Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Archive for the ‘church’ Category

Where is the Discernment?

One of the things that troubles me about many Arminians is their utter lack of discernment.  This is true of course for all believers and not just Arminians but I want to speak to my camp here.  An upcoming event called “Together 2016” features many different people including Roman Catholics.  For the life of me,  I cannot understand how Protestants can join hands with Roman Catholics in any real sense until the Catholics renounce their Catholic beliefs.  The very gospel is at stake here.  This is not just about personal differences or traditions.  This is a gospel issue.

The Roman Catholic Church denies the gospel.  They deny justification by faith.  They deny the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They teach a form of works righteousness.  They deny even declared righteousness imputed to the believer by God.  They deny sola scriptura.  They deny sola fide.  They deny sola gratia.  Everything that our Protestant forefathers did for the sake of the gospel, the blood shed in defense of the Bible and in defense of the gospel cannot be lost.

When you read the list of speakers for the “Together 2016” one not included (because he will not there in person) is the Pope.  Yes the Roman Catholic pontiff (whom Arminius called the antichrist) will address evangelicals.  Alongside the Pope will be men such as Lecrae (whom I have lost respect for), Dr. Tony Evans (whom I lost respect for sometime ago), and Dr. George Wood (the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God).  Before you think that only non-Calvinists are there, Calvinists such as Trip Lee and Francis Chan (who studied at the Master’s Seminary) will speak alongside the likes of Hillsong (who has wandered far away into something), Christine Cane, Lou Engle, and Mark Batterson.

What is disappointing about this is the lack of discernment.  Can you imagine Arminius speaking where he knew the Catholic pontiff would be welcomed?  Can you imagine the likes of a John Buynan or Charles Spurgeon preaching at this event?  Would John Wesley join hands with known mystics to promote this “unity?”  Would Leonard Ravenhill promote such an event?

I think the answer is clear.

Arminius wrote about the Roman Pontiff:

Since, therefore, the Roman Pontiff either attributes these most honourable titles of Christ to himself, or willingly suffers them to be ascribed to him; and since he evinces no horror at the blasphemy contained in these titles, and gives no tokens of his displeasure at this ascription of them; it follows, that he puts himself in the place of Christ, and is supremely opposed to Him. There is no excuse in the explanation which is given, that “the head and foundation is ministerial, and that he attributes all these things to himself under Christ, as having been elevated by the grace or favour of God and Christ to that dignity.” For the protestation is directly contrary to the fact; and he is so much the more the bitter enemy of God and Christ, as he the more confidently boasts of being defended by the authority of God and Christ. Such conduct is, in fact, under the semblance of friendship to exercise the deepest enmity, and, under the disguised pretext of a minister of light and of righteousness, to promote the interests of the kingdom of darkness and of unrighteousness. On this very account, therefore, we assert that the disparaging epithets which we laid down in our first Thesis, most justly belong to him; and this we now proceed to show by descending to particulars.

Arminius called the Pope the “pimp of the harlot Church.”  He further wrote:

Although the Roman pontiff calls himself “the servant of the servants of God,” yet we further assert that he is by way of eminence, That Wicked And Perverse Servant, who, when he saw that his Lord delayed his coming, “began to smite his fellow-servants.” (Matt. 24:48.) For the Roman pontiff has usurped domination and tyranny, not only over his fellow- servants, the bishops of the church of God, but likewise over emperors and kings themselves, whose authority and dignity he had himself previously acknowledged. To acquire this domination for himself, and still further to augment and establish it, he has employed all kinds of satanic instruments — sophistical hypocrisy, lies, equivocations, perfidy, perjury, violence, poison, and armed forces — so that he may most justly be said to have succeeded that formidable beast which “was like unto a leopard, a bear and a lion,” and by which the Roman empire was prefigured — and to have “had power to give life unto the image of the beast, and to cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast, should be killed.”

I call on Arminians to follow in the footsteps of Arminius and denounce the Roman Catholic Church.  I am not calling for hatred of Catholics themselves for they need the gospel.  I am calling for a hatred of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.  I am calling for biblical discernment (Jude 3-4).

