Sunday, May 07, 2006

Of Fire Engine Baptistries and Blasphemy


[Note: I actually had this entry prepared before stumbling across the announcement that Johnny Hunt will nominate Ronnie Floyd to be president of the SBC. Dr. Floyd pastors the FBC, Springdale, Arkansas.]



Several have asked about the existence of a fire engine baptistry that is designed to shoot confetti out of cannons when a child is baptized. Yes, this actually does exist. You can see it at First Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas. The Founders Journal reported on this back in 2000. Following are comments taken from the news items in the Fall 2000 issue (#42) of the journal.


Christianity Today (June 8, 2000) and other news sources have reported on what appears to be a new trend in some large evangelical churches. First Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas hired a well-known former Disney World designer of children's amusement rides to design two "high tech sets" for elementary age worship areas: Toon Town for first-through third-graders, and Planet 45 for fourth- and fifth-graders. The fully animated cartoon town has 26-foot-tall buildings. The rationale behind the $270,000 project is summed up by the church's children's minister: "Putting a talking head in front of kids for an hour doesn't work ….This is a visual generation. We need to use technology to the max." That includes a special baptistry which is built around a fire engine. When a child is baptized, the sirens sound and confetti is fired out of cannons.

When kids enter the rooms, a music video is playing on a giant screen in front, and they can amuse themselves at a row of nonviolent video game screens along walls. Once the service starts, "it's 90 minutes of mostly frenetic activity, akin to a live television variety show from the 1950s. In Toon Town, buzzers and bells sound, lights flash from the ceiling and from car headlights on the set, bubbles come out the top of a giant bucket and fill the room, confetti streamers squirt out onto the first few rows, and mist is sprayed onto the crowd." According to the designer, Bruce Barry, "It's just like going on a ride at Disney World."


In that same issue of the journal there appeared an interview between Mark Dever and Paige Patterson. Dr. Dever asked Dr. Patterson, who was then President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary but has since moved to the same position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, about this approach to children's ministry and baptism. Here is the pertinent part of the exchange:


Dever: I heard about one church recently, and I don't know if you know about churches like this or not, in order to encourage baptisms among children the baptistry is shaped like a fire truck and they've got confetti cannons that go off whenever a kid is baptized. Do you know about any of this?

Patterson: This is my first time to hear this. This is blasphemous!

Dever: Anyway, it's a church in America. It's an evangelical church and they mean to preach the gospel so I want to be real quick to say their intentions are good. That's going to get kids of course, because they want to come forward, get in the fire truck and make the confetti cannons go off.

Patterson: I do not view [positively] the huge number of child baptisms that Baptists are now guilty of--Baptists are some of the worst paedo-baptizers there are.


Now, I share Dr. Patterson's concern about this, although I might stop short of calling it "blasphemous." I think that is is unwise and is likely to lead to many false professions of faith among children for the very reason that Dr. Dever cited. Regardless of whether or not we agree that this kind of practice rises to the level of blasphemy, I would guess that many Southern Baptists would agree with Dr. Patterson's assessment that it is a very unwise practice.

118 comments:

Jeremy Weaver said...

Why would you stop short of calling it blasphemous? Why let a little thing like a definition of a word stop you?
:-)

There's got to be another word for it though. Maybe sacrilegious?

Tony K. said...
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Paul said...

This is all very tragic.

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

I agree with all that has been written above by the brothers in Christ....


But it is only the TIP of the iceberg, as will be discovered if the research is continued.


God help us to learn all we can before the "big vote" for the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in North Carolina next month.

Byroniac said...

tony,

But what is the answer? Now mind you, children's ministry is not one of my gifts, and due to my upbringing, it is very difficult for me to be able to relate to youth and children. I say that as a confession of my complete cluelessness to begin with, so you know where I'm coming from (the generic "Help!" category) as a future pastor, and that I do not mean to insinuate anything in my question or be challenging.

GeneMBridges said...

And on top of this, the press release for Brother Ronnie's nomination noted he had spoken on TBN. Wow, just, just wow. I'm at a loss on this one. I wonder if this will even be mentioned in Greensboro?

Benjamin S. Cole said...
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Benjamin S. Cole said...

Tom, thanks for providing the evidence.

I'm simply stunned........

I told ABP the other day that there was a man in Southern Baptist life who could rise up and lead us all into a time of self-reflection and renewal. Indeed, a time of reformation.

I am less inclined to believe that Ronnie Floyd is that man after seeing this evidence. Of course, I'm just one pastor from one church with ten messengers slots.

I still believe that a man is being prepared by the Lord to lead our convention. Such a man will bring Union to the SBC.

I'm praying twice as hard these days, and thanks again for that challenge you brought us in Memphis. It keeps swirling in my mind, and motivating me to godly focus and sincere obedience.

loveforthelost said...

To benjamin s cole

If Dr. Floyd does indeed become president, would you be willing to say that God was preparing him for that position?

Concerning leading the Convention into a time of self-reflection and renewal, Dr. Floyd's ministry has been marked by calling believers to that. Have you ever read the account of when God sent revival to his church? If not, you should. You can read about it in his book "the power of prayer and fasting."

Benjamin S. Cole said...

Thanks for the recommendation of the book...i'll check it out.

Benjamin S. Cole said...

And if Ronnie Floyd is elected president, I hope that God has prepared both him and the convention for it.

If Pastor Floyd alone is nominated, I will not have to vote for him. The recording secretary will "cast the ballot for the convention." If another candidate is fielded, I readily admit that I will give him a preferred hearing.

But again, I'm just one pastor of one church in one location. I don't represent the SBC or any group within the SBC, though I'm fairly confident that the full slate of messengers from my church will give weighty consideration to whomever I endorse for president.

loveforthelost said...
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loveforthelost said...

To Gene

What makes speaking at TBN so unbelievable? Is it unacceptable to speak on venues that don't hold to everything you do? I always found it interestinbg that John MacArthur spoke at Baily Smith's conferences.

Ronnie Floyd is no sell-out. The opportunity to present truth world-wide presented itself. I don't know why it's so wrong to take advantage of that. Plus, Merritt, Rogers, Stanley and Young all have had programs on that station. Until they go Word of Faith, I don't see that as a big deal.

Chuck said...

For the record, I am a member of FBC St Peters, and those stats need to be rechecked and you need to know what you are talking about befor posting them online, Sir. My pastor is coming up on his 10 year anniversary there, and he is working very slowly toward reformation of chruch practice. Within the last several months they have begun purging the church roles, even going so far as to take pew attendance for awhile in order to be able to start Biblically practicing discipline. You see, the staff realizes that when you are working with people, not just an organization, change often needs to go slowly. Show the church what's wrong, and then implement it slowly. So please, check your facts before you besmirch a church. It is by far the best church I have ever been privileged to attend.

Castusfumus said...

Is the fire truck baptism an option for adults? If not, why so? Could this be discrimination.

Could there be a market for water proof purpose driven bibles complete with spoof text margin references in red letter and large print editions?

I'm calling Lifeway!!!

loveforthelost said...

To Chuck...

My point was simply to present a candidate who is not a Calvinist but who is a model of proper church roll management, a quality that seems to be very important to Founders. In using the comparison I just wanted to present a non-reformed church with healthy numbers as compared with a reformed church with unhealthy numbers. Please don't take that as a personal attack on your church. Plus, if Ronnie Floyd and Johnny Hunt's church's numbers are not above being scrutinized, why should FBC St. Peters (or any church) not also be subject to the same treatment.

For the record(now that I have the numbers in front of me)...2005 ACP Church profile for FBC St. Peters

Total Members-1201
Resident Members-736
AM Worship attendance-270
SS Average Attendance-220

Respectfully, before you accuse someone of not knowing what their talking about, you need to check your facts.

hashbrown said...

I think we need a president, calvinist or not, who will call the convention to repentance and to the pursuit of holiness.

I think our evangelistic programs have not been effective because our witness is not credible.

We need to start matching our behavior with our beliefs and then perhaps we will earn a hearing by a watching world, much of which thinks we are just trying to get more people for our click, so that they will give money.

Darel said...

FBC St Peters is a Founders church?

I think a visit is in order.

I have been in the unfortunate position of not being able to find an SBC church that didn't either promote the PDL-style church, or endorsed women as pastors, or ... whatever. There's just so much cruft since I moved to this area, that I have been unable to attend an SBC church due to huge, gaping doctrinal problems.

Cary Loughman said...

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I was thinking at one time that Ronnie Floyd was an itinerent "evangelist" and did not pastor a church.

Regardless, I am very disturbed that the pastor of a church that has fallen hook, line, and sinker for the pragmatic, entertainment approach to any ministry that is described and critiqued so well in MacArthur's "Ashamed of the Gospel" is having his name bandied about for consideration of the next prez of the SBC.

In reponse to loveforthelost's question about consideration of a "good" SBC President, I would consider these to be most important in these days:

1) While he may not be a dreaded "Calvinist," that he is conversant on both sides of the aisle and is able to defend his position with gentleness and respect, based on Scripture alone, while leaving teachings based on tradition at the door.

2) That he comes from a church that endures sound doctrine and is not carried to and fro with winds and waves of doctrine.

3) That he demands for many SBC pastors to repent for failing to rightly divide the word of truth through sound, verse by verse, expositional preaching as the means to equipping the saints for ministry.

4) That he demands for many SBC pastors to repent for preaching another gospel that is not based on grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone and agree to base future evangelistic efforts on the true gospel.

5) That he has taught and practiced Biblical church discipline in his own local church

That would seem to be a good start.

brad reynolds said...

I am in total agreement with Ben concerning the unifying of our convention. The world is watching and this would be a great time to demonstrate a unity. Perhaps we can begin with these concepts.

1. We are committed to the inerrancy of Scripture. We reaffirm this in light of minor disagreements we may have had, which may have caused some to doubt our unity here.

