No more programs, Eller invests in discipling
    June 11 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    Neal Eller no longer has time, patience or interest in helping churches pursue life on the plateau.

    As leader of the church health team for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Eller’s personal growth from Christian to “Christ follower” in the past five years ignites in him an urgent frustration that “we have been measuring the wrong things.”

    Photo by K Brown

    Neal Eller, who has become a voracious reader in recent years, leads the church health team for the Baptist State Convention.

    Instead of trying to measure and grow an indefinable “spiritual maturity” Eller says now he works with pastors to evaluate effectiveness by measuring “life change.”

    “What behaviors are they demonstrating?” he asks. “What’s the theology they demonstrate?”

    He focuses now not on building successful church programs but on making disciples.

    “How do we develop leaders? How do we develop pastors as leaders, leaders within churches, next generation leaders?” he asks. “What does a healthy pastor really look like and how do we build a fence at the top of the cliff instead of doing triage at the bottom of the cliff after they’ve fallen?”

    Eller is known best in North Carolina for his 13 years in the BSC’s church music department, including eight as team leader, before shifting to church health in a reorganized Congregational Services group.

    He is a “junior,” son of a Baptist minister who led churches across the state. Frequent moves as a child gave Eller the inherent ability to make friends quickly, and provided him many connections he’s found especially useful once he came to Convention staff.

    Eller, who has become a voracious reader in the past five years, said churches look “too much like the world” and insists “We’ve lost our younger generation because we’ve failed to disciple them. We’ve not developed leaders.”

    He encourages pastors to “pour themselves into a few leaders, just like Christ did with his disciples, with the intention of having them multiply.”

    Eller benefitted from adults in his life who invested in young people.

    He named high school teacher and coach Jack Musten who created opportunities and pushed young people to assume leadership.

    When Eller’s father was pastor of Union Grove Baptist Church near Winston-Salem, the minster of music at First Baptist Church, Fred Kelly, created a county-wide youth choir of over 300 students called the Good News Singers.

    Later the group was pared to 75 and became the unofficial ambassador group for Winston-Salem, singing at numerous civic events. Kelly is now at First Baptist Church, Goldsboro.

    “It was because of Fred Kelly that I began to see maybe God is calling me into this area of ministry,” Eller said.

    Churches narcissistic
    Eller says some churches are “self-centered and narcissistic” with “no sense of the kingdom.”

    “We’re not taught to be yeast into this world, so we can be like the kingdom of heaven,” he says. “We’re not taught how to be missionaries in work and in our environment and how to disciple our families.”

    The result of “biblical illiteracy” is that “a lot of our own church people may not believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, there’s a literal hell, the Bible is the inspired word of God without error, there’s a personal Satan. If they don’t believe the essentials of our faith as an evangelical, it is no wonder we look so much like the world,” Eller says.

    He maintains people are hungry for declarative confirmation of biblical truth and that they are ready for leaders willing to “stand in the gap and be courageous.”

    “What we find is that many churches are so stuck and have so much ungodly behavior in them that they’re not willing to be like Christ,” he says.

    “It would mean a change, a transformation, and that’s what saddens me.”

    Eller comes by his conviction honestly. His life was as he describes so many churches – programmed and shallow.

    Then, not through any one dramatic moment, but through a series of events and interactions, “It was as if the scales on my eyes fell off and I could see how self-centered I was. I could see there was sin in my life, that I did not have the joy. Since that time, it is as if I’m alive for the first time. I have found joy I’ve never experienced in my life.”

    UNC-Greensboro grad
    Although he lived all over, Eller considers himself to be from Kernersville because that is where he attended high school and where he lived as a student commuting to UNC-Greensboro, where he earned a music education degree in 1976.

    He is a 1978 master’s graduate in church music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Neal Eller, BSC team leader for church health, has worked closely with Jimmy (cap) and Ken Atkins, worship leader and pastor at North Catawba Baptist Church in Lenoir, as they lead the church to simplifying ministry and seek the heart of God. See related story.

    While at UNC-G Eller directed music part-time at Bethany Baptist in Winston-Salem, a church that later called his father as pastor.

    He also served at First Baptist Church Hazlewood, First Baptist Jacksonville and Winter Park in Wilmington from where he came to the Convention Jan. 1, 1991.

    He acknowledges that God has burdened his heart with compassion “for our plateaued and declining congregations” and he prays daily “that the burden gets heavier.”

