David Platt’s Message at the 2012 Pastor’s Conference of the SBC

Dr. David Platt’s name was on the program to address the 2012 Pastor’s Conference. I have Dr. Platt’s book, Radical and found it to be very inspiring and especially challenging as he talks about the importance of being radical for Jesus in our part of the world that is dying and headed for a devil’s hell. I do need to transform the way I live so that the world will see the Good News that Jesus came to bring to us all! I have also listened to the video clip of his message at the Verge Conference where he talked about the misuse and irresponsible use of “the sinner’s prayer.” I understand that it is very easy to be overly critical of things people say because of comments they may have made in the past and because of comments made by other people or groups they may be closely associated with. It is easy to read too much into some statements. I am very much aware of that tendency.

However, when I listened to Dr. Platt blast “inviting Jesus into your heart” I was certainly taken back. To assert that this practice is unbiblical was in fact, incorrect. To suggest that it is a superstitious practice is insulting and that it is in fact damning was simply inexcusable. While much of Dr. Platt’s message may have had merit, it is interesting that this 3 minute clip was what was chosen to encourage people to order the digital version of his message in its entirety. Needless to say, I did not do so. Had Dr. Platt’s comments been made apart from the theological implications surrounding this new emphasis on “The Gospel” and getting the gospel right, and this revival of Calvinism in the SBC and its effort to correct decades of incorrect theological foundations being taught in the church today, Dr. Platt’s words might have gone unnoticed. However, when you factor in the controversy over Calvinism that is growing by the minute in the SBC and the reluctance of some to the theological differences posited in the varying soteriological positions now being promoted, his statement was especially significant and I believe deliberately stated.

With that in mind, I reluctantly decided to go and sit down to listen to David Platt’s message to the 2012 Pastor’s Conference. His second paragraph referenced his comments in the popular 3 minute internet video clip and his effort to be more deliberate. I thought, ok; let’s see what he has to say and as he goes to a very familiar text, John 3, prefaced by the last 3 verses of John 2.

After reading the text, Dr. Platt said,

Let us beware the danger of spiritual deception. Verse 23 – “Many trusted in his name.” Verse 24 – “Jesus, however, would not entrust himself to them.” Many trusted.  Many people in John 2 believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe them. Many people in John 2 accepted Jesus, but Jesus did not accept them. Clearly, from the beginning of the gospel of John—this gospel that revolves around the necessity and centrality of belief in Christ—John makes clear to us that there is a kind of belief, a kind of faith, that does not save.

It was at this point that I decided to get up and leave the conference center. This is all I heard of Dr. Platt’s message to the pastors that afternoon. “Many people in John 2 accepted Jesus, but Jesus did not accept them.” This reverberated in my mind and given the reluctance to even bother sitting down in the first place, I admit, I simply decided to exit instead of sitting through the remainder of his message. I have since coming home, read Dr. Platt’s message in its entirety and my comments will come from the manuscript provided of that message. You may read his message in its entirety by CLICKING HERE.

Platt indicates that John employed the 3 verses of chapter 2 to intentionally set the stage for Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus. It is true that Nicodemus’ statement is similar to the statement in chapter 2 in that there is a common reference to the signs that Jesus had done; but understand something; everyone, those who were on the street as well as those in the Sanhedrin were talking about Jesus. So, while there are similarities in the two statements, the former does not necessarily set the stage for the latter as Platt attempts to assert in the opening part of his message.

Let’s look at the second chapter in John.

Jesus has not fed the 5000. There is no Biblical record that He has healed anyone. The record of His first miracle is recorded for us by John beginning in verse 1. John is the only writer to record this event. Jesus is at a wedding with His mother. She comes to Him and says, “They have no wine.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:3-4) This is an interesting statement and one that has perplexed me for years. What was Jesus saying to Mary? Perhaps He knew that the moment He performed a miracle publically, His ministry would be set into motion and His date with destiny at Calvary would be set. I believe that is exactly what Jesus was saying to His mother. Note verse 11: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

Apparently the wedding feast at Cana was just before the Passover celebration in Jerusalem and Jesus went. His popularity had begun to spread. There was excitement in the air. People knew about Jesus even though they may have never actually seen Him or heard Him speak. Rumors began to spread that He could be the long awaited Messiah. He went into the Temple and ran the money changers out. “So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” (John 2:18) Everyone heard what had happened!

Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem was a lot like Dr. Platt’s statement on the sinner’s prayer; everyone was talking about it. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.” (John 2:23) John does not tell us what signs Jesus did that caused people to “believe in His Name.” I do not believe it is an accident that John deliberately used the phrase, “believed in His Name.” The Bible tells us Jesus taught the people and I believe they no doubt “believed in His Name” and I unlike Dr. Platt believe they were saved. Listen to John’s next statement: “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

John does not say Jesus rejected their faith.

We can debate the interpretation of John’s statement here concerning Jesus’ response to those who believed in His Name but one thing is crystal clear to me; John does not say Jesus rejected their faith. John says, Jesus did not commit Himself to them. I believe John is simply noting Jesus’ reluctance to let this outbreak become an influential event at the Passover celebration which could lead to a public promotion of Him as the Messiah! John simply says Jesus knew their thoughts; He knew once again, His hour had still not yet come. I see this reluctance on Jesus’ part as being similar to His telling people on a number of occasions, to go and tell no one about the miracles He had just performed.

So what about Nicodemus’ coming to Jesus and the dialogue that ensued in chapter 3? Nic did acknowledge the signs that Jesus had performed, although I believe the signs he was referring to may have been very different from those the people on the street saw. I believe Nicodemus probably was explicitly referring to Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, although that is not specifically mentioned in the text. Nicodemus complimented Jesus: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus responds immediately to Nic’s compliment and says to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He repeats Himself in verse, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’.”

I believe Dr. Platt takes a very liberal stab at this early dialogue as he says,

So Jesus looks back at Nicodemus and says, “Your belief, your trust is insufficient for salvation. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is shocking. Here is a devout, passionate, respected, law-following, God-fearing man. He has devoted his entire life to entering the kingdom of heaven. He prays to God. He studies God’s Word—he teaches it and he lives it. And he does all of this in an effort to honor God. Yet Jesus says he has no spiritual life in him whatsoever. This man of faith who believed in Jesus was dead in sin, and at that moment he was destined for condemnation. That is frightening. It is frightening in John 2-3 to see people who would have thought that they believed in Jesus and said that they believed in Jesus, people who would have thought that they were entering the kingdom of heaven, but they had no spiritual life in them, and they would not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Now, there is a serious hermeneutical problem with the following statement that Platt makes; “This man of faith who believed in Jesus was dead in sin and at that moment he was destined for condemnation.” Nicodemus was not saved. He was not a believer in Jesus.Platt is correct in saying that he is dead in his trespass and sin but he in serious error when he suggests that Jesus is rejecting Nicodemus as a believer in His Name. Platt completely steps out of bounds in this statement to try to justify the theme and thrust of his message.

Now, Platt changes direction and asks,

“Is this possible? Is it possible for people to say they believe in Jesus, to say they have accepted Jesus, to say that they have received Jesus, but they are not saved and will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Is that possible? Absolutely, it’s possible. It’s not just possible; it is probable.”

Here Platt gets on track and he is absolutely correct. He accurately quotes Matthew 7:22-12. However, he immediately gets off-track in his next statement.

“Jesus is not talking, in Matthew 7 or in John 3, about irreligious pagans, atheists, or agnostics. He’s talking about deeply, devoutly religious people who are deluded into thinking that they are saved when they are not. He’s talking about men and women who will be shocked one day to find that though they thought they were on the narrow road that leads to heaven, they were actually on the broad road that leads to hell – people who believed, but were not born again. Beware the danger of spiritual deception.”

John 3 is not speaking of people who are deluded into thinking they are saved when they are not. Matthew 7 does, but not John 3. Dr. Platt has simply erred in his effort to flesh out the text.

