Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Annual Church Profiles

It is that time of year when Southern Baptist churches are being encouraged to fill out and turn their "Annual Church Profile" (ACP). This is the document that is used to compile all those statistics that Southern Baptist leaders like to tout.

It was the Annual Church Profiles of 233 "Founders Friendly" churches that Dr. Steve Lemke, of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, studied to come up with his assessment that such churches "had considerably fewer baptisms, smaller congregations, more declining membership than the average Southern Baptist Church. In 2004, not a single one of the 233 self-identified Founder's [sic] Fellowship Southern Baptist Churches had 40 or more baptisms. Their baptism to member ratio was 1:62; it was 1:42 in the rest of the Southern Baptist Convention (which is the worst in our history).... The Founder's [sic] Fellowship churches were not only smaller, but they were more likely to be plateaued or declining than most Southern Baptist churches. Over 79 percent of the Founder's [sic] Fellowship churches were plateaued or declining, 10 percent more than the typical Southern Baptist church." (see my July 27-August 1 blogs for my assessment of his treatment of Calvinism and Founders Ministries)

Those ACPs are used to determine "successful" ministries and "dynamic" churches. I am beginning to question the wisdom of filling them out at all, for many reasons, not the least of which is the use of the statistics in the way that Steve Lemke did to mischaracterize pastors and churches.

Statistics simply cannot tell the whole, or even necessarily the most important, story of a church.

For example: what would you think of a Southern Baptist church that had the following profile over a 4 year period?

2001
3506 members
203 baptisms
253 other additions
2200 primary worship attendance

2002
3812 members
296 baptisms
190 other additions
2100 primary worship attendance

2003
4011 members
209 baptisms
137 other additions
2031 primary worship attendance

2004
4163 members
237 baptisms
204 other additions
1874 primary worship attendance


Would this church meet Dr. Lemke's criteria for "declining?" It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.

Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.

In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! If the church continues to grow at this rate then by the time it adds around 10,000 new members the preacher will be preaching to an empty auditorium at his "primary worship" service.

So, back to my question: How should we evaluate such a church? What judgments should we make about the ministry of its pastor? Would Southern Baptists look at such a church with concern and even alarm? Would they want to bus over church growth specialists to help them reverse the decline? Would they encourage the church to get on board with the latest denominational baptismal goals?

No you won't find any of these responses. Nor will you find the pastor slammed in a seminary professor's paper. Shucks...the church might even be held up as a model for Southern Baptists. Who knows? They might even elect the pastor to become the convention president.

31 comments:

GeneMBridges said...

Aw, Tom, you're just jealous.

Aw, Tom, you're not a team player.

Aw, Tom, you know statistics don't tell the whole story (at least not when they tell the truth!).

Aw, Tom, you know all that matters is baptizing a million.

Aw, Tom...I've run out of excuses.

Maybe, Tom, one day our leaders will run out as well. Thanks for these words of wisdom. Maybe in Greensboro next year (which is in my neck of the woods...I'm in Winston-Salem), somebody should make a point to call these statistics out for what they are.

Brian Hamrick said...

Tom,

Is your illustration hypothetical, or actual?

If actual, I don't expect you to name the church.

Either way, your point in this blog is very well taken.

Lord, please restore to us a Biblical understanding of conversion!

Tom said...

Gene:

I think addressing the sham statistics at the next SBC is a great idea. I do believe that more and more people of integrity are recognizing that to continue parading the denominational numbers is nothing less than bearing false witness. Perhaps such people will soon rise up and be heard.

Brian:

It is an actual church; a well-known one in fact; right here in my own state of Florida.

Joshua said...

Pastor Brian,
Tom's illustration is actual. We would not have a hard time naming 50 to 100 churches (maybe more)where this type of statistic unfortunately is true. And of course, as he made mention of, those are always the 'prominent' churches; the 'model' churches; these are the churches where the pastor would be elected to local, state, and national positions.
Maybe Founders could start an "annual church profile" where churches were encouraged to submit the doctrines that were being taught and emphasized; perhaps which books of the Bible that have been taught through expositionally in the last year and in what ways that has grown the church spiritually.
By way of encouragement to everyone, a very small part of the reason perhaps the actual attendance is lower than the actual membership in some of these churches is because more and more people are wanting the truth; more and more people are discovering the truth so they leave the mega- purpose- seeker church and are going to other churches where truth and doctrine is being taught. People can only be entertained for so long. By no means means is this the vast majority, however I am encouraged to know that God is working in the hearts of His people and He is doing His work!
Does anyone have any thoughts on the future (next 10 to 15 years) of SBC purpose driven/ seeker churches? Will there be a decline? Has there been already?

Pastor Steve said...

Tom,
Your blog is the first I read every morning. I really appreciate your time and effort. I know there are many reading that never comment, and so I encourage you to keep up the effort as you are able.

While I am here, I detest the ACP, for many reasons. The monthly report of cooperative program giving gets under my skin as well. Doesn't seem like Christ's way to foster competition between churches by posting giving amounts, church membership, baptisms etc...

Keep up the good work.

Steve

Bill Moore said...

The stats Tom cites are exact and illustrative. I analyzed the stats of a "model church" in Georgia pastored by a "model pastor." The church averaged some 600 baptisms per year, yet the attendance did little more than fluctuate, being little different at the end of the 20 years than at the beginning.

For such churches, there is much machinery, a lot to attract folks, and a lot of people coming and going. In the final analysis, though, what is there really?

I have mixed emotions concerning the ACP. From the 17th century on, Baptists have reported statistics. In addition, Baptists would often note the spiritual condition of the church, often with lamentation. I think our reporting can be a testimony against the bloated stats so typically offered today.

On the other hand, the ACP is so often used to laud celebrity pastors and denigrate churches going against the popular flow of SBC culture that a valid case can be made to stop reporting in order to protest the abuse of the ACP.

Nevertheless, the ACP can also be used to illustrate the fact that "successful" churches are not all they are advertised to be. Perhaps this will lead to a discussion which will open many to a rediscovery of the gospel and biblical personal evangelism.

Bill

Chris Whisonant said...

"They might even elect the pastor to become the convention president."

Umm, I think he did name the church...

Bill Moore - are you the same Bill Moore who knows me?

GeneMBridges said...

Tom,

Perhaps one way of addressing this issue from the Convention floor would be through the resolutions committee. If we can submit resolutions decrying the public school system or calling for boycotts of Disney, surely we can call for a resolution against sham statistics collected by the Convention. Just a thought...how one might be drafted, I dunno.

Bill Moore said...

Bill Moore - are you the same Bill Moore who knows me?

Hi Chris. Your name seems familiar, but I'm not sure I've had the pleasure. There are bunches of "Bill Moores," perhaps one too many.

Bill

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

"Would they want to bus over church growth specialists to help them reverse the decline?"

Tom,
Because our DOM was concerned about numbers in the association, he asked for a "church growth expert" to come and make suggestions. Such an expert came down to assess the area and churches. Well, I'm assuming he included the churches - I never received a visit. His recommendation was: "start another church in the newer part of town." You've got to be kidding!

It's clear that the SBC's answer to declining numbers is not reform. The answer is to simply build more churches to compensate. The business term for this is "market saturation." Build enough buildings and you're bound to get enough numbers...overall. The path of least resistance...

Charles said...

If you throw a brick in a junkyard and hear a "Yip" you know you've hit a stray, junkyard dog. Steve Lemke threw a well written brick and the "Yips" on this blog prove he hit a few strays.

The numbers Tom used prove nothing. They are from one unnamed church. The numbers cannot even be checked because Tom did not name the church. How convenient. Shame on you, Tom.

Lemke's numbers show that Calvinists (in the case The Founders) care little about evangelism. No news here since everyone knows it. Phil Johnson knows it and wrote about it in his blog. Bob Ross, the Calvinist publisher of Spurgeon's sermons, knows it. Everyone knows it except the strays around here that got hit by the brick.

The Founders love to point to Spurgeon as a "Calvinist evangelist" but the Founders are nothing like Spurgeon. Calvinist Bob Ross has documented the differences and also written about the theological problems of the Founders especially in the area of their anti-invitation (altar call) stance. Read his articles here if you doubt it.

Read his articles, WHAT RELIGIOUS GROUPS OPPOSE THE USE OF
"PUBLIC INVITATIONS" AS PRACTICED BY BAPTISTS?


and

A PASTOR INQUIRES ABOUT THE RESPONSES WE HAVE
HAD FROM THOSE WHO OPPOSE PUBLIC INVITATIONS
.

Barry King said...

Blog on Brother Tom, blog on!

Note also that where the church had 63% of their members present for the primary worship service in year one this had declined to 45% by year four. Simply maintaining the 63% percent level would have given the church an attendance of 2623 in the fourth year - a 40% increase over their actual attendance.

Barry

james said...

charles.

not to be rude. but if you read all the way to the end of the post it would be painfully, and I do mean painfully, obvious what church is being referred to. I'll refrain from naming it so that all those who can't read the whole post are still in the dark and so I can laugh at them from my cubicle....

Brandon said...

Here's the link to Dr. Lemke's full presentation. You guys might find some other things interesting in the presentation as well.

http://www.nobts.edu/Faculty/ItoR/LemkeSW/Personal/SBCfuture.pdf

Enjoy!

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

Charles, Charles...
It's one thing to question statistics and organizations, quite another to attack individuals.

Since you mentioned Spurgeon, here's something He said in regard to Arminian/Calvinist relationships: "We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgement which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken, too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy. And when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus."

If you feel that we are "strays" (as you put it), it is only because we stray from your conceptions. If you have read any of the previous posts, you will find an open invitation for dialog which, for some reason, gets rejected. What we do receive; however, is derogatory name-calling. Charles, brother, I'll see you around the cross.

