Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 3 at J2N: Missions Fest Halifax 2012

It certainly has been a whirlwind weekend. Unfortunately Sunday morning Liz had a migraine, and Phil was feeling under the weather, so Gracie Welch and I visited Windsor Baptist Church without their company. To spite their absence, is was wonderful to be in Windsor among family again. After a very nice lunch with friends we headed back to the city for the remainder of the missions conference. Liz was feeling much better, but unfortunately Phil was still under the weather and they needed to head home.

The missions conference concluded at about 4:30, we packed up our booth and got ourselves ready to visit at Sheffield Baptist Church. We very much were blessed to be among our friends at Sheffield and share a ministry update with them.

The entire weekend was a huge blessing and encouragement to both of us, as we connected with new friends and old, gave ministry update and talked to people about the ministries of NCEM and Arrowhead.

We headed home Monday, stopping along the way for a couple of errands for this weekend's Men's Retreat.

Yesterday, Andrew Ardern, pastor of Cumberland Bay Baptist Church, was heading to NBBI for a chapel service. He and Kayla asked Liz and I to accompany them, and Andrew gave up a portion of his chapel time for me to share an Arrowhead presentation. It's always great to connect with the Bible school students. Volunteer recruitment is a huge part of what happens at this time of year, and paints a picture of the ministry the Lord is building for the coming summer.

The rest of this week will involve cleaning and preparation for the Men's Retreat - we have in the neighbourhood of fifty men coming. Please pray for the weekend, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will go forth and that the Lord will make way for men to come and begin to build a relationship with our Lord!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 2 at J2N: Missions Fest Halifax 2012

It's been another great day at Missions Fest Halifax. We had the opportunity to connect with a lot of people and talk about ministries within NCEM and at Arrowhead. It will certainly be interesting to see how the Lord uses these contacts for His Glory.

Liz, Venus & Gracie

Liz at the NCEM / ANBC Booth

Each mission represented had the opportunity for a five minute radio interview with CJLU, a local Christian Radio station.

Keynote speaker K.P. Johannan

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 1 at J2N: Missions Fest Halifax 2012

Liz and I met with Phil and Gracie Welch in Halifax today for Missions Fest Halifax. Jesus to the Nations is an annual Missions Conference that is held at Mount St. Vincent University. Many evangelical mission organizations and para church organizations gather for the opportunity for PR, recruitment and mobilization. It is a wonderful opportunity to connect with friends in other missions, and to engage with other individuals for the first time. It is an opportunity to connect with thousands of individuals who are interested in missions in any number of capacities. Some are seeking opportunities to serve for both short and long term, and some are looking for opportunities to support and encourage those involved in missions. Others still, are simply curious about just what missions are doing. We have very much enjoyed the first evening of the conference and are looking forward to a great weekend. If you're in the area stop in and see us!

Liz & Gracie at the NCEM / ANBC Booth

Phil & Grant at the NCEM / ANBC Booth

Venus is here at J2N as well

Craig, James & Martha (New Brunswick Bible Institute)... sorry Alisha is missing from the picture... maybe we'll catch her tomorrow!

Brian Seeley (HCJB Global) and Sarah Barnes (Wycliffe)

Liz and Judy Porter (Jesus 2 the Nations)

Brad Somers (Pax North) and Stephen Somers (Pioneers), Stephen has served with us at Arrowhead as guest speaker for teen camp in the past and we are excited to welcome him again for our teen camp 2012.

Merla Gogel (SEND International) and Liz

Our good friends Martin & Sue Bear (Rising Above)

Grant & Rob Flanigan (OMF)

Our friend Ewen MacKillop is at seminary and is studying for ministry

Our long time friends Doris Singer and Cathy Blois representing Compassion.

Our buddy Paul Patterson is on the Praise Team for the conference!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

THE GOSPEL & the sinners prayer

This is a topic that is sensitive to many, it is personal and it is important; and it is because of this importance that I feel we need to step back and take a much closer look. The sinners prayer is an issue that we must wrestle with, but we must first understand just what the issue is surrounding it.

As was the case with the article regarding altar calls, this may be the very way in which you came to know the Lord. Your testimony may certainly be that you "invited Jesus into your heart" by uttering the words of the sinners prayer; and if you have a wonderful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, Praise Him! It is, once again, not my intention to disparage the testimony of those who have come to Christ in this way. It is my hope to draw attention to the multitudes who have spoken "the sinners prayer" and gone on into lives of sin, with no relationship in Christ, yet believing in their minds that they are Christians. It is my hope to encourage you to strive to do the work of discipleship to the greatest of your God given ability, using His Word as the foundation of the Truth that it is.

The question is, just because something is pro-active and achieves large numbers of apparent converts, does this qualify it as Biblical or sufficient? At the risk of sounding like a broken record; Biblically speaking, our best is not sufficient (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10), so our mediocre is certainly not. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is worth taking the time to communicate well. It is my contention that "the sinners prayer" is the product of a desire to evangelize (in our minds) that does not express adequately our understanding for the need of solid Biblical discipleship that reflects our own beautiful, rich and maturing relationship with the Saviour. It is not my contention that the sinners prayer is wrong or sinful. It is my contention that "the sinners prayer", as it exists in evangelism today, misses the mark and is most often unwise. Bare with me, this will become apparent.

There is no single specific written example of the sinners prayer (in scripture or otherwise), generally speaking it is some incarnation or another that includes the major "points of salvation", but more often than not it neglects some important facet of a relationship with Christ, while it tragically over-simplifies the richness of a relationship with the Lord of the Universe. The following example was taken from a children's evangelism booklet and is indicative of an average presentation of the sinners prayer (note that it completely disregards any mention of a need of repentance);

"Dear Jesus, I know you are God and you created all things. You are perfect; I am a sinner. You are the only one who can save me. I believe you died on the cross and took the punishment for my sin. I trust you as my Saviour. Thank you for loving me so much. I know you will keep your promise to take me to heaven to be with you."
The dangers of such a gospel presentation can be very similar to that of the altar call. Below I have revised Pastor Ryan Kelly's list to reflect some issues with the sinners prayer.
1. The sinners prayer is simply and completely absent from the pages of the Bible.

2. The sinners prayer very easily confuses the physical act of “praying” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.” These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is uttering a prayer (and vice-versa).

3. The sinners prayer can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we “uttered a prayer.”

4. The sinners prayer can mislead us to think that salvation happens only by a prayer that is spoken aloud.

5. The sinners prayer can confuse people regarding “sacred” things and “sacred” words. The prayer itself can become an idol, and a totem to cling to.

6. The sinners prayer is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend. The sinners prayer is something that is most often rushed into and pressured to be spoken for humanistic reasons.

7. The sinners prayer is often seen as the "way to come to Christ", and the important distinctives of repentance and submission are lost.

8. The motivation to speak the sinners prayer is most often a selfish one, strictly to keep the individual out of hell. This condition of the heart has not achieved a level of surrender to the Lord that He requires.
As with altar calls, the connection between the sinners prayer and easy believeism is in the timing and pressure. The church at large has been seeking for hundreds of years to develop formulas and edicts from scripture to simplify every aspect of Christian living; including but not limited to, Church structure, Bible version, rules for living, evangelism & Gospel, business, culture etc. It is far easier to follow a set of rules laid down by church leadership than to seek the Lord in His Word daily as we are commanded (Psalm 34:10, 1 Chronicles 16:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). This attitude of "simplifying" our relationship with God has spilled over (as it is wont) into the way in which we evangelize. (I say evangelize so that you will know what I am talking about, but Biblically speaking, evangelism is not simply something we "do", we are all called to evangelize in our very lives. Matthew 28:16-20) Yet we have reduced evangelism, or perhaps better - discipleship, to a formula, and in doing so we have done the greatest injustice to our Saviour and His Gospel. The over-simplification of this facet of Christian living is a reflection of a deeper problem within the church. Christianity is about a relationship with the Lord of the Universe, yet we do not value our relationship with Him enough to come before Him daily with our everything. We make our rules, so that instead of coming to Him we can simply look to our rules and move on, missing His leading in our lives. This shirking of relationship is reflected in the way we worship, the way we live, the way we evangelize and the way we understand Him. This misunderstanding of who God is (as He is described throughout scripture in His attributes) then warps our presentation of Him to others and very easily allows us to misrepresent what it means to have salvation in Him.

Living Christ, surrendered to him or not, is a reflection of our relationship with him. The following spoken word video most graphically expounds the absolute necessity of taking up our cross daily and following Him. Our attitude in Christ will affect the way in which we disciple others.

Biblical discipleship is a lot of work, and involves building relationships and teaching through the Gospel. It is done out of a desire to minister and bring the Gospel in a permanent and multiplying way. That it might be understood for the beautiful Truth that it is, and grow.

