Maybe its not so ominous

I just read an article in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger (accessed here: http://baptistmessenger.com/editors-journal-our-ominous-future/#comments on 11 November 2009).  My comments on the article are to follow, but perhaps a bit of history is necessary before I begin… My own history that is.

 

I first became “religious” thanks to the allure of the Word of Faith Movement (often called the prosperity gospel today).   I was enamored by men like Jesse Duplantis and Kenneth Copeland, but even more so than their personalities, I was drawn in by what they were saying.  That a person could basically write their own ticket with God.  Granted I was never an atheist so much as I was just a simple pagan or heathen.  I believed in a “god” just not the Christian God, as Christians always seemed to have a superiority complex about them, and besides I was a poor boy, and unable to offer much when it came to tithes, so never in my life (growing up as a child) did a Christian witness to me.  I was simply undesirable, or thought to be too far gone to reach.  But what happened was that I heard these Word of Faith preachers, through the radio and on TBN and I basically said to myself – “Oh yeah, this is what I’ve been waiting for.”  I began going to a Word of Faith church, listening to all the teachings of the Word of Faith teachers, and I bought it hook, line and sinker.  Yet God, in His providence, used even this.  Because what the Word of Faith teaches is that: “In order to write your own ticket with God, you have to have faith, and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  So naturally I dove into the Bible, hoping to increase my faith, and be as prosperous as the men I was watching on TBN. 

 

I studied diligently, and even enrolled in a Word of Faith Bible College.  But something happened.  As I poured over the Scriptures I found myself not wanting the material blessings, but wanting forgiveness.  Not wanting perfect health, but wanting reconciliation with God.  Not wanting fame and fortune, but wanting a deeper relationship with this Jesus who died for my sins.  Prior to this I had tested religions.  I used a form of the scientific method, even before I knew what the scientific method was.  I asked myself 3 questions:  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  Why do I do the bad things that I do, even when I don’t want to?  I read extensively the texts of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and the Bible.  I looked into Wicca, into New Age philosophy, and even humanism.  Only the Bible answered those questions, but I couldn’t get over my hang ups about Christians.  If the Bible were true, then why were Christians no different than anyone else?  And just as bad or worse than many of my non-religious friends?  But back to the subject at hand… I continued reading the Bible, and at some point, I believe God stooped to create in me, a new heart.  I won’t go into all the details of the events that were taking place in my life at the time, that also played a role in how this came about.  Needless to say, I wrote a 7 page paper detailing how God never promises us health, wealth, prosperity, etc… but instead Christians will suffer, be persecuted, will have trouble in this world, and that material blessings are not a sign of faith or Christian maturity, that God does not always heal in the present time, that man is not a “little god” and that basically the Word of Faith Movement was heretical; and took it to the president of that particular Word of Faith Bible College and presented it to him (this was my own version of the 95 thesis).  I asked him with all sincerity, if I am wrong on this, then please show me where I’m wrong.  He began reading it and got to about page 3.  His face turned beet red and he said to me, and I quote, “This is a multi-million dollar organization.”  I looked him square in the eyes and said, “I know, and that’s the problem.  You are more concerned about raking in the dollars than you are about saving souls.”  And in no uncertain terms this man pointed his finger at the door and said, “GET OUT!”  Thus I was kicked out of Bible College. 

 

So what does any of this have to do with the article from the Baptist Messenger?  Well a lot actually.  I went from Word of Faith Charismatic to a reformed believer.  I wasn’t preaching in a Southern Baptist Church at the time, but I was preaching reformed doctrine.  I line up with reformed faith, with my only hang up being infant baptism (believers baptism is why I’m Baptist, otherwise I’d be a Presbyterian).  I have only been preaching in a Baptist Church for a short time, but I’ve been reformed for quite a while.  So; I am still learning about the cooperative program and the various other entities within the SBC.  But what I do see is the same mentality that I saw in that Word of Faith Bible College.  It’s all about the dollars and how can we keep them rolling in?  I honestly don’t think its about sending missionaries, I think its about the money.  Churches will find ways to send missionaries, they always have.  But the CP is not only about the IMB and NAMB, it is also a lot of influential peoples pet projects.  Here in Oklahoma Falls Creek comes to mind.  Last year was the first year I had ever gone to Falls Creek, I had heard about it (I actually had heard that it was a great place to pick up girls and get lucky).  But I took a group of students.  What I witnessed was no different than a typical Charismatic service.  The first worship band sang Wimoweh: The Lion Sleeps Tonight by the Tokens, all the kids formed a conga line, and were worked into an emotional frenzy.  The second worship band came on and kept them in an emotional state, then the speaker came out on stage and said, and again I quote, “I don’t even think I need to preach tonight, I feel the Spirit of the Lord here.”  And he gave an alter call and 2/3rds of the kids present went forward – without ever hearing the Gospel.  It’s a pet project however, that people don’t want to get rid of, and yet we wonder why church attendance continues to go down, and why baptisms are down, and why we are only a shell of our former glory in the SBC. 

 

So here’s what I think is happening.  I think that I’m probably not alone in my disgust with some of the things the CP does and is part of.  I am not alone in my disappointment with how the CP allocates some of its funds.  And so Pastors and churches are voting with their feet and with their pocket books.  In the little church I pastor, we support a missionary and actually get reports of successes and failures, of specific needs, and prayer requests, and we see how our funds are being used, and those using said funds give an account.  So if the CP goes the way of the dodo, I honestly don’t see how it will affect the cooperation between churches.  I will still work hand in hand with the other churches in our association, and possibly, if the CP were to just, go away, then it might actually free up some churches to work with other churches that are actually more effective at missionary work (I’m thinking Acts 29 churches and the like), churches that we as Southern Baptists normally may not feel comfortable working with due to our loyalties to the CP or the SBC, loyalties that have hindered our effectiveness. 

 

Again; this is coming from a guy who hasn’t been in the SBC for that long, but also from a guy whose been around the block more than once when it comes to religion and its messy little details.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll do like everyone else and wait and see what the GCR has to say, and then go from there.  But the “ominous” future, may not be so ominous if it forces God’s agenda to the forefront rather than the SBC’s.

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