Dr. Platt changes direction in his message to speak of the beliefs and lifestyles of those who consider themselves to be “born-again Christians.” His message here is on track and dead on. I will point out that he is speaking of people in general and not those in the SBC specifically. That distinction being made, the condition of those confessing to be “born again in the SBC” will not fare much better. The distinction however, must still be noted. Here is what is especially interesting. Dr. Platt moves from the wayward “born-again” condition to the use of a “sinner’s prayer” that he was so critical of just a short time ago. Dr. Platt has meticulously set the stage to justify his position on the misuse of “inviting Jesus into ones heart.” Dr. Platt offers the testimonies of two of his church members who as youngsters prayed a sinner’s prayer only to come to the realization later in life that they in fact had not really been saved and following a more accurate presentation of the gospel they were truly saved and now were on fire for the Lord and doing great things for Him.

Listen to Platt’s preconceived conclusion to all this:

“I don’t think Tom and Jordan’s stories are unique. They represent a pandemic problem across contemporary Christianity, and some of you have the same story. You made a decision, prayed a prayer, signed a card, got baptized. You were told that you were a Christian, and you know now that you were not. You were deceived.”

Well, I am sorry but the fact that these individuals were still in the race may well indicate that they were actually saved in the beginning; they have simply persevered as the 5th tenet of Calvinism contends. Who is Dr. Platt to determine who was or was not saved at an early age, simply because someone later in life came to question their original decision to trust Christ; especially when the preaching they are sitting under questions the validity of those earlier decisions in the first place.

Platt goes on to state, “The question that John 2-3 begs us all to ask is, “What kind of faith are we talking about?” What kind of faith are we calling people to? Are we calling people to biblical faith?”

No one would disagree with this statement however, it would be prudent to remember conversion is the beginning point; not the final destination. No one becomes a Christian understanding the full ramifications of a relationship with Christ that is to grow and mature. So this criticism of what is and what is not “Biblical faith” has a lot of implications. There is no question that there is an attitude of “easy believism” that creates casual or cultural Christians or what Paul calls carnal Christians. Platt concludes that these are not “true Christians.” He says these folks are “Christians who do not know Christ, who have never counted the cost of following Christ; we must be biblically clear about saving faith, lest any of us lead people down a very dangerous and potentially damning road of spiritual deception.” Platt demonstrates his determination to continue his original position that the sinner’s prayer is dangerous and damning.

Platt then goes back to his original thesis of trying to tie John 2 to John 3. He says, ““What is the difference, then, between spurious faith that marked the crowds in John 2, and saving faith according to Christ in John 3?” What is the difference between false, superficial faith, and true, saving faith?” As I have already pointed out, I am not sold on the correlation that Platt has attempted to build between the references to “believing” in these two chapters and I am confident Platt’s insinuation of Jesus’ rejection of the two types of believing is completely baseless. Platt is correct that we need in our preaching and sharing of the gospel to point out man’s problem with sin and his inability to do anything about it. This is absolutely essential in the presentation of the gospel message.

I might also point out, the sinner’s prayer itself is always a response to a message and is virtually never the message itself and that is a point that is skimmed over in most of these discussions related to its use or misuse.

In giving credit where credit is due, Dr. Platt nails it as he says,

“This is man’s problem, and we must make it clear. Our problem is not that we’ve messed up a few times. Our problem is not that that we’ve made some bad decisions. Our problem is that we are dead in sin.

So what can save us from this state – raise your hand, say these words, sign this card, walk this aisle? We all know that none of these things can save us. What we don’t need is superficial religion; we need supernatural regeneration. We are dead in sin, and we need to be born again.

So how can a man be born again? Scripture resounds with a clear answer to that question. Two primary words: repent and believe.” Repent and believe.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” – Acts 16:31. The Gentiles in Cornelius’ home “believed” in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17). And that’s the word that’s used all over John 3 and this entire Gospel. Seven times from verses 11-21: “believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe.” Repent and believe.”

We tell men and women, boys and girls everywhere: repent and believe in Christ. Whether we say, “Pray this prayer after me,” is not the issue. The issue is that together we say, “By the grace of God in the cross of Christ, turn from yourself and trust in Jesus. Come from darkness to light. Come from death to life.” We urge people, “Believe in Christ. Follow Christ.”

We tell them, in a day of rampant easy-believism, “Following Jesus will cost you everything you have, but He is worth it!” Repent and believe in Him. Receive new life, eternal life. Look to Him and live.”

Amen and Amen!