Last summer I had a teenager tell me she had "become a Christian" every summer for nine summers at Bible Camp - but she couldn't tell me the first thing about the Gospel other than she "prayed the prayer" every year. It begs the question, had she missed the Gospel of Jesus Christ because we were far to focused on the end of the story instead of the context of the story - the details?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins with God. It must. Christianity is about a relationship with Christ, yet we glaze over who He is and skip right to the end, encouraging people to engage in a relationship with a God they do not know. Doing them (and the Gospel) the greatest disservice in the process. The idea of "Get them saved and teach them later" is not a Biblical one, is dangerous and is all too common. It forsakes the necessity of having any understanding of the rejecting our sin for the sake of Christ... this Truth of the Gospel is not something that can be "done later" it is part and parcel in coming into a reconciled relationship with Him.

This may shock you, and if it does, this series of articles has been written for you. Speaking the sinners prayer does not save people, it does not usher masses of people into the kingdom. Just like walking the aisle to an altar call doesn't save, the sinners prayer can so often be a path to a "false conversion". Yet we evangelize as though these magic words will usher people into the Kingdom of Heaven. We do no work to teach or to ask our young "convert" any questions about what they understand of God or sin or mankind, but we goad them into muttering a half hearted sinners prayer as though this is indeed sufficient to save. Then we wonder why so many fall away.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" ~ Matthew 7:21-23
A missionary friend of mine who serves through street evangelism encountered a woman on one occasion and presented her with a Gospel tract, as so often he does. She happily accepted it announcing that she had already "said the prayer". In fact she was so excited about this prayer that she had it tattooed on the calf of her leg. You see, she had no real understanding of the gospel, yet she had made an idol out of the words themselves; as though it were those very words alone that had saved her, when in fact she had not been "saved " at all. With no understanding of God in His Holiness, and man in our separation from Him by sin, and repentance of that sin before the Cross, there can be no reconciliation, no matter what words may be spoken.

Here are a few more statistics from Ray Comforts book "God Has A Wonderful Plan for Your Life", these, again are taken from chapter six "The Motive and the Result":
• Between 1995 and 2005, Assemblies of God churches reported an amazing 5,339,144 decisions for Christ. Their net gain in attendance was 221,790. That means that 5,117,354 (over five million) decisions could not be accounted for.

• In Sacramento, California, a combined crusade yielded more than 2,000 commitments. One church followed up on fifty-two of those decisions and could not find one true convert.

• In Leeds, England, a visiting American speaker acquired 400 decisions for a local church. Six weeks later, only two were still committed and they eventually fell away.

• In November 1970, a number of churches combined for a convention in Fort Worth, Texas, and secured 30,000 decisions. Six months later, the follow-up
committee could find only thirty still continuing in their faith.
You can read an excellent example of Christ avoiding a "simple" Gospel presentation for the sake of a false conversion in Matthew 19:16-22. Christ, could very easily have led this young man in a prayer, he was clearly "Interested in things of the Lord". But He didn't, he challenged the young man with surrendering his life, this challenge brought out the true heart of the young man and he ultimately chose to follow that with which his affections truly lay. How many of us would simply have led the man in the sinners prayer and pronounced Him saved? God did no such thing.

Another excellent example of a Gospel presentation is Paul and the Phillipian jailer in Acts 16:25-34. The jailer asks what he must do to be saved, concerned with saving his physical self, Paul and Silas answer him with respect to how he could be saved spiritually. The two men then taught Him from God's Word and implored Him to Believe on the Lord. They did not sit him down and ask of him to "repeat after me", they taught about God and His Word and what salvation in Him is.

When we presume to say "repeat after me" what position do we put ourselves in Spiritually between the person we are discipling and God? We presume upon them to make a huge assumption.

If we have done the work commanded of us, to disciple and to teach, there will be no need for us to teach a prayer to anyone, or have them "repeat after me". The convicting Word of God will do it's work. When a person, in whom the Holy Spirit is working, comes to understand the Holiness of God, they will all but collapse in humility and joy for their salvation. They will mourn for their sin and seek to place it at the foot of the cross; there will very seldom be a need for studied words of "salvation" from the back of a booklet. There will be a complete and utter change of heart, that is salvation.

