East Central Illinois Baptist Association
Friday, April 25, 2014
Churches obeying the Great Commands & Great Commission

5 Acquiring Resources

LEAD TEAM 

ACQUIRING RESOURCES
 

Fire and Rain: The Wild-Hearted Faith of Elijah, 2007, Ray Pritchard, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 231 p., $14.99

ISBN: 978-0-8054-2696-0

My rating: iiiii (five stars out of five)

Our culture has slowly deteriorated around us and we haven’t even noticed. Things that used to embarrass us or that we recognized as evil don’t affect us anymore. The evangelical church has lost its will to fight against the evil in our culture.

The first seven kings of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) did evil in God’s sight and each one was more evil than the one before him, then Elijah appeared suddenly on the scene. Although Elijah lived nearly 3,000 years ago, he speaks with clarity to our generation.

God brought Elijah from the mountains of Gilead to tell King Ahab there would be no rain or dew in the land until God said otherwise. Then God told Elijah to leave Ahab and go to the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan River, and hide. He was to drink from the brook and ravens would bring food to him. He was to stay there until God told him to leave. God revealed his plan to Elijah one step at a time. It’s that way for us, too. No matter where God leads us, He is there with us and He has a plan. Without God, we are a bunch of pathetic losers. We depend on God to direct our lives, to tell us what to do at each step.

God promised Elijah that He would send ravens to feed him. Ravens are among the list of birds that God told Moses were unclean or "detestable" and the Israelites should not eat them. Because of this, Elijah might not have been too happy about the promise. God commanded the ravens to bring to Elijah exactly what he needed, not too much and not too little, at the right time. He still does that for us today. God had a plan for Elijah and He has a plan for each of us. To discover His will takes time, and as His plan unfolds before us it might not make sense. He doesn’t reveal His plan to us all at once. When we need to know we’ll know.

The brook Cherith had dried up because of the drought for which Elijah had prayed. God told Elijah to go to the home of a poor Gentile widow and stay there. She would provide for him. The woman lived in Zarephath in Sidon, headquarters of Baal worship, home of Queen Jezebel. Elijah might have thought God made a mistake. Elijah’s circumstances didn’t look too bright. What would he do? What will I do when my circumstance isn’t too bright? I can give up on God or I can continue to believe God has a wonderful plan for my life.

Th woman’s son died, and she blamed Elijah. Elijah took the dead boy to his (Elijah’s) room to pray about the boy. He asked God to restore the boy’s life. Three times Elijah lay down on the boy and each time he prayed that prayer. Previous to this there was no example in the Bible that taught Elijah what to say or do. God had never restored a dead person’s life before. How did Elijah know to do what he did? Whatever drove Elijah, this was as much as he could do. The rest was in God’s hands. The Bible says, "The Lord heard Elijah’s cry" (1 Kings 17:22). God answered Elijah’s fervent (boiling) prayer. God did this to show His own power and to affirm Elijah as His prophet. The woman responded by saying, "Now I know you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth" (1 Kings 17:24). The time of Elijah’s preparation is over. At the brook Elijah learned that God can take care of him. At the widow’s house he learned that he can help others, and in the upper room he learned that God could work through him to do the impossible. Pritchard wrote, "No one becomes a man of God by chance, and no one becomes a man of God overnight."

Three years after God gave Elijah the message of the drought to take to King Ahab, God finally told Elijah to go back to Ahab. Elijah confronted Ahab and called for a showdown at Mount Carmel. Elijah told Ahab to gather 450 prophets of Baal and 400 priests of Asherah at the mountain. Elijah told the false prophets to call on their god to provide fire to burn their sacrifice. Nothing happened. Elijah then called on the God of Israel to provide fire and He burned up everything in one lightning stroke. Prior to the challenge, Elijah told the people to decide whether they would serve God or Baal, but they said nothing. The modern church struggles with indecision, too. Whom will we serve? We have to chose between right and wrong. In the end, the prophets of Baal and Asherah were executed. God had to cleanse the nation of the malignancy of idolatry.

