Lukewarm

Lukewarm QuoteThe following words of Jesus, found in Revelation 3:14-16, are His condemnation of lukewarm religious faith which masquerades as Christianity:

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Sanctioned by Cliff Smith’s office for communications, the following Erskine College recruitment video is a marvelous example of how to promote feckless, lukewarm Christianity at a Christian college which abandons the power of the Christian faith and exalts sappy religious rhetoric over substance (http://www.youtube.com/embed/wJfayT4xLk8?rel=0).

This is not a bad video if one’s target audience is the nice pseudo-religionists of the old mainline denominations who long ago abandoned Biblical authority for human opinions and the saving power of Christ Jesus for the pleasant platitudes of religious speak. According to Corey Emanuel, the foundation on which Erskine College exists is “to glorify God as a Christian academic community where students are equipped to flourish as whole persons for lives of service.” What on earth does “flourish” mean? What on earth are “whole persons”? And to what and in whose name is this “service” to be given? Is it possible to be more vague or insipid than “flourish,” “whole persons,” and “service?” This is religio-academic gobbledygook and is to be seen for what it is: NONSENSE that is unbecoming both to the name of Christ and a Christian academic community.

According to Acting President Brad Christie, Erskine College is a “community of faith” which is about “kingdom work.” It is painful to watch a Duke PhD in English mouth such inconsequential and jejune drivel. In recent history, HOW, WHEN, and WHERE has Erskine been a community of authentic Christian faith and about the work of the kingdom of God?

On October 24, 2013, Mark Senn, husband of Erskine board member Lisa Senn, asked the secular alums on the Facebook Alumni For Erskine site (AFE) to check out this new Erskine recruitment video (http://www.youtube.com/embed/wJfayT4xLk8?rel=0). The following responses were representative of their unenthusiastic embrace:

  1. Stacey Hall: “Wow. Zombie-ville.”
  2. P. Mark Wilson: “Kool-Aid anybody?”
  3. Richard Harris: “I guess they didn’t say “God” enough in the first one and had to do another to make up. . . . . Sorry for the slight irreverence, but … good grief!”
  4. Clark King: “I would not have visited Erskine, or subsequently attended, if that video was my first introduction to the school.” These graduates of a so-called Christian college do not much like God, do they?

Then, on October 27, 2013, two documents were posted on the AFE site. The first is a “Resolution” from the Erskine Alumni Association to the Erskine board. The second document is the response of the Erskine board to the Alumni Association’s “Resolution.” Both documents are available at http://www.arptalk.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Alumni-Resolution-and-BoT-Response.pdf.

The secularists on AFE and the Alumni Association have co-opted and defined “thrive” for Erskine and Dr. Christie. They define “thrive” in terms of DIVERSITY: “That Erskine College and Theological Seminary continues to offer a warm and open community for a diverse student body, accepting students from all walks of life, belief systems (college), and backgrounds” and “That the Erskine College community will promote diversity in its administration, staff, and on its various representative bodies . . . hiring and promoting women, African-Americans, and other minorities in leadership roles” (see Alumni “Resolution”).

Well, how does one respond to such asinine silliness? First, such politically correct jargon is unnecessary. Erskine is in compliance with both SACS and federal regulations. Second, “other minorities” is code for “gay and lesbian.” Third, the “diversity” of which they speak excludes those who are committed evangelical Christians. Yes, it excludes committed evangelicals. They have made it very clear they do not want such “extremists” as students at “their Erskine.”

Thankfully, the response of the board, written by Chairman David Conner, moved by Steve Suits, and unanimously passed by the board, is a patronizing statement which receives the Alumni Association’s “Resolution” as information. In other words, the board’s response is a “nice” statement which says “We’re not interested!”

The response of Beth Alexander Rickenbaugh to the board’s response is fascinating. She was raised an ARP. She no longer has much use for the ARP Church. I give her response as representative: “Next step is to break the ties with the church, if the college hopes to survive and flourish. There are just too many in the denomination that either want to close the school or reinvent it. The resolution from the Alumni Association sounds great, but the response by the BoT is less than reassuring.” This is not the first time such sentiment has been plastered on the AFE site!

These people are secularists who are not quite ready for the cold slap of outright secularism. So they clothe and sooth themselves with the fig leaves of nice religious speak while denying the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 2:1 and Jude 4). That is, they delude themselves in unbelief. Therefore, neither hot nor cold, they are spit out!

At this juncture, is it not time for the board to do away with the so-called Erskine Alumni Association (aka, “Erskine Alums Embracing Atheism”)? The Alumni Association represents only a small proportion of Erskine’s grads. These folks are opposed to the mission of Erskine as a Christian college which is intentionally evangelical and historically Reformed. They clearly and publicly state they are opposed to the ARP Church which owns Erskine. They are also parsimonious in their giving. They act as thought their attendance at Erskine entitles them to ownership. The reality is almost everyone one of them was a recipient of financial assistance by Erskine. The discount rate has been high for many years and the scholarships generous. Indeed, it is time to reorganize the Erskine Alumni Association into an organization which holds dear the stated Erskine Mission.

At this time, why would Christian parents want to send a child to Erskine? Apart from the huge discount rate, why would a Christian young person want to attend Erskine? Why would a sane Christian want to attend a Christian college which points to the secular alums of the Alumni Association as examples of the good work done at Erskine in producing grads that thrive Christianly? What an embarrassment the Alumni Association is to Erskine!

Now, according to the President of the Student Body, Daniel Prohaska, the pressing concern of the Erskine student body is a request from the Student Government Association to the board asking the board to permit a “wet” campus (http://erskinestudentbodypresident.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/documents-from-sga-town-hall/). Is this prosecuted in the name of “thriving” for Christ or because “we want to be like other colleges?” Do Mr. Prohaska and his fellow student officers defend a “wet” campus on Biblical precedent? Does Dr. Christie want a “wet” campus to the glory of God? Does Mr. Cliff Smith want to promote Erskine to Christian parents as a “wet” campus where students are taught to “thrive” in Christ over a bottle of “Jack Black”? Is not the goal at Erskine to seek the glory of God in all things?

Well, are things any better at Erskine Seminary? The seminary is just as lukewarm as the college. Do you remember two years ago when the problem of Mormon and Muslim students in the Army’s MEDCOM Chaplin DMin program came to light? Do you remember when former Erskine board member Ray Cameron stood on the floor of Synod in behalf of the Erskine board and particularly the Seminary Committee and publicly apologized to General Synod? Do you remember he said this was a fluke? Do you remember he said this would not happen again?

Interestingly, the manner in which Mormons and Muslims were excluded from the program was not on the basis Erskine is a CHRISTIAN seminary which has been tasked to equip Christians for Christian ministry. They were excluded because their academic credentials did not qualify them to participate in the Erskine DMin program.

Well, times have changed. Qualifications are being rewritten. ATS requirements are in flux. It now may be possible for Mormons, Muslims, and other non-Christians to qualify for acceptance into the MEDCOM DMin program. Do we in the ARP Church want the seminary of the ARP Church to be the DMin program center for Mormon, Muslim, and other non-Christian chaplains? If we do not, someone needs to see to the shoring up of the program’s requirements and exclusions in order to maintain “Christian” in Erskine Theological Seminary. DO NOT LOOK FOR THIS FROM THE ADMINISTRATION. Are Erskine administrators so keen for tuition money they are prepared to make the seminary of the ARP Church the Army’s prostitute?

Reverend Joey Donahue is a member of the Erskine board and a member of the Seminary Committee. At the last meeting of the board, he was asked to give the Friday morning devotional. In his devotional, Donahue challenged the trustees to both the evangelization of Muslims and the propagation of a creditable, comprehensive, and consistent Christian world and life view at Erskine. Donahue proposed a form of Christianity which is not lukewarm (http://www.arptalk.org/donahue/).

However, since Erskine College is lukewarm, here is a list of some things we will not hear coming out of Erskine:

  1. In spite of the fact Erskine College is open to non-Christians and there are a large number of students who are not Christians, we will not hear of evangelistic efforts being promoted by the administration to challenge these non-Christians to faith in Christ;
  2. In most cases, we will not hear of students being led to Christ by administrators or professors;
  3. Statistically, over 80% of male college age students and at least 30% of female college age students struggle with a serious problem with (if not addiction to) internet porn (see http://byuresearch.org/ssrp/research.html), but do not expect to hear of official efforts to address this and related issues;
  4. From personal experience while on the Erskine board and from interfacing with recent and present students, there are serious problems with alcohol abuse on the Erskine campus and, other than turning the head from the problem, do not expect to see efforts to deal with this; and
  5. There is a goodly gay and lesbian presence on campus, and though such behavior is contrary to evangelical Christianity, do not expect to see this issue addressed by the administration. In the name of sweet Jesus and Christian forbearance, heads will turn at Erskine. However, Jesus looks at the inaction of the administration and calls it “lukewarm” – that which He spits out!

Here is my question: what do Erskine College and Seminary administrators and faculty members do when they interface with their students? We are assured they are committed evangelical Christians. Administrators speak of Erskine as a wonderful “Christian community.” At General Synod, when the Erskine report is given, in over 40 years, only one time do I remember hearing of a non-Christian student being won to a saving knowledge of Christ – and that effort was sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Do these “Christian” administrators and professors know how to challenge a non-Christian with the claims of Christ? I think not! Their legacy in the last 40 years is one of not winning students to Christ (see the testimony of alums above). They are lukewarm. They have a form of Christian faith without the transforming power of the Gospel of Christ. Do they even desire the transforming power of the Gospel of Christ?

To say Erskine College & Seminary is lukewarm is incontrovertible. Nevertheless, is that not what we in the ARP Church deserve? Is not the lukewarm condition of Erskine the judgment of God on us? Does not the lukewarm condition of Erskine reflect the condition of the ARP Church? Are we not lukewarm? Has Erskine learned to be lukewarm from us?!?

The last three years I have made a study of the Minutes of General Synod. According to the Minutes of General Synod, we ARPs are lukewarm. We say one thing, but we do another. We talk about truth, but do not pursue it. We talk about evangelism and the free offer of the Gospel, but these are foreign to us. We lionize our heritage in words, but our actions are such that our forefathers would not recognize us as their children. Our forefathers would reckon us to be lukewarm.

In the back of the Minutes of General Synod, under “Appendix,” is a section entitled, “Statistical Information.” In this section, we report what our churches are doing in terms of people and money. Some refer to this section as “nickels and noses.”

The manner in which people come into the ARP Church is the focus of my concern. The categories are:

  • “Adult Profession”;
  • “Baptized Child Profession”;
  • “Other Child Profession”;
  • “Certificate; and
  • “Reaffirmation.”

The category of interest to me is “Adult Profession [of faith].” “Adult Profession” is the litmus test for how a congregation or denomination is impacting our culture with the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus. “Adult Profession” demonstrates whether a congregation or denomination is taking Jesus’ command to be “fishers of men” seriously (Matt. 4.19). Indeed, “Adult Profession” clearly reveals whether a congregation or denomination is taking the Great Commission of Jesus seriously (Matt. 28.19-20). “Adult Profession” reveals whether a congregation or denomination is storming the “gates of hell” (Matt. 16.18) and is engaged in the business of rescuing the souls of men and women and boy and girls from Satan’s grasp and the fire of hell. The other categories are the shuffling of the deck as church members migrate from congregation to congregation in a community.

When we look at the landscape of the ARP Church today, the scene is disheartening. We ARPs are the heirs of Ebenezer Erskine, Ralph Erskine, William Wilson, Alexander Moncrieff, and James Fisher. We are the heirs of preachers, evangelists, reformers, revivalists, and religious and political controversialists. When these men preached, people gathered to hear them. When these men preached, the political foundation of the established church was shaken. When these men preached, communities were disrupted. When these men preached, people professed faith in Christ. Where these men preached, new church buildings were constructed to accommodate the crowds of people who heard them gladly.

Something has gone terribly wrong with the harvest in the ARP Church. We have lost the unction our forefathers had. For example, last year in the ARP Church we only had 636 additions by “Adult Profession,” 210 of those were from our Northeast Presbytery, and 137 of those were from our Hyo Shin Bible ARP Church in Flushing, New York. Last year, the Hyo Shin Bible ARP Church grew by 13.7% in adult professions of faith to 1131 total members. The Hyo Shin Bible Church recorded more additions by “Adult Profession” than any of our 10 listed Presbyteries in the 2012 Minutes of Synod.

The following is a list of our congregations which recorded ten (10) or more additions as “Adult Profession”: Catawba Presbytery – Crossings Community ARP Church (10), Ebenezer ARP Church (10),

King’s Parish ARP Church (13); First Presbytery – Back Creek ARP Church (13), Ballantyne ARP Church (19), Covenant of Grace ARP Church (11), King’s Cross ARP Church (13); Florida Presbytery – Hope ARP Church (22), Morning Star Reformed ARP Church (11), Tampa Chinese ARP Church (12), Tradewinds Christian ARP Church (19); Mississippi Valley Presbytery – Gospel of Grace ARP Church (19); Northeast Presbytery – Hyo Shin Bible ARP Church (137), New Vision ARP Church (15), The Joyful NY ARP Church (15); Second Presbytery – Devenger Road ARP Church (14); Oconee ARP Church (10), Hopewell ARP Church (9), honorable mention. Since Pacific Presbytery was dissolved by action of Synod’s Executive Board at its October meeting, statistics from Pacific Presbytery were not listed.

The following is a list of ARP congregations with 400 or more members and the number of their additions by “Adult Profession” as posted in the “Statistical Information”: (1) Chester ARP Church – 400 members, 4 by “Adult Profession”; (2) Ebenezer ARP Church – 506 members, 10 by “Adult Profession”; (3) First Columbia ARP Church – 2591 members, 8 by “Adult Profession”; (4) Neely’s Creek ARP Church – 484 members, 1 by “Adult Profession”; (5) Rock Hill First ARP Church – 643 members, 2 by “Adult Profession”; (6) Gastonia First ARP Church – 976 members, 5 by “Adult Profession”; (7) Bartow ARP Church – 422 members, 4 by “Adult Profession; (8) Lake Placid First ARP Church – 770 members, 2 by “Adult Profession”; (9) Church of the Atonement ARP Church – 400 members, 3 by “Adult Profession”; (10) Hyo Shin Bible ARP Church – 1000, 137 by “Adult Profession; (11) Greenville ARP Church – 558, 1 by “Adult Profession”; (12) Peachtree Corners ARP Church – 410 members, 0 by “Adult Profession”; and (13) Fayetteville ARP Church – 472 members, 0 by “Adult Profession.”

Of course, the exceptions to the rule in the list in the above paragraph are the Ebenezer ARP Church and the Hyo Shin Bible ARP Church. Most of these congregations of 400 or more members have 2 or more clergy staff members. What are they doing with their time? Are they simply congregational chaplains? Do they live in a protected Christian ghetto where they are sheltered from contact with non-Christians? Do they not know how to share their faith? Do they not preach the Gospel of the free offer of Christ? Where is their anointing?