    Eller leads one of three teams in Congregational Services. Members of the entire group, led by Lynn Sasser, intend to lead North Carolina Baptist churches in creating a disciple making culture.

    “We’re about life transformation,” Eller says.

    Sasser said Eller “provides excellent leadership” for his team and that he “leads out of his passion for making disciples within the context of healthy churches.”

    Team members “work off the same page” so any church that calls for consultation will receive consistent input.

    Eller says the teams are utilizing technology to expand their reach, establishing a pastors’ disciple making network; adding a monthly ezine called Next Steps, centered on the pastor as disciple maker.

    A monthly teleconference connects pastors with leaders from across the nation, including Dallas Willard, Christian philosopher at the University of Southern California and author of Renovation of the Heart and The Divine Conspiracy in June and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin in May.

    The group sponsors conferences such as Simple Church, Essential Church and Comeback Church.

    Personally, Eller, 55, actively pursues relationships so he can share Christ and his goal “is to be Christ to someone today.”

    “A disciple of Christ will share the gospel, period,” Eller says. “We’re commanded to do it but we do it because of our love relationship with Christ. We want everyone to have that joy.”

    He develops relationships through regular patronage of several Starbucks, and he hates lukewarm coffee.

    He and his wife, Cherri, are getting into  kayaking and are part of a church plant in Cary sponsored by Apex Baptist Church called The Creek Church. It launched in September 2008 and “there is nothing like” being a part of a new work, he says.

    See One beggar tells another where to find bread.

    Special series — Body parts

    Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

    With this issue, the Biblical Recorder begins a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and a church which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

    This week:
    Neal Eller of the church health team in the Congregational Services group and North Catawba Baptist Church in Lenoir.

    Coming up: Johnny Ross, consultant with GuideStone Financial Resources.

    Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.

    6/11/2009 12:09:00 PM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 20 comments

Gene Scarborough
AMEN to constructive nature of this discussion. At this point I see a level of communication not witnessed in NC in the last 20 years. If we had had such intelligent COMMUNICATION instead of POLITICATION we might have the large crowds at the NCBSC we used to have--same is true of the SBC convention meeting.

When things are foreordained only to rubber stamp the Executive Committee, we have become like the GOP and Democratic national conventions--just a good TV show with no real debate!!!

Here is another VERY IMPORTANT piece worthy of our attention. It has no political slant--just good research of what we were vs. what we are now:

Let's PLEASE continue to pray WITH Neal and not leave the job of inspiring and discussing just to him at Starbucks! As long as the internet is free, I can afford this coffee break discussion. My Tree Surgery Company is rained out the 3rd day in a row so the offering plate is empty for 3 Sundays, if you know what I mean. At least the BR Coffee Shop is open and Norman Jamison has given us a great meeting place! Thanks, Norman, and all NC Baptists who get the BR and subsidize it. This is a true service for NC "thinkin" Baptists.

By the way--anyone wishing to communicate directly with me may do so at:
6/17/2009 8:28:26 AM

Tim Marsh
Joe Babb,

I agree with what you say about inerrancy, if you mean it as an interpretive/hermeneutical strategy. However, Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary is a proponant of inductive inerrancy, in which we read the scriptures as they are. We do not gloss over tensions (note, not contradictions) and we do not attempt to harmonize "details."

However, at the same time, we "trust" that the end of reading scripture will lead us to a relationship with Christ, and a vision of God's plan of redemption for the world. We do not succomb to how modernism defines "perfection" or "historical." Rather, we read to encounter God. We interpret so that we may perform the text on the twenty-first century stage.

I agree that a creed would try to settle the matter. Convictions we hold come as the result of wrestling and stating honest conclusions.

Too, I really hope to hear more from Neal Eller. And, I appreciate the constructive nature of this conversation. God bless all!
6/16/2009 7:11:19 PM

Joe Babb
Thank all of you who have responded to the article about Neal and his work. I've known and worked at times with him for more than 30 years. He is one of the best denominational workers I've ever had the privilidge to partner with in ministry. I love him as my brother in Christ. However, I disagree with his suggestion that biblical literacy will result in one believing the doctrine of inerrancy. The more likely result will be its rejection! Robert Parham's recent article on the subject 6-09 in Ethics Daily shed much light on the subject. The adoption of the 2000 BF&M did not "settle" the question. Parham shows others are beginning to see the damaging results of that action. One such result is an attitude I've oftern encountered that it created a group who would rather sink the ship than let anyone on board who thinks differently. Sharing different ideas has been a trade mark of being Baptist for me. I hope those who have been called of God with great language skills will boldly show and publish the error of biblical inerrancy. I repeat my earlier statement: if we can't be truthful about the bible in our hand can we be trusted for anything else?
6/16/2009 5:34:11 PM

Postdenominational Christian

Keith and Tim -- I enjoyed and appreciated your thoughtful comments. Thank you for constructive dialogue!

