Why So Skeptical?

If I were to announce today that my church (or any other church for that matter) baptized 300 people yesterday, I'm sure that people would react in many different ways. Some would rejoice. They would praise the Lord that so many people had come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Yet, others would doubt. Some would doubt that the gospel had really been preached in its fullness. Others would assume that we must have toyed with peoples' emotions. Others would doubt that people had really come to faith in Jesus. I'll be the first to admit that there are times when pastors have preached false gospels, people's emotions have been twisted and faith was only temporary. These are sad realities.

But let me ask a question: why have we become such skeptics? Why do we act as though it is unbelievable or impossible that 300 people truly came to faith in Jesus? In Acts 2:41 Luke tells us that after Peter's sermon "those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls."

So, I ask you once again: Why so skeptical?


Lessie said...

Since you brought the subject up...but on a different note...

I'm currently wondering if the energy and passion (that may not be a given for everyone) of the Southern Baptist church is a result (in part) from the belief in adult baptism and its natural emphasis on evangelism.

Contrast said "energy and passion" with the more measured, careful, intellectual (and emotionless) approach of the Presbyterian church, which happens to practice infant baptism. For example, I've only once heard an invitation at a Presbyterian service (I graduated from Covenant College -- so you can imagine the Presbyterian sermons I've heard.) Whereas, I hear an invitation almost every sermon at the Baptist church I'm attending. It seems the Presbyterian church has an emphasis on santification, whereas the Baptists on evagelism and discipleship. What do you think?

Eric M. Ashley said...

Lessie, you bring up a number of great points that I'll try to touch on. Hopefully others will jump into the conversation because there is a lot that can be said.

First, I don't believe that divergent practices of baptism account for the differences in evangelistic activity. For example, both Baptist and Presbyterians agree that unbaptized adults who come to faith in Jesus should be baptized. So, in theory, both should be equally committed to evangelizing the lost.

Second, in regards to the differing focuses on evangelism and discipleship, I have a couple of thoughts. On the one hand I know of both Presbyterian and Baptist churches that are very evangelistic and outreach focused. On the other hand, I know know of other churches that are very sanctification/discipleship oriented. Yet, in spite of such qualifications, your observation is generally true. Presbyterians are usually more likely to emphasize sanctification. Ideally, churches should be able to balance both of these tasks. The Great Commission involves making disciples (evangelism) and teaching them all things (discipleship/sanctification).

Third, in regards to "invitations" my experience has been similar. I was raised Baptist, and I attended a Baptist college where we had an invitation at every service. On the other hand Presbyterians are not known for having invitations. The historical and theological reasons for this are many, but I'll give a brief reason. Suffice it to say that most Presbyterians and Reformed Baptist have abandoned the invitation system because they believe that the invitation system unnecessarily exploits and twists people's emotions. (I can give examples of what I mean if needed.) While this can be true, I'm sure that the intention isn't to manipulate people. Instead, the hope is to give people an immediate opportunity to respond to the preaching of the gospel. Personally, I think that we should seek to strike a balance. I believe that it is possible to give people opportunity to respond to the preaching of the Word (i.e. an invitation) without doing it in a manipulative way.

Wow, I've written a lot more than I attended. Have I made any sense?

Lessie said...

Hi, Eric --
A thought for a post sometime maybe...how you became a Presbyterian. :)

Eric M. Ashley said...

I think that sounds like a great post...or series of posts.