Thursday, September 25, 2008

Evangelism Bullet Points -- Reminding myself

Last year about this time, my then pastor asked me to teach a course on personal evangelism. Given the time frame and my creative bent, I put together my own course sessions, hoping to give a sufficient overview of the practice of personal evangelism -- at least for the context in which I was ministering. Of course, my end result was nowhere even close to worthy of publication, but I was, nevertheless, well received and happy with the end result.

After the course, my pastor (himself in a different course) asked my if I could summarize what I had taught in one page. I came across the one page summary this week as I was thinking about my own need to lead my present church by teaching and example in personal evangelism. The following is the "bullet point" summary of the course I taught. Not all the points apply in every situation, but I found it a good reminder for my own practice of personal evangelism. Perhaps you may find it helpful as well:

How to be a Witness for Jesus Christ

1. Have a vital, personal relationship with Jesus Christ – Matt 5:13-15.

2. Begin to see with “spiritual eyes” – John 4:35; 2 Cor 5:16.

3. Identify persons who need Christ within your circles of influence: immediate family, relatives, close friends, neighbors/co-workers, acquaintances.

4. Ask God to show you 7-10 people on whom you will focus your prayers and evangelistic efforts for the next 6 months.

5. Pray . . .
• for those who need Christ – 2 Tim 2:1-4.
• for opportunity – 1 Cor 16:9; 2 Cor 2:12; Col 4:3.
• for clarity in our witness – Col 4:4-6.
• for boldness – Eph 6:19-20.
• for fellow believers – 2 Cor 1:11; Col 4:3; 2 Thes 3:1.
• for more workers – Matt 9:38; Luke 10:2.

6. Invest in others – build relationships with un-churched people.

7. Remove any human barriers to the gospel – language, cultural, intellectual, personal offense, etc. Leave only the barrier of the gospel itself. – 1 Cor 1:20-25; 2:1-5; 9:19-23

8. Invite others to church, Sunday school, church event, or outing with other Christians -- John 1:40-42; 45-46; 4:29.

9. Include the Lord in your conversation – Col 4:5-6.

10. Ask good questions – Luke 10:25-28; Matt 22:41-46; Mark 8:27-30.

11. Share personal testimonies of what God has done/is doing in your life – Mark 5:19; Isa 12:4.

12. Share your salvation testimony – How you become a Christian – Acts 22:1-21; 26:4-29; Psalm 66:16.

13. Share a gospel tract (best to read with them and explain as you go) or follow the “Romans Road” (i.e., Rom 1:16; 2:4; 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-10, 13).

14. Use the Scripture – 1 Cor 15: 3-4; Isa 55:11; Luke 24:45-46.

15. Ask for a response. – Mk 1:15; Acts 2:38; 20:21

16. Trust that God will be faithful in drawing people to Himself and grow His church. – John 6:37; 12:32; Acts 2:47; 1 Cor 3:6

Friday, September 19, 2008

One more post on Baptism and the IMB (posted primarily so I don't hijack my brother's blog comment stream).

On the issue of Baptism and eternal security, I submit once again that a baptism should not be disqualified because of a lack of belief in the doctrine of eternal security (or because of what they believe about Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or any number of other doctrines). Thomas White, in a White Paper for the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary made the following summary statement on the validity of baptism: “The determining factor is the ordinance itself. Was the ordinance performed with the proper subject, in the proper mode, and with the proper meaning by a true church? If so, then it is valid” (White 2006, 10). In most cases, for a person baptized by immersion in an Arminian church, the answer to all four questions is “YES.”

A person who disagrees with my statement can show me all kinds of beliefs from the AG or any other Arminian denomination that are in error and I would agree with them. I am a Baptist, afterall, because I believe Baptist doctrine. The fact that other doctrines are in error still does not change the fact that their view of water baptism is identical to ours. When I was baptized, I could have readily affirmed the BFM statement on Baptism, as could almost any Arminian who practices believer's baptism. Yet, some want to argue that one's entire doctrine must be correct for baptism to be valid. If you believe that, then it's time for YOU to be re-baptized :)

If baptism is a picture of salvation, then only two doctrines must be correct for their baptism to be valid: (1) They must have a correct view of salvation. Few would suggest that Arminians teach a false gospel (for those who do, I have addressed that issue here). (2) They must have a proper view of baptism. (Note to Baptist Theologue, I have already demonstrated that such is the case, but you seem unwilling to accept their stated view.) Let me be clear. My view on Baptism is no different now than it was when I wrongly denied eternal security. I will not submit to rebaptism nor require anyone else to do so merely because some other pastor, denominational leader, or trustee claims I or my former church did not believe what we in fact DO believe.

