Ten Contemporary Sacred Cows that Need to be Tipped

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

1. Entertainment-based Sermons

Pastors/elders/teachers want to be liked. Some want to be liked so much that they’re willing to entertain their hearers while preaching the Bible. They wrongly assume that because people enjoy their sermons, they enjoy Jesus as well. The problem is that if we’re seeking to entertain our hearers, then we don’t believe God or Scripture can hold the attention of God’s people. In other words, you may say “the Bible is worthy of your attention,” but if you’re using entertainment to communicate this, then you’re undercutting your message with your methods. If the Bible is worthy to be heard because God is its Author, then you shouldn’t have to use entertainment to get Christians to listen to it. You just might be entertaining your hearers to death.

2. Bribes

Easter Sunday was just a few weeks ago. With the heightened cultural interest in the resurrection of Christ, churches pulled out all the stops to persuade attendees. Churches gave away cars, money, ipads, food, etc. Should churches bribe sinners to attend worship services? Here are four realities about bribing sinners: 1) Bribing people to hear the gospel is absent from Scripture. 2) Bribing people to attend a worship service encourages them to attend worship for sinful reasons. 3) Bribing people to attend a worship service communicates the opposite of the gospel. 4) Bribing people to attend worship does not make disciples. Due to these reasons, I think Christians bribe sinners to hear the gospel because they’ve reversed the order of the two greatest commandments: First, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and second, to love your neighbor as yourself. Bribing people exalts loving one’s neighbor above loving God, because the purpose of evangelism is to glorify God, not to glorify sinners or Christians.

3. Revivalistic Quotas

Numbers, numbers, numbers, that’s what’s emphasized throughout evangelicalism. Is there anywhere in Scripture where Israel’s strength or the church’s strength were in numbers? No. Is there anywhere in Scripture where God evaluated His church or their ministry based on numbers? No. So, why is there a huge emphasis on numbers today? The answer is because in the Western part of the world, bigger is better. Some also argue that numbers are important because souls are important, but if you really care about souls, you’ll labor to make disciples, not to merely baptize unrepentant, salvation-ignorant people who do not understand the lifelong commitment they’re making. The Great Commission has been redefined today as baptizing those who confess Christ as Lord, with the Great Omission being the command to “teach these Christians everything that Christ has commanded” (Matt. 28:18-20). Repentance and faith in Christ is the beginning of Christianity.  When a believer is baptized, he or she has just begun his or her public identification with Christ. In order to truly fulfill the Great Commission, the local church must take these baptized believers and teach them everything Christ has commanded.

4. Selfish Motives in Worship

Have you ever heard another believer say about worship, “I didn’t get anything out of that.” Next time you hear this, say, “It’s not about you.” God alone deserves to be glorified in worship. The only time we shouldn’t get anything out of worship is when God isn’t glorified. If the word of God was sung, prayed, and preached faithfully, and you didn’t get anything out of worship, then repent and worship because God is worthy of worship. Worship is not about us. God is the center of worship, not us.

5. Atmosphere-induced Nostalgia

The goal of worship is to glorify God, not to feel good. Have you ever read the Psalms, the hymnal of God’s people for thousands of years? They’re not always happy or joyful. In other words, they’re not nostalgia-inducing. Today’s worship in the local church is largely about an atmosphere that encourages worship. The test of “true” worship is often how good one feels when he or she leaves the worship service. Specific lighting, styles of music, sentimentality, singing phrases over and over, etc. serve to create a euphoric feeling that hearers will long for for the rest of their lives. The problem is that the feeling, the nostalgia, becomes the god the believer longs for instead of the true God who is worthy of worship when believers feel like it and when they don’t.

6. Relevant Sermons

There is such a large emphasis on preaching “relevant” sermons today, which often translates to sermons that “meet people’s needs,” regardless how selfish, narcissistic, and godless these needs may be. The preacher’s goal is not to make the Bible relevant, but to help his hearers see how relevant the Bible is! The Bible is the Word of God and is timelessly relevant! The Bible transcends all societies, cultures, fads, etc. If you’re “making the Bible relevant,” then change your name to “the Holy Spirit.”

7. Relativistic Interpretation

There’s an emphasis in our culture on being tolerant of other individuals and their ideas. This mentality has infiltrated the church as well. Various interpretations of Scripture are tolerated, often based on the perceived sincerity of an individual instead of the intrinsic social, historical, and grammatical properties of the text itself. The text does not have multiple meanings, but one meaning that has multiple applications. We cannot act like interpreters have more authority than the author who originally penned the words. It doesn’t matter what we “think” or “feel” about the text. What matters is what the author meant, what his recipients understood, what the Holy Spirit intended, and how all these truths apply to our daily lives. Don’t jump authorial intent to make yourself the “new author” by applying the text beyond the meaning of the text.

8. Parenting and Ministering for Man’s Applause instead of God’s Glory

Something that’s interesting about much of children’s ministry and youth ministry is that ministers are terribly concerned with being liked by these immature Christians or unbelievers. They’re desperately concerned with their hearers enjoying their songs, prayers, and sermons. Furthermore, parents are very concerned with whether or not their children enjoy going to worship at a local church. What happened to truth? What about God?  What happened to “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”? Ministers and parents everywhere, for sake of hearing the applause of children and youth, are compromising the truth on the altar of being liked or possessing an easy life. I realize if a child hates church that every worhsip service you attend will be a battle, but that doesn’t free you to give your child another reason other than God to attend worship. Furthermore, if you’re a minister, don’t believe children and youth love Jesus because they love entertainment, and you’re trying to communicate the gospel through entertainment. How can you get a selfish person to see the value of Jesus and their need for Him by appealing to their selfishness? If children and teenagers are saying, “I don’t care if God has spoken or not, I won’t listen to Him unless you entertain me,” then they neither love God, Jesus, His Word, or the local church.

9. Unchristian Love

Love has been radically redefined in the local church as being “accepting of all, while holding no one accountable to Biblical faithfulness.” How many churches consistently practice Biblical discipline? Very few. Even though God has always held His people accountable to His Word, and even though Biblical discipline is commanded in Scripture, local churches have redefined Christian love to include “tolerance of unrepentant sin,” while excluding “loving accountability to God’s Word.”

10. Demigod Evaluations

If you and I evaluate our ministries, defining them as “successful” or “unsuccessful” based on our own arbitrary observations, then we’re making demigod evaluations. A demigod is a deified mortal. In order to truly evaluate our ministries as successful or unsuccessful, we must have God’s all-knowing evaluating ability.  In most conferences and denominations, those who are held up as examples are those who have large churches. They’re often held up as examples because of demigod evaluations carried out by those in various leadership positions. These ministers may be more successful or they may not be. The truth of the matter is that we cannot accurately evaluate our ministries or other people’s ministries beyond the Word of God, as if we know the hearts of everyone who attends these churches. In other words, faithfulness to Scripture should govern and motivate your ministry, not a demigod evaluation made by you or others. Pursue faithfulness to Scripture in light of Christ’s redeeming work, not arbitrary ego-boosting or “calling of God” destroying submission to demigod evaluations.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Comments

  1. says

    The problem is that if we’re seeking to entertain our hearers, then we don’t believe God or Scripture can hold the attention of God’s people. In other words, you may say “the Bible is worthy of your attention,” but if you’re using entertainment to communicate this, then you’re undercutting your message with your methods.

    Pot=Kettle?

  2. says

    I agree with everything you listed. The rub comes in that by tipping over these sacred cows many churches would close!

    • says

      John, you’re right. If a pastor comes in and tries to change these things immediately and by force, he’ll be fired or the church will split. I think the answer is to be longsuffering, teaching the Word until the people respond. Also, we must be careful with arbitrary numbers placed on “longsuffering.” It’s tempting to say, “If the people haven’t responded in 10 years (more or less), I’m out.” It may take 5 years or 40 years or you may lay the ground work for another pastor(s), but we shouldn’t give up on God’s people or Him. I think it’s tempting to long for an easy ministry.

  3. Terry Leap says

    Amen and amen to everything you said. If pastors began tipping these cows i guarantee we’d hear a chorus of voices saying “those young guys sure do split a lot of churches!” and many others longing for the good ole days, which, concerning the gospel and the church, may not have been as rosy as some would like to imagine! Great article!

    • says

      Terry, you’re right. When I hear that a church has split, and the pastor or the people are to blame, I always remember that there’s two sides to the story. It’s also true that “the good ole days” are often more “good” in our memory than they actually were.

      Good thoughts brother.

      • cb scott says

        “It’s also true that “the good ole days” are often more “good” in our memory than they actually were.”

        Jared Moore,

        That statement is absolutely true, “without any mixture of error.”

  4. says

    How best do we “tip” these sacred cows? Do we just carve them up, point out our people’s error and ignorance for falling prey to such foolish worship, then go about the business of replacing them?

    Or do we refuse to bow a knee to them ourselves and hold up the word of Life and Truth. Sacred Cows don’t stand a chance against Jesus. My thinking here is that if we go about tipping sacred cows and make that a major thrust of our ministry–and if the heart is not changed–then people will just put together another sacred cow, but this time it will be more Reformed looking and so we’ll be cooler with it. I think the answer to these 10 things (and I agree they are problematic) is to faithfully, slowly, gently, humbly, and powerfully preach Jesus Christ and Him Crucified and then watch these impostors melt like wax before the LORD.

    • cb scott says

      The voice of wisdom—and probably some years of experience in seeking to be a biblical shepherd rather than a preacher with a new Bible, a chip on his shoulder, and no calluses on his knees.

      Thank you Mike Leake for so often penetrating the vacuum with wisdom on this blog.

      • says

        Thanks for your kind words.

        I’ve been the “preacher with a new Bible, a chip on his shoulder, and no calluses on his knees” and I’ve wounded people and been exceedingly unhelpful. The problem was always “them”. Then I watched as the Lord began to decimate some of my own sacred cows. It’s so painful when you want to point the finger and say, “the problem is them” but the LORD much like in Amos says, “yeah, I’ll deal with that…but for three transgressions of Mike, and for four…” I’ve found that the gospel has not only a fine way of healing a man but also of tearing him up.

    • says

      Mike, we must preach the Word and love the people. Concerning sacred cows, we must be longsuffering. We can’t necessarily change anyone, but the Holy Spirit can!

      Good thoughts.

      • says

        What makes it really difficult is when it seems like the sacred cows are mooing far louder than we can preach the excellency of Jesus. Yet, eventually they’ll be exposed for what they are and they will no longer satiate. Then the Word will become louder and Christ more precious. I take great comfort in knowing “The LORD will be awesome against them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations”. On that day not only will my own sacred cows be slaughtered but all those that the nations bow to as well. Come, Lord Jesus!

    • Christiane says

      Good morning, MIKE,
      Your words are beautiful to my heart:
      “to faithfully, slowly, gently, humbly, and powerfully preach Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”

      these words are faithful to the Apostolic deposit of faith given to be guarded and passed on down through the centuries

      and that part about ‘calluses on the knees’ . . .
      you understand now the importance of a ‘kneeling theology’ . . . something that comes to those through prayer over time, those who have experienced the venture out ‘into the deep waters’ where Christ waits to take our hand when we are humbled and sinking down and in need of our Savior.

      Your words made my day.

  5. says

    Jared,

    Agreed!

    The key is #7. For too long we have adopted an approach evidenced in our Sunday School/small groups, discipleship classes, and even sermons which has us read a passage of Scripture and then ask: “So, what do these verses mean to you?” We need a renewed emphasis on equipping our churches with proper hermeneutical skills. Biblical interpretation is not a seminary class reserved exclusively for pastors…or do we want to revert to catholicism? If we equip everyone to truly handle God’s word correctly, the other counterfeits loose their appeal for the church…and then the church can undertake our Great Commission seriously without gimmickry.

    • says

      Scott, I remember when I first learned hermeneutics, that I was angry no one in the church had ever taught me to handle the Word of God. I think basic hermeneutics should be viewed as foundational, and should be taught to children from an early age. I think churches should return to catechizing children as well.

      • says

        Jared, Scott, I absolutely agree. I was raised in a Christian family, attended church faithfully throughout my childhood and youth, strayed for a time but eventually came back to our Lord’s embrace. But when I returned, I found my whole Christian upbringing had left me less prepared to fulfill the Great Commission than I need to be. I’ve been addressing the issue, and am grateful for that. But that it was an issue at all is a concern. I know I’m not alone in being unprepared.

        Jared, thanks so much for the thoughtful and pointed post. Right on the mark!

    • cb scott says

      “For too long we have adopted an approach evidenced in our Sunday School/small groups, discipleship classes, and even sermons which has us read a passage of Scripture and then ask: “So, what do these verses mean to you?””

      As is abortion the national sin of the United States, I think Scott Gordon has identified the “national sin” of Southern Baptist Sundays Schools and that is the fault of pastors who do not train their people to teach the biblical revelation in a consistent manner.

      A-Men, Scott.

  6. says

    Jared,

    Good points and certainly enjoyed your communication of these points. Now, I have one question. How do we approach the sacred cows?

      • says

        Jared,

        Help me think out loud on this. I understand preaching for the pulpit will deal with the sacred cows. Ok, but doesn’t that place the preacher in the open to become guilty of serving his own cows of #4, #7, and #10?

        • says

          Tim, sure. The danger is real concerning killing a sacred cow, only to replace it with another sacred cow. Expository preaching is important here, to help protect pastors from preaching against only the sacred cows that they see. God sees all, and His Word is sufficient.

  7. Richmond Goolsby says

    If I could find an “AMEN” button on my keyboard I would hit it 10 times! We must also be careful in the way we deal with these issues. Prayer, patience, longsuffering love, and prophetic preaching are necessary to turn the tide.

  8. Fletcher says

    My question on the first point is at what point does preaching become entertainment? When I give an illustration to explain a point I am speaking on in God’s word and people laugh, have I gone to far and become to much of an entertainer? I don’t ask this to be cute or anything. I ask because there are those who would say, and have said that that is going to far.

    My question then is when do we cross the line of becoming entertainers, and who decides what that line is? I fear on this point, and a few others that while they are obviously issues, we could easily become the drunk man who falls off on side of his horse only to get back on it and fall off on the other side.

    Is it our motivation for doing these things that matters, or is there more to it than that? While so many in our church seem to have an obsession over being relevant, shouldn’t we still strive to use resources available to us for maximum impact? You have done so yourself a I recall when creating a Bible study over the Harry Potter series. Where’s the line? Because right now it feels a bit pick and chose, and I’m not sure that’s correct either.

    • says

      Fletcher, I appreciate your thoughts. I think it comes back to our motivation for preaching: Do we want to be liked or do we want people to run to Jesus? Do people leave our sermons loving us or loving Jesus? Is our goal to entertain or is our goal to exalt Christ. (I must admit that entertaining my hearers is a real temptation for me.)

      Concerning my book, I’ve written a work that dissects the Harry Potter movies, and tries to get Christians to approach all media with a God-glorifying mentality. All media participation is an act of worship. I don’t think my book is “entertaining.” It’s not like the Mayberry Bible study at all. I’m just trying to show Christians how to recognize God’s fingerprints in media, so then, they may take this common grace and connect it to the creating, sustaining, and redeeming work of Christ.

  9. says

    We have worked on tipping many sacred cows in our church. You have to remember that the church is the Matrix. The people are part of the system you are trying to liberate them from, but they will fight you because they are part of the system. We can’t destroy our people as we try to get them out of the system of tradition, entertainment and comfort. We push forward, and we bring them with us.

      • says

        Well, there is no hard and fast answer I’m afraid. It depends on so many factors. We are a church of 7 years old, so we can tip em a little quicker. Some take weeks, others months and others years or even a generation. You have to use discretion. You also have to decide if the cow must be tipped now to stay consistent with the word. As a preacher, you can change your preaching style rather quickly. To teach people to not be consumers, that takes longer. A lot longer. Going to 2 services for some churches for example is a sacred cow, not wanting to grow because they like it the way it is. We were able to do that pretty quickly, started talking about it a year out and it went smoothly. I’ve been in a church where it took a month or two and went great. I’ve seen churches that 5 years later, the people are still mad. Lots of moving parts.

  10. says

    Jared, You speak truth in this. I have a list of sorts too. Some the same and some that get me labeled things I won’t repeat.
    1) Commercialism
    2) Age segregated Sunday School
    3) Children’s church
    4) Modern youth ministry in general
    5) Special music, (there is way too much emphasis on music style)
    6) the plague of the Masonic Lodge
    7) the Annual Church Profile
    and some similar to yours
    8) Success by numbers (kind of related to the ACP)
    9) Wrong understanding by many of what ‘revival’ is.
    10) An unhealthy dependence on publishing houses to generate what churches should do rather than Scripture.

    When I read the 1559 French Confession years ago, I was gripped by the boldness and detail of how these reformers spoke about the sufficiency of Scripture and their refusal to look to anything but Scripture. The strength of the statement doesn’t mean they lived by it, but it was of significance to me and thus began a life long intentional journey to ask God to reform my thinking by transforming my mind and to not be squeezed into the mold of the ways of the world.

    Excerpt from the 1559 French Confession
    Whence it follows that no authority, whether of antiquity, or custom, or numbers, or human wisdom, or judgments, or proclamations, or edicts, or decrees, or councils, or visions, or miracles, should be opposed to these Holy Scriptures, but on the contrary, all things should be examined, regulated, and reformed according to them.

    • says

      I think age graded Sunday School has a place, but we must do more and work harder to make sure families are connected and integrated. I have had an idea of having a small group experience that 2 or 3 families come together to do Bible Study. It would be a family devotion in a small group with the kids and adults and everyone else. I think we need all those connection.

      • says

        Dan, what place do you think age-graded Sunday School has?

        Maybe I should better define my position: By Age segregated Sunday School, I’m meaning systematically, weekly, ongoing. I realize there may be rightness in a specific occasion that could be geared toward a particular age, but to employ a secular method (segregating the ages) to do what Scripture teaches families (father specifically) to do, even with good intentions, usurps the biblical teaching.

        As I began searching scripture to answer questions like that, I began to realize how much of a secular hold this segregating of the ages (sacred cow) had.

        I will look forward to hearing the result of your (age-integrated) Bible study. I agree that with you that we “need all those connections.”

        • says

          Paul, If you haven’t already I’d encourage you to check out a couple resources. 1) Trained in the Fear of God edited by Timothy Paul Jones, 2) Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views 3) Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones.

          I know I’m giving major props to Dr. Jones here…but he’s one of the leading voices on the Family Equipping Model…which if I’m understanding you correctly you may find very helpful.

          • says

            Mike,
            Thanks for the heads up on those resources. I have not read them. I will look them up right now. Thanks!

            Our church dropped all systematic age-segregated teaching a year and a half ago. We still offer a Sunday School hour, but all classes are age-integrated. children attending with their parents and children without parents are “adopted” by other families. I see stronger families and a stronger church.

        • says

          Paul, I would say that just because some is secular or comes from secular culture doesn’t mean it’s bad. For example, we dress like business people usually, that’s secular. We use computers, we use coffee makers. If a secular idea is good, if it’s true, then it’s Gods, even if it’s found in the secular world. Age graded classes have their place because they allow connections of people of the same age. Yes, I totally agree that fathers teach and family is important, but we can’t become a body of Christ without more interaction. Kids learn about Jesus with other kids, building community. My kids make friends at church, primarily in Sunday School. They build healthy relationships through learning and through play. It’s important for the kids, the teens and even the adults to have that time of social interaction, fellowship and learning.

          • says

            Dan,
            With respect to Jared’s post about ‘tipping’ sacred cows I find that in my own personally life I must examine myself to see if I am of the truth, or is it possible that common philosophy and wisdom of this age has latched itself on to me. It is possible, and even does. I must cease and repent often. If five of the seven churches of Revelation were called to repentance should the church I pastor exercise caution in regards to employing philosophy and methods of this age in regard to the things of God? It is required. I must examine especially the things I am prone to defend. Why am I so quick to defend before honestly examining? I think it’s because I am afraid that an honest examination may expose a dishonoring practice or mindset that is actually against God.

            Adam and Eve’s freedom to sin did not give them permission to cover themselves. It showed they knew they needed something. It also showed that they were now quicker to invent their own way of doing things rather than look to God. They were all in agreement that a covering was now required. There were apparently two ways to do this. Man’s way and God’s way.

            The philosophy of this age says that all age groups need to learn at their appropriate developmental level. We see in the bible a different philosophy. And we see it in both old and new testaments.

            I like that Jared was brave and bold to mention some of the things he did in his piece here. It is needed and needed to be done carefully and boldly.

          • says

            Paul, I would love to talk with you concerning how you implemented this. That sounds exactly like what I would like to see in my church. Shoot me an email sometime, or if you’ve written about it already, post some links. I’d really appreciate it.

          • says

            Jared,
            Here is a link to the proposal I presented to the church I pastor after we spent about six months of examining ourselves concerning the endless evidence of our children leaving our church after they leave their respective homes and the carnal behavior they display as most leave. We agreed that nothing was too sacred.

            I’ve been the pastor here for 11 years. Prior to being here I would have been identified as leading ‘typical’ youth ministries. Successful and always praised by man of how we ‘reached’ students.

            After this season of time with our church examining our condition I asked this church to join me in repenting before the Lord for our dependency upon the ways of man. It was not easy, and we still get looked at funny like when visitors come in. The faithful preaching of Voddie Baucham made an impact.

            Here is my proposal that was eventually adopted by the church body after much prayer and discussion of what this would mean.

            http://esbctwinfalls.com/clientimages/24453/seniorpastorproposal.pdf

            I have written quite a bit about this over the past few years at my blog too. http://www.bridgebloggin.blogspot.com/ here are some…

            a detailed review of a book by Scott Brown entitled “A Weed in the Church.”

            http://bridgebloggin.blogspot.com/2011/03/live-book-review-of-weed-in-church.html

            http://bridgebloggin.blogspot.com/2011/03/nothing-but-man-made-rules-learned-by.html

            http://bridgebloggin.blogspot.com/2011/04/twice-as-much-son-of-hell-as-yourselves.html

            http://bridgebloggin.blogspot.com/2011/04/weed-by-any-other-name-is-still-weed.html

            Thanks for the discussion. I think it is a healthy discussion to have. This for me became more of a Sufficiency of Scripture issue than anything.