2. In light of some concerns about Blogs and in concert with the fifth declaration of the Memphis Declaration (quoted below) those of us who Blog and especially maintain Blog sites will be more careful concerning the posting of comments from others on our Blog sites which fit the description below.

"We publicly repent of having turned a blind eye to wickedness in our convention, especially when that evil has taken the form of slanderous, unsubstantiated accusations and malicious character assassination against our Christian brothers.
Therefore, we commit ourselves to confront lovingly any person in our denomination, regardless of the office or title that person holds, who disparages the name of our Lord by appropriating venomous epithets against our brothers and sisters in Christ, and thus divides our fellowship by careless and unchaste speech.”

3. In light of the continual cultural and social attack upon the veracity of God’s Word, from the Courtroom to the Classroom to the Pulpit, we express a sincere gratitude to those who led the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC and their defense of such veracity.

Perhaps our unifying theme could be “Remember the Resurgence!”
BR

art rogers said...

Thinking of Ben's comment, I am reminded of David when he found the armies of Israel paralyzed before Goliath.

We need a David who is able to take on the challenge. He must do so with the knowledge that although personal risk is a reality when a man of God stands for the Lord, that man will always stand in the shadow of the Lord's watchcare.

Stepping forward would certainly put our "David" at risk of being the center of unchaste words. Still, he would stand in the shadow of the Lord Himself, and might unite the people of God to move against our real enemy - the powers of darkness.

I pray for such a man to rise up.

Bo Higgly said...

I am a member of FBC SPringdale, and we DO NOT have a fire engine baptistry. We don't even have a baptistry for the kids- we baptize them in the sacntuary with everyone else. How dare you talk about our church without having the facts! How un-christian can you be? I understand people's concerns with this - but it's not even true!

What's worse, it's too late to stop this rumor since everyone has probably already posted it on THEIR blogs... Please help pread this word- we have a great church and we see kids get saved (such as my own) through a sound doctrine and passionate ministers. No fire trucks are needed.

Benjamin S. Cole said...

Bo Higgly...

Are you suggesting that Pastor Tad Thompson is bearing false witness when he tells us that he has actually seen the fire engine baptistry?

I'm sure your pastor is encouraged by your faithful support, and I'm confident that his leadership of the church is commendable on many accounts.

I make you this promise: I hope to ensure that your pastor has as much time to lead that wonderful ministry in the next two years as he has had in the last twenty.

centuri0n said...

I find it ironic that anyone who would oppose a reformed baptist view of churcch membership in favor of a "decision" in order to receive baptism would be so explosive on this subject.

I also find it ironic that he takes this kind of baptism abuse so seriously but was somewhat silent in the recent concern over IMB.

Stephen A Morse said...

Something that no one has mentioned yet in this post is what else Dr. Patterson said during that interview:

"I do not view [positively] the huge number of child baptisms that Baptists are now guilty of--Baptists are some of the worst paedo-baptizers there are."

I think this is so very ironic given the Caner's implications (from our earlier discussion on the qualifications of a SBC President) that we (Calvinists) are more Presbyterian than Baptistic. The very practice that they would encourage leads me to agree with Dr. Patterson.

I got the 9Marks cd of this interview and it is wonderful. Tom, have you listened to it (for that matter has anyone else)? In this interview Dr. Dever (FOR PRESIDENT!) discusses soteriology with Dr. Patterson.

It is very interesting that he did not out-rightly disagree with Dever (I know that he was in Dever's house and might not have wanted to open that can of worms). I would love to hear of anyone else's take on this given the upcoming "dialogue" between Mohler and Patterson.

Gavin Brown said...

(gasp!)...aside from this fire engine baptistry lunacy, does abyone know why hunt is nominating this guy? is this some sort of ecclesiastically indifferent croney-ism?

Benjamin S. Cole said...

The Mohler-Patterson debate is a dead issue right now. More pressing issues have emerged.

Tom, I would really appreciate your posting (again, if you already have) your thoughts on how Southern Baptists have lost the Gospel. That has been stirring in my mind a great deal lately.

Stephen A Morse said...

Benjamin, I think it is interesting that you would on one hand say the dialogue is a dead issue and then on the other hand to ask Tom to dialogue about it.

Anyway... It isn't dead to me. I am interested to see, more even than the dialogue, the response to it. That will speak volumes won't it?

When we see young, Reformed pastors responding and attending it will do my heart good.

I believe this is a crucial point in our convention because it will go far to identify to us "how Southern Baptists have lost the Gospel."

"That has been stirring in my mind a great deal lately" also.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

The fact that this nomination is the first issue ever to have left Gene M. Bridges speechless shows that it is a very potent topic indeed! :)

Love in Christ,

Jeff

James said...

Bro. Bo Higgly:

The report came from CHRISTIANITY TODAY (June 8, 2000). Check that out, please, before you start declaring that somebody here is reporting falsehoods.

James said...

Here's the link.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/007/20.25.html

Mike Miller said...

I must say that I read the Christianity Today article 3 times, and I did not see even one mention of a special baptistry for kids.

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

I urge my brothers in Jesus Christ to CONTINUE their investigative research and earnest prayers regarding the next president of the SBC!

There cannot be too much of each - research and prayer.

brad reynolds said...

James,
Just a correction to your correction. I believe Bo Higgly was referencing the lack of integrity concerning the accusation to Springdale Baptizing children in a "fire-engine" baptistery which the article you referenced does not address.
BR

Tom said...

There are lots of comments worthy of interaction but since I am strapped for time, let me simply respond to one at this point. I want to let Bo Higgly know how I came to report the fire engine baptistry--first in 2000 and again yesterday.
Credibility means a great deal to me. I refuse to publish rumor as if it were fact, and I refuse to print some facts. As editor of the Founders Journal for over 15 years, I have only had to retract one report about statistics from the old Home Mission Board. The statistics were indeed unsubstantiated. I got them, however, directly from an HMB representative. Once the error was pointed out to me, I published a full retraction and apology. All of this to say that I take my credibility as a truth teller very seriously.
Others have rightly noted that CT documented the fire engine baptistry before I reported it. Watch this video to gain insight into FBCS's approach to children's ministry. From the philosohy articulated by the ministers ("whatever it takes"), it is obvious that a confetti shooting fire engine baptistry would fit right in. The video introduces the kidz worship at FBC Springdale. A friend informed me of this. It is very well done. My posting of it here is not with any intent to castigate, but simply to shed light on this issue. Go watch it for yourself.

If that is not evidence enough, then this is from FBCS's own website should settle the question once and for all:


"Toon Town is fully animated. In the TV Shop where kids play non-violent video games before the service, satellites turn, wires and the entire building glow, and an animated man from upstairs comes out of a window and talks. The "NSync with Jesus" feature has flashing lights when the music comes on. The firehouse door raises and kids are baptized in the back of the fire truck. Sirens, horns, and lights work. Pipes blow confetti over the kids, and a hammer dings the bell. Steam comes out of the fire hydrant. The car horn and lights work; exhaust even comes out of the tail pipe." (read it all)

Let me make clear that my posting of these links does not mean that it is open season on Ronnie Floyd or FBCS. Personal attacks are not welcome nor will they be tolerated on this blog. The issues raised by these matters are too important to get sidetracked by personalities, and disagreement with a brother's views--even very strong disagreement--is no license to attack his person. Let's stick to the issues and fight hard to avoid sinful disparaging of a man's or church's reputation.

David B. Hewitt said...

hmmmm.... I'm having a hard time finding anything at FBC Springdale's cite about it or something reporting directly about the fire engine. The article at Christianity Today doesn't seem to address it.

Anyone know where else it might be?

SDG,
David Hewitt

James said...

Mike & Brad:

Thanks. My bad.

martyduren said...

David-
Click on the "read it here" link just above your post and go about half way through the article. The paragraphs you are looking for are begin just under the phots.

David B. Hewitt said...

Got it.

Thanks Tom for putting that on the site for clarification!

Dave

brad reynolds said...

Tom,
I watched the video and read the article from their website. However, I believe there is a HUGE difference in 1) believers baptism of children being done in the back of a fire-engine set with confetti being sprayed on them while sirens, horns, bells and lights are blowing and flashing AND 2) children being immersed (baptized if you will) by confetti while they enjoy releasing energy in the back of the fire-engine set before their Bible lesson. Now whether you or I would implement the latter (2) is not the issue. The issue is whether or not there was an implication that the former (1) was being practiced when in reality it was the latter (2) and if so does not such an implication cast doubt on the implyers integrity? I believe this was Bo Higgly’s concern. I personally cannot speak to the issue for I do not know.

However, you are right to point out that no matter what methodologies he may use…they are not the issue.

But I think we can all be grateful that the one who designed the set and his wife were saved through this encounter at FBCS and by the year 2000 had already invited 300 families to attend church – oh, for more laborers like that.
BR

James said...

The CHURCH SITE states:

"The firehouse door raises and kids are baptized in the back of the fire truck. Sirens, horns, and lights work. Pipes blow confetti over the kids, and a hammer dings the bell. Steam comes out of the fire hydrant. The car horn and lights work; exhaust even comes out of the tail pipe."

http://www.fbc-springdale.org/kidsinc/html/children_s_ministry_magazine.htm

Tim Batchelor said...

Tom,

If you read the article you just linked it seems that what is presented is not what they have but an idea that was submitted.

Note the headline for the article: "Take a peek into Children's Ministry Magazine's room- decorating contest's big time winners!" The article then quotes the winner of the Most Innovative Room category wrote, "We believe that if children can grow up knowing that church is a fun and exciting place to learn about God, they will continue on as they mature into teenagers and adults. We want them to walk away saying, 'Church is an exciting place to be and God is an exciting God to learn about.' Beige walls, metal folding chairs, and an overhead projector will not cut it anymore. This is the visual generation."

The ideas presented seem to be not necessarily what was built but an idea that was presented.

