Monday, November 26, 2007

Building Bridges Day 1

We’re here in the mountains near Asheville, NC at the Ridgecrest conference center at Founders Ministries national conference, “Building Bridges”. Hundreds of Southern Baptists of all different doctrinal positions regarding Calvinism are here to engage in dialog and find common ground as we seek to preach the Gospel. This conference is also geared toward bringing out the roots of the SBC by expounding on the doctrinal beliefs of the founders.

The conference began this afternoon with Ed Stetzer bringing out helpful statistics about trends indicating a return of southern Baptists’ toward reformed theology and Calvinism. He stated;

“Calvinism is a growing influence in the SBC...”

He also gave many statistics that showed that the percentage rate of Calvinists’ sharing the Gospel was slightly higher than Armenians. The statistics came very close for baptismal rates in churches, conversions, etc. They all followed very closely to each other. His concluding point was that whether you look at it from the Calvinist side or the Arminian, we are not sharing the Gospel enough. The statistics show very clearly that one is not doing better than the other. Here is a final quote by Ed Stetzer in regards to this subject:

“Regardless of the numbers, none of these statistics should make us happy."

Soon following Ed Stetzer, Tom Nettles gave an historical sketch of what the Baptist Calvinist believes and how it is applied in his life. He presented eight points including belief in inerrancy of Scripture, the propagating of the Gospel to foreign lands and many others. His goal was to open our eyes to see that originally, Southern Baptists not only believed the five points of Calvinism, and was also applying them in the practical areas of his life.

Next, James Merritt spoke on the subject of election and calling. He spoke about the “pearl of predestination”, the “emerald of election”, the “ruby of redemption”, and the “gold of grace”.

At the end of the night, Dr. Al Mohler spoke on the urgency of communicating the Gospel to the world, using Romans 10 to explain the nearness of God’s Word and our responsibility to open our mouths so others could hear. He said,

“We’re not here for a disputation, but we hope for a contagion that breaks out and leads to evangelism.”

He spoke of the balance between those who avoid doctrinal discussion and those who are always engaged in it and lacking in their duty to God by sharing the Gospel. He wrapped up the night with an incredible statement that captured the content of his message. He encouraged us to be like Whitefield who preached alongside John Wesley... and when you get him in the boat, talk doctrine and get him straightened out... on the way to preach. Then he said, "Let’s make sure that you are not staying on the boat talking doctrine, when you need to be off the boat preaching the Gospel together."

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