November 14, 2007

He Might Be Right – Then Again He Could Be Wrong

Mark Dever gave a talk at Southern Seminary. He's a pastor of a Baptist church in Washington D.C. He founded 9Marks ministries. He takes church membership, discipline, and preaching seriously.

Key Paragraphs:

"The problem with the seeker-sensitive model, emerging church model and even the traditional model that say, 'Get as many people into a room as possible and share the Gospel with them,' is that they view success in light of visible fruit," he said. "All three of these approaches say, 'Change your techniques and let's get some numbers.'

"Instead of being directed by [visible] success, we should be directed by faithfulness. We should say, 'If the Lord doesn't like our product, we will change the product.' We shouldn't take the idea that if we don't have X number of conversions in our church, then we must be doing something wrong. I am glad Jeremiah didn't think that. And I am glad that Jesus Christ didn't think that. Let us remember that we are following the One who was crucified as a revolutionary."

OK. Could not agree more. Since salvation is of the Lord, and only God's to give, and really only God's to know, we should not be in the business of touting number of conversions. I'm convinced organizations do it for marketing purposes and not genuine heartfelt reasons. I've seen it first-hand. If we have a lot of "decisions" we can begin to slide in and take some of God's glory and think we had something to do with it. We can place our name alongside of God's name. And we look better in the process.

So I'm tracking with Dever here. But, is he really arguing against Biblical contextualization. Would you share the Gospel and teach the Bible the same way to a redneck from Mississippi as you would an inner-city black woman from Chicago?

Isn't context important? Isn't it of significant importance? Isn't that part of being a missionary?

I think it is. I think it has to be. I think Dever would say that himself.

"You must very clearly preach the Gospel, Sunday after Sunday, making it very clear what a Christian is [in such a situation]," he said.

"Second, you must be very patient. It took me two years to finish dealing with that issue, in a very stable, Bible-believing congregation. Get counsel from older men who agree with you theologically.

"And when the time comes, what is typically lacking in pastors in many cases is courage," Dever said, adding that it takes "courage to look at a man twice your age and tell him that he has been doing things wrong all his life. You must keep making it very clear what a Christian is."

Understand, the more clear you are, the narrower the definition. And the more you begin to realize that most people attending churches these days are still lost. And in a lot of ways, our preaching has given them false hope.

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