In fact, the article that describes the fire engine baptistry is prefaced with the statement: "Most Innovative Design"

While the idea a won for "best design" it appears that the engine never materialized.

I may be wrong but that seems to be the source of the conflicting info.

Tim

David B. Hewitt said...

From the article Tom linked to a bit ago:

"The truth is: You don't have to make someone go where they enjoy being."

True enough. The question I would have is WHAT or WHO are they enjoying? If a child's desire to go to church is because of the fun that they'll have because of the lights, music, confetti, etc, then that is the WRONG reason to be going. Sure, they enjoy it, but they're not going because they enjoy worshiping GOD. Rather, they are going because they enjoy being ENTERTAINED.

That I see as the biggest potential problem...no, not potential. :)

I remember reading an article in one of the first Founders journals that Ernest Reisinger wrote, saying something along the lines of this:

"Whatever it is that you do to get someone into a church will be what you have to do to keep them there."

My fear is that these kids will just hit their youth years, not really having trusted Jesus but just wanting entertainment, and will make that current 85% youth to college loss rate we have right now explode into the nineties, at least for that church.

Do none of them get saved? Of course I am not going to say that, but I also have a hard time seeing how something like this going on over at FBCS is not producing more false converts than true ones.

I'd love to be wrong....but I doubt I am.

SDG,
Dave Hewitt

Jason E. Robertson said...

Christianity plus children equals what? Jesus plus "the little ones" equals what? Can "fun" be part of the answer? I think so. Why not? Is Jesus a old stoic; is He empty of joy and laughter; is He a depressed pessimist; is He a gloomy defeatist? No way. But neither is he a goofy circus clown or the religious version of Barny the dinosaur. I believe firetruck baptistries and confetti canons are over the top.

I did a beautiful, outdoor wedding a few months ago. One knuckle-head arrived in shorts, sandels, and an hawaiian t-shirt. Nothing wrong with his attire per say, but it was just out of place. It was distasteful; it was a distraction; it was just plain silly.

I don't want my children to think of Christ as a silly children's hero. I want them to learn from Christ the meaning of true joy, the real source of laughter, and the life-changing importance of baptism. May they not remember that day like another day at Six Flags, but may they remember that day like they will remember the day they got born-again, and the day they got married and the day their first child is born.

brad reynolds said...

James,
Thanks for your comments.
However, you missed the point. If my website at my church said "we baptize youth with confetti" and the context implied it was not believer's baptism but a shower of confetti on all youth who entered the building then for someone to imply I practice believer's baptism with confetti is less than honest. Again, I do not know the practice at FBCS but if Bo is right then I understand his concern about false implications.
BR

Alex F said...

INteresting that the link no longer works...

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. A,

Alex is right. The link no longer works. I would like to check this out to see if the fire engine baptistry was just an idea, or if it really exists. I e-mailed the church, and am waiting for an answer. Why did they take down that link?

Love in Christ,

Jeff

deacon said...

As a children's minister, I have deep concerns for the Children's Ministry at FBC of Springdale. This is what I would call the extremist side to the attitude my wife and I faced when we began serving in our children's department. First of all, regardless if there is a fire-truck baptistery or not; we are ignoring the elephant sitting in the corner. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to address each issue in the detail it deserves, so maybe in the future we can discuss the problems churches are having with what “we” think children’s ministry aught to look like as opposed to the biblical concept. In the mean time, here is a few problems that need to be addressed:

1.) Separating kids and parents during worship service. Why? For two thousand years families have been worshipping together and it seems to work really well. Why do we think that we are so different?
2.) Why does everything have to be about entertainment? Personally, I wanted to scream when the little girl in the video talked about how they used to sit down and listen to a preacher and read their Bible at the old church, as if that was a bad thing. What happened to teaching our kids solemnity, reverence, or fear of the Lord?
3.) As was stated earlier, what is going to happen when the kids grow up and are now expected to go to the boring, non-relevant “big” church? Are they going to just leave or are we going to have to invite “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” to lead our church services? I am 29 years old, I am going to have deal with these kids when they become adults, and demand this kind of stuff in worship service. Maybe some of you are fortunate enough to be dead when this happens, but this scares me.

As I said before, there is much more that needs to be said, and unfortunately this also deals with Reformed and Founder Friendly churches as well. Hopefully, I will have more time later to expound my concerns later.

brad reynolds said...

Deacon,
Great comment and great insight into true ministry. I'm not sure I disagree with anything save the idea that we are ignoring the elephant in the room. We understand the concerns about entertainment ministry and yet I'm not sure that was what concerned Bo or me in this context.

To consistently hear the challenge of integrity in ministry on the one hand and then to hear that those calling for such may show a lack thereof by posting on their Blog implications that are less than honest seems contradictory, and causes many other concerns and questions.

Again, let me state I do not know the practices of FBCS! But if Bo is right then a correction and apology from Tom seems fitting. If Bo is wrong then he should apologize for false statements. The statements are "When a child is baptized, the sirens sound and confetti fires out of the canon" (Tom's Post). "We don't even have a baptistery for the kids- we baptize them in the sanctuary with everyone else" (Bo's comment w spelling correction). The two are exclusive.
BR

GeneMBridges said...

What makes speaking at TBN so unbelievable? Is it unacceptable to speak on venues that don't hold to everything you do?

TBN is home to Oneness Pentecostals and the Word of Faith Movement, eg. Modalism and a different gospel that is more Gnostic than orthodox. Bailey Smith, while I hold his soteriology is seriously lacking in many ways, still preaches the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ alone. There is no comparison between Dr. MacArthur preaching @ a Bailey Smith conference and Ronnie Floyd @ TBN.

Ronnie Floyd is no sell-out

That's funny, I didn't say he was, did I? I just think he lacks sound discernment. It would be helpful to actually address what I said and not what I did not say, but since you brought it up, I'll elucidate.

TBN uses men like Dr. Floyd to gain legitmacy in the eyes of other Christians and Christian broadcasters the same way that FARMS uses Richard Mouw, Fuller Seminary's president to gain legitimacy for Mormonism every time Mouw vists the Tabernacle. IN constrast, Bailey Smith does not seek to gain legitimacy in the eyes of others by having men like Dr. MacArthur preach. I know this for a fact, as I know one or two of the big broadcasters' owners who refuse to give them time on their satellite. These men most recently refused T.D. Jakes because of his modalist views. T.D. Jakes is a known modalist and it is no secret that he does everything he can to be seen with the likes of Jack Graham, who cooperated with Jakes for the National Day of Prayer awhile back. Phillips, Craig, and Dean do this same thing. I'm sorry, but I take the admonition not to yoke ourselves unequally with false teachers seriously. Oneness Pentecostalism combines Pentecostalism, baptismal regeneration, and modalism into one. PCD and Jakes are all Oneness. There are plenty of other options for orthodox persons to "go worldwide" these days besides TBN. I would also point out the Baptist church is a local church first, not a "worldwide church." They should go worldwide via missions through the IMB, not TBN.

David B. Hewitt said...

The link that Dr. Tom referenced points to an article on FBCS's site that mentions the very thing he talked about in this post from the very beginning.

I've already posted my thoughts on this, so I'll wait for someone else more eloquent to contribute something so I don't bore anyone by repeating what I've said. :)

For Jesus,
David Hewitt

David B. Hewitt said...

...someone like Gene M Bridges, who was typing his article as I was typing mine! :)

GeneMBridges said...

If the link to FBC Springdale is dead, you can still view it via the Google cache.

Type the parent URL into www.google.com.

Click the "View Cached Version" option.

The cached URL is here:

http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:ACGLBomPAbUJ:www.fbc-springdale.org/kidsinc/html/children_s_ministry_magazine.htm+&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

I just tried the link in Firefox and it works.

As for it being an "idea" not realized, as Tim noted... Maybe, but I doubt it. As I read the article, I'm struck by comments that the rooms have actually been realized and not simply designed.

Read this one from another winner in another category:

Look what God has done!" That was the resounding cry of almost every contest entrant. They asked God for big dreams and then saw him faithfully provide to fulfill those dreams. Our only double-category winner is BLAST: Bible Learning and Spiritual Training at First Presbyterian Church in Visalia, California. Beth Richards, their children's director, saw God move in amazing ways. She writes, "Although this was a monumental task for us and a great leap into the unknown, we never looked back once we started! Our enthusiasm and faith were fanned by the Holy Spirit moving discreetly throughout our congregation. Our largest ticket items were donated, as was almost all the labor to transform the rooms...It seemed that each obstacle we met (usually in the form of a huge bill that was due) was removed by an even grander form of support (usually in the form of a donation). We felt God's hand in everything we set out to accomplish because when it was all finished, the overall transformation was far more than we had envisioned! Even today, when I walk through the classrooms, I sense God's presence. We learned that God is faithful and that he answers prayers. We also learned to trust his guidance."

--To me, that reads like a design that has been realized, not a design that has been proposed. The magazine talks about these as if they have been actually made. Likewise, the room in Springdale is said to have been set up at a specific time of year by specific persons. This is a design realized not a design proposed.

GeneMBridges said...

Here is what FBC Springdale says about its own chidren's ministry elsewhere on its own website:http://www.fbcs.net/html/mini_kids.htm

Notice it mentions the CT article, Toon Town, and Planet 45.

KIDZ Church – Grades 1-3 meet every Sunday morning in Toon Town. This dynamic, age-appropriate worship service will instill a life-changing truth in your child’s life each week. You will also receive a take-home paper with questions from the lesson that you can discuss with your child during the week.

Planet 45 – Grades 4-5 meet on Sunday morning in The Space Place which features cutting-edge video games, lights, and a giant space painting. Through drama, awesome praise and worship, cutting-edge technology, and interactive Bible lessons, God’s Word is effectively communicated to the visual generation. Planet 45 is designed to meet the unique needs of today’s 4-5th graders.

