When we come to the sum of the scriptures pertaining to the foe of the Christian, we always wind up recognizing that we fight a three fronted war; the world, the flesh, and the devil. We also know from scripture that the devil will always use one of his same three weapons against us as individuals, “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Our enemies, our temptations, and our difficulties seem to have an affinity to the number 3. Of course that makes it easier to preach, when it is outlined so simple for us.
That being said, it is no wonder to me, that there are three major “moods” within the Baptist world today, that are dividing, diminishing, and distracting the work and workers of the Kingdom. One is doctrinal, one is personal, and one is practical.
Now the Bible makes it clear beyond confusion in Proverbs 13:10 that “Only by pride cometh contention.” It is pride that will not accept sound doctrine, it is pride that will not admit self righteous arrogance, and it is pride that refuses to consider self-wrongs. Amidst all of the varied nuances, flavors, and types of conflict in the kingdom, the one infection that is common to them all, somewhere behind the verbage will be pride. In my own estimation, I see three deadly distractions that are fighting against the kingdom:
1.) The Rise of Calvinism. – I understand that there are many good people who are Five Point favorites. I have nearly all of John MacArthur’s books. I have listened to Mohler preach many times. While these men are solid on other Biblical issues, they present a division on others, that simply make a whole hearted embracing of them incompatible with Gospel evangelism. The Gospel message is that Jesus died for all men everywhere. To say otherwise is another gospel. The New Testament can be no clearer than to state that “one died for all;” and that He died not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.
It is this message of limited atonement that has worked it’s way into acceptance by many Baptist churches that has begun to divide friends, pastors, and churches. It is not Biblical. It is not acceptable, and when friends and brothers accept that which is unacceptable, doctrine is to be thicker than blood. It is not the “non-Calvinist’s” that are causing the dilemma’s. It is those who have begun to hold to this deformed theology that have come into “non-Calvinistic” churches, and schools with this false message causing great divisions among New Testament churches.
The First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, recently had one of it’s associate pastors resign. It was rumoured by some, (I emphasize pure rumor, those in the inside know if it’s true or not) that secretly he was asked to leave because he had become increasingly Calvinistic in his theology. In the same rumor, Mac Brunson the Senior Pastor was criticized for presumably asking him to leave. I do not know if that was true or not. I do know this. I would have done the same thing. Unless you believe that Jesus died for all of mankind, you cannot rightly proclaim the gospel. I cannot remember who said it, but they said, “if you cannot look any man in the world in the eye, and say to him ‘Jesus died for you;’ then you do not have any place on our staff;” to which I have to second that motion. Calvinism has become a divisive and distracting foe among brethren. Whosoever will may come!
2.) The Spirit of Cynicism – Social media has changed the landscape of Christian relations. The anonymous blog and anonymous commenting has enabled two terrible things: a.) the abandonment of respectful dialogue; and b.) the disconnection from being responsible for what we say.
For those who have embraced it, they have said that empowers the powerless. To which I would go on to say that may be true, but it has also emboldened the ruthless. There is a difference between criticism, and cynicism. Criticism addresses a problem, with the right spirit, to the right person, the right way, at the right time. (Paraphrase of Adrian Rogers – give credit where credit is due) Cynicism focuses on an individual, with a negative spirit, to any person, in any way, at any time. The Bible calls it Murmuring, and condemns it.
As a matter of fact, 1 Corinthians 10:7-10, places murmuring the same category as fornication, idolatry, and tempting Christ. The problem is not that there are so many problems in churches; where there are people there are problems; the real problem is in how some are dealing with those problems; choosing to grumble and complain about their pastor, their church, their neighbor, to anyone who will listen, and even to some who won’t. That’s not to say that they do not have a just argument, but they nullify their cause, by vilifying, and slandering one another.
Life lesson number one: – What’s right does not always work. Cynics cannot live with that. When right doesn’t work, something else will, and so they will do what is necessary to win their point. Following the Biblical procedure for things will not always produce satisfactory results. When going in the right spirit to the right person at the right time about the right thing doesn’t produce the result that you want, then it is time to quietly part ways. The cynic refuses to do that. The cynic will not be “wronged” and let someone get away with it. Ignoring altogether the principles of 1st Corinthian 6:7.
It is not only the rise of Calvinism, but also the Spirit of Cynicism that is dividing and distracting our work.
3.) The Face of Corporatism – One of the reasons that cynics abound is that there is much to be cynical about. Churches, even the non-mega churches, have begun to look more like corporations with a high executive structure, than they do New Testament churches. We are gaining the tendency to think more like Madison Avenue, than we are the Damascus Road, “Lord what will thou have me to do”. I am not opposed to mega churches, I would love for our church to grow so large, but sometimes they look more like an organization than an organism. The greater danger of that is the trickle down effect. Whatever is new in the mega churches today, will be in the smaller churches tomorrow, complete with executive language, and administrative ideas and main street marketing. In short many churches today are run more like a downtown business, rather than a knees down, Bible believing, Jesus preaching assembly.
I hear of people complaining today about “nepotism” in the churches, which has to be the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. Any pastor who has a secretary either needs that secretary to be his wife, or another man. The entire Levitical system in the Old Testament, was nothing but one gigantic group of fathers, brothers, and sons. Nepotism is an “outside world” issue, not an “inhouse no-no.” Nepotism, “favoritism” is enocouraged within the scriptures, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” – Galatians 6:10.
Pastors need not look so much like Bank CEO’s and more like dedicated teachers, and preachers of the texts of the scripture. Real pastors love to see lost people get saved, and saved people get serious about their faith and walk with the Lord.
All of that being said, “Calvinism, Cynicism, and Corporatism” are three divisions and distractions that are hindering the collective gospel work among Baptist churches. My heart hurts when I see churches crumbling under the loads of controversy stirred up, and prideful spirits that won’t bow down. When God’s people begin worrying more about obeying God through a conflict, than they are winning that conflict they are on the road to many changes that are worth making.