CHURCH SUCCESS MEASURED BY ATTENDANCE? The survey outcomes compelled the surveys director, George Barna, to remind Christian leaders to stay focused on the things that matter. Our studies consistently show that churches base their sense of success on indicators such as attendance, congregant satisfaction, dollars raised and built-out square footage. [u]None of those factors relates to the kind of radical shift in thinking and behavior that Jesus Christ died on the cross to facilitate.[/u] As long as we measure success on the basis of popularity and efficiency, we will continue to see a nation filled with people who can recite Bible stories but fail to live according to Bible principles.
_________________Robert Wurtz II
DEFINING THE BORN AGAIN PRE-1900 (GEORGE WHITFIELD)FIRST, Let us consider what it is to live godly in Christ Jesus. This supposes, that we are made the righteousness of God in Christ, that we are born again, and are one with Christ by a living faith, and a vital union, even as Jesus Christ and the Father are One. Unless we are thus converted, and transformed by the renewing of our minds, we cannot properly be said to be in Christ, much less to live godly in him. To be in Christ merely by baptism, and an outward profession, is not to be in Him in the strict sense of the word: no; "They that are in Christ, are new creatures; old things are passed away, and all things are become new" in their hearts. Their life is hid with Christ in God; their souls daily feed on the invisible realities of another world. To "live godly in Christ," is to make the divine will, and not our own, the sole principle of all our thoughts, words, and actions; so that, "whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we do all to the glory of God." Those who live godly in Christ, may not so much be said to live, as Christ to live in them: He is their Alpha and Omega, their first and last, their beginning and end. They are led by his Spirit, as a child is led by the hand of its father; and are willing to follow the Lamb withersoever he leads them. They hear, know, and obey his voice. Their affections are set on things above; their hopes are full of immortality; their citizenship is in heaven. Being born again of God, they habitually live to, and daily walk with, God. They are pure in heart; and, from a principle of faith in Christ, are holy in all manner of conversation and godliness.
Quote:88% OF AMERICANS BELIEVE THEY ARE RIGHT WITH GODCurrently, nine out of ten adults (88%) feel accepted by God. Barna listed a pair of interesting correlations related to that self-image. First, about one-third of the individuals who feel accepted by God do not consider themselves to be deeply spiritual. Second, people are twice as likely to feel accepted by God as they are to be born again a condition that, many Protestant leaders argue, is a key reflection of Gods forgiveness and ultimate acceptance.
ONE MAJOR DIFFERENCE (Finney's progression to salvation)Before 1900 Finney and others taught that there are three types of sinners; careless, awakened, and convicted. When God set about to awaken a sinner and they became deeply distressed and concerned for their soul, they were said to be in an anxious state. They were called anxious sinners. They were careful to realize that anxious sinners were more in search of being comforted in their distress, than resolving the problem at hand (their rebellion against God). They knew that the LAST place that a sinner would seek for refuge would be Jesus Christ; but they were patient and flushing them to Him. Other TERMS used by ministers BEFORE 1900 would include hopeful conversions. Ministers did not refer to people being saved but hopefully converted. Ministers would not dare tell a person they were saved; they believed that to be the prerogative of the Holy Spirit. Therefore instead of saying 50 were saved during the meeting, they would say 50 were hopefully converted. As we will see later in our study, being considered hopefully converted required a major transformation that was persuasive enough to be considered a change. George Whitfield once said that, [i]"the difference between the born again person and the person before the new birth, should be so radical, that it would appear to folk who lived with or around them that they had not seen him/her in 20 years."[/i]
STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT?The messages preached included all the fine print of the Gospel. Some ministers would spend weeks just explaining to the people what salvation from Sin really was. There was no such thing as expecting in one sermon to convert a sinner. Another consideration is that there were only a handful of churches and ministers that can even be documented to make use of an altar call before Charles Finney. Anxious sinners were counseled and prayed for after the meeting- in a separate meeting place. Sometimes they were after service, other times the meeting may be held the next day. It was a common saying of Spurgeon that ministers ought to, "Strike when the iron is hot", even though some make cold iron hot by striking. However, some contend that Spurgeon also believed that if the iron was really hot of the Holy Spirit- it would still be hot in the morning. Not so if man make hot by striking.In other words, the belief was, that the same God that was dealing in the service at night would still be dealing in the morning. If He was not- it was all emotion anyway. Sometimes the inquiry meetings were from house to house. Depending on how large the house was or how many people attended- a separate meeting hall may need to be used.