We need to heed 1 Timothy 4:1-2.  We need to heed 2 Timothy 4:3-4.  We need to stand agains the Roman Catholic Church and preach against her false doctrines.  We need to call Catholics to repent and believe the gospel.

I pray that men such as Dr. George Wood would not only decline speaking at the “Together 2016” event but denounce it.  I pray that men and women of God would rise up and denounce the event altogether.  In our troubled world we need the true gospel and not a mixing of errors.  Now is not the time to lay down our swords in the midst of a sinful world.  What is going to slay the evils we see of racism, sexual immorality, abortion, homosexuality, wicked killings, etc. is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).  We lose the gospel.  We lose the war.

Theological Matters & Unity

When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God.  My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church.  We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening.  Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.

In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG.  Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name.  Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church.  I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least.  I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.

Fast forward to today.  In my city there are about 10 AG churches.  Only two have the AG name.  COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name.  This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors.  Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”

Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular.  Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names.  Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in.  I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.

First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with.  There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL.  Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.”  The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over.  This was the Rick Warren stream.  Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God.  Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches.  I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles.  Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did.  They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.

Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology.  When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches.  Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching.  I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost.  Pentecostal theology was vital.  I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.”  At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized.  When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost.  The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.

Fast forward to today.  Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all.  In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs.  I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter.  He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church.  Where does this come from?  Rick Warren!

I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church.  What did he do?  In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings.  This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost.  Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant.  The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives).  Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church.  They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth.  Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray).  In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks.  At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s?  He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.”  The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to.  Theology is not the issue.  Prayer and preaching is not the issue.  Pragmatism is.

Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God.  I have no dog in the fight.  I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers.  I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time.  I was there.  I am thankful I am not now.  The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense.  Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door.  My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car.  All gimmicks designed to get people in the door.  Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.”  Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized.  Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church.  And my friend has one goal: numbers.  It’s all about the growth.  His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.

Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley.  Why?  Because they were not Pentecostals!  Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days.  The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.

Some see all of this “unity” as good.  I don’t.  Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology.  In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal.   I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal.  What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel.  I see unity around methods.  John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology.  I agree.  The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches.  Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place.  It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.

There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology.  The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21).  Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20).  Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19).  Unity in the local church must be around theology.  We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs.  Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction.  This is why we need the church.  The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).  The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).

The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences.  I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time.  We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living.  Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles.  He would teach theology and how to put it into practice.  For example, Ephesians is six chapters.  The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature.  The last three are application in nature.  Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst.  This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel.  Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost.  Salvation is gone.  The Lordship of Jesus is robbed.  Life is hopeless.

My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ.  Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine.  Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).  Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  I want all this for myself and the church of God.

May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!

After Manasseh Came A Josiah

In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read:

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. 8 And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.

In our wicked world it is easy to look around at our wicked, sinful leaders and see the judgment of God.  I look around at my own culture and I see evidence of Romans 1.  People are full of sin.

However, my hope is in the Lord God and in His Word.  I have hope in the gospel.  I know that Jesus will triumph and He alone is King of kings and He alone is Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16).  Jesus reigns even now from heaven (Acts 3:19-21).  His reign includes all His enemies coming under His feet (Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  I look around at the wicked world and I can easily be full of despair but my hope is that the gospel will go forth and the reign of Jesus will never be stopped.

In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read of the wicked king of Judah, Manasseh.  I have yet to live under such a wicked king.  We have had wicked men and women in the past but few compare to the wickedness of Manasseh.  Manasseh went so far in his idolatry that he built altars in Jerusalem in the temple of Yahweh to his false gods.  He offered his own sons on the altars to his false gods.  2 Kings 21:16 says, “Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.”

After Manasseh, his son Amon reigned as king over Judah and he followed in the footsteps of Manasseh.  Amon was a wicked king.

After Amon, however, comes Josiah.  2 Kings 22:2 says, “And he what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or  to the left.”

The Lord raised up a Josiah after the wickedness of Manasseh and Amon.  This gives me hope.  This encourages me.