Chuck E. said...

Charles,

Do you personally know a lot of the Founders people? Have you actually attended their churches? Do you know for a fact they are not concerned about evangelism? My church holds the Founders Conference Midwest each year, and I can tell you that your comments are incorrect. Also, can you actually document Phil Johnson's accusations of Founders being unevangelistic? His website provides a link to the Founder's site. I haven't read anything negative about the Founders on Phil's blog at all. And as far as invitations are concerned, perhaps you should actually find out why many oppose them before just stating it as proof that Founders are anti-evangelistic. (Just a thought: When we begin judging a churche's concern for evangelism on the construction of a worship service, we have mixed up the concepts of evangelism and corporate worship. Evangelism is taking the Gospel outside the church and into the culture.)

Doug said...

Did Spurgeon have an invitation during his worship service? How come he is not accused by Charles of not "caring about evangelism?"

I am not an SBC pastor, so I am unfamiliar with the details of the ACP. Does the ACP also ask how many families left the church due to moving out of the area or church discipline? This is the primary reason why our small church has not grown in worship attendance. We have a lot of military families that move every two years and a housing market that makes people want to sell.

Keep up the good work. You almost make this independant Baptist want to join the SBC!

Tom said...

Doug:

One of the great ommissions of the ACP is that there is no acknowledgement of any kind of church discipline. You can find an article about the 1994 summaries of the ACPs in the Baptist Press archives (sorry, I don't have time to go find the link right now).

About being tempted to join the SBC...come on over! It only costs $250. We could probably take up a collection and get that covered for you. :-)

jthomas899 said...

Forgive the personal note:

Is this the Barry King from Arkanas? If so we went to college together. Jeff

Bill Moore said...

Charles,

Your charges against Tom and Founders-friendly churches are unwarranted and fallacious.

Tom did not directly name the church because, I suspect, he doesn't want to bring personalities into the discussion. I have seen the stats and can assure you, though you would remain unconvinced, that this particular church exists and is no isolated case.

What Tom has shown has less to do with Calvinism-Arminianism, public invitations, or one's concern about evangelism than it does with integrity and with the gospel itself. SBC churches are baptizing multitudes who fail to do the easiest a follower of Christ can do---attend corporate worship.

Instead of making venomous personal attacks, how about adding to the discussion. How does one justify such high numbers of baptism with a substantial decline in worship attendance? Is this a sign of true conversion? Can there be something spurious in the "gospel" that is offered?

Bill

Barry King said...

Jeff:

I remember you from college as well. Though I have lived in England for a couple of years, I retain a deep desire for reformation in the SBC.

Charles:

Did Dr. Lemke identify any of his subject churches by name?

Barry

GeneMBridges said...

If you throw a brick in a junkyard and hear a "Yip" you know you've hit a stray, junkyard dog. Steve Lemke threw a well written brick and the "Yips" on this blog prove he hit a few strays.

First, the tone of this post is suspiciously like certain individuals that like to post at the Baptistboard. This is not the BB. In all honesty, a more civil tone should be in order.

Actually, it's not a paper that a seminary Provost should have written. It was rife with basic errors of fact and conclusion, and I doubt (and sincerely hope) that no serious professor at the graduate level would have given him more than a C or B minus because of it.

Phil Johnson knows it and wrote about it in his blog.

I've been commenting on his blog since day one. Would you please care to link to the article in which he did this? I give you a pass on the 9th commandment, because I believe you might simply be mistaken. Phil is a supporter of Founders Ministries, and I don't think he's said anything negative about this issue.

Bob Ross, the Calvinist publisher of Spurgeon's sermons, knows it.

Brother Bob is a staunch defender of all things Spurgeon, and I respect his work, but he also complains about some things about which he has no knowledge or is mistaken. He has chastised James White for his view of saving faith, but White's definition of saving faith is identical to Spurgeon's. It makes one wonder if Ross is a Sandemanian like John Robbins and Gordon Clark. I don't think he's familar with White's position, because it looks like he's confused in his criticism of White, attributing Wilkin's position to White and vice versa. Bob has also come out in support of Joel Osteen, but he has yet to deal with any of the objections Brother Joel's detractors have raised. Instead, he's quoted Dr. Mohler. Brother Joel's ministry may be on the up and up, but if Brother Bob wants to deal seriously with such issues, then he should address Osteen's detractors point by point in detail. As for the invitation system, I notice an absence of information from the folks at Metropolitan Tabernacle itself. If Ross wishes to establish that Spurgeon was a major invitationalist, then Brother Bob needs to convince Peter Masters and the folks at Spurgeon’s church, then we'll be more prone to accept what he has to say about that particular issue.