  11. Greg Harvey says

    Well…when you throw the gold into the cauldron and a sacred cow emerges…maybe you shouldn’t throw the gold in the cauldron in the first place? ;)

    My point is that this may be a list of symptoms rather focusing on the core problem of poor discipleship. I actually was pleasantly surprised when the pastor at the local SB church invited me to join him and some of other men for weekly early morning discipleship sessions on Grudem’s Systematic Theology at the local IHOP a few years back (I demurred, but that’s a different story). For all kinds of reasons that struck me as the right approach to directly addressing the problem of bad discipleship and how it subtly infects a church and structurally weakens it.

    You need a structural approach to addressing a structural failing. And starting with systematic theology provides an excellent foundation for good discipleship throughout the church. The best part about systematic theology is that it is dry as a bone and lacks any attempt to tickle the ear. But it’s like working a giant jigsaw puzzle with the church at large: eventually a very clear picture emerges of what the church and our faith is really about and how to act to be consistent with the faith that has been handed down to us.

    But a systematic theology must drive to the practical to be valuable. It needs to explain our programmatic organization and trace that to simpler social concepts that were introduced in the early church. It would be fantastic, for instance, for the church to hand out as part of SS/Adult Bible Fellowship a chart of references from the SS/ABF lesson to specific sections in a specific systematic theology reference work. And to stock as many copies of that in the church library as are requested (right next to the Bibles of the pastor’s favorite preaching version that are overstocked as well, of course.)

    Then you can systematically address golden calves that get raised. Now I’ve got to say: I was never fooled by Aaron’s claim that it magically raised up out of the cauldron. Were you? ;)

    • Frank L. says

      Greg,

      Very insigthful. I worry that so many bloggers are little more than “finger pointers.” Often, they don’t even point in the right direction.

      Treating symptoms only masks healing.

      • Greg Harvey says

        Another thought: we have the basics for introduction into a systematic theology in the BF&M and its predecessor confessions. Introducing systematic theology into the church’s discipleship approach is as simple as jumping off from the BF&M into the Bible and then showing how that information is organized within a specific systematic theology reference.

        Now I’ll be clear–and D.R. Randle will call me on this if I’m not since in the past I’ve pointed at Romans as a great starting place for systematic understanding of our faith–the Bible is a sufficient textbook for the church. The only value a systematic theology text adds is essentially providing an index for critical topics into the Bible. But it has an encyclopedic value as well because it manages organization of topics without being explicitly topical because the Bible is the primary topic it is addressing.

          • Dave Miller says

            “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

            The entire Bible is inspired and inerrant, the words of Moses, the words of Paul, the words of Peter and the words of Jesus. Our Lord spoke some words directly to us, and other words he spoke by his Holy Spirit through other men.

            We honor the words of Christ as inerrant and authoritative, but in doing so, we do not insult other scriptures by regarding them as less authoritative than the words of Christ.

          • Greg Harvey says

            “Don’t you give priority to the Holy Gospels?”

            Do we learn from the four Gospels first? We learn of Jesus there first.

            But Dave is correct: we view the whole counsel of God in Scripture to be revelatory of his character and his plan. It made me think of the “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 and these two verses in particular when I read his comment:

            “39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.”

            Jesus is that something better and all of the faith of the saints of the Old Covenant and all the faith of the saints (every saved person, not just the ones elevated to “sainthood” by some particular church) of the New Covenant finds its resolution in Jesus Christ. And we’re made perfect with them together through Jesus Christ just as the whole Bible is valuable to us.

  12. says

    A good list.

    Churches certainly ought not let those who don’t care about the church, define the church.

    Christ centered-ness ought be the goal. Tough to do, because we are inveterate ‘doers’, and want to turn everything into a project with ‘us’ at the center.

  13. says

    Thanks, Jared. It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a blog post with which I can agree 99.99999%! [Keeping my options open in case you made a typo somewhere. ;-) ] Having said similar things for 30 years (with few listening), I was glad to see this make its way to such a widely read blog.

  14. says

    As one who has tipped cows….(at least attempted to)

    The way to tip a cow is this: approach it calmly, give it a nudge, then back up from it. Quickly. And watch your step on the approach and departure. Oh, and remember this: it works better with a group.

    See, a tipped cow is still in the pasture—

    Likewise, as has been said, approach these issues calmly, nudge them from their place, but watch your step. Eventually, those calmly placed nudges will change the situation.

    But it works better when you are not out there trying it alone.

  15. says

    Aren’t many of these cows responsible for pulling the SBC Cart?

    Sign your visitor card, make a profession, get Baptized, and make sure Big Screen T.V’s replace sound doctrine from the pulpit.

    I like numbers….but are we willing to give assurance every Sunday to many false converts just to fill the pews regardless of the how the Truth is shared?

  16. says

    Dear Pastor Moore,
    Though I am an independent Baptist, I read various Southern Baptist bloggers and websites. Doing so keeps me aware of what is going on in the SBC. I would be interested to read your response to another blogger’s response to your point about numbers. My guess is, he missed your point. Here is a link to his blog spot: http://calvinistflyswatter.blogspot.com/. May i suggest you put a reply on his blog spot?

    • says

      Pastor Bruce, Thank you for the response. I’m, however, not willing to comment on that blog. That blog is viscous and ungodly (making fun of a Christian who was struck by lightning = ungodly).

      If you’ll notice, not one time does he quote Scripture that speaks of church health being related to numbers. He doesn’t quote any Scripture because there aren’t any Scriptures that agree with him. My exact statement says, “Is there anywhere in Scripture where God evaluated His church or their ministry based on numbers? No.” Pointing to Scripture where numbers are listed doesn’t prove that God evaluates the health of His church based on numbers (To be fair to the Scripture he does mention, exact numbers aren’t even given, they’re estimated; and oftentimes, women and children aren’t counted). If what Charles (Calvinist Flyswatter) says is true, then every time in Scripture where people weren’t saved or they didn’t respond, or they left when Jesus taught, the disciples and Christ were failures. Because we have made an idol out of numbers, are we really prepared to call Christ and the disciples failures at various points in their ministries?

      Furthermore, Charles quotes Charles Spurgeon. How convenient this quote is for the Calvinist Flyswatter since Charles Spurgeon also said, “Calvinism is the gospel.” But, onto the Calvinist Flyswatter’s quote concerning Spurgeon:

      “I am not among those who decry statistics, nor do I consider that they are productive of all manner of evil; for they do much good if they are accurate, and if men use them lawfully. “It is a good thing for people to see the nakedness of the land through statistics of decrease, that they may be driven on their knees before the Lord to seek prosperity; and, on the other hand, it is by no means an evil thing for workers to be encouraged by having some account of results set before them. I should be very sorry if the practice of adding up, and deducting, and giving in the net result were to be abandoned, for it must be right to know our numerical condition. It has been noticed that those who object to the process are often brethren whose unsatisfactory reports should somewhat humiliate them: this is not always so, but it is suspiciously frequent.”

      I simply disagree with Spurgeon here, because if he evaluates his own ministry based on this standard, then he was a failure at numerous times in his own ministry. Also, my original article did not say, “Is there any quotes from Charles Spurgeon where he evaluated ministries based on numbers?” I’m more concerned with Scripture.

