Current Events

Posted: September 19, 2007 in Church Leadership

The last two days were rather interesting for Michael, Will, and I. We spent some time brainstorming solutions to our current problems of being potentially homeless in 6 months. We spent some time traveling to South Carolina and back. By far our best use of time was talking with some staff at NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC.

Our plan was to see how they do their creative meetings as they plan for upcoming series and services. It was all pretty cool…maybe that is what it feels like being in a Coke Executive Suite while they plan out their commercials and strategy.

Here are my takeaways:

1. Hiring from within (people from your church) is by far the best strategy any church should adopt. It happens effectively, when you identify leaders and then find the spot for them.

2. People will always call what you are doing a sham or fake…don’t expect friends in the “Christian Community.” Most of the time people don’t have the guts to try something new, so they focus on pointing out the “flaws” of others.

3. It’s important to learn from churches bigger and smaller then you. Churches that are smaller have to be even more creative, because their success depends on it.

4. NewSpring is a legitimate church, despite all of it’s critics who believe something to the contrary. As Perry said, “I would love for someone to try and tell these people that their salvations weren’t real.”

5. We need to Lord’s help to get a full year at the school and then more help to renovate some huge building in town.

6. You can grow even after you are in a building…NewSpring is growing like crazy!

7. Visiting with Perry, Jason, and Tony reminds me that I couldn’t open the doors that God has to help us grown and learn from people who are way smarter then us.

8. There are Christians that want to help…it’s just not the people you would expect would have an interest.

9. What’s happened in Anderson is possible in Cartersville.

10. Being in the ministry is fun…really fun.

  1. […] We had the chance to go hang out with those guys for a day or so. Anthony wrote some thoughts on his blog. If you are a church leader, you would be wise to attend their one day Unleash conference with […]

  2. Scott Ingersoll says:

    Im not sure I am impressed with what you have to say. I might be if you were building a business, but this is supposed to be the Church of Jesus Christ for crying out loud. What ever happened to carrying our crosses daily, and the road to heaven is narrow, and you must abandon everyting for Me? Being in the ministry is really really fun? Ah, no thanks.

    Scott Ingersoll

  3. Teddy says:

    “Churches that are smaller have to be even more creative, because their success depends on it.” 😦

    “Church” as i understand the definition is all of God’s saints. So you may want to change your term from Church to congregation, one is a group of people, the other, only those saved.

    All of God’s true Church is sustained by His Almighty Hand, certainly not our creativity, to think that is foolish.

    Please find me ONE example of creativity used to “church” in the NT, i’d like to see what Paul and Timothy used for their power….human wit or God.

    Until you’ve settled this, kindly stay away from Church leadership roles, or start a country club and leave God out of it.

    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH NOR THE WILL OF MAN, BUT OF GOD. Jn 1:12-13

    I say this will complete love and sincerity.
    I hate to see the Holy name of God used for the glory of man.

  4. Brad Ball says:

    Hey, keep up the good work. Great thoughts from your visit at New Spring. Don’t listen to the detractors. Don’t listen to people like Job’s friends and Sanballat. Go with the vision God has given you all at Oak Leaf. May the Lord use you all to radically change Cartersville with love of Christ and His powerful gospel. Hang in there and may God keep blessing as you move to your new location.

  5. lavalamp775 says:

    there are lots of uses of creativity in the gospels. especially in the way jesus taught. and when jesus used these methods, the people were amazed “because he taught as one having authority, not as the scribes or pharisees”

  6. J.M. says:

    One big difference, lavalamp. Jesus was God.

    The problem with creativity is that the church is setting aside dependence on and confidence in God in order to bring about the right kind of growth in a church. Faith is often hard work. Creativity in church often equates to man’s gimics. Gimics are something that man can take credit for and, by golly, if Pastor XYZ used Dr such and such’s latest Church Growth manual and built a megachurch, then I can do it too!

    It may also be a bit of a man thing. Men are natural “fixers”. Manuals say your church should be growing numerically. It isn’t. Tell me what to do and “I” will fix it.

    God gave the instructions in his manual. It is a lack of confidence in that manual that is bringing about the dependence that we see on gimics today.

  7. Rita says:

    “3. It’s important to learn from churches bigger and smaller then you. Churches that are smaller have to be even more creative, because their success depends on it.”

    Brother I kindly disagree with you on this one, the church’s “success” doesn’t depend on people’s creativity. Where would that leave the Lord? It is through God’s direction, His providence and His blessings that the Church can flourish and bear fruit. Not people’s creativity.

    God Bless you!

  8. agratto says:

    Most people tend to take the naive approach when listening to church planters or people in fast growing churches. Instead of assuming that we all want to see God move and that we are still preaching the same Gospel as First Baptist Somewhereville, they just throw the pastor under the bus for working harder.

    Every church wants to grow. Differing methods don’t mean one church must be teaching out of the Koran instead of the Bible or that they are “entertaining” instead of praising God. It’s obtuse to think that pastors have forgotten that God is still sovereign. Yet some church plants are successful and others are not (success as in growing, seeing people get “saved” and making it long term). The difference between fast growing churches and floundering ones are all of the little things. Methods, leadership, staff, teamwork, training, and prayer are all factors, but its a given that we depend on God for success.

  9. Mark says:

    I really don’t get this mindset. McDonald’s is the most popular restaurant in the world. Yet what it serves is not only bad for you but deadly.

    A full auditorium or movie theater full of people clapping doesn’t necessarily mean the Gospel has been preached, heard and accepted.

    That’s the missing piece here.

    Mormonism is growing really fast, too. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been exploding in growth in developing nations for decades. Does that make them true? No.

    “Growth” is not the measure of truth, and that’s the problem here with a marketing-centered mindset.

  10. […] writer believes that churches are the product of only man’s effort. But right there within the same article he quotes from is this: I couldn’t open the doors that God has to help us grown and learn from people who are way […]

  11. Jake Dudley says:

    It’s important to learn from churches bigger and smaller then you. Churches that are smaller have to be even more creative, because their success depends on it.

    I think everyone that disagrees w/ this statement is taking it out of context. Success is obviously not measured by the number of people attending your church. Success of the church is measured by how many lives are being changed for Jesus Christ. The creativity Anthony is talking about is simply having to findy easier, simpler, cheaper ways to reach people b/c a smaller church is more likely to have less resources than a large church. Smaller churches have to work harder (with God being the source of their work) to get people in the doors in order to reach out to them. Let’s not pass judgement on people and tello them to join a country club just by making one simple statement. God wouldn’t do that….

  12. Robert says:

    As the other posters have said…this is not church…it’s something else. Something man centered.
    Pastor, please listen to these posters whom you are probably thinking are just “negative Pharisees;” they aren’t “persecuting you,” they are telling you the truth.

    The most unsuccessful preachers in the history of the world were: John the Baptist…Jeremiah, Jesus himself…not one of them planted a huge megachurch or had a huge congregation. How about Noah…the man preached for a year or over that, but how many were saved? 8

    Please do not be deceived…just be true to the word of God…preach it clearly, forcefully and let the chips fall where they may…IF God chooses to save someone…they will get saved…and not before…

  13. Scott Ingersoll says:

    Just one more thing in response to Perry Noble’s statement, “I would love for someone to try and tell these people that their salvations weren’t real:” so what. Tell the same thing to any cult like Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Mormons, or Moslems, or, or, or, or . . . . They all think they are going to heaven too. So, I guess I don’t get Perry Noble’s point.

    Scott Ingersoll

  14. lavalamp775 says:

    jm….Jesus was God? Are you serious?

    So love your neighbor. Jesus could do it because He was God.
    Preach the gospel. Again, He was God and could do it much better than us.

    Of course, Jesus was God! He’s our perfect example.

  15. Tim Reed says:

    Why is it that these ridiculous watchdoggies can parse scripture to death to get a Calvinist reading from it, but can’t seem to understand the rather straightforward English written here. What part of “It’s obtuse to think that pastors have forgotten that God is still sovereign” do they not understand?

