Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Join the Soul-a-Month club for $48.00

I wrote a whole blog satarizing this, but after sitting on it for a day, I have decided that it is simply too serious for that kind of response. I do believe that satire has a place in Christianity. Proverbs 26:5 seems to allow, or even encourage this type of reponse at times: "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." In other words, there is a time to respond in a way that shows the absurdity of an argument or position. But Proverbs 26:4 says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him." That is a warning that I personally need to take to heart regularly, lest I overdose on sarcasm. So the satire stays in the closet while the issue is brought into the light.

Bailey Smith, former president of the SBC, has calculated that it only costs his ministry $48.00 to save a soul in one month's time. So he has formed the "Soul-a-month ministry." Let me give you his own words from a letter he has posted on his website:

May I share a ministry all can be a part of and I believe, should be, because of its need in this pagan generation? It is the Soul-A-Month Ministry.

I was at Peace Baptist Church in Wilson, N.C. and made the statement that for every $48.00 given to Bailey Smith Ministries someone will get saved. A couple after the service said to me, "Why don't you start a Soul-A-Month club. We would like to send you $48.00 a month." Ministry born!

He goes on:

You can email or call our office for a free envelope. Please keep this envelope in an upright visible place. Sandy and I lean our big envelope against the wall at our desk where we write our check. It will bless you just to see it, and then take the appropriate envelope and mail it to see a soul saved each month.

No, don't reach out to touch someone - reach out to save someone by helping them to the cross of the Lord Jesus. Of course, your $48.00 each month to save a soul is tax-deductible.

Finally, he adds this as a PS:
P.S. - By the way with, some churches it cost $100,000 to $300,000 to see one convert.

Please make your check to Bailey Smith Ministry. Some are giving $96.00 a month representing a soul for the husband and wife.

There is so much in this that breaks the heart it is hard to know where to start or stop in commenting. I will limit myself to a few questions.

Why $48.00 dollars? Couldn't he live more simply and do it for $40.00 a month? That would add another five souls saved every two years. Isn't this worth it? You see the line of reasoning here.

Can conversion really be reduced to a financial formula?

Isn't the comment about churches in the PS designed to make church members think that their financial contributions to their local congregation are less productive, valuable and eternally significant than contributions to Bailey Smith?

Is this the kind of fruit that the conservative resurgence in the SBC hoped to produce? Is this what the battle for the Bible was all about? If so, God help us. If not, who among Mr. Smith's colleagues will correct him?

Can it be possible that a man who promises to save a soul for every $48.00 he receives understands conversion in the same way that our Baptist forebears understood it? Could he possibly see the new birth as the sovereign work of the Spirit whom, Jesus said, is like the wind that blows wherever it chooses? (John 3:8)

This is one more tragic indication of the serious spiritual and theological confusion that dominates much of evangelical church life today. As I have repeatedly stated, the most pressing issues facing evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular are not the five points of Calvinism. As I see it, they are much more basic:

1. What is the Gospel?
2. What is a Christian (and how does a person become one)?
3. What is a church?

When I read Mr. Smith's letter my mind immediately went back to the 16th century:
As soon as the coin in the coffer rings
Another soul into heaven springs.

Where are the Luthers of our day?


(HT to Scott Slayden and Jeremy Moore)

27 comments:

Stephen A Morse said...

Yuck! May your money persih with you!

Steve Weaver said...

Tom,

I've found one Luther of our day, you! Keep up the good work!

Chase Vaughn said...

Ohh! Stinging parallel to Luther's day. Enjoyed the post and many others as well.

Aaron L. Turner said...

It is unfortunate that his collegues will not confrot him, because they are of the same mind.

Unfortunately, humanism reigns and trumps all vestiges of God centeredness that is left in their thinking.

Thank God not all have bowed the knee to the Baal of humanism! God is still performing the miracle of regeneration, and that without any ones money.

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Interesting that you made a comparison with Tetzel ("coin in the coffer"). I was thinking the same thing; it's money in exchange for souls. Same thing with the PowerTeam that you reported on a couple of weeks ago. They promise souls in exchange for payment. It's Tetzel in another form, all over again. Protestant indulgences, in a way. Very sad.

--Jim B.
www.OldTruth.com

Sean said...

This is offensive to me. How can a former SBC president not understand the glorious truth of regeneration? I would be offended as a non-Christian to think that my soul is only worth $48. This is a mockery of the atonement where our Lord was set forth as a propitiation to appease the wrath of God with His very blood for His elect. Can we totally abase this glorious act with a $48 gift to a para-church, Arminian, revivalistic, pragmatic organization? I wonder how Nicodemus would respond to this after Jesus told him that regeneration (being born again) is a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit who blows where He wishes?

Peter D. Nelson said...

