Marketing Gimmick or Means of Grace?

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Within broad Evangelicalism today, words like community and small group are fired around with unprecedented frequency. For instance, Rick Warren and company are now following up their “40 Days of Purpose” program with “40 Days of Community.” On the website introducing the program, groups1.gifWarren says, “You cannot be what God made you to be, you cannot do what God created you to do … without other people… . We were made for each other, God made us for a family. Small groups provide such a family” (link here). In response to this statement, churches have often taken one of two approaches. The first is to embrace all things small groups carte blanche. They see concept of community as the deliverer of the church, the key to giving the church the impact in the world God intended it to have. Unfortunately, in many of these scenarios, community is not defined theologically; therefore, soon the small group degenerates into nothing more than a pop-psychology session. Far too often, in this type of environment, the use of Scripture is replaced with statements prefaced with “Oprah said …” or “I read in People magazine …” Sadly, this brand of counsel does little to biblically solve the problems of the sobbing couple sitting on the love seat.
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Clarification to Joel Tetreau's "Line in the Sand"

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Singleton at deskI consider myself a good friend of Joel Tetreau’s. He’s only five years my junior, and we graduated from the same high school and college. In 1997, when I was the Associate Pastor of Tri-City Baptist Church, Joel and I spent many hours in private discussion concerning the church Dr. Singleton and I had just planted, Southeast Valley Baptist Church. I also spent many hours on private email with Joel, encouraging him to come and take this church that is about 10 miles from where I pastor at Tri-City Baptist. Joel’s three sons are in our Christian school, and I see him and chat with him on a regular basis. Additionally, Joel’s father, Dr. Jerry Tetreau, has his signature on three of my five diplomas, and he currently serves as President of International Baptist College, a ministry of Tri-City Baptist Church. Although I have neither the time nor the desire to involve myself in a “blogging war,” I do think that I, as Dr. Singleton’s immediate successor, have a responsibility to correct any potential misunderstandings of Joel’s article as it relates to our ministry and Dr. Singleton’s legacy. (LEFT: Dr. Singleton and his wife, Mary) Read more about Clarification to Joel Tetreau's "Line in the Sand"

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Do You Have the Power of God?

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In The Nick of Time“Do you have the power of God?” The Great Man bellowed this question in a mock-Texas accent. With popping veins and a hoarse voice, he bawled out a second time, “I said, do you have the POWER of GOD!?” Clearly, he thought that the impressionable youngsters to whom he was speaking did not have that power. He went on to tell them what a bunch of failures most of them would likely become (not at all like him). God’s power, after all, was something reserved for the few. It came only to the spiritual equivalents of Abraham Lincoln and Douglas MacArthur. It had come to him, and he regaled his audience with tales of the revivals that he had wrought. Now he led a school, the whole purpose of which was to prepare the few; other students would be treated as so much chaff before the wind. Then he dropped his voice to something between a sob and a whisper for his closing question. “Do you have the power of God?”

Whether screamed or sobbed, the question seemed imposing as it dropped from the Great Man’s mouth. It was the kind of question that could send vulnerable adolescents to their dormitory basement to weep and yowl in the hope that God would maybe—just maybe—pour out His power upon them. Oh, to have the power of God!

Who among us would have the effrontery actually to claim to have God’s power? For anyone but the Great Man, would not such a claim smack of arrogance, perhaps even of megalomania?

No, it would not. In fact, knowing whether one has the power of God is rather a straightforward matter. You can know whether you have the power of God by answering a few simple questions.
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The Garden of Sanctification

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Imagine you are walking through a garden. Some areas are lush and filled with beautiful fruit. Then you take a few more steps and notice huge patches of dry ground where plants are bent over, withered, and brown. That dry patch will eventually produce dryness in the rest of the garden.crackedsoil

Our fundamental churches are like that garden. Wonderful aspects of our ministries are flourishing, and the perfectly green trees there give shade and encouragement. In the midst of the lush areas, however, are areas of discipleship and counseling where the soil of many of our fundamental churches is cracking and dangerously dry.

The First Layer of Dryness: The Lack of Discipleship

The first layer of dryness is the realm of discipleship. We are commanded in several passages of Scripture to build each other up in the faith. In his list of gifts in Ephesians 4, Paul clarifies the purpose of the gifts as …

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Calvary Seminary—The SharperIron Interview | Part 2

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harbin.jpgDr. Sam Harbin is the new president of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA). He was a pastor for a number of years before joining the faculty at Calvary. We sat down with him to hear his personal testimony and his vision for the seminary. Joining me on the interview were Joel Tetreau, Bob Bixby, Tom Pryde, and Greg Linscott.

Jason Janz

Listen to the interview (28:32 min., 13 MB).

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Introducing the Executive Team

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About two years ago, SharperIron started as a blog and forum for fundamentalists. I had just finished the Young Fundamentalists Survey and wanted a place to discuss the findings. I wanted to start a blog. Our webmaster, Brad Waite, wanted a forum. Out of that discussion/argument came the blog and forum concept. I remember wanting to name the site Iron2Iron. The other guys all voted for SharperIron. Those were the early days. We’ve learned a lot over two years, and, in spite of many failures, we are continuing to endeavor to keep a site for Christian fundamentalists to discuss news and ideas.

For the last three months, I have struggled with the knowledge that the site could not stay the same. In the early days, when Phil Johnson sent us his manuscript for Dead Right, we had over 500 visitors that day, and we thought we had reached the world! Now we have grown to several thousand members and record about 30,000 unique visitors a month. On any given day, we will see 200 to 300 new posts. With that level of traffic and interaction, the issues on the site began to multiply. I have seen many sites reach a certain size, and they come to the same crossroads. Get serious or get out! I have seen several shut down, handed over, or abandoned. Some of the abandoned sites are an absolute disaster and should be closed.

Several times over the last year, I have considered dissolving SI or handing it over to someone else. At times, I get discouraged at the high price that has to be paid in order to have this ministry. To tell you the truth, my wife has been the one who has threatened me (ever so kindly) not to give it up. Read more about Introducing the Executive Team

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Central Seminary and Baptist History

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In The Nick of Timeby Jeff Straub

In the good providence of God, Central Seminary has become the new home of a valuable, large collection of materials related to early American Baptist history: the Morgan Edwards papers. This is the largest compilation of extant Edwards material in the world. It consists of handwritten notes on the history of Baptists in Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. In addition, the collection contains 16 volumes of Edwards’ sermons in manuscript form. It represents nearly half of what at one time appears to have existed. Most of the remaining sermons are presumed lost.

This collection was originally donated to the Crozer Theological Seminary of Chester, Pennsylvania, by Horatio Gates Jones. Jones’ father, also Horatio Gates Jones, was a Delaware Baptist who intersected with Edwards early in life. Jones Jr. was an eminent Philadelphia attorney and legislator who had a deep love for history, especially Baptist history. He was a board member of Crozer Seminary for many years.

When Crozer merged with the Colgate Rochester Theological Seminary in 1970, the materials became a part of that collection. In recent days, the Colgate–Rochester–Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS) has been downsizing its library, and the Edwards materials were offered for sale to Central Seminary by an alumnus and friend of the school. Central Seminary has acquired more than 27,000 volumes from the CRCDS collection for its own library. The addition of these rare manuscripts, which have an important connection to early American Baptist history, provides a unique opportunity for Central Seminary to become a focal site for the study of that discipline.
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Ten Reasons for Church Planting

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  1. Huge numbers of unchurched North Americans call for new churches. The number of unchurched Americans has almost doubled from 1991 to 2001.[1] The combined populations of the United States and Canada comprise the third largest mission field of unsaved persons in the world (only China and India have more non-Christians). The U.S. is the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere. There are an estimated 360,000 churches in the United States, with an average attendance of about 125 persons per church. Yet if every church in America doubled its attendance, there would still be 190 million people not in church to hear the gospel on an average Sunday. Even in most small towns, there would not be enough seats in existing churches if even half of the people decided to go to church on a given Lord’s Day. Lost people matter to God and should to us.
  2. The number of churches in our land has actually decreased in proportion to our overall population. Statisticians who have tracked the church-to-population ratio through the last century confirm this startling reality. In 1900 our nation had 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans. By 1950, this ratio had dropped to 17 churches for every 10,000 people.[2] Since 1950, we actually have 30 percent fewer churches to reach the growing number of unchurched people in our land!
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