Further, while I do not expect all Baptists to agree with me on this, although they should because it is the biblical position :), I DO expect the Convention to support my right and my church’s right to differ on this view and to send missionaries through the mission board that we fund. If the belief that a denial of eternal security negates baptism is one that is important enough to disallow missionary service, it is important enough to put in the BFM, and important enough to disassociate my church.

Some have related the IMB trustees’ response to the differing views on baptism to its response to differing views of divorce. Namely, that the IMB does not allow divorcees to serve as full time missionaries. I do not know enough about the history or rationale of the divorce policy or any possible actions at the Convention level related to it to offer informed commentary on it at this point. However, I could envision a scenerio in which divorced persons are denied service on the pragmatic grounds much like they deny service of persons with high a Body Mass Index or certain medical concerns. If the trustees have based that decision on doctrinal grounds, however, and if the Convention has not spoken to the issue elsewhere, then I suppose I would add the divorce policy to the list of IMB personnel policies that should be reversed. Indeed, the Convention acknowledges there is no consensus on the issue. They also list a number of other doctrinal issues on which Baptists have not taken a stand. I do not think it is proper for the mission board trustees to make policy decisions on any of such issues, regardless of any perceived consensus among Southern Baptists. Doctrinal issues must be decided at the Convention level, not by trustees.

Back to the BFM… I think it is certainly demonstrable, that the BFM has intentionally left out certain tertiary doctrines (on tertiary doctrines see Mohler, “Theological Triage”). The BFM statement on election, for example, is intentionally worded to allow for varying opinions including Calvinism. The statement on end times is intentionally worded to allow for various views on the millennium and tribulation, etc. While Baptist polity allows for the IMB trustees to set their own policies, one should not support the Trustees if they were to set a personnel policy that disallowed Calvinists or Dispensationalists or people who preached from the NIV from serving with the Board? Incidently, the same poll that demonstrated a majority view on Baptism, showed a majority are concerned about the rise of Calvinism. Should Calvinist missionary candidates be worried that they may be the next target of IMB personnel policies? Let’s hope not. The poll shows that one fourth of SBC pastors do not practice the rebaptism of Arminians – a view allowed by the BFM. The IMB should not be making doctrinal policies at all, except those that are consistent with the BFM2000 – the consensus document of our Convention and the basis for Southern Baptist cooperation.



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Upholding the Right of the Minorty View -- The Impact of the Lifeway Study on the IMB Policies

Well, the folks at SBCToday have already started using the new Lifeway study to support the IMB baptism policy. I have posted a response on their blog and am re-posting my thoughts on my own blog as well. In response to Tim Rogers, and anyone else who supports the IMB policy, I would argue three things here in response to the Lifeway study as it relates to the IMB policy:

One, I would argue that the 74% figure (i.e. those who would re-baptize someone previously baptized in a church that did not affirm eternal security) shows that the majority of Baptist pastors have an insufficient view of baptism or a misinformed understanding of Arminian theology or both (see my previous posts on this). On what basis, other than Baptist tradition, do we require rebaptism? If baptism means what we say that it means in the Baptist Faith and Message, then there is no grounds to rebaptize a born-again believer who has been immersed after conversion to Christ.

Two, 26% is a significant enough minority to demonstrate that the IMB personnel guidelines are a excessive. The guidelines go well beyond the BFM2000. Our statement of faith allows for this minority view. To restrict missionary service in this way goes against the practice of 1/4 of our SBC churches. That is no small minority. Thus, the personnel policy concerning baptism should be reversed.