Its sad that the older I get the more I see the same old lies appear. Thanks for pointing out the need to keep the old truths alive.

And if you are inclined to a little humor check this out.

http://pewsitters.com/022.html

GeneMBridges said...

Thank you, Tom. I wonder if anybody from Bailey Smith Ministries will hear about this and read over it. It would be wonderful if they read it and Smith repented of this practice. None of us are above error and the need to repent.

I too was immediately drawn to Tetzel. I wonder what Smith would do if we were to email him with the comparison. It's time folks responded by asking the hard questions directly of these men. The fruit of the conservative resurgence has also bred the attitude that as long as they believe in inerrancy, they shouldn't be questioned. The result of this thinking is pastors that contradict the Baptist Faith and Message Article 4 from the pulpit and evangelists that imitate Tetzel with little or no direct opposition. The resurgence has given us a generation that doesn't seem to take accountability seriously. Thank you for calling them, and us, to account.

Jeremy Weaver said...

When you donate via Paypal,
I'll save a soul from hell!

So what if it doesn't rhyme as well as Tetzel's.

Stephen Thomas said...

We must remember that we are dealing with the type of people who are interested only in numbers. One time back in the early eighties, my dad went to some sort of pastors conference where Bailey Smith spoke, and he spent the whole time trying to convince all the pastors there that they weren't really saved so that they would come forward that day. You can get more numbers added to your score if you convert those who are already converted, as well as the uncoverted. It upset my dad very much and he went to talk to the associational director about it, who said that many other pastors had also come to complain to him. My dad ended up needing pastoral counseling because it upset him so badly.

GeneMBridges said...

Doxoblogist you wrote: When you donate via Paypal,
I'll save a soul from hell!

So what if it doesn't rhyme as well as Tetzel's.


Well, I decided to go there for us:


Here's the original:

As soon as the coin in the coffer rings,

Another soul into heaven springs.

- Tetzel

Now, we have:

For every $48 you put in the plate,

One sinner's soul the Lord will liberate!

-Smith

Richard said...

Do I get a photo each month of the soul I saved?

Rev. James Jackson said...

We actually implemented this at my church. You can bash it if you like, it was really successful. We grew 14% last year and that is a record.

People that bash things like this never consider it from that angle, do they?

Larry said...

Wow! This is shocking. As a child in the 1960's my father took our family out of the Methodist Church and into the Baptist church because of the non-Biblical things he was hearing from Methodist pulpits. I've been a staunch Southern Baptist ever since.

However, upon reading things like this, it makes me wonder if its time for me to do for my family what my dad did for us!

Kelly Randolph said...

rev. james jackson you said,
"We actually implemented this at my church. You can bash it if you like, it was really successful. We grew 14% last year and that is a record."

With all due respect, your comments reveal the heart of the problem. This is a pragmatic approach to ministry. Your post inidicates an assumption that if it works it must be right. The results determine the validity of the method. The end justifies the means.

Shouldn't we rather be asking ourselves if our methods are biblical and Christ-honoring? I could hand out twenty dollar bills and get people to come to church and hear the gospel. We would probably have the largest crowd ever. But would this honor God and His Word? Of course not.

David & Rose Ann said...

Even the photo on his site reveals incorrect theology. Man is dead in his sins, not drowning.

May the Luthers of our day emerge from Southern or Westminster, loudly and with fire.

Stephen A Morse said...

How different is this philosophy from say... our VBS focus?

What I mean is that when I even question the viability of an alternate to our expensive, overblown, Veggietale/Lifeway, comic, amusefest; my integrity is questioned with: "I don't know about you but I don't care how much we spend...isn't even one soul worth it?"

Doesn't the whole premise seem a little skewed?

I spend $150 on good solid doctinal commentaries and go through them with several gentlemen over the course of a year and at the end of the year our church has a few 'numbers' from VBS (whom we can't even track down because we don't know where they are) and 5 men who are also mentoring their families and other men... Which is the greater investment?

For me...send me the $48.00 so that I can purchase Volume 1 of Murray's biography of Lloyd-Jones and Piper's 'Pleasures of God' to read with another man this year...

We'll see more souls changed by His Word though His Word not through our $'s

The Monk said...

When multitudes of pastors, deacons and 'regular' church members give "really" make a profession of faith during the "Wheat & the Tares Sermon," does the $48 cover the first profession, or each subsequent profession? Some of those pastors and deacons have been saved 6 or 7 times during that sermon, so I was wondering if $48 went towards each profession, or just towards each person (soul)?

Les Reed said...

What a shame that Baily Smith chose to put a price on the Good News of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The point of the Gospel is that we as sinful man can never approach a Holy God thus the need for an intercessor who could pay the price for our sin. To put a price on the Savior's death cheapens the gift. It is a pearl of great price to be cherished where we sell everything we have in order to have that gift knowing that it is not enough and yet it is given to us full and free by a loving God.