In my own wicked nation, I see our leaders full of sin.  They are full of idolatry, greed, corruption, they support the murdering of millions of babies at the altars of the gods of conveyance and sex.  Our leaders are just like Manasseh in many ways.  They even shed innocent blood not just in unjust wars and wicked attacks on citizens but they support the abortion mill industries which murder innocent babies each and every day.  In my own state and in my own city I see the wickedness of our leaders even on a local level.  They give in to the sexually perverted who want their “rights” and they support the wickedness of racism and abortion on demand.  Yes it is easy to be discouraged.

But I have hope that God can raise up a Josiah.  My hope is not in politicians.  They are corrupt.  My hope is not in men.  They are corrupt.  My hope is in the Lord God who can turn the tide through His gospel.  My hope is in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  Josiah was a mighty man of God.  We need mighty men of God to turn not just my own nation but he nations of this fallen, sinful world to the Lord God.  This will not come through politicians or through political reform (though they will happen through the gospel) but will only come through a man of God being faithful to God.

My hope is that the wicked nations of this world (which is all of them) will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel transformed the Roman Empire and turned them away from idolatry to the truth of the gospel.  Over time, corrupt church leaders corrupted the gospel and turned the church in Rome away from the gospel to idolatry that we now see as the Roman Catholic Church but I have hope that Catholics will repent and be saved.  I have hope that the nations will be saved by the grace of God.

We read in many places that the nations will bow down to the Lord God (see Psalm 22:27; 86:8-9; Isaiah 2:3; Revelation 15:4).  Jesus has conquered the nations by His death and resurrection and He now commands us to make disciples in every nation until He reigns forevermore (Matthew 28:18-20).

May God send a revival of His truth!

Then The Gospel Came…

Imagine a world where few are Christians.  Most of the culture is full of idolatry.  The love of money.  The love of sports.  The love of sex.  The political leaders are corrupt.  Politicians in general are corrupt and not trustworthy.  The leaders of the nation are pagans and they despise the gospel.  At every turn the nation is against the gospel it seems.  They despise biblical authority, despise its truth, attack the truth of the gospel, attack those who follow Christ.  They seek to cast Christians off as strange, aliens, and out of touch with reality.  In fact, they believe Christians just want to destroy their fun!

Sounds just like the wicked nation I live in.  But this nation is the Roman Empire at the time of the book of Acts.  A wicked depraved time.  One biblical commentary stated that the Roman empire was much worse in terms of Christian persecution, rejection of biblical authority, etc. than any time in history.  We might could point to the communists nations that openly hated God but few compare to the Roman Empire.  It heavily persecuted Christians and killed many of them including most of the Apostles for their faith in the Lord Jesus.  While the Romans were busy worshiping idols and the emperor, the Christians were calling for them to repent and turn to Christ (Acts 17:30-31).

What gives me hope is that the gospel transformed the empire.  From its humble beginnings in Acts 2, by the time we finish with the book of Acts we find Paul the Apostle in Rome preaching the kingdom of God (Acts 28:30-31).  The very next book in our Bibles is the book of Romans with a church alive and well in Rome (Romans 1:7).  The book of Revelation (which I know some will take exception with me here because of my preterism) was written to encourage persecuted saints of God (Revelation 1:9) in the Roman Empire.  The book of Revelation promised them victory (Revelation 2:1-7 for example).  They are told that Jesus is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).  Our victory is sure for Jesus is our King!  This was the hope for the saints of God!  It is our hope as well!

We look around at our wicked world.  Here in the United States we see violence, hatred, lack of respect for authority, pride, all types of wicked sins including idolatry and sexual immorality.  We see the wicked sin of abortion where millions of people are being slaughtered all in the name of conveyance and sexual sins.  We see lying politicians and corrupt leaders now openly attacking the gospel and questioning God’s absolute authority in all things.  We see Christians bowing their knees to the false gods of money, power, sex, sports, and all types of wickedness.  We no doubt live in an evil age.

Yet I have hope in the gospel.  The gospel promises the sure victory of Jesus (Psalm 110:1).  Jesus will win (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  The gospel will go forth and we have victory through Christ alone (Matthew 28:18-20).  The nations belong to our King (Psalm 2:8).  While the United States and other nations may be wicked, they will not last forever.  Only the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ will reign forever (Daniel 7:13-14).  I have hope that the gospel will win.  The nations will bow to the Lordship of the King.  Every knee in fact will bow to the glory of the Lord Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11).

