Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations (not Confirmation)

September 29, 2011


By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Introduction/Summary

This series has attempted to delineate historical doctrinal differences between Baptists and Presbyterians. Most of the nine points I have addressed were explicitly held by the Particular Baptists in contradistinction from the Presbyterian or Reformed theology from which they separated themselves. These, then, are distinctively Baptist beliefs. The first Baptist distinctive I addressed was a cluster of interrelated beliefs — soul competency, priesthood of all believers, and religious liberty. The second Baptist distinctive addressed was the age (or state) of accountability; the third Baptist distinctive I addressed was believer’s baptism (or “the gathered church;” and the fourth Baptist distinctive was baptism by mode of immersion, the fifth Baptist distinctive (in contrast with Presbyterian Calvinism) was baptism and the Lord’s Supper as symbolic ordinances, not sacraments; the sixth Baptist distinctive addressed congregational church polity (in contrast to Presbyterian elder rule); the seventh Baptist distinctive, examined the autonomy of the local church and how it is not a hierarchical denomination; and the eighth Baptist distinctive, I described the two scriptural officers (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon) and how they are not three (Pastor/Bishop, Elder and Deacon). The ninth and final Baptist distinctive that I will discuss is the importance of human freedom at conversion and how that undergirds the rationale for decisional conversion offered through gospel invitations.[1]

Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations

One basic fault line between most Baptists and Presbyterians regards the ability of sinful humans to respond to God.[2] The BF&M repeatedly affirms human freedom to respond and to make decisions. The “future decisions of His free creatures” are foreknown by God;[3] and God’s election to salvation “is consistent with the free agency of man.”[4] Persons are created by God “in His own image,” originally “innocent of sin” and endowed by God with “freedom of choice.” Even after the Fall, “every person of every race possesses full dignity.”[5] Salvation “is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” In regeneration the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus,” and repentance “is a genuine turning from sin toward God” and faith is “acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.”[6] The picture that emerges from the BF&M is that while sinful humans certainly cannot save themselves by any combination of good works, God requires persons to utilize the freedom of choice He created within them to respond to His gracious offer of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.[7]

Central to this Baptist perspective is that salvation fundamentally involves a response or choice on the part of the convert. Note the role for human response in the words of W. T. Conner, longtime theology professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in expressing the balance between God’s sovereign grace and human agency:

Jesus regarded men as sinful–all men–but He did not believe that men were fixed in their sinful state. He knew the love of God toward men, and He believed in the possibility of winning men to a favorable response to God’s grace. . . . Jesus did not believe, then, that man could lift himself out of his sinful state in his own strength, but He did believe that men could respond to God’s grace and let God lift them out of their sins. It is true that this response was one that was won from the man by the grace of God offering to save man. Yet it was man’s response. And Jesus counted on such a response on the part of sinful men. . . . He welcomed such a response. He eagerly watched for it. He said there was rejoicing over it in the presence of the angels in heaven.[8]

 

The primary vehicle for facilitating and experiencing this sort of human response in decisional conversion has been the public invitation. The Second Great Awakening engendered the explosion of the number of Baptists in North America, and although models for offering public invitations go all the way back to Pentecost, the use of the public invitation or altar call became a fixture in Baptist worship services after the Great Awakenings. The Separate Baptists of the Sandy Creek tradition brought this revivalistic focus into the Southern Baptist mainstream. There have been many famous Southern Baptist pastors and evangelists for whom the public invitation has been designed to be the high time in the worship service – none more prominent than the famous evangelist Billy Graham, whose image is canonized in a statue in front of the SBC building in Nashville.

There are scriptural and historical reasons for offering such a public invitation,[9] but doctrinally a decisional public invitation is logically entailed in other Baptist beliefs such as soul competency, believer’s baptism, and the gathered church. Only adults (those beyond the age of accountability) can have soul competence, can make a life commitment through repentance and faith that is the prerequisite to believer’s baptism, and become a member of a gathering of intentional believers. Many such decisions come at the end of a fairly long process as the Holy Spirit works through many events to lead the person to make such a decision (by convicting them of their sin and convincing them of the life-saving truth that is in Christ), but at some point it all comes down to a moment of decision. This moment of decision often comes in the midst of a worship service in response to the preached Word of God. The preaching of the Word in a worship setting and public invitations provide a particularly effective vehicle for the Holy Spirit to enable persons to get away from the distractions of life and focus on eternally significant spiritual issues. The public invitation presupposes what might be called a “decisional” view of salvation, as opposed to a more gradual or developmental view of salvation. In the “decisional” view of salvation, a sinner presented with the gospel can respond to God’s calling in a decisional moment through repentance and faith. Public invitations provide the opportunity for persons to be confronted with life-changing decisions and to make public the decisions that have been made.

There are many forms of public invitations. Some call for the person to come to the front of the church at the end of a worship service, counsel with the pastor or other spiritual counselors, and if the person comes to a decision for Christ (or has already made a decision), that decision is announced to the congregation. This approach is called by some an “alter call” (though I do not prefer that designation). Sometimes a more gradual approach might be taken, asking persons who are struggling with a decision to raise their hands or stand, pray for them, and then make an appeal to come to the altar if they feel led to make a decision. In other cases those who are struggling with a decision may be invited to come to the altar to pray, or to sit on an “anxious bench” (this was utilized particularly in the Second Great Awakening), or to go into another room to receive prayer and spiritual counseling. However, what all these various methodologies have in common is that they present an opportunity for persons struggling with a spiritual decision (whether for salvation, rededication, church membership, or a call to ministry) to come to a prayerful decision. It also affords a way to meet the scriptural requirement to publicly identify themselves with Jesus Christ, who Himself said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Thus, any form of invitation which provides an opportunity for personal decision and public confession would seem to be consistent with the requirements of the BF&M doctrine of salvation.

Presbyterians, on the other hand, tend to downplay public invitations and decisional presentations of the gospel. Although there are notable exceptions, most Presbyterians tend to focus on a more gradualist developmental approach to salvation. After infants are sprinkled, they later undergo catechetical training and are confirmed. In practice, the catechetical training is often more cognitive than volitional, and confirmation is more age-driven and developmental than decision-driven. The anti-conversionist “Old Light Calvinists” opposed the Great Awakenings because of their soteriological convictions. Although the pro-conversionist New Light Calvinists became the majority, the presence of infant baptism nonetheless diminishes the significance of decisional conversion in the Presbyterian doctrine of salvation. Modern day Old Light Calvinists such as David Engelsma reject the notion that adult or decisional conversion is required at all: “Speaking for myself, to the brash, presumptuous question sometimes put to me by those of a revivalist, rather than covenantal, mentality, ‘When were you converted?’ I have answered in all seriousness, ‘When was I not converted?’”[10] Further, Engelsma declares, “As a Reformed minister and parent, I have no interest whatever in conversion as the basis for viewing baptized children as God’s dear children, loved of him from eternity, redeemed by Jesus, and promised the Holy Spirit, the author of faith. None!”[11] This gradualist, covenantal view of salvation is far from the Baptist decisional view of salvation.

Some strongly Calvinistic Baptists have become enchanted with the Presbyterian model and would like to inject it into Southern Baptist life, particularly in regard to public invitations. In a discussion that would be astonishing to most Southern Baptists in the pew, a Southern Baptist seminary publication printed a debate between three of its faculty members about whether or not it is unbiblical for churches to have an invitation for the lost to be saved at the end of the worship service.[12] Jim Elliff argued that “it is my contention that our use of the altar call and the accouterment of a ‘sinner’s prayer’ is a sign of our lack of trust in God.”[13] Elliff claimed that “there is no biblical precedent or command regarding a public altar call,” but it was an invention of Charles Finney, and that “the sad truth is that it [the sinner’s prayer] is not found anywhere but in the back of evangelistic booklets.”[14] Elliff further questions the practice of pastors who would share Scripture verses about assurance of salvation with new believers, or to present them to the church publicly for baptism, because Elliff believes that the majority of these would-be converts are probably not genuinely saved.[15] As Ken Keathley has demonstrated,[16] Elliff’s suggestions do not stand up to the tests of Scripture and logic. While we should always guard against excesses of revivalism or emotional manipulation which might lead to a mere emotional response that lacks any real commitment, we should be eager to accept even a thief on a cross into the Kingdom. C. H. Spurgeon complained that some of his fellow Calvinists seemed “half afraid that perhaps some may overstep the bounds of election and get saved who should not be,” and claimed that “there will be more in heaven than we expect to see there by a long way.”[17]

