Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So, You Wanna Be A Rock Star?

Imagine the feeling...

You walk on stage, the crowd is roaring, the smoke machines billow, the lights are flashing, the girls are screaming and fainting all over the place. You are the star of the show. It's all about you! This is your moment to shine! You're about to give the audience the show of a lifetime!

Now back to reality...

What I've described seems to be what some preachers are seeking these days. I've actually seen videos and heard audio clips of certain ministers taking the pulpit while the audience cheers as if Nickelback has just taken the stage. In fact, with some preachers it's obvious, they want the spotlight on them. They want denominational fame. They desire to have all eyes on them and to be the stars of the show!

A few years ago, before I left the Pentecostal movement, I attended a service at a very progressive Pentecostal church not far from here just to see what the buzz was all about. I was amazed at what I witnessed. Though it was a small church just outside of the city limits of a rural Georgia town, it had all the trappings of a secular rock concert. It was a real circus.

They had everything a despiser of God could want: flashing lights, smoke machines, loud music, and plenty of man-centered "praise and worship" that had little to no theology or true reverence for God. It was just awful. One thing that stood out to me was how the preacher was escorted to and from the pulpit flanked by ushers sporting Secret Service type communication equipment. It was obvious that this pastor was much too important to spend any time mingling with the commoners. Needless to say, I never returned...

If you're in the ministry and you desire to be the star of the show and have church services like I described above, let me give you some candid advice. If truly want be cheered by thousands of adoring fans, then Gospel ministry is not what you need to be doing! Go buy yourself a guitar, learn to play it, and then start your own garage band. Maybe if your real lucky, you might be a rock star someday, but whatever you do, don't waste your time pretending to be a minister of God.

God has called us to preach the Word and be a servant in His Kingdom. He hasn't called us to be the stars of the show. Whenever we begin to think we're the stars of the show, we have fallen into a grievous sin. I believe any praise we receive as ministers should immediately be directed to God, we have no right to it. We have nothing in which to boast. It's all about Him. It's His show. He's the Star. He should be the main attraction.

Brothers, we are not rock stars!

photo: from wikipedia

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Your Turn to Sound the Alarm

Just a quick request for your opinions here.

I don't have the Martin Luther quote in front of me, but he once taught that it's possible for a pastor to be faithful in every area, but then utterly fail as a representative of Christ's kingdom, because of his unwillingness to address the central issue that the forces of Hell seem to be pressing on the church. Imagine a castle under seige, and the aggressors finding a weak spot in the wall and concentrating their forces at that point. The faithful minister will go to that very place and do what he can to shore it up at that point. It would be faithless to "stand your ground" on the opposite side of the castle, where the attack is not happening.

Y'know, so for instance, if the doctrine of Christ's Incarnation is being heavily assaulted, it's faithless to press on with your 19 week sermon series on baptism, even if everything you have to say about baptism is perfectly true.

So, my question is, to all of you Mafia readers who preach or teach in some capacity, if you had to narrow it down to one or two options, where is that break in the wall happening right now? If you could sound the trumpet and rally your brethren to a point, where would it be? (This is open to our non-Calvinistic readers as well.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Calvinism, Honesty, and the SBC

This article details a subtle shift in what has previously been reported from SBC President Frank Page, in regards to "honesty" in the whole process when a Calvinistic pastor applies for a position at a church that has no particular, expressed preference with regard to Calvinism vs. Arminianism.

I mean, previously, Page has been reported as putting the onus for honesty on the man who holds to Calvinistic soteriology, and at least implied that some Calvinists have deceived their way into pulpits by not being up-front about their theology in the interview process. The notion has been that a Reformed man should bring it up and make it plain to pastor search committees from the get-go that he is Calvinistic.

But in this article, while rehashing some of that same ground, note the shift in emphasis. Page is quoted as saying,

"When pastor search committees approach pastors and seminary graduates about possible positions, they need to be very honest with these individuals about what they will allow regarding teaching in this area."

I am happy to see this. Surely, Page is not releasing the Calvinist from his responsibility to exercise integrity, but it is nice to see him acknowledge in this statement that the search committees should in fact shoulder some of the theological burden in the process.

But, the more I think about it, the less enthused I become. And the reason is this: I know too many Southern Baptist laymen.

Not one in a hundred gives a rip about theology. I mean, who are we kidding here?

I would love for search committees to do the heavy lifting involved to at least introduce themselves to theological issues, but I despair of ever witnessing a spectacle like that.