This is an excellent comment from a missionary "With all of the controversy around the sinner's prayer I have encountered over the years, I have finally come to the conclusion that I have no problem with the sinner's prayer... as long as it is prayed by the sinner. It is not called the "Saint's Prayer" for a reason. In Luke 18 we find a publican praying a sinner's prayer that I can not find fault with... and he was not coaxed, bribed or enticed by someone else as far as we know to pray it." (You can read this example in Luke 18:9-14.)

The repentant prayer of a sinner, not as a written creed, but as an honest outpouring of a contrite heart for the Grace of a Holy God is not something that should be condemned, criticized or snatched away. As I mentioned at the outset of this blog post, I am not seeking to condemn, but to implore; that we might all seek to disciple and to teach not seek to convict and to save. I will begin to talk about just how this might be achieved in the next blog.

Please take the ten minutes to listen to the below illustration from Paul Washer, it may help to clarify where I have not.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

a beautiful day, a rental and a little mishap

It was a busy day at Arrowhead today. We had a rental at the Center for most of the day; the Sussex Christian Academy used the facilities for some leadership training with some of their students. Liz worked diligently in the kitchen and I was asked to present to the kids for an hour about Arrowhead, NCEM, missions and our call to ministry. It was a great opportunity to share what the Lord has been teaching us over the past few years as we've begun to work with NCEM.

Some of Liz's handiwork for snack time.

We were anticipating the delivery of "the Quiver", Arrowhead's newsletter, today by post. It didn't come with the mail, so I thought perhaps it was delayed. While I was taking the garbage to the dumpster after lunch, I heard the rather distinct sound of airbrakes hissing up at the main road. I thought perhaps the delivery was being made by truck, so I hopped in the camp truck and buzzed up to the road... to find this:

The driver had decided to turn around in our driveway and slid off the edge of the road. You can see in the second picture where he had been sitting before I pulled him out. He detached the trailed and I gave him a bit of a tug with the truck to get him moving. After some maneuvering he got all sorted out and on his way... but not until after delivering five small boxes of magazines. Ah... it's always an adventure! If you'd like to receive one of these magazines, just let me know... I promise not to send it in such a big truck.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

forks & festivals

For those of you who have been following my series on The Gospel, this is a short departure from that series to update you on some of the happenings at Arrowhead. You will be able to read the next post in that series in the next couple of days.

Liz and I have been busy preparing for the ANBC Men's Retreat and the upcoming work week in April. There is much to do in preparation for these events. There is a rental at Arrowhead tomorrow, we will be hosting Sussex Christian Academy for a one day retreat with their Leadership Class. This is a great opportunity as they have asked that we present the ministry of ANBC and NCEM to the students.

On Friday, Liz and I will join Phil and Gracie Welch in Halifax to represent NCEM at Jesus to the Nations. We will be there from Friday to Sunday and while in Nova Scotia will take the opportunity to visit with some friends at churches on Sunday morning and evening. We wish that we had more time to stop in and visit with some other churches as well. If you are going to be in Halifax for the weekend - or live in the area - drop in and visit us at the NCEM table.

A brand new "Quiver" has been printed and we are awaiting delivery of it today or tomorrow. If you have not received a copy of Arrowhead's Newsletter in the past and would like to, just drop us a line and we'll be more than happy to send one along! we have also prepared our newest prayer letter - and if you would like a copy we'd be happy to send that along to you as well.

This past week we very much enjoyed a visit from Lizs' parents. They took vacation time to come and visit with us, but Carl, Lizs' father, couldn't be stopped from working. We were blessed to have him build and donate a set of forks for our tractor at ANBC. These will be versatile and allow us to move things more easily as well as provide a stable platform for a counter balance, should we be moving something heavy with the bucket. we can't thank them enough for their kindness to us and to Arrowhead.

Almost finished, fabricating from scratch.

The finished product.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

THE GOSPEL & the altar call

This is, once again, an issue with a rather broad spectrum of ideas with respect to evangelism and The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the altar call is generally understood to be a product of decisionism, it is most often an accompaniment of an easy believeism presentation. You can read about these issues in my most recent blog post.

There are those of you who may read this, who came to Christ as a result of an altar call. That may very well be your testimony, and Praise the Lord that you have a relationship with the Savior. My intention here is not to disparage the testimony of those who have walked the aisle, but to draw attention to the multitudes who have walked the aisle and gone on into lives of sin, with no relationship in Christ, yet believing in their minds that they are Christians. The question is, just because something is pro-active and achieves large numbers of apparent converts, does this qualify it as Biblical or sufficient? A friend of mine wrote an excellent series of articles, they primarily address the issue of Christian Criticism and accountability, but he draws out some excellent points with respect to "Is Good, Good Enough?"; I suggest you give the entire article a read. Biblically speaking, our best is not sufficient (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10), so our mediocre is certainly not.

