Easy Believism at VBS

by Jared Moore on July 1, 2013 · 169 comments

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

easy believism

I stumbled upon a church who was sharing their excitement about almost 400 children making decisions to make Jesus their Forever Friend at Vacation Bible School (VBS). Almost 60 of these children then went through a baptism class to be baptized. What startles me about telling children to make Jesus their Forever friend is that this language is not found in Scripture. I understand the desire for sinners to be saved. I want children to know Jesus as well; however, we must be sure that they understand the gospel before we treat them like Christians. If we tell children that “Jesus is their forever friend because they accepted Him” and this language is not in the Bible, then we just lied to these children. The sad reality is that Jesus can be your “forever friend” and you still go to hell. If children do not repent and believe in Christ, believing He lived and died to forgive them of their sins and rose from the dead to bring them into right relationship with God, they’re not Christians. Consider the words of Christ, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Does that sound like a “typical friendship,” especially like the friendships children currently understand? Not in the least.

What is missing from “asking Jesus to be your forever friend?”

What about our sin and guilt? (Rom. 3:10-18, 23, 6:23)

What about God’s just wrath coming for us? (John 3:17-18, Rom. 6:23)

What about sinners repenting of sin and placing their faith in Christ for God’s gracious forgiveness? (Rom. 10:8-11; Eph. 2:8-10)

What about God the Father sending God the Son to satisfy His wrath and offer us grace? (Rom. 5:8, 1 John 2:2, 4:10; John 3:16, 14:6)

What about the death of Christ for our sin and His resurrection to declare us perfect before His Father? (Rom. 4:20-25)

What about God the Father becoming our Father through Christ? (John 14:6, Eph. 1:3-6)

In other words, why not preach the gospel instead a half-truth that does not save?

If children are asking Jesus to be their forever friend, but they’re not repenting and believing in Him, then they’re headed to Hell while believing Jesus is their forever friend.

I beg and plead with you to preach the gospel, not easy believism.

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

1 William Thornton July 1, 2013 at 7:16 am

…which is why I have often said that I like some things about Calvinists, one of which is a more serious view of salvation.

I would do my own piece on SBC toddler baptisms but the SBC doesn’t ask churches to own up to baptizing toddlers anymore, just asks for the number of baptisms that were under ten years of age.

2 Lasaro Flores July 1, 2013 at 7:32 am

This is one reason I stop using the invitation system to get people to come to the front and make a so-called ‘decision for Christ.’ There is no such practice in the Scriptures. When the Gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, He will do the calling and convicting of the sinner. In fact, you don’t even have to ‘invite’ any one to come to the front. If God is doing the saving work, sinners will ask as the Philippian jailor, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

I remember years ago I had gone to a typical Southern Baptist revival meeting, and after the sermon, the evangelist ask for anybody who wanted to go to heaven to come to the front. It sadden me to see children and some of the older kids come to the front; and guess how they were coming? There was no indication of conviction of sin, or at least that they were conscious of their sins. No, as they walked down the aisle, they were laughing and playing around with each other. No wonder the churches have so many unregenerate members which is so evident with the life style that they have outside the church.

Oh, how we have strayed from God’s way of salvation just to make it easy for people to join the church! Amen.

3 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 8:54 am

Lasaro,

There’s nothing wrong with an altar call….if it’s handled right. I have seen many people truly get saved when the invitation is given to respond the Gosepl message that’s just been saved…including my own daughter. I know how God used an altar call at a huge, Youth event in my own life….I knew that I needed to stand up in front of all of my friends to show that I was serious about following Christ, and God blessed me greatly as I stood before all of my friends….with their jaws wide open seeing me stand there…
I’ve seen people repent….truly repent….responding to an altar call at the end of a message. The altar call is no different than Jesus telling people to follow Him. It’s no different than Peter telling people to repent. I know that there have been abuses of the altar call in the past, and I’m sure that it goes on, today, but dont throw the baby out with the bathwater.

David

4 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 9:54 am

Lasaro Flores,

While it is true that easy believeism is a damning reality in the lives of many people, it is also true that the evangelistic invitation properly made in a public worship service has been mightily used of the Holy Spirit of God since the Resurrection of our Lord to bring lost souls into the Kingdom.

Maybe you should give some time to learning how to give a true and biblical invitation before a gathered assembly and ask the Holy Spirit to empower and use it for the advancement of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus and to the glory of God.

Yu may just be amazed at the results.

5 Pastor Harold July 1, 2013 at 11:09 am

CB,
Could you give me the chapters and verses of “a true and biblical invitation” in Scripture? And do they look like any of this junk we see today?

6 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 11:29 am

Pastor Harold,

I will be more than glad to come to your church, preach the biblical gospel, give a biblical invitation to people to repent of sin and embrace the biblical gospel, and then spend three or four days with you and any group your would be willing to gather and share with you how to avoid “this junk we see today.”

I am also willing to state that I could probably get three or four other guys who frequent this blog to come with me and be part of the training process.

Obviously, it would be a good thing for Baptist colleges and seminaries to address again if they have ceased to do so. We teach it here at Brewton-Parker and I know they do at Truett-McConnell. I am positive it is still taught at SEBTS (best seminary on earth) and NOBTS and LBTS, all of which I was a student and graduate. I am also sure they still teach it at SWBTS. Hopefully, it is taught in the other Southern Baptist seminaries.

BTW, where did you attend and did they teach the evangelistic invitation there?

7 Pastor Harold July 1, 2013 at 12:06 pm

CB,
So you are saying you can only learn this seminary and not in Scripture?

8 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Pastor Harold,

No, I am not stating that. Nor can a simple reading of my comment with any degree of honest comprehension prove such to be the case.

I am stating that I know some of our seminaries still teach the validity of the biblical, evangelistic invitation. I am stating that some of our colleges do the same.

I am also stating that if others do not, it is obvious they should start teaching it, especially if you and others do not know what a biblical, evangelistic invitation would be in opposition to “this junk we see today.”

In addition, if you do not know what a biblical, evangelistic invitation is and all you have experienced is the “junk we see today,” I am stating that I will be glad to come and teach you and I am sure I can enlist others who know what it is to come and help.

That is what I am stating here, Pastor Harold, and I feel that I have made it fairly clear.

So, when do you want us to come? BTW, as you think about when you want us to come. I, personally, cannot come before October of this year. However, I am sure that there are literally a dozen other guys who frequent this blog who can do the job as well or better (much better) than I can.

So, Pastor Harold, the ball is in your court. If you do not know the biblical principles of a proper evangelistic invitation, there is no reason for you to remain without this valuable and helpful information to yourself and to the flock of which God has assigned you as shepherd.

9 Pastor Harold July 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm

So some seminaries teach it and some don’t. Now you and a handful of faithful men (who have been entrusted with this knowledge) are able to instruct me after Oct?

I asked for BIBLE verses to back up what we are seeing at the end of church services these days.

You have not put anything in my “court” that I asked for. Only a guide to schools of higher learning and an offer to hold a personal lesson in our church to line me out. I can read, give me the Word.

10 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Pastor Harold,

Acts 2…when Peter preached…and 3,000 were baptized that day. How do you suppose they knew who wanted be baptized after Peter preached?

Also, when Jesus called for the disciples to follow Him, do you think He took them off to the side, and whispered it in their ear? Or, do you reckon that He publicly called out to them to follow Him…before whoever was standing around?

So, after we preach, and we extend an invitation for people to respond to the message….dont you think that lines up with what Peter did? and, with what Jesus did? We’re publicly inviting them to repent and follow Jesus….

David

11 Lasaro Flores July 1, 2013 at 9:17 pm

David, thank you for your response. But again I have to say that the “altar call” or inviting sinners to “make a public decision for Christ” is not indicated anywhere in the Scriptures. The book of Acts has no instances of it; and the epistles do not teach such a thing. The “invitation” to be saved is the preaching of the Gospel itself. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is the ONLY ONE who can “caused” sinners to come the Jesus. Now, a sinner can be “convinced” by the preacher to make a “decision,” but that is not a guarantee that they are saved when they repeat the so-called Sinner’s Prayer. But when the Holy Spirit does it, a sinner can be saved anywhere… whether they can be at home, or even in their car, or wherever, etc. By the way, true Scriptural “invitation” is NOT taught in seminary or from some book. No matter how eloquent or persuasive the “altar call” is, it doesn’t guarantee salvation. I know personally, and many others have testified to it, that it was NOT the altar call that brought salvation to them. It was only that the TRUE Gospel of the Grace of God was heard by them and the Holy Spirit regenerated them and granted repentance and faith so that what the Lord Jesus said became true for them: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;” and “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:44,65). Amen.

P.S.: I believe it was Moody who started using the altar call or coming to the front; and also I believe that most Baptists didn’t use it until later on. Another thing, God’s elect have been saved without the altar call; and even in spite of it. Again, amen.

12 Dale Pugh July 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Actually, the “altar call” started in the early 1800′s among Methodists. Charles Finney was a strong proponent. Moody used the altar call as has Billy Graham and many others. Moody is noted to have said that the altar call was not the point and that he had no persuasive powers, but that he could only preach the Gospel. I’m sure Graham would say the same thing.
The worst manipulative use of the invitation I ever saw was by Hyman Appelman, a Jewish Christian convert who is regarded as one of the greatest Baptist evangelists of the 20th century. He was greatly lauded by Baptist leaders from L. R. Scarborough and R. G. Lee to Billy Graham. I met him and led music in a revival he preached in Oregon back in 1982. He would have the entire congregation stand and then begin to have different groups of people seated until he only had the “unsaved” still standing at the end. He would then point them out individually and tell them to come forward to receive Christ. My vocal disagreement with such a “giant of the Gospel” got me fired the one and only time I’ve ever been fired from a church.

13 Dale Pugh July 1, 2013 at 10:11 pm

By the way, I offer and support the use of an “invitation” almost every time I preach. I do so because I believe people should be given the opportunity to publicly respond to God’s leadership in their lives at that moment. Sometimes they do, most times they don’t. But I do believe it to be an acceptable practice even if it isn’t stipulated in the Bible. Singing three hymns and passing the offering plate isn’t in the Bible either. Neither are announcements.

14 Dale Pugh July 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Oh…..neither is Vacation Bible School……

15 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Duckman Dale,

I admire you for that stand. Some here are maybe too young to realize what such a stand like that could and probably did mean to your future with some folks. Hyman Appelman was a giant in his day.

That was a true grit and steel decision on your part. I truly tip my Crimson Tide hat to you for having such conviction about the integrity of the Gospel.

16 Tyler July 1, 2013 at 7:44 am

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; Ask Jesus into your heart and walk down the isle. Be sure to sign a card. And if you doubt your salvation don’t look back to the finished work on the cross for your assurance but look back to that card you signed.” Mark 1:14-15

17 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 8:47 am

First of all, I agree that repentance and faith should be emphasized…and, when we deal with children, we should especially be careful to make sure that they truly understand what they’re doing.

I dont like easy believism, either. Acts 20:20-21

Secondly, Jared, do you know that this Church did NOT stress repentance to these children? I mean, just because they phrased it “Make Jesus your Foever Friend” doesnt mean that they didnt emphasize repentance and faith. I didnt see anything in your post, which shows me that they did not, in fact, share with these children that they should repent….

Thirdly, I notice that they did tell these children that they had to go thru a class, in order to be baptized. Maybe the class was to do more counseling about salvation…..to make sure?

Fourthly, I agree with you…I dont like the way they invited those children to come forward and make Jesus your friend, either. That’s not the way I do it, either. I always ask the children to tell their teacher that they want to talk to me about being saved, if they really want to be saved. I dont want some children to just come forward just because their buddy is coming forward.

David

18 Tyler July 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

Volfan007,
I am in agreement with your post. It does, however, bring up another dynamic in this process that needs addressing in our “church-life.” While I absolutely love speaking with people about how to be saved, and I would love to be the one who speaks to every convert that comes to our church, we have created an atmosphere that says the pastor (or on occasion another ordained minister) must speak with the individual for salvation to be legitimate…the preacher must pronounce salvation. I don’t want someone remembering back to “I spoke to the “preacher” during VBS so I must right with God.” One way we can guard against this is by leading our people to have those conversations as lay-leaders.

Please know I am not accusing you of creating this culture. I believe it has been created over years and years and years. You comment just brought it to my mind.

In Christ!

19 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Tyler,

During the altar calls at my Church…for a regular, worship service…I send the ones, who respond, back with members of my Church, to talk to them further.

During VBS, I’m usually the only one, who is free, and thus able to talk to the children.

David

20 Tyler July 1, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I also want to say that I am not the 1st “Tyler” that responded by using the distortion of Scripture to ridicule someone who holds an “altar call.”

21 Jared Moore July 1, 2013 at 10:22 am

David, the church did a daily blog of their VBS. Repentance, sin, judgment, etc. were never mentioned. The church had the kids fill out cards. Almost 400 made Jesus their forever friend, but then the church found some more cards.

22 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 3:19 pm

So, Jared, you think that all they did was to get these children to fill out cards, and then, pronounced them “saved?” I mean, maybe they just didnt go into all the details of how they counseled the ones, who came up front? I dont know…..but, I would just find it really, really hard to believe that they would just pronounce these children “saved,” after they just came forward and signed a card.

Let’s hope that they did a lot more counseling than what was told.

David

23 Alan July 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

This is an example from the website regarding the counseling. “One little boy in 1st grade experienced God’s love this week. He knew that God was drawing him in and he felt nervous all day. He became so nervous that he felt physically ill. His assistant guide took him out and prayed over him. When he returned to his group, with both hands in the air and incredible energy and excitement he said, ‘I believe!!’”

Now, was the physically ill nervousness a result of “pressure” or a great weight of conviction? It is hard to tell based on the information presented.

24 Tyler July 1, 2013 at 8:51 am

It is very sad that we, as Baptists, have seen a number of folk who have been given false security of salvation by being called to “cheap grace” while we usher people toward the gates of hell. Much care should be given as we discuss salvation with anyone, especially children; however, I am also unwilling to neglect other Scripture. I will continue as Peter and others to “exhort” (strongly encourage, urge, plead with) folk to repent and believe. Call them to the front, call the to the foyer…I don’t care, but call for sinners to come to repentance! And then spend time learning if they understand (which would be hard to do during the last stanza of Just As I Am).

To the Glory of God!

25 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

Amen!

Possibly the most perfect comment ever placed in a Baptist blog comment thread.

26 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

And, I second CB’s “amen.” Let’s make sure that we’re truly leading people to Jesus….that they truly understand repentance and faith…

David

27 Tyler July 1, 2013 at 11:16 pm

— the 2nd “Tyler.”

28 Bob Hadley July 1, 2013 at 9:28 am

Jared,

David’s comment mirrors mine. If 400 children made decisions in a church’s VBS then a couple things come to mind. First of all, the church must be doing SOMETHING right or they would not have even had 400 children there much less 400 who made some kind of decision. Unless you were there and had some knowledge of WHAT they did, simply equating their decision with making Jesus their “forever friend” does not seem to me to be problematic. You believe in the perseverance of the saints which makes Jesus one’s forever friend who is saved. I frequently use the phrase “God’s forever family” so does that make me irresponsible as well?

Unless you know that they did not present the gospel then I would say your article is pointless and could very well be unduly critical of a church that God may be well pleased with.

How is this post uplifting and encouraging where the body of Christ is concerned? What if the angels in heaven were rejoicing at these decisions and you are sitting here being critical of something you know absolutely NOTHING about except for a brief report you read somewhere?

The literary substance of this piece might have just enough value to make a gnat fly backwards. Maybe.

29 Jared Moore July 1, 2013 at 10:26 am

Bob, the church did a daily blog of their VBS. Repentance, sin, judgment, etc. were never mentioned. The church had the kids fill out cards. Almost 400 made Jesus their forever friend, but then the church found some more cards.

Do you explain repentance and faith in Christ to children who want to be part of “God’s forever family” (I assume you do)?

30 Jared Moore July 1, 2013 at 10:29 am

Bob, BTW: Getting 400 children to show up doesn’t prove a church is “doing something right.” Neither does getting 400 children to “make Jesus their forever friend.” Give a Mormon enough money, and he can do the same thing.

This church had a circus (including acrobats coming down from the ceiling), a full band, etc.

31 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 10:32 am

Well then, Jared Moore,

Bob is right. The church is “doing something right.” They know how to do a “circus.”

32 Chris Roberts July 1, 2013 at 11:13 am

I suppose that’s a fair point.

33 Chris Roberts July 1, 2013 at 11:12 am

“First of all, the church must be doing SOMETHING right or they would not have even had 400 children there much less 400 who made some kind of decision.”

The largest church in America is led by Joel Osteen. Numbers are absolutely no indication of “something right”.

34 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

Chris Roberts,

At the same time it must be stated that the “absence of numbers” is absolutely no indication of “something right” being done.

BTW, Osteen is a heretic. No doubt about it.

35 Chris Roberts July 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

Sure, agreed.

36 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

Good.

37 Jess Alford July 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm

cb scott,

Then what do you do with what Jesus said about the narrow way, and there be few that find it? Many will enter the wide gate that leads to destruction.

38 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Jess Alford,

Forgive my ignorance at this point, but you are going to have to shed more light as to what you ask of me before I can answer.

39 Jess Alford July 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Cb scptt,

You said the absence of numbers doesn’t indicate that something is right, When, the absence of numbers could indicate that something is right. Especially when it’s God that does the calling, and not man.

40 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

Jared Moore,

I think there is much to agree with in your article. “Easy believeism” is a curse that has affected the evangelical world far beyond the SBC alone and has had eternal and damning consequences for multitudes of souls.

However, I do question the remarks you made about the use of the word “friend” in your post and believe that you might should rethink it and maybe restructure the otherwise excellent post somewhat. Here is one statement I greatly question:

“The sad reality is that Jesus can be your “forever friend” and you still go to hell.”

Jared Moore, No person who goes to hell is a “forever friend” of Jesus. Those who go to hell are those who are born lost, damned, and condemned in their trespasses and sin who never repent and believe the biblical gospel. They were never “friends” with Jesus. Paul speaks of them as aliens and enemies to God, not friends.

On the other hand, Jesus defined friendship with Him and those who possess it in very specific terms.

In John 15: 12-17, our Lord spoke of “forever friends” in its proper perspective.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.”

Jared Moore, MacArthur stated the following in his commentary on John’s Gospel and I share it with you here. Give this some consideration if you will.

” Just as Abraham was called a “friend of God” because he enjoyed extraordinary access to the mind of God through God’s revelation to him which he believed, so also those who follow Christ are privileged with extraordinary revelation through the Messiah and Son of God, and believing, become “friends” of God also. It is for His friends that the Lord laid down His life.”

Accordingly, Jared Moore, it would seem that we become the “forever friends” of Jesus when we recognize we are sinners before a just and righteous God, repent and believe the biblical gospel.

Therefore, I think you should reconsider the “forever friends” concept in your post.

41 Jared Moore July 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

CB, we’re talking about a child’s understanding of “Jesus is your forever friend.” Of course the Bible speaks of Jesus dying for His friends. He’s my friend. But, how does one become His friend? We repent of our sin and trust in His life, death, & resurrection to forgive us our sins and bring us into right relationship with God. Leave all that out, and only tell children to “make Jesus their forever friend,” and you’ve got easy-believism.

42 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 10:37 am

Jared Moore,

Then correct your post accordingly.

43 David R. Brumbelow July 1, 2013 at 10:04 am

Some good comments have already been made.

I do not believe in easy believism.
I do strongly believe in the proper use of the altar call.
I was saved when well under ten, during an altar call.

I grew up being taught the Roman Road Plan of Salvation (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10, 13). It presents sin, repentance, salvation, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the sinner‘s prayer. It is still just as valid today. It can easily be used in preaching, witnessing, VBS, and during an altar call.

I agree with C. B. Scott. Properly explained, Jesus being our forever Friend is a part of the Gospel, a part of biblical teaching.
David R. Brumbelow

44 Richard Tribble July 1, 2013 at 10:17 am

Jared,

TOTALLY AGREE with your sentiment on child evangelism it seems our VBS material has incorporporated in recent years. This has seeming infected adult evangelism too. We must stress repentance as the Scripture so clearly states.

45 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 11:01 am

Richard Tribble and all,

Any pastor who would allow VBS material or any other curriculum to dictate how he presents the gospel in VBS or any other public setting is lacking in ministerial competence and is possibly guilty of pastoral malpractice.

I have used Southern Baptist VBS material for years, trained the VBS workers in its proper use, and made sure that the gospel was always presented biblically no matter what the curriculum might or might not advocate.

If any of you guys are not doing the same, then begin to do so or stop having VBS in your church.

BTW, pastors need to be involved in VBS. You need to help train workers to effectively share the gospel. You need to be present. You need to be visible. You need to minister to the children as much as possible. You need to be there.

The greatest problem with VBS is not the curriculum. The greatest problem with VBS in Southern Baptist life is lazy pastors. VBS time is not the time for the pastor to go on his “vacation.” It is not a time for the pastor to just goof off and use the fact that VBS is going on to justify it.

VBS done right, is a time of intense ministry for a pastor who really believe the title “shepherd” means something.

46 Doug Hibbard July 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm

VBS is the time of the year to swallow the serious side, grab the Bible Story section leader guide, and handle it. Get help with it, get the decorating help you need, and then get there, face-to-face with kids and teach them at their level.

Too often VBS results in a teacher who is striving hard to get the Gospel “right” and so reads it off a card, then invites the children who are interested to come and talk to the pastor. The “pastor” is this cranky guy in a suit who has been grimacing unapprovingly at the sound levels all week.

47 Tim Rogers July 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Brother Tribble,

I believe we missed your Roberts Rules of Order expertise at this year’s convention. Certainly hope to see you next year.

48 Debbie Kaufman July 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Wow Tim. Low blow. Can’t you just say you disagree with Richard?

49 Debbie Kaufman July 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm

BTW: I happen to agree with Richard on this subject.

50 Dave Miller July 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Debbie, I think you are a little bit easily offended here. I am guessing Tim meant that as a joke. If Richard is offended, he can certainly take it up with me or with Tim.

51 Dave Miller July 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I talked with Richard in NOLA and he was a good guy, even joked with me about his frequent trips to the mic at the convention. He had pretty good humor about the whole thing.

52 Richard Tribble July 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I didn’t take offence at what was said. After being daily in the hospital with my wife and 2 surgeries that kept us from Houston I needed a good laugh and Tim gave me one. After all I am just a loveable little Tribble.

