As we have endeavored to make plain in the past, we are not trying to stir up unnecessary strife. Before this blog was born, we anticipated that some would view any post we made to be "gossip", "slander", or "outright lies." We viewed negative opinions about FBCH and HAC in this very same manner in years gone by. Notwithstanding, that is not our present desire. More than anything else we would like to promote independent and Biblical thinking on the part of the impressionable future blogger who may stumble upon Bread and Circuses. We are FOR Cross-centered, Holy Spirit-led and enabled, Biblical witnessing. I want so much for that to be made clear before we receive a verbal onslaught from those who wish to discredit our claims and/or opinions.
Now then, I think it is appropriate at this particular time to explore the concept of what is commonly called "soulwinning" in IFBx circles, especially in light of recent comments made by a well-meaning fellow blogger in response to the recent Mike Hess editorial.
One of the most defining characteristics of Hyles-Anderson College and First Baptist Church is their purported soulwinning zeal and personal evangelism.
From the Hyles-Anderson College website:Unfortunately, this very characteristic becomes little more than a man-made methodology. I regret to say that these two institutions have become the benchmark for (un)biblical witnessing for churches turning in the IFBx orbit.
"Maybe You Wouldn't Like: OUR INTENSE EVANGELISTIC ATMOSPHERE
All faculty, staff, and students are required to go soul winning weekly. Students participate in the evangelistic ministry of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, which builds its ministry around personal soul winning. An average of over 10,000 new converts were baptized each year for the past several years."
Do I have to ask it? Sir(s), if an average of 10,000 new converts were baptized each year for the past several years, could you not plant churches with these converts and in effect change the spiritual landscape of greater Chicagoland? These folks are evidently seeing better "success" than our LORD did during his earthly ministry(tongue in cheek)! Why do they boast of such a number while simultaneously advertising that their new auditorium has a capacity for 7,500 people? I sense a tremendous disconnect.
I myself know from personal participation, that HAC has basically become the proverbial beast of burden for FBCH to achieve her pie-in-the-sky numerical goals. I also would like to note that they have categorically made their version of "confrontational soulwinning" a litmus test for fellowship with other ministries. I digress.
From my experience there, the only Scriptural support offerred for their concept of soulwinning is taken from Proverbs 11:30 "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise." Hyles used to use this proof text as his basis for drawing all church members into his office for counseling--he had won the most souls so he was the wisest person to seek counsel from (that is another post for another day). In retrospect, it seems hermeneutically dishonest to beat this particular passage into the ground while neglecting to even attempt to elaborate upon the great commission as given by our LORD and recorded in the 28th chapter of Matthew's gospel. In my estimation, the Great Commission does not necessarily square with their methodology for witnessing and quest for numbers. Can we equate "door-to-door soulwinning" with Christ's directive to make disciples of all nations and teach them to observe ALL that He has commanded us? My answer to that question from the standpoint of a HAC alumnus is an emphatic "NO".
Let us take Northland Baptist Bible College, in Dunbar, Wisconsin, for example. It is my understanding that although they share some Baptist distinctives in common with HAC, the two have very different definitions of and approaches toward witnessing to the lost. Other Christian colleges and universities that don't hold to the same methodologies regarding numeric goals as HAC are usually labeled as "cold", "dead", "liberal", or even "hyper-calvinistic". Oddly enough, one would not have to be a Calvinist to be labeled as such by FBCH/HAC. I am willing to bet that the majority of our readership here at B&C would be calvinistic as compared with them.
Detractors, allow me to beat you to the punch: we were probably never real soulwinners while there, just critics...we probably couldn't even run a hot dog stand, let alone FBC Hammond...we are bitter and are capitalizing on this blogging opportunity to grind our axes, ad nauseum.
The truth of the matter is that we are trying to re-focus on what the scripture says about this matter of "soulwinning". Should "soulwinning" be the cornerstone of our philosophy of ministry? Is the book of Acts our blueprint for the church age? Should Proverbs 11:30 be our central battle cry as Christ followers? Why would Jesus seemingly refuse to "draw the net" as many "great soulwinners" have taught us to do? Would Jesus meet the typical IFBX convert at the church altar and share words with them that would cause them to walk away in sadness? Is true saving faith something you can try like a new pair of running shoes to see if it "works" for you? Is someone who gladly "accepts" Christ "into his heart" but refuses to follow the LORD in baptism truly saved? Is it possible to turn from darkness to light without a radical change in one's life? Are we truly a new creation after the new birth? Does God give us the option of bearing Christian fruit? Is discipleship an optional item as well? These are all questions worthy of engagement--why should IFBs be shallow and unbiblical? Why are IFBs content to allow the silly thinkers and exegetically illiterate in their movement to speak for them on such issues? What do you think the Bible teaches?
Joshua Z. Richards