Are you tuned in to the renewed (and quite robust) attention being given to the hermeneutics and spiritual formation habits of the Church Fathers in a manner suggested by Thomas Oden and others like him. IVP has an excellent set called "The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" that follows this path. A few other books that I have found helpful: D.H. Williams -- "Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church." Brian McLaren -- "Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices." Richard Foster & Gayle Beebe -- "Longing for God: Seven Paths to Christian Devotion." Robert Weber -- "The Divine Embrace: Recovery of the Passionate Spiritual Life."

I believe a fresh look at some of the ancient practices and categories of thought may help us move beyond the boundaries created by our more modern paradigms and the limitations of our linguistics that have left us bickering over terms such as conservative/fundamental and moderate/liberal. Those terms are so politically charged and nuanced that they should be scuttled. We should all be talking about what it means to be "Christian" in a post-Christendom world.
6/16/2009 1:09:16 PM

Gene Scarborough
In case you missed it, re-read one of the most important articles by a current seminary professor. Although, he would have to be a signer of the BF&M 2000, he still tells it like it was when local church autonomy was a plank of the real SBC:
6/16/2009 8:22:17 AM

Gene Scarborough
Good thoughts, my brothers, BUT the statement I made was: The opposite of Faith is not Doubt--the opposite of Faith is Absolute Certainty--has encouraged you to share a rebuttal along the lines of wanting some Absolute Ceertainty!

The heart of our Southern Baptist dilemma is a change from the basic concept of the Founding fathers--MAJOR on MISSIONS and MINOR on THEOLOGY. In other words, put aside theological differences in favor of unity in reaching people for Christ. The second the "Conservative Resurgence" took things over in 1979 we lost our way trying to prove whose theology is correct enough to get us into Heaven. Whose theology could get the most votes at the SBC and NCBSC--we showed how high the monkey could climb the tree. Therefore, we unleashed the damons of the Inquisition onto our theological schools and purged any professor who could not sign the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 with its Inerrency new statements. We are still on that track and wondering "What happened?" is a wise observation from a thinking person of faith as to why he does not like the current SBC! Read it and think!

Another recent article describes new works which dare not use "Southeern Baptist" on their church description--

Now, back to the faith vs doubt issue. Tenneson penned these words long ago:
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds;--"In Memorium" (pt. 96, stanza 3)
In it he was trying to say the loss of his good friend brought about deep doubts as to the fairness of God if he is a Good God of Love. All of us in our hard places in life need to give room for doubt and the varying expressions of one's faith. If we restrict brotherhood to only those who use the words of Inerrency, then we are letting theology become our MAJOR and missions our MINOR.

This is the root of our lack of growth. Neal Eller, Jr. is my hero for his efforts to get us back to relational theology and growth, BUT how many of us can afford to go to Starbucks to discuss theology? Why not take our relational theology WITHOUT the iron clad requirement for Inerrency to Hardee's, McDonald's, the supermarket, street corner discussions, and the pulpits and SS classes of our Baptist churches. Why should be embarassed to be Baptist if we are Baptist in the good Founding Father way?

Again I remind you: MAJOR on MISSIONS / MINOR on THEOLOGY! Let's join Neal with additional approaches outside Inerrency and as Jesus said, "Since you are going, go making disciples." Just show those new converts we are a people of love and forgiveness rather than an embarassing bunch of political / hateful / anti-gay & abortion / etc. Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s!
6/16/2009 7:55:01 AM

Tim Marsh

I guess for me, finding that center has been at least a spring board for discipleship. Theologically - the Kingdom of God as realized in Jesus Christ and ethically, the command to love through the lens of Jesus Christ.