The most you will ever get is a committee that is chaired by a guy who read Dave Hunt's What Love is This, or Page's own Trouble With the TULIP, and now thinks he's all up-to-speed on the issue.

The other bit that troubles me is this part, from that quote above:

Page thinks the committee should let the preacher know "what they will allow regarding teaching in this area."

Yes, please do. Yes, Mr. Deacon, who attends maybe two out of every four Sunday services, and thinks the Left Behind series qualifies as a commentary on the Revelation; please do tell me what you'll allow me to preach. What a load that'll take off my shoulders: here I was thinking I was going to have to answer to God for all that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Evangelicalism American Style

Jim Bublitz at OldTruth.com has posted this great critique of American "Christless Christianity" by Michael Horton.

Horton doesn't really say anything new, or anything that discerning Christians have not been saying for a long time, but he says it quite well. It's worth your time. My favorite thought: it's not so much theological heresy that is killing American evangelicalism as it is theological silliness. It's not that evangelicals are clinging to error, so much as it is that we/they tend to cling to nothing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Win a Free Book!

Details here...

Hurry! Ends soon!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

JVI vs. The Things from Outer Space!

Jack Van Impe warns of an invasion of hostile extra-terrestrials here. And, NO, he's not talking about Rexella.

Actually, I think he and I are on the same page when it comes to the ultimate origin of "alien encounters," but it's the bait-and-switch of this sort of advertising that irks me.

ht: JC Thibadaux

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Evangelists Lament Reformed Resurgence

I just visited the Founders Blog and there's an interesting post about a Baptist Press article that covers a recent meeting of Baptist evangelists who are concerned with "the growth of Calvinism and the rise of a Willow Creek-style of non-confrontational evangelism within Southern Baptist churches." I'm going to pitch in my 2 cents here, but please check out the BP article and Ascol's comments on the Founders Blog.

There's one thing in particular that I want to highlight from the BP article:

Evangelist Jerry Drace is quoted as saying that some young Calvinistic pastors are "so leaning in this morphed Calvinism that they almost laugh at evangelism. It's almost to the extent that they believe they don't have to do it. So [Calvinism] gives them an excuse not to do evangelism."

Almost laugh at evangelism? Come on brother Drace! You must be kidding...

I hear a great deal of talk about these mysterious Calvinists who are anti-evangelism, but finding one is about as easy as spotting the Loch Ness Monster. I have yet to meet an SBC Calvinist with that attitude. I'd like to suggest that perhaps these young Calvinist pastors aren't "almost laughing" at evangelism, but at the buffoonery that is commonly mislabeled as evangelism! Maybe they've come to realize that true evangelism has nothing to do with adopting the methodology of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus!

Instead of meeting up to find ways to place the blame for their lack of bookings at the feet of Calvinists and Willow Creekers, why don't some these evangelists take a hard look in the mirror and see if perhaps their modern evangelistic methods may be part of the problem? Could it be that after decades producing millions of false converts that some of us are ready to stop the spiritual carnage by returning to our theological heritage? Perhaps some of us are simply interested in outreach methods that are a bit more Biblical and honoring to God?

Spend some time looking at the websites of some of the evangelists in the SBC. What you'll find on the websites is almost depressing. It's not surprising to me that some of these evangelists are concerned about the Reformed Resurgence in the SBC.

If I were one of those "vocational evangelists" who are in the business of peddling a pragmatic, results-driven, side show pseudo-Gospel, I'd be worried too! Any shift toward returning the SBC to it's doctrinal foundations might mean I'd have to put away the clown costumes or get ready to update my resume for secular employment!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Atonement and The Trinity

Toward the end of 2007, I wrote some articles on Modalism over on the Rant blog.

One email I received about my articles was from a experienced Pentecostal pastor who didn't understand why I was coming out against "Oneness" theology. He stated that he saw the entire issue as mere semantics and theological hairsplitting. At one point he even stated "though I embrace the Trinitarian theology I still have difficulty seeing where this 'doctrine' is of value to the ultimate salvation of man."

I recently began reading through the newly released book Pierced For Our Transgressions. Last night I came across a few paragraphs that illustrate why I believe the Trinity (and by extension the doctrine itself) is indeed important to the "ultimate salvation of man."

"The doctrine of penal substitution states that God gave himself in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for sin. This summary can expanded to give some sense of how the doctrine connects with other important biblical themes.

