Southern Baptists, an Unregenerate Denomination

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by rlvaughn, Nov 19, 2001.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    I am not posting the article below to slam Southern Baptists, but because I found it an interesting article that addresses the problem of unregenerate church members.

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Southern Baptists, an Unregenerate Denomination
    by Jim Elliff

    "How are you doing?"
    "Pretty well, under the circumstances."
    "What are the circumstances?"
    "Well, I have a very effective arm. It moves with quite a bit of animation. But then I have my bad leg."
    "What's wrong with it?"
    "I guess it's paralyzed. At least it doesn't do much except twitch once a week or so, but that's nothing compared with the rest of me."
    "What's the problem?
    "From all appearances, the rest is dead. At least it stinks and bits of flesh are always falling off. I keep it well covered. About all that's left beyond that is my mouth, which fortunately works just fine. How about you?"

    Like the unfortunate person above, the Southern Baptist Convention has a name that it is alive, but is in fact, mostly dead (Rev. 3:1). Regardless of the wonderful advances in our commitment to the Bible, a closer look reveals a denomination that is more like a corpse than a fit athlete prepared for the run of his life. In an unusual way, understanding this awful reality provides the most exciting prospects for the future if we act decisively.

    The Facts
    Out of Southern Baptist's nearly 15.9 million members, only 5.2 million, or 32.8%, even bother to show up on a given Sunday morning, according to the Strategic Information and Planning department of the Sunday School Board (1997). If your church is anything like normal, and is not brand new, your statistics are probably similar. In the average church, one can cut that 32.8% by about two-thirds to find those interested in any additional aspect of church life, such as a Sunday evening service. In other words, only about a third of the 32.8% or slightly more than a tenth of the whole (12.3% in churches with evening services in 1996, the last year for which statistics are available) show more interest in the things of God than Sunday morning attenders in the liberal church down the street where the gospel is not even preached. These figures suggest that nearly 90% of Southern Baptist church members appear to be little different from the "cultural Christians" who populate mainline denominations.

    Let me illustrate in rounded figures by looking at some of the churches I have preached in recently...In one church there were an amazing 2000 in attendance on Sunday morning; but 7000 on the roll and a mere 600–700 on Sunday evenings. Take out the guests and this represents less than 10% of the membership. Another church had 2100 on the roll, with 725 coming on Sunday morning. Remove guests and non-member children and that figure drops to 600. Only about a third of those members come out on Sunday evening. Representing less than 10% of the membership.

    Another church has 310 on the roll with nearly 100 who attend on Sunday morning. Only 30–35, or approximately 10%, come to the evening worship services. These are all considered fine churches, and have an extremely competent level of leadership and vision...What do these figures, general as they are, suggest?

    Missing Christians are No Christians
    First, these figures reveal that most of the people on our rolls give little evidence that they love the brethren — a clear sign of being unregenerate (1 Jn. 3:14). It is impossible to believe that anything like real familial love exists in the hearts of people who do not come or only nominally check in as a cultural exercise. Love is the greatest mark of a genuine believer (1 Jn. 3: 14–19).

    Second, these numbers suggest that those who do not come or only come as morning attenders, are more interested in themselves than God. To put it in Paul's words, they are "fleshly-minded" and not "spiritually-minded" (Rom. 8: 5–9). The atmosphere that most pleases them is that of the world and not God. They can stand as much of God as makes them feel better about themselves. But beyond that, they will politely refuse to get involved. For some that is an Easter service now and then...

    Though these people have "prayed the prayer" and "walked the aisle," and been told they are Christians, old things have not really passed away, and new things have not come. They are not new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5: 17). In too many cases obvious signs of an unregenerate heart can be found, such as long-term adultery, fornication, greed, divisiveness. These are "professing believers" which the Bible says are deceived...

    Jesus indicated that there is a good soil which is receptive to the gospel seed so as to produce a fruit-bearing plant, but that the rocky ground believer only appears to be saved. The latter shows immediate joy, but soon withers away (Mt. 13: 6, 21). This temporary kind of faith (which is not saving faith, see 1 Cor. 15: 1–2) is rampant among Southern Baptists. But Baptists believe that saving faith is persistent to the end. We believe in the preservation and perseverance of the saints (once saved, always persevering). If a man's faith does not persevere then what he possesses is something less than saving faith.