There is an excellent article by Thabiti Anyabwile that approaches this issue with great clarity. The following list of reasons NOT to hold altar calls is presented in his article as quoted from Pastor Ryan Kelly of Desert Springs Church.
1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.

2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.

3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of “coming forward” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.” These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).

4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we “went forward.”

5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.

6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only “up front.”

7. The altar call can confuse people regarding “sacred” things and “sacred” places, as the name “altar call” suggests.

8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.

9. The altar call is often seen as “the most important part of the service”, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).

10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship.
Thabiti Anyabwile adds one last item to Pastor Ryan Kelly's list;
11. The “altar call” teaches the congregation to evaluate the “success” or “effectiveness” of the ministry on outward, visible actions and results.
This is an excellent summation of the dangers of the altar call. Thabiti makes an excellent point in his article as well; "I don’t think the pastor who practices an “invitation” at the end of a sermon is in sin, but he may not be acting wisely either." Which serves to return us to the issue of - is 'good' ever really good enough?

The connection between altar calls and easy believeism is in the timing and pressure. Most often - the altar call and the sinners prayer lead to a false conversion. A false conversion is bourne out of ignorance of Gods Word and is not evidence of a repentant heart. Scripture says we will be known by our fruit (Matthew 7:16, John 13:34-35), Biblically speaking, this is a 'tell' that someone has made a false confession. When a confession of Faith has been made and an individual continues in a willful lifestyle of sin, this can be an evidence of a false conversion - or at the very least a complete misunderstanding of the Gospel. How can one repent and follow God and then willfully continue in the sin that separates him from God (Romans 6:1-2)? Herein lies the evidence of a "false conversion."

If someone has no understanding of who God is and what it is that separates us from Him, there can be no real understanding of a need for a Savior (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10). This misunderstanding is a byproduct of easy believeism.

The issue of manipulation and pressure is a serious one. Coming from a background of marketing and design, I can tell you that the use of colour, light, sound, scent, texture, music, associative behavior (product placement), etc.; all of these things contribute to, and are regularly used as manipulative tactics. It is no secret that man is easily manipulated, yet God's Word calls us to live honestly and love completely (Mark 12:28-31, Micah 6:8). When we seek to manipulate and cajole people into walking an aisle and making a profession, we seek to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-7, Titus 3:5, John 16:8, II Thessalonians 2:3-10). We must always remember just what our role is meant to be, before God and before the world. The Holy Spirit will do His work, we must do ours. (II Corinthians 2:14-16)

In this short three minute video, Todd Friel shares some excellent insights about altar calls, but most specifically with respect to manipulation and it's place in church.

It's a lot to consider and our heart and goal should be simply to be as clear and Gospel oriented as possible - so as to allow the world to hear and understand the Truth, in God's timing - not in our own (2 Peter 3:8-9). Generally speaking the altar call is a method to achieve a goal, accompanied often by the sinners prayer as the easiest means to an end. That is, ostensibly, to see someone come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is an excellent goal (and should be our ONLY motivation), but it is not our role to convict and to save, it is our role to disciple and to teach. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Ray Comfort has some excellent information about the long term effects and result of altar calls in evangelism in his book "God Has A Wonderful Plan for Your Life". The statistics are grim and should inspire us to seek to evangelize to greater effect by engaging in the work of discipleship. The following are just a few statistics taken from chapter six "The Motive and the result" (I highly recommend you read the entire book to get the comprehensive list of statistics and information);
• At a 1990 crusade in the United States, 600 “decisions for Christ” were obtained. No doubt, there was much rejoicing. However, ninety days later, follow-up workers could not find even one who was continuing in the faith. That crusade created 600 “backsliders”—or, to be more scriptural, false converts.

• In Cleveland, Ohio, an inner-city outreach brought 400 decisions. The rejoicing no doubt tapered off when follow-up workers could not find a single one of the 400 who had supposedly made a decision.

• In 1991, organizers of a Salt Lake City concert encouraged follow-up and discovered, “Less than 5 percent of those who respond to an altar call during a public crusade . . . are living a Christian life one year later.” In other words, more than 95 percent proved to be false converts.

