I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
I have been associated with Southern Baptist churches for many years. I currently attend one in South Carolina. One of the things I appreciate about the Southern Baptist convention is that it has historically held to the eternal security of the believer. The churches that I have attended have also been non-charismatic. In many churches I have also heard preachers say free grace things like a “true” Christian can be carnal. While eternal rewards were rarely mentioned, it was said that carnality in the life of the believer would impact that believer’s intimacy with the Lord and that believer’s testimony to others. Such carnality had nothing to do with eternal salvation.
Unfortunately, I have noticed that in the Southern Baptist convention there has been a move towards a much more blatant Lordship view of salvation. In many places Free Grace theology is rejected out of hand.
Another thing that is happening in the Southern Baptist convention is the drop in the number of annual baptisms. This is a grave concern to the leaders.
Recently, an article appeared in our state Southern Baptist magazine that connected this shift towards Lordship salvation and the drop in baptisms. The article spoke about the fact that at the last national convention the Southern Baptists had voted to accept the Harvest Christian Fellowship (HCF) of Riverside, CA into their fellowship. Greg Laurie is the pastor of HCF.
The problem is that HCF is a charismatic church. Laurie’s gospel presentations, as well as the doctrinal statement of the church, certainly has a strong Lordship flavor. Laurie himself comes from an Arminian background. In his writings it appears that he does not see the eternal security of the believer a very important issue. Perhaps this is because in his many well-attended crusades across the country people from many different denominations take part in them and there is a need to be ecumenical.
The article points out that some in the Southern Baptist Convention has certain reservations about these developments. But the leaders of the convention point out that being charismatic does not disqualify a church from joining. They share with HCF a desire to see social change and an emphasis on evangelism. These leaders include the presidents of both Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Seminary. Laurie, for his part, points out that he is in full agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message, which is the doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention.
All the leaders are excited about the fact that HCF is one of the largest churches in the country. In addition, this addition to the convention will help the drop in the number of baptisms since HCF and the crusades conducted by Laurie across the country baptize thousands each year. An extra benefit is the many young people are drawn to these ministries, and the Southern Baptist Convention could use more young people.
Count me as one that does not welcome these developments. Jude tells us to fight for the “faith,” which refers to the doctrine of the church passed on by the Apostles in the writings of the New Testament. The convention that I have often been a part of for many years seems to be giving up that fight. They have left the Scriptures in their move to a strong Lordship stance on the Gospel. In light of that it is not surprising they would accept the Gospel as proclaimed by the charismatic HCF. But now, they even add that it is OK to seek a baptism of the Spirit after salvation in order to please God by speaking in tongues.
Doctrine is more important than the number of baptisms a church has. Doctrine is more important than getting more young people to attend church. It is often said that the Free Grace movement is irrelevant because it is so small. While I wish more people would accept the Gospel of grace and what it means, we should never equate being small with being wrong.