Immediately after the priests of Baal and Asherah were executed, Elijah ran away from Jezebel and hid in a cave. He fell into the depths of depression. Elijah prayed that he would die. He had become filled with fear, doubt, and self-pity. He had lost his focus on God. Elijah became depressed because he was mentally and physically fatigued, and he was out of touch with God. He was frazzled and spiritually burned out. Being a prophet was not fun anymore. Elijah ran away and hid in a cave. God sent a messenger to Elijah who told him to eat and sleep, and to walk for 40 days and nights to get to Mount Sinai. Then God spoke to Elijah in a whisper, not in an earthquake or a fire. God gave Elijah a new commission and also reminded him he was not the only prophet left in Israel. There were 7,000 others who had not bowed to Baal. These were people who were encouraged to stand up for God because Elijah had stood against the prophets of Baal. Elijah thought he had failed, but God showed him the success of his ministry.

Soon God called Elisha to be Elijah’s disciple and friend. When Elijah put his cloak on Elisha while Elisha plowed a field, it was a sign that Elijah was passing his prophetic role on the Elisha, a sign of divine calling. Elisha was busy doing his daily routine when Elijah showed up. It was God’s will for Elisha to be farming. It’s God’s will that we do our best at our daily routines. This is an important lesson for us. God had a new call for Elisha. Elisha wasted no time in following God’s new call.

King Ahab and Queen Jezebel conspired to murder Naboth and to take his vineyard. Elijah was sent by God to tell Ahab that dogs would lick up his blood in the same place where Naboth was stoned. Birds would eat his flesh. Jezebel would die inj the city and dogs would eat her flesh. Elijah delivered the message and disappeared.

Ahaziah, son of Ahab, became king of Israel after his father died. Ahaziah fell from a second-floor window, through a lattice-work, to the ground below. He was injured in the fall. He sent messengers to Ekron to inquire of Baal-zebub whether he would recover or die. Elijah encountered the messengers and asked if they were going to inquire of Baal-zebub because there was no God in Israel. He said that because the king had not inquired of the Lord, the king would surely die. God was in Israel and He’s with each of us now. When believers die they instantly go to be with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.

We should live each day as if it were our last day to be alive, and that we had nothing left to do but to die. If we knew we had only a few days left to live, we might live differently than we do. So, why not live that different way now?

Elijah knew when it was his last day on earth. He and Elisha walked about 40 to 55 miles to say "goodbye" to Elijah’s disciples. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah said that only God could grant that request, but if Elisha saw him when God took him, his request would be granted. While others might have seen that Elijah disappeared, only Elisha saw the chariot and horses of fire, because only he had the spiritual eyes to see it.

At the beginning of the book, Pritchard said that we should pray a dangerous prayer: "Lord, do things I’m not used to." At the end he reminds us to pray that prayer. November 24, 2008.

 

Book Review

Nate Donovan: Revolutionary Spy, 2007, Peter Marshall, David Manuel, and Sheldon Maxwell, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 201 p., $9.99

ISBN: 978-0-8054-4394-3

My Rating: iiiii (five stars out of five)

This is a book in the category of juvenile fiction. I enjoyed reading it. I was immediately drawn into the story and remained interested through the entire book.

The novel is about the Donovan family, Irish Quakers who lived in Philadelphia at the time of the British occupation during the Revolutionary War. Nate Donovan, a fifteen-year-old boy, became involved as a spy with General Washington’s foreces at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

The story is quick-paced as it tells the adventures and exploits of Nate Donovan and his compatriots, Running Fox, a Christian Oneida Indian, who taught Nate to remain safe, and Tad Walker, another boy a little older than Nate.

Nate learned that his mother was also a spy, so she helped him in his assignments. He had several close calls. Being a spy caused Nate to grow up faster than he would have otherwise.

I don’t want to tell any more of the story and give too much away to the interested reader. I’ll just say that this was a fun book to reed. I have read other books by Peter Marshall and also enjoyed them. November 24, 2008.

 

Book Review

 

 

Blindsided, Calvin Miller, 2007, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 247 pp. $15.99.

ISBN: 979-0-8054-4348-6

My Rating: (two stars out of five)

A young Christian man was saved from execution by a Muslim court in Yemen, by a Catholic priest named Peter and his pet wolf, Kinta. The executioner, Ishaq, is obsessed with killing Christians in order to purify the earth for Allah. Ishaq later blinded Peter by throwing cobra venom in his eyes.

Father Peter traveled from Yemen to Seattle with the knowledge that Ishaq and other terrorists were going to congregate there for the purpose of killing as many Americans as possible. Peter was walking to Olympia with Kinta so he could tell the state legislature about the plot.

