Friday, November 18, 2005

American Evangelicalism has issues

I stumbled across this critique of a children's DVD called Baptism Central. The critique is alright, and makes some good points. But why must we stoop to these levels to get people baptized? Does identification with the Creator of the Universe and holy Lamb of God in his death and resurrection just not cut it anymore?

Moreover, the video makes baptism into a "celebration" of one's faith in Christ, kind of like "a birthday party." But this makes the gap between faith and baptism too large. Baptism is not a celebration or commemoration, any more than it is a sign of the covenant. Baptism is the profession or testimony of one's faith in Christ, not a remembrance of it. Baptism is a sign of our faith in Jesus Christ and the regeneration we have experienced through faith in him.

12 Comments:

Blogger Greg Linscott said...

from The Baptist Standard

Second Baptist Church in Houston, an SBC loyalist, hired Wacky World, an "edutainment" company to design a recently dedicated $595,000 Soul Train City and Hangar area complete with Disney-style life-size animatronic figures for children and teens.

According to Bruce Barry, president and CEO of Wacky World, First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., also an SBC conformist, used his firm to design "Toon Town," a children’s sanctuary featuring a children’s baptistry built inside a fire truck. When a child is baptized, a bell rings and he or she is sprayed with confetti.


Some pictures here (though none of the baptistry that I could see).

11/19/2005 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thanks for the link, Greg. These kinds of things never fail to get my blood pressure up. There are so many things one could say . . . but let me summarize them all with one word:

anathema.

11/19/2005 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Amen.

11/19/2005 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Ah, yes, Second Baptist...

My sister-in-law and her husband are members there! My wife had a layover in Houston one time and her sister took her on a tour of the facilities. The mind boggles. We are in different worlds.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

11/20/2005 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

WOW.

I like these churches because it makes me feel better about my own church;)

11/20/2005 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I may say with respect that fundamentalism in many corners is only different in degree from these other churches.

Think VBS, Children's Church, mid-week clubs, Christian school, and sometimes even Sunday school.

11/20/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Ryan,

I'm not saying your point is totally unfounded, but work with me here. If VBS, let's say, is different and distinguishable from a "dedicated worship" service, is that the same thing as what we are talking about with the baptistry and so on?

How much room, if any, do you see in Christianity for the legitimate use of "childish things?" Does evangelizing American culture give any room, even grudgingly, to use language and devices that they will find accessible? I'm not talking about you raising your own children, here- but of trying to communicate to kids whose parents can't or won't restrict or discipline their children's exposure to the elements of popular culture.

11/20/2005 09:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

I struggle with this, too, Greg. If I had my way, I would eliminate the youth group, junior church, etc. However, we have teens and kids in our church with unsaved parents or baby Christian parents. We have to provide something to help them get to where we want them to be; it won't just happen automatically. But we're always in front of the people giving them the final goals. I often tell the parents of our teens that I don't think we need a "youth group;" that these are young adults who must learn to interact with other adults. That I exist as "youth pastor" simply to be a help to the parents. We also do very specific things to force the children to mature, like insisting that they use a hymnal in Sunday School and Wednesday evenings for the song times.

It's the ever-frustrating tension between ideals and reality.

11/20/2005 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Before I answer your question, let me acknowledge that I may come across sounding like some raving elitist, full of cock-eyed theories. That is to say, I acknowledge that I have never been a pastor, and that I have a great deal of pretension demanding reform of your (or anybody else's) church's children's programs.

Now, as to your first question, I raised the baptistry video (which can be watched, by the way, on the link I gave), as an example of improper motivation and poor teaching (content wise). Is it sacrilege in how it deals with baptism? Yes, and I think that is a point you are making with the baptism in the fire truck. Baptism is a holy ordinance (whatever holy means anymore, I wish someone would tell me), and we should treat it that way. So your question is whether VBS is sacrilege like a guy in a scuba suit baptizing some kid in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost all for the sake of an instruction DVD or baptizing some kid in a fire engine and confetti. No (depending upon the VBS, I would imagine). And may I say that I am not opposed to the notion of a VBS. In my utopian world, the VBS would look very different from most I have seen (and led), but the idea of teaching children the Bible over a week in the summer is a good one, and I am all for it. It is just the extra things we add in.

Which brings me to your second question. There are all sorts of issues to think about with the evangelism of children. I once heard Dr. Makujina say that he does not believe we should try to reach families by evangelizing the children. Instead, he commented (from my recollection), that we should seek to see the fathers (if they are still around) and mothers saved, and then the children. I think that we should ponder that notion for some time before criticizing it. This is not to say, of course, that we should not seek the salvation of children. But we would do well to consider that notion as well. Are we in danger (particularly with how we so often appeal to children's baser appetites) with generating false conversions? There are children who are saved on "bus ministries" or such things who stick it out (a.k.a. persevere) and do good things for the Lord (I believe Mike Harding was saved out of a bus ministry). But, of course, we do not measure things based on whether they work in that sense. This would make us pragmatists, and everyone knows that only evangelicals are pragmatists (pardon the rabbit trail). I think we should think hard about what age we should even be baptizing children (this is not to say that we should not be baptizing children, but that we should think about that question).

