THOMAS WHITE, JASON G. DUESING, and MALCOLM B. YARNELL III, EDS.
Kregel, 261 Pages, Paper, $18.99
The editors and back cover reviewers are Southern Baptists, but most Baptists in leadership and others interested in current church trends will find the book profitable and challenging. Its premise is that churches in general, including Baptist, are facing an integrity crisis, a loss of Biblical vision concerning what the local church is all about. Along with this crisis is an abandonment of various doctrines.
Specifically the book addresses the Baptist distinctive of regenerate church membership (“A church comprised of an unregenerate membership several generations removed will no longer care about proclaiming such essentials as the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the way to salvation”), the meaning and practice of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper (“To water down the meaning and makeup of the Lord’s Supper is to water down the meaning and makeup of the Great Commission. Proclaiming the Lord’s death through this beautiful commemoration illustrates to the world the sacrifice of Christ for the world”), the loss of church discipline, and the need to rediscover the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer.
In the introduction, Thomas White writes, “The local church . . . can grow by using any number of tactics. A church can grow by appealing to consumerism, by creating a ‘trendy’ atmosphere, by reaching out to felt needs, by not offending members, and by attempting to please all those people who enter the door. These ‘guaranteed’ methods to achieve church growth can do harm to the corporate body, just as drugs that guarantee the growth of human muscle can harm the individual’s body. A church must ask some tough questions: Does this mentality compromise the integrity of the local church? Are numbers the most important thing? Does the church only want to be ‘bigger and better,’ or would it be satisfied to maintain its integrity even if that meant sacrificing some growth or growing at a slower rate”? White goes on to point out various challenges to Baptist ecclesiology these days.
Chapters on the principles and doctrines that Baptists have held dear show how they are being challenged, why they are vital, and why we must not cave in to current trends but rather strengthen and effectively communicate what we believe.
The book cites several important happenings today, such as the Southern Baptist mission board’s grappling with issues regarding baptism, and some churches like Bethlehem Baptist of Minneapolis (not a Southern Baptist church) even considering to allow believers who have not been baptized by immersion to be admitted as members of the church.