Once again, the heritage of the ARP Church is the preaching of the free offer of the Gospel by preachers who were able to garner converts and bring down renewal, revival, and awakening. What kind of preaching are we doing? Is it fair to say our preaching of the free offer of the Gospel is ineffectual?

Just before the meeting of General Synod in 2011, a goodly number of us met at the Reformation ARP Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina, to discuss the state of the ARP Church. One of the two presenters proposed expository preaching as the way to renewal and revival in the ARP Church. Well, something must be wrong with our method of expository preaching!!! Unction is missing. If we were charged with giving away money, could we do it? Well, we are charged with giving away the free Gospel of Christ, and we are not doing it!! And here is a very politically incorrect and impolite question: are we preaching for conversions and renewal or have we become menpleasers who preach politically correct sermons in order to protect our jobs?

We are LUKEWARM! The judgment of God is on us. We ARPs deserve a lukewarm Erskine; the lukewarmness of Erskine is our legacy to Erskine. We in the ARP Church are the ones who have tolerated unfaithfulness at Erskine and steadfastly refused to correct the situation. Jesus’ words about spitting out are upon us. We look for all sorts of sociological and demographic explanations and excuses to justify our lack of evangelistic fervor and inability to win nonbelievers to Christ; however, maybe the reason we are drying up is because the anointing of God’s Spirit is not resting on us because of disobedience. Is not lukewarm Christ’s assessment of us?

These are my thoughts,

signature

Charles W. Wilson

Share This:
Facebook Twitter Email Plusone Linkedin Pintrest

Filed Under: Newsletter

RSSComments (4)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Scott Robar says:

    Well said, says this chastened pastor.

  2. Mr. Scott Robar,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Scott, I’m not aiming at you. The work you have done at New Covenant as a part-time tentmaker is to be commended. The task you undertook is the equivalent of climbing a sheer cliff in a blizzard – you’re attempting to raise to life a dead congregation. You were not left with much by Lonnie Richardson and those who followed him. Actually, you have done much with very little. It is remarkable the doors are still open, and that is attributable to your sacrifice and tenacity. I commend you. I do not include you in the ranks of the lukewarm. The ones to be scorned are those who have done little or nothing with MUCH and are not outwardly troubled by their fecklessness.

    Regards,

    Chuck Wilson
    ARPTalk

  3. Wilfred Bellamy says:

    Hello Chuck,

    I have thought a good deal about your piece on lukewarmness. Although I understand your Erskine concerns, allow another observation. The Minutes of Synod reveal a preoccupation with agency issues, including those of Erskine in recent years. It seems that if we can be convinced that the agencies are working according to plan, then the church is healthy. Unfortunately this is not true. The agencies have developed their own independence over the years. They no longer serve at the will and good pleasure of General Synod but have become a law unto themselves. They and their boards do not hold themselves accountable to GS nor does GS require more than token reporting of its agencies which are free to say what they choose to say about their respective ministries, but do not reveal any form of evaluative principle being applied to their work. Once set in motion any agency may perpetuate any program it presumes to have value and will report on it in glowing terms. Thus GS assumes that all is well.

    In the meantime GS has little to say or observe concerning the health and well-being of our congregations. A rapid decline in membership in one congregation is ignored in its Presbytery and never brought to the attention of GS. Similarly a thriving congregation receives little recognition in its Presbytery and receives no mention at GS. It almost appears that GS has little or no interest in its congregations and is an absentee parent in this regard. But if we are to think ecclesially and consider whom we are as the people of God, we must place our congregations and therefore their health, in the forefront of our thinking and our attention. To focus on an agency as the extension of our approach to the world makes sense only when the parent entity is strong and healthy, and that must be the Church, the Body of Christ. And that leads me to conclude that “as is your congregational vitality so is the effectiveness of your ministry as a denomination.”

    This loss of focus on what really matters is evidenced throughout the ARP Church and is illustrated by your piece.

    Blessings, Wilf.

Leave a Reply (Please note: Anonynomous Comments Are Not Posted)