This section is as solid a message as anyone could preach. It is indeed the gospel message. Repent and believe. “We tell men and women and boys and girls everywhere to repent and believe in Christ! Turn from yourself and trust in Jesus. Believe in Christ; follow Christ. Receive new life, eternal life. Look to Him and live.”

If this is the appeal at the end of a gospel filled message, then whether or not one calls it a sinner’s prayer or invitational evangelism, I am all for it and I will continue to employ it until the Holy Spirit tells me different! I will continue to till the ground, plant the seed, water and weed the ground and leave the results up to the Father!

To God be the glory, AMEN.

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Is There a Reformed Conspiracy to Take Over the SBC?

The following is a comment I left at SBC Voices concerning an article, titled, “Is There a Reformed Conspiracy to Take Over the SBC?” The article can be read by clicking HERE.

For the record, there is no Reformed conspiracy to take over the SBC. You are correct. A conspiracy would involve a “secretive” effort. Calvinists are way past that point and are successfully extending their reach farther and farther into SBC Life. There is a marked difference in the Convention and the entities. You are correct in your statement that the SBC is an annual meeting of messengers who vote to do or not to do certain things.

The entities of the SBC are entirely different. The trustees make decisions that determine the direction of the various entities. The trustees of NAMB elected the new President. They voted “sweeping changes” of NAMB in Feb 2011. The same thing is true of the seminaries. Trustees are responsible for the leadership and direction of the entity they are charged to oversee. Same for Lifeway. Trustee appointments are crucial to the overall health of the convention because the entities are kind of like a rudder on a ship. It may be one of the smallest parts of a ship, but it is the most important part when it comes to navigating the direction of the ship.

While I do not claim any conspiracy theories, there has been a definite effort to get key people in key positions in the various entities to give the Reformed Platform the visibility it needs to prosper and the viability it needs to persevere. To try to argue against this is ludicrous. Here is an excellent article that speaks to the positioning of key people in the seminaries, NAMB and Lifeway that are clearly and carefully charting the course for a Calvinistic led SBC. The article is titled, “Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention: Code RED” Most of you know I wrote the article.

Anyone who understands how the SBC works understands that those who control the entities eventually directs the future of the convention. Like it or not, it is the way it is. The Reformed minority has managed to gain control of the entities and that is reality. They have done a masterful job in accomplishing so much with so little attention on what they have done.

Although there are several conversation points on Dave’s article, I will focus mine on the following:

Dave wrote, “And that is where the problem (positions of influence in the SBC) arises. Calvinists are no longer contented to sit silently in the rear pew. Calvinism is now a real threat in the SBC to those who view the doctrine as a threat to the gospel and to Christianity. It can no longer be ignored. Those not willing to coexist with it must fight against it.”

My concern can be seen in the statement in bold above: who view the doctrine as a threat to the gospel and to Christianity.

It is crystal clear that the influential Calvinists in these leading positions clearly understand THE GOSPEL as that presented in the DOG. For the Calvinist, Calvinism IS the most consistent form of Christianity. Why should you expect me to sit back and say… I do not agree with you guys on that minor detail but hey… I can agree to disagree; let’s just all get along and cooperate and hey… it is no problem that you are teaching that to college and seminary students that are going to go into our churches and teach something that we do not believe in… there is no problem with THE GOSPEL PROJECT that is written by leading Card carrying calvinists who are not going to write literature that is inconsistent with their theological perspective… come on! We all know better!

of course I am sadly omitting the caveat here… that the reason I am not a calvinist is because I don’t really understand it because if I did understand it, I would be one. This is not an issue that I can in good conscious just “agree to disagree on.” How a person passes from death unto life is not something that I can compromise on. Here is the truth of the matter; neither can the Calvinist. The calvinist does not like my position any more than I like his. It is a fact and that is not, no never going to change!

Dave is exactly right: “There is no question that a Calvinist-influenced SBC will have a somewhat different future than a Calvinist-free SBC.” We are already seeing evidence of that in the confessional nature of the church plants being started by RT groups. The very minute the RT group knows that they can change the BF&M to reflect a Calvinist position, they will do so. I would not expect anything less. Seminary professors that are not reformed will be shown the highway. Entities will be tightly controlled and churches that send money will be probably continue to be tolerated; with the possible exception of a few that I can think of!