Finally, the fact that a majority hold a particular doctrinal opinion, does not mean that those who hold that position wish to restrict missionary service to only those who agree with them. Lifeway studies have shown that 90% of SBC pastors are not Calvinist and 63% are “concerned” with the rise of Calvinism in the Convention. If one reasons that the Baptism policy is appropriate because it reflects the majority opinion, the IMB should hurry up and add Calvinists to the list of faithful Southern Baptists who cannot serve on the mission field.

Contrary to the folks at SBC Today, the new Lifeway study shows not that the IMB policy should be upheld, but rather that it should be reversed.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Believer's Baptism by Immersion -- I thought we believed this

I find the new Baptism survey staggering. If I am reading the survey correctly, a full 87 percent of Baptist pastors hold a faulty or deficient view of baptism. What we say that we believe in the BFM2000 is not what we practice in reality.

Some pastors it appears, view Baptism too narrowly. According to the study, 74% of our pastors would re-baptize someone because their church does not believe in eternal security. Among them, a full 16% would rebaptize someone from another Southern Baptist church!

This reflects, in many cases, a misunderstanding and unbiblical view of Baptism. First, Baptism is not biblically related to eternal security.[1] Persons are not baptized because they believe in correct Baptist doctrine or because they have a sound understanding of soteriology. Rather, they are baptized because they have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. A person who has, after conversion to Christ, been immersed “symbolizing [their] faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus”[2] have indeed been scripturally baptized. There is no call to re-baptize someone because they have come to a more biblical understanding of the security of the believer. Granted, some have argued that a person who does not believe in eternal security has a deficient faith and is trusting in a “works” salvation (thus the need to be rebaptized). This view, however, demonstrates a misunderstanding of Arminianism and its rejection of eternal security. I have argued against this misunderstanding elsewhere[3] and am, frankly, disappointed at the willful ignorance of pastors on this issue. I am not surprised, however, because similar false doctrinal assertions are made against our 5-point Calvinist brothers because they misunderstand and distort the Calvinist view (which, incidently, seems evident from the other part of the Lifeway study). In any case, the idea that Baptism is tied to eternal security rather than on conversion shows either a misunderstanding of baptism or a misunderstanding of Arminianism, or both.

Second, Baptism, while an ordinance of the local church, is not confined in its application to the particular local church in which the Baptism was performed. While baptism is indeed a “prerequisite to the privileges of church membership,”[4] baptism is not an ordinance that is to be repeated in each local church. There is no evidence in the New Testament of a Christian being re-baptized at all, let alone for joining a new local assembly.[5] While it was a small percentage, a significant number of SBC pastors would require rebaptism of persons coming from a church of like faith and practice – even another SBC church. This view, again, demonstrates a faulty view of baptism.

While these first two groups have understood baptism too narrowly, it seems another group has understood the ordinance too broadly. The study also reported that 13 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism of someone baptized in a church that believed in baptismal regeneration, 3 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism of someone not baptized by immersion, and 1 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism. Thankfully, these are minority positions. I should not have to argue to my Baptist readers that scriptural baptism is (1) believer’s baptism, (2) by immersion, and (3) symbolic rather than salvific. I thought this was a Baptist distinctive.

Again, I find this a significant problem in our application of Baptist theology. A small percentage seem to be accepting ANY baptism as valid. A larger percentage view only baptism performed by Baptists is valid. Only 26%, it seems, embrace the thoroughly biblical view that baptism is the symbolic immersion of a believer. Some accept a baptism whether or not is was symbolic. Others accept a baptism whether or not it was by immersion. Many reject the baptism of a believer, merely because that believer was not a Baptist. All of these are a distortion of baptism as pictured in the New Testament. Whether understood too broadly or too narrowly, who knew that the denomination that is most readily identified with their view baptism would by and large not fully embrace biblical believer’s baptism.

[1] Tom Ascol makes this point in his 2006 blog post.

[2] BFM2000, section VII, “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper”

[3]For an Arminian perspective of this issue see the Assembly of God position paper on eternal security here.