Our children’s ministry was recently named one of the top ten children’s ministries in the nation. Our facilities were voted the most innovative in America by Children’s Ministry Magazine. We have been featured in Christianity Today Magazine, Your Church Magazine, Children’s Ministry Magazine, and Time Magazine. We have also been featured in several newspaper and television reports including a nationwide appearance on ABC. We are committed to a ministry of excellence for your child.

At Kids Inc. our goal is for your child to be able to grow up and say, "I have never known anything but loving and serving Jesus."

So, it seems to me that their own website is admitting to the very thing that the FJ article noted, for the article in their magazine says, "The firehouse door raises and kids are baptized in the back of the fire truck." Further, the description for their Children's Ministry explicitly discusses Toon Town and Planet 45. If Brother Bo Higgly has a problem with the article here, then he should contact his church and ask them to update their church website, for Brother Tom is only reporting based on the information that FBC Springdale has made available themselves. Please forgive us all, Brother Higgly, for our failing powers of precognition if this information is incorrect.

Scott said...

Tom,

I have known like yourselves about this for sometime. I ASK ANYONE TO PROVE TO ME THAT A RIGHT VIEW OF GOD AND HIS ATTRIBUTES, CALVINISM DOES NOT MATTER FOR ONE TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE SBC ! WE ARE A DENOMINATION THAT REALLY DOES NOT BELIEVE IN ROMANS 1:16 BECAUSE IF WE DID WE WOULD NOT BE USING FLOYD AND HUNT AS OUR MODELS FOR A PICTURE OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH OR PASTOR. NO WAY !
AS YOU KNOW THERE IS SO MUCH MORE OF THIS STUFF IN OUR MEGA CHURCHES. A BOOK SHOULD BE WRITTEN BECAUSE IT WILL TAKE ONE TO SHOW SOME THAT THIS JUNK GOES ON AND HAS BEEN! CASH GIVEN TO TEENAGERS,CARS GIVEN AWAY, VACATION GETAWAYS, ITALIAN SUITS AND SHOES, CHURCH CREDIT CARDS, AND MASSAGES FOR STAFF AT STAFF RETREATS ALL FOR CHURCH GROWTH AND BAPTISMS FOR THE GLORY OF MAN !

farmboy said...

To paraphrase one of the many memorable quotes from an Arkansas politician, "it all depends on what the meaning of baptism is..."

Some have questioned whether a fire truck baptistry actually exists, suggesting that the quote from the website refers to a design concept that was not actually built and put in place. Mr. Bridges effectively addresses this point through his analysis of the website article.

Assuming that the design concept became reality and the room was actually built, others have argued that the fire truck baptistry was not really a baptistry. Instead, it was a means for showering all the children in the room with confetti.

Assuming that this is true, the best face we can place on this is that FBC Springdale has carelessly used the word "baptism." If the purpose of the fire truck is to merely shower children with confetti, then why not use the word "shower"?

Baptism is an important event in the life of a Christian. When the word baptism is used - especially in Baptist circles - the understood connotation is a new believer in Christ who is identifying himself/herself with Christ through baptism. Thus, the adjective "believer's" is an unnecessary modifier.

Assuming the fire truck was not intended to function as a baptistry, then why was it referred to as such? Putting the best face possible on this and assuming this is a case of careless use of the word "baptism," to what extent has a similar lack of care vested itself in other areas of church operation?

deacon said...

Brad Reynolds,
Thank you for your comments, but whether or not the comments about a fire-truck baptistery is either correct or a misreading of an article, is still missing the whole point. However, in defense of Tom, it can easily be understood that they do in fact have a fire-truck baptistery according to the FBCS website article that Tom linked.

As I said in my post what FBCS is doing is nothing more than what many churches (Reformed /Non-reformed) are doing except on steroids. And yes, this is the elephant in the corner that everyone is ignoring. The fire-truck is nothing but a footnote to a long list of problems. May I remind you that FBCS’s video that I originally saw on ABC, had a girl stating that she had to read the Bible in her old church in a not-so-positive light. What?! I know that kids say the darnedest things, but would you put that as a promotion for your church? “Come to our church, your kids won’t have to read the Bible!” Yea!

How about the comment that we “think with our feelings”? Isn’t that what we should be trying to teach our kids not to do instead of feeding their more basic nature? As I said before, there is so much to comment on and not enough time.

farmboy said...

The welcome video for the children's ministries at FBC Springdale comments that this generation of children hears with their eyes and thinks with their feelings.

Has this not been the natural tendency of all humans since the fall was recorded in Genesis 3? Put differently, was there ever a time when it was natural for children to carefully, thoughtfully and logically analyze evidence and then come to the conclusion best supported by the evidence?

To ask these questions is to answer them. This is why children need parents and other teachers. (I use the adjective "other" here because parents should be their children's primary teachers.) Part of raising a child, or if you will, domesticating a child, is to break him/her of what is natural and then replace that natural, reflexive response with a superior, learned, yet unnatural response.

Paying attention and listening to a presentation made by someone else is difficult, but if we expect adults to be able to do this, then we have to start developing this skill when those future adults are still children. Carefully following the arguments developed by someone else in the written word is equally difficult and unnatural. But it is equally necessary if adults are to grasp the important truths handed down from one generation to the next.

Even if society at large has abandoned the task of civilizing, training and domesticating the next generation, this does not justify the church abandoning these necessary tasks. Going further and perish the thought, even if the church at large has abandoned the task of civilizing, training and domesticating the next generation, this does not justify particular local congregations or families abandoning these necessary tasks.

Tony K. said...

Two witness confirmation?

Baptist Standard reports this is a fire truck baptismal.
http://www.baptiststandard.com/2000/11_20/pages/baptisms.html

A quote from the Houston Chronicle
http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=2000_3251603

Second Baptist is not the only church that is adapting amusement attractions, said Bruce Barry, president and CEO of Wacky World. His first church work came two years ago with an Arkansas congregation.

He acknowledges, though, that he was stunned when First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., asked him to design a "Toon Town" children's sanctuary.

But he took the challenge and created characters that yell and scream as clocks spin crazily and water towers explode with water spouts. He designed a fire truck that holds a baptistry for kids. Once a child is baptized, a bell rings and he or she is sprayed with confetti.

"It is a pretty big deal to get baptized in Springdale, Ark.," Barry said.

The Rev. Ronnie Floyd, pastor of the 12,000-member congregation, said Toon Town, geared for first- through third-graders, and a space-theme Planet 45 for fourth- and fifth-graders have led to an increase in children's attendance from more than 400 children to 500.

More than 150 children have been baptized since the opening of the new children's worship center. Floyd said the majority of children are baptized in the main sanctuary's baptistry while some prefer the firetruck christening.

brad reynolds said...

Farmboy (and Gene),
in light of David's comment about boredom I tread lightly, and recognize that I may not be communicating clearly...so let me try again.
Excellent point regarding the meaning of baptism. And you may have a good-point concerning the wisdom of calling something other than believers baptism, baptism. Nevertheless, even among Baptist, baptism has more than one meaning…it is not unusal to hear someone say I was baptized by fire in reference to a learning experience. Further, as I stated, if I claim that we baptize youth with confetti upon entering our youth area (as unwise as such a statement may seem) and someone takes that to imply to others publicly that we baptize our youth with confetti, then they are less than forthright.

Now, I do not know Tom, nor have I ever been to FBCS, but if Bo is correct then I can see his frustration. When I read this post I was struck with concern about the practice of baptizing children in a fire-engine which was clearly implied, but when I read the article the context implied something different (at least to me), which immediately seemed ironic since this was posted on a Blog that encourages integrity in ministry and factual statements by one who signed a statement that encourages such, less than a week ago.

This was my concern. However, Deacon and Farmboy you are wise to caution about entertainment or cheerleading at the expense of Exposition, which is something we should all guard against.
BR

brad reynolds said...

Tony
Thanks for the comment...that clears up my concerns.
BR

centuri0n said...

Listen: I don't know Bo, but in his defense it's hard to keep up with everything that happens at one church in two locations.

When we first were considering moving to NWA, we visited FBC-Springdale on a Wednesday night. It was an interesting visit because the area was ramping up for the Billy Graham Crusade that was coming through. After getting a sort of cook's tour of the campus (and it is a campus -- it's bigger today than it was then), we sat through the first of two or three weeks of initiation into the BGC evangelism team.

It sticks out in my mind mostly because the class was being held ... you guessed it: in the Toon Town building. Everyone was really very proud of what they had going on there. "the guy who designed Rainforest Cafe" was said a lot.

I have no idea why somebody would now want to deny or defend the thing. It's real; it's done. Everybody has some fleas under the fur in their church, and there's no reason for FBC-Spr to be any different.

We're not electing Dr. Floyd to the papacy. I think that the second half of Dr. Hunt's letter makes a pretty interesting point that the President of the SBC is an "expedient" leadership position and not necessarily a doctrinal or theological position. The president of the SBC doesn't have a lot of theological pull -- unless he tries to start removing people like Dr. Mohler from SBC seminaries. But that's a whole other kettle of fish, and it's not even in the arena of play right now.

Dr. Floyd has demonstrated the ability to manage large organizations effectively. I say leave the guy alone and let's not make a big deal out of the fact that his church has a lot of money and spends it on (gasp) what they believe is ministry work.

Tony K. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Byroniac said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tad Thompson said...

Listen -
I don't think the Fire Truck thing should be consuming our conversation. But, to clear things up...one of the student associates at FBCS,who went to the seminary ext. with me there at the church, took me through the facilities and pointed this out to me directly.

I do not know if it is still used in this way or if it ever was used. But the articles speak for themselves. I never saw anything in action - I only took a personal tour.

I personally do not think that kids having fun in church is heresy. I think the whole baptistry issue should die - it is sidebar stuff in my opinion. But to appease everyone I will ask DR. Floyd myself about the fire truck in my blog interview with him this week.

