[The following post is a section from J.I. Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. I cannot overly stress enough how much I would like to recommend this little book to everyone reading this post. I highlight the following portion of the text due to its relevance to my last post.]
Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ category
In his interview with SBC Today, Johnny Hunt (now president of the Southern Baptist Convention) spoke about the need for an emphasis on personal evangelism within the Convention. Hunt is concerned that Southern Baptists do not take opportunities to speak of the gospel with non-Christians. As an example of how we can be more faithful to take such opportunities, Hunt talked about seeing a couple of young men at a funeral; being previously aquainted with the youths, Hunt knew that they were not Christians. Not having much time to speak to them (due to preaching and counseling others at a funeral), Hunt simply told the young men, “God loves you and Jesus died for you, and I want to talk to you later.” In the interview, Hunt mentioned his sharing the statement, “God loves you and Jesus died for you,” as an example of evangelism. Based on what he said in the interview, Hunt certainly recognizes that this phrase is not the extent of the gospel that must be proclaimed, but he does believe this to be an accurate summary of the gospel.
My questions for readers today- and these are honest questions, which I hope lead to a good discussion- are these: 1. “Is the statement, ‘God loves you and Jesus died for you,’ an accurate summary of the gospel?” 2. Given a very brief amount of time to explain the gospel, should we tell non-Christians, ‘God loves you and Jesus died for you’?
I want us to think about these questions particularly in light of John 3:16, where Jesus seems to make a similar statement to a man that was (in that moment) apparently not yet a Christian.
The purpose of this post is not to invite criticism of Johnny Hunt (in fact, if comments tend too far in that direction I may delete them), but to think of how we should practice evangelism. Think about these questions in terms of your own life; at the end of a conversation on the phone with a non-Christian family member, would you be willing to say, “God loves you and Jesus died for you and I want to talk to you about this later”? Why or why not? How is your response shaped by the biblical text, particularly by John 3:16 as understood in context?
Last week, I discovered that my friend Brian Shank had posted to his blog on September 10th. This is significant because the last time he posted was December 2, 2006. I’m placing the entirety of his September 10th post here in that I think that it may interest and promote discussion among some of our readers.
The remainder of what follows was written by Brian Shank:
The Scriptures are clear that it is God who saves the lost from their sins (Psalm 3:8, Jonah 2:9), and that He has determined to do it through the hearing of His word. Thus we read, “faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV). And again, “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (I Corinthians 1:21, NKJV). It is the gospel that is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, NKJV). If we want to reach those who are on the wide road which leads to destruction, to show them how they may be reconciled to God for all eternity, we must study and learn what the Scriptures teach. Too many people and churches have left the diligent study of the word of God in their efforts to reach a world that will be cast eternally into the lake of fire, for a man-made method of becoming like the world in order to reach the world. However, it is the “Holy Scriptures which is able to make you wise for salvation through Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 3:15, NKJV). Therefore, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15, NKJV). As this verse shows, this studying takes work, hard work, but we need to forsake our petty efforts to entertain the world into the Kingdom, and become dependent on the Lord and His word once again, obeying Him because we love Him(Proverbs 3:5-7, John 14:15, 21).
In less than a month, I will have the privilege of live-blogging a great conference in my own neck of the woods. The conference is called “True Church Conference“ and is taking place May 3-6, 2007 at First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The theme of the conference is “The Miracle of Conversion.” I have included in this post the conference distinctives, bio sketches of the speakers, and the schedule. If you are interested in registering or in need of directions, I have included the links to those as well at the bottom. You can download this information by going to their online brochure (click here).
:: Conference Distinctives ::
We desire to focus on the passionate preaching of the great doctrines of Scripture that are being neglected in today’s church. I’m convinced no doctrine is more neglected or misunderstood than the doctrine of conversion. Easy believism, decisionism, and manipulative altar calls have replaced the sound preaching of the Gospel calling sinners to repentance and faith. The result is an unregenerate church membership and bloated membership rolls. As Dr. Al Mohler writes, “We are reaping the harvest of doctrinal neglect. The urgency of this task cannot be ignored. Baptists will either recover our denominational heritage and rebuild our doctrinal foundations, or in the next generation there will be no authentic Baptist witness.”
Theology and Methodology
The conference will give much attention to how sound doctrine must govern the life of the local church. Today’s evangelical church is often driven by man-centered pragmatism, worldly marketing approaches, and entertainment. And all this with a veneer of Christianity! We need the passionate, expository preaching of the truth, accompanied by an unswerving commitment that ALL methodology in the church MUST flow out of sound theology.
Local Church Centered
The conference is being held at the First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The church is located in the northwest part of the state and has about 1,000 active members. Jeff Noblit has been on the pastoral staff for 26 years and has been the Senior Pastor for preaching for 18 years. For the last two decades God has been blessing First Baptist in reforming both its policies and procedures to become more biblically healthy.
During the conference, time will be set aside to discuss the practical “working out” of sound doctrine in the life of the local church. Plus, materials on baptismal counseling, membership policies and procedures, church discipline, and other matters will be made available to conference participants. There will be a large bookstore featuring trustworthy books and commentaries by both past and contemporary writers.
Evangelism and Missions
Sound doctrine will always promote the preaching and sharing of the Gospel! If a passion to glorify God by winning lost souls is not present, then our doctrine is invalid. A strong emphasis on evangelism and world missions will permeate the conference. All conference attendees are invited on Saturday afternoon to accompany members of First Baptist Church in street preaching and door-to-door visitation. True doctrine never results in cold intellectualism.
Modeling and Mentoring
Our first goal is that God will use the conference to continue the maturation of First Baptist, Muscle Shoals, in the truth. We believe the church should be reformed and always reforming. We also have a strong desire to encourage and help mobilize sister churches who are on the same pilgrimage.
To help serve this goal, each participating church will be assigned a private area for discussion and seeking God concerning the application of sound doctrine into the life of their church. We believe the conference will be used of God to strengthen your church’s pilgrimage to a more biblical and healthy church life.
:: Conference Speakers ::
Voddie Baucham is an author, Bible teacher, professor, and pastor. He currently serves as Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. He is also an adjunct professor at The College of Biblical Studies in Houston and Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. His own post-graduate study focused on Cultural Apologetics. Voddie is the author of The Ever-Loving Truth, a book which helps twenty-first century Christians apply God’s Word to contemporary life.
David Miller has been preaching for 42 years. He pastored for five years before serving as Director of Missions for Little Red River Baptist Association (Arkansas), a position he held for 25 years. An itinerant preacher, David has been in full-time evangelism (Line Upon Line Ministries) since 1995. He served on the Board of Trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, for eight years. He currently prefers the title “Country Preacher-at-Large.”
Russell Moore serves as Dean of the School of Theology, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, and Associate Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective and co-editor of Why I Am a Baptist. He has written articles for various publications including Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and SBC Life.
Jeff Noblit is the Senior Pastor-Teacher of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He has served on the pastoral staff for 26 years, the last 18 as senior pastor. Jeff is the founder of Anchored in Truth Ministries, an expository preaching ministry, and is the author of The Accountability Notebook and the witnessing booklet, The Great Answer to the Great Question. He has written articles for various magazines and journals.
Paul Washer ministered as a missionary to Peru for 10 years, during which time he founded the HeartCry Missionary Society to support Peruvian church planters. HeartCry’s work now supports indigenous missionaries in Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. An itinerant preacher, Paul also teaches in the internship program at his home church, First Baptist Muscle Shoals. He is the author of The One True God: A Biblical Study of the Doctrine of God.
:: Conference Schedule ::
Thursday, May 3
1:00 p.m. Registration / Bookstore Open
6:30 p.m. Worship
7:00 p.m. Session 1: The Sovereignty of God & The Miracle of Conversion – Russell Moore
8:00 p.m. Session 2: The Sovereignty of God & The Miracle of Conversion – Russell Moore
Friday, May 4
8:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m. Worship
9:00 a.m. Session 3: The Power of the Holy Spirit & The Miracle of Conversion – Voddie Baucham
10:00 a.m. Session 4: The Power of the Holy Spirit & The Miracle of Conversion – Voddie Baucham
11:00 a.m. Individual Churches Prayer, Discussion, & Lunch
2:30 p.m. Session 5: The Preaching of the Gospel & The Miracle of Conversion- David Miller
3:30 p.m. Session 6: The Preaching of the Gospel & The Miracle of Conversion- David Miller
6:30 p.m. Worship
7:00 p.m. Session 7: Church History & The Miracle of Conversion – Jeff Noblit
8:30 p.m. Q & A
9:30 p.m. Individual Churches Prayer & Discussion
Saturday, May 5
8:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Worship
9:30 a.m. Session 8: Evidences of the Miracle of Conversion – Paul Washer
10:30 a.m. Session 9: Evidences of the Miracle of Conversion – Paul Washer
11:30 a.m. Individual Churches Prayer, Discussion, & Lunch
2:00-3:30 p.m. Street Preaching & Door-to-Door Visitation (optional)
4:00-6:30 p.m. Individual churches prayer, discussion, & dinner
7:00 p.m. Session 10: Believer’s Baptism & the Miracle of Conversion – Jeff Noblit
8:00 p.m. Q & A
Sunday, May 6
Sunday morning worship at First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals
9:30 a.m. Session 11: Missions & the Miracle of Conversion – Paul Washer
10:30 a.m. Session 12: The Glory of God & the Miracle of Conversion -Jeff Noblit
If you hunt around on some of the online bookstores, you might find Billy Graham’s book entitled “How To Be Born Again”. Another book that’s out there is “Gaining Decisions for Christ: A How-To Manual” by Louis R Torres. These books are representative of the modern church mindset that imagines man as having power to “activate” or “trigger” his own New Birth.
