The stunning audacity, the unabashed exclusivity of the claims of Christ!
Remember when they were audaciously—and exclusively—thundered from Baptist pulpits? Claims expected—and dealt with if ignored—in the lives of Baptists?
But that was back when Baptists were known as people of the Book—both because they always carried a Bible to church and because they openly lived it, standing firmly on its authority, inerrancy, and infallibility. Honored it as the sufficient and sole rule of faith and practice. The days of believer’s baptism (not of children too young to understand); of a regenerate church membership (none openly, obviously living in sin seated in church); and of church discipline... for open sin and nonparticipation.
They were the days of Training Union and Sunday evening worship services, when the Wednesday evening service was Prayer Meeting in reality, not just in name. And those were the days of growth, impact, power. They’ve been gone for some time, now. Certainly they were gone by the time FBC’s David Morrow, disbelieving reports that his own Deacons and other church ‘leaders’ were largely responsible for getting sufficient names on the petition for liquor-by-the-drink, went to the County courthouse and saw their signatures for himself. I have always believed that was when we began ‘losing’ him, a loss from which we have never really recovered.
What did Baptists discover about the exodus in their own 2006 poll? They already knew that baptisms were down, growth was flat, and Americans calling themselves Southern Baptists had dropped from 10% in1995 (Think of that...one in every ten Americans!!) to 6% in 2001 (107). So they asked dropout Baptists, Why? Beneath the surface—”too busy,” “too tired,” etc., they found other responses, according to Brad Waggoner of Lifeway. Too few churches had grounded their people in their faith, had laid down what it means to be committed to Jesus Christ. “The typical church was not educating people by teaching Scripture in an understandable and applicable way. ...People slid easily in and out of attendance” (108), a phenomenon-become-routine at my Baptist Church.
But instead of lowering the bar, becoming even less likely to challenge members and attenders, Waggoner concluded that the church needs to raise it “by demanding [Hmmm...strong word!] more, not less. “If Orthodox Jews can require their practitioners to be home Friday nights for a Sabbath meal, if Seventh-Day Adventists can mandate Saturdays as a day of worship instead of Sundays, if Mormons can order Monday evening ‘family nights’ among their followers, surely Baptists could raise their standards” (108).
Another Baptist, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship, laments, “What’s offered in church is just getting dumbed down more and more” (108). And it’s not just in church—or in Baptist churches—but also in Christian radio. When Colson found his and other ‘teaching’ programming being dropped from stations in favor of ‘just music,’ he encountered the response: “We don’t want to do anything that will upset our listeners.”
Colson responded: “Evangelicals are in danger of amusing ourselves to death.....Music is important in the life of the church and can inspire us to focus on Christ. But it cannot take the place of solid teaching” (108).
Have a good week! But also ask what is happening in your [Baptist or not] church.