      Moreover, who gets to determine the amount of time vs. the amount of converts one should have? If someone only leads 1 person to Christ his or her entire life, or if he or she never leads someone to Christ, is he or she a failure? Does God give the increase or does man? Does God get the praise or does man? Where is this so-called quota in Scripture?

      What we must ask is if we’re being faithful to Scripture, seeking the souls of men, women, and children, on a daily basis, and unto the ends of the Earth. Faithfulness to Scripture is the goal, not some arbitrary revivalistic quota. I refuse to be a legalist in this area, for legalism is misery. I will continue laboring in the gospel when none repent and when hundreds do.

      Continue laboring in the gospel friend, whether people believe or not, remain faithful to the Lord.

      • Frank L. says

        Jared,

        I agree with much of what you said, but I can quote you dozens of Scripture verses, many from the Church Growth Book of the Bible (Acts) that indicate that healthy discipleship increases numbers.

        Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I’ll draw men to myself.” One of the most significant issues with the ministry of Jesus is that “crowds” gathered.

        Now, if you are arguing that numbers are not the cause of health, then we are on the same page. But, if you think that increasing numbers are not the result of healthy discipleship, I don’t think you can prove that from Scripture.

        I do want to be cautious not to overstate the atonement theory sometimes referred to as Christus Victor, which leads to an extreme view that Christ gives us “health and wealth” and guarantees a mega church.

        Yahweh is the God of multiplication. Lack and death, or stagnant growth are indicative of His judgment, not his blessing. Even the Book of Leviticus makes this clear, especially in chapter 26.

        • says

          Frank, I don’t think you can prove it Scripturally brother. If you think you can, then please do. You’re assuming that “healthy discipleship increases numbers.” You’re adding this to the text, while ignoring other examples where numbers decreased or literally, no one repented. Does healthy discipleship always lead to an increase in numbers? If so, what is the time table for this increase? An increase per 1 minute, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years, 100 years?

          • Frank L. says

            Jared

            If you can read the Book of Acts and maintain your proposition that discipleship does not increase the number of souls in the Kingdom, adding more Scripture would not likely persuade you.

          • says

            Frank, where did I say that discipleship does not increase the number of souls in the kingdom? This is what I said and asked, “Does healthy discipleship always lead to an increase in numbers?” If your answer is “Yes,” then can you prove this from Scripture? You act like your position is common sense, and I’m asking you to prove your position.

          • Frank L. says

            Jared,

            My answer is “yes” for the reasons stated. I’m assuming you either agree with me or your answer is “no.”

            If you agree with me, then no “proof” is needed. If you need “proof” (which I’ve given) then you do NOT believe healthy discipleship always leads to an increase in the number of souls for the Kingdom of God.

            Do you agree or disagree? My reading from what you have written is that you do not believe healthy discipleship leads to an increase in the number of souls for the Kingdom. That would be the opposite of what I believe.

            It seems a simple enough proposition.

            I think it is simply silly to suggest my argument for an increase in numbers should be reduced to a formula of “1 per minute, etc.” That’s an absurd position to take.

          • says

            Frank, I believe healthy discipleship sometimes leads to added souls to the kingdom (not always). God gives the increase, not healthy discipleship. We must labor the same, regardless the response. There’s no guarantee in Scripture that if we go tell, people will respond. You and I may be doing everything according to Scripture in obedience to the Lord, and no one responds. A clear example of what I’m talking about is found in Acts 13 and 18 where the disciples shook off the dust from those who rejected the gospel.

            William Carey, for example, didn’t see a convert for around 7 years. Was he a failure those 7 years? Most Westerners today would give up, I’m afraid if they didn’t see a convert after 7 years. Among the Quichua, it took over 50 years of mission work to baptist three people. Were the missionaries who didn’t see the fruit, failures?

            I don’t think we can accurately evaluate our ministries today. Numbers may indicate success or they may not. We must be faithful to Scripture regardless.

        • says

          Frank, I don’t think when Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I’ll draw men to myself” is to be used this way…and I see it used this way often. If Jesus is saying, “when I’m exalted–made much of–etc.” then people will be drawn to me then he did a pretty bad job of lifting himself up.

          Even in the context of John 12:32 it is clearly defined in 12:33, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die”. The “lifting up” is a reference as it is in John 3 to his being lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness as the means of salvation for all who look upon him.

          I don’t think you can support from Scripture the idea that when we lift up Jesus people will come. Do I believe that we should lift up Christ and be Christ-centered in everything? Absolutely. Do I believe that preaching and lifting up Christ is the means that God uses to draw people to himself? Absolutely. But I do not think you can say if I lift up Jesus he will draw people to himself. Because that means if they aren’t coming then Jesus isn’t being lifted up. And I find that hard to believe when Paul was often “alone”, Jesus himself was rejected, etc. This is not to mention the ministry of Isaiah or Jeremiah.

          • Frank says

            Mike,

            You abuse my intent. First, I categorically deny that Jesus did a “bad job” at anything.

            Your theology, at best, is a “half empty” eschatology. I think statistically–out of all the religions of the world to choose from–Christianity accounts for 1 out of 4.

            Is that a “bad job?” I’d say, no.

            It is as if some people use failure in reaching people as a badge of honor worn proudly saying, “see I preach the whole gospel; the kind that brings rejection by men.”

            Of course, there are the Joel Olsteens that take the exact opposite approach which is no better.

            Think of the context you mention: “the manner of death.” There’s my point. Even what looked like absolute failure (as you point out) was Christ’s greatest victory.

            I think–if I can find a kind way of saying it–a persecution complex and a loser mentality is the only way one could look at the glorious life of Christ and suggest He did a “bad job.” I think that is exactly the opposite message the Life of Christ conveys.

            We differ on this point greatly, but I respect your opinion. I wish I had more time to converse, but I have a staff meeting.

            I’ll stop back later after you have had a chance to critique my critique.

          • says

            I’m glad you deny that Jesus did a “bad job” at anything. I too deny that.

            I’m confused by your “half empty” eschatology statement.

            I agree with your rejection as a badge of honor. Sometimes what people are rejecting is not the gospel but a jerk of a preacher and a truncated gospel.

            I do not believe that Christ did a “bad job”. But what I am saying is that if his statement means “when I’m lifted up I will draw all men to myself” means that “when I’m exalted, talked well about, proclaimed, etc.” then people are going to come running, THEN he must not have done a very solid job of lifting himself up because those very people that he was speaking to crucified him.

            That’s why (and I think you would agree here) Jesus is not referring to His being “lifted up” in a “talk about me” type of way. He is referring to that which He accomplished on the Cross. And Yes that was VERY successful.

            Let me summarize what I am and am not saying. I do not believe that having a small amount of people is a mark of success and faithfulness. Neither do I believe that it necessarily means that you are doing a bad job. Neither do I believe that having a large amount of people mean you are doing a good job. Neither do I believe that having a large amount of people mean you are doing a bad job.

            Numbers can be a helpful gauge, but they are not conclusive. That is all I am saying. That and I do not agree with your use of John 12:32.

          • Frank says

            Mike,

            I agree with your critique wholeheartedly. We are on the same page. We are saying the same thing with perhaps a different accent.

            The “half empty” eschatology is referring to an overly pessimistic, isolationist attitude toward the world. Yes, I believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket on wheels greased with immorality.

