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Founders speakers’ messages underscore genuine faith, Christ-centered preaching

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–The church in the new millennium needs to look again to the New Testament as the model for the methods and motives of its evangelists, two speakers told the annual Founders Fellowship breakfast June 13.

Preaching must be focused not just on Christ crucified but Christ arisen as well, they noted.

The fellowship was hosted by Founders Ministries, an organization of Southern Baptists who affirm the doctrines of grace, often called Calvinism. “Church Priorities in Y2K” was the theme of the meeting at the Orange Country Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Most Southern Baptist pastors are serving in unregenerate churches in an unregenerate denomination, said Jim Elliff, director of the Center for Biblical Revival at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo., in his address on “Evangelism with Integrity.”

Many Southern Baptist pastors don’t know what a true convert is, Elliff said. The apostle Paul’s writings to the believers at the church in Thessalonica in the Book of 1 Thessalonians offer a description of “real converts to Jesus Christ,” he said.

While “Calvinists are committed to evangelism and missions,” Elliff said pastors who hold to the doctrines of grace continue to be targeted because of perceptions of their theology.

“We are sometimes maligned because we are more careful to have real converts than spurious converts so that our numbers are often smaller than the church down the road,” Elliff said. Yet in the end, the numbers balance out because, within the larger churches, there is only a core of “true converts,” he said.

“It is glaringly clear that when we are not clear what a convert really is, it affects our evangelism,” Elliff said, warning that many church attendees are deceived about their relationship with Christ.

“As long as an individual believes that a convert is just a person who prays a prayer that is not even in the Bible and walks the aisle which is a practice not ever given to us in the Bible,” Elliff said the result will not be New Testament evangelism.

Paul did not refer to a convert as one “who prays a prayer and walks the aisle in his letter to the church at Thessalonica,” Elliff continued. The apostle recognized that converts were changed people, he said, explaining, “These people had a faith that really did work. They had a love that labored and they had a hope that endured in the middle of their afflictions.

“It’s amazing to me that somebody who calls himself a follower of God does not ever follow God,” Elliff said, noting that the Thessalonican believers lived such a godly life that Paul said he didn’t need to add anything to their witness to non-believers.

“They themselves were a testimony to everything that had happened,” Elliff said. “How many people on the rolls of your church can you say that about?”

These converts were turned from idols to serving God, Elliff said, pointing out that nearly two-thirds of those on the rolls of Southern Baptist churches don’t even show up on Sunday morning. “These people don’t have enough love for God to even do the cultural thing and go to church on Sunday morning,” he lamented.

“Biblical evangelism is that kind of evangelism that depends upon the Word and the spirit,” Elliff said, noting the trend is in the opposite direction.

Preachers are unfortunately focusing less on the Word and the spirit and more on “cleverness and technique” to draw an audience for the gospel, Elliff said.
“We have done something that never occurs in Scripture: plotting and planning and strategizing about how to get a crowd,” Elliff said. In the Bible, the apostles always preached on someone else’s turf instead of relying on marketing and entertainment.

“When we begin to accommodate to sinners, we often compromise our message,” Elliff said. He cited as an example a church in Kansas City that advertises a Sunday morning service that features “a live band performing a variety of rock-style music, including adult contemporary, oldies, jazz, blues and even disco, with the church’s pastor on bass guitar.”

The most common place for evangelism in the New Testament was the synagogue, Elliff said. “When they went to the synagogue, they refused to compromise their message. They brought the Word of God in a very forthright manner even though they were often persecuted.”

To a great extent, Elliff said, the effectiveness of evangelistic efforts are “vitally connected to the purity of the evangelist — the purity of his motive, his message and his method.”

In another address, “Preaching Christ in a New Millennium,” Fred Malone, pastor of First Baptist Church, Clinton, La., said the church doesn’t need to spend its time concocting new ways to attract people to Jesus. “We don’t have to beg people to come to church when they are coming to worship a God who humbled himself to save them,” he said.

Christ must be at the center of all that is preached and taught in the church, Malone said.

“The gospel is not just a set of propositions by which we explain to people the method of salvation,” Malone said. “The heart of preaching the gospel according to Paul is to preach that he was crucified for our sins according to the Scripture and he was buried and that he arose from the dead and he ascended to heaven.”

There is no difference between the beginning of the first millennium and today, Malone said. “Men are the same in nature. The gospel of Jesus Christ is unchanged. And the method that God ordained for such a millennium as the first is the same method he has ordained by the inspiration of Scripture for this new millennium,” he said.

Suggesting that pastors often are guilty of selling the gospel short, Malone said the gospel is more than a method of becoming right with God.

“We must preach the person of Christ and the work of Christ as well as the method of salvation for man, or we have not preached the gospel,” Malone said. “The gospel of Christ is the person and work of Christ.”

A superb evangelistic model for a new millennium is given plainly in the New Testament Book of Acts, Malone said. “There is more to those messages of Peter and Paul than Jesus is the only way to God. They preached Jesus Christ crucified and risen,” he explained.

“The resurrection is not as central to the evangelistic methods and presentations that are taught today as it was in the New Testament,” he said.

“Jesus Christ is not a name we drop here or there, not a method of salvation,” Malone said. “Let us not follow the naysayers and the inventors who leave the Scripture behind in a new millennium. Let us simply preach Christ.”

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings