Saturday, May 06, 2006

Relevance By Numbers????

"Mediocrity is not very impressive to Jesus Christ."”
--Dr. Jack Schaap

Most IFBxers have an insatiable desire for numbers--of converts, baptisms, buildings, budgets, attendees, etc.--this is one of the many warts they typically wear as a badge of honor. The response to this observation is most often one of attack asking how many people you have "gotten saved" over the last week or month. We could probably make scores of posts about First Baptist of Hammond's touting of buildings, budgets, and buses as validation of "God's blessing" their ministry--at this point I would like to simply draw attention to something I received in the mail a while back and is still available for your perusal in its entirety at the official First Baptist Church website under "The Voice" December 2003 tab.

There is always a greeting from Pastor Schaap in each issue of "The Voice" which is their official church paper edited by Robert E. Auclair. This was the first edition of the paper and definitely sets the tone for all of the rest that have followed. Here are some snippets from Pastor Schaap's pen in that particular issue:
"For over a century, First Baptist Church has been a fixture of downtown Hammond. Through the years, the church's influence has increased as literally thousands of Christian leaders around the globe look to our church for inspiration and example. We host three major national yearly conferences, operate the largest independent Baptist Bible College, and baptize upwards of 10,000 converts annually. Researchers tell us that we are the largest church of our kind in the world."
"Presently we are constructing a new multi-million dollar auditorium complex that will seat over 7,000 and provide much needed space for our Bible-teaching program which includes more than 600 Sunday School classes."

"Our public services are built around the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. For 23 years I taught Bible in our college and seminary. I love to take the truths of God's Word and present them in a practical and helpful way to strengthen the marriages, families, and individual lives of our congregation. I believe with all my heart the Bible is relevant for today, and the 10,000 plus people who come each Sunday are a testimony to that."

--Dr. Jack Schaap (emphasis mine)
Now I am not usually one to nitpick, but the tone of the greeting was very man-centered and most conclusions were arrived at by the exorbitant numbers and statistics cited. Beyond the numbers emphasis I am a little puzzled by the statement concerning the "researchers tell us that we are the largest church of our kind in the world." I know that "researchers" is a general term, but I would be interested to know who these researchers were--the impression is given that an actual study was done and FBCH was crowned as the "largest". I also was appalled at the declaration that the public services are "built around the preaching and teaching of the Word of God." I think even the biggest supporters of FBCH would have to admit that there is much more entertainment and pop-psychology in a typical service than true Biblical exposition.

What else did you notice in this article--you may want to check it out at the church's website before commenting--I don't have time to type the entire thing from the pdf file--I only posted the "highlights" so to speak.

If you draw attention to this kind of pragmatism does it mean you are just jealous and too lazy to get "busy for God"? Is God impressed by our numbers? Should the people of God be impressed by numbers? To take it a step further, is God impressed by anything done in a spirit of pride? Do our motives matter or does the end justify the means? Does this type of emphasis help create the "hero worship" that has been rampant in IFBxdom for decades? Should we not be concerned at all about numbers in our ministries? Didn't the Lord mention numbers on many different occasions? Should this fact not cause us to strive for big numbers? What do you think is the Biblical philosophy of numbers in ministry? Maybe there are other questions that come to your mind--please share them in a spirit of meekness.

James 4:6 KJV "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."

James 4:10 KJV "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

1 Peter 5:5-6 KJV "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:"

Philippians 2:3-11 KJV "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Phineas

22 comments:

Justin said...

The have churches with over 100,000 members in South Korea, so Jack Schaap must mean IFBx by our kind of church.

maranatha man said...

In the fundamentalist mindset everything is about numbers. How many "did you" get saved? How many "did you" get in the water? How many "did you" have on your bus? How many "did you" have in your class. In reality, this movement is all about you! The personal illustrations! Your statistics! Your stories etc...

Brother Hyles always wanted his followers to "do something great for God." As if God really needs me to do something for Him. However, our mindset should be, "God has done great things for me." It's not about me, it's all about God! The Hyles mentality says that true greatness is all about "my numbers."

The philosphy of the fundamentalist is, "wow, God sure needs me!" When in truth biblical theology says, "wow, I sure need God!"

Hyles convinced me as well as many others that "God needed him (Hyles) to save America." As if God is not self-sufficient! Is God really needy?

Hyles, Schaap and Gray are three peas in a pod. They spend 75% of their sermons telling us how great they are and 25% about Jesus if that much.

Read Schaap's article. How much does he talk about the greatness of God? Then compare how much he talks about the greatness of "his" numbers, the greatness of Hyles and the greatness of himself.

Don Fields said...

On the opening page of First Baptist's web sight I noticed that they claimed to have over 100,000 members. With only 10,000 in attendance every week I wonder where the rest of these "members" are? These numbers actually point out the depth (or lack thereof) of true conversions, true baptisms, true members, and true God-honoring commitment to His Church.

JA Bailey said...

Speaking of numbers, my wife, Lacye, just had our 11th child, Stephen Landon, on May 3. They are both doing fine. The Lord is good and rich in mercy.

jellyfish said...
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Fundamentally Reformed said...

Mountain Man's comments are right on. Hyles perpetuated the idea that God NEEDS soulwinners. I believe there were a few sermons (or more) where he actually went on record stating that soulwinners can be so valuable to God that he overlooks their mistakes. The idea of a merit and demerit system in place between man and God is practically Catholicism. How could such blatantly false doctrine so easily be accepted?

Ryan DeBarr said...

The SBC is all about numbers, too.

PT Barnum said...
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jayman said...

You quote Schaap as saying "largest church of our kind in the world."

Personally I am thankful I don't pastor "our kind" of church. In fact if I were to attempt to pastor "our kind" of church the church would either change or I would be gone in about 30 days.

Mountain Man says that Schapp/Hyles type of preachers spend about 25% of the sermon preaching about Jesus. But I question if it is really Jesus they are preaching?

jellyfish said...
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James Spurgeon said...

The opening quotation of Jack Scaap in this post reveals that he hasn't the slightest clue about God.

God isn't impressed with mediocrity?

Hey Jack, God isn't impressed with anything or anyone. Period. That's elementary theology 101.

I think I'll go blog on this.

deb said...

Yawl sond two wize four me butt duz ya mind iffen i toss in my foolishness ery now an then?

PT Barnum said...

Deb,

Looks like you are a HAC grad so by all means join in the fracas any time you feel compelled. We only ask that you keep it civil and Christ-honoring or else I will delete it faster than you can say "Ken Christenson" or "Baptist-City."

Matthew

Sam H. said...

It's only slightly off topic (only in terms of the ministry) but go here (http://www.lbtministries.com/index.html)and tell me these aren't separated at birth. I asked them a Q regarding their thoughts about Tales From the Temple, and I actually received a response very much like what is on the front page at shortview babtist timple. As though that was an answer to my question regarding TFTT... I guess I didn't learn to exegete numbers at seminary, so I didn't know what they meant by the response. IOW, their answer to Spurgeon's book is basically "yeah, well, look at the numbers..."

BeckyJoie said...

Isn't the whole term "soulwinning" taken from the last part of Proverbs 11:30? That verse and passage is talking about the diference between the wicked and the righteous on the earth. The main difference is that the wicked person is foolish and rash in his or her interactions with people and the righteous are wise, intelligent, skillful, artful, cunning and subtle. The righteous person is the one who will have the most success in bringing people to into relationship which, although not mentioned as the intent here, is the most powerful way to witness to them. That's how I see it. I confess, I've been overt, foolish and rash in my past experience in the "soulwinning" sales force trying to get numbers of people to pray the sinner's prayer while I was part of IFBXdom. I pray that I may be wise in my interactions with people. God promises that the righteous will be recompensed in the earth much more than the wicked and the sinner.

James Spurgeon said...

sam h., that is their only answer. It's not like they can deny facts. Their only answer is, "Well, the good outweighs the bad." The end justifies the means.

Dr. Hyles said...

Numbers IS Everything.

Because numbers are souls!

Jen said...

I love first baptist church, Hyles Anderson College and Bro and Mrs Schaap. They have done nothing but good in the lives of many many. The goal of any christian should be to win souls and help them grow in the Lord. That is what that WHOLE ministry is doing. Yes there are duds, just like anywhere you go. There are many people, adults and kids that have been saved through bus routes. They came to church and got baptized and became part of the membership. Many different things have pulled those people away from church. The children may have moved and the bus worker lost contact w/ them and they never came back to FBC. BUT they got saved and we will see them again in Heaven. What does it matter First Baptist Church is doing a great job fulfulling the great commission and I am sorry that all of you pathetic "christians" can't see that and praise the Lord for what is going on there. God help you

PT Barnum said...

Jen,

Great to have you voicing your opinion here under the big top! Enjoy our exhibits and don't mind the smell of the elephants and horses!

To your points, I agree that FBCH has helped many people in various ways. I accepted the LORD as a young child in the Primary department. My mother's missionary circle showed much kindness to my father and brothers and I during my mom's 8 year bout with cancer. I don't pretend that nothing good happens there--I have over 20 family members still attending.

The point of the post was that there is an unbiblical emphasis on numbers and the pragmatic philosophy of ministry that goes along with it. You talk about people being pulled away from church--unfortunately the main thing that pulls them from church is the fact that they "prayed a magic prayer" and did not come to true repentance and saving faith. I admire the zeal, but it is more like an Amway pitch than Biblical witnessing. You will see some of them in Heaven, but none that did not show some evidence of salvation and a new creation.

As far as what you understand the Great Commission to be, I recommend that you study that passage in your Bible thoroughly. The Great Commission is to make disciples--this begins at home and then transfers out to your neighborhood, your co-workers, etc... Do you not see a disconnect when you can have 48,000 supposed conversions on one Sunday and no growth in the real church membership? If Christ is not making a difference, what kind of Gospel are those good people spreading?

I hope you will not hit and run here at B&C. We hope that you will grab an elephant ear and some cotton candy before you leave--the elephant ride is always a crowd favorite as well! Seriously, we appreciate your opinions and agree with much of what you stated--be certain to study like the Berean believers did and be sure what you believe has a Biblical basis. Take care.

To the praise of His glorious grace,

Matthew

AshleyH said...

Not all Independant Fundamental Baptist Churches are all about numbers. It is a Christians duty to share Christ (soul winning).

My hubby is a pastor of an Independant Fundamental Baptist Church and while yes, we would love our church to grown, we do not boast how large or small our numbers are. Our purpose as a church is to honor and glorify God

Will said...

I don't go to 1st Baptist I'm not a huge Jack Hyles fan, but he was deffinetly a man God used to see many people saved and their lives changed. I believe it would be better to honor a man that spent his life witnessing and discipling people, than to wright a blog against what they're doing. But who am I? Here are some verses in the Bible.
Ac 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Ac 2:47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Ac 5:14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
Ac 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
Ac 1:15 ¶ And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
Ac 4:4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
Ac 6:1 ¶ And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
Ac 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Ac 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
Ac 16:5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
Mt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Mr 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

I praise the Lord for men and women that would dedicate themselves to denying their desires and taking up the cross and following Christ. Christians that would dare stand for what is good and right. If our main purpose here on earth is to honor and glorify God, then what better way could you bring Him glory than by doing what He said. Which was "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel" Mark 16:15. As believers we are to obey God. His command is to Go and teach the gospel, make disciples, see them baptized, and teach them to do all the Christ commanded them. Which is to go and reach people. Why be so negative about some people that are doing that? Why don't we as Christians deny what we want and do what God commanded us to do? I went on a mission trip to Lapaz, Bolivia where there were over 2 million people. The vast majority of those people at the time didn't have a church that was preaching the gospel. So as I looked at those people I realized they may never die before they ever hear gospel of Christ! I went back to my hotel and cried asking God if He could use me somehow to be a witness. We were able to find a tract and print 700 copies of it, but obviously that is only part of the great commission. We need Christians to be willing to head God's command to teach, baptize and disciple others. Instead of complaining about other Christians why not just go out and reach people ourselves. I mean no offense to any of you on this blog, but isn't it time that God had a few Christians that were willing to follow Him no matter the cost!? Truthfully God doesn't need us, He never has needed us, but He loves us and desires to use us for His honor and glory. Why not be willing to do that?

Anonymous said...

This is a pathetic blog. Where in your Bible are you told to attack this mans ministry? Jack Schaap is not accountable to you but to the Lord Jesus Christ.

You speak of numbers and tear them down but I wonder if you've reached even ONE soul for Christ. I know that after seeing your critical spirit on here, I surely wouldn't be interested in YOUR type of Christianity.

As for the numbers in their membership compared to the number in attendance, I'm sure your church is the same way. No church has 100% of its membership in attendance. If you have a membership of 250 you probably have an average of 50 to 100 in attendance and that is ONLY in your morning service.

As our churches are set up to take people into membership that have trusted Christ as Savior and been scripturally baptized, the membership may include people that have done that but attend other churches and didn't know to move their membership or perhaps people that never attend. But look at their attendance. 10,000 - WOW. I'd say they've reached a few more than you have even IF they don't ALL stick around. Reach more than your one or two and your averages might grow along with your membership.

Remember He that goeth forth and WEEPETH, bearing precious seed (KING JAMES BIBLE), shall DOUBTLESS come again rejoicing, BRINGING HIS SHEEVES WITH HIM.

Thank God for this verse. It means even YOU, if you'll get concerned over the lost - concerned enough to WEEP - can take your precious seed out to the world, share it with them and BRING THEM BACK TO CHURCH WITH YOU. It's God's method. Thank God FBC Hammond uses it.

You sorry pathetic excuse for Christians!