Friday, March 31, 2006

LOCAL CHURCH: There is an enemy that attacks from within.

This past summer, in Fort Worth, Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, during the seminary’s fall convocation, suggested pastors may face as much of more opposition from within their congregations as without.
Baptism, Church"The problem I'm talking about is not the lost world. I'm talking about your churches, your deacons, your Sunday School teachers," Patterson said during the semester's initial chapel service.

The opposition is rooted in the failure of many churches to grasp the teachings of the Great Commission in Matthew 28, reflecting a modern trend of separating evangelism and discipleship, which Patterson described as unbiblical. Evangelism, he said, is fundamental to making disciples.
Then, in a comment that appeared to be directed at the mega-barn church-growth movement , Patterson said,
... fulfilling the Great Commission is what makes great churches, noting, "It is not numbers. A great church is marked by its obedience to Christ."
Patterson then went on to exhort the seminarians to understand the connection between between baptism and "The Great Commission" as they relate to the local church. [For more on this, see Sam Waldron's excellent exposition of this connection (PDF file).]
"Baptism is the initiatory rite of the church," he said. "Baptism is the act in which a person identifies himself with Christ the head of the church, and Christ's body, the church itself."

Patterson refuted the modern tendency to perform baptism outside the local church, noting that the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper should not be used in social events, such as weddings. Such practices are akin to identifying with a "bodiless head."

"What happens when those kinds of things become prominent is that you begin to cheapen the ordinances," Patterson said, calling the seminarians to hold a serious and balanced view of baptism.
With Resurrection Sunday fast approaching, many churches will be holding public baptisms. It might be well for those who do to examine their motivation and purpose: are they horizontal and toward the world, or vertical and focused on things above?

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