• In 1985, a four-day crusade obtained 217 decisions. However, according to a member of the organizing committee, 92 percent fell away.

• A church in Boulder, Colorado, sent a team to Russia in 1991 and obtained 2,500 decisions. The next year, the team found only thirty continuing in their faith. That is a retention rate of 1.2 percent.

• According to Pastor Elmer Murdoch, “Chuck Colson . . . states that for every 100 people making decisions for Christ, only two may return for follow-up a few days later. George Barna says that the majority of people (51 percent minimum) making decisions leave the church in 6–8 weeks.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has value, it has great value. It is the single most important thing you will ever come to understand and the single most important thing you will ever communicate. It absolutely deserves your attention and a clarity of presentation; it is worth the time needed for the discipleship expected of us. God has given us the entire Bible to communicate the gospel to us, why do we feel the need to reduce it to formulas and over simplified untruth?

We must shout the gospel from our very lives. Live it always, preach it as often as possible, and disciple everyone that we come into contact with. We must plead with people to hear the gospel and to know God.

The Gospel is not complicated, mankind in our depravity (Ephesians 4:17-18, I Corinthians 2:14, Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 4:19, Romans 7:24, I Timothy 4:2) is complicated.

Friday, March 9, 2012

THE GOSPEL & easy believeism

As can be expected, there are varying understandings of The Gospel of Jesus Christ, how it should be presented and what it means to become a follower of Christ. Ultimately there is only one that is in keeping with the whole of God's Word. One approach that has caused much dissension within evangelicalism is best known as easy believeism. When discussing this topic with my pastor, he recommended I read some of what MacArthur had to say on the subject, and honestly I found his writing to be very clarifying. For anyone who would like to read about it at greater length (and from someone far more scholarly than I) check out The Gospel According to The Apostles by John MacArthur. MacArthur makes distinction between decisionism and easy believism in his book, I make no such distinction here. Although easy believeism is not a prerequisite for decisionism, they often go hand in hand and both come from a faulty hermeneutic; easy believeism most often employs decisionism but it is not always the case in reverse. This will become more apparent.

I came across the following quote as the heading for chapter 12;
"If you were to suggest that the time would come when a group of evangelical Christians would be arguing for a salvation without repentance, without a change of behavior or lifestyle, without a real avowal of the lordship and authority of Christ, without perseverance, without discipleship, and a salvation which does not necessarily change one's life, most believers of several decades ago would have felt such would be an absolute impossibility. But believe it or not, the hour has come." ~ Richard P. Belcher
Although it may seem that this is not an issue we should even need discuss, there was a time, not all that long ago, when I would not have understood the distinctives of easy believeism and would have very quietly slid in under it's umbrella as an over arching understanding of The Gospel at large. So I approach this topic with respect and openness, and hopefully with a humility that recognizes God's Word as the final authority on everything.

Easy believeism holds hands with high pressure evangelism and sheds the very important distinctives of The Gospel and discipleship for the sake of simplicity and expediency.

Perhaps the best way to begin would be to explain what it is not. The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins with God and His Holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45). It begins with just who God is as outlined in His Word {Holy (1 Samuel 2:2), Immutable (Psalm 102:25-27) Creator (Genesis 1:1, Colossians 1:16), Eternal (Isaiah 44:6), Justice (Job 34:12), Truth (John 14:6), Powerful (Genesis 1), Jealous (Exodus 20:4-5), Merciful (Psalm 136:1), Wrathful (Romans 2:6-11), Patient (Nahum 1:3), Compassionate (James 5:11), Omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24), Omniscient (Psalm 147:4-5), etc.}.

