The Potential Heresy of the Sinner's Prayer

This conversation has been downloaded over 3400 times, with 8 comments. Obviously it is something that people are confused and troubled about. People know that salvation is not secured by the mere articulation of words any more than a dip in a baptismal pool of clean water.  Listen and comment.

Defining the Gospel

The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the whole world, was buried and rose again on the third day in order to deliver from sin’s penalty and power all who turn (repent) to God and believe the Gospel (this truth); furthermore, He grants to believers His Holy Spirit, Christ’s perfect righteousness, and eternal life.

We reject any suggestion that this salvation is secured outside of the sovereign gracious work of the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ alone, such as praying a sinner's prayer or asking Jesus into one's heart. We further decry anything that modifies the gospel by adding a social or economic focus, water baptism—any requirement that could be construed as a work accomplished by man or that teaches there is more than one way to be saved.

Moreover, we believe that because many mistakenly think themselves to be saved, all should work out their own salvation with fear and trembling: examining themselves to see if they are in the faith and ensuring their calling and election is sure.

Berean Baptist Church Pastors

My Experience at a Church and What We Need to Do

Each week I use this part of our weekly bulletin to communicate with the congregation. This morning, I want to tell you about my experience at a different church last Sunday. I was the guest and visitor. I was unknown to the church and wanted to drive onto the parking lot like a visitor drives onto our parking lot for the first time to remind myself of what this feels like. I would like to tell you about my experience so that we at Berean can be different. During my visit, I was greeted with nothing more than the cursory “good morning” numerous times, and once I had found my way to a Sunday school class, only one person asked me an engaging question. Then after SS, I was left to find my way to the auditorium, and again no one said a thing to me in the auditorium. Remember, I wanted to sense what a visitor goes through when they visit Berean; so I sat there waiting for the service to start. Sitting on a pew alone, not one person said anything to me until a friend saw me. Each Sunday, Berean has an amazing number of visitors, so we need to all be reminded of what needs to be done each and every Sunday. And the first Sunday of the year seems like a great Sunday to remind the church.

When we do not recognize a face, we cannot assume it just means we don’t know who they are. Instead we must ask the question: “Good morning. Are you visiting with us for the first time this morning?” If they say “yes” then we must ask them more questions, and they should be the kind of questions we would want asked of us.  And if they say “no”, then let us ask some more questions about who they are and how long they have been visiting or attending Berean.  Our questions need to be relevant to location and time. If the person is walking down the hallway before Sunday school, then I am going to ask, “Can I help you find a Sunday school class?” If I see children, my focus will be upon them and helping them to the children’s wing. I will ask, “Did you see the sign for the restrooms?” “Have you been to a preaching service before?” “Do you know anyone here?” “Are you passing through or do you live in Fayetteville?” “Are you a soldier?”  “Where are you from?” If they are not in the auditorium yet but it is after Sunday school or before the 8.30pm or 6pm service, I will ask them if they have someone to sit with in the auditorium.

Second, in our large auditorium it is critical that once you have secured the place where you like to sit, that you not remain in your spot but venture out beyond your favorite pew and greet others. Please force yourself to love visitors in the way that you would want to be loved if you were visiting for the first time. Yes, I know that some of you are uncomfortable with this practice and therefore are hesitant to be so bold, but just do it. Once you make this your practice, you will realize just how fulfilling it is to be friendly. It is absolutely critical that you strike up a conversation. Begin with some of the same questions mentioned above. If you see they have small children, ask them if they know about the nursery or our children’s Power Hour service for 1st through 4th graders in the chapel. If they have Awana-age children, ask them if they know about our Wednesday night Awana program at 6:15pm.If they have teenagers, ask them if they have met our student pastor, David McManus, and if they know about our Wednesday night youth program. If you don’t know if they attended a Sunday school class, ask them if they did, and if their answer is “no” then use that as an opportunity to tell them about your Sunday school class.

Third, in Sunday school we must all be watching for people who slip in late.  Often visitors will not arrive early. If they slip in after the teacher has already begun the lesson, then someone must take the initiative to slip over to the visitor in order to greet them and hand them a visitor’s card. While this may appear intrusive, it is far worse for somebody to think “nobody cares that I am present in the body of Christ.” Then when Sunday school is over, someone needs to extend a greeting to the guest and invite them to sit with them in the auditorium so they do not have to sit by themselves or be left to be lonely in a pew full of people. You can make the difference!

Fourth, we can’t over emphasize how important it is to put our weekly bulletin in the hands of every guest before church begins. Reading through our bulletin is a great way to learn more about the church. Visitors are nervous, and reading will help fill the time until the service starts. Please look at each person sitting in a pew to see if they have a bulletin in their hand. If they don’t have one, get them one. Give them yours, and then put a white connection card in their hands. Give them time to fill out the card before the service begins; explain how the card is used to get to know everyone who attends Berean each week. And then use the rest of the time to engage them in conversation. (See all the questions you can ask above.)

Finally, when you get back to your seat, get out a white card or a small piece of paper and write down the name of the person you just met and what you learned including where they are from, what brought them to Berean, etc. This will help you greet them after the service. It is impossible for you to remember everyone; so just like you write yourself a note to pick up toilet paper at the store, write yourself a note on a card or your smart phone with the name and information you learned. Then on the following Sunday when the visitor returns, you can open up ‘notepad’ on your smart phone and remind yourself of their names. (Yes we are giving away the ‘company secret’ but so what! Being a friendly church that cares is so much more important.)

So will you help? Will you greet our guests each week as though angels from heaven are visiting among us inspecting Berean for friendliness? Will you engage the visitor like you will want to be engaged when you PCS (move to a new town) and are visiting new churches for the first time? If your answer is “Yes, I can do this to the glory of God”, then I want to thank you in advance for joining the effort make our guests feel the warmth of the love of God each Sunday they join us to worship our Lord, Savior and God.

Pastor Sean

P.S. It is very difficult to help if you are habitually arriving late. Find excuses to be on time. Helping with visitors is a great one!

Note for Berean Baptist in 2013

Happy New Year! 2012 was a wonderful year for Berean, and we have so very much to be thankful for in so many different areas. The year 2013 brings us just as many opportunities to impact lives and do so much for our Lord and the furtherance of God’s will in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, and throughout the world through our national and global partners. So let me use this note to describe some of the areas where we have an opportunity to do more.

1. Sunday school: Our first priority this year needs to be in increasing the percentage of people who faithfully attend Sunday school. This involves making sure the time invested in coming to church early is well worth it and teaching people that they don’t just come to SS for themselves but to give back to others. We need to achieve an average of 80% of those who come to corporate worship at 8.30 or 10.45 also attend a SS class. While just 8 out of 10 seems like a low goal, let me assure you that 80% is a lofty but attainable goal. Joey Kellett will be overseeing a plan to achieve this goal.

2. Pastor Bill will be leading the effort to involve Berean in the construction of an orphanage in Togo, West Africa. Missionary Jonathan Huff is a veteran missionary and partner with Berean. He was here in October and gave us his vision for this additional work in Togo. Two Bereans came forward with $45,000 in love offerings, and the work is moving forward.

3. We need to raise the cash to install two large awnings to protect people walking out of the back of the church from the fellowship center all the way to the Jr. High module and youth building. Pastor Steve will be developing a plan for how best to accomplish this goal.

4. Camp Anchorage is planning to reconstruct an entire pier on the lake. This is a huge undertaking requiring support from as many people and churches as possible. I will be taking the lead in determining how Berean can get behind this huge project. Several of us from the church will run, walk or bike to raise money for this March Mania project, but many more will have to participate in 2013 to make a new multistory pier a reality.

5. We want to improve the effectiveness of our Awana program. Brian Howell will be interacting with Awana commander Nick Gore and the entire supervisory team to determine how Awana can be improved. We, the pastors, want the children and workers to know how important we feel this discipleship program is.

6. I will be working with both principals to create an official Berean Baptist Academy Parent Teacher Organization. This PTO will help each parent feel invested in their student’s education and should potentially improve the quality of the education.

7. Pastor Steve Wilson will continue to oversee the establishment of a fully functioning church library. Our biggest need is volunteers to help organize books.

8. Pastor Steve and others will work with the city to determine if it is possible to expand the Fellowship Center. It could be that this is not possible or feasible, but we know our Lord is in charge and we know our fellowship center is too small.

9. Little by little, the construction outside our walls will be bringing more people through the doors of Berean. Plan to spend a couple of extra minutes before and after services getting to know the new faces that will be sitting around you.

While I am sure there is more that can be done and should be focused upon, this is a good checklist of ideas for 2013.