The priest was stopped by a police lieutenant he knew. The policeman knew some of the information about the terrorists, but he ,earned little more from Father Peter. The story continued on from there involving additional characters.

Unfortunately, I had a little trouble reading this book to its completion. The book is a Christian novel, but for me it was too fantastic. The main reason I found the book difficult is that Father Peter and Kinta seem to have an ability to mysteriously appear at just the right time to save someone from a predicament. Then they disappear again. This was not Dr. Miller’s best work. June 16, 2009.

 

Book Review

 

The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, H. Leon McBeth, 1987, Broadman Press, Nashville, TN, 850 pp., $49.99.

ISBN: 0-8054-6569-3

My Rating: (five stars out of five)

If you want to know anything about the history of Baptists, this is the book to read or consult. I read this book cover to cover (except for the index) but it took me about four years to accomplish. It wasn’t that I was reading it all that time, but I would read a little than put it down and read something else for awhile. This is such a massive book that I didn’t take notes as I read or I would have written another book just in my notes.

Dr. McBeth has included all varieties of Baptists in this history, not just Southern Baptists. He began with the emergence of Baptists in England in the early 1600s. There were then, as now disagreements among Baptists about how one is saved. The General Baptists believed anyone who voluntarily believes in Christ can be saved. The other group, the Particular Baptists believed that Christ died only for particular persons, namely the elect, the ones God chose to be saved. This difference of theological interpretation has been going on since those early days of Baptists.

The book continues on with discussions of early church leaders in England and the difficulties Baptists faced with the Church of England. Then McBeth discusses the Baptist movement in the American colonies. He wrote about the decline of both General and Particular Baptists in England during the eighteenth century and the growth of Baptists in America and the revival movement and the struggles of early Baptists for religious freedom in America.

In the nineteenth century the modern missionary movement was started by Baptist churches in England, but the start was rocky. The early missionaries had trouble convincing churches that they should financially support the missionaries. Baptists spread from Great Britain to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada during the nineteenth century. American Baptists started the Home Mission Society.

Differences grew between Baptists in the northern states and the southern states in the U.S. and eventually there was a split, through which the Southern Baptist Convention was formed. The first appearance of the split was in 1845.

Baptist work began in Europe in the nineteenth century. The twentieth century has seen changes in structure in both the American Baptists and the Southern Baptists.

This was a good book for me to read. I don’t know whether Dr. McBeth intended for people to read the book through or to use it primarily as a reference book. It serves well for either purpose. June 16, 2009.

 

Book Review

The Bible, Rocks, and Time, Davis A. Young, and Ralph F. Stearley, 2008, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL, 510 pp., $30.00

ISBN: 978-0-8308-2876-0

My Rating: (four stars out of five)

The book was written primarily for pastors, theologians, biblical scholars, and lay people with scientific interests. The goal of the book is to convince that the earth is older than young-earth creationism allows. The authors are of the professed evangelical Christians.

The first known writer of geologic processes is thought to have been a Greek by the name of Xenophanes, who lived in the late sixth to early fifth centuries B.C. Xenophanes wrote about fossil fish and shells and the transgression of the sea on land. He was followed by a Greek historian named Herodotus in the fifth century B.C. and other Greeks.

Early Christian scholars maintained that as God created the earth in six days (which they believed to be solar days), so the end would come after 6,000 years. They cited 2 Peter 3:8 as the basis for such a statement, "the day of the Lord is a thousand years." There is, however, no logical connection between the length of time it took God to create the earth and how long the earth will exist before God destroys it.

During the 17th century theories of fossils and rock strata were developed. There was some debate about whether fossils originated simply as aberrant rock crystallizations or from living organisms. Calculations for a young earth continued, but some scientists began to think that the earth was older than 6,000 years. Attention began to be paid to the fact that many rock formations exhibited layering. Theories abut that, known as stratification, were emerging.

During the late 18th century and early 19th century the big debate among geologists and natural scientists was between catastrophism, in which a few catastrophic events, such as Noah’s Flood, shaped the earth, and uniformitarianism, in which observable processes, such as deposition, erosion, and glaciation, slowly and steadily formed mountains and valleys. These scientists attempted to calculate the age of the earth from estimated rates of deposition and erosion. The calculated results ranged form 3 million years to 15 billion years. No one placed much confidence in the calculated age of the earth.

