Bill Curtis on Cooperation / Updated

Bill Harrell, Chairman of the SBC’s X Comm stated that two problems in the SBC were worship styles and Calvinism. Bill Curtis, Chairman of Trustees of NAMB has some exceptionally good words about cooperation in the SBC that everybody would do well to heed.

I’d like to point out a few things. Mr. Harrell stated that Five Point Calvinism ignores and radically interprets the Bible. Not only did he not substantiate that statement, he is, by defintion, stating that the first presidents and theologians of the SBC were radically reinterpreting and ignoring the Bible. This would include at least, one, Dr. James Boyce, who served a total of 8 years as SBC President, and another, RBC Howell, who served three terms, including one by acclamation. What’s more all the churches that formed the SBC in the 1845 Charter were from churches that affirmed the Philadelphia Confession. In short if it wasn’t for Calvinism, the SBC that Mr. Harrell loves and serves would not exist. Mr. Harrell needs a lesson in Baptist history and theology. Will somebody please send him Dr. Boyce’s book? Until Nov. 30, it’s only $12.50 plus shipping. Surely, he would do well to read it.

I’d also like to point out the problems that Brother Bill Curtis names in the SBC at present. These are, in contrast to Bill Harrell’s observations, of much greater concern:

• SBC baptisms are at their lowest levels in 12 years;

• 73 percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining;

• 11,740 SBC churches reported zero or one baptism in 2005;

• 55 percent of SBC churches baptized no youth between the ages of 12-17 in 2004;

• From 1991-2004, the number of unchurched adults in America increased from 39 million to 79 million;

• Every county in North America is at least 50 percent unchurched (statistics available from NAMB).

Amen, Brother Bill Curtis! This hits the nail on the head! This did not happen because of differences in worship styles, and it did not happen because of Calvinism, since, according to Lifeway, only 10 percent of SBC pastors identify as “five point Calvinists.” No, this problem goes far, far deeper, and is much more extensive than Mr. Harrell’s, dare I say, superficial analysis.

In fact, I’d like to remind you all of these ACP statistics from the church belonging to our last SBC President:

2001

3506 members
203 baptisms
253 other additions
2200 primary worship attendance

2002

3812 members
296 baptisms
190 other additions
2100 primary worship

2003
4011 members
209 baptisms
137 other additions
2031 primary worship attendance

2004

4163 members
237 baptisms
204 other additions
1874 primary worship

It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.

Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.

In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! This was the state of the church of the man that asked us to “baptize a million.” I am reminded of the old nursery rhyme, “Here’s the church; there’s the steeple/Open it up; where’s the people?” This same SBC President also took time to blast Calvinism in his church newsletter.

No, Calvinism is not responsible for these problems in the SBC, and if a good dose of evangelistic Calvinism (or even Amyraldianism), church discipline and order, and solid Biblical and deep expository preaching from the pulpit and teaching in the classroom is what it takes to fix these problems, then I submit that Bill Harrell needs to open his arms wide and learn to cooperate with the Calvinists in the SBC just like Bill Curtis suggests. What’s more, if the anti-Calvinists would stop with the monologues, they might do well to consider that they would do well to allow healthy, reasoned debate and discussion about these issues, because it will have the effect of driving more people to the Bible and away from PDL and The Prayer of Jabez and into more serious Bible study, theology books, and our own Baptist history. One more time: These problems did not arise because of worship styles between the churches or the reassertion of Calvinism in the SBC. This did not happen while folks on our side of that particular theological aisle were in charge. In fact, I submit that it is largely the legacy of the other side’s approach which is filling the churches with unregenerate, baptized persons. Let’s not forget, we were told at this past year’s SBC that the truants on our rolls were, “Some of our best prospects for evangelism.” This is the legacy of unbridled revivalism and theological eclecticism on the one hand and, on the other, the toleration of theological latitudinarianism. Mix with a dose of denominational politics, and this is what you get.

Update: Brother Chadwick Ivester from SC has been to their Pastor’s Conference and has said that Danny Akin has said a few choice words on this topic too. Dr. Akin, who is, if I recall, an Amyraldian, believes the problem isn’t Calvinism, but bibically illiterate pastor-teachers.