[4] BFM2000, section VII, “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper”

[5] Appeal to the rebaptism of the Ephesian believers in Acts 19 is not an example of the kind of rebaptism we are talking of here. Their initial baptism was not a Christian baptism at all because they had not been “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” Acts 19:5 (NASB). Rather, in terms of Christian baptism, they were being baptized for the first time.


Friday, September 12, 2008

More thoughts on the IMB restructuring

In my last post, I focused on the change that is still needed at the IMB. However, I do not want in my dissatisfaction with the personnel policies -- which is a MAJOR issue in my opinion -- to ignore the very positive change this restructuring represents.

This new change at the IMB is positive for two reasons, both of which have been addressed well by other bloggers. I will offer a brief comment, then refer you to these two blog posts.

From a missiological perspective, the new structure simply makes sense. The policy both frees missionaries to use the methods and strategies that most effectively win the people whom they are trying to reach and completes the shift in focus from a regional to a cultural one. For a more detailed response from a missiological perspective, see the recent blog post from missiolgist, David Sills.

From a SBC politics standpoint, the change seems to indicate a willingness to hear from and support the administration at the IMB including its president, Jerry Rankin. Also, the wording of the core values, on its surface, gives a glimmer of hope that the pendulum may be swinging back to a more cooperative conservatism. In my opinion, the sure sign that this change is a reality and not just words will be the reversal of the personnel policies (but you can read my other post for that). The now somewhat infamous Wade Burleson, the point man of the IMB trustee controversy, has posted his positive take on the recent trustee meeting. While I think that Pastor Burleson has not always chosen his words wisely in the past, his current post is well worth reading.

In anycase, my assessment of the recent change is this:

New Mission, Vision, Core Values --> GOOD!!!
New Strategies that stem from them --> GOOD!!!
New attitude of cooperation --> Promising
Reversal of the personnel policies --> still waiting...but hopeful


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Report from the Latest IMB Trustee Meeting -- I love what you're doing, but still have a bad taste in my mouth that won't go away

Dr. Hershael York has provided a report of the happenings at the recent IMB trustee meeting. I am pleased with the result of that meeting in a renewed Vision, Mission, and Core Values that will guide the IMB in the coming years. In my opinion, they are well crafted and are exactly the direction needed. They reflect an emphasis on conservative evangelical/Baptist doctrine, a commitment to inerrancy, the exclusivity of the gospel, contextualization, church planting, and mission partnership.

Likewise, I am pleased with the proposals that proceed from this mission and values. Without going into detail, I believe they reflect a needed refocusing and address many of the issues that have been in discussion among those who are concerned with both biblical fidelity, sound missiology, and cooperation with other evangelicals.

I am not pleased, however, with the trustees continued support of the personnel policies (which I infer by the continued inaction on the part of the trustees to reverse these policies) that have been a center point of controversy in the Convention for over two years. It seems that the trustees have decided to ignore the issue and hope that everyone will just forget about it. Well, I have not forgotten.

Reading over the newly stated Core Values, I am struck by the dissonance between core value #5 and the personnel policies. The value as stated is as follows:

We serve churches to facilitate their involvement in the Great Commission and the sending of missionaries to bring all peoples to faith in Jesus Christ.

If this is really a core value, why then do we deny mission service to called men and women of God who are conservative, Bible-believing, and affirm the 2000 BF&M?!?!? The church to which I have recently been called as pastor was recognized by the IMB for being in the Top 2% of per capita giving to Lottie Moon (I cannot take credit for this). As their new pastor, I will continue to lead the church in sacrificial giving to IMB missions and partnering with IMB missionaries to take the gospel to the nations. Though we are a mission-minded, mission-giving, mission-going church, neither of our two pastors are eligible to serve with the IMB under the current policies. Both of us were baptized as believers, by immersion, in churches which did not affirm eternal security. The policies reflect an errant view of Baptism and what it means to be a New Testament church. Further, they narrow doctrinal parameters in a way that is inconsistent with the spirit of the 2000 BF&M, which I wholeheartedly endorse and for which I cast my ballot in Orlando.

My question is this: How can the trustees claim that they “serve churches to facilitate their involvement” when they deny involvement of those who are faithful Southern Baptists?