Radiometric age dating methods (based on the radioactive decay of certain elements) were developed during the 20th century. These methods have extended the age of the earth to about 4.5 billion years. However, since the mid-twentieth century there has been a resurgence of global flood geology and young-earth advocacy, particularly among evangelical Christians. The young-earth theories have been repudiated and discredited on scientific grounds.

When we interpret the Bible we must understand the culture and context in which the book or passage was written. The authors rightly stated, "Scripture is a record of the deeds of God in history. Its message concerns God’s redemptive plan and acts. Christians must, therefore, understand the intent of biblical passages. It is the message intended by the original author that is utterly trustworthy, not our interpretation shaped by contemporary science." We have to try to understand Genesis from the point of view of the author.

Genesis 1 was written perhaps 3,000 years ago and must be understood in the context of that time. It was written for ancient Israelites, not for 21st-century Americans, so we have to adjust our understanding. The point of Genesis 1 to the ancient Israelites was that God created the earth and all that is in or on it, the stars, sun, moon, all the universe, and none of that creation is to be worshiped by those who were so prone to worship anything and everything besides God.

Having set the stage for interpreting the Bible in light of the ancient Israelites, the authors launched into scientific discussions of earth’s geology and determining the age of the earth from a scientific viewpoint.

Stratigraphy is the study of rock layers beneath the surface of the earth. It includes the order in which rock layers were deposited, the rate of deposition (how long did it take for a particular layer to accumulate), and how depositional environment (under what conditions the sediment layers accumulated). All sedimentary rocks began as accumulations of mud, clay, sand, gravel, and so forth, and were cemented into rock over long times under pressure from constantly accumulating sediments collecting above.

The authors argue against a catastrophic flood as the only means in which fossils can be preserved in huge numbers. A discussion of fossils and coral reefs was used to argue against a young-earth theory. The occurrence of other geological deposits such as relatively pure salt deposits in the western U.S. were used to illustrate the long times required to form and accumulate such deposits.

Igneous rocks, which originate from magma, or molten rock, have seeped into and filled fractures in other rocks that were already in place miles beneath the earth’s surface. Such filling takes many years to occur and then uplift and erosion of overlying rocks to expose igneous infilling requires even more time. Such things are evidence of an old earth. Cooling of hot magma is also a very slow process.

The authors described the geology of the Michigan Basin, a relatively simple, layer-cake-like geology. Then they described the Sierra Nevada batholith, a much more complicated geology. In both case studies, the authors showed why the scientific evidence pointed toward an old earth an away from a young earth.

The authors returned to radiometric dating. These methods are based on the spontaneous decay of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, and are used to determine the ages of rocks.

Next the authors discussed differences between uniformitarianism and catastrophism as applied to geologic processes from the points of view of most present-day mainstream geologists and of young-earth geologists. The reason most modern geologists believe the earth is billions of years old rather than thousands is that the evidence in the rocks dictates the older age. Young-earth geologists believe the earth is young because they have chosen to interpret the Bible in a certain way and, therefore, they have locked themselves into an "answer" about the age of the earth. For them to accept an old age for the earth would be, in their minds, to refute the Bible. To be sure, there are serious, committed Christian scientists on both sides of this question. However, one’s eternal life does not depend on whether he accepts a young-earth point of view.

In the final chapter the author gives help to those who embrace a young earth. The authors show why acceptance of an old earth does not undermine the validity of the Bible, especially the Creation account in Genesis or the Christian faith.

Because of my background in earth science, I found this book to be quite interesting. The uninitiated reader may have difficulty wading through unfamiliar terminology, although the authors made a bona fide effort to help people who are not steeped in geology and geochemistry to understand by defining new terms in the text. If you wish to learn more about the debate of a young earth versus an old earth, read this book. There are two sides to the story. July 3, 2009.

 

 

Book Review

Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods, 2008, Marc Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 335 p., $21.99

ISBN: 978-1-4335-0130-2

My Rating: (five stars out of five)

The authors wrote a few sentences in the preface to describe who Jesus is. One of those sentences says, "It is ultimately Jesus who closes churches down when they have become faithless and fruitless," referring to Revelation 2:5. This sentence got my attention and made me think about churches I have known that have closed their doors permanently.

