Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Why Bother?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on November 18, 2008 at 8:22 pm

I have stated on numerous occasions to my Reformed Baptist (Confessional) brethren, that the vast majority of those that God loves, that Jesus has saved, is sanctifying, and using to build His kingdom do not agree with us.   The question can then come, why bother to hold to (and I know this is becoming a dirty word) our distinctives?   If holding to certain truths causes many to not want to be in our churches and others to leave our churches, why bother to hold to them?  Are we just plain stubborn?  If  God is blessing brethren who do not hold to the Lord’s Day Sabbath, who do not believe in the Regulative Principle of  worship (at least as it has been defined and defended and practiced for decades), and who do not practice serious churchmanship, then what are we doing?   I have realized for years that there are things that I could begin to do or stop doing which would grow our church.  We would instantly become more appealing. Why then am I such a stick in the mud?

A favorite text of mine for years has been Paul’s admonition to Timothy

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. 2 Timothy 1:13-14

Paul is about to depart from the scene.  He is going to be leaving the church, not only in the hands of the Chief Shepherd, but imperfect men as well.  These men would have trouble in their churches.  They would live to see the day when those in the churches would not ‘endure’ sound doctrine.  This sound doctrine would be rejected and in its place would come many popular trends.   These “preachers” would fill their churches, while the faithful man would live to see his numbers diminish.  This man desires to see sinners come, he desires to see the churches full, but at what cost?

Paul foreseeing such days urges Timothy to, Preach the Word!   To give the very thing which people are rejecting!  Give the very thing that they don’t want to hear!  Why bother?  Because we do what we do in light of the coming day of judgment (see 2 Tim. 4:1)! We labor as those who will give an account to the God who has spoken. When I think of the question, Why bother?   I think of at least three things.

The first reason is a clear Bible. By and large, those things that we are seeking to promote and defend in our generation are very clearly laid out in the Scriptures.  That the Scriptures are sufficient and authoritative for all of church life, that the church exists preeminently for God, that God is sovereign in the salvation of sinners, that God should define what worship is, etc are not doctrines hidden away in obscure portions of the Scriptures but easily found and clearly articulated.

A second reason why we “bother” is the worthiness of the Savior.  The death of the Lord Jesus accomplishes not only the satisfaction of the wrath of God toward the elect, but the promise of the perfection of the church.   Jesus gave his life unto the end that His people would be zealous for good works, that they might proclaim the glory of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.  He is worthy to have churches that take His word and worship seriously.

Finally there is the matter of needy men.  There are saints of God who long for such churches as a place of refuge.  They are tired of compromises, they are tired of not being fed, they are tired of business as usual in the 21st century church.  Many of us can remember when certain doctrines and practices were new or strange to us, but we are thankful that our friends or pastors stayed the course. When we think of needy men, we also include unconverted men.  Those in search of the Savior, who are seeking Him in His word will be most satisfied where He is most clearly revealed and where His word is most faithfully followed.

Why bother to hold to the old ways, the old doctrines?  Because the orders which the Holy Spirit gave to Timothy two thousand years ago have never been rescinded!

James Savastio

  1. The problem is, Pastor, that many in RB churches are being trained that the sum and substance of Christianity is sermon listening. Rather than equipping the saints for ministry, they are becoming pew potatoes. How so? Because the typical RB pulpit ministry consists of the study and the pulpit, while neglecting hearts and people. This has happened in my church. Over half of the long standing members have left because the Pastors are not involved in their lives beyond the pulpit. A whole generation of the church left (largely made up of teenagers) and the pastors didn’t say a word to them (kids who had grown up in the church). For some RB churches, the ministry is primarily academic and your average Joe is drying up on the vine because they don’t comprehend Greek participles and just want to serve Jesus in their daily lives.

    If people are leaving, you should ask why? Not just assume you’re standing for the truth. Perhaps God is humbling our churches. Maybe we shouldn’t be harping on attendance at stated meetings and should be winning people with love. Just a thought…

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  3. Thank you, Mr Savastio. What a tour de force! I constantly thank God for drawing me to a Reformed Baptist Church and its pastor and members on my way to conversion. I do feel a certain horror at the possibility that I might have been converted in another church or even another denomination with contrary central doctrines. The thought that I might have been defending these watered-down doctrines with the same tenaciousness with which I espouse my current calling brings tears to my eyes; just considering the close escape I have experienced.

    I have asked of many pastors and elders why God allows different denominations in His kingdom, and not received a satisfactory answer. Your post goes some way to opening my understanding a little more.

    I do have friends to whom the idea of predestination is repugnant; and the doctrines of grace simply not evident in their reading of all our proof texts. I find this incredible, but I trust in God to save many even out of these hordes of people who don’t ‘make the cut’ in the Reformed universe.

    I’m privileged to belong to a church that has a very strong youth and Sunday School ministry, so, I can say without false pride that the concern expressed in the 1st comment above is well on its way to being addressed.

    Let them call us the ‘chosen frozen’; I have a warmth in my heart that they not of! Yet the challenge for me is to let this glow in my soul cause my light to shine so brightly that men may see the good works of the Lord my God by me, and glorify His holy Name. Amen.

  4. Dear David,
    I appreciate your taking time to write. I realize that the kinds of issues you make…having preaching that is over the head or even dull and academic can happen in many circles, are troubling. My point here is that not that we can have determined orthodoxy or loving, vibrant discipleship, it is that we can and should have both. I believe that I speak for every pastor that I personally know is saying that we long for the people of God to be equipped to do the work of ministry. The work of the kingdom is carried out by God’s people throughout the week and not simply for a few hours on the Lord’s Day. However, the best way for them to be equipped is by holding fast the faithful word generation after generation. That, as you say, must be done in a climate where every member does his part and the body grows in love toward Christ and one another. A healthy church has a sound head (the point of this particular article) and a sound heart.
    Thanks again,
    Jim

  5. Jim,
    Thank you for the article. I needed it. Amen to it!!

    Jeff Smith, Easley

    David Rondo,

    If I might comment on your comment. Brother David, I agree that we ought to always engage in self reflection…etc… and if a particular church is not prospering etc…not merely assume that it has nothing to do with problems in us(Jim, I trust you know, was not doing that). Often the problem may be with us in some area. I have at times sought to engage in constructive criticism concerning tendencies that may be found in some of our churches and have been found in me in an effort to promote the advancement of God’s kingdom through us, and this of necessity sometimes involves making qualified generalizations. However I think we have to be very careful about making generalizations. I have been growing very uncomfortable when folks make broad brushed charges about Reformed Baptists such as…”Rather than equipping the saints for ministry, they are becoming pew potatoes. How so? Because the typical RB pulpit ministry consists of the study and the pulpit, while neglecting hearts and people” I seriously question whether this is the case with “the typical RB pulpit ministry” It may have been your experience in a church but my observation over the years(as one who has been in many RB churches and knows well many RB pastors) has been to a large degree the opposite. I came out of a Baptist context in which there was little pastoral oversight and shepherding. One of the things that was attractive to me about RB’s I came into contact with was an emphasis on pastoral shepherding. I find that this is one of the things that sometimes actually attracts people to an RB church(as well as repels some people). However I can’t speak for every RB church nor would I seek to do so. I guess I’m just saying that my experience and observation over the years doesn’t exactly jive with yours. It has also been my experience that many RB ministries are not at all “primarily academic”. I have found most that I’ve been exposed to, to be very practical and applicatory and in fact it has been my observation that this is one of the greatest strengths of many RB ministries as compared to what is typical today. Certainly I do think some RB pastors(including myself) need to work harder at communicating effectively and in common language to this generation and there is much need for improvement. However I have found that the emphasis on pastoral shepherding of the sheep individually and applicatory preaching(both of which you imply are lacking) has in fact been a reason sometimes that people do not want to be part of an RB church, not the lack of these things. The average American who attends church it seems wants to just show up(when they please), get an uplifting sermonette, go home and not be bothered and this is considered “loving”. Friend, let us be cautious about making broad generalizations based on an experience in a certain context. Let’s allow each church and individual ministry answer for itself. Of course, perhaps you have observed these things in many contexts. Perhaps I’m just naieve and am missing what is happening out there somehow. I will just say for myself that many of the best most faithful shepherds I know are found among RB pastors.

    From the Heart,

    Jeff Smith

  6. Fair enough Pastor Smith, my apologies. I should not have painted with such a broad brush. In my particular case, we’ve lost a lot of good people who love applicatory preaching and pastoral shepherding. However, when the pastor only calls you when you’re going to leave the church, or doesn’t know that your teenaged son stopped attending the church over a year ago, it kind of makes it hard not to be adversely affected. It’s also a little rough to hear a series of messages on doing good works in the community and having hospitality when the pastors don’t do anything in the community and haven’t invited you over for dinner in almost 10 years. I don’t know, you tell me…

    Let me offer this parting word of exhortation and take it to heart if it applies, spend less time in the study and more time in the lives of your people. Play basketball or attend something in which the young people of your church are involved. It will speak volumes about your ministry.

    From the heart,

  7. Dear David,
    Thanks again for your note. I agree with you…that many pastors would actually become far more effective preachers the more they love the people of God! It is one of the two things Jesus explicitly told us to imitate him on…love one another and wash the feet of one another!
    Jim

  8. I concur with Jeff Smith on the dangers of attempting to tar all Reformed Baptist churches with the ‘staidness’ brush. From my viewpoint, as a ‘consumer’ of RB theology since I was converted in 2003, I can honestly say that the direct and applicatory preaching I have had the privilege of attending has built me up very quickly in the most precious faith. My hunger for scriptural knowledge and a deep desire to share the Word with the unconverted has led me to prayerfully consider signing up for our local preacher’s college.

    As churches, we’re unlikely ever to be fully satisfied with our level of outreach to both the saints and the seekers, but I take much encouragement from the events that have recently taken place in the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia, where I live. There is a strong renewal going on in Christian education circles; Reformed Baptist churches have just formed a Reformed Baptist Church Association; and churches in southern Africa subscribing to reformed theology have recently formed the Sola 5 organisation ( http://www.sola5.org/ ).

    We have an annual Reformed Family Conference in Zambia attended by many church members from neighbouring countries; we have drawn speakers from as far afield as the USA (Jeff Noblitt, Dr Jim Grier ( http://jamesmgrier.org/ ) and Dr Voddie Baucham), Namibia, South Africa and the UK, among others. This is a joyful event with activities, encouragement and teaching for all age groups and continual attendance those visitors who still need evangelising.

    Of course, in the course of our weekly services at Lusaka Baptist Church, we experience more than our fair share of disaffected visitors who are tried by the length and comparative sombreness of the sermons, the sober note of the singing and the overall orderliness of our worship. But I am glad that we don’t pander to the needs of this minority at the risk of offending those that are more than adequately catered for by the conventionality of the services.

    I’m inspired by the piety, the love for their flock, and the sense of urgency to preach to the spiritually poor and needy that I see among my reformed brethren in the pastorate ministry. There is no other place I would rather be, but in their company. At least until Jesus comes again.

  9. Sikamena, that’s great. I hope you never experience what some have. May God bless Zambia…

  10. Dear David,

    I grieve with you brother over the hurts you have apparently experienced. I agree that pastors should seek to know their people intimately and their needs and not just spend time in the study. Have you attempted to calmly and graciously speak with your pastor (or former pastor) about your concerns? If not I would encourage you to do so. I’m sure you would desire that if he had any grievances with you they would not be communicated in a public forum when he has not come to you himself? I say this, acknowledging brother, that I don’t know all your situation and there may be factors I’m not aware of. I just mention this for your consideration. As a pastor I do welcome David any input you can give to me as a sheep of Christ concerning how pastors like myself can better minister to their people.

    It is true that sometimes we can become distracted with the work load of our ministry and think we are really ministry to our people when in fact they have needs that we are noticing or taking the time to find out about. May God help us to be faithful balanced men who deeply love our people.

    Sincerely,
    Jeff Smith

  11. Pastors Smith and Sevastio,

    Thank you for your gracious comments.

    Pastor Smith,

    Pastors have been met with and these issues discussed by me and many others, for years, with little change. I shall say no more in this public forum about the matter. I trust I have been sufficiently vague as to avoid offense. However, I felt that these issues need to be discussed. I appreciate your humility and your comments have been encouraging…

  12. David,
    One more thing…if you would like to email off list, my address is jdsavo@aol.com.
    The Lord bless and keep you,
    Jim

  13. Dear Pastor Savastio,

    Thank you for your observations and stand for what a pastor should be doing, and why he should be doing it. It echos my own thoughts perfectly. Thank you for stating it so well.

  14. You are not alone! We are asking ourselves the same questions at our church – and coming to the same conclusions! We have to pray for each other – that we will hold fast and be faithful even when it isn’t fashionable or popular.

  15. If a church is convinced that these things you mention are scriptural then they should continue doing them. And, I suppose if their pulpit ministry is good, people might be willing to be a little presbyterian in some areas. 🙂

    Personally, I’m not convinced that either the regulative principle or the christian “sabbath” is scriptural. I wouldn’t choose to die on either of those hills.

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