hide their Calvinism thereafter. They must by no means try to persuade anyone else of their theological position. They must not, under any circumstances, become associated with the Founders organization. They must never refer to themselves as Reformed. Reformed Baptists have been told to take a hike from the SBC.

Acceptable Calvinists should be at most, 4 pointers. Now some may argue that 4 pointers are not Calvinists at all in the truest sense of the word, but that is not a debatable point. They must not hold to limited atonement, nor should they believe that regeneration precedes faith. If anyone ever refers to you as a Dortian Calvinist, you have most certainly not been complimented, and have strayed out of the “acceptable” zone.

Acceptable Calvinists must not use the term elder, but rather the BFM approved term of pastor. They must not seek to introduce a plurality of elders into any congregation in which they serve. If they feel strongly about this, they must become Presbyterians.

Acceptable Calvinists must not abandon the altar call, nor may they call into question its effectiveness or biblical-ness. They must never disparage Charles Finney. Everyone knows that Calvinists in the main are not evangelistic, so acceptable Calvinists must work doubly hard to prove that they are soul winners. Acceptable Calvinists must also not abandon the Sinner’s Prayer, nor terminology such as “ask Jesus into your heart to be your personal Savior.”

Everyone knows that Calvinists have a tendency also to be moderationists, but acceptable Calvinists are never moderationists. Acceptable Calvinists should never enthusiastically promote their soteriology, lest they be called “aggressive”. But they may, and should, aggressively promote abstentionism.

Acceptable Calvinists must be very careful about who they listen to. Patterson? Fine. Piper, maybe. Driscoll? Absolutely not. They must never speak positively about Acts 29. They must not attend Calvinistic conferences and it would be best if they did not associate with other Calvinists at all.

Acceptable Calvinists must realize that they are a tiny minority in SBC life and must never aspire to anything more than that. They must never repeat the insidious rumor that Calvinism was once much more widespread in the SBC.

Finally, acceptable Calvinists must acknowledge that while they will be allowed to remain in the SBC, they are not truly Baptists. Baptists, we are given to understand, are not Calvinists, because Calvinism is a man-made theology and Baptist-ism is straight from the bible. Baptists are biblicists; Calvinists are not. Baptists, are disciples of Christ; Calvinists are disciples of Calvin.

Epilogue: While I have listed these things in a somewhat lighthearted (and admittedly marginally sarcastic) way, I do not believe I have taken liberties with the underlying truth of these sentiments, as I have seen them in the anti-Calvinist, anti-Reformed wings of the SBC blogosphere. The question is: What do you think?

The reason I posted this is because I have, and am still, dealing with this very issue.

challies.com Is where I read this a few weeks ago. Little did I know I would be referring back to it for my own situation.

Occasionally I attempt to think back to all of the questions I receive from readers of this site. I try to think of things I have been asked many times but have never written about. One that came to mind recently is rather a simple question: Under what circumstances may I leave my church? Quite often I receive emails from readers who are concerned that their church no longer preaches sound doctrine or perhaps no longer offers skillful teaching. And they want to know if the Bible allows them or even compels them to move on.

We live in an age of consumerism and this leaves us accustomed to prioritizing our needs and, even more so, our desires, above all else. We march out of stores that do not carry the products we want at the prices we demand; we customize our lives, from the clothes we wear to the cell phones we carry. In all things we are sovereign, we are discerning consumers who demand that things be done our way.

But church is an area where consumerism ought to be the furthest thing from our minds. At church we are part of an involuntary community which is pieced together by God. We are placed under spiritual authorities and are to be subject to them. We need to be very careful, then, to examine our hearts and examine our motives before withdrawing membership from a church. Sadly, though, there are certain situations in which this becomes a necessity.

There are good reasons to leave a church and there are bad reasons to leave a church. I dare say that there are far more bad reasons than good reasons. There are times where you must leave and times when you may leave. In this brief article I want to point to a few of those good reasons. Perhaps another time I can focus more on the really bad ones.

You Must Leave
Most of the reasons you must leave relate to leadership. If the leaders of a church show contempt and disregard for the Bible and for sound doctrine, you are called to separate yourself from them. And it may well be that the only way to do this is to leave your church (though in some circumstances you may be able to have the leaders removed).

Here are four situations in which the Bible tells you that you must leave a church.