GeneMBridges said...

I've always been puzzled by that Wheat and Tares sermon Smith preaches. After all, if all it takes to become a Christian is a decision and the gospel is so easily believed, and true believers can apostatize according to the doctrine of eternal security that results from such a definition of saving faith, then how is it that he can ask people who've made decisions and believed in the past to ask themselves if they are tares or wheat, if, by their free wills they have decided to be wheat?

It's amazing how hopelessly self-contradictory that kind of evangelism becomes. On the one hand, they rail against the message the Reformed churches preach, yet on the other they presuppose the validity of the theology against which they rail in order to preach such sermons.

Tim Ellsworth said...

If nobody gets saved, do I get my money back?

Jeremy Weaver said...

Tim,
If at Judgment Day you find that some of those souls that you paid for were not truly saved, you will be recompensed with an extra crown for every soul.

jollybeggar said...

Roll on up -- for my price is down
Come on in -- for the best in town
Take your pick of the finest wine
Lay your bets on this bird of mine

Name your price I got everything
Come and buy it's all going fast
Borrow cash on the finest terms
Hurry now while stocks still last

('the temple' from jesus christ superstar, lyrics by tim rice)
***

time to overturn the tables and clean out the temple with a whip again...

bruisedreed said...

Sadly this is the mark of the day. Our whole convention needs to reexamine how we judge success. Our members are chanting for something new and exciting...while the leaders of the convention are deciding just how we can entice people in the door...and manipulate them to stay...at least long enough to become members. In a year we can drop them to non-resident if needed. Being in the ministry, I am sick to death of it. It is time we undestand that our call is to futher the kingdom of God, not get folks to sign a membership card...that means nothing I might add. I think that most leaders in our convention and in most churches just can't possible think of "risking" their careers on a Sovereign God...that just might not move in the way they deem fit. After all...don't we know more than He? I wonder if He has considered that He "needs" us to be His consultants?

gouge said...

I appreciate the frustration with money-driven, guilt-manipulating programs. I'm often struck by what seems to be a return to paganism and illiteracy within churches. I'm saddened when I hear of the magnificent gospel conforming to a marketing plan. That is not to say that Christ has nothing to say about money. On the contrary. He is greatly concerned, because where our treasure is evidences where our heart is.

However, I'm going to ask one question: Has Bailey Smith been confronted? Perhaps he has (how would we know if he is presently being confronted?). Perhaps this discussion has been forwarded on to him. But the Luther I know would have posted his theses for all to see, would have written letters to whom they were concerned and then while exhausting such channels would communicate
to those he is concerned about being influenced by error. As a passer-byer reading this post, I am slightly confused at its purpose. I have difficulty hearing such broad comments (not from the post's author, but still present) as "We must remember that we are dealing with the type of people who are interested only in numbers." I grieve at the thought that we have come to think of "types" of people that think "only" in certain ways. Am I free to respond to a stranger (sarcastly) that I must remember that I am dealing with the type of people who are only interested in making broad categories and not actually in seeing progressive holiness by loving even our enemies, by informing them of our grievances--not merely the associational director or my peers who are going to clap me on the back. Where would that bring us? It is not helpful. It is not edifying. It is not of Christ. and it does not render service.

This is the point of my post only to question the helpfulness of what is being addressed here, whether this is the most helpful forum for such addresses and to remind everyone of Paul's very words that despite opposition against the worse idea of preaching for gain, he rejoiced that the gospel was going out. Though I agree with the sentiment of this post, I find little evidence for rejoicing and little evidence suggesting the patience borne Biblical treatment of a brother of which kind I myself frequently require.

tim eason said...

As with any ministry, I think it is wise to anaylze the effectivness of the mission. It is Bailey Smith's mission to share the gospel and to see people brought to Salvation. Shouldn't any investment or contribution be dependent upon results. He simply took his year's budget of expense and divided it by the converts that accepted Christ. When you and your fellow bloggers over magnify a missions report you mis the real truth...... "Christ is Alive and still transforming lives" If my churche's Budget was a Million and year and we had no conversions... we would be doing a diservice to the congregation and would be a disgrace to Christ's Great Commission. Lighten up and get the beam out of your eye before judging others so radically.Christ came to save! I think that is the real issue.

Tim Eason

Puritan Lad said...

$48.00?

My former church once told me it was only a quarter (during a missions convention). I actually had a guilt trip every time I bought a 50 cent soda. Two souls were going to Hell because I was drinking a Dr. Pepper.

I guess the price of everything is going up, eh? Either that, or souls are much cheaper in third world countries.