Greg, you said, "but of trying to communicate to kids whose parents can't or won't restrict or discipline their children's exposure to the elements of popular culture." Perhaps I can turn tables on you. What is the difference between this question and reducing our services to the elements of popular culture, since it is all any of us know anyway? Is this not the way of the American Evangelicalism I began this post by criticizing? Is this not how they justify all these accursed (pardon my language) activites?

My answer, ultimately, to the "evangelizing children" question will be the same answer I give to the "evangelizing adults" question. We evangelize by proclaiming Christ and the gospel. This is how the grace of God is magnified most, when we turn from adding all our own inventions to the gospel and simply proclaim in all its stark "offensiveness" and "cultural turn-off-edness" (how's that for turning a phrase?). God grants them repentance unto life, and they turn to Christ, and he is magnified. Not because we added candy (or trendy music or comfortable seating or lights or a casual atmosphere or big cartoons on the wall, etc, etc . . . ), but because of the work of his grace. How liberating the grace of God in the work of the Holy Spirit is for us on these matters! Of course, I do not need to remind you of how 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 speak directly to this issue. We must relate to our culture, only the sense that they too are longing for pleasure, just as we are, and that they speak English (or whatever language).

Our churches may not be as big, but our converts may stick around a little longer.

Enough, already. I am sure I have said too much.

11/20/2005 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

If I were a pastor in a church with these ministries, like Scott is, I would probably take an approach very similar to his. I will, of course, lay out my "crazy" ideas before I even get there (which makes me wonder where I will be hired). The important thing will be to patiently teach in that kind of situation, insisting that the normal thing for children is to be in the service with their parents (which of course follows for the youth as well). Or you could slowly work the matters into your teaching.

We have discussed on previous occasions how these changes can only be seen with patient teaching. We have bad culture in American evangelicalism. We cannot simply turn on good culture like a light switch.

It took generations to build the cathedrals.

11/20/2005 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

I think I understand you- however, the initial response seemed to indicate that you had a problem with the very concept of a VBS or other children's ministries, not necessarily how they were done.

Larry Rogier had some good thoughts reflecting a balanced perspective in this area.

11/21/2005 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Pardon my ambiguity.

11/21/2005 12:16:00 PM  

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Immoderate: American Evangelicalism has issues

Friday, November 18, 2005

American Evangelicalism has issues

I stumbled across this critique of a children's DVD called Baptism Central. The critique is alright, and makes some good points. But why must we stoop to these levels to get people baptized? Does identification with the Creator of the Universe and holy Lamb of God in his death and resurrection just not cut it anymore?

Moreover, the video makes baptism into a "celebration" of one's faith in Christ, kind of like "a birthday party." But this makes the gap between faith and baptism too large. Baptism is not a celebration or commemoration, any more than it is a sign of the covenant. Baptism is the profession or testimony of one's faith in Christ, not a remembrance of it. Baptism is a sign of our faith in Jesus Christ and the regeneration we have experienced through faith in him.

12 Comments:

Blogger Greg Linscott said...

from The Baptist Standard

Second Baptist Church in Houston, an SBC loyalist, hired Wacky World, an "edutainment" company to design a recently dedicated $595,000 Soul Train City and Hangar area complete with Disney-style life-size animatronic figures for children and teens.

According to Bruce Barry, president and CEO of Wacky World, First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., also an SBC conformist, used his firm to design "Toon Town," a children’s sanctuary featuring a children’s baptistry built inside a fire truck. When a child is baptized, a bell rings and he or she is sprayed with confetti.


Some pictures here (though none of the baptistry that I could see).

11/19/2005 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thanks for the link, Greg. These kinds of things never fail to get my blood pressure up. There are so many things one could say . . . but let me summarize them all with one word:

anathema.

11/19/2005 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Amen.

11/19/2005 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Ah, yes, Second Baptist...

My sister-in-law and her husband are members there! My wife had a layover in Houston one time and her sister took her on a tour of the facilities. The mind boggles. We are in different worlds.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

11/20/2005 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

WOW.

I like these churches because it makes me feel better about my own church;)

11/20/2005 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I may say with respect that fundamentalism in many corners is only different in degree from these other churches.

Think VBS, Children's Church, mid-week clubs, Christian school, and sometimes even Sunday school.

11/20/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Ryan,

I'm not saying your point is totally unfounded, but work with me here. If VBS, let's say, is different and distinguishable from a "dedicated worship" service, is that the same thing as what we are talking about with the baptistry and so on?

How much room, if any, do you see in Christianity for the legitimate use of "childish things?" Does evangelizing American culture give any room, even grudgingly, to use language and devices that they will find accessible? I'm not talking about you raising your own children, here- but of trying to communicate to kids whose parents can't or won't restrict or discipline their children's exposure to the elements of popular culture.

