Evangelism, Calvinism, and the SBC

[The following was written by SBF blogger Timmy Brister, originally posted on his personal blog Provocations and Pantings, and reproduced here with his permission.]

Baptist Press recently reported on a conference of evangelists in the SBC who are lamenting the growth of Calvinism with the Southern Baptist Convention. Considering that Baptist Press found this worth covering, I figured that this was a significant conference with considerable attendance addressing serious and substantial issues. However, the first line of the article says thus:

A group of 15 evangelists meeting in Jackson, Tenn., Jan. 7-8 said they have concerns about the growth of Calvinism and the rise of a Willow Creek-style of non-confrontational evangelism within Southern Baptist churches.

Did you catch that? A group of 15 evangelists constituting a conference garnered enough political muscle to make this front-page Southern Baptist news. Anyone else find this peculiar?

Secondly, for these 15 evangelists from eight states to come together, there must be some serious matters which are causing such lamenting and concern. According to the BP article, here are the reasons for lamenting:

1. The LifeWay study which reported about 10 percent of Southern Baptist pastors identified themselves as Calvinists, while 29 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates espoused Calvinist doctrine.

2. A few summit participants said the movement toward Calvinism has come on secular university campuses through organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity.

So the growth of Calvinism among seminary graduates and the spread of Calvinism on secular campuses causing SBC evangelists to lament. Hmmm . . . But here’s where it gets interesting.

Hal Poe, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University, said that the kind of Calvinism Piper espouses is not the historic Calvinism of Calvin or Spurgeon. Poe argues:

“He holds huge, stadium-type events that are rip-roaring. There’s nobody else doing anything like that so he becomes [Calvinism’s] expositor. But John Piper’s version of Calvinism is not something John Calvin would espouse, or even that Charles Spurgeon [British reformed Baptist preacher] would espouse.

Poe does not explain what he means by his assertion, but one is led to believe that Piper is advocating a version of Calvinism “more extreme” and less evangelical than that of Spurgeon. But then again, you have to explain that to all the missionaries whose lives have been changed and charged for the glory of God by Piper’s fiery heart for missions and reaching the lost for Christ.

Jerry Drace, who initiated the “conference,” argues that Calvinism is giving young pastors a reason to “laugh at evangelism” and offer “an excuse not to do evangelism.” Nothing new here. Same ole’ rhetoric from the likes of Nelson Price, Lonnie Wilkey, and Bobby Welch.

Now, let me offer a few thoughts regarding this article by Baptist Press and the conference of evangelists:

1. The SBC media machine, Baptist Press, has a way of making matters “newsworthy” that do not have the merits thereof. There are thousands of church staff who have “conference meetings” with higher attendance than this conference. Baptist Press is simply trying to shine the spotlight on something they think it is important to them.

2. Jerry Drace talks about the young people “laughing” and “finding excuse for not doing” evangelism but fails to factor in the LifeWay study which revealed that “Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.” So if the Calvinists, who are laughing and finding excuses, are more personally evangelistic than the non-Calvinists, then what are we to make of the non-Calvinists?

3. Hal Poe’s assertion that Piper espoused a morphed (and distorted?) version of Calvinism is unqualified and unsupported. It would be nice that if a professor is going to make such claims that he would back them with substance.

4. The caricature that Calvinists are not evangelistic is an old and well-worn hat in the SBC. Consider these facts. According the 2006 Annual Church Profile (ACP), there are 44,223 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.

10,449 churches baptized NO ONE
3,312 churches baptized ONE PERSON
13,760 churches baptized 1-5 PEOPLE

A total of 27,521 churches in the SBC baptized less than FIVE people for an entire year, which comes to 62% of all SBC churches.

Furthermore, at least three out of four churches are plateaued or declining.

So can it really be said that one of ten Southern Baptist ministers (who are Calvinists) be the real reason for lamenting in the SBC?
Should we not be lamenting over the nearly 10,500 churches who are practically dead?
Should we not be lamenting over the fact that over 75% of our churches are experiencing no conversion growth?
Should we not be lamenting over the evangelism (and its practices) of the past 50 years which has turned in the SBC into an unregenerate denomination with over half of our “church members” as unrecognizable?

And yet, in spite of all this, a conference of 15 evangelists come together and talk about how they do not like John Piper–a man who has done more to fuel missions and evangelism than any Southern Baptist alive today.

And this is Southern Baptist news.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Southern Baptist Convention

9 Comments on “Evangelism, Calvinism, and the SBC”


  1. […] Strange BaptistFire wrote an interesting post today on Evangelism, Calvinism, and the SBCHere’s a quick excerpt [The following was written by SBF blogger Timmy Brister, originally posted on his personal blog Provocations and Pantings, and reproduced here with his permission.] Baptist Press recently reported on a conference of evangelists in the SBC who are lamenting the growth of Calvinism with the Southern Baptist Convention. Considering that Baptist Press found this worth covering, I figured that this was a significant conference with considerable attendance addressing serious and substantial issues. […]

  2. Johnny Parish Says:

    I would have to say that all of these men must not have researched John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, or John Calvin. An examination of there writing and preaching could have easily set them straight.
    It is interesting that there two topics were Calvinism and Willow Creek style evangalism. I would argue that many of the evangalism “methods” that some of our non-Calvinist Brothers espouse is exactly that Willow Creek type evanglism, the only difference is that some may use the word sin only to void its meaning in there explanation. I have noticed a pattern recently in alot of modern descriptions of man in evangalism that he is presented as not being “perfect”, Joel Osteen could agree with that. However I do not believe that is an acurate understanding of sin. It does make me feel better about myself though, and thats the point, right ?
    John Piper is one of the most authentic people I believe I have ever heard that claim to have a heart for the lost. He is one of, if not the mightyest men of God in our time.
    God help us.

