Hyping the Great Commission

bright revivalIn 1995 Bill Bright published a volume on “the coming revival.” It summarized what he had been saying for years. If we would only fast and pray and follow the right methods, a revival would come. In other instances, however, he periodically announced a great revival. Depending upon what year or what instance a revival was either said to be coming or present. According to a recent news report, the current president of Campus Crusade has predicted that the Great Commission will be fulfilled “in our lifetimes and I personally think in the next decade.”

Really? How would anyone know? What constitutes “fulfilling” the Great Commission? Jesus said,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (ESV).

The recent claim that the Great Commission will be fulfilled in our lifetimes or sooner is the result partly of evangelistic enthusiasm, partly of organizational imperative, partly of a tradition of claiming to know what the Spirit is doing and when he is doing it, and partly from a reductionist view of what the Great Commission is and entails.

There can be no question that Crusade, like its sister evangelistic organizations, has a great enthusiasm for “evangelism” and witness. Who of us hasn’t seen a “Four Spiritual Laws” pamphlet or even made such a gospel presentation ourselves? I’ve known a lot of warm, godly folk in Crusade and there is a quieter side to Crusade that seeks to foster genuine intellectual and cultural engagement with contemporary thought. Nevertheless, there are fundamental problems with each of these aspects of the Crusade approach to mission.

First, enthusiasm isn’t enough. Strictly speaking, used in its old-fashioned sense, “enthusiasm” used to be regarded as a bad thing, as a sort of insanity or senselessness. Even used in its popular sense today it’s problematic. Yes, Christians, especially those who would be “evangelical” should have  a strong desire to see the lost reached and the Savior glorified but by whom and how? Enthusiasm does not answer those questions.

The nature of modern American “evangelical” para-church organizations seems to make such claims virtually part of the cost of doing business. The first defense every such para-church organization offers for its existence is this: If the visible church was doing its job, we wouldn’t exist. Good old American pragmatism and efficiency. The visible church is failing thus let us build a better, more efficient organization to accomplish the same task. Having done that, if the organization cannot show measurable results, then what justification is there for the organization. In other words, whatever the actual state of affairs on the ground, the organization must succeed or close. Virtually no organization, once it is organized and once it develops a culture and a constituency is content to simply vanish. Hence the institutional imperative.

Crusade was born about the same time that Billy Graham’s revivals began to catch on as American anti-communism heated up and “secularism” was perceived to be a growing problem. It was part of the neo-evangelical movement that began in the 1940s. It would have been better, however, to describe the Crusade and Graham aspects of the movement as neo-revivalist because it has always been the tradition of American revivalism, going back to the so-called First Great Awakening (the one of which good Calvinists are supposed to approve), to claim to know what the Spirit is doing, where, and when. The proponents and defenders of the 1GA were so sure that whatever was happening was a work of the Spirit that anyone, whether rationalist or Reformed confessionalist, who dared question its legitimacy was branded unregenerate. That argument continues today. Never mind Jesus’ warning in John 3 that none of us knows what the Spirit is doing, where, or when he’s doing it. Our business is not the outcomes, it is the means but American revivalism is premised on “outcome based” evangelism. In contrast, Reformed theology, piety, and practice is premised on “means based” evangelism. Our business is to attend to the means of grace (the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments) and leave the outcome to the Holy Spirit.

Finally, especially since the so-called Second Great Awakening in the 19th century, the revivalists have typically “dumbed down” what counts as revivalism, what counts for “discipleship,” (hence the “Lordship Controversy among evangelicals in the 80s), and often simply omit the sacraments altogether as irrelevant. American revivalism has always had a core commitment to creating and perpetuating a certain sort of high-pitched religious excitement. That excitement is the true sacrament of revivalism.

Certainly when I was around the outer circles of Crusade, in the 70s and 80s, the implicit message was that Crusade was for the “spiritually mature” and church was a sort of rote necessity for weak and for maintaining appearances and for raising support. Having been influenced by both Crusade and Navigators I couldn’t decide whether the pinnacle of spiritual achievement was to go to Glen Eyrie (Colorado Springs) or to join Crusade as a staff member.

As the early church understood the commission however, it entailed 1) preaching the law of God to sinners, by which the Spirit worked the knowledge of sin and conviction, 2) the preaching of the gospel, through which the Spirit works faith in his elect, and the administration of the sign/seal of the covenant of grace to those not already baptized which was the beginning of a “baptized life.” These were no mere formalities or milk for beginners. These things constitute the sum and substance of the faith and the Christian life. Every day we repent. Every day we believe. Every day we reckon with ourselves as baptized persons upon whom the name of Christ has been placed. For historic, confessional Reformed Christians, the real Christian life is not lived in para-church organizations, however admirable some of their goals may be and however fallible the visible church may be, but in Christ’s churchly community. Evangelism is what takes place across what the Puritans called “the sacred desk.” When the minister announces the gospel in Word and in sacrament. I realize that it seems foolish and inefficient to go-go American evangelicals and it is all that—but it’s Christ’s church, his gospel, his commission, and his foolishness. There are no Four Spiritual Laws. There is only the law and the gospel. There is no truncated version of the Christian life. There is only a daily dying to self and living to Christ. There is no glorious triumph in this life, only a muddling through trusting in Christ’s promises and waiting for him to fulfill his Word. The promises of a current or coming revival or fulfillment of this or that prophecy are nothing more or less than a theology of glory but Jesus has called his people to a theology of the cross.

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  1. “…going back to the so-called First Great Awakening (the one of which good Calvinists are supposed to approve)…”

    I find this sad and yet funny.

    “American revivalism is premised on “outcome based” evangelism. In contrast, Reformed theology, piety, and practice is premised on “means based” evangelism. Our business is to attend to the means of grace (the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments) and leave the outcome to the Holy Spirit.”

    Darn right!

    “For historic, confessional Reformed Christians, the real Christian life is not lived in para-church organizations, however admirable some of their goals may be and however fallible the visible church may be, but in Christ’s churchly community.”

    I fully agree; though, what are we to do with people that are more than satisfied with listening to Ligonier Ministries during the week and then returning to their non-Reformed churches or “chapels”?

  2. A “daily dying to self and living to Christ.” “A muddling through trusting in Christ’s promises and waiting for him to fulfill his Word.” Someone needs to put you on TBN, Dr. Clark. I see that Johnny Mac just made an appearance.

  3. This is also date-setting in disguise, for when all of God’s elect has been saved, the Great Commission is “fulfilled,” and Jesus would return.

    Douglass also adds texting and the Internet to the three Biblical means of grace (preaching, sacraments, and prayer). Internet witnessing has produced 3 million “decisions for Christ”: so people save themselves by their own decisions.

  4. Dr. Clark,

    Nice post, though you seemed to drift from the title a bit.

    Crusade has been hyping the fulfillment of the Great Commission for decades. Their campus ministry worked out a definition for the college campus, then extrapolated that definition to other campuses across a city, state, and region. Similar definitions arose in adult ministries with patterns of ever-expanding circles of influence. With staff in over 160 countries those nationals have drafted similar plans, usually starting with the college campus then expanding from there.

    By using the Jesus film they have greatly enlarged the pool of folks who’ve heard something about Jesus Christ. Which brings us to their definition of fulfilling the Great Commission: Giving everyone an opportunity to hear the Gospel. That opportunity might come in the form of a personal, one to one, conversation. It might also come via the Jesus film. It could happen through a mass media event (the I Found It campaign is a classic example). And now, with the advent of the internet, their definition might include email blitzes (spam) or some way of linking to a Gospel presentation via YouTube or FaceBook.

    So the problem is as much their definition of fulfilling the Great Commission as well as their methodology — anything is permissible as long as it will provide the unwashed masses a chance to hear of Christ. And eventually, they believe that the culmination of all of their strategies, along with the work of other parachurch ministries (including Bible translation), and the on-going work of ‘local churches’ will lead to everyone on earth having the opportunity to hear about Christ.

    I came to faith through Campus Crusade directly through a presentation of The Four Spiritual Laws. I was active in college and then served on staff for a number of years. But their methodology, their visions of grandeur, and their a-historical view of church history drove me to seek refuge (and sanity) somewhere else. By God’s grace I now serve in a confessionally reformed denomination and wonder why so many remain outside.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    This article is very sane, very biblical, and very needed.

    I’m on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. You are absolutely correct about enthusiasm; however, the statements of Douglas or Bright regarding the potential fulfilling of the GC in our lifetimes are not by any means official CCC stances – and are meant to be motivating – not predictive by any means.

    That’s not to say that I (or many others) agree that such things should be said – CCC is not full of mere Bill Bright parrots. I respect him. I think sometimes he said some silly things. But it’s hard not to respect the guy. I wish I had have the faith or love he did for our Lord!

    I need to clarify a couple things: Crusade leadership would never, EVER say that if the local churches were doing their job, we wouldn’t exist. We exist so that people in churches with different denominational affiliations, submitted to the elders of their local churches, can partner for the sake of evangelism. We do not exist to replace the local church.

    Unfortunately, that attitude and teaching does not always pervade individuals or every local movement. Crusade is a large organization made up of many individuals – staff and students – and most peoples’ impressions of the organizations come from individual campus ministries, from individuals, or from individual conversations. As a result, one can paint the whole organization with a brush that results from specific experience – and isn’t fair to the whole organization.

    There are many of us on staff that seek to evangelize, seek to equip others to evangelize, and get them into local churches.

    One final comment – I don’t think you necessarily meant this – but the way you phrased your sentence about evangelism makes it sound like evangelism exclusively happens from the pulpit. I’m fairly certain you didn’t mean that, but it kind of sounds like it.

  6. Derek,

    Thanks for this.

    I think you missed the point a bit. I understand that what Bright said and what Douglas says may not be official policy and that they are meant to be motivating. That’s the point! This sort of motivation is why I called it “hyping.” This is the sort of artificial, manipulative way of dealing with people (motivating) that is both perfectly illustrative of a certain segment of American evangelicalism and which drives me batty. It’s not honest. It’s not fair. It’s not accurate. It’s not biblical. It’s not charitable. It’s wrong on so many fronts. Don’t you see that?

    Further, I think I know enough about Crusade and the ethos of the organization to say that if Bill Bright wrote a book making a case, that wasn’t just “some guy” speaking out of turn any more than the Pope is just “some guy” talking when he speaks. It may not be officially canonical but it sets a direction for the organization. I guess there weren’t too many people telling Bill that he was cracked and remaining a vital part of Crusade. There certain evangelical organizations, not directly connected to Crusade, where it has been unofficial policy to forbid criticism of Crusade because of the influence and power of Crusade.

    I acknowledge in the column that Crusade is not a monolith. What people mutter under their breath or say privately is one thing but the public and internal ethos of Crusade remains what it is.

    Christians may form all sorts of private organizations to do good things. Indeed, in many cases, things that local churches do should probably be done by private associations. The Church is charged with three or four tasks:

    1) to preach the gospel purely (see below)

    2) to administer the sacraments purely

    3) to administer church discipline

    4) to administer the ministry of mercy within the congregation

    Christians may and should organize private societies to administer relief to the community outside the church. Evangelism (see below), however, and the sacraments belong to the visible church. Any entity proposing to take on those tasks has placed itself in direct competition with the visible church.

    See this essay on the church. Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom (gospel and discipline) to the visible church (Matt 16). He did not give those keys to voluntary, private societies that may come and go. Jesus did no say that the gates of hell will not prevail against private societies but he did make that promise to the visible church.

    Christ gave the Great Commission to the visible, institutional church (Matt 28:18-20). He commissioned church officers to fulfill the great commission through the ministry of Word and sacrament. I realize that three offices of ministers, elders, and deacons is a terribly inefficient way of doing business, that the visible church is a mess, that it moves like molasses, but it’s Christ’s inefficient mess. He didn’t commission every Christian who ever lived to go, make disciples, baptize etc.

    Derek, whatever the stated policy of Crusade, people in Crusade (and in other organizations) HAVE said to me that Crusade, IVCF, Navigators and other such organizations (not to pick on campus groups) wouldn’t exist if churches had done their job. I was around Crusade 30 years ago. I heard it with my own ears. Again, I’m not talking about stated policy. I am describing an ethos and an on-the-ground mentality. Remember that Bill Bright became disgusted with the inefficiency of seminary training (in preparation for ecclesiastical ministry) and threw his Hebrew flash cards in the air and started Crusade. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit of the thing, the ruthless efficiency of American evangelicalism. See Marsden’s history of Fuller Seminary, Reforming Evangelicalism.

    You understood me correctly: evangelism, per se, takes place from the pulpit. I don’t mean to shock or discourage you, but the only institution authorized by Christ to proclaim his gospel publicly (i.e. to do evangelism) is the visible, institutional church he established. The only persons in that organization authorized to do evangelism are those who have been called and trained to proclaim the gospel, i.e. ministers.

    Certainly laity, as they have opportunity, must and should give witness to the biblical, historic faith and to their faith, their personal appropriation, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, of that faith. It is not, however, the duty of “every member” to be doing “evangelism.”

    Here are some links:

    Should Evangelism Happen Only in the Church?

    On “Church Growth”

    I hope this isn’t too disappointing. Take a look at Recovering the Reformed Confession and Christless Christianity and the links provided here to see if it doesn’t begin to make more sense.

  7. “Evangelism…and the sacraments belong to the visible church. Any entity proposing to take on those tasks has placed itself in direct competition with the visible church.”

    I really agree with you on this one.

  8. Derek,

    Your comment is interesting…

    I need to clarify a couple things: Crusade leadership would never, EVER say that if the local churches were doing their job, we wouldn’t exist. We exist so that people in churches with different denominational affiliations, submitted to the elders of their local churches, can partner for the sake of evangelism. We do not exist to replace the local church.

    When I joined CCC staff in the mid-80s a prominent leader and seminary professor was openly articulating (ie. training new staff) essentially this idea. It was done in the context of Ralph Winters’ papers concerning two redemptive models for God’s people — the local church and the missionary band. He (Winter and this professor) taught that CCC and other parachurch ministries were equal to the church and ought to be left to their own devices (without church interference). It is a simplistic argument, and perhaps it is no longer widely taught in CCC. But I recall a discussion among fellow staff members who had imbibed this teaching and raising this point, “Well, maybe we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper at our weekly staff meetings. What’s stopping us?”

  9. Thank God organizations can change… right?

    As R. Scott Clark said, “I was around Crusade 30 years ago.”

    As Dave sarafolean said, “When I joined CCC staff in the mid-80s”

    I’m willing to give Derek Joseph (a current staff member) the benefit of the insight for today. It’s too bad that solid Christian men aren’t as easily malleable?


    (We don’t see people condemning the adherents of Calvin’s Church of today for killing heretics in Geneva 400 years ago? Maybe we should…)

  10. Dennis,

    Yes, organizations do change, but the recent pronouncement by the president of Crusade is EXACTLY the sort of thing that Bright did for decades. Where is the evidence of change?

    Evidence of real change would be for Crusade to say, “We realize that we have been competing with the visible, institutional church established by Christ, we have been drawing resources and personnel away from the prosecution of the Great Commission through the divinely ordained means (the public, official proclamation of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments). We’re thankful for the good things that have been accomplished and we’re sorry for the damage done and now we say good bye.”

    I don’t think that’s in the cards. The point of bizarre predictions about fulfilling the GC is to gin up the troops and fundraising. That’s the not the mark of an organization that’s making an about face.

    Contrast Crusade (has anyone thought about the effect of that name on college campuses? Is there any less sensitive name in use today by evangelicals? Try witnessing to Muslim students wearing a CRUSADE t-shirt! Ain’t gonna happen) with Reformed University Fellowship. RUF is the college-ministry arm of the PCA. Every RUF director is an ordained minister who is called by a local congregation to work with college students. RUF workers are trained in Reformed seminaries and often go on to full-time pastoral work. In other words, RUF is reaching college students with the gospel and making disciples of them not ALONGSIDE the visible church but IN and THROUGH the visible church. These are two different models.

  11. Dr. Clark,

    The ethos is alive and well today. Two years ago I had a salvation experience and joined CCC at my school. About a year ago I was introduced to Reformed Theology and as I began to grasp its truths, I started to question CCC’s practices and the whole evangelistic parachurch enterprise.

    Why hasn’t the 4 laws been edited in so long?
    “Between me and you, I know it should be changed, but God has used it so much as it is”
    Is biblical evidence for parachurch ministries?
    “There isn’t any. Parachurches didn’t exist back then.” Or
    “Look around you, it works. Haven’t you seen lives changed?” (I was at a conference.)
    “The church is failing. Don’t you think that’s true?”

    I suggested that I get permission for my bible study from an elder in my church and the staff person said, “That’s not practical.”

    For every one instance I had someone “kind” enough to condescend to my level, I’ve had four shrug their shoulders and say something to the effect, ‘isn’t it obvious?’

    Thank God for your work, Dr. Clark. These are confusing times.

  12. Dennis,

    Lighten up. I spent 8 years on staff leaving in 1993. During that time the attitude toward the church never improved and probably got worse. The leader in question influenced hundreds of staff members and his teaching spread throughout CCC and to the people they discipled.

    Of course organizations change but I see no appreciable change. Many/most in CCC view the church as the place to raise funds. Few ever articulate serving “under the oversight of elders” as Derek did. I commend him for it.

    The bottom line is that Crusade encourages staff members to go into ministry as ‘independent contractors’ pretty much apart from the oversight of the local church. Many new staff came to faith as students and they have little or no church background. Many/most find themselves in the orbit of a mega-church and that becomes the place to network and raise support. Compounding the problem is that such churches do not require or expect membership so they cannot really oversee these staff members.

    Again, I commend Derek for serving in CCC under the oversight of elders. I wish more people in parachurch ministry did the same.

  13. I’m on staff with CCC, and am the “staff guy” at the campus of the student who commented above. I feel misquoted but that’s not why I’m writing.

    I’ve read this article and the comments a few times today and while I haven’t agreed with everything I’ve thought most people were being fair until the mention of the name “crusade” being offensive. It made me feel like you had more of an ax to grind against CCC and wanted to show how much better your campus ministry is. It seems childish alongside arguing from your experience and interpretation of the scriptures. Take it for what it’s worth, it’s how it felt to me. Regardless, thanks for writing.

    Aside from that you should expect to see a name change in the coming years.

  14. Andy,

    You miss the point re the name. It was just an aside, but it’s an important aside. Do you know from where the word “crusade” comes? Do you understand the fear and loathing the word “crusade” and the imagery it evokes among Muslims to this day? They still see the West as “Crusading” against Islam. They don’t distinguish between the “West” and “Christianity.” The use of the “crusade” by Christians goes back to a time when we didn’t have to think about such things, when we had almost no contact with Islam. Since ’79 that’s all changed.

    If CC is changing their name, then they must see an issue too, right?

    I’m a Reformed minister/teacher and my commitment to the Reformed confessions is a matter of public record. I don’t understand that part of your objection. Did you read the link re the doctrine of the church?

  15. Dr Clark,

    Those of us who are on campus day in a day out understand full what you are saying and look forward to the day when the name might change. My point was not to disagree with you on that, but simply to say how it felt when you pulled that card. I thought you might want the feedback.

    I’m not sure what objection I made that you are referring to in the last part of your comment back to me.

    Dave, as an aside to your aside, purely from my experience I’d say that most staff are not orbiting mega churches. In fact, most staff I know seem to be pretty skeptical of them. Just my observation, I don’t have hard data to back that up, and I realize it’s not really the point you all are making.

    Thank you for responding.

  16. Andy,

    Do you understand the difference between the way CC relates to the visible church and the way RUF relates to the visible church? It’s not a matter of “how much better” RUF is vs. CC but which model is more biblical.

    Is there biblical doctrine of the visible, institutional church or is the visible, institutional church just another evangelistic organization alongside CC?

  17. I understood your point and “how much better” was a poor choice of words. I’m familiar with some ministries in that model. RUF sounds like a great ministry, although I’ve never encountered one myself here in the Chicago area, or in Michigan where I am from. All the more reason I felt like your point was strong enough to not play the “name card”. It probably felt the way it did to me because it is something we hear all the time and are taking action on. It felt like piling on.

    Forgive me if I seem sensitive about it, perhaps how an argument feels is not of concern and that is fine.

    I’m not sure if your last question was meant to be rhetorical or not. If not I don’t view the visible institutional church as another evangelistic organization. If I believed that it was I wouldn’t be encouraging (requiring them) my students to be involved in both.

    From what you wrote it sounds like RUF works in and through the church because:

    A) It’s staff (I don’t know if that’s what they are called) are called from a congregation and seminary trained.

    B) The campus group is strongly linked to a local church.

    C) It’s denominational.

    My question would be this. For the individual students who are involved in CCC as well as a local church, or RUF and the local reformed congregation, is there a huge difference in what they are experiencing? It seems like the main issue here is that CCC is interdenominational. If you think the experience of the student is different then I’d love to hear if you have anything constructive to say to CCC staff about how to help the students have a more biblical (with regard to the church) experience in their time in college. Perhaps the answer continues to come back to that we as staff all need to quit and our organization and campus movements all need to cease to exist.

  18. Hi Andy,

    I asked the question because I wondered whether you understand that there is a fundamental difference between the institution “the church” and every other institution. One of them is “the church” and nothing else is. RUF is the campus outreach of the Presbyterian Church in America.

    CCC is a private organization established by a guy (Bill Bright) c. 1951 to evangelize college students and others.

    The church, of which the PCA is a part, was established by Jesus, who gave to it the Great Commission, authority to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and to discipline. He did not give those things to private organizations such as CCC. The church has a divine mandate; CCC does not.

    It’s not that CCC is interdenominational. I work in an interdenominational school. There’s nothing wrong with interdenominational schools or private societies to accomplish goals not given to the church. The problem is that CCC is attempting to accomplish one of the three tasks given to the visible church: evangelism.

    Your question about experience is truly important because it reveals the difference between Reformed theology and CCC and it illustrates the truth of what I was saying in the post. You seem to assume that religious experience is the goal and so long as one has it there is no matter where it occurs. That’s exactly wrong. The point of the visible church is to glorify God by fulfilling the Great Commission by preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments and discipline. Along the way experience happens but that a by-product not the goal. Its a goal for CCC because CCC has its roots in the 2nd Great Awakening/New Measures revivalism of the 19th century. The Reformed Churches do not have their roots in those movements.

    No, I cannot offer constructive advice as to how to fix CCC. That would assume that CCC should continue to compete with the church that Christ established. Yes, you understand me here perfectly.

    I appreciate the good that CCC has done, but I also appreciate the little good that was accomplished under Charles Finney’s “new measures.” Nevertheless, Finney did a great deal of damage. There are entire areas in the Northeast that continue to suffer the effects of his “revivals” (that area is called “the burned over district”) more than a century later.

    How much damage has CCC done? I couldn’t say. How often has the “Four Spiritual Laws” tract created a false impression about what the law and the gospel are? How helpful was it when Bill Bright signed Evangelicals and Catholics Together?

    The goal of reaching college students with the gospel is worthy of the visible church. There are churchly ways of fulfilling that mission. You mention that you haven’t encountered RUF where you’ve been. That’s unfortunate but it is partly the result of the fact that millions of dollars has been spent on CCC instead of local congregations which fund RUF. The PCA (not my denomination btw) is a relatively small denomination and RUF has only been in existence for maybe two decades. Where there is no RUF, Reformed congregations near college campuses should have an outreach on campus (and perhaps even when RUF is present).

    The goal is to reach students with the gospel. In order fulfill the mandate Christ gave we must do it Christ’s way (through the visible church) with Christ’s message (the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone).

  19. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for taking the time to engage in the discussion with me. I will look further into weather the ministry of CCC is indeed doing something that only the church should do in preaching the Gospel as that seems to be where what you are saying, and what I have understood seem to be different. The argument is a new one to me as the three churches I’ve been a part of (one growing up, one in college, and one here in Chicago where I live) all have been so supportive of my involvement and ministry with CCC. Those pastors in authority over me have never indicated that they would want me doing anything else but what I’m doing with CCC. I realize that doesn’t necessarily make it biblical. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

  20. Andy and Dr. Clark,

    The difference between CCC staff and the campus ministers of Reformed University Fellowship is a bit more than seminary training. RUF campus ministers are ordained by the PCA to that ministry. Yes, they have seminary training (MDiv) but they have also gone through the same trials for licensure and ordination that any other minister in the PCA goes through. They are ordained by their presbytery and accountable to that presbytery for their work. So they operate on behalf of Christ and the church and are accountable to Christ through the church.

    CCC staff are ‘commissioned’ by CCC. Their education is far below that of a Master of Divinity degree. They are chiefly accountable to their immediate director and to their support team. Accountability to the church often takes the form keeping the missions committee abreast of ministry developments and possibly a mentoring relationship with a pastor.

  21. Dr. Clark,

    I apologize for tossing a hand grenade into this discussion and not being involved after that. I’m currently at New Staff Training with CCC with my wife who is just coming on staff. I’ve been on staff since 2001 and have been helping with the theology class that all the New Staff have to take.

    Unfortunately, our schedule has been packed! I plan on continuing this conversation shortly upon getting home.

    Thanks for extending grace!

  22. Dr Clark,
    I am curious as to where you find the warrant to have interdenominational seminaries. Is not the training of disciples, disciple-making, the task of the church, as per Matthew 28: 18- 20. If evangelism is only legitimate if done by the church, why is the training of pastors and preachers and evangelists allowed outside of her? How does your seminary escape the ‘para-church’ classification?

    And, to expand on Derek’s query, if evangelism is only legitimately done when done by the church, what constitutes ‘church- based’ evangelism? A member of a church witnessing to his co-workers over lunch; is that evangelism, and is it OK if done outside of the church’s programs? Since you have clearly restricted evangelism’s provenance to the church, perhaps you can clarify what you mean by it.

    • Dan,

      The case for it goes back to Machen and the doctrine of the spirituality of the church. It also goes back to the history of education itself, the story of which is too long to tell here. The short version is that seminaries are an anomaly. They exist because of Modernism which gradually drove theology out of the university. Prior to the domination of the university by Modernity there universities with Reformed (or Lutheran or sometimes mixed) theology faculties. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that those universities were under the direct control of the churches. In the middle ages the universities (and esp. the theology faculties) were under the control of the church. The Reformation changed that practice. Part of the theory behind the change was the distinction between that which is strictly ecclesiastical (e.g. Word, sacrament, and discipline) and that which is “secular” — which in that period was not a pejorative. Much of the training of ministers involved training in the liberal arts, which is not an ecclesiastical function. The church as such has no direct interest in the teaching secular or even church history. The church as such has no direct interest in the teaching of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The church as such has no direct interest in academic specialization. Though the church has a direct interest in theology and biblical exegesis, it has no direct interest in the academic disciplines in those subjects. It’s interest is catechetical and confessional but ministers are not well prepared if the ONLY training they receive is catechetical and confessional. The danger of the church becoming directly involved in the academy is that the church loses its proper mission (Word and sacrament ministry and the administration of discipline) and the academy loses its ability to do its work properly (according to the demands inherent in the nature of schools).

      Machen’s experience with an ecclesiastically controlled seminary (Princeton) pushed him to re-think the model he had inherited and to re-think the problems raised above. Thus, he established Westminster as a school independent of direct, corporate ecclesiastical control. There is certainly indirect ecclesiastical influence since our full-time faculty are all ministers called by ecclesiastical bodies (either consistories or presbyteries) to this work. It means that we live in two worlds by working in an academic setting on behalf of the church.

      Because we’re not the church we do not hold stated worship services during the week. We do not administer the sacraments. We do not exercise ecclesiastical discipline. We hold devotions and we meet for prayer but these are not necessarily ecclesiastical functions.

      There are great benefits to an inter-denominational academic setting. The students and faculty learn from each other, from the various traditions represented within and even beyond NAPARC. Because we are inter-denominational we have opportunity to teach and train students we would not otherwise see. Many of our students come to us from outside the confessional Reformed community, which is quite small in N. America, and most of them leave confessionally Reformed. Denominational schools tend to attract and train primarily students for the denomination and from it.

      If we were convinced, however, as a matter of principle, that the school should be ecclesiastically controlled it would be. We aren’t so convinced however, for the reasons just given and more.

      • Scott,
        Thanks for the reply. Here are some thoughts in response:

        1. I find it ironic that your position results in the affirmation that evangelism is restricted to the ministry of the church, but the training of evangelists is not. If you get your biblical warrant for restricting evangelism to ‘God’s appointed ministers’ from Matthew 28: 18- 20, then you should also see in those verses that the whole process of making disciples is given to God’s appointed ministers by that passage. The force of your argument against para-church evangelistic ministries must also be turned on to para- church seminaries. Your seminary is inter-denominational: well, Crusade is inter-denominational. You find that a boon to ministry; so does Crusade. Your seminary trains people to be evangelists; Crusade trains people to witness. I see a distinction without a difference. If you cannot in conscience support the ministry of Crusade for these reasons, then I do not see how you can support that of WTS. You must have some way of parsing these two that makes sense to you, but I cannot see it.

        2. I find the argument that the church has no interest in the training of it’s pastors to know Greek and Hebrew a little…astonishing. The distinction between ecclesiastical and secular ‘interests’ s that you make here is…well, puzzling at best. How can the church have an ecclesiastical interest in proper exegesis but no ecclesiastical interest in the linguistic training to equip it’s pastors to properly exegete? How could a church have an ecclesiastical interest in theology without an interest in training it’s pastors to properly theologize? Or deliver the sacraments without the training to fence the table, explain the meaning of the Table and the Water?

        Simply put, if the history of education, as it has developed, is sufficient warrant for the existence of interdenominational, para- church seminaries, then I find it rather strange that the history of the Church, in her development of missions and ecclesiology, is not sufficient warrant for the presence of para- church ministries.

        3. I do not find the Machen example compelling, since his ‘experience’ is what you have put forward as warrant for going interdenominational and para-church with our seminaries. Experience is exactly what you are NOT allowing as warrant for the existence and activities of people like Crusade and Navs.

        4. I read your earlier blog about the distinction between evangelism and witness. By your own definition in that earlier post, Crusade is not actually doing evangelism but giving witness, and training others to do so. So why are they, and Youth for Christ, and all the others, being taken to task here for doing evangelism? Is it just that they call it that? If they stopped calling their activity evangelism and referred to it was ‘giving witness’, would their offense stop? Because your earlier post clearly implied that lay people can and do give witness, and that is a good thing.

  23. Has Christ commissioned the visible, institutional church to teach the Trivium or the liberal arts? The teaching of Greek and Hebrew is the teaching of the liberal arts. Ditto for church history. In other words, is the visible, institutional church called by God to get directly into the education business?

    If one wants an educated ministry AND to preserve the unique, spiritual nature of the church as the only divine institution for the propagation of the gospel and the administration of sacraments and discipline then, it seems to me, this approach has merit.

    History suggests that when the church tries to do more than those things it loses its way.

    There is a caveat. Ursinus’ exposition of HC 103 does make reference to the training of ministers by the church.

    In response I would say that things have changed since the 16th century. The history of ecclesiastically controlled institutions hasn’t been positive. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet here.

    • I don’t have a problem with private Christian societies. What they shouldn’t do is compete with the visible church in the administration of Word, sacrament, and discipline.

      The problem with Crusade and Navs is that they too often compete with the visible church.

      WSC doesn’t compete with the visible church. It does what the church is not called to do. We don’t do evangelism. We don’t administer sacraments. We don’t draw people away from the church. We cooperate with the visible church in training people for pastoral ministry.

      I was using the word “interest” in the older sense. Of course the church has an interest in the outcome of education. I mean that the church has no direct divine commission to perform the task of liberal arts (or arguably theological) education.

      • Scott,
        I would agree that some of the educational training as a background to pastoral ministry -like a liberal arts degree- is properly beyond the purview of the church, IF we take the separation of church and state in that direction. I simply cannot see how you can harmonize your para- church involvement with a larger diatribe against para- church institutions. I think you need to re- think this.

        To simply say that you don’t compete with the church, and that Crusade does, is facile. Crusade does not administer the sacraments, nor preach the Word (though, like WSC and other institutions, it regularly gives devotions.) To say that it competes with the visible church in other ways may be true- as does WSC, however. But in the key areas, that Christ has ordained of the church (Word sacrament and discipline), I have never heard of Crusade competing, and I have much closer, and much more recent, ties to it than you. It is in the same position as WTS, or any other seminary. To say that it evangelizes is to agree that it CAN ‘evangelize’, which by your definition it cannot do. You may complain about it’s theology, as many do and rightly so, if they are in need of correction there. But this para- church argument you make stretches too far- far enough, indeed, to vitiate your own institution.

        Regarding the idea that the church has, by your words, ‘arguably’ no divine commission to perform the task of theological education, I must disagree. 2 Timothy 2:2 clearly enjoins Timothy with the taks of entrusting the things he has heard to faithful men, who can teach others also. Matt 28: 18- 20 commands the disciples to teach everything he has commanded them. It seems pretty explicit in these passages that the task of theological education is one of the primary commissions Christ gave to the church.

        Scott, you cannot have it both ways. Either WTS is as out-of-bounds as Crusade is, or neither of them are out of bounds by virtue of being ‘para-church.’ Just because Crusade sometimes competes with the church, or does bad theologizing, does not mean it is inherently flawed and should cease to exist. WTS Philadelphia is presently embroiled in a bit of controversy over bad theologizing from one of it’s professors, so none of us are immune to this. Professor Frame of your own institution’s faculty was viewed by many as teaching bad theology, especially regarding the regulative principle. If this is enough to banish an organization, then there go we all.

        Your mind is sharp and your criticisms influential. Mind that you season them with a little more charity and fairness; you are a steward of many forming minds.

  24. Dan,

    I don’t think you can succeed in lumping Crusade in with WSC (by the way, WTS is a distinct institution. We’ve been distinct since about 1984).

    The history of WSC (and its parent institution) is quite different from that of Crusade. The intent of the organizations is distinct. The theology of the two is distinct. The relation to the visible church of the two is distinct.

    I don’t think you understand how Reformed folk view Word and sacrament ministry or the administration of discipline. Not every opening of the word, even by ministers in devotions at a school is “Word and sacrament ministry.”

    It’s true that, as ministers, the faculty do straddle the academic and ecclesiastical worlds and we do fulfill our ecclesiastical callings partly here in the sem, but we could not do so in Crusade. There’s a significant difference between the a sem and Crusade.

    I don’t think you accept my claim that I’m in favor of private associations or societies (the word used in Dutch Reformed circles) to accomplish worthy goals. If Crusade was not founded upon a poor or non-existent view of the visible church, if it didn’t usurp the place of the visible church, if it were an ecclesiastical entity, as in the case of Reformed University Fellowship, there wouldn’t be a problem.

    Do you really think it’s proper to try to hang the existence of a theological seminary upon 2 Tim 2:2? Surely you’re not arguing that was Paul’s intent are you? Is the church commissioned to teach its members? Yes! It’s called discipleship. It’s part of the great commission.

    Where do we clearly see the apostolic church doing the things that theology faculties do?

    Machen’s argument may be wrong, but your appeal to 2 Tim is not convincing.