53 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 10:20 am

Good discussion. Great care should be taken when dealing with children at any time, especially at VBS. They are, after all, easily led and impressionable.

Also, we in our comments would do well to be clear in distinguishing between giving an altar call to walk forward (which would of course include an invitation to come to Christ) and what others do which is calling on people to come to Christ (an invitation not including a call to come forward). The two are not the same and are often blurred in these discussions.

54 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 10:28 am

Les Prouty,

Thus far, in this comment thread, the only person who “blurred” the understanding of the evangelistic invitation is the one who obviously does not understand what an evangelistic invitation is, therefore, he has decided not to use one. Read the Lasaro Flores comment above.

Now, Les, if you actually agree with him in the entirety of his comment . . . well, Ole Buddy, that will make “two” rather than “one” who has blurred the understanding of the evangelistic invitation.

55 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 10:34 am

CB, I don’t think any of us intend to blur the two. But I think Vol and you did so. Reread what the two of you wrote.

In any case, I think all of us do intend to give a clear invitation for sinners to come to Christ.

56 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 10:47 am

Les Prouty,

If you think I or Vol blurred the concept of the evangelistic invitation, your reading comprehension is lacking. Or, it may be that you want to look at this issue only through a Calvinist-Non-Calvinist lens.

The truth is that Calvinistic and Non-Calvinistic pastors and churches alike have been guilty of delivering “easy believism” to the masses.

That accursed practice is one of the major reasons the American Church is as weak as water-downed, day old tea.

However, when the evangelistic invitation is made in a proper and biblical manner, the Holy Spirit has, will, and, does use it to draw people to repentance and faith in Christ.

57 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

Well, my reading comprehension has been called into question by more than a few teachers in my storied educational history.

“However, when the evangelistic invitation is made in a proper and biblical manner, the Holy Spirit has, will, and, does use it to draw people to repentance and faith in Christ.”

Totally agree. But again, “evangelistic invitation” by some is equated with a call to come forward. Cal or non-Cal an “evangelistic invitation” should always be given. Altar calls to come forward is debatable.

BTW, I just confirmed this morning that pussycat in Clemson :) actually has some believers there in a group known as FCA and they will be sending 20 students with me over Christmas break to do a, wait for it…VBC with kids in Haiti. Praise God!!

58 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 11:12 am

Les Prouty,

You mentioned Clemson in your comment and that there are believers there.

For one year after the tornadoes hit Birmingham with death and destruction in 2011, I had the opportunity to work with a group of believer from Clemson who gave of themselves beyond the call of duty in both rebuilding Pleasant Grove, Alabama and in sharing the gospel of Christ. The great majority of those folks were members of Clemson Presbyterian Church. The group was led by faculty members in the Ed. Dept at Clemson.

I shall never forget their sacrifice and their testimony of faith as Christ followers. They became some of my “forever friends” because they were already the “forever friends” of Jesus who had and were living in obedience to His commands. I shall always remember them in gratitude before the Lord, our Savior and King.

59 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

CB, that is a great story about the Clemson folks heling you. Of course you know my comment about there actually believers there was in jest. Even if they are pussycats.

I also remember when the wacko poisened the trees in Auburn, a bunch of believers (and also unbelievers) connected with the Tide set out and raised a lot of money for AU. AND, after the terrible tornados hit Tuscaloosa, the same thing happened from many believers (and unbelievers) from the AU family raising $$ and serving in the aftermath. There are times when college football plummets way down the ladder of priorities.

60 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 11:40 am

Les Prouty,

I remember all to well and shamefully the day the guy called into the radio station and declared he had poisoned the tree.

I also remember the way I felt when so many Alabama fans decried the act and gave their time and money to save the tree.

I think the end of that story was a positive statement in the entire state that maybe football is not really god in our (yours and mine) home state, SANANATION. :-)

Seriously Les, it was a time when both ROLL TIDE and WAR EAGLE meant more than football rivalry and I was glad to be part of it.

61 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 10:49 am

CB,

I was using my phone and it is difficut with my large fingers and general tech lameness to copy and paste on the phone. Here is what I’m talking about in blurring the two, though I know it’s not intentional.

Vol: “There’s nothing wrong with an altar call….if it’s handled right.” and then in the same comment, “I have seen many people truly get saved when the invitation is given to respond the Gosepl message…” and then again in the same comment, “I’ve seen people repent….truly repent….responding to an altar call at the end of a message.”

And then you replied, “…it is also true that the evangelistic invitation properly made in a public worship service has been mightily used of the Holy Spirit of God…” when Lasaro was talking about the “invitation system,” clearly about the altar call.

Again, I know none of us is meaning to blurr the two.

Blessings brother.

62 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Les,

At the end of the message, which I preach at my Church, we sing a hymn of invitation, and invite people to be saved. I tell them to come forward, and take me by the hand, and tell me that they want to be saved….and that, we’ll help them to get saved. I have also stressed to my people that they can be saved while sitting in their pews..to stop listening to me preach, and pray and call on the Lord…..I also tell them that they can get saved in their cars, on their beds, at the gas station, whatever….but, we do give an “altar call” at our church…for people to respond to the message, which they’ve just heard.

Also, when they come forward…if I have not had the opportunity to already talk to them….then, we send them back to a SS room to talk to someone further about being saved…..

Now, that’s what I call an altar call….an invitation time….a time when we sing a hymn, and give people a time to respond…..

David

63 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm

David,

I really appreciate the way you handle it at your church. That seems to be very responsible. And I wasn’t questioning the way you handle invitations or altar calls. I was just pointing out how sometimes the way we comunicate the terms.

For instance, and I amd NOT saying you do this, sometimes I have seen altar call (and by that I mean a call to repent and believe AND a call to come forward) proponent suggest that if we don’t have an altar call then we are not inviting people to Christ. Again, I don’t think you have done that.

But when I was pastoring (after I gave up altar calls) I always invited sinners to repent and believe. And often I made them aware of elders who wuld be available to talk if they wanted.

Then to join the church, we regularly communicated that we have an inquirers class as a requirement (10 weeks) which included more gospel as well as other theological and ecclesiastical matters and that the class is required. That is often where we hear of their conversion.

Thanks for your faithful ministry brother and fellow MABTS grad.

64 James July 1, 2013 at 10:22 am

Thanks for writing this. For years working in VBS (or as some call it now, “kid’s camp) I have had the same complaints with the same verbage that you use in the post.

We are doing the kids no favors by presenting them with a watered down version of the Gospel. I have heard the excuse that we don’t want to scare them or they won’t understand it. I understood it well years ago when I was young and we didn’t do that “forever friend” garbage.

65 Bob Cleveland July 1, 2013 at 10:43 am

It seems to me that any competent business owner is going to be certain that a prospective employee qualifies for the job, before taking him in. And that’s dealing with secular things.

It seems that, dealing with people’s eternal souls, and the Body of Christ, we’d want to be certain people qualify for the position, before taking them in. How on earth a churches can take in members without doing what they can to ascertain that their faith is genuine saving faith, is simply beyond me.

I know that Covenant Presbyterian Church, when our little group organized it, decided there would be no “transfer of letter” … that every member would be taken in via their personal testimony, heard by those in Spiritual authority in the church.

People’s eternal souls are at stake. Numbers are immaterial, regardless of how we pontificate about their importance.

66 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

Bob,

“I know that Covenant Presbyterian Church, when our little group organized it, decided there would be no “transfer of letter” … that every member would be taken in via their personal testimony, heard by those in Spiritual authority in the church.”

That is what we do at our PCA curch and is supposed to happen at every PCA church. No one gets a pass. Every prospective member, 8 or 80, PCA transfer or not, must meet with the elders and give what is deemed a credible professio of faith in their interview.

67 Barry July 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

We did a study in our Association (SBC) a few years ago comparing reported baptisms from 36 churches and the increase of regular attendance. Over a 10 year period, for each 10 baptism the church attendance increased 1. In the excitement to get people to come to Christ we must explain what true commitment means. In the great commission “make disciples” comes before “Baptizing them”.

68 Jared Moore July 1, 2013 at 11:12 am

Barry, that is terribly disheartening.

69 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Barry,

Jesus lost more initial converts than any person that has ever walked the earth. The parable of the four soils–at best–only hopes for 1 out of 4 seeds sprouting.

Jesus lost 11 out of 12 by the time He made it to the cross. If we stop the story at that point and apply your criteria, Jesus did not even do as well as your Association. Our job is to make the offer. It is God’s job to deliver the product.

Too many fruit inspectors and not enough harvesters.

Also, your Greek syntax is a bit off on the Great Commission. Baptizing is a participle with the time of action contemporaneous with the main verb which is “make disciples.”

There is no “hierarchy of steps” in that passage.

70 Pastor Harold July 1, 2013 at 11:20 am

I am discouraged that EVERYONE is not condemning this practice. The fact that some would defend this kind of numbers driven error is insane. Brothers, this is NOT the gospel! Quit looking for a “loop hole” in their presentation in which to justify this gross negligence of gospel preaching and call it what it is: UNORTHODOX, FOREIGN, NEW AGE, NUMBERS IDOLATRY, FALSE GOSPEL, and UNBIBLICAL.

71 Truth Unites... and Divides July 1, 2013 at 11:52 am

“If children are asking Jesus to be their forever friend, but they’re not repenting and believing in Him, then they’re headed to Hell while believing Jesus is their forever friend. I beg and plead with you to preach the gospel, not easy believism.”

I join you Pastor Jared in begging and pleading for folks to preach the Gospel, and not “easy believism.”

Preaching of “easy believism” by folks in the church, however well-meaning they are, comes under the responsibility, authority, and accountability of the senior pastor (or the elder board) of that church.

72 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm

TUAD,

I appreciate your passion and with equal passion I will state that I beg and plead for pastors to preach “only easy believisism.”

Any other kind is heresy.

Your putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable.

73 volfan007 July 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Frank,

Real faith is a faith that surrenders the heart to Jesus as Lord. We’re told to call upon the LORD Jesus for salvation in Romans 10, as well as in other places in the Bible. Acts 20:20-21 is very clear….REPENT and faith. Also, Jesus told people to FOLLOW Him.

Real and true faith is a faith, which surrenders to Jesus…..willing to follow Him as the Lord, or the Master, or the Boss of one’s life.

People dont get saved by just saying a prayer, and intellectually believing that God exists in Heaven. Even the demons of Hell believe in God….and they tremble at the thought….and demons sure aint saved. And, saying prayers never saved anyone.

We must repent and put our faith in Jesus for salvation.

David

74 Tyler July 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm

@Bob
Why can’t we just present the gospel he way the Apostles and Jesus did? Repent and believe. Why use the ask Jesus into your heart lingo? I never use that lingo, not because I think it’s bad, but simply because I don’t see it.

75 dr. james willingham July 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I still give invitations, although I went through a period when I did not. I am not at all persuaded that they are appropriate all the time, and I have found that the best intended efforts often fail of the objectives involved. It seems, like Billy Graham said, something to the effect that the Holy Spirit must be present and working.

Having had more than half a century to observe invitations of all kinds and by all kinds of preachers as well as no invitations, having studied the history of the same (invitations as we understand them only go back to the early 1800s What happened during the first 1800 years? And is there something to be said for no invitation being an even more powerful and attractive means?), and knowing the human penchant for getting things wrong, I observe that caution should be observed, lest we mislead people or give them a false assurance.