Calvinist Bob Ross has documented the differences and also written about the theological problems of the Founders especially in the area of their anti-invitation (altar call) stance

Charles, the invitation system is a product of 19th century revivalism, not the Reformation, not the Bible, and the man who is most famous for it, Charles Finney, admitted that most of the folks "converted" using it later fell away from the faith. These are facts beyond historical controversy. The invitation system coupled with what many of us see as a deficient soteriology and a very shallow evangelistic methodology that focuses on numbers and "believe a set of facts, pray a prayer, walk an aisle, assume you're saved, get baptized" mentality" has given us in the SBC an average church of 37 percent membership in attendance, 30 percent or less in Sunday School.

Moreover, in my own area, the churches that are actually making new converts the most are the PCA churches, and they are both paedobaptists and without an invitation system. By the way, there are several very large SBC churches of over 1000 members here, including one that just topped 5000 this year, so it's not like I'm living in an area with small churches. The Founders Organization, to my knowledge, has no official stance on it. Many of us use it, but we don't use it as the centerpiece of every worship service. The issue we have with it is how it is used, not the fact that it is used.

This issue is about fidelity to the gospel itself, not the invitation system and which group is more fervent for evangelism and who isn't. One may be fervent for evangelism, but if one equates "converts" with "baptisms" and "decisions," don't you think that such a view might betray a less than fidelitous view of the gospel? Our position is that our theology may, in fact, affect our evangelism. Which is more effective? An evangelism with lots of numbers and only 10 percent of conversions that "stick," or fewer numbers, but 90 percent or more "stick?" Size is not the end all and be all of evangelistic fervor or method. That is what we are protesting.

Folks throw out straw men about Calvinism all the time and frequently, these straw men turn out to also be severe cases of mirror reading in which the objectors are reading their own errors into that or those against which/whom they object. Take the doctrine of limited atonement for an example.

Myth: Limited atonement hurts evangelism. Truth: Logically speaking, the Arminian doctrine does this, and the objector is mirror reading the deficiency of his own position. According to Calvinism, the faithful preaching of the Gospel has a guaranteed success rate. Only God knows the percentages, but, according to Calvinism, a set number will be saved by the preaching of the Gospel and this is infallibly accomplished. The success rate is one hundred percent every time. But, according to an Arminian theory of the will, far fewer people might respond to the Gospel or even none at all. Whose theology of the atonement then hurts evangelism?

Lemke's numbers show that Calvinists (in the case The Founders) care little about evangelism.

As for the statistics themselves...I have worked with statistics professionally in the past. I know a thing or two about them. For an explanation of how bad Lemke's work in this area is look here:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5669175&postID=112250190748285683

That's just the surface. In my professional opinion, Dr. Lemke does not know how to handle statistics well. "Baptisms" does not translate into "conversions," therefore the statistics he cites in no way speak to the evangelistic fervor of Calvinists or Calvinism. You're embracing several logical fallacies to arrive at the conclusion at which you and he arrive if you think those statistics prove what you say they prove.

Many folks being baptized today are being re-baptized for their second or even third time. Many baptized never darken our doors or the doors of any other churches again. These are problems we need to honestly deal with in the open. No doubt some of the baptisms in the article above are also from Christians coming from Methodist or Presbyterian churches, so you can't call them "converts," since they are already converted. Unfortunately, the mentality of certain in the Convention seems to do just that. That's simply an inexcusable error, so it's wrong to use raw baptism numbers as a measure of "evangelistic" fervor on that basis alone.

Baptism numbers show baptisms alone across all categories, not conversions. They should be broken down: First time, Second Time, Third Time; Coming from paedobaptist denomination, Recently converted-baptized first time...converted for quite some time-baptized first time. In short, there are multiple ways to break down baptism statistics to get a more accurate reflection closer to the truth. As it stands now, the statistics are being used in a manner that violates the 9th commandment. I agree with Tom on this.

Lemke did not bother to interview anybody with those Founders churches or study those individual churches in particular. Moreover, he chose to compare 255 churches to 40,000 total churches without a cohort of the same size and similar composition. One simply does not make the conclusions that he makes from those statistics without such a cohort in a study over several years in which as many variables as can be are controlled in order to make the soteriology of the two cohorts the one variable examined. That's simply Epidemiology 101 in any graduate school in which you learn statisitcal analysis. I have challenged him to do a real study with somebody that can actually design a cohort study. Until that is done, Lemke's paper stands refuted on that point.

phil sr said...

Tom,

You have hit upon one of the areas that other denominations chuckle about Southern Baptists. I heard the renowned Peter Wagner on several occasions make quips about how the SBC has their own version of statistics. The ACP is at the heart of it.

A few years ago, I compared the statistics of the five largest SBC churches in my association. What I discovered was that they had a combined larger total of "inactive members" than they had "enrolled in Sunday School." Quite obviously, the Sunday School attendance was considerably lower than the enrollment. So, the five largest churches in my association maintained more inactive members than they had enrolled, much less attending in Sunday School. Yet some of these churches were held up as models of church growth among Southern Baptists.