I write this  because it is easy to be discouraged.  Islam is growing.  The cults are thriving.  The false gospels are being preached.  Jesus is being attacked at every turn.  The national media hates the gospel.  The President of the United States is a pagan.  The nations reject the Word of God.

Yet Jesus is still Lord and He will reign forever!  I pray that the nations repent.  I pray that our nations turn to faith in Christ.  I pray for the gospel to go forth and sinners turn from their sins and turn in saving faith to the Lord Jesus.  I pray that God Almighty would have mercy and send a revival to the nations.  He can turn the tide.  The Lord turned the tide in ancient Rome and He can turn the tide in our wicked nations.  I pray He does for His glory and for His name.

Seeing “Us” in Scripture

I enjoy Chris Rosebrough and his podcast “Fighting for the Faith.”  Chris often uses satire and comedy to point out false teachers and teachings.  His podcast often has sermon reviews of both good and bad sermons and Chris will point out why they are that.  I am often amazed at what passes for sermons these days.  Much of what seems to be coming out of the seeker church is not even close to true biblical teaching.  It is more or less about “us.”  It is man-centered to its core.

I have written often on the need for expository teaching and more sound doctrine being preached.  Just this week while working I was pondering why people enjoy attending seeker churches where doctrine is minimized and those who desire to go “deeper” with their faith are criticized.  I want to ask them, “How can you sit under this guy and learn anything?  What has he taught you that brought you closer to Christ, deeper in your theological understanding of the gospel?”  Heck, most of the teachers Chris plays on his podcast have no gospel understanding.  The seeker churches are just “say this prayer and become a Christian” as their gospel.

I subscribe to a local church here in my city that has been sucking people from the more traditional churches (mainly Baptist churches) for some time.  They started at about 50 people or so and today have over 1000.  Because of their growth, church leaders often avoid criticizing them because of their growth.  They are instead esteemed.  I point out that growth is no indicator of truth.  Look at the cults.  Look at Islam.  Truth is not pragmatic.  Truth is truth and God’s Word declares the truth of God (John 17:17).  Jesus said that He is the truth (John 14:6).  God has given us His truth through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We need no other “truth.”  Yet many are unwilling to take the truth of the Bible and examine the teachings of large seeker churches because of their numbers.

Each week I get their Sunday services on my podcasts.  I listen to their sermons.  Why?  Because I want to know if they are preaching truth.  Often they are not.  In fact, they often are preaching nothing at all.  They are currently preaching through John but they are not expository nor are they dealing with their text.  They often just read the text and fill in stories about themselves or others to pass the time.  They are not false teachers.  They are “un-teachers.”  They are teaching neither bad doctrine nor good.  They are teaching nothing.  They just focus on “us.”

This is true nearly of all seeker churches that I know.  The focus is on “us” and not Jesus.  The gospel is not about the glory of God, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for our sins, along with His death, burial, and bodily resurrection from the dead where He now sits at the right hand of God to pray for us.  No!  The “gospel” of seeker churches is on “us.”  It is about “us” and our glory.  The gospel of seeker churches is about Jesus coming to give us an “abundant life” or to give us a “hope and a future” (both John 10:10 and Jeremiah 29:11 are seriously abused and destroyed there).

Just this past week I listened to two seeker churches Resurrection Day services.  Both were focused on “us.”  The gospel was not taught.  The focus was not on the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The focus was on God resurrecting your dreams.  Neither church preached repentance for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 24:47).  Neither church even mentioned repentance at all.  Both did mention sin but only in passing.  Sin is what keeps us down, what keeps us from reading our potential.  Gone is the truth of the gospel of repentance.