            Leave it there, and the glass is half empty, eschatologically. I go beyond that in believing that even though the majority will reject the gospel (I think the Word is clear on that), many will accept the gospel. Ultimately, the Work of Christ will result in a “great multitude gathered around the throne.” I refer to this as “half full eschatology.” Sorry I wasn’t clear.

            Jesus is attractive to people. Lifting Him up (and not ourselves and our programs as you point out) will achieve the success He intends. It WILL result in “crowds” coming to Jesus. Again, I don’t confuse “crowds” with “majority” or with any specific size.

            I’ve seen revival happen. I’ve seen over 365 decisions for Christ in a town that only had a population of a little over 3000. I’ve seen a church triple in size in eight years.

            As you point out, that church was still small (under 200), but it was growing continually–the crowd was increasing steadily.

            I just reject the wholesale statement: “God doesn’t care about numbers.” Every number represents a soul. For me, the word “number” and the word “soul” are synonyms.

            Thanks for your insightful and encouraging words.

        • Frank says

          Jared,

          Perhaps we are just talking around each other. To me, you seem to be saying, “Car manufacturing may or may not produce more cars.” That’s an oxymoron, I think you would agree.

          You seem to say discipleship may or may not result in more disciples. I see this as an oxymoron.

          My degree is in New Testament Discipleship. I was the only one of its kind in the 70’s. Discipleship as the term has been used for at least the last half century refers to training a believer in the disciplines of the Christian faith. There is some discussion about how many “disciplines” there are, but almost all books on discipleship (all that I’ve read) agree on four basic disciplines: prayer, Bible study (including quiet time), fellowship, and evangelism.

          If you are involved in “discipleship” then–if the process is carried to completion–evangelism is one of the skills (disciplines) that will be developed. That means, true, New Testament discipleship will lead to new disciples just like a car manufacturing plant produces new cars.

          Even both examples you used to criticize my view, actually prove what I say: “true discipleship always leads to more disciples.”

          What you seem to get hung up on is a “specific” number. May I suggest we are in America, and not India? or some other remote pioneer jungle? Even then, as your own post declares, discipleship even in those places increased the number of disciples.

          I don’t think it is fair to hide our ineffective discipleship in the pocket of a great pioneer missionary like William Carey. I think in the seafood business they call that a red herring.

          I’ve never said anything about any specific “threshold.” You are the only one who keeps trying to quantify the issue. I’m simply putting forth a principle that even you have proved is accurate: true, N.T. discipleship results in an increase in the number of disciples.

          • says

            Osteen must be burning it up then huh?

            Are you defining disciples by those warming a pew or by those who, by any reasonable estimation, have been truly converted. I dare say that many of us have, and will, labor for what appears to be a scant harvest.

            God will give the increase regardless of our methodologies

          • Frank says

            Luther,

            Perhaps before you set your flame-thrower on high you might want to read what I’ve actually said, including my definition of discipleship.

            You also might want to catch my particular post addressing my thoughts on Olsteen.

            Then, if you have time you might want to catch my several references in regard to “not” connecting discipleship with a particular number.

            Other than this, your flaming was right on the mark.

          • says

            Frank,

            Let me see I’m understanding you:

            1) Healthy discipleship always leads to more souls (effective evangelism).

            2) If someone hasn’t seen a convert in 7 years, then they’re ineffective at Discipleship?

            3) If someone has been effectively discipled, they will win others. Others will respond to them.

            If this is what you’re saying, then my response is, “Salvation cannot be manufactured. God gives the increase, not the perfect formula for discipleship.” There were certain cities in Scripture where healthy discipleship did not lead to converts. So, healthy discipleship does not always lead to more disciples. Only sometimes because God gives the increase alone.

          • Frank says

            1) Healthy discipleship always leads to more souls (effective evangelism).

            According to Jared Moore’s two examples above, along with the meaning of the word, and the entire thrust of the Bible message, I’d say, “Yes.”

            2) If someone hasn’t seen a convert in 7 years, then they’re ineffective at Discipleship?

            I never said that. You keep saying that. I also said that you are taking the “exception” and making it the “rule.” Can you give one instance in the Bible (N.T.) where discipleship in a region did not increase the number of disciples?

            3) If someone has been effectively discipled, they will win others. Others will respond to them.

            Half right. Half wrong. Yes, evangelism is part of the discipleship experience (except for 9 out 10 SBC church members over a lifetime). No, discipleship results in persons responding to Jesus.

            Refer to Jn 15. Notice the number of times you see “much and more.” If these terms–as you seem to imply–refer only to “qualitative” issues, the husbandman of the said vineyard would have gone bust.

            Look at the term “fruit.” Is fruit on a tree ornamental as many preachers preach? Or, does fruit refer to the propogation of the species?

            Now, please do not paint me into a corner of “either/or” in regard to discipleship. I do not believe it is either quality or quantity. New Testament discipleship is “both/and.”

            Also, as I’ve said before, you keep bringing up William Carey. Why not bring up John Wesley? He was pretty good at discipleship and the numbers associated with his ministry speak for themselves.

            Perhaps the key is: not either/or, but both/and in regard to quality and quantity in regard to discipleship.

            But, one simply cannot say the Bible does not put an emphasis on the numerical growth that results from fully functioning discipleship.

            And, I am not talking about theory. I have personally been discipling individuals for over 30 years. In almost every case, with some blessed exceptions, the discipline that is hardest for people is evangelism.

            So, to take away the anxiety, we (disciplers) remove the responsibility. What remains is guilt and ineffectiveness.

            A Little Story Below.

  17. says

    Brother Moore,
    Just to make it clear: I am in general agreement with you about this matter of numbers. Any Biblical church wants to reach more persons with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’d all love to have a “full house” at church services, especially if it was full of new converts or those in need of salvation. The book of Acts reports numerical growth. But we do not read that the apostles put the same emphasis on numbers that some of the present day do. Also, I agree with you about the caustic tone of “Charles” and his blog spot. It is disgusting. It is a fact that when I read the blogspots of those he attacks, it is usually uplifting. But when I read his, it defiling and disappointing. I have challenged “Charles” about this more than once. And I’m not a Calvinist, though I do believe in eternal security. Do any of your readers know who this mostly-anonymous “Charles” is?

  18. Frank says

    A Little Story . . .

    My previous post was getting long and boring (as opposed to short and boring).

    Currently, I’m discipling four members of my staff. One is my Executive Assistant. This is a class setting or I would not disciple her, she being a lady.

    She is the daughter of missionaries. She has been a believer for many years. She had never shared with someone outside of church about the Lord Jesus. It made her feel really guilty.

    She has been to one session in which I outlined the “Four Healthy Habits” (prayer, Bible study, fellowship, evangelism). She could not wait to share in our staff meeting about the person she shared the gospel with at the grocery store the other day.

    I would be very surprised if her course of discipleship did not quickly lead to more than a few people coming to know Jesus.

  19. says

    Frank, before you get your knickers in a twist, the Osteen comment was sarcastic and anyone not overly stuck on themselves probably should have caught that.

    numbers=discipleship
    discipleship=numbrs

    That is the way equations work. I do wonder what the disciples thought when Jesus told them to shake the dust from their feet when they were not received……what abject failures they were. Were converts won…..assuredly….was ” effective ” discipleship always effective by worldy standards, No.

    Frank, you say that effective disciplehship ALWAYS leads to an increase in numbers, and you have defined effective discipleship by what You do and not what the Lord does. God always works through means so I am not decrying those you listed: prayer, study, fellowship, and evangelism, but if I only do one well and God draws a sinner to Himself through my imperfect witness then to God be the glory and not my effective discipleship.

