More Thoughts on the GCRTF

For those who don’t know, the GCR task force has been working hard on coming up with a vision and a plan for the SBC, so that we can reach North America and the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a feeling I know what they are going to conclude and present to the SBC. That we as Southern Baptists need to be more “missional,” that we need to practice “relational evangelism,” and that we need to plant churches like never before. Of course this will make all the Acts 29 supporters and the Mark Driscoll fans happy. The “missional” part I really don’t have a problem with (if my definition of ‘missional’ is the same as theirs), it’s the relational evangelism that troubles me. About 10 years ago I heard a sermon on evangelism. The pastor referenced Luke 5:27-32 and said, “Matthew threw a party, invited his tax collecting friends and that’s how he brought them to Jesus.” He then referenced John chapter 4 (the Samaritan woman at the well) and said that she brought the people she knew and had a relationship with out to meet Jesus. This pastor referenced various other examples of “relational evangelism,” and concluded that this is what Christians need to do in order to fulfill the Great Commission. Keep in mind this was 10 years ago (give or take a couple years), and this particular pastor was an Assembly of God pastor, not a Southern Baptist. Of course if you know anything about the Assemblies of God then you know that they were doing contemporary praise and worship long before we were doing it in the SBC, and they were doing exciting skits and youth dramas, they had the power points and video screens, maybe not before the SBC, but they were using them more effective (at least I would say they were). About six years ago I preached a sermon very similar to that, at that time I was pastoring a Disciples of Christ church, not a Baptist church. In both instances the messages were well received. The reason for this; quite simply, was Armenian theology. They felt that they had to make “church” attractive to the world. Once they did this they could draw in the masses and then get them saved. In-effect, bringing the world to Jesus, like the references to Matthew and the woman at the well above. I think that the GCR task force will come to the above conclusions because they will say to themselves, “Well we’ve tried just presenting the Gospel without building relationships and quite frankly, it hasn’t worked.” But here is my problem with this. How do they know? I personally would like to know the last time any of the members of the GCR Task Force were actually involved in personal evangelism? When was the last time any of them engaged someone, someone they knew was not a Christian, with the Gospel message? And how do they know that Southern Baptists as a whole have done this? How many members in Southern Baptist Churches are actively sharing the Gospel with the lost people they know? When I say “sharing the Gospel” I’m speaking of actually telling those who are lost, that they are indeed lost, that they are enemies of God, that they are hell bound, but there is hope in Jesus Christ, who was crucified for their sins, that He paid the penalty for those sins, so that they could be made right with God, and that Jesus was raised up because of this justification, and that they receive this forgiveness and redemption by grace through faith. You see, it’s my experience that many Southern Baptists believe that if they invite someone to church then they have shared the Gospel with that person. It’s my experience that many Southern Baptists believe that if they send their kids or grandkids to Falls Creek they’ve done their part in evangelism. It’s my experience that many Southern Baptists believe that if they visit with someone, say their neighbor down the street, or the person at the local coffee shop, and they were pleasant or nice to them, that they have shared the gospel with them. So if asked if they are in-fact sharing the Gospel, many, if not most, Southern Baptists would answer in the affirmative. When in-fact they haven’t done so at all. What they have actually done is engaged in what I hear many calling “relational evangelism.” In-other words, I greatly fear that the GCR Task Force is going to recommend something that many Southern Baptists have been doing all along. They’ve done this while wrongly thinking that they have been sharing the Gospel. This of course could engrain and strengthen the belief that they have been doing it right all along, after all, if the big guns of the SBC have finally seen the light, how could we be wrong about this? The fact of the matter is that Armenians and Calvinists do evangelism differently. Now (keep in mind; I’m not talking about the hyper Calvinist who sits by and does nothing because of his wrong view of sovereignty.) Armenians believing that the gospel must be made attractive focus on method, Calvinists believing that the gospel is effectual focus on the message. As a Calvinist, I believe that when I faithfully present the gospel, men and women will hear it, and to God’s elect, that presentation will be effective. This gives me a boldness in presenting that message. Knowing that God’s Word will not return void, but will accomplish what it is intended to do (See Isa. 55:11, and John 6:37). Thus I am not beating the air, with uncertain results. I know that they shall come. Thus I don’t have to persuade, I don’t have to manipulate, I don’t have to make the gospel more attractive (something I believe the Bible teaches against anyway), and I don’t necessarily have to build a relationship with them before presenting the gospel. You see; Christ laid down His life for His sheep, and they will hear His voice and follow Him (see Acts 13:48, John 10:16, 27). It’s not in my timing but in God’s timing. My job is to faithfully present the message. Baptists have a Calvinistic creed, but an Arminian ministry. We tend to think of missions and evangelism ministerially (sp?) rather than theologically. Thus I fear that mission work and evangelism is going to be further reduced to a social gospel, institutionalism, and teaching people how to manipulate the program so that they can get what they want out of it. Please understand; I’m not against building relationships, and I am definitely not against being missional (again, if their understanding of missional is the same as mine). It’s just that I honestly believe that relational evangelism isn’t the way to go. Let me explain why that is. John 3:19 says that men love darkness rather than light; John 14:17 says that the world CANNOT receive the Spirit of truth (as Scripture progresses, we see that the world can’t receive it unless Jesus calls them unto Himself). John 15:19 tells us that the world loves its own, but hates those who are Christ’s, as does John 17:14. Romans 12:2 tells us as Christians to not be conformed into the worlds image, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. James 4:4 tells us that to be friendly with the world is to be an enemy of God. 1st John 2:15 goes a step further and says that if we love the world the love of the Father is not in us. What all this means is that no matter how friendly you become with someone, they cannot be saved unless the gospel is presented to them. It tells me that if we are kind and if we bless those of the world, they will use those blessings, and they may or may not be thankful and appreciative, but those blessings will not result in their salvation, nor will they result in a new nature (i.e. regeneration) for those we are blessing, unless the gospel is presented to them. What I see happening in Scripture is Christians going somewhere and boldly proclaiming the gospel message. THEN they built relationships with those who received the message. People might say that the apostle Paul was not the normative, and yet Paul tells his readers to follow his example (See Phil. 3:17 and 2nd Thess. 3:9). I am also fully aware that as Christians we are to be salt and light, that we are to let our good works show forth so that those in the world will see them and glorify our Father in heaven. But in Scripture again and again I see that it is our love to one another (our brothers and sisters in Christ) that causes the world to wonder. I see local gatherings of believers coming to the aid and assistance of other local gatherings in different communities, not so much coming to the aid of the world. Can someone help me out with this, show me where I’m wrong, and educate me?

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