The error of Decisional Regeneration has some similarities with another error that Charles Spurgeon battled against in the 19th century called Baptismal Regeneration; it imagines that human beings have the power to cause the New Birth through the waters of baptism. In the past we’ve talked about regeneration as being something that God controls, and something that his Holy Spirit does. I’m sure we’ll continue in examining the various scripture passages that we believe make this clear. For this post however, I’d like to share this short overview clip on Decisional Regeneration from a video series entitled How God Converts The Human Soul.
Click here to see the the video.
[The following was written a couple of months ago by my friend and fellow member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, Brian Shank. Brian is also a student at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.]
How seriously do Christians take the gospel in our day? Even more, how seriously ought Christians to take the gospel in our day? In response to the first question, I think I can confidently say that many today love the message of the gospel, and earnestly study, propound, contend, and defend it at all costs. I am also convinced, however, that there are still many who have become too apathetic and careless with the precious good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is evident by the shallowness of doctrinal understanding, lack of recognizing how the gospel relates to every aspect of life, and the lack of recognizing those who hold false teachings, and a false gospel. Why is this? It is because professing Christians do not take the gospel as seriously as they ought, and as a result, many hardly read their Bibles, except maybe a verse or two in their daily devotions. Many are not willing to go deeper in their study of the Bible than what they hear in Sunday school and church. How can such a professing Christian say they love the Lord and His gospel?
In his book, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism, Joel Carpenter writes about how fundamentalists looked for signs of God’s visitation and yearning for miracles among them expressed through altar calls or invitations. Check out what he had to say.
Fundamentalist preachers regularly gave the invitation for people to step forward and publicly profess Christ as their savior, and many pastors insisted on giving this “altar call” at every service. Their reason for doing this was that it was their evangelistic duty, but this ritual, performed with the musicians softly playing, the congregation singing or praying, and the leader speaking in an almost liturgical cadence, had become the high and holy moment of the fundamentalist church service, the time when miracles happened. For many fundamentalists, the experience of walking the aisle was so inspiring that doing it once was not enough. Surely people might feel encouraged in their faith and be charged with holy joy when others responded to the gospel, but there was nothing like experiencing it personally. Since conversion happened only once, fundamentalists developed ways for born-again Christians to “come forward” more often. By broadening their altar call into an invitation or rededicate their lives to God, to surrender themselves to God’s service, or to testify to a “definite call” to a particular field of service, fundamentalists found a way to meet their thirst for holy moments. “Going forward” became a fundamentalist sacrament.
- Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again, 77.
One must not need wonder why contemporary fundamentalists are so antagonistic about their brethren who either do not stress the importance of altar calls or have done away with it altogether. The sacramental reverence given to those closing moments in a church service were considered to be time where miracles happened. Furthermore, such movements down an aisle was a confirmation that God was working and the church was growing, such that a person coming down for the fourth time for rededication was more indicative of a renewed “surrender” than a faulty view of justification and sanctification. One of the inevitable consequences of this sacrament was that pastoral counseling and knowing the spiritual condition of the flock often became suppressed by the pragmatic temptation to permit more and more people to profess faith, be baptized, and join the church without any serious inquiry into the state of their soul or their understanding of the gospel. Most unfortunate the case, such a sacrament became the gateway for unregenerate church members to seek a better life now predicated on higher morals (moralism) and stricter standards (legalism) rather than new life brought by the Spirit of God. Thus, through performance failures and feeling a sense of inadequacy, many mourners were advised to seek a false sense of security through “nailing it down,” “surrendering it all” (again), or getting a fresh start through being re-baptized. These substitutes for salvation have become the statistical justification of “church growth” and the progenitors of modern-day nominalism.
I suppose that I must make my usual caveat here whenever I address this issue. I am not against altar calls per se. I am against the misuse and abuse of them, and it is quite uncommon to find a church where such a sacrament is not elevated to a status of blind acceptance or treated with serious pastoral care. Many excellent articles and essays have been written in recent years sharing such mutual concern over decisional regeneration and altar calls, but probably one of the more popular pieces available today is Iain Murray’s Invitation System. As Christians, both individually and corporately, we need to promote a doctrine-centered evangelism which expresses the heart of Christ with the truths of His Word. The effectual operation of the gospel comes when we do God’s work God’s way, and lest we think otherwise, we can find ourselves adopting a method of evangelism presupposed by a faulty doctrinal understanding of salvation which would produce “90-day Christians” and “Christianized pagans” who know the lingo but do not know the Lord. Let’s labor together in the fields which are white with a relentless commitment to reach the lost as well as a rigorous devotion to the gospel of which we have been entrusted.