From his notes (emphasis mine)

Then let’s step into our own family: oh, were at a crisis: We’re having debates about Baptism, both, the lack of them,
and just what constitutes Biblical baptism. . . We’re talking about tongues . . . We’re talking about alcohol. . .
We’re talking about church discipline. . .and we’re talking about church membership. . . and we’re talking about worship. . . and of course. . . WE’RE ALSO TALKING ABOUT CALVINISM.
And, yet, much of what I hear, today, IS SLOPPY . . .IT IS ILL-INFORMED. . .
THEOLOGICALLY AND BIBLICALLY, WE OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED OF OURSELVES!!! . . . OF SOME OF THE TRITE PUNCHLINES THAT WE HEAR COMING OUT OF
THE MOUTHS OF SUPPOSED LEADERS WITHIN THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION!

Now lest you misunderstand me. . . I am not a fivepoint Calvinist. . . . BUT I CERTAINLY BELIEVE WHEN YOU CRITIQUE SOMETHING, YOU OUGHT TO DO IT WITH INTEGRITY. . . .YOU OUGHT TO DO IT
FAIRLY. . . . AND YOU OUGHT TO DO IT WITH SOME SEMBLANCE OF KNOWING WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. . . BUT WE DON’T DO VERY GOOD AT IT RIGHT NOW! BECAUSE WE’RE NOT TEACHING
THE BIBLE. . . WE’RE NOT TEACHING THEOLOGY. . . AND WE, INDEED, HAVE LOST SIGHT OF OUR CALLING. . . .AS THE PASTOR/TEACHER OF EPHESIANS 4:11. . . OR IF YOU LIKE, THE CALLING TO BE A PASTOR/THEOLOGIAN.

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7 Comments on “Bill Curtis on Cooperation / Updated”

  1. David Hewitt Says:

    Of course, you never hear things like this (the information you posted) said from the floor of the SBC… though you seem to hear a lot of scapegoating going on with regard to Reformed people.

    In any case, good information, and thanks for noting NAMB’s comments.

    SDG,
    dbh

  2. Nathan White Says:

    Wow, this is one that definitely needed to be said.

    I’m not a big numbers guy at all, but they do give some sort of an idea of what’s going on. I fear, however, that if there were any way to objectively view the spiritual decline over the last 5-10 years, we’d be putting our faces in the dust.

    David’s comment about scapegoating rings true. Amazingly, they will continue to point the finger at this +-10% and blame us for the decline.

    This was a great post.

    SDG

  3. Debbie Says:

    This is definitely a post that needs to be both read and heeded by every Southern Baptist whether leader or layman(or in my case woman:) ) Convention President and every member of the Convention. Thank you.

  4. David Hewitt Says:

    Wow, quite pointed words by Dr. Akin. Well put though, I’d say.

    The problem is that the people who need this think it doesn’t apply to them. 😉

  5. David Meyer Says:

    Oh my. That quote should be nailed on the door of every Southern Baptist Church in the world! He so hit the nail on the head that it leaves me hope for this denomination. I attend a So. Baptist Church now and am getting ready to leave for various reasons. I won’t say where I’m going because Southern Baptists also have gotten very mean about who has the better denomination, and I’m not going to get into that. Suffice it to say that I expect to loose most of my church friends…despite the fact that we worship the same God, praise the same Jesus, and the fact that we walked the same isle and were Baptized in the same pool will mean nothing…all because of denomination.

    The sad part is that it is ONLY my So. Baptist friends who will have a problem with this.

  6. lokimikoj Says:

    Hello

    Very interesting site. Hope it will always be alive!

  7. Paige Harrell Says:

    It never ceases to surprise me that people will take a chopped up interview, turned into an article from a magazine and decide that what they are reading is total truth. These same people are ready and willing to make a judgement on a pastor. We are all put here on earth to tell others the good news.
    Every person who blogged here on this site should call Bill Harrell, my father, and ask him point blank to explain what he meant in the Christian Index article. I can say with all conviction that I am my father’s worst critic. I make him explain alot of his statements to me. However, in the end, it is not what I perceived was said that matters. It is what he believes in his heart and the good that he does to help others that will make a difference.
    And for anyone that would like to listen to one of his sermons so they can form a TRUE opinion of this man, go to the website and watch a sermon in the comfort of your own home.
    http://www.abilene1774.org
    He is an expository pastor with deeply seeded beliefs in the word of God.

    Before you rush to judgement, decide to find out for yourself.

    Paige Harrell


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