Analysis

Wow! Thanks, everyone, for your participation in the weekend survey. We certainly had a wide range of responses. First, I want to commend everyone for being passionate about your point of view, but not becoming combative with those who held a different opinion. I had a particular purpose in mind for this survey, in two weeks I will be teaching a class on Church Development and I wanted some additional insights from you on the challenges with which the church must deal. You have certainly provided me with some good material with which to work.

The answers ran from increasing our fellowship, to speaking in tongues, to what we believe about the Gospel, to personal growth.

I would definitely agree that our presentation of the Gospel is extrememly important, but while it certainly has an impact on the church, I think bad soteriology (however one defines it) is probably a greater threat to the world (the lost) than it is to the church. There are definitely some questionable methods being used by churches, and often this leads to the “watered-down Gospel” that Bonnie mentioned, but I think the first casualty in this issue is the sinner with the impact on the church coming a little later.

Katie Russell mentioned a lack of understanding concerning tongues. Katie, as a cessationist, (sorry Steve, I had to say it :)) I would probably take a different perspective than you on the relevance of tongues today, but I will agree with you that an ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church has weakened many Christians and local churches.

Janice, as a good Southern Baptist, your suggestion of eating down by the river rang my bell!

There were several answers that varied in content, but were closely related in nature. I believe the problems of personal growth, ignorance of true doctrine and several others of this ilk are closely linked together. The church basically loses its true identity when these problems characterize it. Unfortunately, we see far too much of these things today.

An anonymous commentor gave us, what I believe, is the solution to the above problems, return to our first love. If worship of Jesus Christ is not at the very heart of all that we do as a church, we will definitely lose sight of who we are as the church, what we are supposed to be doing as a church, and the value of truth. Lack of focus will then lead to apathy. Lukewarmness will then lead to ineffective evangelism and discipleship. Older Christians will lose their passion for growing in the knowledge of God’s grace. As a result, newer Christians will not have examples of spiritual maturity to follow and the church will settle in a general malaise of mediocrity that is unable to either impact the world or please God.

Are we there yet?

Jonathan Moorhead mentioned lack of persecution as a problem. Perhaps that is what the church needs to purge it and cause us to reassess our condition. I was shocked to hear recently, that while we are praying for the relief of persecuted, Chinese Christians, those same believers are praying that God WILL send persecution to the churches of other places in the world where prosperity and methodology have replaced worship and truth.

I really appreciate each of you who shared your thoughts on this topic. If you have any additional thoughts on my analysis of the survey I would definitely be interested in hearing those as well.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniac has posted an old sermon of Charles Spurgeon’s that I think is relevant. You can read it here. Don Fields at World From Our Window has also asked a related question about why churches are losing their youth.

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10 responses to “Analysis

  1. Gordon, you are pretty much my favorite cessationist! πŸ˜‰

    I agree with your analysis. I would bounce off the tongues comment to say that what she was pointing out need not necessarily be limited to tongues, but an openness to the Holy Spirit in general. However, I tie that in very closely with true spiritual discipleship and maturity. And in that sense, I don’t mind differing with you on the cessationist issue because I see spiritual maturity in you through fruit of the Spirit, not just gifts.

    Let us know how your teaching on this subject goes! Wish I could be there.

    steve πŸ™‚

  2. Steve, I appreciate your thoughts as well as the kind words.

    It is always a blessing to discuss things with you.

  3. Gordon has something in common with John MacArthur. πŸ˜‰

    But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.
    β€”Psalm 5:11

  4. Gordon,
    I appreciate the article. You will be blessed in the teaching of the class, and in the study I am sure.
    I wanted to thank you for your comments at The Watchman’s Trumpet as well. I also moved or changed to word press for Fire and Hammer too.
    Thanks Gordon.
    Tim A. Blankenship

  5. Gordon-
    This is Mike O’Donnell. I post sometimes on Ellsworth and I read some comments regarding the Jerry Stackhouse post.
    I had a question. Not a loaded one, but a sincere one about a comment you posted.
    Where did we as a church decide on the issue of the inerrancy of the Gospel? I have been challenged with that idea latley, and I have examined what I know. As I seek Christ I want to learn from others, and I wanted to hear from you since you mentioned it.
    Thanks,
    Mike

  6. Thanks, Ryan.

    Tim, I appreciate the remarks and the update. I am sure the good sermons will continue on your blogs.

    Mike,thanks for stopping by. I will try my best to answer your question.

    Churches or denominations either accept or reject the concept of inerrancy by the way they respond to a literal reading of Scripture. When we start cutting holes in Scripture, claiming that they are not inspired, spurious, or grossly mistranslated, we are treading on a very slippery slope. This approach makes man the final authority on what the Bible says and not God.

    I have found that many times (not every time) when people do this, they are trying to explain away a passage that “cramps their style”.

    On the other hand, when a church/denomination chooses to accept the Scriptures as authoritative and binding, seeking only to gain clear understanding and not to explain away the meaning of the Word of God, I think they are demonstrating a belief in inerrancy.

    Thanks again for joining the discussion. I hope I have given you a clear answer. If I have misunderstood your question or not clearly answered it, let me know and I will be happy to try again. πŸ™‚

  7. All I got to say is, “Amen, brother!”

  8. I think it is a myth that persecution is always good for the church.

    I get so frustrated when naieve people talk about persecution as glibly as to suggest we should pray for it.

    Sometimes the church thrives under persecution, as is happening in China.

    Sometimes, however, persecution results in the total removal of Evangelical Christianity from regions.

    Alternatively, the terror of persecution has sometimes resulted in churches compromising with the world.

    It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that is wanted, not persecution. Persectuion will destroy a church that does not seek the presence of the Holy Ghost.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

  9. Thank you, Bonnie.

    Matthew, you raise some interesting points. I don’t know that anyone is suggesting that we pray for persecution. And certainly there have been a few occasions where persecution may have caused negative consequences to the church, but I believe these instances to be the exception rather than the rule.

    I would suggest, however, that persecution does not push the church in any direction, but serves as a method of separating the chaff from the wheat, causing the church to focus upon what is truly of value and necessity. The church of our day (at least in North America) has never had its devotion to Christ genuinely challenged. I think this is probably what Jonathan was referring to in his comment.

    If persecution drives us away from Christ, it may be merely revealing the hypocrisy and apathy that lurks beneath the surface.

    As always, thanks for your participation in the discussion.

  10. Thanks for the answer, Gordon. I enjoy the way you stated it, as the way inerrancy should be understood, and not as a false quotation of a verse that doesn’t really exist. Thanks for putting it into words for me, and for giving me peace about the issue.
    I appreciate your comment on my site, as well.

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