BO - I love your pastor. I talked with him today. The fruit of the ministry is obvious regardless of what some may say. But you also must understand there are issues going on and much discussion about good ecclesiology and soteriology.

This discussion is fruitful for the church and rest assured that your pastor is not afraid of the discussion. He is forward thinking and he loves the Lord passionatly. That came through as I talked with him today on the phone. I think everyone needs to hold tight and pray - maybe God is working in a way that we don't understand.

Tad Thompson said...

One more thing - Spiritual Child Abuse - that is a little over the top Tony.

Tad

Byroniac said...

I'm not sure how all of this fits in with everything, but here goes. Though I'm certainly reformed, and would love to see a Calvinist elected SBC president (unlikely, but possible), what strikes me about this is the need for that man to possess two characteristics: a heart of integrity, and a heart of prayer. On a personal level, for some reason, prayer is becoming a great concern of mine, because I need much greater growth in this area. As a denomination, I feel the SBC needs to recover the gospel, and true devotion to prayer (I think Spurgeon would agree).

allofgrace said...

I go to an SBC chuch which boasts of 29,000 members (2/3 of which can't be accounted for no doubt). Every Sunday the baptistry is filled with children who "came forward" within the last 2 weeks. Along with those children, are usually at least 2 adults who are "getting their baptism on the right side of their salvation"...I can't help but wonder if some years back, these folks were small children who walked an aisle one Sunday, and baptized the next. What happened to discernment? No wonder the numbers are so inflated.

The current pastor of my church seems to think that Calvinism is the biggest threat to the SBC, but has recently instituted a Thursday night worship service for the 18-29 crowd, geared to attract that age group. Seems to me that pragmatism is the greatest threat, not only to the SBC, but to the gospel message itself.

jmattingly said...

Having served in a church for some years where the pragmatism, entertainment model, and lack of discernment surrounding the children’s ministry was much milder than what is being mentioned here, I believe strongly that “spiritual child abuse” is not an overstatement. Reading Tony’s comments in the past convince me that he is not saying this simply to be inflammatory, but rather it springs out of a heart felt concern for the children that he is shepherding.

Though I believe that the intentions of the majority are good in this area, if we truly love our children, we will do what is in their best interest for eternity, not what simply gives us “peace of mind” (I got them to pray the prayer! Now I can rest easy!), makes it “fun for them”, or what “gives us more decisions” (because children are the “easiest to get to make a decision”). That type of children’s ministry, for all its good intentions, engages in spiritual child abuse.

That our children may see the glory of God,
Jeremiah

Nathan White said...

Tad said: “The fruit of the ministry is obvious regardless of what some may say.”

All of Grace said: “Seems to me that pragmatism is the greatest threat, not only to the SBC, but to the gospel message itself.”

I’m going to side with allofgrace on this one, whether he was addressing Tad’s comments or not with these words. Not sure if Tad was actually saying that the ends justify the means, but it kind of came across that way. If so, that is a cause for great concern.

Pragmatism is one of the greatest threats to the gospel. And unfortunately, like many SBC mega-churches (which is why they are mega), FBCS seems to be enslaved to it as well (from what we can read on their website).

However, I’m not saying I expect any more than that out of the pragmatic, as the error is simply rooted in a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty altogether. That’s why the issue of Calvinism in the SBC is so critical. It is not a hobby-horse for some of us, Calvinism concerns the true nature of the gospel itself.

SDG

Sojourner said...

Centuri0n,

I have to disagree with you a bit on the importance of the position of President of the SBC. Though it is certainly not the papacy, he has a tremendous impact on policy and these actions influence what goes on in our church. With every single President focusing on numerical growth, it makes the job of the average pastor that much more difficult to prune the bloated rolls of the local church.

The reason for that is that the "trickle down" effect to our people is that high attendance is the job and goal of the pastor. After all, that's what the President of the SBC tends to send out as the message. If we aren't baptizing large numbers, we are failing. If we aren't growing, we are failing. This is the dominant attitude of churches in our convention, and it causes tremendous pressure on the pastor to produce results.

As for me, I have no other churches from which I may steal sheep. Everybody down here is Catholic but our Baptist outpost, and even our outpost is in shambles. Now, how I am I supposed to explain to the people that instead of "growing" the Church, I'm actually pushing to "cut" over 100 from the roll?

I believe that the President of the SBC could certainly set the tone and make the job of the local pastor a lot easier if he would announce the "Million Fewer in 2007" campaign. That is, we want to do Church Discipline this year and be more honest and caring for those who are breaking covenant with us by not attending. Perhaps I am wrong, but there are few high profile pastors sounding this call, and it grieves me.

deacon said...

"Spiritual Child Abuse" is not an overstatement. In fact, I am a product of such abuse. I was left spiritually distitute in High School and college, but don't worry about me, I SAID THE PRAYER! Many in my family are still enslaved to the pragmatic methodologies that FBCS so clearly demonstrate. Every time I ask the question, "Don't you see a problem with this?" I am given the response, "Well, it works." Well, so does Islam - its the fastest growing religion in the world.

The only difference in FBCS and most SBC churches, as I said before, is that FBCS does it on steriods. The SBC has become neo-Methodist with less class and a lot more flare.

Stephen A Morse said...

Way earlier I asked about the Mohler-Patterson debate in reference to the Dever interview that Tom originally quoted from.

Has anyone listened to the interview? What exactly can we expect from Patterson? Having studied at Southern for 7 years I am pretty certain we will hear a strong Calvinistic argumetn from Mohler.

Also as I was initially blown right out of the fire engine when I posted earlier I wonder if we have gotten far enough past the discussion of the baptismal that we can address the last part of what Patterson said:

"I do not view [positively] the huge number of child baptisms that Baptists are now guilty of--Baptists are some of the worst paedo-baptizers there are."

I am sure Gene can give me a good historical answer for this. What do you think?

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

Most of these seventy three comments, posts - call them what you like....


....contain one or more kernels of insight and wisdom and I want to encourage others to submit their sanctified statements.


Regarding the president-to-be of the SBC, it is always good to bear in mind the old saying that "BIRDS OF A FEATHER ALMOST ALWAYS FLOCK TOGETHER."


Almost always....

David & Rose Ann said...

Current SBC polity and theology are much closer to Catholicism than meets the eye.

centuri0n said...

OK:

I have like 6 minutes between meetings today, but let me say a couple of things.

(1) The charge that the SBC is "just like" Catholicism is so broad that it really doesn't deserve a place in a civic conversation. I have no other comment about that.

(2) The president of the SBC does not dictate terms to the convention. He may leada, or set convention-wide goals, but even if it is only in spirit these days the convention is not a heirarchy but a cooperative association. As a local pastor, you have no spiritual obligation to do what the president of the SBC says.

"But cent," comes the reply, "my people will call me into account if I do not do what the president says to do." My response to that is two-fold:

(a) you should remind them what being a baptist is all about.

(b) if they are more willing to follow a ceentralized leader than to work toward unity in truth in the local church, they are not your people. I'm not saying they are not Christians: I am actually saying they are not any kind of baptist, and not the kind of people you personally came into the ministry to serve. Let them become Episcopalians or Presbyterians (no offense to my Presny brothers) if they want centralized authority. You go find a local church.

And I offer all that as a layman. You follow your conscience and do what you think is right.

Randy Williams said...

The Kidz Church video at FBC Springdale is very disturbing in that they are teaching kids that Church is all about having fun and you. It represents all that is wrong with the SBC today..entertain..numbers, numbers, numbers.

I have written a piece on this at my blog at

http://pastorrandy.blogspot.com/

Tony K. said...

Let me reconsider. I was a little overheated when I wrote spiritual child abuse. Give me a day to work out a definition on this.

The motives may have been good. But to allow this kind of circus is at minimal spiritual child neglect.

Gordon Cloud said...

Well said, Frank.

allofgrace said...

As I've heard one commentor speak of being a victim of such spiritual child abuse, I also was such a victim. A lack of both discernment, and willingness to wait upon the Lord, I believe, is at the root of the problem. Every Sunday in my church, the number of small children being baptized is alarming to me...I'm not saying that the intent is to harm, however the loud applause after each baptism is done, leaves me feeling a bit queezy. And it seems the younger the candidate, the louder the applause. God help us to regain some sanity in the issue of church membership.

Again on the issue of pragmatism--let it be known, that I number myself with Dr. Ascol as a "slobbering 5 pt Calvinist", however I still believe that the Calvinist/Arminian issue is not the most pressing at the moment. Since the pastor of my church took the pulpit some months back, I've sat through sermon after sermon in which Calvinism is ranted and railed against as though it were some sort of plague threatening the entire world--difficult enough--but even that is not what irks me the most. Two Sundays ago in the SS assembly of the singles department of which I'm a member, a guest speaker--a young pastor of a church start in Florida--after showing a video describing his own journey to faith, stood before us and spoke of his ministry, in which, because of the group they are trying to reach, do not use words like repentance...nor do they speak of Christ..only God. Needless to say that brought my blood pressure up a few notches, but also made my heart sink, thinking of the souls that are hearing a weak, watered down gospel in which not one iota of redemption can be found. THAT, brothers is the most pressing issue of the moment imho.

jbuchanan said...

I called the church and was told that the Fire Truck Baptistry is nothing more than a toy. It is not used for actual Baptisms. That should put that to rest. I understand and appreciate many of your concerns but again I think that you are overeacting. The Presidency of the SBC is little more than a figure head with very few actual powers or responsibilities. If you want to see reform occur, then it must happen in the local churches that we Pastor. Start there and then maybe it can spread throughout the denomination. I do not believe that the SBC is in peril nor do I share the gloom and doom forecasts of many of my collegues. I simply see a denomination that is still working through the ramifications of doctrinal reform. Granted I would like to see the pace accelerated, but I praise God that it is occurring at all. The war over the Bible and to have a decent confession of faith has been won, but the hardest battles occur in the local churches where the real work of reform and ministry must be done. Stop looking to the denomination for what the churches must do.