Can we be men of integrity and maintain an inactive membership? Seems that this is brazenly non-biblical.

I'm for by-passing the ACP since the stats are skewed at best. If they gave an accurate reading, then I'd be glad to participate but I don't want to add to the confusion among Southern Baptists.

Scott Hill said...

Tom, our association says they will kick us out if we don't turn in our Annual Church Profile.

Tom said...

Scott:

I understand those kinds of pressures. Some associations and state conventions may require turning in the ACP as a part of membership. In such cases a church could simply leave certain statistical questions blank, or put "N/A" for not avaiable. You make available the information you want them to have and make unavailable the information that is typically misused and deceptively reported.

Just a thought.

Joe Specht said...

Responding to Gene's reponse to Charles I would like to first of all thank you for the response Gene. It is well put.
I suspect though that the discussion is on two different planes that won't connect due to how evangelism is defined. If Charles defines evangelism as an altar call and further calls that theological, therein is the problem. This would certainly be evidence of a faulty view of the Gospel, therefore. A faulty view of the Gospel is square one. This is what needs to be reclaimed. What is the Gospel? What does the Bible say the good news of God is? One's view of the Gospel will certainly affect one's view of evangelism.

Bill0615 said...

Tom
RE "boycotting" the ACP, this is a true story. Several years ago when our church's ACP had been "used against us" by Moderates who were then in power in an effort to try and hinder the conservative resurgence in our state convention, I decided to put "N/A" in the following year's ACP as a form of protest. This caused no small amount of consternation on the part of the data input people, and so after some conversations with them they decided (unbeknownst to me) to replace my "N/A" with zeroes. This prompted a "church growth specialist" to contact our church and ask if he could come and meet with our leaders to assist us in pulling out of our apparent nose dive. I decided the following year to "count everything that moves" in another form of protest. This time I was notified by the same office that our church had won an award for being one of the fastest growing small churches in the state convention! (Because we had gone from zero to various levels of numbers in many categories!) Sigh...
Another true story. One year we received post cards in the mail, asking us to submit our "baptismal goals" for the year. I wrote "as many as the Lord our God shall call" in the space provided and sent it back in. They sent me another card, stating that they needed an actual number. So I put 1,000,000 and sent it in. This prompted a call from them, stating that they needed a "realistic" number for their data input people. You can imagine the conversation that followed. I think it is time to "N/A" the ACPs in the hope that the gatekeepers in the SBC will begin to "get it."

Charles said...

To: GeneMBridges

Brother, your remarks show why Calvinists cannot be trusted with interpreting history or the Bible. Your devotion to a man made theological system clouds your reasoning.

I mentioned Phil Johnson, and you said, "Would you please care to link to the article in which he did this? I give you a pass on the 9th commandment, because I believe you might simply be mistaken.

That was a nice way of calling me a liar. Just imply it. I've noticed that a lot around here.

Johnson said, "it would be stretching things more than a little bit to insist that modern Calvinism as a movement is known by its passion for evangelism." You can read the entire article here.

GeneMBridges, you said, "the invitation system is a product of 19th century revivalism, not the Reformation, not the Bible, and the man who is most famous for it, Charles Finney, admitted that most of the folks "converted" using it later fell away from the faith. These are facts beyond historical controversy."

This statement is so inaccurate and so typical of the "Founders" I don't even know where to begin. This demonstrates that history to a Calvinist is polemic only in purpose. Your statement shows why history books written by Calvinists cannot be trusted. Do you just ignore historical facts when they are contrary to what The Founders tell you to believe? You seem like an intelligent person which is why I am curious.

Read any Baptist history book that is not written by a Calvinist. Read Ken Keathley's article Rescuing the Perishing: A Defense of Giving Invitations. Keathley wrote:

The Separate Baptists of the Sandy Creek tradition were giving invitations thirty years
before Finney was even born. An eyewitness described the manner in which the "ranting
Anabaptists" would conduct services during the great revivals in the Carolinas in the 1760's"


"At the close of the sermon, the minister would come down from the pulpit and while
singing a suitable hymn would go around among the brethren shaking hands. The hymn
being sung, he would then extend an invitation to such persons as felt themselves poor
guilty sinners, and were anxiously inquiring the way of salvation, to come forward and
kneel near the stand, or if they preferred, they could kneel at their seats, proffering to unite
with them in prayer for their conversion."


I do not have time to address the rest of your inaccuracies. I will also give you a pass on the 9th commandment. The Founders after all will have to stand before God, not me, for their disregard of the 9th commandment.

GeneMBridges, expand your mind, brother. Read other things besides the Founders Journal. There is a whole world of biblical and historical truth out there waiting for you.

Doug said...

Charles, if you are going to post a quote from Phillip Johnson about Calvinism, you may want to read the entire article.

