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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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Losing the Saved in the Name of Reaching the Lost, and Other Stuff from Around the Web

links5.bmpUSA Today ran a piece on how after a forty-year pattern of sustained growth, the Southern Baptists suddenly have seen church membership and the number of baptisms level off, and then decline.  Much the same holds true for the LCMS, now that they've adopted the Ablaze program for church growth.  The only thing the SBC and the LCMS have in common (besides declining membership) is an institutional commitment to church growth programs.  Mike Horton nailed it.  These church growth types are not reaching the lost (as the claim) but they are quite good at losing the saved (intentionally so).  Click here: Southern Baptists fret over decline as annual meeting begins -

Gene Veith has a hilarious comparison between young Goths and old Lutherans.  This is something only a Lutheran could say about a Lutheran, but it is funny nonetheless.  Click here: Of Goths and Lutherans — Cranach: The Blog of Veith

Can't wait for the ESV Study Bible (coming in October).  The first page from the Gospel of John has been posted.  When the notes in a study bible for John 1:1 mention Arius and Colwell's rule, I'm excited.  Click here: Home | ESV Study Bible | Crossway (check the features tab).

The nanny state is watching you . . .  Be sure to take off your hat so they get a good look at you on camera.   Click here: Hats banned from Yorkshire pubs over CCTV fears - Telegraph

 Finally, for those of you who have purchased Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics--if you haven't, you should, this is great stuff--apparently, there's a quality control issue (all in good fun).  Is that cloth, or is it paper?  Hmmm  . . .  Baker is my publisher (and is wonderful to work with), so I'll leave it at that.   Click here: Cloth or Paper...

Reader Comments (39)

RE: SBC & LCMS and church membership decline:

I also just happen to be reading Michael Horton's early 90's work, "Made in America." Having an LCMS background and not being all that familiar with the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings (other than knowing about Puritans and Jonathan Edwards from my high school American history classes), I am finally beginning to understand how Christianity in this country got so far off track from the 17th century reformation in Europe.

Out of curiosity, we attended an OPC church this past Sunday. The regular pastor and his family just happened to be on vacation and they had a guest preacher from a small OPC seminary in NW Indiana. I must say that he delivered one of the most thorough, most compelling sermons I've heard in years. Much of what I read in Horton was underscored and reinforced during his message. If this is what the OPC is like I may have to continue going there.

And yet, the church was only about half full and, according to information from some old cronies in the area, has been in decline for the past decade or so. There was certainly nothing about the congregation that indicated a "church growth" mindset, but still they are clearly far from capacity. May God bless them; they are hearing the truth preached and I hope things will turn around.
June 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge
The note on John 1:1 is disappointing. Whoever wrote it has apparently never heard of Dan Wallace's grammar, which goes into great detail on the syntax and shows the problems with Colwell's so-called rule.
June 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBill Combs
I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. When I read the article about them and their membership statistics it made me think the reason for the decline might be that they are finally getting honest about baptism (this is probably wishful thinking). In my congregation there were people who got baptized annually: either after a yearly "revival meeting" or after attending church camp. If that was the practice in most of the churches, then it would certainly fluff up the numbers. SBC baptism stats would be a lot more realistic if they took a "once baptized, always baptized" (i.e. Scriptural) approach to baptism.

And then, of course, there where (previously baptized) christians who joined the church from other denominations who also were re-baptized as an admittance into church membership. I am not sure how those numbers count for "reaching the lost" either.
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDB
An equally interesting question seems to be where are all these Lutherans and SBCers going?

I always wonder over Libertarian complaints about Big Brother's doings (and supposed intentions): isn't it more important to obey the law, or is that way too naive?
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
You guys should check out the Goodies and Ecky Thump. The Higher up in the Martial Art of Ecky Thump you go the bigger your Flat Cap. You can see part of it at this link. You might need to be a Brit to get it thought! Very Funny - see if you can find the whole program.

Mike (UK)
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Zrim - yes its important to obey the law - but in a representative democracy it's also important to smack down the government when they make stupid laws.
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBil

Here's my point.

Of course, we should obey the law.

But, Caesar continues to take away individual freedoms and the rights of property owners through these incremental intrusions.

You give Caesar an inch, and he'll take a mile. Do you trust the 535 idiots who live within the beltway with your personal liberty, or with your private property? I sure don't.
June 11, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger

As for me and my house, we left our SBC church a year and a half ago. It was (is) very much Willowcreek, Saddleback, purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, etc. So that accounts for four members from the rolls of the SBC.

We joined a church plant of the Presbyterian Church in America that was just forming in our town!
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCraigP
The Goodies originally went out in the 1970s as I recall and the program was about an hour long.

If you do manage to find the full program - I must issue a health warning. Someone died watching it - really - of laughing. They literally laughed themselves to death.

You have been warned!

June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike
The Ecky Thump ones are here (1 of 3 parts)

It's very un-PC.
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike

In the last two weeks, we have had five families visiting our WELS church in Goodyear, Arizona from the LCMS. These folks are bewildered at what is happening in the LCMS.
Our pastors are saddened at what is happening in the LCMS, because "we are not into stealing other people's sheep."

Michael Horton is correct in his analysis of the situation in the LCMS.

For the good of all Lutherans, it is expedient for the LCMS to get away from "user friendly, seeker sensitive" techniques, and back to the Lutheran confessions.

I pray that this will happen!
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd

That sounds more American than Christian. I've got nothing against liberal democracy per se. But most people I know live with bad laws every day; they do a lot more enduring than smackdown. I guess that is impious per the doctrines of liberal democracy, but contentment and submission are the ethics I find in the NT.


I have an aversion to the inch/mile turn of phrase; it's what my Bible church pastor used to smackdown (sorry, Bil) the Reformation's doctrines of grace and prop up his Christian moralism. But, anyway, more to the point, no, I don't want my private/property rights taken away any more than the next American. But my hyphenated faith (American-Christian) defaults to the latter when forced to decide, which seems to happen every day. Calvinism seems to suggest enduring idiots more than slapping them down.

You ask if I *trust* said idiots. If we take the doctrine of the left-hand kingdom and the doctrine that God is sovereign and rules through authorities seriously then I think the Xian accent is on *obeying*.

To be honest, I have found the recent popular swell for Libertarianism in Christian circles curious. It's almost as if the same errors in Constantinianism trying to be avoided are just repeated: that a particular (political)ideology is more or less friendly to Christianity, despite Jesus saying his kingdom was not of this world. As a Christian secularist, I have no problem with Christians having their ideologies, just with more sanity.


You go, boy.
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

Man, you have more "aversions" than anyone I know...

Yes, the New Testament is clear that the government is a minister of God. Either I've not been clear, or your "aversion" has caused you to miss the point. Yes, my duties as a citizen include obedience to the laws of the land. That's not the issue here.

As a US citizen, I have every right to my personal liberties and my private property. In this case, my concern is with a government which is not obeying the civic contract previously agreed to--in this case a constitution which limits the government's power to search and to seize, among a host of other things Caesar is prevented from doing.

I don't know what God's sovereign purposes are for the kingdom of the left (that's not the point), but my privileges and responsibilities in the kingdom of the left give me both the freedom, as well as the mandate, to slap Caesar's hand when he sticks it into my business, where and when he has no constitutional authority to do so.

The government does have constitutional limits. Therefore, the concern with the nanny state is not my obedience--the concern is with Caesar's lack of obedience. In these kinds of matters, I don't see Caesar keeping his part of the bargain. That is why the nanny state ethos is nothing but trouble.

Zrim, how many times do I have to tell you, I am not a libertarian--not philosophically, not politically. Yes, I am concerned that my individual liberties are being eclipsed by a state that mistakenly thinks it has the right to intrude into my private business. The point I raised here is a dispute about how things work within the context of citizenship within kingdom of the left, not whether Christians should obey or disobey the state. Would you not agree that the state is overly aggressive, and that those who work for it, frequently overstep their bounds? That is the point.

On a personal note, Yes, I worry that a government which thinks that it knows best, and can self-justify crossing the line into my personal business, is by nature no respecter of my two-kingdom distinction. The kingdom of the left has no business interfering with the kingdom of the right. And I don't trust them to know where that line is, nor to honor that boundary, especially when so many evangelicals mix politics with religion (confusing the two kingdoms).

You speak of the ethics of submission in the NT. OK. Just remember that same government which Paul calls a minister of God (unto whom we are to render and to submit), John describes as a satanically energized beast.

Now, I'm not saying, nor implying that my own government is anything like that. But, all it would take is for a city council in the hometown of anyone reading this to change a zoning ordinance or two, and by law, Christians could be forbidden from assembling. Our freedom (especially our religious freedom) is a fragile thing. Those on the kingdom of the left often think and argue that the kingdom of the right can only exist when and where Caesar allows it. And Caesar hates nothing more than our confession that 'Jesus is Lord" because that means Caesar is not.