It may be that the move away from having public invitations in Baptist churches is a contributing cause to why Southern Baptists baptized 50,000 fewer people per year in 2010 than we did in 1955, when public invitations were standard in virtually every Southern Baptist worship service. SBC churches baptized only 349,737 persons last year, which is 84,546 baptisms fewer than the 416, 867 baptisms we witnessed in 1955.  This stunning decline in baptisms is made all the worse by the fact that in the last 55 years our churches have increased significantly in every key statistical area except baptisms. We have over 15,000 more new churches in 2010 than in 1955, an increase of 50 percent (45,000 now vs. 30,000 then), but we had about 85,000 fewer baptisms. Church planting alone has obviously NOT been the answer. We have almost doubled our church membership from 8.4 million members in 1955 to 16.1 million members in 2010, but with 85,000 fewer baptisms. Our giving has increased exponentially from $334 million in 1955 to almost $12 billion in 2010, but there were 85,000 fewer baptisms. The population of the United States nearly doubled since 1955 (from about 165 million to over 308 million), but baptisms in Southern Baptist churches has been reduced significantly. In 1955 a person was baptized for every 20 church members; in 2010 that had more than doubled to 49 church members needed to reach and baptize one person. What’s worse, over half of the adult baptisms in SBC churches are actually rebaptisms, including believers coming from other denominations, so to count them is really double counting the same people. And nearly 80 percent of our churches are plateaued or declining.[18] At some level, if one might transpose the truth of James 4:2 (we have not because we ask not) to a different application, it may very well be that we have fewer decisions for Christ because we ask fewer to make decisions. It would seem that a re-emphasis on intentional evangelism and well-crafted public invitations could help reverse these embarrassing numerical trends, which reflect that we have been disobedient to the Great Commission and that we are not being the pliable vessels that God is using to transform lives through our churches that we were fifty years ago.

A Call for Doctrinal Integrity and Diversity within Christian Unity

In an earlier post entitled “The Middle Way,” I asserted that centrist Baptists are “the middle way” between Arminians and Calvinists/Presbyterians, and listed a dozen ways in which centrist Baptists differed from various Arminian groups. Now, this series has focused on nine key doctrinal differences between Baptists and Presbyterians (which did not include the five point summary of Reformed soteriology best known by the TULIP acronym–for a critique of five-point Calvinism from a centrist Baptist perspective see our book Whosoever Will).

Why all the focus on differences of belief?  Because we live in an era in which doctrinal distinctives tend to be minimalized in a non-denominational and ecumenical babble that suggests all Christians essentially believe the same things, or relegates important doctrinal issues to a tertiary status through a subjective theological triage. The high value given to multiculturalism and toleration in our culture tends to encourage breaking down barriers and to discourage the erection of fences between various traditions. The purpose of this series has been to point out that real doctrinal differences do still exist between various Christian traditions. To paraphrase Robert Frost, “Good fences make good (denominational) neighbors.”

In no way is this series of articles intended to diminish the practice and beliefs of fellow believers in other denominations. All denominations that broadly share the Reformation heritage share more beliefs in common (orthodox Nicean Christianity plus key Reformation beliefs) than beliefs on which we differ.  I have spent little effort in arguing that the Presbyterian perspectives are incorrect (which is not to say that I do not have reasons for believing so). My focus has been pointing out that real differences exist in doctrine between Presbyterians and Baptists, and to define what some of those differences are. Each of us has the right and responsibility before God to interpret the Bible to the best of our ability and practice what it says.

Let Baptists be Baptists by conviction, and let Presbyterians be Presbyterians by conviction. May we be unified as witnesses to Christ for the glory of God, and one in the Spirit in our affirmation of Jesus as Lord, but also people of integrity who do not compromise our doctrinal convictions!


[1] The paper from which these posts are drawn (plus responses from three theological perspectives) was originally presented at a conference sponsored by the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. See Steve Lemke, “What Is a Baptist? Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians,” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry 5, no. 2 (Fall 2008):10-39, available online at http://www.baptistcenter.com/Documents/Journals/JBTM%205-2_Baptists_in_Dialogue_Fall_08.pdf#page=11. It has been posted in this blog format in SBC Today to facilitate discussion on these issues.

[2] In the Calvinistic understanding of total depravity, humans are incapable of such a response to God’s gracious offer of salvation. While some Calvinistic Baptists do affirm “total inability,” this is a minority view. Many might Southern Baptists say they believe in the “T” of the TULIP (total depravity), in fact their view is closer to the radical depravity described by Timothy George – that is, they believe in the radical and universal depravity of all humanity, but they believe that humans can still respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and express faith in Christ. For more on this approach, see Timothy George, Amazing Grace: God’s Initiative – Our Response (Nashville: Lifeway, 2000), 71-83. All Baptists believe that all persons of age are sinners, and that they cannot be saved without the grace of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but most Baptists still believe in some role for human choice or response to the gracious offer of God.

[3] BF&M, Art. 2.

[4] Ibid., Art. 5.

[5] Ibid., Art. 3.

[6] Ibid., Art. 4.

[7] These issues of interpretation about the human and divine role in salvation did not arise originally with Calvin and Arminius, of course, but from Augustine and his successors in conversation with Pelagius and the semi-Pelagians. As Rebecca Harden Weaver ably details in Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996), Augustine had argued that salvation comes totally and gratuitously from God, because fallen humans are incapable of responding positively to God in any way. Pelagius and the Semi-Pelagians affirmed that salvation is by grace, but Pelagius (to a greater degree) and the Semi-Pelagians (to a lesser degree) affirmed some role for human agency in salvation. In an excellent survey of the controversy, Rebecca Harden Weaver points to the role that the culture of good works in the monastic system played in discussion. Personally, I found the Augustinians to understate the role of human response in salvation and the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians to understate the role of divine grace in salvation. I suppose you could call me a semi- Augustinian semi-Pelagian, or, as we are better known, a Baptist.

[8] W. T. Conner, “Jesus, The Friend of Sinners,” in The Christ We Need (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1938), 45. Mark Coppenger in his article in The Founder’s Journal on “The Ascent of Lost Man in Southern Baptist Preaching” cited this quotation as a mistaken view of human depravity (see http://founders.org/journal/fj25/article1.html). I believe that most Southern Baptists resonate with the balance between divine sovereignty and human response in Conner’s perspective. But in the Calvinistic understanding of total depravity, humans are incapable of such a response to God’s gracious offer of salvation. Although many Southern Baptists say they believe in the “T” of the TULIP (total depravity), in fact their view is closer to the radical depravity described by Timothy George. While all Baptists believe that all persons of age are sinners, and that they cannot be saved without the grace of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, most Baptists still believe in a role for human choice or response to the gracious offer of God.

[9] See R. Alan Streett, “The Public Invitation and Calvinism,” in Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, ed. Steve Lemke and David Allen (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2010), 233-251.

[10] David J. Engelsma, The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers: Sovereign Grace in the Covenant (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2005), 13–16.

[11] Ibid., 82.

[12] The three articles were printed under the heading of “Walking the Aisle,” in Heartland (Summer 1999):1, 4-9, a publication of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The three articles were “Closing with Christ,” by Jim Elliff, which argued that altar calls were unbiblical; “Rescuing the Perishing,” by Ken Keathley, which argued that invitations were biblical and appropriate, and “Kairos and the ‘Altar Call’,” by Mark Coppenger, which allowed for some limited use of altar calls.

[13] Elliff, “Closing with Christ,” 6.  (For a rebuttal of this claim, see Streett, “Calvinism and the Public Invitation,” in Whosoever Will, 241-245).

[14] Ibid., 7.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Keathley more than adequately refutes these claims with biblical evidence in “Rescuing the Perishing,” 4-5. See Ken Keathley, “Rescue the Perishing: A Defense of Giving Invitations,” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry 1, no. 1 (Spring 2003):4-16, available online from the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at http://baptistcenter.com/Journal%20Articles/Spr%202003/02%20Rescuing%20the%20Perishing%20-%20Spr%202003.pdf.

[17] C. H. Spurgeon, Tabernacle Pulpit, 17:449, and 12:477, cited in George, Amazing Grace, 77.

[18] This data comes from United States census reports and Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports from Southern Baptist churches, collected by Bill Day, Associate Director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. For more details, see studies such as his “The State of the Church in the Southern Baptist Convention” and “A Study of Growing, Plateaued, and Declining SBC Churches: 2004.” Most of the information in these studies in published in William H. Day, Jr., “The State of Membership Growth, Sunday School, and Evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention 1900-2002,” in Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, vol. 1, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 107-21, available online at the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry website at http://baptistcenter.com/Journal%20Articles/Fall%202003/07%20The%20State%20of%20Membership%20Growth%20-%20Fall%202003.pdf.

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Brad Whitt

Absolutely wonderful post Dr. Lemke. I was blessed, encouraged and better equipped. Thanks for this tremendously beneficial series.

Chris

I do not think that you showed that a rejection of the altar call is inconsistent with the BF&M or the Baptist tradition. Moreover, many Baptists must not see the inconsistency since many Southern Baptist professors, pastors, and laypeople that teach in our seminaries and serve on our Convention’s committees have rejected the altar call as unbiblical. Also, it is historically incorrect to say that the altar call is a Baptist distinctive rather than a more general distinctive of American revivalists. Charles Finney was a Presbyterian for much of his career and later joined the Congregationalists, both paedobaptist communions. Many Northern revivalist paedobaptists were swept up in Finney’s new measures revivalism. Historically speaking, some Presbyterians utilize the altar call, while others do not, just as some Baptists utilize the altar call, while others reject it. Baptists do not reject the altar call because they are “enchanted” by Presbyterianism. They do so, because they do not see any biblical correlation between the command to repent and believe the gospel and walking forward at the end of a worship service, they do not see a correlation between Jesus’ invitation for sinners to come to Him and a literal coming to an altar at the end of a service, and they believe that the altar call greatly degenerates the Baptist distinctive of believer’s baptism, the event through which believer’s testify their faith before men. All preachers should call on or invite sinners to repent and believe the gospel when they preach, but that call or invitation has nothing to do with an altar call or an anxious bench. Finally, blaming declining baptisms on Baptists who do not use altar calls without giving any credible evidence is shameful. Many pastors and laypeople in the SBC look up to you and listen to your words. You owe it to those who disagree with you to back up statements like that with proof, which your statistics do not offer.

Bill Mac

Dr. Lemke,

Are you using the term conversion synonymously with regeneration?

volfan007

Thank you, Dr. Lemke, for this good post, which explains things so well. God bless you, Brother.

David

Steve Lemke

Chris,
Thanks for your comments. You always express yourself well and have thoughtful things to say. Unfortunately, as we often do, we find ourselves on different sides regarding these issues. In this case, and I don’t mean to be unkind in saying so, it does seem like you zoned in on and reacted to some issues I did not raise as opposed to reading carefully what I said.

First of all, you’re right that that I did not demonstrate “that a rejection of the altar call is inconsistent with the BF&M or the Baptist tradition.” That’s because I did not attempt to accomplish such an objective, nor would I try to do so. Reading back again carefully, you’ll note that:
(a) I said don’t even like the term “altar call” at all.
(b) I consistently used the word “public invitation” rather than altar call.
(c) I said that there were many varieties of public invitations besides the so-called “altar call.”
(d) The doctrinal basis for this Baptist distinctive (distinctive, that is, from Presbyterians) was that the BF&M requires response(s) to be saved — repenting of sin, accepting Christ through faith, committing oneself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All of these fundamentally require a decision by what the BF&M calls persons with “free agency” and endowed by God with “freedom of choice” to respond to the gospel that is offered “freely.” So, logically entailed in that doctrine of salvation, there must be some opportunity to express that decision or response. Baptists through history have used public invitations as one of the most important ways to express that decision or response. Surely you’re not claiming that there should be no public stand for Christ associated with salvation, in direct contradiction to Jesus’ words in Matt. 10:32-33! Would you really offer a call to repentance and faith but never offer a way in which that decision could be expressed?

Second, you said that “it is historically incorrect to say that the altar call is a Baptist distinctive rather than a more general distinctive of American revivalists.” Let me remind you what this series is about — it is about those doctrines which distinguish Baptists from Presbyterians, not those doctrines which separate Baptists from any other Christian denomination. I did trace how the revivalistic Sandy Creek tradition came into the mainstream of Southern Baptist life. But I also said that there were some Baptists who have discontinued the practice of public invitations, and I said that there were some notable exceptions among Presbyterians who did practice public invitations. You mention Charles Finney — he is indeed one of those notable exceptions — and both in his day and since then has been pilloried by Presbyterians and other Calvinists because of his use of the public invitation, which simply makes my point!. But yes, I am claiming that overwhelmingly and consistently, Baptists through the ages (particularly in contradistinction to Presbyterians) have believed in a decisional conversion, and that the overwhelming majority of Baptist churches through the years have offered some form of public invitation.

Third, you claim that “Baptists do not reject the altar call because they are ‘enchanted’ by Presbyterianism,” but do so because of “biblical” reasons. Nice how you contrast the “biblical” view with the predominant Baptist view. And I did not say anything about altar calls. But I think you’re wrong. There is in fact an amazing correlation between Calvinist-leaning churches and pastors and their proclivity not to offer a public invitation. Yes, it happens they voice biblical reasons for doing so, but it is because they are already reading those verses through a Calvinist filter. So I stand behind my statement.

Fourth, you claim that “many Southern Baptist professors, pastors, and laypeople that teach in our seminaries and serve on our Convention’s committees have rejected the altar call as unbiblical.” If you’re just talking about those who teach at seminaries, I would challenge the notion that “many” believe this. Some professors at some of those same seminaries used to teach that you could lose your salvation and that abortion was okay. So just because a few SBC seminary professors teach something doesn’t make it a fact. The overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists have a different perspective (and I think you probably realize that)– whether seminary professors, SBC committees, pastors, or laypeople. The view you endorse is in a decided minority.

Fifth, in all the above ways, you really zoned in on the “altar call” — a word I used only once parenthetically, when I was explaining I didn’t prefer to use the term. What you seem to have overlooked in my suggesting that this might be a factor impacting the stunning drop in baptisms over the last fifty years is:
(a) I didn’t say it was the only cause of the drop in baptisms. In fact, I didn’t say it was necessarily a cause at all. Look again at what I said: “It may be that the move away from having public invitations in Baptist churches is a contributing cause to the reduced number of baptisms. I think that’s a pretty circumspect claim.
(b) What I did say is that “a re-emphasis on intentional evangelism and well-crafted public invitations could help reverse these embarrassing numerical trends.” Without intentional evangelism, public invitations will have little success. And I don’t see me saying anything about altar calls.

Sixth, you suggest that it is “shameful” that I did not cite more “statistics” in my article. Actually, Chris, I have run the statistics several years from the ACP of all reporting SBC churches about churches which self-identify themselves as being in the Reformed tradition. When I have presented them in other venues, people on your side screamed that it was “shameful” to present these statistics, which made your side look bad, because they didn’t tell the full story. If you would like them, you can email me asking for the information and I’ll send it. If not, I’ll just encourage you to look at the baptism statistics in your association or state convention and then see if you want to tell me I’m wrong — that the churches with the largest numbers of baptisms in your association or state convention have discontinued the invitation. I sincerely doubt it, and I think you know that, too.

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
Although the words “regeneration” and “conversion” are technically distinguishable in shade of meaning, yes, I am using them as being essentially synonymous. You may be asking if I believe that regeneration precedes faith. I do not. I believe that faith precedes regeneration, as indicated in Mark 16:15-16; John 1:11-13, 3:15-16, 5:24, 5:40, 6:51-57, 7:38-39, 11:25, 20:31; Acts 2:38, 13:39, 16:31, 18:8; Rom. 1:16, 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:13, 4:6; Eph. 1:13-14; Heb. 11:6; 1 John 5:1, etc.
swl

    Bill Mac

    Dr. Lemke,

    Fair enough. That is certainly the majority view at the moment in the SBC, and I can appreciate the scriptural argument for it. That being said, it seems to me that essentially what you are saying is that one of the things that separates Baptists from Presbyterians is that Baptists aren’t Calvinists, something that I and I’m sure a host of people in the SBC would object to.

    As I say, I can appreciate the fact that a good many Baptists hold to decisional regeneration. But I would not call it a Baptist distinctive, since not all Baptists, either today or historically hold to it. The BFM certainly seems to be able to accommodate both views.

    I’m sure you can counter that not all Calvinists believe regeneration precedes faith, but many (perhaps most?) do. This just seems like a subtle reminder to SBC Calvinists that we aren’t really Baptist, at least not quite as Baptist as the majority.

    On another note: I’m not surprised that calvinistic baptist churches (sorry for the oxymoron) baptize fewer people than other baptist churches. What I would like to see statistics for, if they exist, is the ratio between baptisms and continuing discipleship, for both types of churches. Our historical track record for baptisms is quite good. I’m pretty sure our track record for being able to look into the pews and see those baptizees ten years later is not. That, it would seem to me, would be a better rubric by which to judge the evangelical effectiveness of a church.

    Thanks

    Les

    Dr. Lemke, with due respect, the verses you cite are all about believing…faith. None of these verses would be in dispute over the order of regeneration/faith. None of these teaches that faith precedes regeneration.

    Les

      Steve Lemke

      Les,
      Likewise with all due respect, I’m stunned that you did not notice the sequence of faith preceding regeneration (i.e., the Holy Spirit coming into one’s life) and life (which is what “regeneration” means) and salvation in these Scriptures:

      Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For God loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:14–16, HCSB). NOTE THAT BELIEF COMES FIRST, THEN SPIRITUAL LIFE. AS YOU KNOW, “ETERNAL LIFE” IS NOT JUST LATER IN HEAVEN, BUT IS A PRESENT POSSESSION OF THE BELIEVER.

      He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, NASB). NOTE THAT BELIEF COMES FIRST, THEN SPIRITUAL LIFE.

      “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24, NASB) NOTE THAT BELIEF COMES FIRST, THEN ONE GOES FROM DEATH TO LIFE. THIS IS IN DIRECT CONTRADITION TO WHAT YOU’RE SAYING.

      “And you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:40, NASB). NOTE THAT BEING “WILLING” PRECEDES LIFE.

      Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25, NASB). AGAIN, NOTE THAT BELIEF PRECEDES LIFE.

      He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38–39, NASB). AGAIN, NOTE THAT BELIEF COMES FIRST, THEN SPIRITUAL LIFE.

      Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NASB). NOTE THAT THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT DID NOT TAKE PLACE UNTIL AFTER REPENTANCE (AND FAITH), WHICH YOU SAY IS IMPOSSIBLE.

      In Him you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:13–14, HCSB). NOTE THE ORDER: FIRST BELIEVE, THEN RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT.

      Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15–16, HCSB). NOTE THAT SALVATION IS CONDITIONAL ON BELIEF.

      But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12, KJV). NOTICE THAT SONSHIP IS CONDITIONAL ON PRIOR BELIEF.

      “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31, NASB). NOTICE BELIEF BEFORE LIFE.

      “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39, NIV). FIRST BELIEF, THEN JUSTIFICATION.

      “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31, NASB). FIRST BELIEF, THEN SALVATION.

      If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom 10:9–10, HCSB). FIRST BELIEF, THEN SALVATION.

      God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Cor 1:21, NASB).
      FIRST BELIEF, THEN SALVATION.

      And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb 11:6. NASB). NOTE THAT PEOPLE SEEK GOD, AND FAITH IS ESSENTIAL.

      So, do you see it now? (:-)
      SWL

        Les

        Wish I could do those smiley faces. But still, I don’t disagree with you that someone believes and obtains eternal life. Our disagreement is over what, or better who, enables prior the person to believe. I contend that classic reformed theology (Luther, Calvin, etc.) and the bible teaches that dead men don’t exercise faith.

        But we just have to embrace our differences as brothers, preach Chist crucified and trust that God will make it plain to us one day…though by then we won’t really care. Smiley face.

Chris

Dr. Lemke,

I used the term altar call, because you do connect it with the term public invitation, even though you do not like the term altar call. I did not use the term public invitation, because I think it is too general. I believe in giving a public invitation, as do the overwhelming majority, if not all, of SBC Calvinists. We believe that sinners have the responsibility to repent and believe the gospel and that preachers should call sinners to repentance towards God and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. We do not believe that repentance and faith as defined by Scripture includes the type of public response called for by revivalists, whether this be an “altar call,” an invitation to an anxious bench, or the call for sinners to come to the stage to talk to the preacher during a hymn. We also believe that professing believers should confess their faith before men, but that the biblical place to do this is through baptism.

If a rejection of what you envision as a public invitation is not inconsistent with the BF&M, and if many, though not most, do not practice what you envision as a public invitation, then I do not see how this is a true distinction between Baptists and many Presbyterians. It distinguishes a group of Baptists (the majority at this time) from a group of Presbyterians, but it does not demonstrate in any way what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for Baptists to believe and practice.

Historically, Baptists precede the methods of American revivalism. I do not accept the argument that the kind of “public invitations” called for during the Second Great Awakening go all the way back in some form to Pentecost. In other words, Baptists predate the “invitations” that you desire, so these invitations cannot be essential to the Baptist heritage.

Finally, I was not asking for more statistics. I was saying that you cannot prove your case through the statistics that you offer, because your methodology is flawed. I do not have the numbers for the association that I live in, but I do know that several of the Baptist churches in my area that do not employ the “invitation” that you desire are thriving. In order not to confuse anyone, I do want to make it clear that these churches do call on or invite sinners to repent and believe and to be baptized. They do not call on them to come forward during the last moments of a service. This is a burden that Christ nowhere commands from sinners and is, therefore, a burden that we should not feel comfortable laying upon people.

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
I don’t think I could put a complete argument with documentation for what I’m about to say here, but I think it could be proven that regeneration preceding faith is more characteristic of neo-Calvinism than it is of Calvinism or Presbyterianism generally. Perhaps someone like Tony Byrne or Kenneth Stewart could help us here. There is evidence that it was a post-seventeenth century development after Calvin and his main successors. The “Calvinist Flyswatter” (who is, by the way, a Calvinist who loves Spurgeon), describes this regeneration preceding faith view as “hybrid Calvinism.” See http://calvinistflyswatter.blogspot.com/2008/05/what-constitutes-hybrid-calvinism.html (note the quotes by Shedd, Packer, and Berkhof).

There are some centrist Baptists who think that Calvinistic Baptists who believe that regeneration precedes faith cannot affirm the Baptist Faith and Message, i.e., in the statement on Salvation (4.a), “Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus.” This statement would seem to require that one must be a believer before one is regenerated.

Yes, the concern with statistics you mentioned is what has been raised before with me, as I was telling Chris. It’s true that uninterpreted statistics can be misleading. Still, the facts are the facts. I could equally ask for statistics demonstrating that Reformed churches have a better retention rate than other churches or denominations. It might just be that you’re being overly self-congratulatory without evidence, or it might be that it’s easier retaining a higher percentage if fewer are won to Christ. But I think I could build a pretty convincing case that the Presbyterian church as a whole has been in a dramatic decline over the last few decades. If that is so, the projected future of PresbyBaptists doesn’t look so bright. Anyway, I’ll say this — I don’t think the no invitation approach is what the Calvinistic Baptist Charles Spurgeon believed! (http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols37-39/chs2231.pdf)

Steve Lemke

Chris,
I’m comfortable with a public invitation as being inclusive of what I understand you to be saying — that you offer some format (you said what you DON’T like, but it wasn’t quite as clear what you DO like) which affords people to express a decision or get counseling for a decision, perhaps in a side room or an appointment for a later meeting. If you’re doing that, you’re offering a public invitation as far as I’m concerned (though personally I would usually employ a different approach). However, those who close the service with a prayer immediately after the sermon with no opportunity for response of any kind (besides perhaps a vague reference that if you really, really don’t want to spend the rest of eternity in hell and you’re concerned about that you might set up an appointment with the pastor if he can work you into his busy schedule, or an announcement that we have a class starting in six weeks for those whom might be interested in becoming a Christian) do NOT offer a public invitation.

    Mark

    Steve Lemke,

    As I browse the comments about an invitation vs. an altar call I’m a little confused. You pointed out that Chris and others are conflating an invitation with an altar call, yet in reply to Chris you stated:

    However, those who close the service with a prayer immediately after the sermon with no opportunity for response of any kind…do NOT offer a public invitation.

    My guess is that Chris see your comment as saying (in atleast one sense) that if a person does not have the opportunity to walk the aisle that an invitation has not truly been given. And walking the aisle would essentially be the same as an altar call. So maybe that is why there is confusion.

    So in my confusion I ask – What kind of response after the sermon are you referring to in the above comment?

      Steve Lemke

      Mark,
      Actually, I think I’m confused. Please quote where I said anything about walking an aisle. Would you mind pointing that out for me? I’m having trouble finding it. As a person who has worked in house churches, many churches like these don’t hace aisles, so I can’t imagine me ever requiring people to walk an aisle.
      swl

Bill Mac

“It might just be that you’re being overly self-congratulatory without evidence, ”

Not at all. I don’t have any evidence that reformed churches would be better in the statistic I mention. I think they might be, but that’s just a hunch. I’m just saying that I think that would be a better metric. The great commission is for us to make disciples, not merely “converts”. Controversies over Calvinism or no, Southern Baptists have come to the unfortunate realization that we have been baptizing a lot of people who subsequently disappear from our churches (but not our membership rolls).

If you are correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, that regeneration before faith is newer than calvinism, a doctrine articulated in the late 17th century is still pretty well established, and therefore would not be an innovation relative to Southern Baptist history.

To intrude on your conversation with Chris, I wonder how widespread amongst calvinistic baptist churches it is that there are absolutely no Gospel invitations. Most of the Calvinists that I interact with, even if skeptical of the efficacy of the altar call, still give a Gospel invitation.

One more question: Are you one of those centrist Baptists who think that we who hold to regeneration before faith are unable to honestly affirm the BFM? Can we truly affirm that we are Baptist? As I said before, you seem to be hinting that we cannot.

Sal

The ‘alter call’ represents a continuation of something the early church practiced: People hearing the Gospel had the opportunity to respond and confess publically. Revivalism introduced nothing novel in that regard. It simply structured it.

Les

Dr. Lemke,

Good discussion. As the (apparently) only Presbyterian commenter here I do have a couple of thoughts.

First on man’s will in salvation. We presbyterians surely do believe that man is unable to respond to the gospel call (man is spiritually dead) unless first by Jesus Christ He”enlighten[s] their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ:” (WCF 10). But, as the WCF goes on to say, man does come to Christ. (“yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace”). Man chooses Christ as surely as Christ calls him.

But obviously we disagree with your perspective that man chooses Christ (repents and believes) and then is regenerated.

Second, we would mostly agree with this statement, “Many such decisions come at the end of a fairly long process as the Holy Spirit works through many events to lead the person to make such a decision (by convicting them of their sin and convincing them of the life-saving truth that is in Christ), but at some point it all comes down to a moment of decision.” I think this long process is fairly common. Agree. But I do think that from a human side standpoint the new birth happens apart from a “moment of decision.” My own testimony is that I cannot remember a “moment of decision.” I think I know about what six month window I went from being outside of Christ to being in christ. I think that happens fairly often.

And when people DO have that moment of decision you say, “This moment of decision often comes in the midst of a worship service in response to the preached Word of God. The preaching of the Word in a worship setting and public invitations provide a particularly effective vehicle for the Holy Spirit to enable persons to get away from the distractions of life and focus on eternally significant spiritual issues.”

I think that statement could read, “This moment of decision often comes in the midst of a worship service in response to the preached Word of God. The preaching of the Word in a worship setting… provide[s] a particularly effective vehicle for the Holy Spirit to enable persons to get away from the distractions of life and focus on eternally significant spiritual issues.”

In other words, the public invitation only really adds one dimension to this decision. WE get to know about it right then. So the person can surely be drawn by the HS and become a believer in that worship service whether we have a public invitation or not. I’m sure you agree with that. And that translation from death unto life can be the result of a long process or it could be happening all at once. In my experience it seems to me that most conversions are a longer process. God has used several people and circumstances to bring that person to that point.

Third, you said, “Presbyterians, on the other hand, tend to downplay public invitations and decisional presentations of the gospel.” Partially agree. We DO tend to downplay public invitations if you mean urging people to come forward or raise a hand. BUT most Presbyterians I know do urge people to repent and come to Christ in their preaching. They do press for a decision, or they should if they don’t. The difference from what your view is relates to calling for some human movement (come forward or raise a hand, etc.).

Fourth, most Presbyterians I know do not use “confirmation.” It certainly is not in our official standards. Most DO catechize young people and have membership classes where the gospel is taught and children are offered the opportunity to embrace Christ publicly. In fact, all persons joining a PCA church profess their faith “publicly” when they bear witness of their faith in a meeting with the elders. Churches then publicly present these new members to the congregation, whether by profession of faith or transfer, etc.

Having said the above, Presbyterians are not monolithic in this. There are some Presbyterians who preach cerebral messages and don’t call hearers to come to Christ. That is to our shame to the extent that it happens.

But, most of us don’t believe that “walking the aisle” or such is necessary nor prudent for people to express their faith in Christ. Preachers should bring the claims of Christ on his hearers, urger them to repent and believe and trust the HS to do His work in hearts in His timing and in His way. We will know about it soon enough. And I contend that the public response is more about US knowing about the conversion than it is about the conversion itself.

Anyway, thanks for the article and the opportunity to interact.

    Steve Lemke

    Les,
    As often has been the case in our conversations in this series, your comments have played a helpful role in confirming the differences in belief between Baptists and Presbyterians, from a Presbyterian perspective. Your restatement of my statement (leaving out the invitation as an important part of the process) highlights the differences — because that’s exactly what I don’t want to say. And, your gradualist description of your own salvation makes the point very clearly.

    I do affirm that normally God works through a process to lead the person to the point of a decision. This is why I think that Ron Nash’s “inductive presuppositionalism” (which allows for various factors to lead you to where to take the leap of faith) is much more believable than the “deductive presuppositionalism” of Gordon Clark (in which you’re walking down the street and then POOF! all of a sudden without any other outside factors you suddenly and without any prompting believe! — Poof the magic Christian!). This underscores a logical and time problem with the regeneration preceding faith perspective. If one is “dead,” as you claim, and can know nothing-zero-zilch spiritually before regeneration, then if this is a long process after regeneration for this process to play out before one comes to justification by faith (ya’ll still do believe that faith is required for salvation, don’t you — you know, justification by faith, Luther, Calvin, and the boys?), then some and perhaps many people do not survive long enough to be saved — after regeneration, they don’t live long enough to come to repentance and faith. So you have the strange phenomenon of regenerated people who are not saved. (?????????)

    However, I must say that what you said about not ever having a “moment of decision” in your own conversion experience, and your affirmation that “the new birth happens apart from a ‘moment of decision’ ” does leave me shaking my head a little from a Baptist perspective,. All important decisions in life come down to a moment of decision. A person who comes from another country to America and applies to become a citizen (to apply a neglected metaphor in Ephesians 2 — note that these aliens are still living when they become citizens) might come to this decision over time, but there is a moment of decision when they raise their hand and swear the oath. A husband and wife may come to an awareness of their love for each other over time, but there is a moment of decision when “the question is popped,” which is made public later in a public statement of vows. A person might come to an awareness over time of a career to pursue, but there is a moment of decision in which the person says “yes” or “no” to a job offer. It all boils down to moments of decision. We should expect nothing less when it regards the most important decision in life. And, in fact, what we see in the pages of the book of Acts (the appeal at the end of the Pentecost sermon, Phillip and the eunuch, Paul and the Philippian jailer, etc.) is specific appeals for a decision. So I see no problems with a gradualist process coming to the point of a decision, but I can’t get away from the necessity of a point of decision. But then, I guess that’s part of why I’m a Baptist — I believe in decisional conversion!

volfan007

Dr. Lemke,

I lived thru the CR…the fight for the Bible; the fight to remain true to sound doctrine. Now, it seems that we’re in a fight for Baptist doctrine; to remain true to the doctrines which we Baptist hold dear(used to hold dear); doctrines which we believe the Bible clearly teaches. It seems like we have a crowd, especially amongst the younger fellas in the SBC, who just want to jello into the greater, Evangelical crowd.

What are your thoughts on this? in light of your nine marks series?

David

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
In response to your question, I do think a literal reading of the BF&M favors belief preceding regeneration, not regeneratrion. However, since persons of Reformed convictions such as Al Mohler were on the BF&M committee (I don’t know if he affirms regneration preceding belief or not, but there are some on his faculty who do), I assume that he feels one can apply a hermeneutic to these phrases that gives enough “wiggle room” to include such a view. By the way, the SBTS “Abstract of Principles” does not clearly state the regeneration preceding faith position, but it is more amenable to that position than is the BF&M.
swl

Les

Dr. Lemke,

Yes the Abstract is more, much more, amenable to regeneration precedes faith. For others’ benefit:

VIII. Regeneration.

Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who quickeneth the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone.
IX. Repentance.

Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things.
X. Faith.

Saving faith is the belief, on God’s authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ; accepting and resting upon Him alone for justification and eternal life. It is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness.

There is really no other way to read this but that regeneration precedes faith. First he order as listed. Then this:

“Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who quickeneth the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God…”

followed by this on faith:

“Saving faith is the belief, on God’s authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ…”

Without regeneration “enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God” there can be no “belief, on God’s authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ…”

i.e. no regeneration=no understanding savingly he Word.

Just my 2 cents.

Ron Hale

Dr. Lemke,

Thanks so very much for this series of articles! I appreciate you addressing these topics and for your patience in addressing the posts.

Les

Dr. Lemke,

I’m glad to have even a small part in contributing to the conversation.

Several things with your words in quotes and my comments to follow:

“This underscores a logical and time problem with the regeneration preceding faith perspective. If one is “dead,” as you claim, and can know nothing-zero-zilch spiritually before regeneration, then if this is a long process after regeneration for this process to play out before one comes to justification by faith (ya’ll still do believe that faith is required for salvation, don’t you — you know, justification by faith, Luther, Calvin, and the boys?), then some and perhaps many people do not survive long enough to be saved — after regeneration, they don’t live long enough to come to repentance and faith. So you have the strange phenomenon of regenerated people who are not saved. (?????????)”

I did not mean to imply that this gradual approach, which I acknowledge is not always the case, means that the ordo salutis is some sort of drawn out process. I do not think it is. But from our standpoint, and my case testifies to it, salvation may SEEM to be drawn out. i.e. I cannot say exactly I was born again. My situation took place over several months (thru a SBC church BTW). I believe I and all who are believers are instantly born again and such. But as our eyes are now opened, the process of understanding all that it means may be more gradual. I made a public profession of faith in May 1983. I walked an aisle BTW. But I firmly believe that my actual new birth took place prior to that night.

And yes we do believe that faith is required and repentance, etc. That comes after the scales fall off.

“moment of decision.” See above. I did make that public. However I do not think that is always necessary. But here I’m talking about the aisle walk. In addition, I believe that God does often, if not mostly, uses those moments of decision. But I also know some people, consistent with monergistic new birth, who never remember NOT trusting in Jesus. Somewhere their childlike faith was real and they crossed over from death unto life. They just don’t remember it.

Thanks for the interaction.

Mark

I’d like to say more, but I don’t have much time so I’ll note a few items.

First, I’m happy to read in the above post that, “The Separate Baptists of the Sandy Creek tradition brought this revivalistic focus into the Southern Baptist mainstream.” This shows that Calvinistic Baptists were fervent in calling people to repent and believe the gospel. This is helpful in cases where Baptists today use the anti-Calvinist position claiming Calvinistic Baptist don’t care for Evangelism.

On regeneration preceding faith, Curt Daniel holds that this is the view that most Calvinists hold.

B. For my part, I follow the ordo salutis of Louis Berkhof and John Murray, which is that of the Westminster Confession and most Calvinists.
In brief, it is as follows:
(1) Special Calling
(2) Regeneration
(3) Union to Christ
(4) Faith
(5) Repentance
(6) Justification
(7) Adoption
Daniel, Curt. The History and Theology of Calvinism. Springfield: Good Books, 2003, pp. 401.

I’ve also asked A. Chadwick Mauldin author of Fullerism as Opposed to Calvinism about Andrew Fuller’s views on regeneration. He affirmed that Fuller held that regeneration precedes faith.

And a stolen quote from another post.

1. Q. What is meant by the word regeneration? A. Regeneration is God’s causing a person to be born again. 9. Q. Does faith come before the new birth? A. No, it is the new heart that truly repents and believes. John A. Broadus’ A Catechism of Bible Teaching, reprinted in A Baptist Treasury, pp. 67-68.

    Les

    Thanks Mark. It was getting lonely. Good stuff.

Steve Lemke

Mark,
I agree, of course, that some of the early Separate Baptists leaned in a Reformed direction. In fact, the Philadelphia and Charleston traditions leaned that way strongly, so they were in line with most other Baptists at the time. However, they were never as much so as their Philadelphia brethren. As John Leland, the early Baptist leader, said, Baptist preaching combined an affirmation of the “sovereign grace in the salvation of souls mixed with a little of what is called Arminianism.” The 1833 New Hampshire Confession soon overwhelmed the Philadelphia Confession in affirmation by Baptists, and became the rubric upon which the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message was erected.

My question for you is, if the Separate Baptists set the pace for evangelism and revivalism among Baptists, why don’t Calvinistic Baptists today do that?

    Mark

    Steve Lemke,

    My question for you is, if the Separate Baptists set the pace for evangelism and revivalism among Baptists, why don’t Calvinistic Baptists today do that?

    I’m not necessarily claiming the Separate Baptists set the pace, but they say a pace at a certain time(s) in Baptist history. Thereby pointing out that the charge that sometimes rears its head that “Calvinism kills evangelism” is anti-Calvinist rhetoric rather than historical record.

    As to your question, I think some clarity is now needed. First, since I clarified my position above about evangelistic pace setting in general vs. at particular times I’m not sure I can answer the assumptions your question carries. Calvinistic Baptists don’t have to be pace-setters in order to carry out evangelism.

    Is it your position that Calvinistic Baptists today are not active in evangelism or only do so on a limited basis? I’m just trying to understand your view and, hopefully, the basis for it if you would not mind.

volfan007

Jesus told people to come to Him all the time. He publicly invited people to come to Him. Why, He even “invited” Zacheus to come down out of the tree…

Les

volfan,

I’ve invited many people over the years, both in preaching and in personal conversation, to come to Christ. We don’t have to have a church aisle available for them to walk down to say, “Abandon yourself to Christ. Trust in Him, repent of your sins. Flee to the cross. Jesus saves sinners like you.” Any true Calvinist (true in the sense of understanding it) will readily agree that to call sinners to come to Christ is both biblical and Reformed.

    volfan007

    I’m just saying that there’s a lot of public invitations given in thru out the NT. So, why..all of a sudden….would it be wrong to give one at the end of a church service? All we are doing is inviting people to come to Jesus. Yet, there are some Presbyterians, and some Aggressive Calvinists, who seem to believe that there’s something terribly wrong with a public invitation at the end of a worship service?

    David

      Bill Mac

      Vol: As has been said repeatedly, there is a difference between invitations, and altar calls. All Gospel preaching churches should proclaim the invitation to come to Christ. But not all churches need or want to do an altar call. It is not a Baptist distinctive.

        Bill Mac

        To follow up: It is being implied that Calvinistic Baptist churches do not proclaim an invitation to come to Christ. I would like to see some support to back that up.

          Steve Lemke

          Bill Mac,
          I haven’t seen any non-Calvinists in this discussion “diss” invitations . . I wonder why?
          swl

        Steve Lemke

        Bill Mac,
        Sorry, but your persistently bringing up the “altar calls” issue over and over again is getting on my nerves. Evidently, I’m not being clear in some way. Kindly reread my article. I DID NOT SAY THAT ALTAR CALLS (whatever they are) WERE A BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE. WHAT I SAID WAS THAT I DISLIKED THE TERM! PLEASE REREAD THE TITLE OF THE ARTICLE. IT SAYS NOTHING ABOUT ALTAR CALLS BEING A BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE. NOTHING IN MY ARTCLE OR COMMENTS SAYS THAT ALTAR CALLS ARE A BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE. WHAT I SAID OVER AND OVER AGAIN IS THAT THE BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE IS DECISIONAL CONVERSION, WHICH MAKES SOME FORM OF INVITATION IMPORTANT. IS THAT CLEAR NOW?

        And, as I have said repeatedly, in both the article and the comments, AN “ALTAR CALL” (whatever that is) IS JUST ONE KIND OF INVITATION. PLEASE STOP HAMMERING AWAY ON ALTAR CALLS. AS LONG AS YOU’RE GIVING SOME LEGITIMATE FORM OF INVITATION, YOU MEET THE CRITERIA ESTABLISHED IN THE ARTICLE. OKAY? ARE WE CLEAR NOW? CAN YOU GET OFF YOUR “ALTAR CALL” HOBBYHORSE?

          Bill Mac

          wow,we’re doing all caps now? I’ll try to avoid getting on your nerves and ask my question without using forbidden terms.

          You suggest that Calvinistic Baptist churches are “moving away” from public invitations and suggest that might be a cause of the reduced number of baptisms in the SBC. In another comment, you indicate that the ACP does not capture this information. So I’m asking, without anger or frustration, on the basis of what evidence you feel comfortable in making these assertions?

          Since you bring up the issue of an agenda, I will state it plainly. My agenda is to, in the absence of evidence, defend Calvinistic Baptists against the suggestion that they 1) Do not publicly invite people to come to Christ, and 2) Are not quite Baptist enough.

          If we aren’t able to discuss this without anger or frustration, then I will withdraw.

      Les

      David,

      Bill Mac has already replied well. I agree with Bill Mac. All gospel preaching churches should invite people to come to Christ. That does not necessitate any sort of invitation to make any decision public.

      So I think we agree in inviting people to come to Christ.

        volfan007

        I am talking about more than just issuing a call out there, during the preaching, or at the end, just inviting people to put their faith in Jesus during the sermon. I am actually talking about asking people to make a decision right then and there, on the spot. Turn to Jesus…place your faith in Christ right now, because God will save you, if you’ll sincerely turn to Him in simple, humble, surrendering faith. I’m talking about actually inviting people to come and talk to you about being saved right then…during the invitation time.

        Call it what you will….Jesus called the Disciples to forsake all and follow Him..right then and there….publicly…

        So, in all reality, what’s wrong with an altar call? publicly inviting people to respond to the Gospel invitation…right then and there?

        David

          Les

          David, I will just quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones from the early 1970s. He says well in a Q and A why to not use an altar call (remember the altar call is not what the subject of the post is):

          Q During recent years, especially in England, among evangelicals of the Reformed faith, there has been a rising criticism of the invitation system as used by Billy Graham and others. Does Scripture justify the use of such public invitations or not?

          A. Well, it is difficult to answer this in a brief compass without being misunderstood. Let me answer it like this: The history of this invitation system is one with which you people ought to be more familiar than anyone else, because it began in America. It began in the 1820s; the real originator of it was Charles G. Finney. It led to a great controversy. Asahel Nettleton, a great Calvinist and successful evangelist, never issued an “altar call” nor asked people to come to the “anxious seat.” These new methods in the 182Os and were condemned for many reasons by all who took the Reformed position.

          One reason is that there is no evidence that this was done in New Testament times, because then they trusted to the power of the Spirit. Peter preaching on the Day of Pentecost under the power of the Spirit, for instance, had no need to call people forward in decision because, as you remember, the people were so moved and affected by the power of the Word and Spirit that they actually interrupted the preacher, crying out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” That has been the traditional Reformed attitude towards this particular matter. The moment you begin to introduce this other element, you are bringing a psychological element. The invitation should be in the message. We believe the Spirit applies the message, so we trust in the power of the Spirit. I personally agree with what has been said in the question. I have never called people forward at the end for this reason; there is a grave danger of people coming forward before they are ready to come forward. We do believe in the work of the Spirit, that He convicts and converts, and He will do His work. There is a danger in bringing people to a “birth,” as it were, before they are ready for it.

          The Puritans in particular were afraid of what they would call “a temporary faith” or “a false profession.” There was a great Puritan, Thomas Shepard, who published a famous series of sermons on The Ten Virgins. The great point of that book was to deal with this problem of a false profession. The foolish virgins thought they were all right. This is a very great danger.

          I can sum it up by putting it like this: I feel that this pressure which is put upon people to come forward in decision ultimately is due to a lack of faith in the work and operation of the Holy Spirit. We are to preach the Word, and if we do it properly, there will be a call to a decision that comes in the message, and then we leave it to the Spirit to act upon people. And of course He does. Some may come immediately at the close of the service to see the minister. I think there should always be an indication that the minister will be glad to see anybody who wants to put questions to him or wants further help. But that is a very different thing from putting pressure upon people to come forward. I feel it is wrong to put pressure directly on the will. The order in Scripture seems to be this – the truth is presented to the mind, which moves the heart, and that in turn moves the will.

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
I think you’re the only one talking about altar calls. The rest of us are addressing public invitations of many varieties. But your comments and those of Chris underscore part of the frustration that some of us centrist Baptists have at this point — we know that if we use the word “invitation,” even as carefully nuanced as I used it, making it clear that there are many valid ways of offering an invitation, that we’re going to get this immediate knee-jerk reaction from our more Reformed brethren about “altar calls.” The only thing I said about “altar calls” is that I didn’t like the term. I was talking about invitations broadly, not just altar calls. So how do you account for this strange reaction? It feels a lot like an agenda …

    Bill Mac

    Dr. Lemke,

    Sorry but I’m not the only one talking about altar calls. Despite the fact that you seem to distinguish between invitations and altar calls, you go on to suggest that Calvinistic Baptists are moving away from invitations, using Jim Elliff as an example, even though Elliff is clearly arguing against altar calls. So I am, I think, simply responding to what you have written.

    No one elected me to speak for calvinistic baptists, but to the extent I do, I am willing to admit that many of us are not enamored of altar calls, but would not plead guilty to the charge that we do not invite people to faith in Christ (or are “moving away” from it). But this is only what I think, so if there is evidence that Calvinistic Baptists are in fact not inviting people to come to Christ, and that is a significant contribution to the decline in Baptisms in the SBC, I would like to see it. Does such evidence exist?

    Chris

    Wow. I had hoped not to say anything again on this thread. I decided to check back in and see what others were saying, and, to my surprise, I found my name popping up, since I apparantly give knee-jerk reactions and have an agenda. My only agenda is defending my Calvinist brothers when they are unfairly maligned. I have an agenda? Your entire series is intended to push certain people to the fringe and to identify you and your ilk as the true Baptists.

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
I don’t think the ACP includes a listing for who does or dowse not do whatever it is that you call an “altar call.” Since I don’t use the word “altar call,” I don’t guess I do it.
swl

jim elliff

Dear Steve,

I appreciate your zeal for wanting to promote the gospel. I understand where you are coming from.

When I was in seminary I was very involved in giving alter calls, preaching around 40 meetings each year for four years. Some of those meetings were in larger venues such as annual state Baptist youth meetings. I had the experience of seeing many fill the alters. I was also involved overseas, seeing many respond to my public alter calls. But my world was shaken by looking more closely at what was actually happening. I found that many, sadly, were not actually converted and that claiming them to be so on such little evidence was not wise or perhaps even truthful. Simultaneously I was led to do my own biblical study of Christ’s methods and the methods of the apostles. The combination of these two things was what caused me to make changes in my practice, not any affection for Presbyterianism.

At the time I changed from using evangelistic alter calls I was pastoring a church. Even with this change, God brought us nearly 70 who were baptized the last year I was there, without any evangelistic program or evangelistic alter calls. God Himself did amazing things.

I’ve continued to be very burdened about personal evangelism and am involved in it in an active way. As you know I lead a ministry called Christian Communicators Worldwide. On our three websites we do not use the word “Calvinism,” by the way, because I’m not a “theological system” sort of person, but one who tries hard to simply get my terms from the Bible. We publish and distribute evangelistic literature, along with other books we’ve written. Our three evangelistic books have been distributed to well over 250,000 people in English and have been published in various other languages also, the latest being Romanian and Amharic. We often hear of conversions. I talked to a young man this very night in another state where I’m preaching who was converted through reading one of my evangelistic books. We also have an evangelistic website (www.WaytoGod.org) through which we answer questions on a weekly basis from seekers. Our ministry is all about evangelism. This may be difficult to imagine from a person who does not use alter calls, but it is so.

We’ve also started an SBC church. Our young church has only about a hundred members and around 180 attending at present. The elders recently counted 24 ongoing evangelistic ministries that have sprung up in the church by eager members. This includes nursing homes, prison ministries, evangelistic Bible studies in businesses, weekly involvement in churches that don’t have the gospel, street preaching, etc. I’ve been in meetings of our church where every adult talked of evangelistic experiences they had that last week. We dream of more responses to the gospel, but we are doing all we know to do to be faithful. We’re committed to confronting people with the gospel with all our being. Yet, I still contend that Jesus and Paul and John and Peter did not use public alter calls and we should rather trust the Spirit and the message to do the job of bringing conviction and regeneration, along with our heartfelt appeal verbally.

I’m saying all this because people foolishly think that leaders who do not use alter calls are somehow uncaring and not evangelistic. It makes me somewhat uncomfortable to present to you the various ways we try to be evangelistic (we actually feel we don’t do enough), but it seems important to emphasize that many of us are active evangelistically and yet make a distinction between sincere verbal invitations to come to Christ, which we seek to do consistently and passionately, and public alter calls, which we believe have no scriptural basis.

Thanks much for listening, Steve. I hope this clarifies things, in case you have viewed our work differently than it actually is. I think I represent many others.

Jim Elliff
http://www.CCWtoday.org

Les

Dr. Lemke,

I think the problem here with you and Bill Mac is confusion in words. Just my opinion, but I’ll try to show why I think that.

You said, “the use of the public invitation or altar call became a fixture in Baptist worship services after the Great Awakenings.” And then at the end of a paragraph making the case for public invitations you say, “Public invitations provide the opportunity for persons to be confronted with life-changing decisions and to make public the decisions that have been made.

Then, “There are many forms of public invitations. Some call for the person to come to the front of the church at the end of a worship service, counsel with the pastor or other spiritual counselors, and if the person comes to a decision for Christ (or has already made a decision), that decision is announced to the congregation. This approach is called by some an “alter call” (though I do not prefer that designation).”

And, “Thus, any form of invitation which provides an opportunity for personal decision and public confession would seem to be consistent with the requirements of the BF&M doctrine of salvation.”

So, it seems to me that you are clearly making the case that people need to have the opportunity to be confronted with the claims of Christ and that they be afforded an opportunity to make a personal decision followed by a public confession.

Is that right so far?

If so, the confusion may be in that first quote, notwithstanding your later statement that you don’t prefer the term “altar call.” In that first quote above you appear to make a “public invitation” and and “altar call” to be synonymous. Your post does seem to read this way: Baptists, as opposed to Presbyterians, believe in decisional presentations of the gospel and public invitations. The implication in what you are saying is that if one does not a) call persons to make a decision for Christ and b) call people to make that decision public, then there is really no public invitation to come to Christ. In fact you said in the comments,

“However, those who close the service with a prayer immediately after the sermon with no opportunity for response of any kind (besides perhaps a vague reference that if you really, really don’t want to spend the rest of eternity in hell and you’re concerned about that you might set up an appointment with the pastor if he can work you into his busy schedule, or an announcement that we have a class starting in six weeks for those whom might be interested in becoming a Christian) do NOT offer a public invitation.”

The assumption to at least this reader, is that a Presbyterian church which does not call on people to repent and believe AND give them an opportunity at the end of that service to tell somebody about it in some manner (public invitation to come forward or something) is NOT really offering a public invitation. Invitation to what?