For instance, this quote: "But I hasten to add that I don't think the problem really lies in Geneva, or in historic Calvinism, or in any of the classic Reformed creeds. I especially don't think the stench arises from any problem with Calvinism per se. In my judgment, the problem is a fairly recent down n' dirty version of callow Calvinism that has flourished chiefly on the Internet and has been made possible only by the new media."

Or take this one: "Of course, I fully realize that the Arminian caricature of historic Calvinism as anti-evangelistic is a total lie."

You really reveal your lack of credibility when you (ala Dave Hunt) take quotes out of context and ignore great amounts of writing within the same blog. His entire article was about why modern internet Calvinism may not resemble historic Calvinism.

I do wish that people who are going to criticize us Calvinists would figure out who they are really criticizing.

GeneMBridges said...

Brother, your remarks show why Calvinists cannot be trusted with interpreting history or the Bible. Your devotion to a man made theological system clouds your reasoning.

Brother Charles, I fear you are mirror-reading. This is not the way to begin a constructive conversation. I have not set an accusatory, polemic tone here. You have done so with such inflammatory rhetoric. Please refrain from it.

If you feel you can exegetically refute Reformed theology, then start a blog yourself and I and my brothers here will gladly engage you on each issue. My devotion is to truth. In the spirit of truth, please show us the magical biblical text that proves the Arminian theory of the will. While you’re at it, when you find it you may want to inform Arminian theologians like Walls and Dongell who admit in their own work that libertarian free will is something that their side of this debate brings to the table from outside the Bible itself. Who then is devoted to a man-made theological system?

That was a nice way of calling me a liar. Just imply it. I've noticed that a lot around here.

No, it’s a way of saying, “I think you may be mistaken, therefore I won’t say you are lying.” I say what I mean, and mean what I say. I thought you were mistaken, and I said so. Sometimes, Charles, a spade is just a spade.

"it would be stretching things more than a little bit to insist that modern Calvinism as a movement is known by its passion for evangelism." You can read the entire article here.

Thank you for posting the link:

A.That statement begins with: Among more mainstream Calvinists, there are certainly some outstanding men who are earnestly evangelistic (Piper, MacArthur, and even Sproul). But it would be stretching things more than a little bit to insist that modern Calvinism as a movement is known by its passion for evangelism.

and it ends with: Where are the Calvinist evangelists? I can think of only one outstanding example: John Blanchard. (There are surely more, but at the moment I can't think of any other famous Calvinists now living who have devoted their ministries primarily to evangelism).

Of course, I fully realize that the Arminian caricature of historic Calvinism as anti-evangelistic is a total lie. But one could hardly argue that evangelism is a key feature of modern Calvinism. Neither the writings we produce nor the conferences we hold focus much on evangelism.


B.Johnson limits his own statement here to “internet” Calvinists, not “all Calvinists.” He writes,

That's because Internet Calvinism is simply too academic and theoretical and not concerned enough with doing, as opposed to hearing, the Word (James 1:22). To a large degree, I think that's what the medium itself encourages. Brother Phil also has a great deal to say about the folks at 5Solas.org and others like them, and they are true hyper-Calvinists. Are you alleging that Founders are hyper-Calvinists? If so, that is a serious charge you need to substantiate.

C.Moreover, he specifically repudiates the notion that Calvinism is anti-evangelistic.

D. The question he does not actually answer fully is why the conferences “we” hold do not focus on evangelism. The answer Founders gives for its work in the SBC is that, in order to do that, we need to figure out the meaning of “regeneration,” and “conversion,” because what we beleive about those things will affect the way we do evangelism. We who associate ourselves with this ministry do not believe the evangelism that dominates the SBC is not consonant with biblical soteriology; that is the point at issue.

E. Phil, who is a Calvinist himself, goes on to say very clearly in that same article:

The best Calvinism has always been fervently evangelistic, large-hearted, benevolent, merciful, and forgiving. After all, that's what the doctrines of grace are supposed to be all about.

Let us compare, then what Phil has actually written with what you, Charles, wrote, which was,

Lemke's numbers show that Calvinists (in the case The Founders) care little about evangelism....Phil Johnson knows it and wrote about it on his blog.

A. Lemke’s numbers, as I demonstrated, show no such thing.

B. One looks in vain for anything about Founders Ministries in the article to which you linked. It seems like you are applying either the genetic fallacy or guilt by association.

C. Phil is speaking about internet Calvinism in particular in that article.

D. Phil does not believe that Calvinists as a whole care little about evangelism. (He is a Calvinist himself). In fact, he believes exactly the opposite and is making a case against those whose theology and practices are not consonant with historic Calvinism itself.

This statement is so inaccurate and so typical of the "Founders" I don't even know where to begin.

Since you provide no statement from the Founders by which to compare, this is just more rhetoric.

This demonstrates that history to a Calvinist is polemic only in purpose. Your statement shows why history books written by Calvinists cannot be trusted.

Would that include, then the history of the Sandy Creek Association that Keathley used, which you cite below? Does that include Bob L. Ross and Phil Johnson whom you cite above? Or does it only include Calvinists with whom you disagree?

