Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

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Thornton's interesting breakdown

Postby Stephen Fox » Wed Jul 03, 2013 6:14 pm

I know here in Bama John Killian of Tennessee Temple is weary of Russ Moore and the ERLC. And as Bama politics break down takes Armistead over Rick Lance's Deacon Gov Bentley.

How far to the right can you go without all the twigs breaking?

I've said for five to seven years runnin, the true conversation begins between Al Mohler and Marilynne Robinson. Robinson's easily googled Q and A at Duke is good place to start.

With her as the center, like Colin Harris take on the tea party, Mohler and Trey Gowdy are more about the politics of distraction than integrity. All posturing and nonsense at some point. My analogy is imperfect, but good place for Thornton to spend his time, like Mark Noll's comment on Lincoln and Emily Dickinson and the fundamentalist juggernaut of the 1850's. Thornton hasn't addressed that either in the last seven years.

Dr. Thornton, my piece in the TJ today was grand. Will blog it soon. But tomorrow the focus is on a way to get to Simmons BBQ in Gurntersville, Alabama since Bridges in Shelby is out of reach. I got a shot at it, however, between now and middle of September.

Pray for me.

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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Sandy » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:35 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
KeithE wrote:I sense that is fading in this “Megachurch” era. Nowadays growth belongs to those churches that provide programs and services to their members and the only demand is that people participate and they unreservedly join the enclave. So I sense Kelley’s theory on church growth coming from demanding actions needs revision. To what I’m not at all sure nor am I beholding to any such theory. Quality more important than quantity.


I'm not sure the megachurch era is going to last. This isn't true for all megas. But many megachurches I have had contact with specialize in recruiting the already convinced and committed Christians from other churches, so many of them do not contribute that much more to the growth of new Christians. Also, at least those I've seen in Iowa often specialize in persons of a certain age demographic which I think is short sighted. If you're demographic is people 30-45 what happens in twenty years when those folks are 50-65? Well, if you don't refocus you are in the same boat all the rest of us are in.

I think there are exceptions of note. United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS seems to be more broad based in age and participation. I think that has a lot to do with the depth of the founding pastor, Adam Hamilton. What their future holds will largely depend on who follows him.


I've heard that Ed Stetzer, of Lifeway Research, has some information coming forth on the SBC's numbers of recent years. Comparatively, the decline in attendance and membership in the SBC is quite small, but it has set off alarm bells in a denomination where growth in membership and baptisms was increasing a decade ago. One factor which might explain the decline is that the number of churches submitting their ACP has declined from 90% of the total to about 80% of the total. Some of the new churches, and the non-traditional congregations don't place a high priority on sending in their annual profile, some don't even keep track of the membership or attendance in order to fill it out. That may be where some of the numerical drop is located.

Dwight McKissic put up a blog on SBC voices, noting that many Southern Baptist churches are not necessarily known for the characteristics of the fruit of the spirit as they should be. That, combined with the fact that they have pretty much saturated the upper middle class communities and suburban areas of the South, and you have a combination of factors that produce older, declining churches. The numerical decline is most noticeable in the state conventions in the areas of the country where Southern Baptists are the majority of church goers. The growth areas are seeing quite an increase in attendance, number of new churches, and membership, but the numbers aren't as large as they are in Dixie. And I think the megachurch factor is also a reason. As Timothy says, most megachurches gain their membership by offering a bigger program and attracting people who are already Christians from other churches. Megachurches baptize far fewer people, per capita, than smaller churches do, so when a megachurch puts smaller congregations out of business, the baptisms go down, because they aren't reaching non-believers.

I think Stetzer's report will reflect both of those things.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:29 am

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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Timothy Bonney » Sat Jul 06, 2013 9:46 am

William Thornton wrote:Prepare to be disappointed, brethren. Megachurches are not declining:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/february/explosive-growth-of-us-megachurches-even-while-many-say.html


I don't think I suggested they were declining yet. I think the big question mark for megachurches is the long term and not the short term explosion. What will people think of megachurches in 20 years? Which kinds of megachurches will do well? I think it is a new enough phenomena that no one really knows.

And of course megachurches are a city trend. You have to have a population base for a mega. Here in Iowa there are only a few cities large enough to have a megachurch. You get outside the cities and it is smaller churches for the most part.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Timothy Bonney » Sat Jul 06, 2013 10:42 am

Sandy wrote: As Timothy says, most megachurches gain their membership by offering a bigger program and attracting people who are already Christians from other churches. Megachurches baptize far fewer people, per capita, than smaller churches do, so when a megachurch puts smaller congregations out of business, the baptisms go down, because they aren't reaching non-believers.

I think Stetzer's report will reflect both of those things.


This is an area where you and I probably agree the most Sandy. I see megachurches as a consumerist American phenomena which adds few new follows to God's kingdom, damages smaller churches in its wake, and creates a dangerous localism. What I mean by that localism is that the megachurch is so big it doesn't need anyone else. It can turn inward. Again I see exceptions to that. But not as many as I would like. The local mega in our area is always happy to invite us to their BIG BIG events. But don't expect to ever see them at anything any of the smaller churches put together.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Sandy » Sat Jul 06, 2013 10:45 am

William Thornton wrote:Prepare to be disappointed, brethren. Megachurches are not declining:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/february/explosive-growth-of-us-megachurches-even-while-many-say.html


I don't expect that megachurches themselves will begin to decline anytime soon, at least, not as a movement. Individually, well, some of them are so dependent on their leadership, namely the pastor's personality, that they go down pretty quickly when something goes wrong. What they are doing is pulling members from smaller churches, and that's causing a decline in evangelism, because the megachurches aren't making new disciples like smaller churches do.

There's also a tendency for megachurches to be very selfish when it comes to their ministry focus. They're not interested in cooperative ministry because all of their resources are focused on doing things that promote themselves and their own programs. So they continue to grow. But in a megachurch, I think people miss out on elements of being the "ecclesia" and their spiritual life becomes dependent on church activity, and on the pastor's preaching, because he's the only qualified person in the congregation to interpret scripture. Ultimately, that's going to create problems. The other thing I see is that people tend to hop from one megachurch to another, depending on what they perceive their own needs to be. They never settle down, and they never become committed. And they never get to the point where they can use their spiritual gifts or be the member of the body of Christ they were intended to be.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:52 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
William Thornton wrote:Prepare to be disappointed, brethren. Megachurches are not declining:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/february/explosive-growth-of-us-megachurches-even-while-many-say.html


I don't think I suggested they were declining yet. I think the big question mark for megachurches is the long term and not the short term explosion. What will people think of megachurches in 20 years? Which kinds of megachurches will do well? I think it is a new enough phenomena that no one really knows.

And of course megachurches are a city trend. You have to have a population base for a mega. Here in Iowa there are only a few cities large enough to have a megachurch. You get outside the cities and it is smaller churches for the most part.


What will people think of your church (my church, if I had one) in 20 years? That is a troubling question.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Timothy Bonney » Sat Jul 06, 2013 9:05 pm

William Thornton wrote:What will people think of your church (my church, if I had one) in 20 years? That is a troubling question.


It is hard to say William. Over all think that a lot of traditional churches are going to go under or get a lot smaller. I expect to see the return of the days of circuit riders in my lifetime. We have 10 UMC churches in Sioux City of which only 3 are viable in the long term. I expect a day when there may be three Elders (pastors) for 10 or less churches in town and that each of us has at least three stations for ministry with lay persons filling much of the rest of the roles of leadership as we once did.

I also think there will be exceptions among churches that choose to make the big changes necessary to move forward and those few brave churches will continue to thrive. I'm guessing, from my reading, that it will only be small percentage of churches that will change enough to survive the next 40-50 years, at least in the forms we are in now.

I believe that God's church will survive but it may look very different down the road.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Jul 07, 2013 7:14 am

Timothy Bonney wrote:
William Thornton wrote:What will people think of your church (my church, if I had one) in 20 years? That is a troubling question.


It is hard to say William. Over all think that a lot of traditional churches are going to go under or get a lot smaller. I expect to see the return of the days of circuit riders in my lifetime. We have 10 UMC churches in Sioux City of which only 3 are viable in the long term. I expect a day when there may be three Elders (pastors) for 10 or less churches in town and that each of us has at least three stations for ministry with lay persons filling much of the rest of the roles of leadership as we once did.

I also think there will be exceptions among churches that choose to make the big changes necessary to move forward and those few brave churches will continue to thrive. I'm guessing, from my reading, that it will only be small percentage of churches that will change enough to survive the next 40-50 years, at least in the forms we are in now.

I believe that God's church will survive but it may look very different down the road.


One of the major challenges I see for all churches is the need for excellence to survive. Preaching will need to be done well. Music can't be thrown together at the last minute. Programming will require some careful planning. Youth ministry can't be a recreation time or a babysitting service. Churches are going to need to put resources into that which they can do well. In a world of televised and mega-religion, poorly done worship will not suffice. Preachers who never look up from manuscripts will be a casualty of this age. Repetition of the past won't take us to the future.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Timothy Bonney » Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:12 am

Dave Roberts wrote: Repetition of the past won't take us to the future.


I agree with that other than the fact that I think the Church kind of blew it creating a full-time professional class of ministry. I'm a very big supporter of theological education of pastors and ordained church leaders. But Methodists and Baptists both started out more as lay movements. When the Methodists first spread out over the US there was one ordained Elder for a given area and the lay people had to take on the responsibility of being the Church.

We've now created a system where many churches have a "let the pastor do it" attitude. Or in bigger churches "let the staff do it." So that up until recently the solution to more ministry is hiring more staff rather than getting more lay people out of the pew to volunteer to do something.

A number of years ago I saw Jeff Woods, Associate GS for ABC/USA propose the idea of clusters of churches where a fully trained pastor would be the consultant to the ministry of a group of churches rather than the every Sunday pulpit preacher. Looking back now the idea looks kind of Methodist. :wink:

But given the cost of seminary, the costs for clergy housing, salary, and insurance, I could see a day when many churches will opt for lay leadership over trained pastoral leadership. But if there aren't trained pastors around there are insights, values, and skills that could be lost. A traveling pastor/consultant could be a system to make the church more lay driven and less "professional preacher" driven.

We may be forced into such a system in the UMC where seminary enrollment has declined and the average age of the average UMC pastor is 58 years old.

This year in Iowa 32 pastors retired and we only ordained 5 new pastors. It doesn't take a math wiz to see where that is going.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:21 pm

Timothy, can you give me a link to the avg. age stat?
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:13 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
Dave Roberts wrote: Repetition of the past won't take us to the future.


I agree with that other than the fact that I think the Church kind of blew it creating a full-time professional class of ministry. I'm a very big supporter of theological education of pastors and ordained church leaders. But Methodists and Baptists both started out more as lay movements. When the Methodists first spread out over the US there was one ordained Elder for a given area and the lay people had to take on the responsibility of being the Church.

We've now created a system where many churches have a "let the pastor do it" attitude. Or in bigger churches "let the staff do it." So that up until recently the solution to more ministry is hiring more staff rather than getting more lay people out of the pew to volunteer to do something.


I'm not certain that it is possible to return to lay-led movements in Baptist or Methodist life, but I wonder how we can adapt the systems and the technology of today to the needs that are there. I believe in the importance of theological education, but I am not certain the traditional models of leaving the rest of life behind for 3 or more years are workable. The needs for new ways to deliver theological knowledge demand the use of regional sites, the use of computerized and other technologies to allow for learning outside the traditional theological classroom. There will need to be more consideration also given to models of lifetime learning. The costs of a four-year degree plus a theological degree can be astronomical and can leave ministers with educational debts that mean the salaries of churches cannot help them sufficiently to get them into ministry. It's a difficult situation. I have a son who is on a church staff, and staff salaries are far below many pastoral salaries, so the situation for churches seeking full-time staff is going to be even more bleak, and theologically trained people cannot afford to work part-time unless they have other major sources of income. Churches are boxing themselves in on this one.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:17 pm

William Thornton wrote:Timothy, can you give me a link to the avg. age stat?


William, I see an increasingly large group of folks who have officially retired and who do long-term interims. I have a friend who has been interim for a church for almost a decade. They could never afford a man with two degrees from two different seminaries, but in this arrangement they have a part-time minister with qualifications as good as those of many large churches. Another friend is approaching eight years (in two segments) with a small congregation than probably will never again be able to afford a full-time pastor with full benefits. Don't hang up your traveling bags yet, William.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:24 pm

Need a new topic, or two.

Dave, I have found the local market for both supply and interim work to be quite heavily overloaded with old dudes looking for such work. I attend two different minister's conferences. Both are filled with retired and semi-retired guys.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Haruo » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:11 pm

It's Biblical... "elders"
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:22 pm

Haruo wrote:It's Biblical... "elders"


Indeed. There is a preponderance of presbuteroi hereabouts.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:50 pm

William Thornton wrote:Need a new topic, or two.

Dave, I have found the local market for both supply and interim work to be quite heavily overloaded with old dudes looking for such work. I attend two different minister's conferences. Both are filled with retired and semi-retired guys.


I am a member of the Virginia Interim Ministers Network, and what I have found is that to do interims in this area, you have to be willing to travel. I did just over 16 months in Hampton--92 miles each way. I have talked to two churches--one 65 and one 90 miles away. Don't know what my chances are at either, but I'm grateful to at least be talking. There are areas overloaded with potential interims, others that have virtually none. They seem concentrated around Baptist entities like boards, seminaries, and agencies. There are some around me who even know more about the second coming than Jesus did and preach that every Sunday.
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Timothy Bonney » Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:17 pm

William Thornton wrote:Timothy, can you give me a link to the avg. age stat?


William[*]

William, here is a link that says 57. So that may be what is more accurate. http://www.flumc.info/cgi-script/csArti ... 003324.htm
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Rvaughn » Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:34 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:Having family members who were Primitive Baptists, I think Dort Calvinism is a dead end for the SBC. Eventually, if you believe that God has already determined who will be saved and that they will be saved no matter what efforts Christians make, then you are taking Baptist life back to a pre-William Carey period when evangelism and missions will cease to be important. Dort went beyond John Calvin who went beyond Augustine. The TULIP will be deadly for the SBC, IMHO.

One mediating factor may be that the most common Calvinism in the SBC is not very "Dortian". Most of it seems to resemble Fuller-Carey Calvinism or what some might call Amyraldism. Faught probably overused the term in his article. For example, he wrote, "What has alarmed many Southern Baptists is that about 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates identify themselves as Dortian Calvinists." On the other hand the Baptist Press article he is quoting says nothing of Dort, but rather, "Nearly 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates now serving as church pastors identify themselves as Calvinists..."
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Re: Calvinism Hard Right in a Left Hooked SBC

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri Jul 12, 2013 8:03 pm

Rvaughn wrote:
Dave Roberts wrote:Having family members who were Primitive Baptists, I think Dort Calvinism is a dead end for the SBC. Eventually, if you believe that God has already determined who will be saved and that they will be saved no matter what efforts Christians make, then you are taking Baptist life back to a pre-William Carey period when evangelism and missions will cease to be important. Dort went beyond John Calvin who went beyond Augustine. The TULIP will be deadly for the SBC, IMHO.

One mediating factor may be that the most common Calvinism in the SBC is not very "Dortian". Most of it seems to resemble Fuller-Carey Calvinism or what some might call Amyraldism. Faught probably overused the term in his article. For example, he wrote, "What has alarmed many Southern Baptists is that about 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates identify themselves as Dortian Calvinists." On the other hand the Baptist Press article he is quoting says nothing of Dort, but rather, "Nearly 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates now serving as church pastors identify themselves as Calvinists..."


I don't recall any footnoting to define what BP meant by "Calvinists." I'm not certain Faught gave source information defining this either.
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