With that said, unless a diehard 5pt. Pewist is nominated for PResident, I would have no problem voting for Ronnie Floyd.

Dale Hudson said...

Fire Truck Baptisms…Is It True?

My name is Dale Hudson. I am the Children’s Pastor at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. Before coming to Central a year ago, I had the privilege of serving for seven years as the Children’s Pastor for one of the greatest pastors and leaders I have ever known…Dr. Ronnie Floyd.

While at Springdale, I felt led of God to step outside the “ministry box” of traditional children’s ministry and create environments that would capture the attention of today’s children. I presented this vision to Dr. Floyd and the church.

Together we pursued this vision and enlisted the help of a visionary, creative designer named Bruce Barry. Bruce came and designed two environments for us…Toon Town (1st-3rd grade) and Planet 45 (4-5th grade).

When designing Toon Town, I decided to have a baptistery area for kids.
The baptistery would fit into the overall theme design of the room. We had a firehouse in Toon Town so I decided to use a portable baptistery that would fit inside the firehouse. I asked Bruce to decorate the front of the portable baptistery to look like a fire truck so it would fit in with the firehouse theme.

Yes, we baptized children in Toon Town in the portable baptistery that was decorated like a fire truck. But before every child was baptized here is the procedure that was followed…

1. The child had to attend a New Believer’s class with their parents where the Gospel and baptism was thoroughly explained.
2. The child and their parent then met with a staff member to make sure they understood what they were doing. On many occasions we asked children to wait because they were not ready for baptism.
3. The parent was present at the time of baptism in Toon Town.
4. The baptisms took place at the beginning of the children’s worship service. All children were quieted and before the child was baptized we had prayer.
It was always an awesome, holy moment!
5. After the child came up out of the water the firehouse bells went off, confetti blew out, and the kids/family cheered. We encouraged the children and family to celebrate what had just happened. In heaven they celebrate when someone comes to Christ so we decided to do the same here on earth.
6. I personally baptized the children and no child ever was baptized just because they wanted to “get in the fire truck.”









Yes, the environment in Toon Town for kids was fun, relevant, and exciting. Each service also contained quiet times of worship and prayer. I am amazed how Christians can judge the motives and practices of other churches without thorough knowledge of the real story.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd is one of my heroes and will bring great leadership to the Southern Baptist Convention. I will be glad to answer any further questions you might have regarding the “fire truck” baptisms. You can contact me directly at dale.hudson@centralchristian.com.

Byroniac said...

Bro. Dale,

Not to split hairs here, but... well, I guess I will split hairs. Luke 15:7 I believe is what you are referring to when you say "In heaven they celebrate when someone comes to Christ so we decided to do the same here on earth." I think that the context of the passage is concerning salvation. The word used in the KJV is "repentance." Baptism is an act of obedience, and a sign of repentance and faith. My point is this, I think baptism is a sign that someone has already come to Christ, not the actual "coming to Christ" that Luke 15:7 speaks of (salvation). Certainly I rejoice when a little child is baptized and hope that it is for real, because I cannot know when/if that child actually ever came to Christ. I want to make certain to keep baptism and baptismal regeneration completely separate (keeping the true away from the false).

Byroniac said...

Bro. Dale,

I want to add that, even with the purest of motives, which I believe you and your church have, adding any kind of glitz or glamour to the baptistry is a step in the wrong direction. Baptism is a picture of death as well, and resurrection in Christ. With all due respect, turning a child's baptism into a "fun" or "enteraining" event seems to fall short of the spiritual profoundness of the situation, and to subtract from its biblical symbolism and meaning. If I was pastor of a church, I would simply not allow it. Baptisms would only occur in the standardized baptistry, or at the very least, in a setting that would not include confetti, cartoon characters, and the like. I say this carefully because I want to respect your motives here, but I cannot see how this is a step in the right direction.

Dale Hudson said...

Byroniac,
I respect your insight on both your responses. My point from Luke 15 is I believe that baptism is a great time to celebrate what God has done in a person's life.
Only in a standard baptistry? Is it the location of the baptism or the obedience that is more important? Last Sunday, here in Vegas, we baptized people in a swimming pool. Sorry it wasn't done in a traditional "box".

Not a fun and entertaining event?
You wouldn't like ministry in Vegas. Last Sunday when a Jewish man who has accepted Christ was baptized there was clapping, cheering, yelling, and party horn blowing...when a lady who had been Mormon her whole life was baptized the same thing happened...when people who had been addicted to drugs were baptized the same thing happened...it goes on and on.

The world thinks Christians are boring, boring, boring...wonder why? Sorry, but I've sat throught alot of dead, stale, baptism services where everyone in the audience was looking at their watches...not going back to that!

Just some thoughts.

fred said...

Dale, I would like to thank you for posting. I consider you to be an authority on whether the fire engine baptistry exists or not. Thanks for helping us get to the truth. Dr. Ascol, I believe you are due a public apology.

Stephen A Morse said...

Dale,

Thank you for coming forward. I, for one, appreciate your candid response in an arena that probably seems hostile (maybe the understatement of the year! maybe not).

Scott said...

Dale,

Thanks for commenting. Your statement " I wanted to create an environment that would capture the attention of today's children". Children today are in the same "Heart condition" as children were in Spurgeons day or at anytime in history. They are dead in sin until their hearts are opened to respond savingly to Christ. No themes, puppets, energetic music, Bibleman, or anything can raise the dead child except for the preached word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Many will say " I believe what you just said but.....". I want to encourage you to spend your time and energy standing before children with an open Bible and just teach and preach the scriptures. It will not return void! Again, I appreciate your comments and please believe that my comments are not given to hurt,humiliate, make fun of you except to teach truth to another brother in Christ.We all need to be challenged and I'm not above being corrected either! Thanks!

Byroniac said...

Bro. Dale,

Thank you for your kind and gracious response. I must continue to respectfully disagree. Your posts have helped to elucidate your position and your motives, and taking your words at face value I believe you are sincere and commendable in your motivations. Having said that, I don't think the issue is really about motives, or ever was, but about how the very important ordinance of baptism itself is observed and honored.

I do not mean this in an insulting way whatsoever, but fire truck baptistries, horn-blowing, cheering and the like strikes me as somehow... irreverent. Perhaps I've fallen off the back of the wagon on this, but I greatly prefer in comparison (if I have understood you correctly) the reverent, hushed atmosphere of gathered Baptists at a baptism simply proclaiming "Amen!" or giving praise to God as a congregation, instead. Baptism is both an act of obedience, and of worship, and perhaps I am too traditional and old-fashioned, but a jubilant, festive atmosphere like a party or celebration would strike me as both carnal and self-congratulatory at the same time. I do not care if the traditional baptismal service appears boring to the world. I couldn't care less what the latest wordly trends are, or if some believe that the ordinance of baptism requires Hollywood special-effects in order to be complete. I know that this is the 21st-century, and we do not have a lot of information on the performing of biblical baptisms, but I cannot see how some of this could remotely fit any kind of Biblical pattern.

You are probably right. I would not enjoy ministry in Las Vegas. I do not believe the saints of God require entertainment or festivities in their worship (though they do have a place in fellowship and possibly elsewhere). Church for me is the place where those serious about worshipping God do so without wordly encumberances or distractions, in an atmosphere of reverence and solemnity. Worship of God should be taken seriously, especially if the world is watching. Yes, there is great joy in conversion of souls and in the obedience of baptisms, and I have felt this several times in these services, but being human beings like we are, I believe it is too easy to get carried away in the flesh and give place to spiritual flippancy, even if unintentionally. Of course, God knows the hearts of all you have mentioned, but I feel like we (here in America at least) take God far too lightly, and often take His grace for granted, as if to be expected.

Dale Hudson said...

Scott and Byroniac,
Thanks for your insight. It is very obvious that we are far apart in ministry philosophy. I appreciate your stand for what you believe is right. May God continue to bless your ministry. Pray for us as we share God's grace with sin city. My posts are ended. Dale H.

deacon said...

Bro. Dale,
Although Byroniac could have used a better choice of words, or phrased it a better way, however I believe his intention was that the "standard" was not referring to which type of baptistery was used, but how the congregation handled themselves. Nevertheless, I don’t want to speak for Byroniac.

I was encouraged to see that FBCS goes through such a process to make sure that the children that are baptized are true believers, or at least as much as man can asses. I wish more churches would take the same initiative when discipling new converts, young or old, before their baptism. Nevertheless remember, the reigning issues concerning FBCS on this blog have been whether or not they actually used fire-truck for a baptistery – which you have confirmed in the affirmative; and whether or not it is appropriate – still being debated. Let us not forget that it was Dr. Page Patterson that stated that this practice was blasphemous. I, on the other hand, think that the fire-truck is nothing but a symptom of the cancer that is in the modern day church, hence the following:

You said that, "The world thinks Christians are boring, boring, boring...wonder why? Sorry, but I've sat throught [sic] alot [sic] of dead, stale, baptism services where everyone in the audience was looking at their watches...not going back to that!"

When will the day come when we are more concerned about what God thinks about our worship of the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth rather than what world might think? Didn’t Jesus say that the world would hate us because we are His and the world hated Him?

How can a baptism service be dead or stale? Did you pole the group as to their attitudes toward the service, or were you perpetuating your own attitude on them? Be honest, were you looking at your watch when a fellow brother or sister was testifying to the world that they were identifying themselves with the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Audience? Audiences come for entertainment and a show. A congregation, assembly, or body comes to unite. Hopefully, they come to unite to give God the glory He deserves rather than come to receive entertainment from a dog and pony show…not going back to that!

Byroniac said...