Consider how preachers have actually told lies and manipulated their audience to get them to come forward. An evangelist in Georgia who had preached at a leading Baptist University and had had even the President forward went to a country church and fell flat on his face. The last night of at least a week’s revival with not a single person coming forward for anything led the man to ask for people to bow their heads and pray and for those who desired prayer to raise their hands. No one raised their hands. Then he said, “I see you young man, I will pray for you, etc.” Still no one had raised a hand. Finally some one did and finally he got some one to come forward. His only problem was that there were a few unbowed heads, the pastor and his deacons. They took him to task for lying and manipulating people to get them to come forward. I told this happening in an evangelism class at the seminary, and one of the students said, “Well, he got some forward. That is all that matters!” But I think any who have a regard for the truth and for free truths, truths without manipulation, would be horrified at using Satan’s methods, lying and manipulation, to get people forward.

I also studied the case of no invitations, and there are reasons for that position. One is, simply, lift up Christ, and He will do the drawing, John 12:32. If they have caught sight of Jesus and His death for their sins, His wonderful grace for sinners, they will seek out the preacher afterwards in order to learn how to commit themselves to their new found Savior. No one had to tell me to make a profession of faith after I saw Jesus knocking at my heart’s door and asking Him to forgive me of my sins. The tears of joy would admit of no other course.

We have barely scratched the surface of the Gospel and the evangelism which the New Testament ministers preached. It is easy, because of its utter simplicity and clarity, to think that we understand it and know how to apply it. Consequently, when we run up against verses that seem to contradict, we explain them away to the point of utter meaninglessness. Just think of saying God loves every one, when He said He hates all workers of iniquity and that He is angry with the wicked every day. Some might well need to hear that He hates the workers of Iniquity and that He is angry with the wicked everyday! What then? It is like the minister in Southeast Asia ministering to Prostitutes. They are draw by the teaching of God’s Sovereignty, so he has reported, while the thought His love has no effect on them. And we might well understand why as they are subjected to a vile form of love, a debasing practice that makes love seem tawdry and meaningless, where as Sovereignty bespeaks a God able to lift any one out the cesspools of depravity.

I have been praying for a Great Awakening for nearly 40 years (it will be, if I live until this Fall), and I do know that the Sovereign Grace theology of the Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions deals with a problem that our modern evangelism does not and, in many cases, cannot address and handle successfully. I refer, of course, to the madness in man (Eccles.9:3). I refer to thinks like the teenager who up and shot his parents and hung around the house until their bodies stunk, I refer to people who are do depraved that they can be said to be blood thirsty, people who will kill without the slightest compunction or regard for anyone, human or otherwise. I refer to those who can callously and sexually abuse children, from infancy to adolescence, without feeling any remorse what so ever. This madness might not be so manifest in the average human being, but it is there nevertheless; it is the nadir of the fallen nature of human beings, the evil that must be addressed and handled by the Gospel that was designed to deal with it. Invitations that have in mind such total depravity and even total inability (after all who is more unable to respond than a paralyzed person, a person in a coma, a person who is physically dead?) The command and the invitation to come to Christ is to be given with a view to the fact that it is asking the impossible of people, and that impossibility is their hope. It is the issue of the therapeutic paradox; it is the introduction of the supernatural, the eternal, the divine, into the natural, the temporal, the human situation. Such requires the help of the Holy Spirit to bring home the truth to the heart in a saving way, a heart of stone, a heart of darkness, and dead heart, melting the stone, enlightening the heart , and quickening the lifeless into life, giving a large charge to a heart not beating as my defibilator gave me, when I passed out due to stress, etc.

Situations vary, differ, from person to person, but they all have this in common, they require the intervention of the Holy Spirit of God Himself in order to really and truly be successful. And in such cases, no one commands the Spirit; He acts according to the purposes of Godhead as to persons, times, places, effects, and etc. That being so, it does not excuse any one from being a witness or seeking to win souls to Christ. In fact, the reverse is the case. God’s Sovereignty as George W. Truett said presses down on our heads the crown of responsibility.

76 Tom Parker July 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Jared:

Was this a Southern Baptist Convention affiliated Church?

77 Jim Pemberton July 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I’ve heard of putting the cookies on the bottom shelf, but this is like asking kids to lick the crumbs off the floor.

78 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Just ram across a great quote from MLJ on the subject of evangelism.

“Why is it that you call people to repent? Why do you call them to believe the Gospel? You cannot deal properly with repentance without dealing with the doctrine of man, the doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of sin and the wrath of God against sin. Then when you call men to come to Christ and to give themselves to Him, how can you do so without knowing who He is, and on what grounds you invite them to come to Him, and so on. In other words it is all highly theological. Evangelism which is not theological is not evangelism at all in any true sense. It may be a calling for decisions, it may be a calling on people to come to religion, or to live a better life, or the offering of some psychological benefits; but it cannot by any definition be regarded as Christian evangelism, because there is no true reason for what you are doing apart from these great theological principles. I assert therefore that every type of preaching must be theological, including evangelistic preaching.”

- Martyn Lloyd Jones, ‘Preaching and Preachers’, pg. 65.

79 cb scott July 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Amen!

Les Prouty, that is most excellent. Every invitation, every evangelistic call to Christ, every announcement of the Gospel must have this foundation or it is vanity at best.

80 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I would just add that this book by MLJ on preaching and preachers should be in every preacher’s library…and read!

81 Jim G. July 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Why are we objecting that 400 children got introduced to Jesus, and that 60 are being prepared for baptism?

We need to be rejoicing here, not howling.

I don’t know what sort of church this is, but if they have any Christian sense about them at all, they have identified the 60 for baptism as being true converts. It also means that they were discerning enough to see that 340 or so were not yet ready for baptism.

400 precious little ones were living recipients of “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God.” Granted, Jesus as “forever friend” is not biblical language, but “friend” certainly is in numerous places, and it is a friendship that is eternal. As I recall, when the children came to Jesus, he did not urge their repentance, he placed his hands on them and blessed them. What a blessing indeed that almost 400 children were introduced to Christ and want to be his friend!

See VBS for what it is – an outreach tool that introduces children to the Jesus who is the friend of sinners. About 15% (60 out of 400) of these kids believe sufficiently that they want to be baptized. Hallelujah! Most kids of VBS age do not understand repentance, guilt, sinfulness, and other such weighty and generally adult topics (VBS usually runs preschool through rising sixth graders, or from ages 1-11). Hopefully they will grow in nurture and instruction of the Lord after wanting Jesus to be their forever friend. I’m happy to say that Jesus is my forever friend, and I am rejoicing along with the angels in heaven. I also pray that this church will gently lead and disciple these precious ones to maturity in Christ.

Jim G.

82 Jim Pemberton July 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Jim G.
Regarding the difference between 400 kids making decisions and almost 60 being baptized: Many kids who attend VBS in Baptist churches are not children of members of the church and would not be candidates for baptism.

I think what most of us here object to is that a church who proclaims the gospel as “Jesus is your forever friend” hasn’t proclaimed the gospel at all and lacks the discernment to determine if these kids are truly regenerate. I don’t rejoice when kids accept a false gospel that has been presented to them as though it were the real gospel and are told that their relationship with God is settled based on that.

83 Jim G. July 1, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Jim,

I think we are jumping to too many conclusions here. We only know what Jared told us about what was published. I’m sure a lot was said and done that we (and Jared) know not of. We should not be so quick to negatively judge things of which we have only at best partial knowledge.

And, we are talking about little kids for the most part. I would imagine that the content was a little deeper for the 10 year olds than it was for the 6 year olds. In my opinion, most 6 year olds cannot fathom the depth of repentance, wrath, or guilt. My own 8-year-old does not understand all of that, but he sure loves Jesus. Such a small child can easily say that Jesus is a forever friend but not be ready for full-blown conversion.

I agree that easy-believism is a problem. I also think that sometimes we make it too hard to believe. Introducing children to Jesus is not wrong. Telling them he is their friend is not wrong. The truth is, we don’t know that the church isn’t discipling these kids. I will still rejoice that so many kids were introduced to Jesus. Now, we can let the church and the Spirit do their work and continue to lift them up in prayer.

Jim G.

84 Jim Pemberton July 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm

There may be more than what was published, but what was published is alarming if that’s all there was.

My family is involved with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), and we are well aware what kids can understand the gospel. My oldest son happened to be serving as the counselor at a club when my youngest son went back to be counseled and come to Christ. My daughter just returned from a CEF training camp where she was blessed for the first time to counsel two children who both came to Christ. They are trained to counsel the true gospel in ways that children can understand. My oldest son accompanied me to India a couple of years ago where we went door-to-door. In one home I shared the gospel while he prayed next to me. I was about to leave out a part of the gospel when he elbowed me and whispered to me the part I was about to leave out. He was 15 then.

So I know that even younger kids can understand the full import of the gospel when presented to them in a way that takes their level of development into consideration and older kids can be taught to share the gospel effectively. Whether this church did something other than just telling kids to accept Jesus as their “forever friend” or not is only the catalyst for this discussion. You acknowledge that this pattern is common enough to be a problem.

85 Bruce H. July 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Jared,

Great Post.

There are two things I see that goes along with easy believism; Entertainment and Sensationalism. Adults act immature, there are lots of animated pictures used and a total emphasis on getting kids saved using a low commitment approach. If they are going to do an account of saves and baptises they better do a better accounting of those who stick and grow along with the loses. Keep in mind, accounting has not been the SBC policy for a long time.

86 David Rogers July 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Certainly, we need to be teaching our children the gospel. We need to teach them who God is, why He created us, what sin is, what the consequences of sin are, who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for us and why that is so important, what faith is, what repentance is, etc. There is even a place (and an important one, at that) for teaching what it means that Jesus calls us friends, and how we come from being enemies of God to being friends of God, i.e. reconciliation. VBS is a great opportunity to do this, and is likely one of the most important things we do as local churches.

The problem, as I understand it, is how we approach the issue of assurance of eternal salvation. We must avoid, whatever the age of the hearer of the message, communicating the idea that walking the aisle, saying a prayer, filling out a card = a ticket to heaven. But I think we must take special care with children younger than around age 12, because, from what I understand from the study of cognitive science, their brains have not yet fully developed in the area of independent moral decision-making.

Yes, indeed, we should rejoice that children learn about all these things I mention in the first paragraph, and that they show signs of an initial positive response toward these things. That is all an important, and, indeed, wonderful, first step on the path to discipleship. But, if, for some reason, they get the idea that they are eternally secure because of a “decision” they made when they were children, and then don’t go on to live a life of Christian discipleship, because they never really truly repented, because they were not at an age in which they were truly able to repent with their own independent moral decision-making capability, we have not done them a service, but a tragic disservice.

A closely related issue is the age at which we encourage/permit children to be baptized. I have previously posted some additional thoughts on this here:

http://sbcimpact.org/2008/07/09/semi-infant-baptism-in-baptist-churches/

87 Ken Hamrick July 2, 2013 at 9:12 am

Insincere conversions can happen at any age. The antidote to that is preaching the Biblical form of Eternal Security—one that emphasizes that God only saves those who come in genuine, repentant faith, so a lack of continuing transformational fruit ought to bring a sinner back to the cross on his knees to repent of sin and reaffirm that faith.