The cry to lay down our arms and lets all get along is ALWAYS the cry of the underdog. ALWAYS. Is there an easy fix for this situation. No. It is not going to just go away. Each side has its moral compass and its own convictions and each must stand their own respective ground. It is not a matter of one side hating the other. It is a position of conviction that each equally shares that must prevail to assure our children and grandchildren and their respective generations that the SBC will continue to carry the banner of Christ forward.

Your own That is the nature of Baptist life. Each constituency advocates its vision and whoever is in the majority sets the direction.” sums up my position as well as any. The majority is not yet calvinist. However, the direction of the convention is turning way too fast to suit me and I believe that majority that really has no idea what is going on.

Do not expect the heat to go down; my prayer is that the heat rises enough for the people in the pew to wake up and understand what is going on and decide who is going to determine the convention’s future. The non-Calvinist led convention or the Calvinist led entities.

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Calvinism in the SBC: Proposed Changes for NAMB and LIFEWAY

A lot of attention is being focused on NAMB’s funding of church plants that are being started by a number of Reformed church planting organizations. While this ought to be cause for alarm, I want to re-emphasize the point that this may not be their most critical mistake. In an article I wrote last week, I made the following statement, “Common business principles argue against focusing too much attention on new development and ignoring the core base that is financially responsible for the long term success of the organization.”

I personally believe that this is NAMB’s biggest mistake; it seems easier to go out and start new works than do the tough job of helping support works that are struggling but already viable and visible in our communities. Here is a suggestion: If a percentage of the funds that are being poured into new works, were made available to help struggling churches with additional staff members, or to help associations in conjunction with their state convention, hire people to help struggling churches with revitalization programs like the one the Florida Baptist Convention has, change could actually be beneficial in areas where it could impact communities where churches are already planted.

NAMB’s single focus of planting new churches is going to be an uphill battle to say the least. It is an admirable one. However here is the real problem I have with what appears to be NAMB’s second biggest mistake: the open practice of funding church plants that are confessionally associated with ANY church planting organization. Make no mistake about it, I am adamantly against the level of influence that Reformed Theology proponents have managed to gain in the entities of the SBC. I had no idea that they had managed to make the inroads that they have made. I knew it was coming; I had no idea the extent to which it was already here. This is the problem I have with today’s NAMB.

When I say that I am against NAMB’s funds being spent on church plants that are confessionally connected to any theological ideology that is what I mean. One of the unique identities of the SBC has been the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church. That has been usurped in the founding of these church starts. For NAMB to fund any church starts that do not have their own unique identity, is wrong. The statement has been made repeatedly, as long as church starts affirm the BF&M 2000 then they are eligible for SBC funds. This has become the Reformed battle cry of late.

It has been argued that there is little that the convention or any trustee appointees can do to curb this new trend as long as the BF&M 2000 is affirmed. That may be true where Seminary hires are concerned; it may hold true on a number of delicate issues with respect to the other entities, but it does not have to hold true in NAMB’s selection of church plants to fund. It is time for people in the pew to put a stop to this practice and reign NAMB’s open door policy back in. If any church plant has to sign a pledge to be reformed or non-reformed for that matter, then it ought to be ineligible for NAMB funds. End of discussion.

Here is another suggestion with respect to Lifeway’s new project, called “The Gospel Project.” I have voiced the plea for Lifeway to produce the project with the following name, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” That remark has gone virtually ignored, with the exception of a couple non-Calvinists who have acknowledged it and agreed with it.

Here is my take on that issue. Lifeway is in a tight on this one, if pressed. Their position is that there has been a “great need expressed” for a project of this magnitude. Ok. If that is true, then Lifeway ought to be willing to identify it as such so those who are supposedly “clamoring” for it, will be able to buy it. However, I do not believe that is the case at all. I believe those at Lifeway who have produced this piece have no intention of allowing the title to be changed and here is the reason why: “THEY KNOW IT WILL NOT SELL.”

If indeed this is the case, then the project ought to be scrapped before good money is spent to promote a product that has no business being in the hands of unsuspecting churches that do not want Reformed Theology literature in their Sunday School Classes. Lifeway knows the literature will sell because it is a product produced and promoted by Lifeway.