    In John 2: 23–25 Jesus was the center-piece for what turned out to be a mass evangelism experience in which a large number of people believed in Him. Yet he did not entrust Himself to even one of them because "he knew their hearts." Is it possible that we have taken in millions of such "unrepenting believers" whose hearts have not been changed? I say that we have. Our denomination, as much as we may love it, is on the main unregenerate. If you double, triple or quadruple my assessment of how many are true believers, we still have a gigantic problem. It is naive to believe otherwise.

    There are those who would say that such people are "carnal Christians" and don't deserve to be thought of as unregenerate. It is true that the Corinthian believers (about whom this phrase was used, see 1 Cor. 3: 1–3) acted "like mere men" in their party spirit...

    Undoubtedly, however, Paul did suspect that some of the Corinthians were unbelievers, for he later warns them about such a possibility in 2 Cor. 12: 20–13: 5. A long-term and unrepentant state of carnality, is, after all, the very description of the unregenerate (Rom. 8: 5–14, 1 Jn. 3: 4–10, etc.). In calling some people "carnal" Paul did not mean to imply that he was accepting as Christian a lifestyle that he clearly describes as unbelieving in other passages. He wrote in the same book: "Do you now know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived" (1 Cor. 6: 9–11, etc.). Apparently there were some, even then, who were deceived into thinking that an unrighteous man or woman who professes faith in Christ could really be a Christian!<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    The entire article may be viewed at Christian Communicators Worldwide

    [ November 19, 2001: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  2. donnA

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    And he bases whether or not a Southern Baptist is a christian on how mnay are in the building on Sunday. So how many need to be in attendance before he believes the people there are really christians? I think he needs to read the bible, we aren't the ones who judge who is a christian and who is not, thats God's job. I'm affraid he doesn't seem to know any Southern Baptists or he'd know better. His article is about Southern Baptists, that means not just some SB, but SB in general, meaning all SB. Well I beg to diifer, I'm SB and am defiantely a saved christian. Have been for ten years, and in all that time have missed two Sundays, once when my grandmother died, and once when my sister in law died. I recently recieved my 9 year perfect attendance bar. Do you think the author of that article would say I was a chritian?
     
  3. Kiffin

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    Excellent article!

    Katie,
    Jesus did say Christians would have fruits.
    No fruit.
    No root.
    No changed lifestyle. No regeneration

    There is a serious warning to those who abandon the Church in Heb. 10:25-39, that such that do such things are showing themselves to be damned and not saved. The term "backslider" is never used in the New Testament. Those who abandon the Church are assumed to be lost in the same league as Judas.
     
  4. rlvaughn

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    I intended to mention in the first post that Jim Elliff is a Southern Baptist minister. Here's his suggestions towards facing the problem:

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> Facing the Dilemma
    What must be done? I suggest five responses. First we must preach and teach on the subject...
    Second, we must address the issue of persistent sin among our members, including the sin of failure to attend the stated meetings of the church. This must be done by reestablishing the forgotten practice of church discipline...
    Thirdly, we should be more careful on the front end of church membership. In my estimation, the public altar call (a modern invention) often reaps people prematurely. We have used it because of our genuine zeal to see the lost converted. Though sacrosanct to Baptists, careful study should be done related to the use of it evangelistically. For eighteen hundred years the church did not use such a method until its principle originator Charles Finney promoted his "new measures."...
    Fourthly, we must stop giving immediate verbal assurance to people who have hopefully been converted. It is the Holy Spirit's job to give assurance. We are to give the basis upon which assurance can be had, not the assurance itself...
    Finally, we must restore sound doctrine. Revival, I am finding as I study its history, is largely about the recovery of the gospel. The three great doctrines which have so often shown up in revival are God's sovereignty in salvation, justification by grace through faith alone, and regeneration with discernible fruit... <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
     
  5. TomVols

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    I personally believe that unregenerate church membership is a problem that affects congregations of all denominations. Just my observation. This is not new. Even Spurgeon claimed he probably baptized many lost people.
     