As for invitations to come forward and make a public confession, I think John the Baptist made good use of that—the sinners had to come forward into the water to be baptized, which was a public confession of repentance and belief in God. And John charged them to bear fruits worthy of repentance. And didn’t Paul say, “…We implore men, ‘Be reconciled to God!’?” Do you implore men to be reconciled to God? If so, then what is wrong with suggesting that they come forward so that you can pray with them in that reconciliation? Yes, there are abuses to avoid—but why must that mean that the invitation is to be avoided? The objection that it does no good for the preacher to convince them to come forward if the Holy Spirit is not doing the convincing; but how can you be so sure that the Holy Spirit does not use the preacher to convince the sinner—and even use the coming forward to put the spiritual decision in more tangible terms? I’ve been to a service with an altar manipulator who forced me to go forward to avoid any further embarrassment—and I only resented it. But I also was saved by Christ by surrendering myself, my life and my pride, and going forward at a revival service. It’s true that I received Christ before I reached that altar; but there is something profound that is presented by the simple prospect of going forward—much like the spiritual truths that are driven home through the physical symbolism of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

88 David Rogers July 2, 2013 at 10:39 am

Ken,

As I understand it, sincerity vis-à-vis insincerity is not the main issue at stake here. Yes, insincere “conversions” can happen at any age, but I am not so sure mature conversions can happen at any age. By “mature conversions,” I mean those in which the individual doing the believing and repenting has a good understanding of what is at stake. They have clearly seen two paths laid out before them, and not just to please Mommy and Daddy, and not just to please their VBS teacher, have decided to turn their back on one way of life and turn toward, not just a way of life, but a Savior, who is also their Sovereign Lord from that moment on, throughout all eternity.

What happens in the case of many who do not follow through with childhood “conversions” is they eventually come to convince themselves (whether consciously or unconsciously) that their childhood decision was something they did before they had all the information necessary to truly decide. In a play on words of Heb. 6:5, they had not yet “tasted of the fruit of the world, and the power and pull of the present world,” and so they were not yet truly turning their backs on it. What usually happens for those who make a profession of faith at age 5, 6, 7, etc. is that sometime around age 12 or 13 they must revisit their earlier decision, and decide once again, but at a different level of maturity. The 5, 6, or 7 year old may have been very sincere at the time, but the decision they made was a 5-, 6-, or 7-year-old decision. A 12- or 13-year-old decision is, as I understand it, not only quantitatively, but qualitatively, different.

Should we therefore discourage 5-, 6-, and 7-year-old decisions for Christ? No. In the proper perspective, they are a very good thing, and may indeed prove determinative in one’s ultimate spiritual development and discipleship. But we should not equate these decisions with more mature conversions. When we acknowledge 5-, 6-, or 7-year-old decisions for Christ, we do so knowing there will come a time a few years later when the child making the decision will come to a crossroads in his/her life where he/she will have to decide to follow through with the childhood decision or not.

89 Richard Tribble July 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I’m troubled by what appears to be stressing of what may be termed “continuation” as evidence of salvation. Though one should seek and pursue an ever growing relationship with
Christ, yet sometimes we slide far away but that doesn’t mean
we have lost our salvation or
weren’t saved. Take Lot for
example. If anyone’s life is the
figure of amti-God it would be him yet the Bible tells us he vexed hid righteous soul.

We must stress , in age appropriate terms the gospel. Sometimes we so caught up in the ‘words’ that, like the Pharisees we miss the truth.

Being the friend of Jesus is just as dangerous as telling people to just believe; the devils believe but aren’t saved.

Too much emphasis seems to being placed on what we deem appropriate results. Let’s face it, only God knows. I’ll cling to His Word, strive daily and trust Him even when I fall.

Sorry if I’m a little disjointed in the Hosp with my wife.

90 Jess Alford July 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Richard Tribble,

I don’t think we can use examples of eternal security from the pages of the Old Testament, since the Holy Spirit can and did depart from man. Take a look at Sampson, the Holy Spirit departed from him, also the Holy Spirit departed from Saul.
David in his prayer, pleaded for God not to withdraw the Holy Spirit from him.

For eternal Security we must look into the New Testament.
The sliding into sin that you speak of, is only a short trip because along with every temptation God makes a way to escape. Every son God corrects, if we are without correction we are not sons. God knows how to bring us in line with his will.

91 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm

David, you said: “”"By “mature conversions,” I mean those in which the individual doing the believing and repenting has a good understanding of what is at stake”"”"

Could I ask you: do you ever remember as a very little boy your Daddy comforting you when you were afraid? Did he ever say something like, “It’s OK, I am here?”

Did you in fact “trust hm” in that moment? For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume you answer, “yes.”

Did you, in that moment know everything there was to know about your father? Did you understand what it even meant to be a father? Did you for example know in that moment your father’s blood type–one simple, empirical piece of data?

I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that your answer to that question in regard to that answer is, “no.’ Your knowledge of your father at the time you put your trust in him was not, in fact, mature.

The question it seems to me is, “how much ‘knowledge’ is requisite in order to be saved?” My answer may seem shocking, even heretical (which is why we have Joe the Heresy hunter on the blog), but I’d say, “none.”

Salvation is not about “gnosis,” but “pistis.” It is not about the process but the object of our salvation–Jesus. I maintain–and I’m using a bit of play on words with Jared’s term–that “easy believism” is the only true means to salvation. Anything else smacks of a gnostic approach to salvation.

I do understand Jared’s premise in the extreme. But, I think Jared’s post paints him into a corner. On the surface, we all think we know exactly what he is talking about. In reality, I don’t think any of us can evaluate when a person truly makes an eternal, saving decision.

It is not “mature faith,” in my opinion, but “childlike trust.”

PS–I’m not exactly disagreeing with your post but trying to smooth out the edges in my own understanding–or lack thereof.

92 Jess Alford July 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Frank L,

That was a pretty talk, but it was very empty and worldly.
Jesus came to die for our sins, which you said nothing about.
We must realize we are sinners before we can be saved. We must know what to repent means.

What you are saying is a false gospel, a Joel Osteen type gospel.
I rebuke you to the fullest.

93 David Rogers July 2, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Frank,

I agree with you that salvation is not about “gnosis,” but “pistis,” but I would also say that biblical “pistis” has a good dose of “metanoia” thrown in there as well. I probably should have used a better word when I way they must have a good “understanding.” I was not referring to a cognitive understanding, or even an affective understanding, but to a volitional understanding. It is not the ability to write out the plan of salvation in a doctrinally correct way, but rather the ability to make truly independent moral and spiritual decisions I am talking about. Personally, I believe in the age of accountability. And my reflection about these issues has led me to conclude that, in our society, the age of accountability is normally sometime around 12 or 13 years old. I believe the natural tendency of a child, if he/she is encouraged in this direction, is to trust in God in the same way as the example you give of a child and his earthly father. But there is also, at the same time, the seed of sin that we inherit from Adam. And there comes a time when an individual truly comes face to face for the first time with these conflicting seeds in his/her heart and must choose to take either the narrow path or the broad one.

As parents, it only makes sense that we don’t want to leave the spiritual condition, and eternal destiny, of our children up in the air. Since the teaching of the Word of God is somewhat nebulous regarding the age of accountability, it gives us more peace to have these things nailed down early. However, I don’t think there is any conflict with what I am saying and a loving parental resolve to teach our children to believe in Jesus and to repent of their sins from an early age, even from the time they are babies in the crib. The only problem I see is when we begin to teach them that, because they prayed a prayer and “really meant it,” they are eternally secure, and when we put our seal of approval on that decision by baptizing them.

Since, as Baptists, we generally don’t believe in baptismal regeneration, I don’t see why this should cause us too much anxiety anyway. We are telling our children, like John the Baptist told the Pharisees, to first produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and then to be baptized. I am saying that true fruit in keeping with repentance can only truly be manifested after the age of accountability, only after someone is truly responsible for the independent moral decisions they make.

94 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

“”"”the age of accountability is normally sometime around 12 or 13 years old.”"”"

David, in general I can see some merit in this age. It however, is based I think more on Jewish tradition than the human condition.

This age generally comes from the story of Jesus being left behind on his trip to the temple at the age of 12. I’m not sure we can give this a proscriptive weight, but I can see the point.

I think we may have accepted this age of 12 by default. I’ve known many, many children who made decisions below the age of twelve and are still involved in a growing relationship with the Lord into adulthood.

The problem for me is the classic, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” There is no salvific formula. There is proscriptive language or biblical basis for an age requirement. So, the possibility for error is very high and the consequences are very significant.

Your point about baptismal generation has merit. Though, there is more to it. One example, and I know it is anecdotal, is with my two younger sisters. They both accepted the Lord in Sunday School, but the church delayed baptizing them.

Time went on. They went on with life. They drifted away from the church and they have never been baptized. They also have a very weak connection with church. They both will give you a confession of faith that they believe Jesus is the Lord and he raised from the dead after three days (Rom. 10:9-10).

Are they saved? They certainly aren’t “mature believers” even after many years.

I could give a similar testimony of my younger brother. I personally led him to the Lord in my living room. He struggled with alcoholism all his life and even died of it. He would certainly never pass the muster of some on this blog as being “worthy” of salvation.

This is a real struggle for me and always has been.

In regard to your reference to John the Baptist: 1) these were adults; 2) they were the most “mature” theologically and pure religiously of any people of the day. I think it is a bit telling that when Jesus wanted to give an illustration of “extreme religiosity” and a standard for righteous living, he mentioned the Pharisees (“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees.”" Religiously mature adults.

When he wanted to illustrate “saving faith,” he pulled kids upon his lap and used some of the strongest language in the N.T.

95 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Jess,

Over the last year or so I have interacted with you. I’ve prayed for you in regard to health situations. I’ve generally tried to have a good-natured conversations with you.

You can rebuke me all you want. It means absolutely nothing to me. You have never heard me preach. You know absolutely nothing about me.

For the people in my church to hear you accuse me of being like Joel Olsteen would cause a rupture of hilarity in the pews.

Unlike yourself, I don’t have it all figured out. If I did, I wouldn’t bother spending time on a blog. Blogging for me is like fishing. I throw my line in hoping to land a great catch.

Sometimes I go home with a stringer of fish. Sometimes I go home with an empty worm bucket.

May God continue to bless you as you serve Him.

96 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

David,

Back in the late 70′s I was involved with Billy Graham’s director of discipleship, Billy Hanks. In fact, I was part of an experiment so to speak.

The Billy Graham Association through whatever means endowed a “Chair of Discipleship” at my college. This was to provide an academic approach to discipleship along the lines of the Navigators. My academic minor is in New Testament discipleship.

Somewhere in that course of study so long ago, we did some research on mass evangelism methods–particularly Billy Graham crusades. Our goal was to discover what made the difference in who was still serving the Lord, five, ten, and decades longer.

As I recall we followed a crusade in India. What we discovered was that those who were followed up in the manner of the Navigators, were still serving the Lord years later. Those who did not receive an in depth follow-up were unaccounted for years later.

This, and my own experience, has led me to focus differently on “baptism” from many Baptists. My focus is not so much on getting people baptized as getting them connected to the Lord through practicing acts of righteousness: prayer, Bible study, Scripture memory, church fellowship, and evangelism particularly.

I think we could attack the problem better, not by trying to establish an arbitrary age for understanding, but by doing a better job of intentional follow-up.