    Finally, I don’t think you understand the distinction between witness and evangelism. By definition only the visible church can do the latter. The former may and should be done by all believers but I doubt that we need organizations such as CCC to do it.

    The only visible organization entrusted with the keys of the kingdom is the visible, institutional church and to her Christ gave the commission to preach the gospel (which is evangelism by definition) and administer the sacraments and discipline. I don’t expect that we’ll agree on this but given this distinction I think the seminary has a legitimate function. I don’t see how groups such as CCC do.

    I should add that I don’t think that ecclesiastically controlled seminaries are wrong but I do doubt that they are absolutely or morally necessary.

  25. Scott,
    Your protests mostly make my point.
    Your distinction b/w Crusade and WSC is now clarified: they have different theologies, different purposes, a different history, and a different intent. All are granted. They were never my point. My simple point, and the one you keep avoiding, is that you attacked Crusade for, among other things, being a para- church. In other words, it’s modality, or to be specific, lack thereof. But WSC is also para- church. To say all of these things about Crusade’s theology, or to be quite candid, it’s theological agnosticism, is valid. To criticize Crusade for it’s weaknesses in these areas is fair. To simply invalidate it for being a para- church is where you, in my view, over-reached, since that would invalidate your institution as well. You still haven’t answered that query; I am not saying WSC is anything like Crusade; I would never go there. But it shares a para- church essence.

    You go on to claim you don’t think I know how Reformed folk view Word and sacrament and discipline. Actually, I do, being Reformed. I may not see it as you do, or perhaps more specifically, WSC does, but Reformed folk actually have divergent views on Word and sacrament. This statement of yours seems to just hang in mid- air, so I will leave it, since I am not sure why you included it.

    Your next line, “Not every opening of the word, even by ministers in devotions at a school is ‘Word and sacrament ministry,’ ” is indubitably true, but again: where are you going with this? Are you trying to make my point for me? This is exactly what I argued you do, and Crusade does- you have this in common. I gather that you do not think this is ‘competing’ with the church by Crusade, since the devotionals at WSC would be deeper, more exegetical, more sermonic by far than the simple devotionals put together by most Crusade staff at weekly meetings. Therefore, if Crusade in it’s devotionals is competing with the church, so is WSC, and much more so.

    I think the crux of your problem with Crusade, and part of the reason I left that ministry to pursue astoral work, is couched in this paragraph of yours:

    “I don’t think you accept my claim that I’m in favor of private associations or societies (the word used in Dutch Reformed circles) to accomplish worthy goals. If Crusade was not founded upon a poor or non-existent view of the visible church, if it didn’t usurp the place of the visible church, if it were an ecclesiastical entity, as in the case of Reformed University Fellowship, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

    I think you have some trenchant points here, but also some tenuous ones. You still have not shown how it usurps the local church. You actually don’t know if it was founded upon a poor or noon-existent view of the church, since neither you nor I know what Bill Bright thought about the local church in 1959 when they founded the thing.

    Scott, I DO accept your claim of being in favor of private associations. Now you and I are on the same page. But then, if this is so, it is not the ‘para-church’- ness of Crusade that is the real issue; it is what they DO with their time, energy and money as a private association.

    But you still have failed to tell me how Crusade does the following:

    a. Compete with the church – you ignored my whole section on that, and simply at the end re-asserted that the church has the sole commission to do evangelism. Then come out and clarify – do lay people have the right to bear witness, and do private associations have the right to train them to do it well? Perhaps more to the point, does WSC have the right to train it’s students in how to evangelize biblically and winsomely? If so, why does Crusade not have that right to do so with it’s students? I know you said that you do not see the necessity for a group like CCC – but do you see that they have a right to exist, and to do so? If they do not, then from where does WSC get the right?

    Regarding 2 Timothy 2:2, I never claimed that 2 Timothy 2:2 is a verse I would use to ‘try to hang the existence of a seminary’ on. That is not what I was driving at. I queried whether 2 Timothy 2:2 does not clearly give the church a commission to oversee, to conduct, the training and teaching of it’s teachers and pastors, including their theological education? The issue of seminary is not what I brought up – rather, I was responding to your attempted distinction between ecclesiastical interests, and secular interests. I was showing how the distinction breaks down when scrutinized more carefully But you dodged the main point of my whole query, which was asking you to support this supposed distinction between ecclesiastical and secular interests.

    At least have the intellectual honesty to follow the train of your own thoughts to a conclusion. You, not I, brought up the idea of a distinction b/w ecclesiastical versus secular interests in the training of our pastors. I asked you to clarify and give warrant for that distinction. I quoted 2 timothy 2:2 to support the idea that your distinction is at best unclear, and probably not sustainable. I asked for a better warrant; you gave me a red herring. Thanks. Now how about a response?

    Finally, I do now think I am confused with your distinction between evangelism and witnessing. It seems to me that you are saying that my lay elder, or treasurer, can share his faith with his co- worker, present a clear gospel outline, and have that person confess Christ in his home – but that is not evangelism??? Why not? On what basis is it anything OTHER than evangelism?


  26. Dan,

    I’m not being intellectually dishonest. I agree with you that it’s what CCC does that offends. The do not act in support of the church or as a mere private association. They arrogate to themselves functions that belong to the church. WSC does not do that.

    This seems like a bizarre argument. OTOH, WSC is said to be illegitimate because it does what only the church can do but CCC is okay even though it clearly does thing that only the church should do. Are you arguing in good faith?

    You have not made your case that Scripture requires the visible, institutional church to establish educational institutions. I doubt it can be done by good exegesis.

    There’s no question that the visible church has an educational mandate. What is in question is whether that mandate includes teaching the specialized topics of theological curriculum at an advanced level. My CanRC friends believe it does. It may but the case is far from clear such that WSC is illegitimate.

    I define “Reformed” by the Reformed confessions. I don’t think there is much variety on the essentials within the Three Forms and Westminster Standards. Do you?

  27. ps. Dan,

    On the educational distinction I am assuming a two-kingdoms paradigm. See the work of David VanDrunen and Darry Hart on this. You can search the expression on the HB too. There’s a link to the category below.

    This is a corollary to the doctrine of the spirituality of the church.

  28. Dan,

    I’ll let you have the last word but consider the purpose statement from the Crusade website:

    “Helping to fulfill the Great Commission in the power of the Holy Spirit by winning people to faith in Jesus Christ, building them in their faith and sending them to win and build others; and helping the Body of Christ do evangelism and discipleship”

    Isn’t this (mostly—it omits the sacraments, but Crusaders have been known to do that too, we have a member in our congregation baptized by Crusade staff) what our Lord gave to his apostles, i.e., to the visible church, to do? Did he not give the keys to the Apostles? Did he not give discipline to the Apostles? Did he not commission them to preach the gospel?

    For the sake of discussion (only), let’s say that WSC should be ecclesiastically controlled, that doesn’t obviate the problem of Crusade’s usurpation of the Great Commission does it?

  29. Scott,

    Thanks for a good and frank exchange.

    Our discussion seems to have boiled down to this. You agree that para-church institutions have a right to exist, but Crusade does not because of it’s purposes, which usurp the role of the church. This highlights our real issues: evangelism and education.

    You make the point, a fair one, that biblical exegesis will not exclude WSC’s right to exist. It may mitigate against it, but does not compellingly exclude it. In education of the evangelists, there is room for extra- ecclesial institutions. The biblical case against an extra-churchly education of our pastors and evangelists is not, to you, compelling. I am with you there.

    Yet you maintain that biblical exegesis WILL exclude Crusade’s right to exist. There is no room for Crusade in the biblical text; the case, to you, is compelling.

    I am not convinced of this, and am still waiting for the exegesis to support it. The Matthew 28 passage that you quote in favor of your positoin gives the apostles the mandate to both evangelize AND teach, as well as baptizing. If the Matthew 28 passage is your compelling biblical case against Crusade, then you need to show:

    a. How Christ’s commissioning of the apostles equates to his commissioning ONLY the modalistic church, and not the para- church; only the pastors, and not the laypeople;

    b. How Matthew 28, if it does so exclude para-church institutions from disciple-making, does not also exclude para- church seminaries, since the role of ‘make disciples…teaching them everything that I have commanded you’ in Matthew 28 clearly implies theological instruction as much as it implies evangelism.

    That is the substance of my confusion.

    Regarding Crusade’s mandate to ‘help fulfil the Great Commissoin…’ well, again, I hope every lay person in our church helps to fulfil the Great Commission. I agree with much of your critique of Crusade – in fact, I have repeated these many times at some of her highest levels of leadership. You would find a surprising amount of agreement with your critiques within the ranks of the staff. But your obviation of their right to exist, based on their stated purpose to HELP fulfill the GC, seems overdrawn to me.

  30. PS Crusade takes that word ‘HELPS’ very seriously in their purpose statement. They are self- conscious about how arrogant their vision statements seem to others, and have worked through whether they are a servant of the church, or a replacement of it. They have realized the extent to which they sometimes compete, and have tried to draw clear boundaries. I feel they still fail in their attempt to come along side and be a servant of the church, but as you have so well described, their culture of always having to have visionary results to justify their existence continues to push them into functional competition. It is there, in the culture of ‘results,’ that Crusade cripples itself and corrupts it’s own stated ministry aims. It neither serves the church well nor helps fulfill the Great commission effectively when the short- term ‘results’ focus takes center stage.

  31. Dr. Clark, I apologize for leaving this conversation. I had returned home, looked up the post, and thought that the ‘comments’ on the post were closed.

    That said, Dan, thanks for stepping up to the plate for me; I agree with everything you said.

    Dr. Clark, let this be known: I agree with you that sometimes Crusade does indeed compete with the local church. It shouldn’t, and it is a sad thing that it sometimes does.

    What I disagree with is that it absolutely has to – or that it always does.

    We exist so that multiple churches in a geographical area can effectively partner to preach the gospel (or in your terms ‘use personal witness’) to unbelievers in that area. For example, you can’t work with RUF because you’re not PCA and would be operating outside of your local church. On the other hand, we exist so that people can work together across denominational lines. I work with students who are involved in Lutheran, non-denominational, and even Reformed Presbyterian (RPCNA) churches.

    I agree with you that Lord’s Day preaching has been denigrated from central in a believer’s life to being – dispensable. And that is sad. Some of us are on the ground trying to get some of these starving sheep into gospel centered local churches, though, emphasizing the primacy of the word and sacrament ministry. I hope you find that encouraging

    Overall, Dr. Clark – I think we only have a disagreement over whether or not individual believers should be trained in ‘personal witness’ and partner across local church/denominational boundaries to do so. It seems to me that the real heart of our disagreement isn’t even about whether or not parachurch agencies should exist. It really seems that if we said ‘personal witness’ rather than evangelism and didn’t cite Matthew 28:18-20, you’d have no problem with CCC’s existence, even if we continued to train lay people in sharing the gospel, so long as we didn’t interfere with the sacredness of word and sacrament on the Lord’s Day.

    My problem with your article (and I agree with most of it in case you forgot – see my first comment) is that you take a statement from a book by Bright – a book which most staff probably haven’t even read and a statement with which most of our staff wouldn’t agree – and make it normative for Crusade without actually being involved in Crusade in any way. And even if you were involved in Crusade in some way – would you really claim to have a flavor for its national – or even international – culture? Crusade encompasses a large variety of subcultures.

    To be fair, you throw some of us a bone by calling some of us ‘more intellectually or fair minded’ or what not – but then you refer to Bright as the Pope of CCC. I’ve been on staff since 2001, and that statement and its implications, to me, are bizarre. Do you honestly think that we who are on staff read everything Bright ever wrote? Or even much of what he wrote at all? Do you honestly think that we take his writings as canonical truth? Sir, I don’t know a single person who does. We respect him as a brother in Christ who had great faith in our Lord – but we do not hail him as our authority.

    Finally, Dr. Clark, it seems to me that what you’re doing is taking your personal experience of CCC and extrapolating it out as normative for the entire organization – and taking a quote from a book which most of us haven’t read, and implying that it’s normative for us. This pattern occurs far too often with people who leave organizations or churches, even if they leave for valid reasons.

    Are these criticisms valid in pockets? Sure. Absolutely. And where they are, they should be corrected. That’s why I really enjoyed this article. But when you write, I would encourage you to be careful in how you address groups of people. If you’re going to critique a statement, critique the statement. If you’re going to critique a theology, critique the theology. But if you’re going to critique a group of thousands of people – you need to make sure that that group is unified around the things you’re critiquing.

  32. Derek,

    Don’t you remember hearing this is sort of “hype” with thousands of students (including me) at Indy Christmas conference?
    Listen to first three minutes of the talk:

    “and you have been born in a time when you will see the great commission fulfilled in your life.”

    There are a bunch of other talks posted online from the conference, notably one on “Essential Discipleship”.


  33. Joy, I was not there for all or even most of the conference.

    This is precisely what I’m talking about, though. I agree that such a statement is silly, and so would a great number of other staff.

    That said, something that gets said publicly from up front does not necessarily represent what we all believe. CCC is doctrinally looser than a confessionally Reformed church (though we’re stricter than most parachurch org’s!), and so such statements should result in conversations.

    I’m not saying stupid stuff doesn’t get said at conferences or by staff members. What I’m saying is don’t say ‘this happened in public’ therefore ‘this represents all of CCC.’

    A recent RUF conference saw the main speaker (ordained in the PCA… I can’t believe this) talk about how the gospel just takes us as we are and doesn’t seek to change us.

    Excuse me? That’s absurd.

    But you will not see me, therefore, saying – the PCA teaches this, let alone that this message is what PCA elders stand for!

    What whoever said that said was wrong to say. I’m sorry it was said. But you cannot take everything that a speaker says as representative of an entire organization, let alone everyone in it, because he speaks at a conference.

    If you are looking for purity in everything taught or said in public by people in any organization or denomination, regardless of how reformed, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

    • 1. As I pointed out in the article, the presidents of CCC have a long history of making improbable statements about the future.

      2. CCC is more organized around central personalities than, e.g. RUF. I happen to know the director of RUF. He’s a great guy and very solid but he isn’t RUF.

      We know what RUF stands for: the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

      3. The result of the gospel may be said to be transformation but it might be true that “the gospel” does not transform us. I wouldn’t judge what the brother said until I knew the context and intent. There are serious problems over the doctrine of justification in NAPARC circles and this comment may be grounded in that context.