  6. Clint Kritzer

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    Brother Robert -

    You certainly do know how to pull me back onto a thread with you, don't you? :(
    A very interesting viewpoint and I would have trouble denying it or defending us SBC'ers. The statement about the "mainstream Christians" jumps out at me very vividly. In our last business meeting, a lady about my age, a new Baptist, suggested that for a newly established "Children's Church" we don't necessarily need Baptist literature, we could just use "Christian" literature. I began to tremble it angered me so. I thought to myself, "Which literature? Jim Jones, David Koresch, or Charlie Manson?" Needless to say, I squelched that suggestion.
    I can only speak for my own church. Our membership is about 500 with about 100 attending members. This number is an estimate since we don't take roll.
    Our church has a middle age group with a lot of charisma and the older folks have retreated from their vigor and complain about the direction of the church around dining room tables and in their sitting parlors but sit mute in business decisions. How sad for us.
    Another scary fact is that last year at Father's Day, I was recognized as the "youngest" father in attendance, and I am 37 years old. There is a twenty year age gap in my church as I recently pointed out to our deacons.
    I can't necessarily blame the SBC for all of this, or for that matter, any of it. We send them funds up the network for missions but other than that, they have little bearing on us. One way in which I do blame them was the abandonment of the BYPU and the Baptist Training Union (BTU).These organizations supplied material for teaching Baptist doctrine at a local level. I have yet to find out why these programs were abandoned.
    As you know, Brother Robert, I have a real passion for our faith. I think it is the most logical, intelligent, tolerant, and sound faith available to modern Christians. Margie and I have been asked to direct Vacation Bible School this summer and I have centered in on a program from Smyth and Helwys publishing on Baptist Distinctives. I suppose you have heard that Smyth and Helwys is a rather controversial outfit that is associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. My pastor, who appointed me and trusts me, is opposed to this publishing company but I have indicated that this is the program I want. As a compromise, I have appointed a team of five men, three ordained ministers and two laymen, to review this literature.
    I truly feel that if we can educate our people on what this denomination is all about, they will feel empowered and we may save this church yet. I love Fork Union Baptist Church and I have no desire to attend Fork Union "Community" Church.
    The article makes some valid points. There are 7 year olds in my church who have been baptized! Only one youth attends our business meetings. During the last deacon ordination, some deacons laid hands on shoulders instead of heads. The sanctuary does not inspire reverence in many of our youth. It all troubles me.
    I guess my point, if I have one, is that the SBC is not where the buck stops. It is with the local congregations. I see the split of the SBC coming as certain as day follows the night. It may even be 30 years overdue. Unfortunately, unless there is some education of our membership, they will be apathetic about this and who knows where our direction will go?
    This is a very personal posting for me, Mr. Vaughn, on a matter that troubles me. I would ask my brothers and sisters in here to pray for the SBC and my church and ask that God's will be done in both.

    May God bless you

    - Clint
     
  7. Jonathan

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by rlvaughn:
    I am not posting the article below to slam Southern Baptists, but because I found it an interesting article that addresses the problem of unregenerate church members.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    It is important to note that Eliff is not only a Southern Baptist, he is an administrator with one of the Southern Baptist seminaries.

    As a Southern Baptist myself, I agree with much of his article. Baptists, in general, are very adept in promoting numbers but not so accurate in explaining them.

    For well over 100 years, Sunday school classes have been the center of Southern Baptist church organized activity. In other words, if you are active in your local church, it is very likely that your activity is through your Sunday school class.

    So if one looks at the overall membership at SBC churhes (16 million) and then considers the number who attending (and just attend...this number does not necessarily denote activity) Sunday school (4 million) we can assume that around 25% of all SBC church members are really active outside of the Sunday morning worship hour.

    A denomination that can only count on a 25% involvement (at best) is a denomination that may very well be in trouble.

    Look at your own churches, SBC or not. How many of those on your roll are actually involved in the ministry of your church?
     
  8. Bob Alkire

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    I love the SBC folks as well as other Christians. Where I think SBC,IFB have made their trouble is not staying true to their doctrines but wanting to fit in with the new in ideas and teaching of the day. Well everyone else is doing it so it must be OK.
    For the most part it took the SBC folks about a 100 years to start turning from their doctrines. I recall in the 60's and 70's many SBC churches not using SBC SS literature because it had moved to the left of those churches. Also SBC folks weren't sending their children to SBC schools for the same reason.
    Here in the south we IFB were able to move away from our roots faster than the SBC folds, it only took us about 40 or 50 years. We would make fun of what had happen and was going in the SBC and say that people like R.G.Lee , W.A. Criswell were wrong for not leaving the SBC. But look at the mess the IFB are in, in the south.
    Do we care more about who we are or who Jesus Christ is? Do we spend time in prayer,and in study of the Bible? What is the Bible to us? Who is Jesus Christ to us? Is he the way of salvation or is He a way of salvation?
    Is God first, then family, then church and then the rest of the things of life, what is first?
    Do we go to churches to learn doctrine of Christ and what and how a christian should be or do we go for a show and hope it is over before the game,race or show starts on TV?
    What was written above could be said about most christian groups in this country.
    Most of us are more faithful at our golf game,or going to ball games, races or what ever, so what is number 1?
     
