--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."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.
"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)
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."