John MacArthur on the Dangers of Pragmatism

John MacArthur, writing about the dangers of pragmatism, points out that it comes from within the church,

“Unfortunately, there is at least one other parallel between the church today and the church in the late nineteenth century: many Christians seem completely unaware—if not unwilling to see—that serious dangers threaten the church from within. Yet if church history teaches us anything, it teaches us that the most devastating assaults on the faith have always begun as subtle errors arising from within.”

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Out of the Emergent Church – A Testimony

Today you are looking at a former emergent, missional, conversational, tolerant, and unifying waste of pulpit space. By God’s grace I stand before you a redeemed wretch, kingdom member, and a profoundly changed man.

Not too much more than a year ago, I could be found among the small gatherings in coffee houses reading books by Rob Bell, Brian McClaren and Phyllis Tickle. Part of a movement? Not really. It was more of a conversation that never ended, maybe you could call it a rebellion against movements, but deep down I thought of it as an introspective glimpse into the wonders of God’s greatest creation. Me.

How did I end up there amongst the black rimmed faux glasses, hair highlights and eggnog latte’s? I suppose at the time I would have told you I landed there because of zeal. I wanted to create a new church for a radically new generation. I saw the statistics in my schooling that warned us that the Church was losing this generation, and unless we made the necessary unlearning of “church” we would lose this generation. I was willing to do anything necessary to make sure young people weren’t needlessly going to hell over a worn out approach and irrelevant presentation of the gospel. I could go on and on with excuses, but from the objective perspective I have now been given, I realize I was sitting there because I was simply depraved. I had not in mind the things of God but the things of men.

God began to speak to me one day as I sat down to read an article by Christianity Today, which quoted Rob Bell as saying, “We are rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion…” And something sparked in me, and all of a sudden I suspected the crowd I was following might just be playing for the other team. I wanted to dismiss these thoughts, after all, I had devoted years to building my ministry around the teachings of these Emergent leaders. I couldn’t just throw it all away now could I? I opened my Bible, and read these words, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God ” (2 cor. 6:14-16) It was not so much the verse that made me start to weep at that point, but my initial reaction to it scared me. I did not like that verse. It was so judgmental, and intolerant. The thought crossed my mind that Paul really did not sound like Jesus at all, and I wondered whether he was really a Christian.

For the next couple of months I was in a daze. I could not concentrate well, I could not bring myself to study for my sermons, which caused a lot of people to wonder whether I had gone off the deep end. But there was one evening, after my family had gone to sleep that I began to surf the Internet, and I ran into a sermon by brother Paul Washer. I listened to about five minutes of it before calling him a pharisee and turning it off. But something kept telling me to listen to the rest of it. So, I forced myself to listen to the whole thing. Then I listened to it again. I sat down and read the book of 1 John, then Romans, and it seemed as if it was for the first time. It is hard for me to describe it to you, but the Bible describes Saul’s conversion in such a way that seems fitting for what happened to me. Something like scales fell off of my eyes, and I was struck by how vivid and fulfilling the scriptures were. The next day I decided that I could not continue to preach the way I had. By God’s grace, I preached a sermon for the first time to my congregation that lifted up the Holiness of God, and did my best to shed light on their depravity. I repented publicly of my sinful pride and flippant use of the scriptures. There were a lot of tears that day, but there was also Glory being given to God through those tears. People wanted to be saved, they were cut to the heart, and desired to be forgiven.

Since then, so much has happened that I do not have time to tell it all, but to give a few examples, as a church we are family integrating, we have families taking part in home worship groups, Bible studies are actually about the Bible, and the scripture is being lifted up as our sole authority in faith and practice. For me my faith is now by scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone, to the glory of God alone!

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SoS Closing Remarks from Scott Brown and Doug Phillips

 

 

 

Doug and I closed the conference together this afternoon offering words of pastoral care. We spoke about the “comfort and patience of the scripturees,”  a had a discussion of what the future may hold for the family-integrated church movement. Doug asked me where I would like to see the NCFIC be in the next 10 years.

I answered that I hope to see a spreading awareness of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture and a response among Christians which turns them to the church and to the family. In response to those who would destroy our freedom, we should build strong families and strong churches. Is the economy collapsing? Build strong families and strong churches.

Satan is pouring out his malice on the church and family. I want to see an upwelling of love for the church. I pray for the planting of Gospel preaching, God centered, Christ exalting, expository preaching family integrated churches.  As this happens, I expect that we will see an escalation of distinction. As the world grows darker, the church will shine brighter.

We also spoke of the importance of building strong friendships that will be used of the Lord to continue the reformation of the church.

Here is something exciting: This whole conference was put on by young people—an army of 17-year-olds. This is a testimony to the Deuteronomy 6 methodology. When you walk with them from a young age, they become capable of great things. The three people who made this conference happen are my son-in-law, Peter Bradrick, my son, David, and my daughter Blair. Then we had an army of young volunteers eager to take responsibility and ready to do real work.

Here is what I wanted to ring in the ears of our attendees as we walked away—Romans 15:4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

 

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Final Keynote – The Sufficiency of Scripture in the Discipleship-Making Ministry of the Church and the Home

 

 

Voddie Baucham opened the Word of God to us in Titus 1 and 2 during our final keynote this afternoon. He did not just teach us about the sufficiency of Scripture, he demonstrated it by a line-by-line study of this blueprint for godly life.

He used the illustration of a three-legged stool to describe the three vital aspects of age-integrated discipleship: godly, mature men and women; godly, manly elders; and godly, biblically functioning homes. This is the key to harmony between church and home.

He said, “Give your life to the Bride of Christ until you die.” Then, he powerfully showed that Titus 1 contains the list of qualities to which every man must aspire.

Point after point, he spoke directly to unbiblical practices and habits which are so easy to fall into or be immersed in unconsciously. Please order the conference audio and let it be a help in your own church and family reformation.

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The Network Hall

 

 

Throughout the day, on breaks and during meals, families have been taking advantage of the networking room in the upper level of the conference center.

We have set up tables, organized geographically by state, so that families from the same area can meet each other and make connections that can be sources of encouragement and strength long after they return home from this weekend.

 

 

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Doug Phillips – The Sufficiency of Scripture for Culture and Aesthetics

 

 

Doug Phillips just spoke on the sufficiency of Scripture for culture and aesthetics.

Doug made the case that cultural and aesthetic elements all flow from people’s basic religious assumptions. To quote Henry Van Til, “Culture is religion externalized.”

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The Sufficiency of Scripture and Family Integration

Kevin Swanson shared how the battle for the family and the church is being fought on issues of Biblical jurisdiction.

Scripture delegates to the family, the church, and the state certain spheres of authority, and they can exercise no authority outside those spheres. Tragically, however, the church has usurped authority from the family by training youth through Sunday schools and youth groups, whereas the Bible commits the training of children to their parents. Relationships may be ‘slow’ and ‘inefficient,’ but discipleship is God’s method.

As we reject this unbiblical usurpation, families and churches must be integrated with humility, law, and love.

He closed by reminding his listeners that we are fighting for the life of the family and the church in the twenty-first century. Every battle in this war is important. By God’s grace, these battles will be won.

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Applying Scripture to Education

All those who came out for the first session of the day were treated to a lecture straight from the heart of Kevin Swanson. Passion, animation, and conviction poured from him as he put forth God’s plan for the education of children.

Kevin began with a look at our present atheistic culture, contrasting it with America’s forefathers who publicly acknowledged His sovereignty over them and their whole nation. “The reason we live in the nation of America as it is today is because the atheists in our country have made progress and we have not. Homeschooling is the nub of the battle, a battle for the mind’s and hearts of the next generation. . . . The ideas of this nation are transmitted in the schools, not the churches.”

Kevin put forward the most basic fundamental principle of the Bible on education: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God.” He stressed the fundamental duty of parents to instill in their children the fear of God while teaching everything from math to grammar. He also stressed the importance of having God’s priorities for education and the preeminence of character training. “Teaching knowledge without character is like putting wallpaper on walls that don’t exist.” Kevin went on to state, “we must be preparing our children for the correct city, the city of God not the city of man. God brings down the city of man—Babylon, Greece, Rome—teach your children that. Teach them what God is doing. Give them the Word of God.”

He sumerized his message with the statment: “If every person in this room walks out of here today thinking, ‘we need more fear of God in the way we educate our children,’ my job is accomplished.”

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Joseph Morecraft – The Sufficiency of Scripture for Church Discipline

Joseph Morecraft wisely applied the sufficient Scriptures to church discipline this morning.

He explained that every member of the church is responsible to exercise church discipline through the process of discipling others. Faithful church discipline is an essential mark of a true church. The church must expel the wolves lest they devour the flock.

Quoting from Revelation 2:20-23, he solemnly warned his hearers that if church discipline is not practiced in our churches, the Lord Jesus Christ, the sole head of the Church, will discipline us with an iron hand and remove His lampstand from us.

 

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Andy Davis – The Sufficiency of Scripture for Habits of Obedience

 

 

Andy Davis spoke this morning on the sufficiency of Scripture for habits of obedience.

Why build these habits? We are commanded to present our bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12) and we do this by growing into habitual obedience. This is the process of sanctification.

Andy laid out seven key areas in which we must build these habits: worship, spiritual disciplines, family, ministry to other Christians, ministry to non-believers, stewardship, and work.

 

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Kevin Swanson – Scripture is Sufficient for Your Educational Decisions

Kevin Swanson passionately pled with the audience to abandon useless form in education and instead to model the fear of God, which is the true basis of all knowledge.

 

 

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Scott Brown Welcomes Kevin Swanson to the Platform

Dawn in Cincinnati as the Last Day of The Sufficiency of Scripture 2009 Begins

 

 

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” – Psalm 5:3.

 

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Paul Washer – America’s Jeremiah

 

 

This evening, Christ was preached. Paul Washer is a man like Jeremiah, who speaks because he cannot hold it in. He closed this wonderful Friday of the conference by preaching the Gospel. I could say much about all that he said, but his message was very simple: “Your home-education, nice clothes, and manners cannot save you. Flee to Christ!”

“My desire is to strip you of every hope in the flesh, to shut you off from every hope whatsoever of somehow making yourself right with God by your own virtue and merit.” If you repent of trying to clothe yourself in the filthy rags of your own righteousness and fall on Christ, He will save you. Then you will grow in Christ-likeness, and you will know His presence; this is the Gospel.

Our beginning point and our ending point, our motivation and our reward, our desire and our satisfaction, must be in Christ alone. “Judge everything you do by this standard: is it really only for Him? If he took everything away and left you only with Him, would you still have joy unspeakable, because your hope is in Him?”

“Throw yourself on Christ, and you will not be disappointed.”

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Biblical Youth Ministry

 

 

This evening I tried to set before the gathered families a Biblical analysis of youth ministry.

I grew up along with the culture of youth ministry—read all the books, tried all the methods. But I came to realize that the rise of programmatic, age-segregated youth ministry in the mid-twentieth century was actually a new invention in the history of the church. For the first time in history, trained youth ministers have been recruited in order to put the young people of the church in the hands of so-called experts. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, churches are shelling out millions of dollars on programs, buildings, and entertainment for youth. The focus of these churches has been shifted from evangelism to entertainment under the name of evangelism and church leaders are setting aside the commands of God for church and family life in order to grow the church.

This philosophy and practice of comprehensive, age-segregated, programmatic youth ministry is indisputably unbiblical in pattern. There is no evidence that this practice ever did or should exist among the people of God. It is even contrary to the ministry patterns of Christ. As one brother recently pointed out to me, modern youth ministry can be destroyed by just one verse of the Bible, Proverbs 13:20: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Modern youth ministry is also inherently destructive in its impact. It divides the church by creating generational division and multiple cultures instead of a unified “body.”

By rejecting youth groups, we are not rejecting ministry to youth. On the contrary, we wholeheartedly embrace and promote generous investments in teaching Scripture to the youth of the church. But we must do it in God’s way! What are His commands and patterns? Every Christian is charged with making disciples of all nations including their youth.

God-honoring marriage is the most important means of youth ministry. When husbands love their wives, the children get a picture of what Christ does for His bride. Fathers ought to teach their children the law. Proverbs in particular, because it contains the wise instruction of a father to his son, should always be included in ministry to youth.

I hope that we are now at the end of this 50-year failed experiment. We now have almost three generations of children who had no father who walked beside them but a youth group instead. It is obvious that half a decade of youth group does not produce young people who are passionate about the church.

Youth ministry is a weed that gained root in the church and has grown for a long time, wrapping its roots around almost every area.

What should our response be to this 50-year-old weed? It is time to root out and replant. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “…I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” We must root up the weed, pull down the house of inventions and replace it with God’s beautiful plan for youth ministry. Will you join with me in putting your hand to this task?

There is one reason for this action and one reason alone—it is not ordained of God.

 

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