      • 1. Agreed. Those statements have been goofy, and your treatment of them is fair. You are talking, really, about two people, who were close friends, the latter of which was hired directly by the former.

        2. Agreed; however, not to the degree that you propose. We have visible personalities, but they are not necessarily representative for what most of us think on any particular issue.

        3. I don’t recall the exact quote, but the sense was that God doesn’t necessarily cause progressive sanctification in believers. I’m not shifting blame, here, though. I love RUF. I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying that people say wrong things, even while preaching.

        I’m quite familiar with the confusion over justification that presently lingers in the confessional-reformed camp (and outside of it, unfortunately.) My point was just to say people say wrong things in public; their statements do not reflect, thus, everyone in the organization.

        Dr. Clark, you know this better than anyone. You know there are legalists, moralists, FV sympathizers, etc. within the Reformed camp. (I’m not certain about the URC – other denoms I am certain about.) You, nor I, would want to be represented by that – or because someone experienced that from the pulpit of one of these churches.

    • I’m not saying its normative either. I’m just pointing out that its not as obscure as you would make it seem. “some book”, eh? 😉

  34. Joy, that’s fair. In my opinion, such things should never be said at all, and once is too much. Then again, I’ve said stupid things in public, even from the pulpit, I’m sure, as well.

    ‘Some book’ because Bright was the Tupac of Christian books (how many books came out after he had passed?) – and I really don’t know staff that sit around reading what Bright wrote.

    • My point is that the ‘hyping’ phenomenon is not obscure. The book and the speaker are merely two examples of the same phenomenon.

      But yeah, I don’t think the maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper liquid diet is going to make a comeback any time soon.

  35. Dr. R. Scott Clark,

    I must say that there are things within the “comments” you left and your “post” that I am not sure I agree with. For the sake of time, I won’t “cut and paste” each claim, but I will say this…

    Since I have been examining what exactly it means to “preach” and how the Bible defines it, I am beginning to believe that one should be careful how he uses the term. Furthermore, as I have stated in some of “my” previous blogs, the designation “preacher” is only for men who are “ordained” in their given denomination. And thus to say, “I preached last week,” or what have you, and that person is not ordained, can be misleading.

    But regardless of that introduction, where my heart lies is the fact that, whether you define “evangelism” as only occurring in the visible church (from the pulpit) or witnessing in similar fashion (be it that this is the mandate for every Christian, but this is distinct from evangelism), it is sad to note that many professing Christians aren’t even willing to do that…i.e. give a witness.

    I remember sitting in the library with you one evening and the topics of discussion were all over the place. One area that we discussed was “evangelism,” and everything that you said to me is in this post, but one thing that you said stuck out and I will never forget. In paraphrase, you said:

    “Although I have defined my terms in this way, don’t think there isn’t this little voice in the back of my head that tells me I still shouldn’t be out there on the streets.”

    In so many words, that’s exactly what you said, and the reason I know this is because it shocked me. Dr. Clark, whether you appropriately (or not) title sharing the gospel “evangelism” from the perspective of preaching from the pulpit or giving witness (from the perspective of the people in the pews), my question to you is this:

    You are both. You are ordained and you sit in the pews.

    Do you give witness as you should?

    I have been greatly influenced by you. As you know, I don’t agree with everything you teach, nor do I agree with how you present it, but nonetheless, I admire you. Please keep pressing on with the truth, but know, there are others out there who may not agree, and even if they are searching for truth, it can be hard to read what you write sometimes.

    And it’s not hard to read because the “truth is hard,” but because you add offense by how you write it.

    Like I’ve always said about “witnessing” the gospel…

    Let the gospel be offensive and don’t add the offense yourself.

    Another example is seen as you use the term “Baptists.” As you know, I am a Baptist, although I have been studying baptism for 1 year. I’m not sure at this point where I will end up, although Kline’s work “By Oath Consigned” is convincing. Nevertheless, it seems as if you are painting a picture of “us against them.” Regardless of whether my baptism views change or not, in conducting this study, it has given me a heart for those on both sides of the matter to see how “some” can perceive this as a tough subject. Call me too sensitive, and that’s fine, but I have spent hours in prayer and nearly shed tears over this subject because it’s tough for me. Then, to come to your blog and see how you paint imagery using words doesn’t appear to be gentle and loving. Dr. Clark, it’s just my take.

    All-in-all, this is what I have to say concerning “evangelism/witness” and various other issues.

    (*I’m sure I’ll hear about it later*)

    Take care, Dr. Clark.

    • Hi Leon,

      Two brief responses:

      1. I’m a Calvinist. I not only confess total depravity, I live it. Thus, I have Calvinist guilt about a lot of things. I also have baggage and guilt left over from my days as a Southern Baptist. I’m trying to get over it. I’ve a vocation as a minister. Sometimes I feel guilty about studying history and theology and think that I should take a pastoral call and preach every week. I’m torn in lots of directions. In fact, I have done a fair bit of street witnessing and preaching. I don’t know what the fruit was. I didn’t see much relative to the congregation. Not a criticism, just a fact.

      2. As to whether most Christians are willing to give witness to the faith and their faith, my experience is that many (if not most) of the parishioners with whom I’ve worked since 1984 do want to give witness to their faith. Mostly they are afraid. Many times they’re burdened with guilt because they’ve failed or because they’re not doing what someone told them they should be doing (e.g. going door to door). Many others, however, that I’ve known have, when given opportunity, given witness to the faith and their faith.

      My goal is not to get laity on the streets or to have them confront people. My goal is that Christians should be Christians. They should love and glorify the triune God, in Christ, with all their faculties and love their neighbor as themselves out of gratitude for the grace given them in Christ. One way they can do this is, when given opportunity, is to speak a word of witness. I always encourage God’s people to pray for their friends, loved ones, neighbors, and co- workers. Most of the best opportunities to give witness exist in that natural network.

      Whatever guilt or obligation I may have as a minister, I wouldn’t want to impute that to God’s people. My goal is to set them free simply to be Christians, sola gratia, sola fide, solo Christo.

  36. Thanks for replying!

    And it’s great to hear that most want to give a “witness.” That hasn’t been my experience. But when I say “give a witness,” I don’t mean everyone being “on the streets.” Personally, my views on that have changed. I do not believe everyone should be on the streets like I am, but I do believe every Christian is called to share their faith in some capacity, whether it’s their neighbor, mom, co-worker, and even their children if they are not upholding the promise dictated in their baptism. Heck, I tell myself the gospel. I need to hear it just as much as the next person. That’s why I’m glad I hear it weekly at church. Well, that’s about it.

    Again, thanks for replying.


    • Well, Leon, not being omnipresent I couldn’t be quite as confident as you are about what God the Spirit is enabling people to do when I’m not there.

      People have confessed to me that they’ve had opportunities and failed to take them but others have testified that they did give witness and sometimes I’ve been a little surprised. Sometimes it hasn’t been the folk I expected to give witness.

      I am confident, however, that making “personal evangelism” into a new law won’t increase the number of people giving witness to their faith. it just produces guilt, as the law always does.

  37. thank you for all your word of encouragements. I’m doing my Evangelist Ministerial Exam need all the understanding i can get

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