    • Frank L. says

      “””anyone not overly stuck on themselves probably should have caught that.”””

      Who says I didn’t catch it. Sarcasm is harsh, critical derision. I took it as such. Or, perhaps you didn’t understand the negative nature of sarcasm.

      Many people use words they don’t really understand. (Did you catch the sarcasm?)

      “””Frank, you say that effective disciplehship ALWAYS leads to an increase in numbers,”””

      Estimate the number of disciples the Book of Acts starts out with and consider that many scholars feel that by the end of the BOA, that number was in the hundreds of thousands.

      It seems to me, this proves my point: Biblical discipleship always leads to an increase in the number of disciples.

      “””but if I only do one well”””

      OK. I’m not sure what qualifies as well. But, if you were an NBA player and you could only dribble, you’d be on the bench (and my analogy breaks down because you probably wouldn’t be on an NBA team in the first place).

      Or, if you were a pilot and you were only good at take offs–your short-comings would show up pretty quickly and pretty dramatically.

      “””and God draws a sinner to Himself through my imperfect witness”””
      So, one of the virtues of discipleship in your estimation is to accept “imperfection?” (Sorry, I think that was sarcastic).

      “””when they were not received”””
      I don’t think these people ever started the discipleship process so I don’t see how the apostles failed at discipling them.

      “”””discipleship always effective by worldy standards”””
      I’m not sure “worldly standards” are ever an effective measure of spiritual processes. I certainly would never consider the worldly view of success as any kind of goal to strive for.

      “””That is the way equations work”””

      I’ve never suggested “Numbers=Discipleship” or “Discipleship=Numbers.” In fact, I’ve rejected this notion in a former post. Also, this may be the way “equations work,” but it is very poor logic. In fact, it does not meet the criteria for either a valid or true argument. An equation is simply a tautology.

      I hope that helps clarify my position. I like to keep my knickers straight.

      • Luther Wesley says

        Frank, I had a long post trying to clarify the previous posts, but my phone ate it so I will be short.

        Sarcasm is often satirical or ironic wit used to cut to the point and was used in the Scriptures. The osteen comment was part of a
        Reply to you but not pointedly directed at you. It was to show the disconnect between always associating discipleship and numbers

        Also a tautology is a valid and true form of argumentation and
        To invalidate the previous one you must by necessity invalidate your premise that effective discipleship = numbers.

        Also, if equations are not valid, the next time a
        Cashier significantly short changes you, don’t argue.

        //I never said that every discipleship relationship is successful. Clearly Jesus had some failures–Judas comes to mind.//

        Did Jesus really have failures?

        //“””and God draws a sinner to Himself through my imperfect witness”””
        So, one of the virtues of discipleship in your estimation is to accept “imperfection?” (Sorry, I think that was sarcastic).//

        It may be sarcastic frank but is more closely associated with twisting another’s words to suit your purpose….what would you call that frank? As I never opined that imperfection was a virtue, but that the Perfect God uses imperfect creatures to bring about His will.

        Frank, you have said that discipleship is not defined by numbers but that discipleship always produces numbers. Which is it? I agree with your statement that it is both quality and quantity if the emphasis is on quality, but to say someone is a failure because the numbers are absent is an unfair judgment.

  20. says

    Frank,

    how do the examples in Scripture where people didn’t trust Christ prove your point that effective discipleship always leads to more souls in God’s kingdom?

    • Frank L. says

      Jared,

      I never said that every discipleship relationship is successful. Clearly Jesus had some failures–Judas comes to mind.

      You are using an inductive reasoning and this will lead to false conclusions if your sampling is inadequate.

      For example: the probability of a coin landing on heads is 1 out of 2. Yet, you could easily flip a coin a number of times and come up heads every time, invalidating that probability empirically.

      However, the error is not in the statistical probability, but in the size of the sampling. Therefore, I don’t see the few times that discipleship failed to yield additional disciples as invalidating the clear teaching through the entire Book of Acts that discipleship does increase the number of disciples.

      • says

        Frank, you’re the only one who is saying that if someone isn’t saved that the discipleship failed. You’re making an assumption that the Scriptures never make. It sounds like you believe salvation can be manufactured with healthy discipleship. In other words, if a Christian does his or her job concerning healthy discipleship, then people will be saved. The Scriptures make no such argument. Furthermore, how can you make something normative that the Scriptures never make normative? You’re making an assumption based on your own sampling of Scripture.

        I’m amazed that you say Judas was one of Christ’s “failures.” That blows my mind. Are you really prepared to say that Christ failed in His discipleship at times? I think it’s time to abandon what you’re arguing.

        Also, the “process” isn’t flawed, the people are. Sinners are opposed to the gospel. This is why only God can give the increase. You and I may carry out discipleship as excellently as possible, and yet, have few, if any, who believe. Christ will build His church; God will give the increase.

        Finally, since there are indeed times when people don’t get saved or grow in response to healthy discipleship, doesn’t this necessarily mean that healthy discipleship doesn’t always lead to salvation or sanctification?

        • Frank L. says

          “””Frank, you’re the only one who is saying that if someone isn’t saved that the discipleship failed.”””

          Please point out where I made this statement. Since the first step of discipleship is “salvation,” then how could someone “not” be saved because discipleship failed? I believe no such thing.

          “””In other words, if a Christian does his or her job concerning healthy discipleship, then people will be saved. “””

          Again, discipleship begins with salvation so I do not believe that “doing one’s job” brings people to salvation. That’s an odd doctrine of works in which somebody is saved by someone else’s works

          “””I’m amazed that you say Judas was one of Christ’s “failures.” That blows my mind.””’

          I did indeed misspeak. I used a term supplied in one of the replies to my post. I clearly take the position–as opposed to yours–that neither Christ nor N.T. discipleship fails. I got caught up in the conversation and made a careless statement.

          “””Are you really prepared to say that Christ failed in His discipleship at times?”””

          No. I stated this at least twice. I thought you were the one saying that discipleship sometimes fails. I clearly stated I believe that N.T. discipleship always increases the number of believers. I don’t see how you missed this.

          “”I think it’s time to abandon what you’re arguing.”””

          Respectfully, I could say the same thing about your argument, though I think that would be rude.

          “””Also, the “process” isn’t flawed, the people are. Sinners are opposed to the gospel. This is why only God can give the increase. You and I may carry out discipleship as excellently as possible, and yet, have few, if any, who believe. Christ will build His church; God will give the increase.”””

          N.T. discipleship will always increase the number of believers. What you seem to miss is that I don’t consider salvation a step in the discipleship process (result) but what happens after a person is saved. The connection is that one person in the discipleship process shares the gospel with another resulting in a new “disciple” (howbeit not fully formed. See 2Tim 2:2)

          “””Finally, since there are indeed times when people don’t get saved or grow in response to healthy discipleship, doesn’t this necessarily mean that healthy discipleship doesn’t always lead to salvation or sanctification”””

          Over the course of many disciples living in community as fully devoted followers of Christ (disciples) the number of believers in all such communities will increase.

          Are you arguing: 1) people can come to faith in Christ totally apart from the action of a disciple of Christ? or 2) the number of disciples has not continually grown from the time of Christ, and continues to grow at the present? Or, both 1 and 2.

          I simply cannot fathom that a fully functioning disciple over the course of his or her lifetime following the commands of Christ in a world full of lost people would not have the opportunity to participate in the new birth of Christian.