If the teaching is heretical (Galatians 1:7-9). If the leaders of a church are teaching what is outright heresy, you must separate yourself from that church. Staying to fight the battle is likely to make less of a statement than separating yourself from the church and its leaders, declaring them the heretics they are. The Bible declares that they are accursed, that they are anathema. Of course before you do this, be sure that what they are teaching truly is heresy and not merely something you disagree with.

If the leaders tolerate error from those who teach (Romans 16:17). We are called to separate ourselves from leaders who tolerate unbiblical alternatives to the doctrines that are most fundamental to the faith. These people, in allowing such teaching to stand, cause division. God demands that you remove yourself from such a church.

If there is utter disregard for biblical church discipline (1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14). If a church refuses to call its people to the Bible’s standard of holy living and if it refuses to exercise church discipline, you must remove yourself from that church. A church that tolerates blatant sin is no true church at all. My wife and I once had to leave a church for this very reason—the church refused to discipline a man and woman who were living together as husband and wife even though they were not married.

If the church is marked by utter hypocrisy (2 Timothy 3:5). This passage refers to a particular kind of hypocrisy in which the church has the appearance of being marked by godliness and yet denies that the Holy Spirit is the true sources of this godliness. It is happy to look like it is Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered and yet it is actually a mockery of God in that the leaders deny his power and presence.

Reformed churches have typically spoken of three marks of a true church: the faithful preaching of the Word of God, the proper administration of the sacraments and church discipline. We can find each of these represented above. If these marks are missing, if there is gross hypocrisy or heresy, if there is no demand for holiness among the leaders or membership, if there is error being tolerated by those who preach, the Bible tells you to separate yourself from that church.

You May Leave
There are also reasons for which we may choose to leave. Though they are not the kinds of reasons that will force you to leave a church, they may well still be reasons that are good and wise. In all cases, a decision will require great care and much prayer.

If you desire better teaching. The Bible does not forbid you from leaving one church to go to another one that offers better teaching. In general this should be done not merely because a particular pastor is a better teacher but because another church has a more sound understanding of what comprises good teaching.

If you desire to use your gifts. If you have sought to use your God-given gifts and talents within your current church and have found no place to use them, you may wish to find a church where those gifts will be useful and where they will be appreciated.

If you desire a more convenient location. A decision may simply come down to convenience, where attending one church may save you a lot of time or allow you to serve in a local community instead of a distant one.

If it better serves your family. It may be that your children are the only ones within a church. Moving to another church may give open up many opportunities for them to grow in the faith or to serve within the church.

And we could go on all day. There are few reasons for which you must leave a church and many for which you may. As a general rule of thumb, be very slow to withdraw your membership and leave a church only with the greatest of care and the utmost humility.

(Some of the first section was drawn from a Q&A session with John MacArthur)

Some of these answers are just sad. I encourage you to go and listen to the audio of this episode to get the true vibe of what’s being said. At the end of each question the brothers at White Horse Inn explain (with scripture) what the correct answer is and why.

Approximately seventy people were interviewed for this survey at the 2010 International Christian
Retail and Sales convention in St. Louis, Missouri. The majority of the results were obtained by
questionnaire, and a limited number of individuals agreed to an “on air” recording of their
responses to these survey questions (broadcast date: Dec 19, 2010).

The most important task of the church today is the transformation of our culture.
15% Agree
81% Disagree
4% Unsure
Christians are not called to transform the culture, but rather to preach, baptize, and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20, 1Cor 1:20-25,
Gal 3:27, Acts 6:7; 14:21; 18:11, Col 3:16, 1Thes 4:11-12.

The most important way of converting non-Christians is preaching, along with the sacraments
of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
9% Agree
89% Disagree
2% Unsure
Jesus taught that we are to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). And Paul wrote that “it pleased god
through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1Cor 1:21; see also Rom 10:14-15, 2Tim 4:2, 1Cor 9:16).

It’s more important to “be the gospel” to to others, rather than to preach to them.
69% Agree
23% Disagree
8% Unsure
We cannot be the gospel. The gospel is the good news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (1Cor 15:1-5). Though we
may do good works to win the respect of outsiders (Col. 4:5, 1Thes 4:12, 1Tim 3:7), these good works are not “the gospel.” The
Christian gospel, because it is a completed act in history, is something that must be proclaimed: Acts 5:42; 6:2; 8:12; 8:35;
13:48-49; 14:21, Rom 10:14-15, 1Pet 1:12, 1Tim 4:13, 2Tim 2:8, Col 1:23.

