According to the NAMB website, the North American Mission Board currently pulls its church planting data from the Annual Church Profile. Unfortunately, this results in untimely and incomplete information. For example, in March of 2015, the most recent data available was from 2013—an unacceptable lag of two full years. Additionally, the notion that our church plants should merely report the same basic information that our established churches report is simply false. These plants do not have church status yet as they are being financially supported by the Southern Baptist Convention. As we examine our investment, we have the right to expect a greater amount of information.
In 2010, 943 churches were planted. Three years later, 80% were still functioning. While that is not a bad rate of survival, we should not have had to wait until 2015 to obtain this data. Right now, we should be able to compare 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. We should be able to track data in an ongoing manner with mandatory annual reporting by church plants to NAMB. If a church plant fails to report, they should lose their funding. Continue reading
In 1986, secular hip hop music group Run-D.M.C. released the album Raising Hell. The second cut was entitled It’s Tricky. We can be certain that when Def Jam Records produced the Raising Hell album, they had no inkling that thirty years later their music would be discussed in the context of a Southern Baptist Presidential election. In a video released last month, of all the songs that might have been chosen for parody, Ashley Unzicker, on behalf of J.D. Greear, selected the song It’s Tricky. Continue reading
Calvinists believe that man is free to choose according to his greatest desire. For example, Jonathan Edwards believed in what he called “strength of motive.”[i] He said concerning such, “I suppose the will is always determined by the strongest motive.”[ii] Therefore, Edwards argued that one freely chooses to act according to his “strongest motive.” Regarding the nature of free choice, he also said that it is “the ability to do what we will, or according to our pleasure.”[iii]
Consequently, according to Edwards, man’s freedom to choose is determined by his nature and his desires. In other words, man is free to choose to do his greatest desire. Of course, this is the Calvinist view of free will as defined by compatibilism.[iv] It is important to note two very important components of this view. First, the desire or nature from which the desire emanates is not chosen—i.e. a person’s past. Second, the unchosen desire is in fact determinative of what the free choice will be.
That is to say, the Calvinist believes man is free to choose according to his greatest desire but not contrarily. Therefore, his free choice is actually determined by his desire. For example, according to Edwards, sinful man will always freely choose to do his greatest desire, which is to sin. The greatest desire is a part of his nature. Fallen man will never choose to follow Christ without first having his nature changed to emanate new desires; this is the basis for the Calvinist position that regeneration precedes faith.[v]
This view of freedom also highlights the compatibilist’s inability to answer satisfactorily the question of what caused the first sin. Because if man chooses according to his greatest desire, and man chose to sin, then sin must have been his greatest desire. This leads to the disturbing question of where did the desire come from? Of course, it had to come from God since God created everything. Thus, according to Calvinism, God gave the desire, which unavoidably birthed the choice to sin, and this desire God called “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Therefore, God must have, in some very significant sense, desired for man to sin or else He would not have given him a nature or past emanating such desire (this desire being more than merely the desire to create, which all recognize), a disquieting reality. In the same way, when God desires people to be saved, He must choose to regenerate in order to give them a new nature with new desires so they will freely choose to exercise faith in Christ. Continue reading