We live in a world where you will have as many understandings of the word god (and Jesus) as the number of times you ask the question (Ezekiel 22:28, Mark 13:6; 21-22) - it is vital to begin the gospel with who God is, emphasizing His perfect Holiness; that He is all of His attributes all of the time in perfect harmony. Based on scripture we are not meant to assume anyone has any real understanding of God outside of His Word.
"no one understands; no one seeks for God." ~ Romans 3:11
The Gospel of Jesus Christ then teaches us who we are - our perfect creation and subsequent fall into sin. Our relationship to Adam and fall into sin is an important distinctive that must not be overlooked. (Romans 5:12-21) Mans attributes of sinfulness is a topic that is repeated thematically throughout the Old Testament, over and over - the Old Testament highlights for us our need for a Sacrificial Lamb - our need for redemption. The entirety of the Old Testament points to Christ, it is the meat of the Gospel that is overlooked by easy believeism.
"The law reveals our sin (Romans 3:20) and is a tutor to lead us to christ (Galatians 3:24)" ~ John MacArthur
The highlighting of our sin and our separation from God - that God is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:3-4) and Triune (Ephesians 4:4-6) and Holy (1 Samuel 2:2) and everything that is not perfect and Holy is separated from Him and that this separation is called sin (Romans 6:13 & 23, 1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:6, Luke 16:15, Deuteronomy 25:16). The conclusion of the gospel is then the story of Christ, His Deity (John 1:14, John 10:36, John 5:32,37), His sacrifice of life and death and His resurrection. It is then the work of the Holy Spirit to convict, (John 16:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10) and our role to disciple and guide and teach (Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1:8)

Easy believeism snags passages of scripture from the New Testament (often out of context) and makes the gospel as palatable as possible. Neglecting the work of discipleship and teaching, it requires only that an individual believe in God (or god) and that belief alone is sufficient to "get to Heaven". Easy believeism often does not even quantify what it means to "believe".

There are two significant issues with this; One, the motivation for coming to the point of "accepting Christ" is as a method of "fire insurance" (or to keep ones self from the fires of Hell). It is done strictly for the best good of self - to save ones own soul by enacting a formula. We cannot disregard the patent humanistic approach here. When the gospel is presented as a way of betterment of life, even only in the idea of eternal delight in heaven, we have done a great disservice to the truth of God's Word. Ones motive for coming to Christ is an evidence of one's understanding of just who God is and our position of separation before Him. If someone is seeking a relationship with God for the sake of saving their own soul, they do not yet fully grasp the Holiness of God and why He deserves our complete surrender. Eternal life with God in heaven is a beautiful byproduct of coming to Christ, it is a consequence and should not be a causation. (John 14:3, 2 Peter 3:12) Presenting the gospel as a mode or method of achieving eternal life is tantamount to the Prosperity Gospel. The idea that life is better with Christ is not a Biblical one, we are told throughout scripture that a life of following Christ is one of adversity and difficulty (John 15:18-25, Matthew 10:22).
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." ~ Luke 9:23
There is an even greater issue with an easy believeism presentation that arises. Take the following dialogue as an example:
"Billy are you saved?"
"Do you want to go to heaven?"
"Yes - I suppose so"
"Well you know Jesus died for your sins and all you have to do is invite Him into your heart - and you can go to heaven"
This is an excellent example of an easy believeism presentation. It does not take into account the gospel at large. Consider these questions; Who does Billy think God (god) is? If he has not read the Bible or been taught, his perspective of who God (god) is will be based solely on his cultural and religious influences. One must assume that he most likely has very little concept of the God of the Bible (Romans 3:11). What does Billy think sin is? Who is Jesus in Billy's estimation? What is heaven? These are all questions we should ask Billy and talk to Billy about to avoid a false confession.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not exclude the need for repentance... easy believeism ignores this very important fact. Christ Himself called for repentance;
"and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ Mark 1:15
Another issue with this sort of presentation is the "invite Jesus into your heart" tact. Nowhere in scripture are we asked to invite Jesus to live in our hearts. This idea originates from Revelation 3:20 " Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." and is the result of a faulty hermeneutic. This passage was written to a church of believers, not to a single unbelieving individual. It does not draw the picture that we are led to believe that it draws. This approach suggests that we ourselves can do something that will lead to our own salvation; ie: say a "sinners prayer". Scripture teaches us that Christ alone can save us. (Romans 1:16) Once again, inviting Jesus to live in your heart is a formula for salvation that completely disregards repentance and in many cases any need for any real Biblical belief in God or acknowledgement that He is perfect Holiness and Lord.

We are taught in God's Word that we must come before the Throne of Grace in humility and fear (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10) and confess our sins - repent of our sin and profess our faith - our belief - acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Universe. Repentance is so much greater than simply "saying sorry". To apologize or say "I'm sorry" implies that it is done for the sake of self, out of fear of the consequences alone. True Biblical repentance is a turning away from sin, a shedding of that which separates us from God, for the sake of His Holiness.
"but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance." ~ Acts 26:20
Belief is so much more than simply acknowledging the existence of God. Easy believeism can completely ignore the difference between believing God exists and acknowledging that God is Lord of the Universe (there is a vast difference there). True Belief is falling on your face before the God of the Universe and confessing that He is the Lord of ALL (1 Chronicles 29:11, Acts 16:31)
"You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" ~ James 2:19
The great comission calls us to make disciples and teach (Matthew 28:19-20) - easy believeism wants us to convict and to save - and we cannot, are not qualified to and should not try.