God the Father gave his Son to save rebellious, God-hating people, knowing that he would be despised and rejected by those he had made, that he would be a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. He spared sinful people from condemnation, death and punishment, but he did not spare his own beloved Son, with whom he was well pleased.

God the Son gave himself, willingly undertaking the task appointed for him by his Father. He veiled his glory in a human body, experienced every temptation we face without succumbing to any, and lived a perfect human life. Yet he took our sin and guilt upon himself and died a cursed death, suffering in his human nature the infinite torment of the wrath and fury of his Father. After three days he was vindicated in his resurrection before being exalted to his heavenly throne. From there he rules his kingdom, awaiting the day of his glorious appearing when every eye shall see him, every knew shall bow before him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God the Holy Spirit, having been sent by the Father and the Son, now works in our hearts through the proclamation of the gospel to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment, to draw us to Christ in repentance and faith, and so to unite us to Christ that we may share in every blessing he has won for us.

God the Holy Trinity thus turned aside his own righteous wrath against sinful humanity; endured and exhausted the curse of the law that stood against us; cleansed us of our sin and clothed us in Christ's righteousness; ransomed us from our slavery to sin, the world and the devil by paying our debt, cancelling the devil's power of accusation against us, and liberating us to live new lives empowered by the Spirit; triumphed over all evil powers by punishing evil in the person of the Son; and reconciled us with himself by removing the barrier of sin and enmity between us; in order that we may stand blameless and forgiven in his glorious presence, credited with the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, as adopted children of God, gazing upon his face for all eternity.

God vindicated his truthfulness by remaining faithful to his promise that sin will be punished; he manifested his justice by punishing sin and acquitting the righteous; he glorified his name by exalting his Son and placing all things under his feet; and he demonstrated his love by dying for sinners and reconciling to himself those who were once his enemies." (Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution.pp 104 & 105.)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

You Just Have to Shake Your Head

Here is a short video from James White, a phone interaction with a loose cannon who is intent on disproving Calvinism. I say he's a loose cannon because I'm fairly certain that the synergists we regularly interact with here would distance themselves from him as fast as possible. He winds up teaching that fallen man has within himself the capacity to obey God enough to ensure that God will bring him to faith in Jesus. It's stir up the right attitude and go directly to heaven for this guy. Pretty amazing.

Particulary telling was when White asks him point blank, are you aware you are teaching Pelagianism? And the guy basically admits he has no idea what that is, and isn't worried about it one way or the other.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Calling for Reformission

I have begun reading "The Radical Reformission" by Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll says,

I am presenting this book as a contribution toward the furtherance of the emerging church in the emerging culture.
He says, "The reformission is a rdical call to reform the church's traditionally flawed view of missions as something carried out only in foreign lands and to focus instead of the urgent need in our own neighborhoods, which as filled with diverse cultures of Americans who desperately need the gospel of Jesus and life in his church. Most significant, they need a gospel and a church that are faithful both to the scriptural texts and to the cultural contexts of America."

I think Driscoll has alot to say here. We think of missions as something where we go on a trip to another place, but rather, there is an urgent need for missions right across the street, or across town, from where we live. Even in small towns, there are various subcultures within each community, and I don't believe we really do a good job at engaging and understanding those various cultures and subcultures in our community that may be different than hours. While the gospel is unchanging, perhaps the words we use and the methods we use to communicate the gospel may be different in within various cultures and subcultures.

Driscoll points to the passage of Jesus speaking to the Samaritan Woman at the well as a passage the speaks to cross cultural ministry. Jesus spoke to this woman, and asked for her to give him a drink. Driscoll points out that this was not a violation of scripture but it trampled religious moral dogma. That wasn't something that good Jewish man should do. So Jesus crossed cultural barriers, going to a place that the "religious" people would have condemned him for, spoke kindly to the woman, but then named her sin and spoke to her about living water.

This is a perfect example to us. Ministry is about going to the places that may be taboo in our culture and calling sinners out from their sin to a Savior who wants to saved them and make them new creatures. Driscoll poses 11 questions regarding this text and our ministry that I believe would do each of us good to answer honestly:

  1. Who do some Christians in your town, or the larger area in which you live, consider to be Samaritans? Why do you think some Christians dislike them?
  2. What parts of your town or area are like Samaria to you- the places you avoid because you do not like the people who live there?
  3. What were the Samaritan woman's sins? What do you think might be soe of the common sins among the Samaritans in your town?
  4. What pains must the woman's sins have caused her? What pains are your Samaritians' sins causing them?
  5. In your area, where are the Jacob's wells and pagan temples where the Samaritans hang out?
  6. What barriers did Jesus need to cross to evangelize the Samaritan woman? What barriers would you need to cross to connect with the Samaritans in your culture?
  7. What changes took place in the woman's lifestyle? What might change in the lives of the Samaritans in your town or are if they met Jesus and repented of their sinful lifestyles?
  8. Why do you think Jesus' disciples did not say anything when they saw him speaking with the Samaritan woman? What do you think some of your Christian friends my say if you befriended a Samaritan?
  9. Why was the woman at the well best suited to do mission to Sychar? Which people, if converted, would be best suited for mission in your town?
  10. What was Jesus' sense of urgency for harvesting souls, and do you and your Christian friends share his sense of urgency? Why or Why not?
  11. In what ways is your salvation story (or perhaps the story of someone you know) similar to the story of the woman at the well?
If we answer these questions honestly, I believe we will see that we are not crossing the cultural barriers in the same way that our Lord Jesus did, primarly because we care more about our reputation and image. Jesus was more concerned with saving souls than his reputation, that is why people wanted to kill him. I believe Mark Driscoll is onto something. While we need not abandon world missions, we need a reformission right here in our communities, speaking the gospel into the lives of the people in our culture, and in various subcultures within our community, calling them from darkness to light, and from death to life in our glorious savior Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Facts About James R. White

P.S. Laugh a little, but keep praying for our siblings in Kenya!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Prayer for Baptist Pastor in Nairobi Kenya

I want to interrupt our normal Mafia operations to ask you to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Kenya.

As you may know, there has been much violence ever since the recent Presidential election.

My friend Joe Driver (an SBC pastor in Carrollton, GA.) knows a pastor in Kenya who has fallen victim to the violence. His friend has lost his home and a church building. The situation is desperate.

This isn't one of those emails you get in your spam folder, this is the real deal! I've decided against divulging much more information due to safety concerns.

Joe is asking for our prayers. If you would like to find out more about this situation or learn about other ways you can help, please email Joe directly: pastorjoedriver at gmail dot com

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Caner Reenacts a Benny Hinn Service!

Hat Tip goes to Tominthebox.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Calling down Christ

Hey, preparing for Sunday's message, and thought I'd share a little anecdote.

My church doesn't celebrate the Lord's Supper all that often. (Been without a regular full-time pastor for a long time...) So when we do, I have a desire to get the largest "bang for the buck" possible. I mean, I want to take fullest advantage. We're going to do it this Sunday, Deo volente.

All week long this thought has struck me: When I preach, I want Christ, and Him crucified, to be so plain and, as it were, visible to the congregation in my preaching, that it will be as difficult for them to avoid Him as it would be if He were laid in front of the pews broken and bloody. That's what I want my preaching to do, make Jesus that vivid. And that vision has been vivid for me, let me tell ya!

All week long, that has been the topic of my prayers.

Well, I finally came to the point last night in my preparation when I realized that I am a below-average preacher to begin with, and so have little hope of being able to construct a message, or to artfully arrange the words, so that this actually happens.

And as I was pouring my heart out to God on this count, it occurred to me that I was acting like a Roman Catholic priest in the entire affair.

He thinks he can mumbo the jumbo and re-create the Body and Blood on his altar. And I'm sitting here disappointed and frustrated at not being able to do the same thing with my preaching.

I was powerfully reminded of exactly what it is I've been called to do, and that is, to the declare the Message of God's grace in Christ, as the Father empowers me in His Spirit. To preach the Word, as God gives me utterance.

How, and in what manner, God decides (or doesn't) to show up in that preaching is His business, including whether or not my people are given eyes to see and ears to hear.

Just preach it, brethren.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Highland's Host takes on Nelson Price

Our friend Nelson Price (famous for the slanderous "Bus Stop" illustration ) has recently managed to attract some attention from across the Pond!

The esteemed Particular Baptist we know as "The Highland's Host" has taken issue with the historical revisionism and flawed understanding that Price seems to have in regards to Calvinism.
Please see:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms

I recently began featuring historic Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms on Rhett's Rants each Sunday. This video explains the reasons why they are still important to the church today:

(H.T.:Old Truth)

This related article at Old Truth is also worth checking out.