I am looking forward to hearing more from Eller. I have already familiarized myself with many of Dallas Willard's works, which he alludes to, along with Bonhoeffer, and others. Thanks for the invite!
6/15/2009 11:24:55 PM

Keith D. Church

Very thoughtful reply Tom. I also find much to commend in what you say. Historical, grammatical interpretive methods are not the final arbitrating authority of scriptural interpretation, as much as the scholars may press that upon us, but they are helpful in their spheres I suppose. For me, I study grammar and historical research in my passion to learn and because I love Scripture, not because it settles every interpretive question I might ask. Yet all the major questions theological are settled for me. I find that the more time I spend simply reading Scripture, asking God’s help, listening to the Lord, and interacting with other Christians, the more convinced and faithful I become. Somehow my engagement with Scripture as never led me doubt, but it has led me to deeper faith. I pray this is true for others.

Which brings me back to my original point. Neal is passionate for people, and helping them grow in their faith. I am one such person. God brought this man into my life as a brother in Christ and I thank the Lord for it. So instead of rehashing the inerrancy debate, I think I’ll grab Neal, head on down to Starbucks, get a cup of coffee, encourage someone in Lord, pray for church, share the gospel with a stranger, and look forward to the return of Jesus! I’d love for you to join us.
6/15/2009 8:53:20 PM

Tim Marsh

Great words about theology. Fisher Humphreys' final sermon as professor of theology at Beeson Divinity School came from 1 John 4, entitled: "The Simplest Thing in the World." His points: 1. Our theology is "God is love" 2. Our ethics, "We love because he first loved us."

However, I find that people are wrestling with scripture. I heard a debate between Bart Ehrman and Tom Wright on the "problem of evil" in which Ehrman point blank asked if he and Wright were reading the same Bible. He noted that Wright seemed to see unity, whereas he saw disunity and discontinuity.

Biblical illiteracy seems to me to be an excuse for the real problem.

You raise the question of inerrancy and historical, grammatical interpretive methods. While I find that inerrancy and infallibility are helpful confessions for the reliability of scripture, I find them lacking as interpretive strategies. Simply put, inerrancy as an interpretive strategy assumes the unity of the text without ever asking what that unity actually is. Furthermore, historical-grammatical interpretive methods by themselves, never account for rhetorical strategies employed by Paul, narrative theology of the gospels, and the apocalyptic genre of Revelation and Daniel. Interpreting scripture is more than acknowledging God as source of inspiration and parsing verbs.

For those who wrestle with scripture, we need to provide reading strategies. Richard Hays and Ellen Davis' The Art of Reading Scripture is a good start, as well as Fee and Stuart's How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth. What we do not need to do is offer the same patronizing suggestions to simply learn the stories and obey the moral of the story.

I agree with much of what you say. However, I do think that there is more engagement with the text than what we realize. When someone is asking enough questions as to have doubts, that means to me that there is an engagement with scripture, rather than a refusal to engage it.
6/15/2009 3:28:18 PM

Keith D. Church

I find it interesting that the content of these posts have pursued a secondary point from the article, biblical inerrancy and the conservative vs. moderate points of view. What Neal actually alludes to is "biblical illiteracy," which I would suggest sadly exists in great extent among both conservatives and moderates. That is, too many Southern Baptists have never read the Bible, much less made an in depth study of its major themes in grammatical, historical context, regardless of how such persons view inerrancy. That's a problem given the Bible is our only source of objective revelation concerning God and His acts. Thus we must deal with it honestly, and I believe many aren't dealing with it at all.

The primary point of the article, however, is Neal's passion for loving leadership in one on one, face to face, person to person, in the trenches discipleship amongst Southern Baptists. Neal's point is the people, not another program, and if his theological convictions have led him to love people face to face just a Christ did, then that is to be commended.

Also, we are all theologians. What we believe about God, His being and His works,(our theology) is what leads us to practical application in daily living. Thus saying we are known as Christians because of our love and not our theology is actually backwards. Our love flows out of our theology. Why? Because "God is love (1 Joh 4:8,16)" and, "if anyone loves Me (Jesus speaking), he will keep My word(John 14:23-24)." God connects love to Himself first (theology), then out of that flows love for God's creation (humanity, environment). Thus, theology does matter.