The main theme of the book is that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to work in and through Christians to accomplish His purposes. Jesus came from heaven to live on earth in humility fully as a human, yet He remained fully God. However, He limited the use of His divine attributes, so He had to depend on the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit did not wait until after Jesus’ resurrection to appear. He, in fact, was present during Jesus’ entire human lifetime and Jesus was led by Him. We, too, are led by the Holy Spirit. There is no conflict between Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

A definition of the church was provided by the authors. In the definition, which is based on Acts 2, they cited eight characteristics, which they expanded upon.. They then described how the definition of church has changed in the modern and postmodern eras.

Jesus is the leader of the church, local or universal. It is He who plants churches, He who pastors them, and He who shuts them down. Human leaders in the church are first good followers of Jesus. They then invite other people to follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).

Preaching is the highest priority of ministry, to make God’s Word and Jesus’ sacrifice known to the world. The New Testament church was founded because of a Holy-Spirit-anointed sermon delivered by Peter. Preaching is the passionate and authoritative proclamation of the truth about God’s Word and the Bible.

The sacraments (ordinances)of baptism and communion are examined to answer questions such as who should be baptized, how should one be baptized, and does baptism save a person; various kinds of meals among believers in the early church are described.

When there is disunity in a church it is costly in terms of time, energy, emotion (such as stress, pain, conflict, and despair), and momentum. Unity has to be present in five areas. The church must be theologically unified. The congregation must agree on what is worth fighting for (not over). Relational unity means church members love (not necessarily like) one another and treat each other with cordiality, respect, friendliness, and kindness. There must be agreement about the church’s ministry philosophy, that is, how the church does things like baptism, communion, worship order and music, discipleship, and so forth. There must be unity around the mission of the church, which ought to be to glorify God and bring people to Him. Finally, there needs to be organizational unity—agreement on how things are done in the church.

That does not rule out conflict. Whenever a church changes there will be conflict. By working through the conflict the church will grow more mature. Conflict comes because of a perceived loss of something: power, salary/remuneration, preferential treatment, access to information, personal visibility, demands on personal energy, expedient pace, and control. We must be willing to accept the pain of change so the end result will be more people coming to worship Jesus.

When we sin we need forgiveness. Forgiveness comes through a step-by-step process of conviction, confession, genuine repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. When these steps are ignored by the person who sinned, then church discipline might be necessary. The purpose of church discipline in such a case is to restore the erring person to a closer walk with Christ. The authors described five steps of church discipline: weigh the offense, consider the crime, admonish, reprove, and separate. The goal of these steps is to bring the offender to repentance and reconciliation.

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love one another. They also love us, whom they created in their image. We, in turn, love God. In love, God enacted a plan for our redemption, salvation, and eternal life.

A missional church is simply a church that is engaged in fulfilling the mission of the church as given by Jesus: to go into the world and make disciples...(Matt. 28:19-20). The authors see ten marks of a missional church: biblical, practices and preaches repentance, goes into culture, puts the gospel in context, loves singles and couples, trains Christians as missionaries, supernatural, countercultural, multiplies, and messy.

Churches are beginning to establish multi-campus ministries. There are about 1,500 multi-site churches in the U.S. as of 2007, with a prediction of about 30,000 multi-site American churches in the near future. The authors described the experience of Mars Hill Church in establishing and developing multiple campuses. The church, as of 2008, had seven campuses with a total of more than 8,000 members.

Technological changes have been embraced (slowly) by churches from the beginning. First, benches, then pews, were introduced, followed by organs, printed Bibles and hymnals, electricity, use of large concert halls for meetings, loudspeakers and microphones, radio, movie cameras, television, and the Internet. With each technological advance embraced by the church, the spread of the gospel of Jesus has broadened. Churches need to use technological advances to be as relevant as possible in the culture for the spread of the gospel.

The authors described what will be necessary for American Christians to be instrumental in transforming our culture. Paul told Christians to pray for leaders (governmental authorities) because those are the people who are most important in cultural change. Churches located near centers of government and in major cities have greater opportunities and responsibilities for cultural change. Understand that it is God who uses people and churches to bring about transformation. September 23, 2009.

 

Book Review

 

 

Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim, 2008, Norman L. Geisler and Joshua M. Betancourt, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 235 pp., $17.99.

