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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Reason #5 (Reason for Reformation?)

I am giving ten reasons why every Southern Baptist (especially pastors and denominational leaders) should read Dr. Nettles' Book Ready for Reformation?: Bringing Authentic Reform to Southern Baptist Churches. At the conclusion of these ten reasons will be a brief review/critique of the book. "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God."1 Corinthians 4:1 Growing up, I was one of those kids who was always at church. I can still recite the "Royal Ambassador" pledge and can recall the flavors of punch given to us at Vacation Bible School each summer. I never missed a youth camp, retreat, revival, or conference. I led our youth ministry and always took notes of our pastor's Sunday morning and evening sermons. All this, but I knew nothing about the gospel. It wasn't until I was in college I understood that I needed to be trained in evangelism. Although I knew the "Roman Road," I had a hard time of getting people on it. I enrolled in Evangelism Explosion (EE) to learn how to share my faith. With EE I learned a detailed outline with diagnostic questions, transition phrases, great illustrations, and follow-up steps. It had to be the most comprehensive presentation of the gospel I had heard of. Zealous for souls, I made it my goal to share the gospel to as many people as I can, with a goal to win 50 by the end of the year. I pulled men off their lawn-mowers in the summer and was kicked out of several apartment complexes for "harassing" people. I wore out the EE presentation of the gospel. Yet, before long, I realized that the gospel was sounding "too good to be true." It had become a sales-pitch which no reasonable, hell-bent sinner could turn down. Learning to recite the outline was so stressed in my training that if I left a word, verse, illustration, or transition phrase out, the person might not understand the gospel. I felt if I left out some of the outline out of the "Sinner's Prayer," then the sinner might not be saved. It was mechanical and method-minded, and I was missing the heart of the gospel. Thereafter, I jumped on the "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" bandwagon (Four Spiritual Laws). Now, I am not totally against Four Spiritual Laws or EE, but I felt that the evangelism I was being trained for was too glossy and neatly packaged. The goal, it seemed, was to be concise and precise, but I wasn't comfortable with it. Whereas EE made me think of evangelism as a sales pitch, I felt the Four Spiritual Laws was too fluffy and somewhat dishonest towards sinners. So I decided to go to Jesus Himself and try to figure this thing out. Soon, I realized that Jesus planted his life with "sinners and tax collectors." He ate with them and share most intimate communion with them in everyday life and shared the truths with them along the way. It was then that I realized that evangelism was meant to be relational. Those men off the lawnmower who prayed the prayer, they didn't know me and wasn't interested in discipleship or baptism. They just wanted to say "Yes" to Jesus so they could go to heaven. In the context of these relationships is where evangelism as a lifestyle should thrive. The gospel should be a way of life, and there should be not a day where I do not preach the gospel to myself. It was time that I truly understood the gospel as more than a method or plan or strategy. It was time to know the truths behind the plan and allow them to change my life. I needed a form of evangelism soaked with theology - evangelism that shared truth which if known "would set you free." It is here that Dr. Nettles' book finds its fifth reason. "The coincidence of evangelistic minimalism and encroaching modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made strange bedfellows for theological deconstruction. Renewal in the work of evangelism involves a cordial embracing of full-orbed theology as friendly to, not destructive of, evangelism, along with a purposeful execution of a theology of means--or the methods ordered by God for the effectual operation of his gospel message" (39). The gospel involves the embracing of doctrinal propositions. The seed that bore fruit was the one that fell on fertile ground. The difference between soil and the other three (what made it fertile) is that the person heard it and understood it. But how does one understand it if it is not explained and taught to him? The gospel truths must be taught to unbelievers, and it is imperative that our evangelism be doctrine-based lest we find ourselves preaching a gospel contrary to Scripture. For instance, as Nettles states, "A method of evangelism built on a redefinition of regeneration may produce exactly the kind of carnal membership in churches to which Baptist ecclesiology is hostile" (40). Nowadays, I find myself teaching the gospel to unbelievers almost on a daily basis. I have more unbelievers as close friends as I do believers. I have learned to love them, to each with them, and to disciple them in biblical truth in faith and hope that the Holy Spirit will apply those truths to their hearts and be born again. It is true that they cannot understand apart from the Holy Spirit, but it is also true that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." I believe that if the SBC is going to experience true reformation, chief among all the changes needs to be that of evangelism. Those against this change would argue that we (Reformed believers) are being anti-evangelistic, but that could not be farther from the truth. We must be good stewards of "the mysteries of God" and get the gospel right. We must understand the doctrines of human depravity, unconditional election, divine sovereignty, human responsibility, substitutionary atonement, effectual calling, etc. I dare say that if you gathered a swath of SBCers randomly from the denomination and asked them to explain the gospel to you along with biblical reference, the overwhelming majority could not do so. They might be able to give a minimalist presentation as found in EE, Four Spiritual Laws, FAITH, or the like, but that is not enough. We must understand the truths and be able to explain them with sustained exposition and unrelenting commitment to God's Word while remaining utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit to efficaciously work in the life of the unbeliever. I believe we done a disservice to the gospel by short-circuiting it and have bought into a corrupted form of evangelism. The front lines of reformation in the SBC will undoubtedly be found in the reestablishing of doctrine-based evangelism. And Nettles has proved a great primer for the future progress of theology and practice to be united in the supremacy of Christ in the advancement of the kingdom of God. Trackback: Reason #4 (Ready for Reformation) Reason #3 (Ready for Reformation) Reason #2 (Ready for Reformation) Reason #1 (Ready for Reformation) My Response to Ready for Reformation Ready for Reformation???


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