97 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I did not want the post to get too long.

What I’m getting at is this: could it be that the problem Jared is outlining is a problem with “us” and not “them?” Would it make a difference in the conversation if we changed “easy believism,” to “easy discipleship?”

Of course there are those that teach and preach an “easy believism” but I don’t think it is so much a matter of “how or when” a person comes to Jesus (assuming of course a true presentation of the real gospel), but “what” is expected of a person once he or she has made a decision.

Does this make any sense to you?

98 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm

One more follow-up and I have to get back to work.

My fear is that this post could suggest (I’m not saying Jared is suggesting this) we are doing “too much evangelism in the wrong way.”

I’m suggesting, we aren’t doing enough evangelism in any way.

Let’s turn this around and say, “Wow! This church had a wonderful VBS!” They had over 400 children indicate they were moved to trust Jesus Christ as their Friend, Lord, Boss, Protector-whatever is age-appropriate.

I’m not disagreeing with the premise “we should not spread false hope.” I am trying to avoid the disaster of spreading real doubt.

99 David Rogers July 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Frank,

With regard to the age of 12, since the Bible is not clear on this, I don’t think we should be dogmatic either. Though I think there may be some significance to the fact that Jesus was taken to the temple when He was age 12, there are other extra-biblical factors that I mention in the post I linked to in my first comment on this stream that lead me to think 12 or 13 is probably the best minimum age for baptism.

Also, with regard to your sisters, my theory is that, when most kids in church are baptized at younger ages, when it comes time for older kids to be baptized (age 12 and older) there is somewhat of a resistance, because they associate being baptized with something that younger kids do. This is not an excuse. It is a matter of obedience, and we should not be ashamed to follow Jesus in baptism, even if it does mean, in some way, feeling like we are identifying with kids younger than us. But I think that, perhaps, in some strange way, baptizing a lot of younger kids puts a stumbling block in front of older kids when it comes time for them to be baptized.

(I know what I say in this last paragraph is sort of a strange idea, and to be honest, it is kind of half-baked. But I throw it out there as something to think about, nonetheless)

100 Jess Alford July 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Jared Moore,

My question would be how many children walked away from that VBS that didn’t make Jesus their forever friend, not counting the ones that did or already had before the VBS.

101 Jess Alford July 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I think a lot can be said about your answer.

102 Jess Alford July 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

David Rogers,

Sir, I agree with you. I too believe in the age of accountability. We must stop pushing Salvation on little children, and we wonder what is wrong with our churches today.

103 Truth Unites... and Divides July 1, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Easy Believism at VBS

The context is VBS.

For “Easy Believism”, in general, is this a significant problem worth addressing? How bad a problem is it? What are the eternal ramifications of “Easy Believism”? Is there such a thing as a “false convert”? What about what Jesus says near the end of Matthew 7 about “I never knew you”?

Does “easy believism” lead to false converts, yes or no? Are there easy-believing false converts, be they kids or adults, in SBC churches? Very small percentage or somewhat rampant?

Is “easy believism” a problem for Christendom? A problem for SBC churches? A problem for VBS? A problem for children attending VBS? What is the magnitude of the problem, if so?

Isn’t it a serious problem… leading to the justified concerns expressed by Pastor Jared Moore?

104 Adam G. in NC July 2, 2013 at 12:26 am

Yep. I can speak from my own life here. I “accepted Jesus” when I was twelve and I can absolutely say now that the “Jesus” that I was accepting then was definitely a “different Jesus” than what the Bible witnesses. I accepted a figment of my own imagination, created in my own image. Definitely. Thank God that fifteen years later I actually read my Bible, kneeled, and that Jesus “accepted me”.

105 William Thornton July 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I don’t buy all of Jared’s stuff on SBCV and often recognize a serious knowledge gap but I’m inclined to think the general thrust here is on target because I have seen a good bit of this. Sure, his example is merely gleaned from a website and there is the possibility that there is much more than what he knows but he didn’t call the church out by name. I’m comfortable with the point made from the example.

We want kids in VBS. We want kids in VBS to come to Christ. But VBS is probably the program most susceptible to faulty evangelism and inappropriate pressure on little kids. I suspect that the reason we re-baptize so many in the SBC is partly because we are not as careful with the decisions of younger children.

I’d ask CB, Tim G., David and others if they know of pastors who are prone to pad the baptism numbers with younger children?

It would be helpful if Jared would be more forthcoming and engage people in the discussions he starts. He is rather inclined to duck serious conversations. I expect more from my SBC VP, whom I wish well.

106 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm

William,

Of course, we all know Pastors, who have used VBS to pad numbers, and it’s a low down, crying shame. I’ve known of Pastors, who have not counseled with children, hardly at all, when they came forward. They just led them in a prayer, and declared them saved. That’s a travesty. In fact, I’m very careful when dealing with children, due to what happened to me…when I was a boy. I went forward in a Methodist Church, when it was turning liberal. We had just come out of a week of VBS…and, I was really thinking hard about being saved. Well, when I stepped out during the hymn of invitation, and came forward, the liberal, Methodist Pastor was as shocked as a cat licking an electric fence. And, he asked him if I believed in Jesus…and, I thought “who doesnt?” So, I said, “Yes.” And, he asked me if I wanted to be baptized and join the Church. And again, I said, “Yes.” Then, he told the Church, and sprinkled me on top of the head. I walked away lost, but a little more religious.

Now, that was truly “easy believism.” He did not stress repentance and faith. He didnt talk about Jesus’ death on the cross.

Thankfully, I got saved at the age of 19…..truly saved.

David

107 Tim Rogers July 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I am not Tim G but I am Tim. :) We have a standing joke that when we go for a month without a baptism, we go by the 1st grade class and explain how easy it is to get babipatized. Never fails we always get at least 4 or 5 baptisms

Seriously, yes there are pastors that pad baptism numbers. There are also pastors that remove an invitation just because they do not want to apply undue pressure on people. Neither of the extremes are approved of and both should be called out as to what they are–a distortion of the understanding of baptism.

108 Adam G. in NC July 2, 2013 at 12:31 am

Vol says , “he asked him if I believed in Jesus…and, I thought “who doesnt?” So, I said, “Yes.” And, he asked me if I wanted to be baptized and join the Church. And again, I said, “Yes.” Then, he told the Church, and sprinkled me on top of the head. I walked away lost, but a little more religious.”

Same here. Except it was an SBC church, I was “voted in” instead of sprinkled and I wasnt religious, but a hellion who went to church on Sunday hungover.

109 volfan007 July 2, 2013 at 7:57 am

Adam G,

At the age of 14…2 years after the false profession I made in the Methodist Church…I also became a hellion, until I was truly saved at the age of 19.

David

110 cb scott July 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

Vol,

I notice that you and several of the other fellows here became “Hellions” in your early teens. What is that?

Is it an organization kinda like the Boy Scouts, Little League or Royal Ambassadors?

111 volfan007 July 2, 2013 at 2:09 pm

CB,

Hellions are a club of young men, who do things that their Momma’s aint proud of.

David

112 Dale Pugh July 2, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I think we need to have an alumni meeting……

113 Les Prouty July 2, 2013 at 12:45 am

Adam G,

Mine was in a SB church when I was about 12. I went forward mainly because some friends of mine went forward. The preacher asked me why I cam forward. I said I wanted to be a Christian. He said congratulations and handed me a card and said I should fill it out, which I did. Then after the 14th stanza of Just As I Am was played, he introduced me to the church as the newest member. I was baptized a few weeks later. Not once was I told or asked any more.

114 Adam G. in NC July 2, 2013 at 12:55 am

It makes me sad that my little sister “went forward” with me that day. She loves me, but thinks I’m just a nut now. Her two year old son is starting to become involved in some of the same programs that I did when I was a younster (same church I grew up at) and my first child is a month old and I have determined that they will know the Jesus that the Bible describes and not just make one up that fits my own lifestyle…like I did.

115 Jess Alford July 2, 2013 at 1:49 pm

The second time that I ever remembered being in church, my aunt came to me during the invitation and asked me was I saved. I didn’t even know what that was. I figured I didn’t have one, so I said no, she took me by the hand and led me to the altar. I was on the altar along with other kids, when the preacher started on the other side asking the kids what did Jesus do for you? The first kid said Jesus saved me, and finally the preacher came to me, I repeated what the other 15 kids said, Jesus saved me, I was 14 years old.

Long story short, I didn’t get saved until I was 24 years old.

We should leave the little children alone, they are already saved.
VBS destroys lives, Churches need to drop the numbers game.
Nothing wrong with teaching kids the word of God, but please lay off the act of trying to get them in the church by man’s wishes.
There will come a time when God will genuinely deal with the young folks.

116 Tim G July 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

William,
I am sure there are those who pad there numbers. I can remember early in my ministry several who were guilty. Today, I am not aware of many.

In my life and ministry, those who discipled and train me, padding of numbers was a lie! Plain and simple. Easy believism was heresy! I was taught and thus have always practiced – “work out your salvation with fear and trembling!”

Even now, we have three children awaiting Baptism. All three have been discipled, questioned, delayed etc.. until more than one of my staff and lay leaders feel that they grasp the decision they are making.

I spoke with another one last night who claims she has been saved but her due to age and lack of clarity in her answers to specific questions, we will delay her Baptism.

And for the record, 400 decisions with 60 ready for Baptism tells me they are doing something right. 400 decisions and 400 immediate Baptisms would certainly give me some serious questions.

But who are we to judge from afar? I do not know what they have done nor how they do it. I just rejoice in people of any age accepting Christ!

May thousands more do the same!

117 peter lumpkins July 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Hi Tim,

You ask: “But who are we to judge from afar?” Consider:

3. It’s arrogant for pastors and SBC leaders to judge our ministries from a distance. Have they served where we serve? Southern Baptists, If you haven’t served our churches in our communities at this exact moment, then you haven’t served in our contexts…”

I’ll give you three guesses–with the first two not counting–who wrote those words.

118 Tim G July 1, 2013 at 7:54 pm

BINGO! That ol’ shoe issue on the other foot always comes back to bite! :-)

119 Jared Moore July 1, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Peter, you took those words out of the context of the article. We can judge anyone’s words based on Scripture. The context of my article was people judging my ministry and the ministries of others, not based on Scripture, but based on arbitrary baptism quotas. Context is key here. We can judge anyone’s ministry based on Scripture.

120 Les Prouty July 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Amen Jared. You are correct sir. Context is always key.

121 William Thornton July 2, 2013 at 7:05 am

Jared, sometimes you have to own up to stuff you write or stop writing so much. I love you bro, but your MO here is to either duck and hide or deflect and try and weasel out when criticized.

122 Jared Moore July 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

William, what is there to “own up” to? I wrote it. I believe it. But, it should be quoted in context.

123 William Thornton July 2, 2013 at 7:01 am

I agree. My sense is that there is less of this than previously (remember the fire engine baptistery) because there has been more serious consideration given to abuses in the area of little children and salvation.

124 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm

“”"”We want kids in VBS. We want kids in VBS to come to Christ. But VBS is probably the program most susceptible to faulty evangelism and inappropriate pressure on little kids “”"”"

William, I’m sure you do not wish to suggest you have statistics to back up this observation. If you do, I’d like to see it. I’m not saying “padding” never happens, but I don’t have any proof it is significant.

