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Church’s failures fuel growth of cults, Phil Roberts says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The growth of cults in America is primarily the result of the church’s failure to faithfully carry out its biblically ordained purpose of ministry, Southern Baptist cults expert Phil Roberts asserted April 9 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The director of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s interfaith witness evangelism team noted Southern Baptists are gearing up for a major evangelistic blitz of Mormon-dominated Salt Lake City during the upcoming SBC annual meeting.
“We’re going to see the largest concentration of evangelistic effort for any city in North America take place this year in Salt Lake City,” Roberts said. The campaign will include television commercials, direct mail and a thousand college and seminary students undertaking a “10-day mission, if I can use that word, blowing the Mormons’ minds with Baptists knocking on their doors for a change!” he declared.
Roberts also noted the six Southern Baptist seminaries are “joining hands” in an unprecedented effort to sponsor a four-day workshop on Mormonism the week before the SBC’s June 9-11 annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Led by the NAMB interfaith witness team, the workshop will feature lessons on Mormon theology and how to witness to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. About 150-200 seminarians are expected to participate, according to Roberts.
The growth of aberrant religions and New Age cults “has absolutely nothing to do with either sociological or cultural reasons,” Roberts insisted, in a message preached from Ephesians 4:11-14. Instead, “The growth of cults is due to the unpaid debts of the church.
“When the church fails to do the ministry God has called it to do and to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with fervency and effectiveness, we create a seedbed, a foundation, for the growth” of cults, Roberts said.
Roberts explained that New Age best-selling fiction author James Redfield said in a recent newspaper interview he turned away from his mainline Protestant upbringing because “all he heard were moralisms and platitudes and political speeches from the pulpit. … He never heard anything that fed his soul, that gave him spiritual insight or taught him the way of salvation.”
The church’s “unpaid debts,” according to Roberts, can be seen in faulty methods of evangelism, ecclesiology, doctrine and missions.
Children who are encouraged by their parents to walk the aisle during the invitation and are baptized the same day without any sign of true regeneration become “prospect number one for the cults,” Roberts said.
He contrasted such evangelism with a German evangelist whose invitations at the end of crusade services are for inquirers to attend a three-hour counseling session. During the session he explains the gospel, the theology of salvation and what the Christian life means. The evangelist then passes along to pastors the names of inquirers, 60 percent of whom become members of local congregations.
An overemphasis on the individualistic aspects of the priesthood of the believer is an example of improper ecclesiology among Baptists, Roberts said. Although it is true every believer has direct access to God through Jesus Christ, its “vertical” aspect, Roberts pointed to a need “to re-emphasize the horizontal level. We’re called to minister to one another.” Cults provide the caring and fellowship people are seeking but fail to find in too many churches, he explained.
Another “unpaid debt” among Baptist churches, Roberts said, is the failure to teach doctrine. Many Baptists are converted to Mormonism because they are impressed by Mormon missionaries who seem to have answers to all their questions and who teach their beliefs with “genuine conviction,” Roberts said.
“The problem in our churches is not that people have had too much doctrine. The problem is that they haven’t had any,” he added. “They haven’t been taught and grounded in the truths of God’s Word in an effective and in an interesting way that shows them its relevance.”
Southern Baptists have also suffered a failure of missions, Roberts said. Mormons currently send out 50,000 missionaries per year and have set a goal of having 100,000 annual missionaries by the year 2005 and hope to baptize 1 million converts per year. This aggressive enterprise is a result of the fact that missions is a “part of their culture” in which children are taught by their parents to look forward to their two-year mission, Roberts said.
“They’ve created a culture where the exceptions are the ones that stay. We’ve created a culture where the exceptions are the ones who go,” Roberts said.
“Somehow we have to recapture the vision that everyone, especially young people, have a very real and important part to play, not just in assistance and service ministry, but in actual evangelism and the spreading of the gospel around the world.”

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  • James A. Smith
  • James A. Smith, Sr.
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