That's why the kingdom on the left needs to be kept in its place, and kept as weak as possible. That is why I am a champion of limited government. That is why those pushing the nanny state on us need to be smacked down at every turn. I have every right and every responsibility because of my two kingdom theology to do this!

Remember, the nanny state has courts, judges, and jails. Frankly, I worry that people might end up facing these powers because the state told them to submit (and they would not), regarding an issue which only concerns the kingdom of the right--in other words, when the state attempts to prevent Christians from preaching, teaching, church discipline, and binding and loosing (matters which have nothing to do with the kingdom of the left).

The weaker the kingdom of the left is, the more constitutionally faithful it is, the better.
June 11, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger
I gave up on finding a "good" church. So I started going to the nearest one that confessed most of the essential Christian doctrines. (It also happens to be the nearest church) It is Southern Baptist. I do some teaching in Sunday School class, but other than some comments by me, I mostly just read the Bible. We study one book at a time. We find Christ in every subject. The class has grown spiritually, and in members as well. We use the "old" KJV Bible. My copy has no extra helpful notes. I think the Lord teaches, since the deacon in the class always prays that I don't lie. So I am not much interested in being confused by the latest modern Bible - the ESV.

I do read the SBC information from time to time, and if I let it, the Arminian / Calvinist argument will get me "down." But the last three pastors have been Sovereign Grace believers. The latest one is an "interim" and has problems with Calvinism, but he preaches "Calvinism when it comes to soteriology. I think the decline in membership may be just general apostacy that has invaded the church.

My 2 cents worth,

June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
"The government does have constitutional limits. Therefore, the concern with the nanny state is not my obedience--the concern is with Caesar's lack of obedience. In these kinds of matters, I don't see Caesar keeping his part of the bargain. That is why the nanny state ethos is nothing but trouble."

I've often wondered how far we can take this. The Founders might argue that if our government isn't obeying the contract (the Constitution), then it's time to get out the guns. Per Romans 13, I don't think we (Christians) could do something like that.
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwalt
Hi Zrim:

I wouldn't debate Dr. K too much. To quote Dirty Harry, "A man has got know his limitations."
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd
For what it is worth: You would think that "Caesar", would be able to give us two decent presidential candidates out of a country with 300 million people!!

They are now saying that every American will have to pay a half of a million to bail out social security. The national debt is totally out of sight. And "Caesar" just keeps printing more and more money.

Certainly, I believe in the providence of God, but we are in a much worse mess than "Caesar" is telling us. Even the Fed. Reserve Chairman Bernanke is starting to panic.

Fellow Christians, buy Gold.
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd
Just checked the website of the ESV study Bible; Good range of editors and commentators: Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, and even a few Baptists! Impressed by the quality. Charlie
June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

I'd prefer to think of it as less debating and more exploring how the implications of two-kingdoms seems to play out in different minds.


My point generally has been to wonder how to wrestle with the complications of being a Christian in our modern time and place. It has not been to suggest any sort of "disobedience" or to foist from your hands rights afforded anybody in our context. I would hope it would be clear that I have no problem with citizens under our social contract (read: the rules afforded us in our small sliver of the left-hand kingdom) taking issue with how the rules are being played by. But as long as I can be charged with missing points, the larger point I am trying to make, and seems to get missed, isn't whether or not we may do this as citizens of the LHK. It's not the more immediate concern THAT we can but what I would consider the broader implications of HOW and WHY.

"I worry that a government which thinks that it knows best, and can self-justify crossing the line into my personal business, is by nature no respecter of my two-kingdom distinction. The kingdom of the left has no business interfering with the kingdom of the right."

That's fine; but what happens when it does? What happens when Caesar is not particularly persuaded by Christianity generally or our two-kingdoms doctrine specifically? I understand fears of LHK intrusions into the RHK, but doesn't persecution nurtur truer piety?

I suppose my views are what make me such an awful activist and one who would rather work within the confines of the established order of things. Granted, those can be fuzzy and complicated lines. Maybe in another time and place I'd be found wearing a red coat?
June 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
"Would you not agree that the state is overly aggressive, and that those who work for it, frequently overstep their bounds? That is the point."

Can be, sure. But sometimes they don't. I think the point is actually how navigate through what it can mean to Xian piety to be so concerned over "our rights," etc. I realize it's pretty cut and dried for you, but I just see a lot more complications in all this, that's all.
June 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

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