Bro. Dale,

Yes, I used a poor choice of words. I did not mean that only a standardized, Baptist (tm) baptistry is acceptable for baptism. But what I intended to say was that the environment, and the reverence due in this event by the participants, are very important.

I apologize to you for letting myself become too upset over this issue, and that was probably reflected in my words. Perhaps we do have a difference in our philosophy towards ministry. Heaven knows, I'll need a lot of correction in mine before it is all said and done. I need more prayer and spiritual insight on this issue, and to give it more thought. In the meantime, I pray that Christ will lead you to Him in all areas and bless your service to Him, because He is the master to whom we both must answer.

Andrew said...

"I am amazed how Christians can judge the motives and practices of other churches without thorough knowledge of the real story."

The video explains FBCS motives and practices regarding Toon Town, does it not? And if this highly polished production does not tell "the real story" then who is to blame for misunderstanding? Judgmental Christians?

The only new information from Dale's post was that some spiritual things are considered with child & parent before the fire engine baptism, bells, horns & confetti take place. Is this "the real story" that we judgmental Christians should have waited to hear? If these precautions are the "real story" behind the ministry of Toon Town, how does they make the previous concerns void?

The message from Dale and the video is clear: the motivation for Tiny Town is to communicate the gospel. And the gospel is MORE effective when it is entertaining.

This is a plain denial of the sufficiency of scripture. You can rationalize it as just a mere "vehicle of communication" for postmodern children who think with their feelings. Call it by any name you want. If scripture does not have the power (without a Nickelodeon studio) to quicken dead souls and is not entirely sufficient to transform lives (without aid of the idol of entertainment) then OF COURSE fire engine baptisteries can help God penetrate the hearts of His enemies. If we do not make God "relevant", He simply cannot save as many people.

The creators/defenders of Tiny Town will not describe their motivation as “helping” God save children. They use figurative language to say the same thing though. As Dale says in the video, it’s all about “anything to get the message across”. The message just can’t save on its own.

And as the little girl said, “At other churches you just have to listen to them… and read the Bible all the time.” Listening to the man of God… and reading the Bible. Isn’t that exactly what all New Testament believers are commanded to do?

Byroniac said...

Yeah. What Andrew said.

Jeffrey J. Stables said...

I've worked with kids for over 6 years now, and there are two things I know are detrimental to guiding a child to truly trust Christ: (1) making your (the adult's) approval or group acceptance (peer pressure) contingent on the child's profession of faith; and (2) using anything other than Scripture and the child's own sin to guide him to Christ. Using such a "gimmicky" baptismal is sure to lead to many children professing faith because of the persuant fanfare, rather than realization of their own need for a Savior. Not blasphemous, nor child abuse, but definitely irresponsible on the part of the children's ministry's leadership and potentially dangerous to the spiritual health of the kids.

In one sentence: What has the gospel lost that we need to add in with gimmicks and special effects?

Bulldawgy said...

Well said, Jeffrey. This is the kind of thing that happens when we believe that we have anything to do with the regeneration of an unbeliever.

flawedcricket said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
flawedcricket said...

Bill Shannon from Grace Community Church said it well, "We are preparing children for the future church, and if all we do is play games and feed them candy, they will expect the same as they continue within the church. If that is the beginning, the end will be even worse."

As Spurgeon said, "You are teaching children, so mind what you teach them. Take care what you are doing. . .It is a child's soul you are tampering with. . .It is a child's soul you are preparing for eternity."

Cary Loughman said...

Thank you for that sober post, Jeffrey. Your church is blessed by God to have you ministering to their little ones.

Byroniac said...

I find it most telling that Bro. Dale called it a "philosophy of ministry" as opposed to a theology of ministry. I'm not sure if that was just a careless selection of words or not.

Too, I fear that he is more a pragmatist than theologian. In his reply to me, what his implied statement was behind the baptisms and cheering he recounted basically was this, "Look! The Lord is blessing our ministry. It works!" True, God can use and bless the ministry, and no doubt He has done so in the case of Bro. Dale's if what he is saying is true, but surely it must be in spite of his pragmaticism than because of it. What he described sounded too man-centered to me.

This brings me to my third and final point. Is it really the Lord these people were cheering and blowing horns for in the baptism? Hopefully several were truly praising God for what is done (like I said, the Lord knows the hearts), but in such a "festive" carnival-like atmosphere as that, one cannot help but wonder if some are praising the baptismal participant for "doing a work" instead. Listening to the conversation of those involved will generally reveal all. Statements like, "I'm so proud of him/her!" are dead giveaways.

God save us from "fleshly religiosity" as I have heard one preacher put it!

Nathan White said...

I am honestly amazed at those who would even start to defend this ‘Children’s ministry’, or even those who say we are over-reacting. I cannot add much to what other faithful men have said on this thread, namely the obvious distrust in the sufficiency of scripture, bait ‘n switch, and misunderstanding of Who is sovereign in salvation, but maybe some quotes by old saints will lead to some further consideration:

“I looked for the church, and I found it in the world; I looked for the world and I found it in the church.” -H. Bonar

“When the night-club invades the sanctuary it ought not to be difficult for any Bible Christian to discern the time of day.” -V. Havner

“The legitimate courtesies of life become positively sinful when they take priority over the interest of the Lord Jesus.” -W. MacDonald

“He who has the smile of the ungodly must look for the frown of God.” Spurgeon

“It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God.” -A.W. Tozer

“Subtly the overriding goal is becoming church attendance and worldly acceptability rather than a transformed life. Preaching the Word and boldly confronting sin are seen as archaic, ineffectual means of winning the world. After all, those things actually drive most people away. Why not entice people into the fold by offering what they want, creating a friendly, comfortable environment, and catering to the very desires that constitute their strongest urges? As if we might get them to accept Jesus by somehow making Him more likable or making His message less offensive.” -J. MacArthur

“The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrillseeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public. The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.” – A.W. Tozer

SBC Noobie said...

I find it amusing that the only people who are posting comments are those who disagree with Dale's "philosophy" or "theology" or whatever. All of you should get oof your cans and go be productive for the Kingdom.

Byroniac said it best with "Look- God is Blessing". Yes- He IS blessing Brother Dale's ministry, but I bet Bro Dale doesn't win sould by sitting behind a computer hitting refresh every few minutes, awaiting the next slip of words so that he can issue a clever response.

You folks talk of how much you lament the practices of these ministers, and while I respect your views, they get old after the 3rd or 4th post. We get it- you don't want to spoil kids because you want them to be used to going to your church and experiencing God without all the bells and whistles... fine... point taken... now turn your chair around... peel yourselves off your chairs and find someone to share Jesus with.

I'm sure that's what Bro Dale is doing now, rahter than reading your thoughts... over and over and over and over...

Jeff Jones said...

Noobie,

We should clear something up for you here. Most of the posters here - most of those criticising the fire engine included - don't see this in terms of "winning souls." We recognize that it is not the man, but the Spirit, who converts anyone and thus "wins souls." I have never "won a soul" in my life, and I can guarantee that you haven't either.

Your deprecation of Christian brothers who have serious and Scripturally-based concerns about this ministry approach seems patronizing. You seem to be sneering that these people don't care as much about evangelism as Bro. Dale and yourself.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We criticize this approach because it makes baptism about entertainment and not about God. It HURTS evangelism. These young, impressionable children who are baptized in this context will grow up thinking that church is supposed to be a Disney-type entertainment attraction. As baptism is supposed to symbolize death to self and resurrection to new life in Christ, I and others strongly feel this pragmatic, entertainment-centred ministry philosophy misses the point entirely.

Or, put in other words, it's kind of hard to bring home a lesson about dying to self and taking up one's cross for selfless service to Christ when the entire thrust of this particular ministry appears to be about pandering to culture-driven, worldly man-centred desires.

I honestly fear for the souls of the children raised in this environment. When they grow old enough to realize that entertainment and reality are not necessarily the same thing, on what side of that divide will the things of Christ fall in those childrens' hearts? Given the appalingly low rate of retention of church-raised children in the church upon adulthood, I think the answer is obvious.

J. Gray said...

Jeff Jones is exactly right!

It's so sad that people like Noobie can't see that. I am tired of seeing attacks on people here from guys like Noobie who don't even understand the critiques. They don't understand, and then they make things personal.

Very disheartening.

Byroniac said...

Noobie,

Point taken. However, you possibly overemphasize "activity" at the expense of "doctrine," which defines, defends, and motivates such activity. Don't put the cart before the horse, in other words. Be very careful, brother, that your ministry does not "devolve" into a social gospel, as is the case with far too many ministries today, even with the best of intentions.

To the others,
In Noobie's defense, I do see his/her point. We can become so concerned about theology, that we miss the point of sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ with the world. But the kicker with me is this, our doctrine will define our gospel, and our gospel will define our target "audience" for lack of a better word.

The gospel is not, come, let Jesus save you and enhance your life, and transform you from loser to winner (I like Dr. Floyd from what I have read of him, but I disagree on certain points and emphases such as this one), etc. Part of the gospel is to repent of your rebellion against a Holy God who can and will justly condemn you to Hell, unless you turn in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, who alone can save from sins, and who perfectly redeems His sheep and brings many sons to glory. Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief, to paraphrase scripture. I would ask those who read, are you a sinner? Repent, trust Christ, and then baptism is meaningful, not before. It is not an activity to celebrate, but a worship service praising the graciousness and mercy of God for redeeming His elect and identifying them with His precious Son. If we are not found in Christ, we are undone. And that is the heart of what baptism symbolizes.

jmattingly said...

So the argument goes:

A) You are engaging in theological discussion, specifically of a critical nature.

Therefore, by default…

B) You must not be living out a life of practical Christianity.

These two must always be mutually exclusive.


SBC Noobie, I confess that the temptation to neglect my practical Christian duties is always before me. I confess to God daily the areas of weakness in my own ministry and lack of personal holiness. I take your critique as a further goad for me to live out that life before God, preaching as dying men to dying men.

With that said, your statements are neither accurate nor helpful. My concern is for the souls of children, knowing many who are now adults who are on their way to hell because they take comfort in having “made a decision”, yet show no evidence of being a believer (by the grace of God he rescued me from this false assurance). If we are not ready to wrestle with the Scriptures about these issues with children, and make distinctions where distinctions need to be made, then where WILL we be careful?

My brother, is God concerned about how we do evangelism? Is it worth discussion? Are methods worth critiquing if they dishonor our Lord and deceive men into false assurance? I’m not speaking specifically to the particular church in this blog post- I do not know all of their practices. But having been involved in organizing “revivals” in my SBC church (and being intimately familiar with them in many other churches), this is not an isolated issue. I literally wept one night after a revival yielded more than 100 youth/children decisions, yet we could not get a single one to attend church over the coming months, despite fervent and heart-felt follow-up.

My friend, these matters are worth discussing.

May the Lord give us all more insight,
Jeremiah

jbuchanan said...

What is the purpose of this discussion exactly? It really doesn't matter whether or not I agree with using Firetruck baptistry or not. I must Pastor and lead the church that God has called me to. Does all of this disqualify Ronnie Floyd from being President of the SBC? Of course, not! There will never be a President that we all agree completley on. All the guys gets to do is appoint a committee, rule over a huge business meeting, and get attacked by the press. He's not the Pope. Ronnie will be a good President and we probably would do far better to get over this and get back to the real work of reforming our churches.

Byroniac said...

jbuchanan:

Forgive me for phrasing it this way, which is a gross oversimplification, but how can we reform the churches if we do not know what needs to be reformed? I do not think that the Fire Truck Baptistry (which will probably now be famous) is the core issue, either. But I certainly do think it is a symptom of a problem which has probably now been adequately discussed on this particular blog entry (concerning myself only).

Funny that a comment like Noobie's, however, always comes at a predictable time: they won't say it outright, but you can smell the disagreement in their words when they write. It's never, hey guys, I've enjoyed this theological discussion tremendously and find nothing but agreement with all of you on it, but don't we have more important work to do? Instead, it always seems to be something in the line of "let's get away from doctrine and get out there and get busy" (doing what? Doctrine would tell us certainly, but it must be superfluous). As if, your theology is not only wrong but is functioning as an obvious hindrance to the more important social work that needs to be done. Perhaps that is not the way Noobie meant it, but I can't help but wonder.

Byroniac said...

jbuchanan,
On second thought, rereading your post more carefully, I see where you are coming from, and I agree. Let's hope and pray whoever is elected will be blessed by God with the wisdom and prudence necessary to perform the administrative duties that will most benefit the entire body of Christ as a whole. I let myself get too worked up on these issues. Though I disagree with some, I think nearly everyone has made good points worthy to be considered. I just wish Dr. Ascol's gracious spirit (and that of others) would wash over the rest of us (especially me, I need it!).

Byroniac said...

Oh, and I didn't mean to insinuate that only the SBC constitutes the body of Christ. I tend to live in an SBC bubble. I'll have to get out more.

JS said...

allofgrace -

Sounds like you and I attend the same church.

And I thought I was the only one in the pews gettin' upset.

iamchief said...

I just finished reading the 110th comment and my eyes now hurt. Now there's 111!:o)

This has been an interesting dialogue - to say the least - and a very necessary one. I've got a couple of short comments, by way of responding to these comments as a whole:

1. Motives are not the issue here, methods are. And I don't buy for one minute the overused cliche' that says "The methods can change as long as the message stays the same." There is a biblical apologetic for ministry/methodology.
(I know it's not good blogger etiquette to promote your own blog on a comment thread, but I recently engaged a similar discussion about the methods of a particular "ministry" to pornography addicts. I gave several passages to illustrate my plea for a biblical apologetic for ministry)

2. Pragmatism is the playground for Arminians. (I use labels here only for brevity.) When it's ultimately up to us to "win souls", then it's only natural to want to incorporate practically any method by which to accomplish this. This is Finneyism gone amuck. (BTW, I know many who are theological Calvinists but methodological Arminians. Know what I mean?)

3. I have to ask myself - Am I as passionate about evangelizing the lost as the ones whom we are criticizing? Most often, I confess, I am not.

Now, if you'd allow me a bit more space here...
I was recently emailed an excerpt from one of Piper's sermons from TG4, that I think providentially addresses some of this discussion. For those of you who were there (I was not), these words are probably still echoing in the chambers of your soul:

God did not ordain the cross of Christ or create the lake of fire in order to communicate the insignificance of belittling his glory. The death of the Son of God and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the loudest shouts under heaven that God is infinitely holy, and sin is infinitely offensive, and wrath is infinitely just, and grace is infinitely precious, and our brief life—and the life of every person in your church and in your community—leads to everlasting joy or everlasting suffering. If our preaching does not carry the weight of these things to our people, what will? Veggie Tales? (Not in a million years) Radio? Television? Discussion groups? Emergent conversations?

God planned for his Son to be crucified (Revelation 13:8; 2 Timothy 1:9) and for hell to be terrible (Matthew 25:41) so that we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when we preach. What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of the preacher is soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed with fire of hell. That’s the mantle that turns mere talkers into preachers. Yet tragically some of the most prominent evangelical voices today diminish the horror of the cross and the horror of hell—the one stripped of its power to bear our punishment, and the other demythologized into self-dehumanization and the social miseries of this world.

Oh that the rising generations would see that the world is not overrun with a sense of seriousness about God. There is no surplus in the church of a sense of God’s glory. There is no excess of earnestness in the church about heaven and hell and sin and salvation. And therefore the joy of many Christians is paper thin. By the millions people are amusing themselves to death with DVDs, and 107-inch TV screens, and games on their cell phones, and slapstick worship, while the spokesmen of a massive world religion write letters to the West in major publications saying, “The first thing we are calling you to is Islam . . . It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme.” And then these spokesmen publicly bless suicide bombers who blow up children in front of Falafel shops and call it the way to paradise. This is the world in which we preach.

And yet incomprehensibly, in this Christ-diminishing, soul-destroying age, books and seminars and divinity schools and church growth specialists are bent on saying to young pastors, “Lighten up.” “Get funny.” “Do something amusing.” To this I ask, Where is the spirit of Jesus? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:44). “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “Some of you they will put to death . . . But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:16-19).

Would the church growth counsel to Jesus be, “Lighten up, Jesus. Do something amusing.” And to the young pastor: “Whatever you do, young pastor, don’t be like the Jesus of the Gospels. Lighten up.” From my perspective, which feels very close to eternity these days, that message to pastors sounds increasingly insane.


You can read the entire sermon here

SBC Noobie said...

Byroniac- I have to say that I have been enlightened over the last few days. Altough I never disagreed with your views, I now have a better grasp on them.

You were right to say that my point was "Let's not get too wrapped up in theology and let's get back to Jesus". But I see your point- and it's well taken.

Jeff Jones- don't over analyze things- When I say "winning souls" I mean sharing Christ's love them and leading them through a prayer of repentance. I'm sure you will find something wrong with that as well, but that's ok. I'm not an educated man, though I am "studying to show myself approved".

We're not all well studied- we don't all agree, but I am sure we all love Jesus. I hope that is most important. thanks for all of your comments- especially Jbuchanan and byroniac... you two have really made me pray and seek God on several issues. It's been a great conversation. I hope to meet you someday- here or there.

Ryan DeBarr said...

"fine... point taken... now turn your chair around... peel yourselves off your chairs and find someone to share Jesus with."

Um why don't you take your own advice? You've spent exactly the same amount of time on this blog that all the others have.

jbuchanan said...

I totally agree the methodology can never be separated from theology. This is the greatest problem in the SBC. We no longer hold to the sufficieny or authority of the Bible. We say we do but then turn around and embrace pragmatism. My basic arguement here is that I can do nothing about what happens in another church. I must give me greatest energy to the task of leading the church that I Pastor towards reform. Perhaps one day, if enough Pastors do the same, we will see wholesale change occur in the SBC. We must remember that those who misunderstand the Doctrines of Grace are suspicious of everything we do. By showing that a church can fully embrace the Doctrines of Grace and still be evangelistic and missions minded will help us to gain credibility.

Brad Graves said...

Read what John Shearhart wrote at...

http://churchlaunchers.blogspot.com/

Brad

iamchief said...

Another helpful word from Jim Eliff.

Craig Miller said...

I first met Ronnie Floyd when I was 15 years old (41 now). I was drunk in my high school parking lot and my Father was a lost chairman of the deacons at FBC, Palacios, TX. Ronnie was our new pastor and he did make church fun and interesting. I quickly got past the fun and into the Word. God's Spirit drew me and the blood of Jesus changed me. This week by the grace of God our ministry provided safe water wells for 10,000 people in the Dar-fur of Sudan (and hundreds of Bibles). We're doing that stuff every week. It all started when I met a Pastor who made church interesting and at the same time gave solid expositional preaching of the Word. Great news guys... those two items are not at odds and fun church produces missionaries.

Real quick on what someone said about "Standard" baptism experience. Whose standard did you mean. I was hopeful you were refering to scripture but I don't guess you've had any doves decending lately on your Baptistry. Have you had the Father's voice thunder from heaven like it did at Jesus' Baptism. What would you do with that since I'm guessing some of you are of the persuasion that God has not uttered a peep in nearly 2000 years? Talk about entertaining?

On Action and Doctrine... I believe noobie's concern was more about people than just empty action. Reminds me of Jesus. I have a degree in Theology and think Doctrine is rather important. However, the overemphasis of it's importance reminds me of the Pharisees (not that I'm calling any of you that... I'm certainly not.) But it concerns me that some of the things some of you call doctrine might just be the standards of man.

I challenge you. Would you just read the Gospels again and look at Jesus' actions and look at the Pharisee's actions? Where do you fit in?