ISBN: 978-1-4335-0231-6

My rating: (three stars out of five)

Since the first Vatican Council in 1870, the Roman Catholic church has claimed to be the one true church (exclusively)and that the Pope is infallible. This book sets out to prove that both claims are false.

The claim of the Roman church to have an authoritative an infallible government and doctrine is false. The early local churches were independent and autonomous, following the pattern provided in the New Testament. An episcopal form of church government appeared in the second century, but it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the bishop of Rome claimed infallibility and authority over all churches.

Roman Catholics believe that Christ established His church through Peter, that Peter was infallible, and that Peter’s successors, down to the present pope, were granted infallibility through Peter. All who reject this teaching are under anathema of Rome, and unless they repent, will go to Hell. Catholics invoke Matthew 16:17-19, Luke 22:32, and John 21:15-17 as the supporting texts for the primacy of Peter. The authors explain in detail why the Roman Catholic arguments for Peter’s primacy and infallibility are wrong.

The Roman Catholic church teaches that Peter and the successive popes are infallible. The popes are "infallible only when [they speak] from the chair of St. Peter." The pope speaks infallibly on matters of doctrine of faith or morals.

The Roman Catholic church has assigned primacy and infallibility to Peter and that infallibility has passed down through the popes to the present day. The argument for Peter’s infallibility were shown by the authors to be false.

There are several steps that must be proven to argue truthfully that the present pope is the apostolic successor to Peter and that he speaks infallibly in matters of doctrine and morals. It must be proven from the New Testament that Jesus appointed Peter as the primary leader of the apostles, that Peter served as the first bishop, that Peter was infallible in teaching on doctrine and morals, and that the present pope inherited the primacy and infallibility of Peter through an unbroken succession of previous popes. None of these steps can be proven by the New Testament. In fact, all can be proven to be incorrect assumptions.

Some evangelicals, even though they know that Roman Catholicism is not the true church, nevertheless are attracted to it because of its antiquity, its tradition, its beauty, family ties, intellectual tradition, or certainty of doctrine. The authors argued convincingly that none of these attractors is a good test of truth.

The authors repeated their arguments almost chapter by chapter. After having read the first chapter, I felt as though with each new chapter I was reading the same material over again. This is not a very interesting book to read. If you want to know the arguments against Roman Catholicism being the true church, read the first chapter and then put the book away. May 20, 2010.

 

Book Review

Southern Baptist Identity, 2009, David S. Dockery (ed.), Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL 304 pp., $19.99

ISBN: 978-1-4335-0679-6

My rating: (Four stars out of five)

The book is a call to a renewed commitment among Southern Baptists to the gospel, to the church, to the truthfulness of the Scriptures, and to a renewed spirit of cooperation. Several authors contributed chapters which discuss theological and historical perspectives in Part 1 and ministry and convention perspectives in Part 2.

In chapter 1, Dr. C. Albert Mohler provides a brief history of the Baptist movement. At a minimum, Baptists are defined by three principles: regenerated church membership, believer’s baptism, and congregational church government. Dr. Mohler discussed theological, organizational, parachurch, technological, and demographic issues; cultural and moral; and financial issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches.

In the second chapter, S. Stanton Norman wrote that Baptists have always depended on Scriptures as their authority in religious knowledge and behavior. There is no dependence on tradition or early church fathers as there is in some denominations. All other Baptist distinctives arise from this core distinctive.

A very divisive controversy among Southern Baptists arose in 1979 over inerrancy of the Bible. Conservatives held that the Bible is inerrant, and to be an employee or a worker of the denomination, one had to hold that view. Moderates held that to be truly Baptist, one would accept another as Baptist even if the first person’s view on the inerrancy of the Bible didn’t agree with that of the other person. Both sides, conservatives and moderates, claimed to be true Baptists.

The point of the fourth essay (Chapter 4) seems to be, first of all, that the world has the right to decide whether someone is a Christian according to the external display of love between believers. Jesus said, "By this shall all people know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35, ESV).