          Yes, that happens all the time because some people believe that increasing “numbers” is a bad thing. Apparently, at least 9 out of 10 Christians believe this and never lead one other person to Christ.

          I say: that’s a flawed view of the gospel.

          Finally, God does give the increase but He has decreed it will only come from a disciple sharing the gospel (Romans 10). It is simply wrong in my view to say the lack of numerical growth is God’s fault, when he said He wished none would perish.

          I will not be abandoning that argument any time soon.

          • Frank L. says

            Jared,

            Our conversation has become somewhat convoluted and I can’t even remember everything I said. So, I’m going to abandon the discussion. I’ll summarize my understanding of the relationship between discipleship and numerical growth:

            When we-the disciples of Christ– obey the Great Commission as outlined by Jesus the result will be an ever increasing number of disciples.

            If our discipleship process is flawed and new disciples are not taught and encouraged to share the gospel, then the result will be what you term “failures.”

            I agree this happens all the time, but the answer is not to say the Bible says nothing about numerical growth, but the answer is to reevaluate our approach and commitment to discipling new believers.

            God bless, and I’m sorry if I did not make my point of view clear.

          • says

            Frank, I still would love to see you prove what you’re arguing with Scripture. If you take Scripture as a whole, I don’t see how you can make your argument. You’re making an assumption that does not have textual warrant.

            I believe Christ will build His church, and His church is indeed involved in this process, but does this mean that every believer will always lead someone to Christ if they’re well-discipled? I don’t think this can be proven from the text. There are some who believe and some who reject, but God alone deserves the glory. You even mention Judas as an example of ineffective discipleship. The Bible also speaks about wheat and tares side by side in the church. The truth is that neither you nor I know if these people we’re “winning” to Jesus are true believers or not. Only God knows. So, if one thousand or none profess Christ, we’ve still got more work to do. We must labor the same when people appear to repent and when they don’t.

            Keep laboring brother; pray for me, my church, and my family.

          • Frank L. says

            Jared,

            I’ve already proven from Scripture that the God’s Church is the Church Triumphant and has grown continually from the time Jesus said, “I will build my church.”

            Do you believe He meant, “Someday, I’m going to come back and build my church?”

            I’ve pointed you to the Book of Acts which details the “growth” (numerical and qualitative) of the Church.

            I pointed to the Great Commission and have argued the plan and process Jesus, Himself, gave us is full proof and will yield substantial, numerical growth.

            For me this is a little like someone asking me to prove it is raining. I’d simply say, step outside. However, even that would not convince some people.

            I guess I could ask where in Scripture Jesus says (or anyone else) that if you faithfully follow my Great Commission the church will continue to get smaller and smaller because of the evil in men’s hearts.

            You and I are on different sides of the ocean in regard to this matter.

            God bless. This is my final word.

          • says

            Frank,

            “Grown continually does not necessarily mean that “healthy discipleship will always lead to more souls in the kingdom.” Meaning that every believer will at least reach one person for Christ. That’s not in the text; you’re adding it.

            Christ will grow His church as He pleases at the rate He pleases.

            Concerning viewing the Great Commission as “Full Proof,” meaning that it “will yield substantial, numerical growth” is something you’re adding to the text. Jesus never said that. He told us to go, and the growth is up to Him.

            Finally, you said, “I guess I could ask where in Scripture Jesus says (or anyone else) that if you faithfully follow my Great Commission the church will continue to get smaller and smaller because of the evil in men’s hearts.”

            My point is that the church may grow and it may not. You’re adding that it “will grow” if we follow the Great Commission. Where does the Bible say this? I’m not saying that it “won’t grow.” I’m saying that it may sometimes and other times, it may not.

          • Frank says

            “””Meaning that every believer will at least reach one person for Christ. That’s not in the text; you’re adding it.”””

            Jared,

            Now your replies are just sad. I’ve never made the statement above but in fact made several statements directly disputing it.

            You go right ahead and keep practicing your “non-numerical discipleship”

            You completely miss because of some kind of obstinence I don’t understand that the Church has continually grown and continues to grow and will continue to grow as Christ blesses the efforts of His disciples.

            You obviously have it all figured out. Continue to use your approach to discipleship and continue to try to implore others to follow a process of failure.

            I’ve added nothing to the text, but I feel you have taken much away.

            I’ll say it again . . . you and I could not be further apart in our approach to practical theology. If you do not mind, I’ll go ahead and use what you feel is a completely corrupt plan and continue to see God do amazing things in peoples’ lives.

            You follow whatever plan you feel will keep the church as small as possible.

            They say turkeys are stupid because they don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain. Maybe, they just don’t believe it is raining.

  21. Frank L. says

    A question in general regarding the result of discipleship:

    When Jesus gave the Great Commission (make disciples being the only imperative) by going, baptizing, and teaching (the participles), was He giving us a process He knew was flawed and would not work?

    With all the caveats related to the above posts, I would answer categorically: no the plan and process we received from the Lord will not fail.

  22. says

    Greetings in the Lord, Jared! C. H. Spurgeon is one of my favorites to read. While I reject his Calvinism (he was a 5-pointer), I always enjoy his statements on other subjects. Here are two quotes from his book called “An All Round Ministry.” They are taken from the chapter called “Individuality, And Its Opposite.” I have just put them on “The Calvinist Flyswatter,” and think you would enjoy them. Spurgeon said this: “Remember, dear brother, if you give your whole soul to the charge committed to you, it does not matter much about its appearing to be a somewhat small and insignificant affair, for as much skill may be displayed in the manufacture of a very tiny watch as in the construction of the town clock; in fact, a minute article may become the object of greater wonder than another of larger dimensions. Quality is a far more precious thing than quantity.”
    Spurgeon also said this:
    “If our individual responsibility be rightly felt, we shall refrain from judging others. We are all too ready to ascend the judgment-seat. One man judges his fellow, and condemns him because he has had so few additions to his church. I should myself be sorry if I saw few conversions, and I should severely censure myself; but I should be very, very wrong if I were to utter an indiscriminate censure upon others. Our brother’s congregation may be smaller than ours; the people’s hearts may have been long steeled by a cold, dead, stereotyped ministry, and it may be that there is a good deal of work to be done before they will become interested in the gospel, much less affected by it. Possibly it may happen that the preacher, who has one convert, might say as the lioness did about her one cub, when the fox boasted that she had so many, “One, but that one is a lion!” The minister, whose whole year’s work ended with one convert, and that one was Robert Moffat, did not reap a scanty harvest.”

  23. Christiane says

    “At that time Jesus answered and said:
    I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
    because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,
    and hast revealed them to the little ones. ”
    (St. Matthew’s Gospel 11:23)

    sometimes, it is said, that in the Kingdom of Our Lord,
    even the smallest act of loving-kindness
    has more power to turn someone towards Christ
    than all of the great theologies of the learned.

  24. says

    All this wrangle over numbers runs into the factor of a host that cannot be numbered (Rev.7:9), a thousand generation promise (I Chron.16:15), a stone becoming a mountain that fills the whole earth (Dan.2), God’s knowledge and glory covering the whole earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa.11:9; Hab.2:14), and Spurgeon, the five point calvinist, praying for the conversion of every soul on earth (Aug.6, Evening by Evening Devotions) and again on Dec.24th), which means in essence that he thought to win the whole earth with the Five points of Sovereign Grace or calvinism…You folks ever hear of therapeutic Paradoxes, of God demand of us the impossible, of opposites being His offerings, and His reverses being better than the most positive pluses of the most favorable worldly views?