What I do remember, and one of our great researchers here may be able to dig it up, is the statistic that showed that a very large number of adult, practicing believers made their salvation decisions in “children’s programs,” with VBS leading the charge.

I guess we could count the numbers of those who “fall away” and give in to cynicism, or we could count the number of VBS alumni serving in our church and say, “How can we do better?”

Maybe it is a “glass” thing: half full or half empty.

125 William Thornton July 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Hey, Frank. We can both be right here.

VBS is a wonderful evangelistic tool and many adults point to it as the time when they understood the Gospel and were saved. Amen to that.

As most any pastor will tell you, they have seen gross abuses.

And, as a matter of fact I do have some statistics that are relevant. In SC during my time there almost half of the baptisms reported were found to be folks who already had been baptized once, some more than once. Faulty evangelism accounts for some of this.

No one who has been circulating in the SBC as a pastor or staff member for any length of time would not be aware of such things.

126 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

William, we are not both correct. You present an argument of “gross abuses,” a hyperbole to be sure, and imply I have not been a pastor or staff member for any length of time.

We will have to disagree on both points.

You have a low view of VBS’s evangelistic merits. I have a very high view. That is not the same. You see it’s “potential,” I see its practical results. These are not the same.

We can agree to be agreeable, as I will gladly submit, but I don’t think we are saying the same thing at all.

127 William Thornton July 1, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Frank, you have no stats. I have seen stats on re-baptisms. Who should be looking a little closer here?

And, bro., you don’t get extra credit here for always disagreeing.

You have the last word until next year’s VBS.

128 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 8:59 pm

William,

Feel free to disparage me if it makes you feel better.

I tried to be kind and gracious in my disagreement. Quite frankly, I didn’t develop my principles by any majority vote. I believe what I believe because I’ve come to it by conviction and experience.

I trust you came to your beliefs in a similar way, and Jared and others along the same path.

No statistic in the world can override the decision of a child to fall in love with the Savior after a presentation of the gospel.

And, I have taken a poll with a show of hands in several churches of those adults who made a decision as a child. The statistic was overwhelming.

Also, you can research the numbers for yourself. They are quite clear, most people who make a life-altering decision for Christ do so before the age of 15. I’ve seen statistics that show that age as low as 13. The percentage is somewhere around 85%. I’ll leave you to do the research if you like.

As I said, we’ve been to this dance before so my dissenting opinion on the issue is nothing new.

Here’s just one statistic on the matter: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/ages.htm

129 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm

PS–Just an added note: I am very reluctant to preach doubt to the end of getting more “rebaptisms.” In fact, I am very slow to rebaptize anybody.

I only do so after a very in depth discussion and the person’s insistence.

130 Jess Alford July 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm

William Thornton,

I have Baptized several adults who have been Baptized as a young child. The profession they had made when young was a false profession, they said they were eager to please their teacher.

131 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Jess,

How do know the profession they are giving you is not a false profession?

132 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm

PSS–I don’t typically post in regard to ideas and issues I agree with because they have already said it better than I could and I would have little to add to the discussion.

133 William Thornton July 2, 2013 at 7:08 am

Frank L.: called to disagree agreeably. Got it.

We all have our roles. :)

I wish you well.

134 cb scott July 2, 2013 at 8:08 am

William Thornton,

As have you and others here, I have been around for a while and have served in some type of Baptist ministry in seven states.

Sadly, I have to state that I have known pastors who lied about their baptism numbers and who did “pad their baptism numbers” not only with younger children, but youth and adults also.

However, I know a great number of honest pastors who take their ministry to children seriously and make every effort to deal with the souls of children in a proper manner.

Ministerial integrity is not a new “invention.”

“Some of us were seeking pastoral integrity before seeking pastoral integrity was cool.” Thank you very much, George Jones.

135 David Gallimore July 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm

If I am looking at the same source as Jared, I see where during training of volunteers in preparation for the event, one volunteer being trained to “share his story” with kindergarten aged children, asked Jesus to be his “forever friend” and went on to lead a “group” of kindergartners “in the same prayer that he had just prayed days before”.

While I agree where many of you have questioned about the fact of not knowing all the details, and we don’t know exactly the extent of what they were presented with, just what is perceived at face value is kind of alarming.

What I question is whether their “volunteers” were adequate for what they were undertaking with over 2200 children present?

136 Alan Davis July 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

David where did you go to get the info? Would like to read it myself.

137 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 4:52 pm

“”"The sad reality is that Jesus can be your “forever friend” and you still go to hell”"”"

1) anybody using any words can still be insecure, including those using “biblical terms”; 2) what is the “biblical formula?” Where exactly do we see someone in the process of leading a person to the Lord using that formula. And, does this formula have to be Greek, or Aramaic? 3) It is disingenuous
to attribute such a low value to the term “forever friend.” The persons using it would, I’m sure object.

As far as I can remember, and I’m no expert, I cannot think of one encounter in the N.T. that shows the process of someone leading someone else to the Lord. If the “phraseology” is so crucial to being saved, why is it not outlined more clearly in the Scripture.

I find, as often I do, that Jared is good at raising objections to evangelism. That is so much easier than doing evangelism.

It is also ironic that Jared spends an enormous amount of time praising the evangelistic value of Harry Potter but has a problem with VBS. I find this consistency in his posting to be very troubling.l

I have no problem “inspecting fruit,” but would be more inclined to follow the argument if a person actually was growing some fruit rather than simply inspecting that of others.

In this post, as with others on evangelism, Jared seems to say, “Sure, people can get saved . . . but not really.” There is always this undercurrent of doubt as to who really gets saved and who really doesn’t. It comes up often on Voices.

Let me say clearly so no one will have any doubt as to my postion: “The only true ‘believism’ is ‘easy believism.” Everything else is a counterfeit gospel of works.

There’s nothing hard about “believing unto salvation.” What’s hard is living out that salvation. It seems Jared is whipping the horse when it would be wiser to grease the wheels of the wagon.

These types of “doubt-casting” posts always trouble me even though I know Jared means well.

138 Tim G July 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Amen! We should rejoice about those who were saved and pray many more are saved!

139 Jim Pemberton July 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Frank, I call foul: You changed the meaning of Jared’s term “easy believism” in order to disagree with him. Jared is referring to not presenting the true gospel. You are referring to grace. If you disagree with Jared’s definition, then you must agree that your defintion is unnecessary for presenting the gospel. That is, if you disagree that the true gospel doesn’t need to be proclaimed, then you must agree that the gospel of grace doesn’t need to be proclaimed in order to save people. Nevertheless, you are posturing over the necessity of grace. Therefore, you’re argument is self-defeating.

140 Frank L. July 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I think most of you here would agree that this is not a new topic. In fact, it has been a problem from the very first disciples. Did Jesus teach and “easy believism?”

According to the statistics and the logic of this post, an argument could be made that He did. By the time Jesus arrived at His earthly destination, only one disciple was remaining by His side.

The rest: just didn’t cut the mustard.

However, we all realize there is more to the story than how the disciples began their journey. A book has a beginning a middle and an end. Christian books even have an appendix.

The problem with trying to evaluate which of those who decided for Christ were really saved–that is, spoke the proper mantra–is that nobody knows or can know but God.

This type of discussion, for me, has an aire of gnosticism about it. Gnosticism taught a “secret formula” version of salvation. I wonder if we do not seek the same thing so often.

Salvation, in my humble opinion, is not about the words of the sinner’s prayer as it is the object to which the sinner is praying. It is a matter of trusting in a person, not relying on a formula. As I mentioned above, I don’t even know what the formula is.

Salvation is not determined by an act of the mind, but an act of the will. This post is very “mind-centered.”

OK. I’m going away now. I already know what is coming. We’ve been to this dance before.

141 Tom Parker July 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Frank L:

This churches VBS had a very successful VBS and Jared questions it??

142 Tim Rogers July 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Jared,

I agree with you about easy believing is not something we should be promoting in our evangelism. However, Jim G in his comment above presents a great point. 400 people and 60 prepared for baptism says there is something to explaining the truth of what “Jesus is my Friend” really means. You said; “Almost 60 of these children then went through a baptism class to be baptized.” How does one know that repentance is not being taught in this class to insure the children understand what they are doing. Also, “making a decision for Christ” is not the same as “getting saved” Let’s get clear about the verbiage and what it means. If this church is reporting children filling out cards as getting saved then we have serious issues.

Now, from the various soteriological perspectives that you and I fall, let’s look at this thing. I should be the one upset because according to my soteriology one has to decide to come to Jesus and there election is not sure unless they decide to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Your soteriology is dependent on “irresistible grace” which is also dependent on the “effectual call” which comes only to the elect and cannot be resisted. Thus, my question is a simple one. According to irresistible grace in the effectual call easy believing doesn’t exist, does it?

143 Alan Davis July 1, 2013 at 8:40 pm

With 16 million proclaimed believers and less than 6 million attending worship it is obvious there is a lot of easy believism going on somewhere in SBC life.

144 volfan007 July 1, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Alan,

No doubt some of them were “easy believism.” But, a lot of them may just have been “false professors.” There have been people in my ministry…and, I’d bet in yours, too….where you witnessed to them stressing repentance and faith…they said they understood….and they made a prof. of faith….but, after a while, they dropped out of church. They never really got saved, but they sure came like gang busters for the first 3 or 4 months….

Wait a minute…didnt Jesus teach about this very thing in the parable of the soils and the sower?

David

145 Alan Davis July 1, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Yep He did, sure enough! I would guess, and it would be a guess (though from the inside) that many of the false professors had heard the more easy believism gospel. Though absolutly no doubt there will be many who “receive it with joy but then fade away” or rather heard the true gospel had a short time of what seemed to be salvation and then disappeared for worldly reasons.

146 Alan Davis July 1, 2013 at 11:28 pm

David,

If there is one stat I wish the SBC would have us report and keep ,it would be not just the amount of baptisms but to record the names of those baptized and then once we have 5 years of actual people with names and adresses etc. start reporting if they are still active (those baptized 5 years ago) in a church. This would be a little more difficult but it would sure show a better picture though no doubt it still wouldn’t be perfect. To say our church baptized 25 5 years ago is one thing, but then to have kept up with them and be able to say that we had…say… 22 still active in church, now that would be a little bit truer picture. Some churches in our association will baptize twice the number they have in worship in a 5-10 year stretch with no noticeable change in their worship attendance from year to year. In fact our entire association reports several hundred baptisms each year but we have lost average attendance each year. We have more people moving in our county than moving out.

147 Greg Harvey July 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm

My personal opinion is that this is one area where the Anabaptists–and their emphasis on believer’s baptism–seems more solid than Southern Baptist practice. Now the reason I think it’s more solid is because believer’s baptism was reserved for an adult decision and the earliest that could occur was roughly twelve.

There is certainly is room for acknowledging commitments by children BEFORE that, but I believe it is better to delay baptism until they can confirm (as opposed to being confirmed as in paedo-baptist traditions) their belief and their desire for baptism.

And, luckily, I’ve said all of this before so you don’t think I’m making it up this time. heh.

148 Christiane July 2, 2013 at 2:37 am

When so very much of the ‘energy’ of many a faith community is evidenced in their concern for others expressed by attempting to create fear in others of ‘going to hell’,
is it at all possible to re-direct that energy more into pointing towards Christ instead, especially when working with His little ones ?