When it come to participating in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, it ought to be offered only to those who are baptized (immersed) believers. The offer ought not to be made to just anyone who wants to participate. The Lord’s Supper should be seen as an advance victory party for Jesus’ overcoming death and Satan. Baptism ought also to be seen as the proclamation of the individual and the church of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The Anabaptists of the sixteenth century had a more biblical view of the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and church discipline than do modern-day Southern Baptists. For example, the Anabaptists saw in the Lord’s Supper not only a memorial to Christ, but they also viewed it as an act of fellowship among the congregants. The Anabaptists practiced discipline against church members who were living sinfully, not so much to drive the erring one from their midst, but to cause that one to see their own error and come to repentance. In the modern church we simply accept bad behavior as normal and never consider church discipline.

In chapter 7, James Leo Garrett, Jr. Provided a review of major influences by sixteenth-century Christians on modern Baptists in general, and Southern Baptists in particular.

Morris Chapman discussed in chapter 8 how Southern Baptist churches cooperate with one another through associations, state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention. The basis of cooperation is trust. If we don’t trust each other the Convention will diminish in size. There are forces at work today which can undermine the cooperation that is characteristic of the SBC: apathy, pragmatism, and politics.

To be "missional" means to take action, to be involved in efforts to reach all people of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Praying for missionaries is not missional, it’s being mission-minded. Being a missionary is missional. Dr. Ed Stetzer wrote in chapter 9, "...’missional’ does not refer to an activity or a program, but rather to the very nature of a true, God-honoring, biblical, missions-focused, contextualized church." A missional church is culturally relevant in its community.

Many young adult Baptists leave their traditional home church in search of something better, or at least different. They often become involved in a "church" which offers no substance. Some young Christians eventually will return to the traditional church, to the roots they left. How will the church respond when the young Christian returns? If the traditional church does not equip "its people with sound doctrine through the exposition of Scripture," it will fail to keep any would-be returnees. Also, failure will come if we aren’t busy doing the mission of God in the world.

Thom Rainer noted that between 1950 and 2005 the number of baptisms per year in Southern Baptist churches decreased from approximately 376,000 to approximately 371,000. He cited what he believes are five reasons fr this decline: lack of belief in a literal Hell, less than 50 (7 million) percent of the total SBC membership (16 million) in church on a average Sunday, individual prosperity, evangelism is seen as not my responsibility, and lack of humility, by which we depend on God to save persons.

The first association, the Philadelphia Association, was formed in 1707 as a means for local churches to cooperate with one another. A portion of chapter 12 provides a history of local associations and state conventions and the cooperation that developed convention-wide. The present-day Southern Baptists face some predicaments. We rare funding duplicative efforts at two or three levels (SBC, state convention, association); we have too many institutions and their operation demands too much of our attention; the autonomous churches, associations, state conventions, and SBC are also parts of a hierarchy; our cooperative nature might be on the path to being codified; the percentage of undesignated receipts given by local churches to the Cooperative Program has been decreasing over the last 25 years; and we have lost influence in the world. Associations and state conventions need to be re-created so they are "clearly committed to assisting churches in the accomplishment of their work." The author gave several suggestions for how associations and conventions might accomplish this goal.

Churches should be separate from the state. The stage should protect the church, but not dictate to the church. Southern Baptists have a duty to keep religion in the public square.

Three priorities are suggested for Southern Baptists for the years after the conservative resurgence of the 80s and 90s: A renewal of Baptist identity, a Great Commission resurgence, and graciously confessional cooperation.

Our convention began in 1843 with 293 persons in attendance. Of those, 273 came from Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. Today the Convention has more than 16 million members form 43,000 churches. To remain viable, Southern Baptists must embrace Ten mandates, "which define who Southern Baptists are and what we should be" The mandates are: Baptist churches must be made up of individuals who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; baptism is by immersion and is for believers only; church discipline according to the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 18 must be practiced; the Bible is inerrant and sufficient and our preaching ought to prove it; each congregation and member is autonomous and responsible to Jesus Christ; each congregation is to have a foundation of evangelism and missions; churches must be busy planting new churches in cities and suburbs; marriage is between one man and one woman for life, and divorce is a sin; seminaries are servants of the church to equip churches; we must not lose sight of our Southern Baptist heritage.

This book presents a stern warning from several of our present-day leaders to Southern Baptists that we had better begin to live for Christ, be obedient to Him, or we can kiss our denomination good-bye! May 20, 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review

Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America’s Slide Into Socialism, 2009, Jim DeMint, Fidelis Books, Nashville, TN, 277 pp., $26.99

ISBN: 978-0-8054-4957-0

My Rating: (four stars out of five)

A great lie has been expressed by our politicians—big government will cure all that ails the United States and save us, and the American people have believed it. There are, however, many Americans who have rejected the lie and will fight to overcome big government. In the meantime, creeping socialism is stealing our freedoms, our prosperity, and our way of life.

