Sunday, February 26, 2006

R.C. Sproul Interview with John MacArthur.

I ran across this interview with John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier Ministries website. The MP3 download is located here next to the last download on the page. They were discussing some of the subject matter for the upcoming Ligonier Ministries National Conference in Orlando. The theme this year is “The Bride of Christ”. John MacArthur is one of the speakers and one of his messages will be “The Shepherd and His Flock”.

Much of what was discussed had to do with the issues facing the church today, primarily with the diminishing adherence to the biblical role of the pastor and the importance of Biblical preaching.

The chief duty of the pastor is tending the flock which entails feeding the congregation employing the systematic study, teaching and preaching of Scripture with the central goal of spiritual nourishment of the church. This is clearly evident in the Bible especially in passages such as John 21:15-17, Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2.

This is what causes the congregation to grow to be spiritually mature and develops discernment so the people are not lead astray by various forms of false teaching. If there is one primary contributing factor that has been instrumental in opening up the church today to be vulnerable to deceptive teaching, it is the failure of the church to follow a biblical form of pastoral leadership and church ministry. As Dr. MacArthur put it in the interview, there has been a “Proliferation of in a sense inadequate and unbiblical ministry in the so-called church”. Too much emphasis has been placed on “success” that is really based on a business model rather than what Scripture describes as biblical ministry. R.C. Sproul also mentioned his experience where he had a seminary professor actually tell the students that they should not preach beyond an eighth grade level, even if you have a congregation of primarily college educated people. This certainly defies Scripture by not providing the “full counsel” of God. The preaching should be centered on the true spiritual needs of the people, not their perceived “felt” needs. Many of the tactics used today as MacArthur points out, merely “manipulates a superficial response that creates an illusion that they have connected with God.” This further leads people down the path of deception.

What was really astonishing is the story John MacArthur told of a church in southern California, that was trying to elect a committee of church members that would be responsible for preparing the sermons for the pastor! Certainly describes what Paul warned Timothy about concerning those “wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,” (2 Timothy 4:3, NASB)

Faulty, unbiblical leadership is certainly treacherous to the church.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fired Up About Some Things.

I have read some things this past week that really had me “fired up”, but I have not had much time to articulate my thoughts. I have a final exam coming up this next week and had a final project presentation this week for school, so I have not had much time to write any posts. But I did want to take some time to comment on Dr. Ergon Caner’s comments on the Founders blog this week.

In a post concerning the possible nomination of Johnny Hunt for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, there were many comments left in response that expressed concern for Hunt’s anti-Calvinist bias. Then Dr. Caner left some inflammatory comments deriding Calvinism in general. I could hardly believe what I was reading!

For those who may not be familiar with Johnny Hunt’s attitude toward Calvinism, let me just summarize that he is adamantly opposed to Calvinism to the point that he apparently let one of his pastoral staff go due to that staff member’s adherence to Calvinistic theology! (Scroll through the comments and read the comment left by a former staff member, Scott) It could be that his election to the SBC may create such strife as to divide the convention over this issue.

It really bothers me when I see solid doctrine attacked, especially in a denomination that has made great strides over the years to purge itself from liberal theology. While there are further reforms that need to take place, I believe the SBC has come a long way and I would not want to see the convention derailed. I currently do not attend an SBC church. However, the church that I currently attend considered joining the SBC when we were just starting as a new church plant six years ago, and I would have backed the decision. The decision was made not to join the SBC at that time; however the pastoral staff indicated that they may reconsider the decision at a later date.

But the issue of bashing Calvinism really gets irritating. Most of the controversy centers on a misunderstanding of Reformed Theology. At the same time that I read Dr. Caner’s comments, I was listening to a sermon that I downloaded by a guest speaker from the church I attended in the town where I grew up. There were actually two sermons that this particular speaker preached at a Bible conference there. Most of what he said was good and right on target, but the second sermon really blew me away. In the second sermon, he cited three primary schools of thought that he claimed were aberrant thinking and were detrimental to the health of the church. Guess what the first one was. He listed Calvinism as the first one! It was all I could do to keep from yelling out loud, “NO, NO, NOOOO!!!” while pounding my fist on the desk. And, as you can imagine, he mentioned one of the common misconceptions that Calvinists are weak on evangelism due to a fatalistic view of predestination! Dr. Caner made the same charge of weak evangelism in his comments on Founders. It always seems that these misconceptions are due to a lack of understanding of Reformed theology and what people generally object too is usually an extreme view held by a relatively small minority of Calvinists. I too, am against what would be called hyper-Calvinism. But those who hold to a more orthodox Calvinism do not adhere to such extremes.

On the contrary, I can’t think of anything more detrimental to the health of the church today than the current barrage of pragmatism that for all essential purposes is rooted in full-blown Arminianism. I hope to comment more on this soon.

Well, that is all I have time to write for now. I just had to get that off of my chest! I feel better already :)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Some Good Lectures on the EC.

I ran across this link to a series of lectures from The Master’s Seminary on the emerging church movement over at EmergentNo. I listened to the one by John MacArthur and it was excellent. There are four audio files listed and apparently there are going to be a total of five. This is important folks because the emerging church is beginning to have a heavy influence on the evangelical church.

Jason Robertson had a great post of an article written by Travis Hilton, pastor at Parkview Baptist Church in Bluefield Virginia. The article is entitled “Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church: A Review and Reflection”. It is a review with some additional reflections on the book by D.A. Carson. In the article, Hilton talks about the emerging church and its effect on the evangelical church, not just the churches officially labeled as “emerging”. I highly recommend reading the article.

But what amazes me is the lack of response Jason got after posting the article. I hope the lack of response was not due to lack of interest or the notion that it is not all that important. The last time I looked, I was the only one to comment on the topic. Yet the effect of the “emerging” church is permeating the greater evangelical community. And it is happening so subtly that the vast majority of people are unaware that it is taking place. Particularly with the rampant biblical illiteracy that exists in the church today. Even in my own church, most of the congregants probably have no idea what the emerging church is. Many ideas and philosophies are being cleverly introduced into the church without mentioning the term “emerging”. Of course, lately the term has popped up, but it has been utilized in such a way that people get the impression that it is something relatively benign. Our church is not totally off the wall and we do for the most part adhere to solid doctrine. We have a statement of faith that is one of the most complete and accurate that I have seen, but I am still concerned and I am being very watchful.

The church today is quickly losing her doctrinal foundation and we had better sit up and take notice.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Colson on Our Impaired Thinking Capacity.

I don’t always agree with some views of Chuck Colson, in particular his often overt ecumenism, but he often has some excellent insights and thoughtful articles that are well worth reading. Today’s article, “Musical Mush; Are We Impairing Our Capacity to Think?” is excellent. Colson keenly observes that “…much of the music being written for the Church today reflects an unfortunate trend—slipping across the line from worship to entertainment. Evangelicals are in danger of amusing ourselves to death, to borrow the title of the classic Neil Postman book.”

He goes further noting that many radio stations have begun replacing in-depth teaching programs in favor of entirely music formats, and observes “The great strength of radio, as with books, has been to present in-depth teaching that engages Christians cognitively. Unfortunately, thinking analytically is something Christians find increasingly difficult.”

Could it be that the church, as he puts it, is “blissfully amusing itself into irrelevance?”

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Something to Think About.

I came across this post at the TMS Alumni blog that underscores the importance of evangelism. No, numbers are not all that important and there has been too much emphasis by the church growth movement on numbers as a measurement for success. However, a natural outcome of preaching the gospel is that people come to Christ and are added to the church. Without a doubt, discipleship and standing for the truth, taking care to accurately present the teaching of Scripture is of paramount importance. But if people are not added to the church, who are you going to disciple? What is going to happen to the spiritual fervor of the congregation? Typically, as the post points out, churches that participate little in active evangelism become self absorbed and turn inward. If this goes on for an extended period of time, the spiritual growth of the church eventually becomes hindered. In fact, neglecting evangelism has a tendency to cause membership to decline.

May we develop the heart for the lost that Spurgeon had.

“Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly to destroy themselves.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “The Wailing of Risca”

“But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5, NASB)