I have concern for the depth and breadth of the ‘negativity’ out there and I think that much of it which encourages fearfulness is sadly misguided.

When emphasis on ‘hell’ is taken out of context within the whole kerygma of Christ,
something is lost in the process and I think that something is the ‘hope’ and the ‘trust’ needed for a child-like dependency on the great Mercy of God Himself.

Christ tells us that our little children already belong to God. A father whose child died is shown here expressing a solemn and profound Christian hope and trust:
http://vimeo.com/65019294

149 Dale Pugh July 2, 2013 at 9:13 am

While this has all been very entertaining, I’m wondering if our esteemed VP2 plans to write some articles in the future that highlight something positive in the SBC? Seems that a little balance might be in order here, like how he would like to make good on his concerns for the SBC touted in the article where he announced his candidacy. It actually might make for some good discussions instead of slamming anonymous churches for their VBS methods. Just a thought…..

150 Tom Parker July 2, 2013 at 9:36 am

Jared:

Maybe you missed my question but–

Was this a Southern Baptist Convention affiliated Church?

151 Jared Moore July 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

Tom; I don’t believe so.

152 Bruce H. July 2, 2013 at 10:59 am

Our faith in Christ is as individual as our fingerprint. The only thing we are given to monitor the effect of a person’s faith is their fruit throughout their discipleship and into maturity. The parents certainly should be mature enough to identify their children’s growth in grace after they profess faith in Christ. If the child’s parents are not saved, then it is the church’s responsibility to take on that work of love to disciple the child. Unfortunately, many just want to have one week of VBS and relish in the numbers produced then go back to normal. (What’s normal???) No!! That is when the work begins till the next VBS. I want to see the numbers on Spiritual fruit and stickability after VBS. If the truth be known, (I’m not condemning VBS) with the true results, we would probably put our money and efforts into something more kingdom productive.

153 volfan007 July 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

VBS is a great opportunity to teach children about Jesus and the Gospel. They can learn a whole lot about salvation in that week….especially if children are like the one’s, who live around my town…they go to 3 or 4 VBS’s during the Summer.

Also, children can be saved. I’ve known of people, who say that they got saved at 6, 7, 8, and 9 yrs old. And, they lived for the Lord faithfully after that. Jesus said to let the little children come to Him…

Also, I just want to say that I’ve seen a lot of adults make false professions of faith…as evidenced by their unchanged lifestyle and lack of Church attendance in the years afterwards…and, I’m talking about adults, who clearly heard the Gospel preached…not easy believism….BUT, they still made false professions. Listen, people make professions of faith for all kinds of reasons….some of them want God to heal their marriage…. some want God to just get them out of a jam that they’re in….some want a ticket to Heaven…some want to just get the guilt off their chest….and, there’s all kinds of reasons that people make false professions of faith….and, no matter how good and clear we share the Gospel with them, they still make a false profession.

So, while I get happy, and Im thrilled to hear about 3 getting saved during VBS, or how 8 people came forward last Sunday to be saved, or how 2 people prayed to be saved in their home….I’m more thrilled and a whole lot happier when you see those same people active in Church a year later….

But, I just want to say….for all of you, who seem to think that if you just share the Gospel better and more clear…that you somehow wont have false professions of faith made….you will….

And, I’m all for us sharing the Gospel better and more clear…to preach it like it should be preached….repentance and faith….but, just because we do that, and take every effort to make sure that someone understands…will not guarantee that we still wont see people make false professions of faith…whether they be children, teens, or adults….

David

154 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Dave R. I got lost in the thread.

“”"”With regard to the age of 12, since the Bible is not clear on this, I don’t think we should be dogmatic either.”"”"

Take out the dogma and I can accept a church that has an intentional discipleship model that results in baptism around 12 or 13–though, I won’t be using it. Since the Bible is not clear, 5 or 12, or 35 are all arbitrary.

In one church I pastored over 10% of the towns population of 3000 plus made first time decisions in our church in about a 5 year period of extended revival. The youngest was 5 and the oldest was in his 80′s I think. In fact, I baptized a child (about 10 I think) at the same time I baptized a couple in their 70′s.

My experience, if you will take my bluntness with a grain of salt, with your premise in the last paragraph is it is “bunk” :)

I’ve seen just the opposite. Something about “a little child will lead them.”

155 David Rogers July 2, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Frank,

At the risk of coming across as cantankerous (which is not my intention), why not 2 and 3 as well? What is the difference between 5 and 3? Or is that just arbitrary too, since the Bible doesn’t say 3-year-olds cannot be baptized?

156 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 9:07 pm

David,

I’m glad you got around to that. I thought you would sooner or later.

My short answer. I said above, I have absolutely no arbitrary limit on when a person establishes a saving, trusting relationship with God. So, yes, saying that God cannot save a 2 year old is arbitrary–that is, is not covered in the sacred text.

I can offer support for why I’ve not baptized someone under five, but it will still not carry the weight of Holy Writ.

I deal with children from the age of 2 through high school every single day. This does not count dealing with my own children who were both quite young when they were born.

Without a clear guide from Scripture–and there is some help from descriptive passages dealing with children–I must rely on other input, like experience.

In my experience the youngest child that has ever indicated they had made a commitment to Christ was just under five. In that case, I waited for about a year until it was absolutely evident to myself and the parents that this little girl had the light of Christ shining in her life quite brightly.

She was just under six when I baptized her over 16 years ago. She is still living for Christ today.

The second input I combine with the Bible text for help is the general study of childhood development. As the Administrator of a Child Care Center and having owned a Private Child Care Center, I have a little bit of knowledge in regard to child development.

I believe salvation is a very abstract transaction. Children below the age of 3 or 4 consistently demonstrate an inability for consistent intuitive thought–or abstract understanding. The changes dramatically for later four year olds as any of our teachers will tell you. They begin thinking in abstract ways that allow for a believable profession of faith.

Again, I am not saying I have an arbitrary age for when the Holy Spirit enters a person’s soul–the mark of salvation. In fact, those who have such an age have a real problem with at least one person in the Bible: John the Baptist.

He was filled with the Holy Spirit “in the womb” and recognized Jesus via the “ethernet” (womb to womb). I have no biblical proscription of what age is too young to baptize a child. It depends on the individual child.

I have biblical warrant, however, that even a child in utero can be filled with the Holy Spirit.

I probably danced around your question quite a bit and I realize I’m not a very good dancer.

And, no, I don’t think that is cantankerous (is that spelled right?) My previous answer begged that question.

157 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 9:11 pm

David,

Can I ask a follow-up question? Sorry, I’m going to anyway.

Is it really a problem if someone is baptized when they “think” they have accepted Jesus Christ, but there true salvation comes a year later when they have what you call, “mature understanding.”

I often tell people, as I did a lady who joined the church a month ago that it really doesn’t matter if you were “really” saved back then. What matters is are you “really” saved now?

This approach I admit leads to a problem during the Bailey Smith era of “rebaptizing the masses.” I however have not seen it to be a significant problem in my ministry.

158 Jess Alford July 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Frank L.

You didn’t ask me, but that has never stopped me before from commenting. Genuine Salvation = Genuine Baptism. If the salvation of one wasn’t genuine neither was their baptism.

This is why I re-baptize, after a genuine conversion.

159 David Rogers July 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

If you have studied much about child development, you have probably come across the studies of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg regarding the stages of cognitive development. Since it is hard to press Scripture one way or another on this question, the findings of Piaget and Kohlberg are probably the strongest planks in my argument. You say that abstract reasoning ability, such as occurs with a 5-year-old and not a 3-year-old, is a factor in your thinking. By the same token, I say independent moral decision-making ability, such as occurs with a 13-year-old, but not a 5-year-old, or even a 9-year-old, is a key factor in my thinking. As I think through it, it seems to me that independent moral decision-making has more to do with salvation than abstract reasoning.

With regard to John the Baptist, Martin Luther believed justified infant baptism claiming infants could truly believe. It seems to me, if we following that line of reasoning, we will need to quit being Baptists. To tell you the truth, I am not exactly sure of the doctrinal implications of John being filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. But I am pretty sure it doesn’t justify infant baptism.

By the way, if you haven’t yet read the post of mine I link to in my original comment here, you really need to, as it explains my views on all this more thoroughly (and it is not a very long post). :)

160 David Rogers July 2, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Typo: should read “Martin Luther believed that justified infant baptism, claiming…”

161 Frank L. July 2, 2013 at 10:40 pm

David,

I agree with you wholeheartedly and come to a different application. You reasoning is sound. I have am vaguely familiar with studies on moral decision making and do not put as much weight on them as you do, but I think they have some validity.

I also agree with your analysis concerning Luther in regard to John the Baptist. I only suggest, what I believe we agree on, that there is more to this issue than we can fully grasp.

I have no problem with your 12 to 13 approach. I see how it could work. It seems to honor God’s Word and accomplish your goals.

Since it is not proscribed in Scripture, you have that freedom, and I think it is very much justifiable.

I’m going to get to that post. I now have two books stacked in front of me and I spend too much time blogging :)

But, to compensate, I am going to work late this evening.

162 Sean cole July 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I don’t normally respond to blogs but the public altar call is more of a geographic and cultural phenomenon. In Colorado where I pastor most people are unchurched or come from a Catholic or Lutheran background and have no idea th protocol of coming forward. I am not aware of many churches here in Colorado that still use the altar call. I think it is much more prevalent in the South where it is still a culturally accepted thing. I preach the gospel, exhort people to repent and believe in Jesus, and then invite them to see me or our other elders after the service or make an appointment with me. Most of our Salvations have come from our new members class and in depth conversations instead of an altar call mechanism. In 8 years here I have tried the altar call in different seasons and have not seen any fruit. I am not against it for theological reasons as much as cultural and geographical.

163 kenneth fleet July 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Pastor Harold has a very combative spirit with his fellow clergyman. They offered to actually come to him and show him an evangelistic service and appeal. His reply was dismissive and sarcastic. If he relates to his members in that way, I cannot understand why they remain. He owes a Godly apology to one who offered to help him. As for a Biblical invitation, there is no better one than this: Acts 2:23-40 including these words…”Acts 2:38 And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:39 For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.
Acts 2:40 And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

164 Richard Tribble July 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

My brother, in the OT the Holy Spirit came upon men to do a specific task not as a sign of salvation.

People sin – that doesn’t make them lost or we would all be there.

This attitude that when you really get saved you will never error from truth is unsctiptural.

165 volfan007 July 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm

The trouble with Tribble.

I’m sorry…I just couldnt help it…I’m a huge Star Trek fan.

David :)

166 Jess Alford July 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Richard,

The NT teaches God will bring the sinning Christian back by correction.
If not brought back, then not his to begin with.

167 Richard Tribble July 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Me too!!!

168 Truth Unites... and Divides July 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm

“The Trouble with Tribbles” was a goofy Star Trek episode.

But the latest movie, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” was awesome. Highly recommended.

When watching Star Trek, and any other science fiction or fantasy, adopting “easy believism” makes the experience much more enjoyable.

;-)

169 Richard Tribble July 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Thanks for a good laugh. I needed one badly.

On the other side, i happen to agree with Jarred bit I disagree with many of the posts here that present salvation as only valid in you and I see continuation. My desire is to share souls saved and discipled yet I’ve encountered numerous who were left on their own. I press everyone about their relationship to Jesus but only God knows for sure.

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