It is time to reverse the change that has already come without even a hint of permission from the people in the pew. The SBC is still a convention, a voting entity that needs to address the moves that Calvinists have made in the backrooms of boardrooms as they have managed to take control of SBC entities “without even firing a shot.”

May God bless the SBC and lead us in the direction we need to go!

Saved to Believe or Believe to be Saved?

Calvinists believe one who is lost is dead and must be regenerated BEFORE he will be able to exercise repentance and saving faith. This is commonly referred to as regeneration preceding conversion. Some argue regeneration does not precede conversion, they are simultaneous. That in all fairness is a clever sidestep that sounds good… but the fact remains, apart from God’s efficacious call that is irresistible, one will NOT be saved because Jesus did not die on the cross for those who are not regenerated and converted.

Consider the following passage in Ephesians Chapter 1. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” In speaking of the irrefutable gospel, this passage says it all. Paul acknowledged their having trusted Christ AFTER hearing the word of truth, “THE GOSPEL of your salvation,” Paul said, and then notice something very interesting. Paul says, “having believed, you WERE sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

It appears that several things are evident. First of all, hearing the gospel prompted a response. It is the natural progression of revelation to solicit a response. Now, he says, “having believed” indicating their response to this gospel, they were THEN sealed by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is not possible without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the new believer’s heart. That is what gives the old man this new nature. Here it is clear that belief in this word of truth, which is the gospel of salvation, must be believed in order to live. God does not “make us alive so that we can believe.” It appears that this passage of Scripture settles that argument.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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The Calvinization of the SBC

“There is no attempt to Calvinize the SBC.” If I had a dollar for every time I had heard that statement made in the last year, I could retire. Why on earth would anyone make such a claim? Let me answer that question. Things are FAR worse than I realized until this morning. I have been seeing numerous “red flags” waving opposing this statement. Understand that when I use the term “red flag,” I am not including the fact that many seminary professors, many college professors and administrators like Al Mohler are already in the lime light because of their open proliferation of the Reformed Theological Platform. While it was a “red flag” in my mind, it has not appeared to be a “red flag” to many others. And in addition to this, I am not including stories of churches that have split over the issue of Calvinism because Calvinist individuals were called to pastor non-Calvinist churches without truthfully revealing their theological differences in an attempt to correct the theological position of the non-Calvinist church they were called to pastor as they sought to lead them to be more “Biblically or Gospel centered.” I knew Calvinism was a major issue; I did not realize how MUCH of an issue it has already become.

I am writing this at 2:30 in the morning. I woke up with this article on my mind.

The First Red Flag for me: seminary graduates. A recent Lifeway report that said 1 in 3 seminary graduates are self-professing 5-point Calvinists was a “wake-up call” for me. I contrasted that alarming statistic with the same report that said that only 1 in 10 current pastors were professing Calvinists. I maintain that less than 85% of the people in the pew are Calvinist, and I really believe I am being liberal with that number. Keep this in mind, this is in addition to the fact already mentioned that a vast majority of Reformed professors are the ones teaching these future denominational leaders.

The Second Red Flag for me: (Actually there are Multiple flags: I will call them Orange Flags that lead up to the Red Flag) NAMB Actions. The First “Orange Flag.” Personally, I was disappointed at the appointment of Kevin Ezell as President of NAMB. Let me say for the record, I have never met Dr. Ezell. I am sure he is a quality individual and has been an exemplary leader and pastor or else he would not hold the position he holds. Why the disappointment with his appointment? Dr. Ezell was Al Mohler’s pastor. Whoa Nellie! What? “That is the reason you were disappointed with his appointment to lead NAMB? You are kidding right?” No. The one thing I have seen demonstrated consistently with respect to LEADING Calvinist advocates is their proclivity for association. I cannot for one moment imagine that Dr. Mohler, of all people, would attend a church that has a pastor who differs from him on matters dealing with the essentials of salvation. Dr. Mohler is a man who sincerely believes that Calvinism is Christianity and the most consistent form of Christianity is Calvinism. He is not going to attend a church, unlike a prominent national leader, and pay no particular attention to what the pastor preaches.

Now, just as I could not in good conscious attend a Reformed preaching church and did in fact leave one that I started attending when I first moved to Florida for that reason, neither would I expect Dr. Mohler to do any different. Does this mean that Dr. Ezell is a Calvinist? I suppose the answer could still be “no.” Hint number two: As I was watching all of this unfold, I have noticed conference after conference of various Reformed Church planting groups with speakers who are unquestionably Reformed in their theology (and well they should be) but guess who consistently shows up on the speaker list? Dr. Ezell. As I said earlier, one of the distinguishing characteristics of these Reformed leaders is their unmistaken, intentional tendency to associate exclusively together. So my reservation is nothing more than “guilt by association,” correct? Correct. I said it was a concern. It still is.

The Second Orange Flag for me was NAMB’s cutting of funding to COSBE, the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. $90,000 is a LOT of money for a lot of folks. This is one of the first issues I took up as a blogger. I remember reading NAMB’s stated objectives concerning the importance of sharing the gospel and their efforts to support organizations that were “taking the gospel to the streets so to speak.” As I saw it, NAMB’s move was a move away from itinerate evangelism. I had been reading Calvinist’s criticism of invitational evangelism and how it was unbiblical and responsible for unregenerate church membership and this “easy believism” that is plaguing the SBC. Granted to NAMB’s defense, they made cuts in various areas and as much as half of the budget was spent on COSBE attending the Southern Baptist Convention annually and it was stated that NAMB could no longer justify that expenditure. I certainly understood NAMB’s personal response to my concern.

Understand the rest of the money went to assist full time vocational evangelists who would sacrifice personally to go to help lead churches that could not afford to have a vocational evangelist come and had no or very few baptisms recorded in recent years. Since COSBE has no budget and is made up of vocational evangelists who struggle on a weekly basis to continue what they believe God has called them to do, it seemed unfair to me to cut $90K out of a $130 Million budget, when dollar for dollar even considering the travel expenses to get to the SBC’s annual meeting was still the best bang for the buck NAMB was spending. In my opinion, it was nothing less than a slap in the face of an organization that has and still does work tirelessly to tell others about Jesus. Oh by the way, this was one of the FIRST things Dr. Ezell did as the new leader of NAMB. Add it up. Strike two against Ezell in my disappointment of his appointment. Was this move a Calvinist motivated move? Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. It was an orange flag for me. I now wonder if this move had anything to do with Ezell’s comments regarding the “de-nerding of NAMB”? That statement was made alongside his statement that major changes were coming to NAMB so that they would be able to free up as much money as possible so that NAMB could place more focus on church planting.

Ah, church planting at NAMB, Orange Flag number three. This has certainly been a popular topic of discussion on SBC blogs. At first I thought, OK this sounds reasonable. However, the argument that NAMB ought to be focused on strengthening the core that is providing its support and spending money to start churches in areas that have been traditionally difficult places to get church plants started may do more long term damage than good. Common business principles argue against focusing too much attention on new development and ignoring the core base that is financially responsible for the long term success of the organization. NAMB charged on.

I remember Dr. Ezell commenting that Associational DOM titles would be changed to Church Planting Catalysts. OK. Then I began noticing Reformed Groups popping up with one church planting initiative after another. There was the Acts 29 Group, then I was looking around the Founders Web Site and I noticed PLNTD, their church planting initiative. I started noticing more reformed church planting groups that were planting confessionally reformed churches. I am not going to go back and revisit all this: Google offers plenty of information for anyone concerned that I am overstating the obvious here. In reading some of the talk about this move and the implications of NAMB funds being funneled into these groups to help support the aggressive church start initiatives of these theologically connected plants, I heard the following statement made in NAMB’s defense: “You non-Calvinists do not want Calvinist preachers in your churches so what is the big deal in funding churches for them to preach in?” OK. I will let you connect those dots. Let’s go back to the initial statement of this article: “There is no attempt to Calvinize the SBC.”

