Do you remember when I wrote this SI article a year and a half ago? Today I appreciate the ministry of Grace Community Church (GCC) even more, having attended my first Shepherds’ Conference and a full Sunday morning and afternoon vespers worship with the church family in Sun Valley. If you want a thorough digest of the Shepherds’ Conference, hit the GCC Internet network. For some good, detailed reporting of the 2008 conference, link up with Evers Ding. I applaud this blogger’s efforts.
Publicly, let me express my appreciation to the Grace church family. First, all the superb servants at Grace pampered me (computer access, shoeshine stand, scholar’s desk, daily newspapers, and refreshments, etc.).
Second, all the preaching further strengthened me in my biblical heart convictions. Sunday was the capstone. Everybody should download the recordings of the messages on prayer preached on Sunday morning, March 9, by Don Green and John MacArthur. If Rick Holland is the elder who complements John MacArthur, Don Green is the elder who complements Phil Johnson’s personality in the Grace Life Fellowship. Listening to Don, I felt like I had just stepped under a jubilant waterfall of truth as he earnestly pleaded in a soft-spoken manner, “Beloved, this is fundamental. God is your heavenly Father. Everything flows from this! This is foundational to your spiritual life. For the love of God, for the love of Christ, lay a hold of this fundamental.” Though I dearly missed my church family back in Idaho, the Lord’s Day at Grace was a time of rich worship to God.
Third, all the books I brought back from the conference have been mighty tools in my workshop. I have needed them (especially the ones that I bought) for the excellent sharpening in the various challenges I presently face. With the big bundle of books I hauled back to Idaho, I thank God for the brothers in my church family who just installed a whole wall book case in the church office.
If I could label John MacArthur (here we go with labels), I would categorize the man as a “fundamentalistic evangelical.” Would that be fair? In fact, I think the whole atmosphere of the Shepherds’ Conference 2008 goes beyond the typical so- called “conservative evangelical” fanfare you experience in America. These guys are not only passionate about the biblical fundamentals, which they believe are under attack in our country, but they also discuss biblical separation, a true surprise to me in my Idahoan ignorance. Honestly, Nathan Busenitz really impressed me as he presented a session on biblical separation at the conference. Why in the world would a young, conservative evangelical discuss biblical separation in a national pastor’s conference unless he admired and respected “fundamentalistic Evangelicalism” (or, to use another appropriate term, “historical Fundamentalism”)? Though I have only shaken his hand once, I would like Nathan to fly with me just once to a National Leadership Conference in Landsdale, Pennsylvania. I have never been to one. Maybe he has never been to one either. It could be a treat for both of us.
Today I am surrounded by the skirmishes, conversations, and full-blown dialogue of the modern-day evangelical-Mormon agenda in Western America. Two epicenters are Salt Lake City, Utah, and Southern California.
The liberal Evangelicalism of Fuller Seminary is full-blown in the dialogue. On Heart Issues for LDS, I could not recently hold back my grief with President Richard Mouw. I do pray for this man, the senior scholar who spearheads what I consider a highly problematic relationship with BYU professor Robert Millet. I can’t in sincere conscience support such an agenda, and yet conservative Evangelicalism under Craig Hazen at Biola is engaged in the dialogue as well. I wonder what Craig and others must keep publicly unspoken to maintain ongoing interfaith relations with the group.
I am thankful for the elders of Grace Community Church and professors at Masters College who, as of yet, have not linked hands with Fuller, Biola, or Wheaton, etc., in the contemporary evangelical-Mormon interfaith dialogue. Unfortunately, such entanglement ties hands behind backs, neutralizing Christians from making the piercing bold remarks against error and false teaching in the defense of our glorious God and His gospel. May GCC continue to maintain a separation from other evangelicals in this missional dialogue. As the elders of GCC in a “fundamentalistic” fashion charitably converse or debate with Roman Catholics about God and the gospel, may they continue to do so with LDS people.
Obviously, Robert Millet is seeking those who would be friendly to the LDS faith. For example, please look at this blog post and locate the Juvenile Instructor blog, highlighting a 2007 Robert Millet interview and the reference to John MacArthur. Bob would highly treasure an influential friendship with John. But if fundamentalist Evangelicalism capitulates to Mormonism, then I think we will have an unprecedented spiritual quagmire in the West. As I hope to encourage GCC in their continued steadfastness to Christ, may I be exhorted in similar fashion. Let our love for God anchor our hearts and shine on our countenances.
Finally, in thinking of the elders at Grace, I might dicker with them on the fine points of Calvinism, musical worship, and biblical separation, etc. But in so many ways, we are exactly on the same page in the West. If any of the elders and their families ever travel to Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park for a vacation, they must stop by, visit, and worship with us at Berean Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. No doubt, I will be back sometime in Sun Valley for a future Shepherds’ Conference. We do have “a common bond” to the praise of God’s grace and glory.
|Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church (Idaho Falls, ID). He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC). But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10). He also operates a blog called Heart Issues for LDS.|