So, if you are saying that a Presbyterian, or a Calvinistic Baptist church, that does not offer a way for persons to publicly respond in some sort of invitation is not really offering an invitation to come to Christ, then I would strongly disagree.

Maybe that is what Bill Mac is seeing in what you wrote in the post and in some of the comments. I certainly see that implication.

I know this is long. But maybe a final question will afford an opportunity for clarity:

Scenario: A Presbyterian church (or a Calvinist Baptist church) has a Christ centered sermon. A couple of times in the sermon the preacher tells his hearers that Jesus came to save sinners. Near the end of the sermon he articulates the gospel very clearly and urges those in his hearing to trust in Christ and His finished work and urges people to repent of their sins lest they perish in their sins. He then closes in prayer. No mention is made for anyone to walk forward, raise their hands, etc.

Question: Has the preacher given a public invitation?

I say he has. He has given a public invitation to come to Christ. He has NOT given a public invitation to make known any decision for Christ. And this is where I think the confusion in terms may be.

I hope I haven’t rampled too much. There have been a lot of comments and I may have missed something.

Blessings,

Les

Steve Lemke

Jim, Bill Mac, Les, Mark, and Chris,
Thanks for sharing your responses. Jim, thanks in particular to you for sharing more of where you’re coming from, since you were referenced in the article. Even when we disagree, I believe it is good for you to be able to articulate your perspective more fully, just as I invited you to do a few years ago addressing a different issue (God’s sovereignty and natural disasters –our readers can see it at http://www.baptistcenter.com/Documents/Journals/JBTM_Vol_4_Extra_Edition_Baptists_Ministering_in_the_Midst_of_Disaster.pdf#page=37 ). This is one of the advantages of blogs for this sort of topic — that we can dialogue about issues on which we disagree, even passionately so (because each side believes the Bible and good theology supports their side), as opposed to the one-sidedness of articles or presentations to groups who already agree with us. This is an important methodological issue, based upon important theological affirmations. Your participation has articulated both views well for our readers, who can choose their own perspectives.

I do think we’re going to have to agree to have brotherly disagreement on this issue.
Yes, Les, in the example you gave of proclamation with offering any structured way to respond, I do not consider that sufficient opportunity for response. In a setting quite obviously at a different level than offering the glorious gospel, that would be like a car salesman extolling the virtues of a car to an interested couple, but never inviting them into his office to consider buying the car. Scripturally, it is like Acts 2 without vv. 40-41, in which immediately afterthe Pentecostal sermon Peter and others went through the assembled crowd and continued to exhort those around them to come to invite them to come a decision for Christ. It is proclamation without providing some structured opportunity for response. If one believes in decisional conversion, as I do, proclamation is essential, but it is incomplete without opportunity for response. Proclamation without invitation produces frustration.

By the way, the focus of my articles has been delineating Baptist theology and practice from that of Presbyterians, so making a detailed scriptural or theological position for each of these dististinctives (Baptist vs. Presbyterian, not Baptist vs. anyone else) has been outside the scope of these articles. However, for a more detailed defense of offering invitations, see “Rescuing the Perishing: A Defense of Offering Invitations,” by Ken Keathley, Dean of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, on his Theology for the Church blog. This article is the sixth in a six-article series he recently posted on this subject, and I would commend it to you.

Again, thanks for your participation in the discussion. I appreciate you all, love you as brothers, and pray for the success of your ministries. Have a meaningful Lord’s Day!
swl

    Bill Mac

    Regarding Sal’s scenario:

    A Presbyterian church (or a Calvinist Baptist church) has a Christ centered sermon. A couple of times in the sermon the preacher tells his hearers that Jesus came to save sinners. Near the end of the sermon he articulates the gospel very clearly and urges those in his hearing to trust in Christ and His finished work and urges people to repent of their sins lest they perish in their sins. He then closes in prayer.

    I confess I don’t see how this is not an invitation. The invitation is Christ’s, to sinners, to place their faith in Him. We simply articulate that invitation when preaching. Therefore responding to the invitation is a response of the sinner, to God, without any intermediary or intercessor. It is not the response of the sinner to the pastor or the church. The invitation is articulated publicly, but salvation is in essence a private covenant between the sinner and God.

    That is not to say the public invitation (whereby someone responds with some physical action) is not without value, especially to someone who requires counseling or prayer. That is why I would always add to the scenario that Sal has given, a secondary invitation to anyone who needs prayer or counseling to speak to the pastor or other designated person, either during the closing hymn or afterward. I think it is also important to urge new believers to make their faith public, to the church, and more importantly, in baptism.

    I would prefer that the sinner responds to Christ when the message is given, right in their seats, rather than waiting for some future opportunity for physical action. But if the sinner needs help in working through it, then we should always be happy to help.

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
Your withdrawing is fine with me. My frustration is not in talking about any particular issue — it is that you are ignoring what I actually say and go off in tangents. You just keep repeating the same assertions over and over again, rather than entering into a dialogue. Dialogues are two way conversations.

Regarding the statistics you have now asked for several times, I’ll repeat yet again what I told you several days ago — that I have statistics relevant to this issue, but I prefer not to publish them (because statistics can always be interpreted in different ways, and I want this thread to be about the subject of my article, not chasing tangents arguing statistics). I offered to give them to you if you sent an email request, but you’ve not done that, which makes very clear that you really don’t want the statistics — you just want to be argumentative.

However, I tell you what. Tell me the name of your church, and I’ll be glad to compare your church’s baptism record with other SBC churches in your association, state convention, and the SBC as a whole. I’ll be glad for us to see how your church and its no invitation policy (you’ve not yet answered my question about what kind of invitation you DO offer) compares with other SBC churches. That would at least give us a case study relevant to this discussion.
swl

    Steve Lemke

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that I used caps for emphasis (for what I otherwise might have used bold, italics, or underlining) because I’m out of town this weekend, riding in a car, and it’s very difficult to type on an iPad in these circumstances, especially trying to put in HTML formatting. I’m sorry if using caps came across to you as offensive.
    swl

    Bill Mac

    Dr. Lemke,

    A few things. Your offer of an email response with statistics was made to Chris, not me. I understood you to say that the ACP does not capture data relevant to whether a church gives public invitations, therefore I did not think the statistics you mentioned would be useful. If I misunderstood that, then I would love to look at the numbers. If my calvinistic baptist brethren are truly not inviting people to faith in Christ then I will join you in calling them to repent.

    Secondly, your presumptions about my church are incorrect. First, I am not the pastor, and while I am a Calvinist the church is not. We offer public invitations of the type you have listed as well as altar calls, if you will forgive my bringing up that term one more time.

    Lastly, as to the main thesis of your article, given the presence, in lesser or greater degree, of Calvinists throughout baptist history, I still think calling “decisional conversion” (ie: faith precedes regeneration) a Baptist distinctive is historically and presently incorrect. It is no doubt the majority view, and if baptist distinctives are simply whatever the majority believes then I guess it is so. It does seem, as I have said elsewhere, as if Calvinists in the SBC are being told we aren’t quite Baptist, although the framers of the BFM, in their wisdom, seem to have left room for us.

volfan007

I have seen many people get truly saved at “altar calls.” My daughter being one of them. I have seen countless others get saved by “being invited to come forward if you want to be saved.” I know that some people do not get saved at a public invitation, or at an altar call. I’d dare say that the truth is that there are many Presbyterians, who are not truly saved, either. Alter call, or not; there are just some people, who dont get truly saved….for whatever reason, they adopt the Christian faith for a while…then, they leave it, because they were never truly saved to begin with.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with an altar call…as long as the people coming forwards are being properly dealt with when they come forward….as long as they are receiving good, sound counsel when they do respond. I see public invitations to follow Christ all thru the NT.

David

    Bill Mac

    David: The issue to me is not whether a church can use altar calls, but whether they must. Some churches use altar calls effectively and others badly abuse them. I think if a church chooses to invite people to faith in Christ without the use of the altar call, then they are free to do so and still remain “Baptist” (something Dr. Lemke agrees with).

Steve Evans

Sounds to me as if some in these churches are altered by an altar call. Believe me it does still happen. I am a prime example of what does happen when the Spirit convicts even though it was way back in 1973. Brothers, just agree to disagree graciously, as it appears Dr. Lemke is doing but others will not let it lie. Thank you, Lord, for someone who preached the Truth and I had the opportunity to respond immediately.

David R. Brumbelow

Dr. Lemke,
Great article on the use of the Public Invitation. Your responses have also been outstanding. Keep up the good work.

And by the way, I was saved during a Public Invitation. Even prayed the Sinner’s Prayer (Romans 10:9-10-13; Luke 18:13-14). It worked!
David R. Brumbelow

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