Mr. DeMint recounted how he was initially elected to Congress in 1998 and that he has come to understand that God placed him there to fight for Americans’ freedom.

The siren song of socialism is that government can solve our problems and make life better. Both politicians and voters fall prey to socialism’s allure. Socialism is a threat to freedom because it undermines every foundation element of free society. Americans have been told by politicians that they can have everything without responsibility, risk, or sacrifice. Socialism began to creep in early in our nation’s history. Socialists desire to take from the wealthy through taxing, and giving to the poor through welfare. The result is an erosion of freedom and diminution of energy and productivity. Welfare robs people of initiative, creativity, entrepreneurship, faith, love, and charity. The individual is encouraged to become lazy and dependent on the government.

After many years of creeping intrusion of government into our lives, Americans are finally beginning to ask what we can do to recover freedom. Freedom is important because it makes possible many of the hopes and dreams of mankind. The role of government should be to allow freedom to work for everyone. Freedom means the ability of privilege to make choices and accept or bear the consequences of those choices. We learn to make better choices when we are responsible for the bad choices. Freedom of choice spurs variety, innovation, and lower prices in the marketplace.

Every time government is asked to something new it grows. Eventually, if left unchecked, government will become so large that it will collapse under its own weight. Congress recently enacted "economic bailout" and "healthcare reform" legislations that place our nation into unprecedented danger of economic collapse and intrusion into the private sector.

The members of Congress, federal judges, and leaders of federal agencies see themselves as rulers. Congress and the Senate grant earmark funding to special interest groups with a view only on the next election. They do not take a long-term view of spending or cast an eye to what is best for the nation.

Many people today want to deny that Christianity was the "primary catalyst and preserver of America’s unique freedoms and success. They want to exclude all vestiges of Christianity from the public square," wrote Mr. DeMint.

The dismantling of the relationship between the federal government and Christianity began in 1962 with a Supreme Court ruling in the case Engel v. Vitale. As a result of this case, a New York school board was banned from requiring students to begin each school day by repeating a statement that acknowledged dependence and asking for His blessing. Our religious freedom has been under severe attack ever since. Can our liberty remain without religion?

The rule of law rather than the rule of man must be adhered to in order to return America to health. Under socialism, wealth is taken from the rich and given to the poor. The beneficiaries develop an entitlement attitude rather than gratitude. They begin to believe they have a right to government handouts rather than being responsible to work for what they have. De Mint wrote, "We must return to the principles of constitutional government and the ‘rule of law.’"

DeMint also wrote, "Government dependency is the enemy of freedom. As Americans become increasingly dependent on the government, we increasingly look to government to solve all our problems. The more government does, the more dependent we become on it. If we are to save freedom, we must reduce dependency in America."

As dependency on government grows, deficit spending also grows. This translates to higher taxes, unless our legislators have the courage to cut spending. Americans must reduce their degree of dependence on government to prevent the nation from collapsing into social and economic chaos. Recovery will be difficult, but it is possible.

Government seeks to impose more and more taxes (in the form of providing employee healthcare, pension programs, affirmative action, and so forth) and this is slowly killing American capitalism. The added costs are passed on by businesses to employees and customers. It costs more to have employees, but the employees receive lower take-home pay. Products cost consumers more and this hurts profitability and reduces competitiveness.

Saving the freedoms we have and restoring those that are damaged depends on each of us being and doing the things we want others to be and do. Freedom depends on faith in God. Faith is the basis of freedom. We need to love God and others more than we love ourselves. We need to help others and ourselves and ask less from our government. When we expect too much from our government, government shapes our lives. That is not the responsibility of government. DeMint wrote, "As Americans, it is our responsibility to shape our government and to force it to act within the terms of the agreement—the Constitution—between the people and the government." Mr. DeMint suggested several actions that can be taken to start on the road to saving freedom.

The final chapter provides a list of resources for interested persons to stay informed on issues of freedom and ways to become involved in saving freedom. November 22, 2010.

 

Book Review

 
 
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