Do you just ignore historical facts when they are contrary to what The Founders tell you to believe?

On the contrary, my undergraduate degree is in history, and I haven’t written any detailed history. As a matter of course, I took my statements from a non-Calvinist’s material, La Tourette.

Read any Baptist history book that is not written by a Calvinist.

So non-Calvinists are less biased than Calvinists? Why are Calvinists under more influence from their interpretive community than non-Calvinists? You remind me of post-modern secularists that say the same things about fundamentalists.

Read Ken Keathley's article Rescuing the Perishing: A Defense of Giving Invitations.

I’m glad you mentioned that article, but, before I address this...why are you so obsessed with the invitation system? As others have said, this is about the nature of the gospel, church discipline, and honesty in our statistics. The person whose church is in the stats in this original article wants us to baptize a million...but he can't get but 45 percent of his own members to attend his morning worship services, and this percentage has declined over time. His name has not been used, but it seems somebody needs to make it clear for you whose church this is. Do we really have to name him? The point is that this kind of trend is very typical in the SBC. I once served on the staff of a 4000 member church that had similar stats as well. The stats in the SBC are a farce, and, if you'd follow the articles Tom has been writing, it betrays, from our perspective, a less than robust soteriology and evangelistic method.

Now, on to the article:

1. Notice that the best Keathley can do is push back the invitation system 30 years. So, you’re still dealing with a practice rooted in the late 18th century. This does not bolster his argument or yours. In my original response, I had stated, “late 18th and 19th century,” which I admit is more accurate, because I could not find a good source that substantiated it beyond that point. You have provided me the article I lacked. I’m glad you reminded me. For this I thank you. Therefore, I should, based on your correction, restate:

the invitation system is a product of late 18th century and 19th century revivalism, not the Reformation, not the Bible, and the man who is most famous for it, Charles Finney, admitted that most of the folks "converted" using it later fell away from the faith. These are facts beyond historical controversy." Happy now?

2. Keathely alleges it is “guilt by association” to associate Charles Finney with the popularization of the invitation system. Unfortunately, Keathley’s own work here undermines this objection. He simply does not substantiate the charge. It is guilt by association to say, “The invitation system began with or was popularized by Finney. Finney had a deficient theology, therefore those who use it have a deficient theology as well.” Founders, nor I, make such a charge. However, the charge is made because it did not become popular and fall into wide use until the time of Finney. It is a historical fact, and Keathley nowhere denies that fact.

Founders members and other critics of the invitation system make the charge not, as Keathley alleges, to associate the system with a deficient soteriology, but to point to its historical roots, which are in revivalism of the modern European/early American period, not the Reformation, not the Bible itself. Finney is mentioned, because he was the great popularizer, and he is the evangelist Billy Sunday and others emulated. Moreover, we are critical not of invitations themselves, but of the invitation system. One is exegetically valid. The other is not sustainable. One is biblical, the other has more roots in the traditions of men in our history than the Bible. Our position is that the current system should be reformed or abandoned in favor of doing things in a different way. It is made consonant with a high value on Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura says that the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church in its normative state, but that other traditions may be embraced as long as they are consonant with the exegesis of infallible and inerrant Scripture. Our position is that the invitation system needs reform, and that begins with a discussion about the gospel and fidelity to it. We in no way, as some say, wish to do away with it or reform it because we deny the free call of the gospel. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Keathley cites David Engelsma, but Engelsma is a confessed true hyper-Calvinist in the British Reformed Fellowship / Protestant Reformed Church who denies the free offer of the gospel and the doctrine of common grace itself. If Keathley or you wish to impute Engelsma’s views to Southern Baptists in the Founders Fellowship, you or he should to identify said individuals within Founders.

4. Notice this is Keathley’s paper:

Charge: Repentance and faith are the results of being born again, not the conditions for
salvation.

In order to understand the objections of those like Engelsma, one must realize that they
see salvation as a process. First, the elect is regenerated, and then afterwards his repentance and faith reveal this new life. Faith is not the condition to salvation, it is the result of it. In such a system, giving an invitation is superfluous. In many ways, the debate about the invitation is really a disagreement about the order of salvation.


My reply: This conflates regeneration and justification. Reformed soteriology, like most non-Reformed Protestant soteriology in the evangelical/fundamental traditions recognizes that salvation is a very broad term with three distinct phases: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Regeneration is distinct from salvation in that it leads directly to conversion, which leads to justification leading to the others. This is also a distinction made by Arminians who simply place it after conversion and justification. Arminians like Keathley also see salvation as a process when viewed with more precision. Keathley is playing fast and loose with specific terms.

