Pragmatic Fervor in Dying Churches

Mark Dever makes the interesting statement:

“Clarity regarding believing church membership is the chief contribution of Baptists to the wider Christian community. And yet it is this very clarity that has been sacrificed in the pragmatism and reductionism of Baptist church life in the last century, especially in seeking numerical growth. The local church itself is undermined by an evangelistic fervor that ends up tolerating and even pandering to an individualistic consumerism.”[1]

This pep-rally kind of Christianity is short-lived and superficial. It tends to gain much in the way of numbers but little in the way of long-term life change. Because of this, it has to defend its existence by creating human doctrines like “easy-believism” and “carnal Christianity.” These teachings redefine the biblical idea of what a Christian is, what a church is, and what the gospel is. In this way, the pragmatic agenda insulates itself from biblical scrutiny while it slowly erodes away the very foundations of the Christian faith.

Far better is the Christian faith found in the pages of the Bible. This is the faith that is exemplified by the New Testament church and exhibited in evangelism that is both faithful and enthusiastic. Historically, Baptists used to understand that two ideas of zealously preaching the gospel to the lost and zealously guarding the purity of the local church were not opposed to one another. In fact, they complemented one another and were even essential to one another. The early church was characterized by Acts 2 fruitfulness and passion just as it was characterized by Acts 5 faithfulness and purity. Evangelistic faithfulness and fervor go together. What God has joined together let no man separate.

[1] Mark Dever, “Regaining Meaningful Church Membership,” in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, p. 52.


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