There are two excellent examples in scripture of Jesus Christ himself engaged in evangelism (there are far more than two, but I have chosen these two). In neither situation does He suggest someone should walk an aisle, sign a card, raise a hand, pray a prayer, or any other formulaic response to the message of the gospel (these are all tactics of decisionism, often employed by easy believeism). Both of the following examples condemn easy believeism as faulty and incomplete presentations of His Word and the relationship with Him that can only begin with our repentance.

Read how Christ responds to the rich young ruler in this passage: Matthew 19:16-22. How many evangelical Christians would have led this young man, apparently sincere, in the sinners prayer; given him a false sense of relationship with Christ and ushered him on his way to a life of ignorance and a false confession? Christ sent him away because he was unwilling to abandon his life to God! There is a great lesson here.

Read how Christ leads the thief to repentance on the cross, Luke 23:39-43. Jesus did not make any demands of the man, and the man did not utter a prayer; he simply confessed that Jesus was Lord and acknowledged first that he was indeed a sinner and second that there were consequences of his sin that he most certainly deserved.

Neither of these examples offer any hint of the easy believeism method of evangelism that is pervasive among evangelical churches today. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has value, it has great value. It is the single most important thing you will ever come to understand and the single most important thing you will ever communicate. It absolutely deserves your attention and a clarity of presentation; it is worth the time needed for the discipleship expected of us. God has given us the entire Bible to communicate the gospel to us, why do we feel the need to reduce it to formulas and over simplified untruth?

We must shout the gospel from our very lives. Live it always, preach it as often as possible, and disciple everyone that we come into contact with. We must plead with people to hear the gospel and to know God.

The Gospel is not complicated, mankind in our depravity )Ephesians 4:17-18, I Corinthians 2:14, Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 4:19, Romans 7:24, I Timothy 4:2) are complicated (which is something I will talk about in a subsequent blog post).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life

God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life
by Ray Comfort

I'd heard about this book from several friends, and after Liz read it and strongly recommended I read it, I did. I had no real idea what I was getting into when I first began, but as the book progressed I found that Ray has an excellent way of bringing out some poignant truths. Using scripture, statistic and sound Biblical reason Ray paints a picture of modern day Christendom and evangelism that is a bit hard to look at.

We will be making this book available (and mandatory) for all of our summer volunteers at Arrowhead this summer. If you are planning to be with us in any capacity and would like to get a jump on reading this book, you can either order a free copy or download the audiobook for free by visiting or by clicking HERE.

If you are involved in ministry, if you are involved in church, if you are involved in evangelism of any kind, you should read this book. As Ray Comfort dispels misconceptions about evangelism he encourages Christians to find Truth in God's Word.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Habitation and Maranatha

This weekend we had the privilege of presenting the ministries of NCEM and Arrowhead Native Bible Center at two different churches in Nova Scotia. Sunday morning we were blessed to be able to share at Lizs' home church in Port Royal, Habitation Baptist Church. It was encouraging to be able to be there, we were given a large amount of time to update on the mission and some of the new programs and exciting changes at ANBC.

As soon as the morning service was over in Port Royal, we had to hit the road. Bound for New Glasgow, we 'picnicked' on the road and arrived in time to set up our table and prepare for the evening service at Maranatha Bible Church (formerly Munroe Avenue Baptist Church). This was the first visit the church had from an NCEM missionary, so we were excited to introduce ourselves and the ministries of NCEM and ANBC. Our friends Rick and Emily Mitton have been serving at Arrowhead for five summers and are now serving in ministry at Maranatha Bible Church, with Pastor Rick serving as Associate Pastor.

After the evening service we enjoyed a meal and fellowship with Rick and Emily and headed home to Cumberland Bay at about 9pm. Unfortunately it had started to snow, and our journey over Mount Thom (those of you who know... know) was less than enjoyable. After we passed through the Cobequid pass it was much smoother sailing and we landed home about 1:30am. It was a busy day, but it was a wonderful encouragement and blessing to be with everyone and see their excitement in the ministry as well.