The gospel is not lost.  It is easily found in the Bible.  One can skip it.  One can downplay it.  But one cannot ignore it altogether.  Just reading the New Testament brings us face to face with our sins, with our inability to save ourselves by our good works, with the fact that we are enemies of God because of our rebellion against His law (Romans 3:19-20).  We find that our world is not getting better by works of the flesh but we realize that we must repent of our sins if we are to have peace with God (Acts 2:37-39; 3:19-20).  We find that repentance brings salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).  We find that Christ alone saves us from the wrath of God by His grace and mercy (Romans 5:1).  The gospel is focused on the person and work of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14 and notice how many times “He” is mentioned and we are not).  Salvation is not accomplished by making amends or trying harder or your good deeds (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is the gracious work of God wrought in us by His Spirit through the saving work of the Lord Jesus.

Until next time, keep loving and living in the gospel.

A Contrast In Pastors

I recently did my own little project.  I spoke to two very different pastors of traditional churches (traditional in the sense that they are not house churches).  I asked them the same basic questions.  I wanted to highlight their answers (which I have summarized here) and show the contrasts in their thinking.  The first pastor I will call John and the second I will call Rob.  John pastors a traditional Reformed church.  Rob pastors a seeker sensitive church.

John, age is late 50’s, Reformed in his theology.

What books are you reading?

I’m reading several books by a few Puritans.  Right now, I am reading Thomas Watson.  I just finished a book on the humor of Charles Spurgeon which I found delightful.

What style is your preaching?

Expository.

What are you preaching right now?

Through the Gospel of Mark.

How often do you preach on doctrine?

I try to deal with my text and include sound exegesis and doctrine in every sermon.  Sometimes, depending on the text, doctrine comes up more.  Sometimes not.  I want the text to lead me.

Lastly, how much time you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say 10 to 15 hours.

Rob, age is early 40’s, Baptist in his theology.  Non-Calvinist.

What books are you reading?

Right now I am reading Mark Batterson.  My favorite author is John Ortberg.

What style is your preaching?

Topical and series.

What are you preaching right now?

Actually we are working through the Gospel of John.  (Side question I asked: Is this expository preaching through John?  He said not in the technical sense but more focused on long sections).

How often do you preach on doctrine?

Um….I know doctrine is vital.  Not downplaying it at all.  We have a lot of seekers coming to church so I try to avoid anything that would lose them.  We talk about doctrine a lot in our home groups.

Lastly, how much time to you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say about 5 hours.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Just depends on how busy I am.

Conclusions

First, let me state that I am not trying to attack Rob though it will appear that way.  I disagree with him and his church.  I am not a Calvinist so I didn’t agree with John either but it shows me why Calvinists are seeing a resurgence and we Arminians are not at this point.  I know of few Arminians preachers who actually preach Arminianism from the pulpit.

In this case, Rob is not an Arminian.  He is a seeker sensitive church plant from the SBC.  He would say that he is a non-Calvinist though he stated that he enjoys John Piper and David Platt.  Rob, however, often reflects non-Calvinist churches.  That are often shallow, lacking theological depth, and focused on getting results (in this case pragmatically) for the purpose of numbers.

John was very gracious.  He is a scholar.  He deeply loves the Lord (though I think Rob does too).  Both men want to see Jesus glorified though I believe John is more God-centered in his approach.  John, unlike Rob, seems to not care what the numbers say.  John’s church is only about 35.  Rob is running near 500.  That said, the theological depth of the average person in John’s church is deep while Rob’s is seriously lacking.  Even the music was noticeably different.  John’s church sang deep theological hymns while Rob’s sang the latest praise songs from the popular praise singers.

One final point.  What I found interesting in this short study was even the Bibles these men used.  John preaches from the King James Version.  Rob preaches from the New Living Translation.  Yet John dealt with his text.  Rob only skims it.  John developed his points from the text and allowed the text to dictate him.  Rob read the text and then only touched on points here and there from it.  John preached with Christ and His gospel as the focus.  Rob preached, it seemed to me, with the hearers as this focus.

