Saturday night at True Church 2010 ended with a question-and-answer session. The panel consisted of: Barry King, Conrad Mbewe, Jonathan Sims, Michael Haykin, and Jeff Noblit. Matt Fowler moderated the questions. No attempt is made to relate the answers to who provided them. In many cases multiple people provided the answers.
Question: What hyper-Calvinistic tendencies have you faced in your own congregation?
Answer: Church members can be Calvinist in their head but hyper-Calvinist in their heart. This is a result of our quest for doctrinal purity. Sometimes people attack over the internet. Sometimes people have too high or different expectations based on what they read on the internet. Church members spend too much time in morbid introspection and lose their vision of Christ. Some people moving from “easy-believism” go too far and end up in the opposite ditch. It is seen in the attitude that God hates the wicked and does not want to see them saved.
Question: Is there a tension between counseling seekers and looking for lament?
Answer: Lamenting is not necessarily wrong until it is taken to an extreme. Godly sorrow for sin is right. But when a person is converted not all their attention should still be given to their sin. There is a sense in which we must recognize that our sins have been put away, as far as the east is from the west, in the depths of the sea.
Question: How do you train men who are being called to eldership in a church plant?
Answer: Encourage older elders to pick out the “Timothys” in their congregation early and begin their training before they go out to plant churches. Put these young men on the pastoral team. Get input from several people before men are sent out as elders to plant their own churches. Formally, cover three areas: doctrine, preaching, and evangelism.
Question: What about the 3000 people who heard the message in Acts 2 and were baptized the same day?
Answer: The profession of faith in the Bible is baptism. The church is not held to any one model in bringing in members.
Question: What do I do if I have become calloused to the lost?
Answer: It is not a matter of feelings, it is a matter of obedience, whether I feel like it or not. We have lost our sense of duty. It is also a matter of our awareness of what God has done in our own lives. It is also a matter of bringing glory to God.
Question: What do you say to a person since we are not seeking a “decision”?
Answer: 1) we can invite them to church and to special events. 2) we can give our personal testimony. 3) share the gospel without asking for a decision. 4) ask someone what they think. 5) don’t make the sinner’s prayer an act required for salvation. 6) guide someone to Bible passages that show what are the fruits of salvation.
Question: Is there a recommended soul-winning course?
Answer: John Blanchard’s book “Ultimate Questions” can be used to train in evangelism. Divide it up into eight sessions.
Question: Is there a revival of young people who are embracing the doctrines of grace? Do we need to fear an expansion of hyper-Calvinism?
Answer: Any time there is an expansion of Calvinism there is an expansion of hyper-Calvinism.
Question: How long should a person be inactive before church discipline is practiced?
Answer: The Bible does not give us a guideline in this, other than the spiritual well-being of the congregation is under the supervision of the elders of the church. It depends on what you have done in the period before consideration of the practice of church discipline. Have you visited with them? Have you prayed for them? Have you warned them? What were they told when they joined? Did they understand the requirements? The goal is restoration, not removal. Inactive members belong on the prayer list, not on the members list.
Question: How do we teach sovereign grace in a congregation that knows nothing of these doctrines?
Answer: Don’t use the words “reformed” and “Calvinistic”. Just preach through the word of God and over time the doctrines of grace will come up. We need to be patient with those who just don’t see it yet. Recognize that there are mysteries that may not be able to be satisfactorily resolved for all people. Weak pulpits joined with a study of systematic theology will come back to bite the church. Our aim is not reformed, our aim is not Calvinistic, our aim is Biblical. And this must be done in love. Calvinism cannot be a “hobby-horse” preaching topic. There is no need to read Calvinism into every Biblical passage. Have role models in the church – both from history and present in the church.