Add to this Orange Flag number four, the most recent issue of ON MISSION magazine that features two church plants that are, you guessed it, confessionally Reformed and I can only assume, funded by NAMB. There are two church plants highlighted in NAMB’s magazine and both are Reformed. The two church plants are not 2 out of 10 featured; they are 2 out of 2 featured. Now, in defense of NAMB, there is no mention of their Reformed association so what is the big deal? Of course there is no mention to it; one has to do some looking to discover that seemingly insignificant fact.

The Third Red Flag for me: IMB moves. When Dr. Rankin retired as President of IMB, one of the names that quickly surfaced as a possible replacement was Dr. David Platt who spoke at the SBC’s Annual Meeting in Orlando where Dr. Rankin shared his final farewell comments .Dr. Platt is one of the leading Reformed pastors in the SBC. Dr. Tom Eliff was selected to head the IMB.

Fast forward to 2011’s Lottie Moon Promotional Video. What? Pop in the Promotional Video and here are two leading SBC pastors speaking about the importance of SBC churches giving sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Mission Offering to help the IMB send missionaries around the world. Now, how on earth could that be a Red Flag? Drs. David Platt and JD Greear are encouraging SBC churches to give sacrificially to LMCO to help send missionaries around the world. BOTH of these guys are card carrying Calvinists; they are not just casual Calvinists, they are at the top of the list. One is a former IMB missionary; both have come under fire because they pastor churches that have apparently failed to file ACP reports, which contain statistical information that help the various SBC entities gauge how they are doing as far as effectiveness is concerned.

Both are arguably missions giving individuals and pastor missions giving churches. The question is, how much do they actually give to the cooperative program to support CP work? It is one thing to be the pastor of a great missions giving church that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on new church plants and overseas missions projects which without a doubt makes one a great kingdom work leader but that does not make him a model spokesperson for churches that cannot afford to spend that kind of money and do that kind of kingdom work themselves. This is why the CP exists. This is why the LMCO exists. The IMB most certainly has figures on the top giving churches that support Lottie Moon with their offerings and those are the guys that ought to lead the charge to encourage us to “do as they do not as they say we ought to do.” Are the churches these two men lead, leading givers? No one knows. Are they leading figures? Without a doubt. Both continue to be quality featured speakers for IMB events, along with a host of other well qualified individuals.

Ignore the statement about the ACP charges that have been discussed and debated since this material was released; the facts are, the two guys the IMB tagged to do the promotional piece, are not just leading, influential pastors, they are leading, influential Reformed pastors. That is a Red Flag for me.

Fourth Red Flag for me: Lifeway. Count the red flags: Seminaries, NAMB, IMB and now Lifeway. What is the problem here? Well there is the Vice President of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources, Dr. Ed Stetzer. He is a featured speaker for Acts 29 conferences and is listed on Monergism’s site as a featured speaker and author and he is a frequent speaker at Founders Conferences.

Dr. Stetzer is the project manager for Lifeway’s newest project, “The Gospel Project.” The facts are crystal clear that everyone associated with the production and the writing of this project are not just casual Calvinists, they are confessionally and unashamedly Reformed. The project clearly states that its purpose is to provide “a theologically driven study (according to the writers) that points people to Jesus.” The “correct theology” of these individuals will no doubt be reflected in the theological position of this project. There is no reason to expect anything less here. Make no mistake about it: “The Gospel Project” will deliver everything promised and a LOT MORE.

This is alarming to me and certainly ought to send a wake-up call to the people in the pew in Southern Baptist Churches that something needs to be done about the influx of this Calvinist influence and deliberate effort to turn the SBC into a Calvinist led theological entity. Remember, Calvinists believe that Calvinism IS real Christianity. In their minds, there can be no compromise. Personally, that is the only statement in this article that I wholeheartedly agree with (the no compromise part). This is where the SBC is heading; no, sadly that is where it is TODAY! If something is not done now, not soon, but now, the SBC will see significant changes in the not so distant future, changes that are already being signaled by the entities of the SBC.

One final comment. Given the current state of affairs, I am today more sympathetic to a discussion of a name change for the SBC. It seems that this is coming, like it or not. Since Southern seems so offensive to so many, I am sure CBC may soon resonate well: The Calvinist Baptist Convention.

Maybe I will go back to bed and wake up and all this will have been a bad dream. I could only wish that was true.