Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Maybe we need less Finney and less Billy.

My goal today is to propose and idea, not attack or hurt anyone. I may say some things about men you respect, beliefs that you hold and methods you employ. It's not personal, it's a discussion, so remember I love you, your church, the SBC and most of all, Jesus. Let's reason together.

If you are familiar with Finney and his theology, you know that much of our modern Evangelicalism is influenced by his focus on decision. Much of what we do today during an alter call is from the theology of Charles Finney.  Having people come forward, making a decision for Christ, many of these activities have ties to Finney.

Finney opened the door to men like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.  Graham has used the alter call method, calling thousands upon thousands to come down to the stage and give their lives to Jesus. They are called to make a decision to ask Jesus in their heart.  This strategy has been incorporated into the local church, people come forward and make a decision to trust Christ and recite the sinner's prayer.

My question, is this how we are commanded, instructed and modeled to do what we are commanded to do? Is this our New Testament mandate, to call people to make decisions?  Are we commanded to have people recite the sinner's prayers and raise their hands? Is this effective, are the people really and truly becoming disciples? I can't answer this in your specific context, but I know what I have seen.

I have met a lot of people who have prayed the prayer, raised their hands, walked the isle and have no interest in following Jesus. They don't want to change, follow, or obey the teachings of Jesus. They think they will go to Heaven because they are good people. Many live in sin, and ignorant about anything of faith, but think they are ok because they recited a prayer at church years ago. Are these people disciples? Are we making disciples with this method?

Now I'm not saying that people don't get saved this way. I walked the isle when I was young, I prayed the prayer, I did all of those things, yet that isn't what made the difference in my life. My parents, my pastor, my Sunday School teacher taught me the Bible, prayed with me, discipled me. I was born again before I walked the isle, I have no doubt because the Lord opened my eyes to my sin, and my heart cried out for forgiveness. I walked the isle because I thought I was suppose too, not in order to be saved.

Have we created a works mentality inadvertantly, where people earn salvation by walking the isle, saying a form prayer, raising their hands and saying "amen".  When we go on mission trips and lead people to a prayer, do we have lasting results? Are we making disciples? Sometimes I fear that our mode and model is creating people who will say "Lord, Lord" and will hear "depart from me, I never knew you". Not just church members, I fear there are teachers, leaders, even Pastors who have a false idea of what Salvation is. They feel that they have done bad things and just say they are sorry and they go to Heaven. They are not convicted, they don't see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. Too often we talk about the sin, without confronting that we are God's enemy without Christ.

We have come to a place where the Pope claims Universal atonement for all if you are a good person. I fear we are not to far from this, to be a good person, just walk an isle and raise your hand. This doesn't match what Jesus said, this is not following, discipleship or taking up our cross. Is this all we think salvation is? A prayer, a hand raise and nothing more?

The solution in my opinion is that we must preach the reality of being a sinner. Unless people are broken and convicted, they cannot be saved. Without the Spirit, there is no Salvation. When people are broken, they will cry out, and when they cry out, we walk with them. We have expectations for them to grow, learn and serve. When we don't, we need to again tell them about sin and the reality of their nature and God's wrath. If they are not following, they are not disciples. We are not called to make converts, but disciples.

Billy Graham had great success in his crusades, but the model is not what the local church needs in my opinion. What we need is a culture that sets the expectation of people to become disciples, to take up their cross and to hate everything in comparison to Christ. Are we willing to do

1 comment:

  1. "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13
    Neither Finney nor Billy G. had a clue why Paul made this statement. And without understanding that Paul is not referencing the Sinai code by the word law all contemporary soteriological assumptions are error.