Finally, Christian faith is NOT based on the absence of certainty. Belief in the absence of certainty is foolishness, not faith. Christian faith results from what we 1) know; 2) accept/believe; and 3) trust in action. I have faith that Jesus Christ died for my sins, making atonement for me so that I might not stand before the just wrath of God. That is absolutely certain. I have faith that I will be resurrected from the dead and glorified in Christ at some point in the future. That is absolutely certain. I have faith God has prepared for me a place in His presence for eternity. That is absolutely certain. I have faith that as I declare the good news of this gospel, God's love will extend His promises to other sinners also. That is absolutely certain. Please tell me what about the essence of Christian faith is devoid of certainty?? It is certainty that impels me to act in Christ for God's glory. If a person is uncertain about the promises of God in Christ, then there can be no true faith. Please read 1 John, esp. 5:13. You may by chance convince me of many things, even some untrue, but of my faith in Christ, I am absolutely certain! In that, I believe the unbeliever to whom we declare this loving truth are looking for certainty in a world that is already overwhelmed with fear and doubt (social, political, economic).
6/15/2009 2:13:09 PM

Gene Scarborfough
It is great to see such mature response to our dialogue. Let me be the first to say I applaude Eller's entheusiasm. I just have my reservations about his ultra-conservative slant on things.

I believe we will get further with the average citizen of NC if we will be nicer to one another as NC Baptists and speak in terms which do not put down those who have an "enlightened" faith not afraid to ask questions about the basics.

Let me try this thought on you: "The opposite of Faith is not Doubt---The opposite of Faith is Absolute Certainty."

Think on this for a bit and give some good responses!
6/14/2009 8:55:34 PM

Neal Eller
If you have not read Brad Waggoner's book, The Shape of Faith to Come: Spiritual Formation and the Future of Discipleship, I highly recommend it to you. Furthermore, I recommend Dallas Willard's book, "Renovation of the Heart" and his book, "The Great Omission." Lastly, be sure to check out research from George Barna and LifeWay on what people say that believe. Here's the disconnect, what people say they believe and how they actually live and behave are entirely different. Why do you think the unchurched and the dechurched have turned their back on the church? It's because the body of Christ looks more like the world than its head (Jesus Christ!) Do you want to know how to have a healthy church? I will be glad to show you what the scriptures have to say about that! We've got to return to The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. And thank you Norman for writing this article and for the words you said above about understanding my comments through the lens in which I speak.
6/14/2009 3:14:56 PM

Tim Marsh

I thought everything with Eller's interview was excellent and right on target. However, I hear "biblical illiteracy" a lot. Maybe that is so. However, I feel like discipleship issues (like non-discipleship, as Dallas Willard calls it) arise from failures in interpretation, rather than lack of interest in scripture or reading scripture.

Great article! I hope to hear more about Neal Eller and his endeavors.
6/14/2009 2:54:09 PM

Let's not miss the forest, fellas. Neal is not outlining a systematic theology, he is simply pointing out a biblical illiteracy he is seeing in churches that seek his help and he gave a few examples of basics that people seem to be missing. Look at the rest of the story and read the companion story from North Catawba Baptist in Lenoir and you'll see the fuller picture. Don't be guilty of proof texting Neal's statements.
6/14/2009 6:06:13 AM

Gene Scarborough
I, too, am proud of 2 children. Eddie is a career USCG aviation specialist in Traverse City, MI. He has personally saved 2 drowning vicims and is the last check off person before a helo is out of the shop to fly. He WILL NOT sign it off for duty unless it is safe for the crew to take it out over hypothermic waters year round on the Great Lakes.

Sara, our daughter, is manager for Bed,Bath,& Beyond in Rocky Mount. She treats her staff and customers with utmost care and dignity. Her 4 sons are growing in a loving home and full of faith and love.

In no way would any of us disparage our children. I just encourage mine to live in faith and love without ramming any "right" theology down the throat of others. They believe in giving others room to express their faith in meaningful terms to them. In this way we can all share our faith in love.

The proper translation of Acts 1:8 is--"Since you are going, go telling..." Whether we like it or not, people know we are Christians by our love and not our theology--especially if it is narrow!
6/13/2009 10:34:51 PM

Neal E Eller
I am the proud father of Neal E. Eller, Jr. His mother and I have always been proud of our three children. They have grown up to be excellent in each of their fields of service. Our other son, Thomas, was a career military and now serves the Lord in a local church that is on fire for the Lord. Our daughter, Tina, is a registered nurse taking care of dying patients. She practices her faith as she exhibits the love of Christ with her patients and their families through long nights of waiting for those final moments of their loved ones.

Neal, Jr. has written out of his heart in this article and his mother and I have seen his zeal for the Lord as he travels tirelessly to share his love for the Lord and to help pastors, staff members, and church leaders see their calling from the Lord in a culture that desperately needs the Gospel - and it truly is the GOOD NEWS for every generation. God bless Neal and all who share the love of Christ with that passion.

Neal E. Eller, Sr.
6/13/2009 11:05:21 AM

Gene Scarborough
WOW!!! Some good thinking, for a change rather than much of the mindless feuding around a good subject.

Let's keep it up my fellow Baptists!!! If we did this more often, we might not be divorced from one another as we are right now.
6/13/2009 9:39:32 AM

Tim Marsh
I think that Eller is on to something more than the usual "fundamentalist" rhetoric that Mr. Scarborough characterizes above.

Though the problem to some extent is "biblical illiteracy," an even greater problem is the failure to see a coherence within the content of scripture. That was the mistake of the Pharisees: "Follow all the commands given in the Torah, along with the 613 oral laws that we deduce from them. Follow them without asking questions because God is sovereign and he expects obedience." Thus, the reader of scripture concludes God is just one of many arbitrary authorities.

Jesus, rather, interpreted all the law in terms of love for God and love for neighbor. Love was the coherence behind the law that the Pharisees missed, according to Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus provided the paradigm of what love for God and neighbor ought to look like. Eller stated that his goal was to be Christ to someone. Seems like another way of saying, "Being the presence of Christ?"

Our ideas of Jesus' sinlessness or perfection must stem from what HE DID with his life, rather than what HE DID NOT DO. Though he is our savior (he did something for us that we could not do), He is first and foremost our Lord (he empowers us to do what He did in life and ministry).

In our engagement with Scripture, we must read with a focal lens, a criterion or criteria, that brings unity to the text. That focal lens must govern how we read the text, and how we are to embody it in the world.

The famous, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" leaves out one crucial part to understanding scripture, and that is "interpretation." Otherwise, how do the same people who read the same text come to so many differing conclusions? It is because everyone has a criterion or set of criteria for interpretation. And, for the most part, they are never the same. (Though there are some who would wish that they had no criteria for interpretation.)
6/12/2009 9:33:22 AM

Joe Babb
Thank you Gene for your evaluation of the article by Neal. You have correctly assessed the situation. Most people are gifted enough to read and when they read the scriptures and discover the misinformation they have been given it's no wonder they back away. If we can't be truthful about the scriptures will we be truthfull about God's grace?
6/12/2009 9:03:04 AM

Gene Scarborough
The result of “biblical illiteracy” is that “a lot of our own church people may not believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, there’s a literal hell, the Bible is the inspired word of God without error, there’s a personal Satan. If they don’t believe the essentials of our faith as an evangelical, it is no wonder we look so much like the world,” Eller says.

The statement above is the "battle cry" of the fundamental conservative ideology which has driven many from the SBC and NCBSC. Is it possible we could share in the passion to serve as "little Christs" without having to toe the line of words?

Is it possible that fellow Baptists in NC who do not express their beliefs in EXACTLY the same words, but believe to their core that the Bible is our guide despite minor inconsistencies in the text might have a chance to express that view and still have a dynamic church and ministry?

You see, there are many in the general public of NC who take the History Channel and Discovery Channel programs more seriously than we think and what we discover there is a graduate level of investigation of Scripture missing from our SS literature in the last 30 years. There are some who believe an enlightened faith is just as important as a "toe the line" faith.

The heart of the Faith is not "proper" theology, but a real and authentic relationship to the Founder of the Faith. All else takes care of itself. The Bible simply states to "Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Christ, and confess with your mouth that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved." The biblical statement has nothing of the first paragraph as its content.

If we are to reach NC citizens with zeal, it will take a real, loving and forgiving relationship to one another lest people see us only as fighting and feuding Baptists. Spiritual children want love and forgiveness modeled in any church of any denomination. The specific theology follows and does not lead. With the Bible as our guide we may have other words to express our understanding of our Faith.

Real Christianity is, first, at matter of the heart. If we cannot love God and love one another, no amount of "church health team" guidance will lead us to new levels of evangelism or church growth.

Think about it!
6/12/2009 5:48:15 AM

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