Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Greatest Apologetic is Love

The statement in the title of this post has been attributed to Francis Schaeffer. Regardless of its provenance, it came to mind when reading the following article from the AP in today's newpaper. It's edited below for brevity, but the full article is here.

Southern Baptist membership, baptisms decline in 2007
By ROSE FRENCH Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the denomination's lowest level since 1987, and membership dipped slightly as well.

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention blamed the decline in part on a perception that its followers are "mean-spirited, hurtful and angry."

For a denomination that places winning converts at the heart of its mission, the continued slide is troubling and disappointing, said the Rev. Frank Page, the convention's president.

Part of the blame can be placed on a notion that Baptists have been known too much in recent years for "what we're against" than "what we're for," Page said.

"Our culture is increasingly antagonistic and sometimes adverse to a conversation about a faith in Christ," he said. "Sometimes that's our fault because we have not always presented a winsome Christian life that would engender trust and a desire on the part of many people to engage in a conversation on the Gospel.

"All Southern Baptists should recommit to a life of loving people and ministering to people without strings attached so people will be more open to hearing the Gospel message."

In the past 50 years, the number of annual baptisms per church member — a key indicator of church growth — has dropped sharply. Southern Baptists baptized one person for every 19 church members in 1950, a ratio that dropped to 1 baptism for every 47 church members in 2007, according to the report.


Me speaking, again: I'm guessing devotees of the in-your-face Way of the Master methodology won't approve of the new Baptist approach. So be it. I'm loath to criticize any preaching of the Gospel - being well mindful of Philippians 1.15-18 - but all I see when I view their videos (or others like them, such as the one below) is a lack of humility and a lack of love. Why do people have to be berated into the Kingdom? Even if the presentation is doctrinally correct, can it not also be presented with compassion and respect? Why is conversation, rather than rank confrontation, forbidden?

The group that produced the following video has a rather extensive website, but I was unable to find anything about the effectiveness (fruit) of their methodology. I wonder.

(Sorry for any weird formatting in the last couple paragraphs. Some day I'll learn some HTML so I can fix my mistakes.)


  1. I've observed that the Bible shows us several ways to share the Gospel.

    Some by proclamation (Acts2; 7; 13:14-42)

    Some by mercy (Acts 3; 16:25-34; 28:1-10)

    Some by reasoning (Acts 17:1-4, 16-34; 18:4; 28)

    Some by bible study (Acts 8:25-40; Acts 17:10)

    Some by miracles (Acts 19:11-12)

    Some by testimony (Acts 22:1-24; 23:1-11; 24; 25; 26)

    One by encouragement (Acts 11:22-24)

    Results, or "fruit" varied. Sometimes people believed. Sometimes the apostles ended up getting everyone angry and sometimes arrested.

    We had coffee with Den's 78 year old Aunt Yolande in Ontario a few nights ago. She asked us why people are told to repent. Repent from what? She asked. From being sinners? Isn't that just being human? How does one repent from being human? She was scoffing at this point. Like you, she said she was tired of having people shove religion done her throat.

    So we didn't.

    But I held her tightly as we said goodbye, hoping that she would change her mind. I don't know how much time she has left. Her younger brother, Alonzo, once the healthiest of all her siblings a few weeks ago, is now on his deathbed.

    Dennis spent a lot of time trying share Christ with him, last year in a private conversation. Even though Aunt Yolande is playing golf twice a week and swims regularly, and just finished driving 1500 miles up from Florida in two days by herself, things could change very rapidly.

    And I can't help but think that God will hold me accountable for not taking up with her about sin and repentence during our last evening together. I don't think my hug was enough.

    Yet, when someone says she doesn't want something shoved down her throat, what else could I do?

    Will God accept my excuse?

  2. Definitely some good thoughts. Thanks. I like the "Bible study."

    I certainly don't have all the answers. Love doesn't preclude saying hard things. But I do think that if people are hearing, "Jesus loves you, but I don't," then we may have missed the mark.

  3. From my experience, often people hear what they want to hear no matter what we say or how we say it. Only God opens their ears and heals their spiritual deafness, I think.

    We've talked about this before, when we discussed Friendly Athiest's list of things Christians do wrong in witnessing. Frankly, the only thing that we could do to please him is probably shut up and go away forever. He has no love for Christ followers and probably has made millions off of them by now with book sales.

    Christians listen to him and follow his advice, that's great. But he isn't the one who's ultimately judging whether we are doing a good job or not. Most of the apostles ended up getting killed for delivering God's message. Maybe they missed the mark because the audience didn't respond very well?

    It convicts me that so often I am more afraid of people than of God when it comes to sharing the Gospel. Especially when most of the time, God makes it so easy for me with obvious open doors and grateful reception. Despite the smooth sailing in the conversation, I've only seen a few conversions. I often ask myself if I had to work harder and risked more but it resulted in a soul coming to Christ, would I do it? Would I pay the price?

    So, yes, I agree with you that we are to be gentle and soft spoken in our dealings with people--that's biblical as well. Salvation often occurs in steps, a process that only God sees.

  4. Ah, VCU. It is indeed an exciting campus. =) I was involved with a campus ministry at this school a couple years in grad school, and we had conversations about how to respond to these occurrences--often referencing Phil 1:15-18. Anyway, just wanted to say that video brought back lots of memories--fond, odd, and otherwise, heh.