My call to my fellow Arminians is learn from this.  Preach doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).  Let us not shy away from the Word of God.  Furthermore, I pray for a revival of expository preaching among my fellow Arminians.  This goes for house churches as well.  God’s Word is the final authority and we must preach the Word with unction and to the glory of God.  Care not for the attention of men but rather long for the glory of God to be exalted.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/12/2016 at 11:47 AM

My Resurrection Day Experiences

This past Resurrection Day, since my family has no church home right now, I visited a small Presbyterian church near my home.  The church is called Covenant Free Presbyterian Church.  I have always been impressed with the Free Presbyterian Church for their focus on the free offer of the gospel and for missions.  Their preachers, while Reformed, often preach with passion.  In fact, if I didn’t know otherwise, I would have thought I was in a Baptist church with their “amens” at the sermons and at the hymns.  The praying was much like what I have heard in my Pentecostal upbringing.

The pastor preached from Matthew 28:1-10 and basically had two points: 1) come and see and 2) go and tell.  He did a good job of working through the text and the gospel was clearly preached.  He did not avoid theology nor did he spend his time giving personal illustrations from his life.  He mentioned his wife and her hurt back once but otherwise he spent his time in the text.  I appreciated that.

Sadly, so few Arminian or non-Calvinistic churches are focused on the text.  I know of few Arminian expository preachers.  While I was in the Assemblies of God, I knew of only two expository preachers.  All the AG ministers I knew were topical at best.  In my area, I know the Pentecostal churches and theology is not their focus.  Methodology is.  In fact, they will unite with anyone whom they feel matches their methodology.  Most of them love the Perry Noble types.  Some of them love Andy Stanley and long to be like him.  Sadly, none of them are focused on men like John MacArthur.

What I long for is sound doctrine to be preached.  I know some would say that a Calvinist church would not preach sound doctrine but I would disagree.  I know I would not agree with all that a Calvinist preacher would preach or teach but it would not be a salvation issue.  Further, I have sat in non-Calvinist churches many days and have not agreed with hardly anything that was preached because, sadly, nothing was being preached.  Doctrine was avoided like the plague.

In the evening on the Lord’s day, I went back to the church to enjoy a fellowship meal.  I had great talks with the brethren.  I sat and talked with brothers who held onto their Calvinist study Bibles (Reformation Study Bible) and we just talked as brothers.  I never brought up Arminianism versus Calvinism.  It was not an issue.  We were just Christians enjoying fellowship and food.

My point in all this is to show that our differences should not divide us.  I know for some it does.  I have had both Arminians and Calvinists who genuinely are concerned about the other group.  For me, Jesus matters more.  I know that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) because He saved me.  When Jesus saved me, I didn’t know anything about theology.  I couldn’t have told you anything about Arminianism or Calvinism.  I barely knew that there was a difference between Protestants and Catholics.  For my first two years or so of my Christianity, theological debates were rare.  I was witnessing to my friends, praying with my Christian friends, and reading from my NIV Bible.  I had theological convictions such as the person and work of Jesus Christ, His resurrection, etc. but I could fellowship with other Christians if I knew that they had truly repented of their sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10).

Theology does matter.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I love reading and studying theology.  The study of God, wrote A.W. Tozer, is vital for what we believe shows in how we live (1 Timothy 4:16).  Sound doctrine is vital (Titus 2:1).  2 Corinthians 13:5 even tells us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith.  “The faith” is found in the Word of God (Jude 3).

We must be careful, however, to not make theology our god and not the Lord God.  Our theological studies should point us to Jesus and loving Him and obeying Him more (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).  Jesus is not merely found in a book.  He is real.  He is risen.  He is alive.  His Spirit dwells in us who have repented and believe the gospel.  Our relationship with the Lord Jesus goes much deeper than merely reading a theology book.  It goes much deeper than even just quoting Scripture.  Scripture points us to the risen Savior who is alive (John 20:31).  The Scriptures testify about the risen Jesus (John 5:39-40).

In closing, I enjoy fellowship with Christians.  There is nothing like it in the world.  I feel so comfortable around those who love the Lord Jesus, love His Word, and stand firm on the Word of God.  Whether they be Arminians or Calvinists, I long to be around the saints of God who truly love and adore Him.  My prayer is that more of this will take place.  No doubt we have our theological differences but we are first and foremost children of God through faith in the Lord Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29).  May the Spirit of God unite our hearts to fear His name.

Thus ends my ramblings.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/31/2016 at 10:00 AM

%d bloggers like this: