In a stunning turn of ecclesiastic events, worthy almost of a satirical Babylon Bee feature story, the Southern Baptist Convention has determined that disciple-making might be an important task for churches to undertake. The motivation for this endeavor, out of left field as it surely seems to be, is none other than the continued Biblical scale of the exodus of members from SBC ranks.
I want to applaud this effort. Truly. Alas, I fear that the superficial intentions will result merely in more propaganda-like nonsense from the discernment-free crowd over at LifeWay and potential contractual strong arm techniques by a bloated, Bible-disregarding behemoth at NAMB.
Why? Because, according to the Baptist Press news release, “Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, and Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, have appointed a task force on disciple-making.” That’s why.
These two high ranking members of the SBC intelligentsia have joined forces to appoint a “task force.” Before you get too excited about its potential, let me give the spoiler. The goal of the this nobly named task force is nothing less than to “present a report at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.”
That the notion of discipleship requires a “task force” for a denomination once known for its Great Commission zeal is, itself, a pathetic testimony to just how far we have moved away from Scripture. In case you don’t remember it off the top of your head, this command of Christ is quoted below. You might note that the phrase “make disciples” has a rather preeminent position in it.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20
The article tosses out some saliva-inducing commentary for those fretting the failure of the SBC’s current modus operandi for filling the pews. I mean, really, how is Ezell not permanently in a double cast from all the backslapping in 2014 at the staggering success of planting nearly 1,000 new churches that year? Oh, pay no attention to the equally staggering number of those exiting the premises, and the pews. About a quarter million souls, in case you were wondering.
Ezell, who is in the midst of some rather serious questions about surely unbiblical strong-arm tactics regarding his protective, zealous church planting protocols, seems hardly the guy to go to for discipleship. Under his proven performance in 2014, for each church he planted, the convention lost over 200 members. We want this guy overseeing discipleship?
Combine Ezell’s exodus-encouraging capacity with Rainer over at LifeWay and what can we expect to get, besides that report next year? (Actually, will the SBC’s lauded transparency be evident in this process or will, like the Great Commission Task Force under Ronnie Floyd, the proceedings be kept secret? By the way, Johnny “Imagine Jesus as A 7 Year Old Boy” Hunt has been appointed to the task force.)
The collusion of these two agencies is almost sure to produce a grandiose program that will be hawked like Kenneth Copeland seeking seed faith funds on TBN. LifeWay will doubtlessly sell small group curriculum, booklets, guides, videos, DVD’s, and, who knows, maybe even plush toys in a multi-generational discipleship initiative. Unlike NAMB’s “look what we did” performance in 2014, LifeWay’s faith-threatening treachery is less measurable. How many souls have been misled by the patently false nonsense they permit to be sold under the banner of “Christian Resources?”
(Just last month I had a man, a Southern Baptist member, no less, attempt to impress upon me certain bonafide facts about heaven because of a book he got at LifeWay about a four year old who went there. He wasn’t sure about being able to ride Jesus’ horse of many colors, though. Granted, after outrage, the heaven tourism books were dropped from stores. Good. But it begs the question, why were they there in the first place?)
Quoting Ezell, the article says, “This group will suggest a transferable process that any church can use in any context.” Transferrable. Right. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but he does qualify it with the denominationally-approved “contextualization” caveat. We can do anything anywhere if it’s contextualized, you see. Is that why we water down the Gospel because the context in which we’re giving it wants it that way?
“The priority will be leading people to the Gospel and then putting them on a pathway toward spiritual growth and maturity,” Ezell continued. Hmm. Okay. I just have a question about this. WHAT have we been doing then? What of that “Great Commission Task Force?” What impact has it had? What are those results? Oh, yeah, quarter million departures. 2014. Presumably, where Floyd failed, the Ezell-Rainer duo will succeed.
For his contribution to the Baptist Press article, Rainer is quoted as saying, “So many churches do not have a clear process for discipleship.” Really. Instead of an SBC appointed, anointed task force, maybe we oughta just send those struggling churches the Bible. Whaddya think?
Still, the guys in the hallowed ivory towers of the SBC are fretting over the avalanche of departures … and they should … and we should.
But, as just one voice, from just one pew, I’d like to offer a different suggestion. Enough with task forces and commissions and agencies and programs and procedures, “transferable” or not. We need none of that.
Instead, what we need is what sparked a global revolution in the church 499 years ago. The Reformation ignited a flame of faith that rushed throughout the globe and it was done without LifeWay, without NAMB, without the SBC. It was done by a simple thing sitting dusty and unused in probably every pew back of every Southern Baptist Church.
We just need a return to Scripture. To exegeting it faithfully. To preaching it verse by verse to edify the sheep. To teaching it in small groups where it can be absorbed, discussed, and given application. Instead of vision-casting and church growth models, somebody please just stand in the pulpit and preach the Word.
There’s a simple truth in that Book that we ought to heed. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation …” (Romans 1:16) An apostle, inspired by God, wrote that. And from that, for two millennia, Christ has built His church.
Please … souls are in jeopardy because that Book is ignored, replaced, supplanted, or otherwise practically denied. Let us ignite another Reformation by returning to it, repenting from our abuses of it, and endeavoring to be truly obedient to it. Let’s do that.
You can even write a report about it … but … if we’re faithful, a report won’t be needed … because the world will know it.
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim
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