11/20/2005 09:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

I struggle with this, too, Greg. If I had my way, I would eliminate the youth group, junior church, etc. However, we have teens and kids in our church with unsaved parents or baby Christian parents. We have to provide something to help them get to where we want them to be; it won't just happen automatically. But we're always in front of the people giving them the final goals. I often tell the parents of our teens that I don't think we need a "youth group;" that these are young adults who must learn to interact with other adults. That I exist as "youth pastor" simply to be a help to the parents. We also do very specific things to force the children to mature, like insisting that they use a hymnal in Sunday School and Wednesday evenings for the song times.

It's the ever-frustrating tension between ideals and reality.

11/20/2005 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Before I answer your question, let me acknowledge that I may come across sounding like some raving elitist, full of cock-eyed theories. That is to say, I acknowledge that I have never been a pastor, and that I have a great deal of pretension demanding reform of your (or anybody else's) church's children's programs.

Now, as to your first question, I raised the baptistry video (which can be watched, by the way, on the link I gave), as an example of improper motivation and poor teaching (content wise). Is it sacrilege in how it deals with baptism? Yes, and I think that is a point you are making with the baptism in the fire truck. Baptism is a holy ordinance (whatever holy means anymore, I wish someone would tell me), and we should treat it that way. So your question is whether VBS is sacrilege like a guy in a scuba suit baptizing some kid in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost all for the sake of an instruction DVD or baptizing some kid in a fire engine and confetti. No (depending upon the VBS, I would imagine). And may I say that I am not opposed to the notion of a VBS. In my utopian world, the VBS would look very different from most I have seen (and led), but the idea of teaching children the Bible over a week in the summer is a good one, and I am all for it. It is just the extra things we add in.

Which brings me to your second question. There are all sorts of issues to think about with the evangelism of children. I once heard Dr. Makujina say that he does not believe we should try to reach families by evangelizing the children. Instead, he commented (from my recollection), that we should seek to see the fathers (if they are still around) and mothers saved, and then the children. I think that we should ponder that notion for some time before criticizing it. This is not to say, of course, that we should not seek the salvation of children. But we would do well to consider that notion as well. Are we in danger (particularly with how we so often appeal to children's baser appetites) with generating false conversions? There are children who are saved on "bus ministries" or such things who stick it out (a.k.a. persevere) and do good things for the Lord (I believe Mike Harding was saved out of a bus ministry). But, of course, we do not measure things based on whether they work in that sense. This would make us pragmatists, and everyone knows that only evangelicals are pragmatists (pardon the rabbit trail). I think we should think hard about what age we should even be baptizing children (this is not to say that we should not be baptizing children, but that we should think about that question).

Greg, you said, "but of trying to communicate to kids whose parents can't or won't restrict or discipline their children's exposure to the elements of popular culture." Perhaps I can turn tables on you. What is the difference between this question and reducing our services to the elements of popular culture, since it is all any of us know anyway? Is this not the way of the American Evangelicalism I began this post by criticizing? Is this not how they justify all these accursed (pardon my language) activites?

My answer, ultimately, to the "evangelizing children" question will be the same answer I give to the "evangelizing adults" question. We evangelize by proclaiming Christ and the gospel. This is how the grace of God is magnified most, when we turn from adding all our own inventions to the gospel and simply proclaim in all its stark "offensiveness" and "cultural turn-off-edness" (how's that for turning a phrase?). God grants them repentance unto life, and they turn to Christ, and he is magnified. Not because we added candy (or trendy music or comfortable seating or lights or a casual atmosphere or big cartoons on the wall, etc, etc . . . ), but because of the work of his grace. How liberating the grace of God in the work of the Holy Spirit is for us on these matters! Of course, I do not need to remind you of how 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 speak directly to this issue. We must relate to our culture, only the sense that they too are longing for pleasure, just as we are, and that they speak English (or whatever language).

Our churches may not be as big, but our converts may stick around a little longer.

Enough, already. I am sure I have said too much.

11/20/2005 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

If I were a pastor in a church with these ministries, like Scott is, I would probably take an approach very similar to his. I will, of course, lay out my "crazy" ideas before I even get there (which makes me wonder where I will be hired). The important thing will be to patiently teach in that kind of situation, insisting that the normal thing for children is to be in the service with their parents (which of course follows for the youth as well). Or you could slowly work the matters into your teaching.

We have discussed on previous occasions how these changes can only be seen with patient teaching. We have bad culture in American evangelicalism. We cannot simply turn on good culture like a light switch.

It took generations to build the cathedrals.

11/20/2005 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

I think I understand you- however, the initial response seemed to indicate that you had a problem with the very concept of a VBS or other children's ministries, not necessarily how they were done.

Larry Rogier had some good thoughts reflecting a balanced perspective in this area.

11/21/2005 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Pardon my ambiguity.

11/21/2005 12:16:00 PM  

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