  9. Chris Temple

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    The SBC won the battle against attacks on the Bible, but that was just the first step of reformation.

    The important next step (and which is slowly beign done) is to return historic Baptist doctrine and principles.

    See www.founders.org
     
  10. Kiffin

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    Should not the statistics of Eliff make Baptists reevaluate our evangelistic methods? Most Baptist churches judge their success by how many baptisms they have. If 9 out of every 10 of your converts abandon the Church within a year that should be a warning that something is not right.

    I am sickened that my state convention in Louisiana at our Evangelism conferance every year gives out plaques to the churches with the most baptisms for the past year. It reminds me of the Emmy Awards or a Olympic medal awarding ceremony. There is a very worldly and sickening feeling of such events.
     
  11. Michael Wrenn

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    Chris,

    If you're going to return to the earliest doctrine, you'll have to look back to the first Baptists in England, the General (Arminian) Baptists. ;)
     
  12. donnA

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> Katie,
    Jesus did say Christians would have fruits.
    No fruit.
    No root.
    No changed lifestyle. No regeneration

    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


    But this article isn't saying some who are called christian, but Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists are unregenerate, unsaved. Which there are baptized unsaved people in every church. But there are genuine christians in every church too, the article does not draw a line there. What kind of fruit do you need to see from Southern Baptists? It seems by nameing only one church, it is said thet Southern Baptists don't have that fruit, as you say.

    So how about the question of, how does this article relate to your church? Not denomination, but your church.
     
  13. rlvaughn

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>...But this article isn't saying some who are called christian, but Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists are unregenerate, unsaved...<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Katie, I do not want to take it upon myself to speak to freely for Mr. Elliff, but this is my opinion: Mr. Elliff is a Southern Baptist and therefore has a special concern for Southern Baptists and their welfare. And, secondly, it would be more proper for him to point out the faults in his own group before trying to point out the faults of others. And I feel he would agree, and I certainly urge it, that the proper application of these thoughts would be for each of us to look at our own church (local church, not denomination) and see how we measure up.

    Finally, the way I take what he says is not that he knows all these people are unsaved, but that a large portion of these people are not bearing the fruit of the child of God. Therefore there is NO EVIDENCE that they are.
     
  14. Kiffin

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    To repeat Bro rjvaugn Katie, Mr. Eliff is a fairly well known Southern Baptist and and anyone who is SBC can testify that only about 25 -33% in most churches come to Church. His article was aimed at Southern Baptists because he is one though I'm sure the same stats can be found in the ABA, BMA, GARBC, IFB.
     
  15. John Wells

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    I'm very pleased and happy to report that the SBC State Convention of North Carolina elected conservative officers last week! There was one lesser office (can't recall what it was) that an incumbant liberal ran unopposed and won, but overall this is outstanding news -- IMHO! :D
     
  16. donnA

    donnA
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    rlvaughn
    Mr. Elliff is a Southern Baptist and therefore has a special concern for Southern Baptists and their welfare.

    That is all well and fine, but it says SB's are unregenerate, not some in the SB church. By not saying some, it is saying Sb's, meaning the the whole church. He didn't draw a line.
     
  17. rlvaughn

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    Katie, I don't want to try to keep speaking for Mr. Elliff's motive. I do feel that you are taking this about the ENTIRE SBC being unregenerate too literally and too personally. But you might want to check out the CCW website link listed in the first post, and actually contact them as to the content in and motivation behind this article. All I can say is that Elliff makes many good points with which I am in general agreement, and that they could apply equally as well to almost any other convention or association of Baptists in the United States.
     
  18. TomVols

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Chris Temple:
    The SBC won the battle against attacks on the Bible, but that was just the first step of reformation.

    The important next step (and which is slowly beign done) is to return historic Baptist doctrine and principles.

    See www.founders.org
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Two things:
    1. AMEN!
    2. See #1

    :D
    Tom
     
  19. TomVols

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by John Wells:
    I'm very pleased and happy to report that the SBC State Convention of North Carolina elected conservative officers last week! There was one lesser office (can't recall what it was) that an incumbant liberal ran unopposed and won, but overall this is outstanding news -- IMHO! :D<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    AMEN!
     
  20. DocCas

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    I have a question about the "Conservative" takeover of the SBC. Agreed, the 5 Seminaries are now, for the most part, lead by Conservatives, but what about the 58 SBC Colleges receiving funds from the CP? I have looked at all 58 of them and they seem to be, 100%, in the hands of the Liberals. How can there be a "Conservative" takeover when only 1 in 12 of the schools is in conservative hands?
     

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