  3. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    A few summit participants said the movement toward Calvinism has come on secular university campuses through organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity.

    Campus Crusade for Christ is fairly reformed.

    But InterVarsity is about as vacuous and seeker friendly and not really reformed as they come.

    Do the BPmeisters check out the facts so that it might truthfully challenge bogus claims?

    This is the basis of justification according to the IV:

    Justification by God’s grace to all who repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

    But this is the Reformed view. Particularly:

    Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

    Calvinism is positioned in the article as an insidious monster lurking in the shadows waiting to devour poorly informed people; a disease on secular campuses, that has spread to Chrisitanity.

    A few summit participants said the movement toward Calvinism has come on secular university campuses through organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity.

    “In a broad sense, it’s happening on Christian college campuses too, as Calvinism appeals to young people who are wanting a more intellectual approach to Christianity,” said Hal Poe, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University in Jackson. “Southern Baptists neglected serious Christian education from the early 1960s, and that’s when all the trouble started. From discipleship training we went to the amorphous youth groups, whose only real good was to keep kids happy until they graduated from high school and graduated from church. Now, you have a generation [of college students] who have come along and want something deeper and they have latched onto Calvinism.”

    Not just SBC campuses but all “Christianity” as if Calvinism was incompatible with the Faith. Sounds like Jerry Falwell and Ergun Caner typology; the dreaded heretical disease of Calvinism. And the reason for vunerability to infection: neglect of doctrine in education. Interestingly, the anti-Calvinists have coopted Calvinistic claims of doctrinal vacuuity as the reason (can anyone say Clintonian), as if the Arminian perspective would be inherently intellectually superior. It surely couldn’t be that it was the vacuuity of doctrinal education that lead to the ascendency of Arminianism in the first place, could it?

    This is so low. We made the mistake of letting the euphemism “non-Calvinist” stand. This is like calling anti lifers, prochoice. Arminianism is by definition anti-thetical to Calvinism. And dishonesty will breed covert attacks masked as serious consideration, as is witnessed by this article. It is nothing more than a diatribe by establishmentarians against the ones they love to hate.

    The fact is, the article made no real attempt to separate the distinctions between Reformed Evangelism and the seeker friendly model. But, the Hawaiian Shirt flagship is Rick Warren, favorite son of the SBC establishment elite. And the only difference between him and the old BG model is the shirt and the fact that the rough edge of sin has worn off. Tying Emergent style seeker friendlies to Calvinism is beyond the horizon of reality. It is to confuse the issues, not clarify, to undermine bridgebuilding, not supply it with building material.

    While I agree that evalgelism must be a vocational ministry, it is the SBC that created and brought forth the need not have one by emphasising personal evangelism as the Biblical model over and above the gift given to the Church of the Evangelist. Which according to Paul, was Pastor/Elder Timothy.

    These men can perform their acts all they like, and they will indeed tap into the great void of intellectual vacuuity that they have created as they dawn their tragedian masks. They will indeed divide and contiue their attempts to conquer. The one thing that they face now that they have not faced before was rightly noted in the article. The internet is not going to let them get away with it.

  4. fred Says:

    This is encouraging news! The DoG are making a comeback in America. At least enough that the messengers of the 4 spiritual laws have banded together to protest. The stats are alarming, though not really. The Willowcreek style churches are probably the ones that are baptising the most. They are the ones that have the 100-200 baptisms at a festival style gathering. So what is their beef here? Are these Evangelists getting out evangelised?

  5. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Yes, very encouraging-

    Fire rousts the rats, let’s just hope the ship make shore before it sinks.

  6. Roger D. Lee Says:

    Thank you for highlighting this article. Please forgive my cynicism but it seems the evangelists are concerned that their lifestyle is at stake.

  7. Pat McGee Says:

    I am not a member of the SBC, but I am appalled that the # of baptisms and conversions is so low and that there are so many churches that had no baptissms. What is being taught? Are these churches slimpering toward being Sunday morning social clubs? Have these people lost the vision God has set before us in the Bible?

  8. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    I think anyone reading here should take a look a Mister Brister’s site on this subject.

    And also here and here, at TA’s Fouders Director’s Blog.

  9. Jack Winter Says:

    It is not difficult to find a brother who will let fly stinging insults and accusations against Calvinism. A recent letter to the editor, (Tarheel Voices, N C Biblical Recorder), wondered why are we getting so upset about Mormonism and Romney when it is Calvinism that is cutting the heart out of the Gospel.

    The challenge to anyone seeking to impart the DoG, is not to respond in kind, but rather with patience, perseverance, and love.

    In my church, I am known as, (depending on who you ask), the apologist for or devil who teaches Calvinism. A lady in my SS class questioned me and we began an email dialogue. I got the the usual, “Why should I pray for my lost sons, either God had predestined them or not” and similar questions. I answered her emails, over twenty, with patience, not revealing the increasing exasperation I felt. I finally suggested she borrow the Amazing Grace DVD set from Pastor. Pastor told her, “you must have been talking to Jack Winter”, but did loan her the set along with the infamous Jerry Vines’ “Baptist Battles.”

    Last Sunday the lady grabbed me after church all excited, to tell me that several couples from church were coming to her home to watch the DVD’s together over the next few Friday nights.

    God can truly do wonderful things if we can just speak the truth with love and get out of His way. Gloria Deo!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: