Saturday, December 30, 2017

Why Is There Little Concern For Authority?

It seems that the approach taken by many contemporary Church ministries toward the Great Commission is somewhat like what former ABC News anchorman Ted Koppel once complained about with respect to the Ten Commandments during a commencement address he delivered at Duke University.[1] Some may remember that he bemoaned the fact, approaching twenty-five years ago now, that so many people looked upon them as the Ten Suggestions, rather than the Ten Commandments.
The way most Churches these days approach our marching orders, the Great Commission, reflects the same mindset Koppel complained about. People ignore the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was extremely specific when He authorized actions to be taken on His behalf.
This means Churches are authorized to do what falls under their charter and are not authorized to do what does not fall under their charter. But few seem to be concerned about that charter these days. Churches with their Church members are commanded to go. Churches with their Church members are commanded to make disciples. Churches with their Church members are then commanded to baptize disciples. Churches have no right to alter that sequence of events. Around the world, we find the very best Churches indiscriminately baptizing people without taking any prudent steps to make sure they are baptizing real disciples.
If a pastor baptizes hopeful converts immediately upon their profession of faith, if a pastor baptizes hopeful converts without personally examining their testimonies with the utmost caution, if, for example, a pastor talks about how “an entire family of four was saved and baptized,” then I and those with experience carefully listening to sinners about their conversion experiences can guarantee to you that such a pastor is almost certainly baptizing people without authorization.
Why don’t pastors concern themselves with their authority? A pastor is not authorized to baptize someone just because that individual says he’s converted. A pastor is not authorized to baptize someone who is not a genuine Christian. The Bible teaches, and Baptists most assuredly believe, that baptism is for saved people only. The baptism of the lost is unauthorized. Why, then, aren’t pastors more careful to conduct their ministries under the umbrella of divinely instituted authority?


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Year's End, A Time To Look Back

It is that time of year to look back. Some pastors and Churches don’t like to look back, but want only to look ahead. But anyone who has read Louis L’Amour[1] books knows that you must always look at your back trail to see if you are being followed and as a way of making sure you’re going straight. I wonder if such pastors and congregations who don’t want to look back have been influenced by evolution, and thereby think there is nothing to be learned from the past. They think we are somehow evolved socially and spiritually, and we cannot learn from those who have gone on before us. Still other pastors and congregations, frequently those who think themselves to be conservative and old fashioned, look to the past, but they look only to the recent past. This, of course, limits them to seeing Christianity only since the deleterious effects of Charles G. Finney’s decisionism and Horace Bushnell’s Christian Nurture have so radically changed the face of American Christianity.[2] Because they don’t look back far enough, they think their approach to ministry is the way it’s always been done. How wrong they are.
Better than looking only to the recent past would also be looking back to those times centuries ago when God visited His people with revival and great numbers of souls saved, times like the First and Second Great Awakenings. Those were times when sinners were converted to Christ, and their conversions changed the faces of nations, altering the course of human history, and even bringing about the eventual end of slavery in the Western hemisphere. But those were the effects of pastors and congregations who rightly saw their duty and task before God to glorify Him and to seek to bring individual sinners to Christ. If pastors and congregations today would learn from those Puritans and old English and American colonies Baptists, who were concerned with real conversions and had no thought of generating big numbers for number’s sake, the state of Christianity would be much improved.
Finally, look way back. Look back to the Gospels and the book of Acts, when the Lord Jesus Christ issued His Great Commission, and men acted upon His directive. Is there any indication that the Lord Jesus Christ wanted His early disciples to do anything other than make disciples? No. Therefore, let us not change the ancient landmarks.[3] Modern day pastors and congregations explain away the vast difference between what Jesus Christ commanded and what they do by saying, “the culture is so much different, and we are adapting to the culture.” To be sure, the culture is different. And we should adapt to the culture. But differences in the culture do not cause differences in the basic nature of sinful men. Neither do they justify in any way an alteration of Bible doctrine or Gospel ministry.

[1] Louis L’Amour, nicknamed “America’s storyteller,” was an American novelist and short story writer of primarily of Western novels.
[2] As Charles G. Finney adversely influenced Christian evangelism in the young United States of America, so was the Sunday School movement in this country damaged by Horace Bushnell, Christian Nurture, (Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, reprinted from the 1861 edition in 1994), page 33.
[3] Deuteronomy 27.17; Proverbs 22.28; 23.10.