There is a sum total of zero exegetical evidence offered to substantiate this position. Faith, in Reformed theology is the condition of justification, but not of regeneration itself. That is the work of God alone. 1 John 5:1 very specifically says that we believe as a result of being born again, not in order to be born again. If you think it supports regeneration through faith, as Arminians do, then why do you not believe that 1 John 2:29 supports regeneration through works, since this is the exact same linguistic construction? As for the invitation system being “superfluous” in such a view, Keathley’s own work seems to contradict him, since he points to Calvinistic theology in Baptist life as having not seen such a superfluousness. Engelsma's denial of the invitation system rests primarily upon his denial of common grace and the free offer of the gospel, unlike John Murray, Spurgeon, Tom Aschol, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, myself, and hosts of others. It does not rest upon "regeneration preceding faith."

Moreover, as I said earlier, the issue we have with it is not its use; it is he foundation on which it rests.

More importantly, here, Keathley seems guilty of guilt by association himself, since this point follows directly on from his discussion of Engelsma. Editing slightly from his own words about critics of the invitation system and their motive for using Finney,. yet using the same constructions and flow of ideas, we see that Keathley is mirror-reading!

He writes of critics of the altar call:
Why would this accusation matter? Because although Finney was
an influential evangelist of the early nineteenth century, he definitely held aberrant views
concerning salvation. In essence Finney taught that a person could be moved to come to Christ without the convicting and converting work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, if the altar call were a method derived from his spurious theology, then this would call into question its validity.


Edit this to say:

Why would this accusation matter? Because although Engelsma was
an influential British theological writer of the modern period , he definitely held aberrant views concerning the doctrine of common grace and he held to the traditional Reformed statement that regeneration precedes faith. In essence Engelsma taught that a person could be moved to come to Christ only by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and he denied the free call of the gospel and all common grace. Thus, if critics of the altar call method also hold to his views on regeneration then it follows they may also hold his spurious theology, then this would call into question the validity of their soteriology and their criticism of the altar call.
That, Charles, is mirror-reading, and, if we follow his own understanding of guilt by association, he has done it himself. I'm merely using his own yardstick.

He continues:

Reply: Conversion is not a process, and that regeneration is simultaneous with conversion (John 1:12).
Faith is not the means to deserve salvation, but it is the means to obtain it (John 3:36;
Acts 16:31). Faith is not the condition for God to give salvation, but it is the condition to receive it. Therefore exercising faith is not meriting salvation. When a free gift is given, the merit belongs to the giver of the gift, not the recipient (Rom.4:16; Eph. 2:8-9).


I’m glad he pointed to John 1:12, because 1:13 goes on to say that those so born are born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or the will of man, but of God, and the words “born” here are all in passive voice, which indicates the ones being born are not active in being born again, which is John’s metaphor for regeneration. As for regeneration being simultaneous with conversion, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, which is, I understand, the standard text as SBTS for their survey course these days, agrees, for he says on p. 701, that it is “instantaneous” and has “results that can be seen immediately and at once” in the person repenting from sin and believing in Christ. Since this is what Calvinist professors are teaching in the seminaries, it seems Keathley is either unfamiliar with the issue or not telling the whole story. Unlike Keathley, we simply do not conflate “salvation” and “regeneration” with “conversion” and “justification.”

4. The irony here is that Keathley agrees, contrary to Paige Patterson’s statements, that the stream of theology that fed into the establishment of the SBC was Calvinistic, not the two-streams theory propounded by Patterson, et.al. Who then, is misusing history?

I do not have time to address the rest of your inaccuracies.

Oh, Charles, and I was hoping you’d at least make the attempt.

GeneMBridges, expand your mind, brother. Read other things besides the Founders Journal. There is a whole world of biblical and historical truth out there waiting for you.

Thank you for your concern. Incidentally, how do you know what I am reading at the moment? I read the Founders Journal very rarely, and, in point of fact, am currently rereading The Living God by Thomas C. Oden, who is about as far from a Calvinist Baptist as you can get and still be an evangelical Protestant. Afterwards, I will be reading Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus , the entire series by Michael L. Brown.

Pastor B said...

We are a founders friendly church - and have been so since I have been pastor here. Our stats are really dismal - the membership is huge - over 200! But attendance was in the 30's when we arrived. Where are all those people? They have moved away and not moved their membership, they have gone to other churches (Landmarkers in our area required them to be rebaptized - so there is the stat for their growth) and some have just fallen out. What has happened here since the Doctrines of Grace have been taught? Our attendance is doubled, we have had more than 5 baptisms - all new Christians. But that is not what I am excited about. Our men are studying Grudem's on Wednesday Night, our women are learning Hermeneutics on Wednesday night. Several of our young adults are wrestling with apologetics (as they are in secular university taking Philosophy of Religion). Besides these we have more than double the people participating in evangelistic outreaches than a year ago (example - last year we had 4 people deliver 10 dozen doughnuts on Christmas eve this year we had 9 people deliver 77 dozen doughnuts.) People are connecting and their lives are being knit together - but how do you put this into stats?
So what is my point? Our church is growing - but in ways that are not evident from the annual report. The above represent kingdom growth - both up and down.