The most important thing we need to communicate to our kids is that God is always there
when we need him.
27% Agree
73% Disagree
This is one of the principle tenants of what Christian Smith calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” The most important thing Christians
should communicate to their children is the Christian gospel: Rom 1:16-17, 1Cor 1:18-25, 1Cor 15:1-5, Phil 3:8-16.

Christians should see the church as a resource provider, and themselves as self-feeders
who make use of those resources.
30% Agree
60% Disagree
10% Unsure
Pastors and elders are called to shepherd the people of God, to feed the sheep, etc. Christians themselves are called to take
personal responsibility for their own growth and maturity, but this should not be done without pastoral oversight: John 21:15-17,
Eph 4:11, Heb 13:17, 1Pet 5:1-3, 1Tim 4:16.

Getting saved has nothing to do with joining a church.
92% Agree
8% Disagree
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. However, in the New Testament believers express
their faith in the context of a local church where the word is preached, the sacraments are administered, and where elders disciple
those entrusted to their care, and exercise discipline when necessary: Acts 2:40-47, Heb 10:25; 13:17, 1Pet 5:1-3, 1Tim 4:16.

Spiritual disciplines and regular church attendance are essential ingredients to becoming right
with God.
38% Agree
54% Disagree
8% Unsure
We are made right with God solely by the work of Christ. Christ lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should
have died, and this right standing before God is credited to us by faith alone. Attending church or living consistently with one’s
profession of faith is not an essential ingredient to justification, but rather a fruit of it: Rom 4:4-5, 1Cor 1:30, Rom 12:1-2.

In making disciples, spiritual disciplines and/or personal devotions are more important than
weekly church attendance.
51% Agree
37% Disagree
12% Unsure
New Testament spirituality is primarily centered around the regular gathering of believers under teachers and pastors and elders for
the discipleship new converts, the preaching of the word for general edification, and the administration of the sacraments: Eph 4:11,
Heb 13:17, 1Pet 5:1-3, 1Tim 4:16; 5:17, Tit 1:6-9, Acts 2:28, 1Cor 11:23-32.

We live in an entertainment oriented culture, and so in order to make God relevant, we should
make churches more upbeat, amusing and entertaining.
25% Agree
71% Disagree
4% Unsure
According to the book of Exodus, the people of Israel were in an upbeat mood and were very entertained during the worship of the
golden calf (Ex 32:17-20). Therefore, we should not worship God in a way that feels good to us, or seems right in our own eyes.
Rather, our worship must be biblically based. Heb 12:28-29 says that Christians must “worship God acceptably with reverence and
awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (see also Gen 4:1-5, Is 1:12-18, John 4:21-24). In particular, we need to be careful about the
temptation of amusement. To “muse” means to think or reflect about something. A-musement literally means to be distracted from
thinking. But our worship must be thoughtful, and reflective as we are to let the “word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Col 3:16).

Kids are easily bored with content oriented lessons, so youth workers need to regularly
attract them with new and exciting things.
59% Agree
32% Disagree
9% Unsure
There is a great deal of content to the Christian religion that must be passed on to the next generation. Compared with previous
eras, most of today’s Christian youth would likely qualify as biblically illiterate. Wrestling with the meaning of Exodus or Isaiah may
be less exciting than other youth activities, and therefore may be perceived as boring, but to avoid passing on the content of
Scripture on that basis is simply a sign of worldliness and unfaithfulness. Christians are called to make disciples of all nations, and
this includes the discipleship of their own children: Deut 6:4, Prov 1:1-9; 22:6, 1Cor 14:20, Eph 4:14; 6:1-4, 2Tim 3:14-15, Heb
5:11-14, 2John 4.

Source- Orthodox Presbyterian Church

On Controversy
John Newton

Editor’s note: A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton replied as follows:

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul’s, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God. I take it for granted that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method’s sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

Consider Your Opponent

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

Consider the Public

By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are preengaged in favor of those sentiments which are at least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no salutary influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm. There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse were always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who for want of a clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to debase the creature and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.

Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

Consider Yourself

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.

And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.

Reprinted from The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX “On Controversy.” Reprinted from New Horizons, October 2002.