DO YOUR DUTY!There is another phrase we need to learn if we are to understand pre-1900 Christianity and it is the word DUTY. Finney made use of this word often. To DO YOUR DUTY is to cease from rebelling against your maker. It is to surrender ALL of yourself to God and forsake ALL of your [u]known sin[/u]. Many [i]anxious sinners[/i] are under tremendous conviction, not because God is trying to 'chastise' them for their sin, but because it is the manifestation of the Spirit striving with them and their refusal to submit. Some people in Finney's day would tell of having been under conviction for weeks, but that is only because they were [u]in rebellion for weeks[/u]. It is your DUTY to submit to the Holy Spirit when He is striving and the sinner has no assurance whatsoever that the Spirit will strive for any extended period of time. It is the mercy of God alone that He is striving now. One saying that was also used in the former days was that, "when God comes knocking for a sinner he has a pardon in the one hand and a sword in the other." He declares to the sinner; REPENT and be pardoned or rebel and PERISH! Not tomorrow, not next week, not next month or in a convenient season. God declares NOW is the accepted time, behold TODAY is the day of salvation. Some would so resist the Holy Ghost that they would come under great distress and folk would seek to comfort them. Charles Finney once told a group of folks, The strivings of the Spirit to bring a person to Christ will never hurt them, nor drive them crazy. He may make himself deranged by resisting, but it is blasphemous to think that the benevolent, wise Spirit of God would ever behave with so little care as to make a person deranged and destroy the soul that He came to save and sanctify. The only RELIEF for the sinner in the throes of conviction is to submit to God. And when the submission takes place, the same Holy Spirit that was convincing of Sin will bring the Joy of the Lord in its place.
This is great stuff, brother. I appreciate you giving your time to put this together.
PRAYING FROM YOUR OWN HEARTThe difference that stands out in pre-1900 Gospel messages is that they were as [i]complete[/i] as possible. When a person 'responded' in some way to the Gospel when they were anxious or 'convicted' they were not told that they were saved as a result. The so-called sinners prayer was way off the radar at this point- at least 50 years away. Keep in mind also that in most cases this prayer was used to lead a person to Christ on their deathbed. Why was it not used pre-1900? The ministers simply understood that a person couldnt possibly [i]process through[/i] what they are committing to while repeating a prayer. They did not have time to reflect and decide because the words were coming out one after the other. Moreover, the ministers did not lead them to say anything that did not come from their own hearts and if they did not understand things well enough to pray then they needed a lot more preaching and teaching before ever making any commitment. Simply put, if they cant pray a prayer from their own heart; 1) The Holy Spirit was not leading them to conversion 2) The feelings expressed in the [u]prayer are not their own.[/u] This means that a sinners prayer tells a person what to feel rather than express a feeling that already exists in their own heart. They are told to say things like, "I am sorry for my sins"- but are they really sorry? Imagine asking a person to repeat a prayer for [u]healing[/u] by believing and trusting in Christ for that healing. In this model a person repeats a prayer for God to cure them of their disease. They are counseled that God heals and that His word is true. When they are finished repeating they prayer they are asked; did you mean that? Did you believe that God will heal you? If you did, Gods word is true and you are NOW as healed as you will ever be. They then are so excited that they go to the DR. to get a report of confirmation. They boast to the DR that they had been told they were healed if they believed and they did believe so they are there to get the proof of the healing. How will the Dr break the horrifying news that their cancer or heart problem is still there? What went wrong here? Answer that and you will have the solution to why the old timers did not use repeating prayers.
This is great stuff, brother. I appreciate you giving your time to put this together.
THE OPIATE OF FALSE ASSURANCECharles G. Finneys teaching FALSE ASSURANCE FOR SINNERS is considered by some to be the greatest teaching ever written on the topic of counseling 'anxious' sinners. In this he writes; [i]The very idea of anxiety implies some instruction. A sinner would not be anxious at all about his future state, unless he had light enough to know that he is a sinner, and that he is in danger of punishment and needs forgiveness." [/i]The word converted in the scripture means to turn or return. Hence the passage
[i]repent ye therefore and be converted that you sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.[/i] (Acts 3:19) The word repent also means to change your mind. This change of mind comes in part as a result of folk opening their eyes, ears, and heart when the light of truth is poured upon them. In Matthew 13:15 we read; [i]For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.[/i] This is a glimpse of the process of a sinner coming to repentance and conversion. Notice, their eyes THEY have closed
This is rebellion against God manifested in willful ignorance. When the Holy Spirit seeks to illuminate their faculties through the word of God they come under great conviction (convincing) of Sin. This convincing of sin brings to bear the truth that the sinner MUST turn from his/her wicked ways to Christ. When a sinner is in anxiety and despair of mind for their soul- they are in a [u]'pain'[/u] of sorts. That pain makes them miserable and they seek for relief from the 'pain' (conviction). They want loosed of the symptoms of their problem. The [i]problem[/i] is rebellion against God- the effects of that rebellion is conviction. For a Christian to offer false comfort to a sinner who will not repent is as cruel to the soul as a doctor prescribing his patient a pain killer instead of what he/she really needs, i.e. life-saving surgery or appropriate medication.