  16. It seems that our Christian brothers are so critical! Numbers mean people are hearing the Gospel, its plain and simple. Anthony, I believe that the brothers that are on here are mostly being satan to you. They are doing what it talks about satan doing in John 10:10. They are trying to steal, kill, and destroy your vision. Don’t let these Pharisees drag you down! I don’t even know you but I know Perry and the gang down at NewSpring and God is really moving there. For the sake of people’s eternities stick to the vision that God has given you!

  17. Teddy says:

    I’ll quote Robert:

    “The most unsuccessful preachers in the history of the world were: John the Baptist…Jeremiah, Jesus himself…not one of them planted a huge megachurch or had a huge congregation. How about Noah…the man preached for a year or over that, but how many were saved? 8”

    I’m curious as to your thoughts on these and their ministries.

  18. Tim Reed says:

    My thoughts are that Robert doesn’t read scripture very well.

    5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.
    – Matthew 3:5

    4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.
    – Mark 1:4-5

    Jesus sent out 70 disciples at once. then there’s this:
    “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.”
    – 1 Cor 15:5-6

    Noah had the entire world’s population in his congregation.

    3000 people responded to Peter’s message in Acts 2.

  19. Robert says:

    I guess I should have pointed out I meant “saved” not just curious…as to the amount of followers…”seen” is not saved…”being followed” is not saved.

    Jesus preached for 3 years and ended up with 500 brothers…not a megachurch.

    My point, which has been lost is: numbers of people who are “following you” is not indicative of success in God’s eyes, being faithful to preach the word is.

    I guess I’m not sure about the Noah comment…other than the arks occupants…everyone else perished…

  20. Scott Ingersoll says:


    Isn’t it amazing what the gospel of sin and repentance and the resulting saving grace of Jesus Christ alone can do? All the wonderful aforementioned results, and no creativity, conniving, or imposition by man necessary – no big buildings, wide screens, fancy advertising, cultural relativism or compromise necessary. Jesus does not need someone to stand just inside the door to help get in the sinner on the edge of a decision for Him. He obtains a saved soud “Himself” through the preaching of the gospel (our job) and the miracle of salvation (His job), in which anyone He enables to respond, responds. It is risky business for any soul to venture into the arena where he attempts to prod on a confession for Christ by one who is not drawn by the Father.

  21. Tim Reed says:

    500 people in ancient Palestine is far more than 500 in modern America. Modern America is more densely populated, and the ability of the average person to own a car makes 500 people far easier to gather today.

    I hope someday you’ll be able to read the scriptures without hammering them into your Calvinist worldview.

  22. Robert says:

    My bad…I guess Anthony is right…creativity and gimmicks are the way to go if you want numbers….

    thanks for correcting me…


  23. agratto says:

    I will give a final statement and then attempt to close out this discussion. My final thought(s) after reading through the many comments is that there is an obvious agenda at work here. At no point in my blog, and/or comments do I take God out of the equation. He is totally sovereign as He works in Oak Leaf Church and at every other gathering of believers. However, He blesses people when they produce with the gifts and abilities that he has given them. Consequently, it is apparent to me that church plants/church planters around the country are using various parts/talents in the body of Christ to produce whatever results He allows us to see. Arrogance that assumes there is only one way to do church whether in the music, service, or preaching is a revelation of character. It is the character of Martha that just wants Jesus to blast us for not doing what someone else thinks is right, while overlooking our aspirations to make a difference in this world, that is shameful. Despite how your remarks are couched in a shroud of Scripture references and mild affirmations there is a negative, arrogant, Pharisaical (as it you just want to judge and catch people messing up) attitude that permeates your blog and subscribers.

  24. […] Posts Current EventsWho is Anthony?Satan’s City…Mild Debate50 Most Influential Churches…Make Your […]

  25. Scott Ingersoll says:

    Let’s not loose track of the direction of this ongoing debate. Anthony is absoultely right. If you want numbers, he definitely doing it right. But there is no way, other than the application of God’s Word to this matter, to prove that he’s right or wrong about successful soul gathering, Happy, moral, people do not a conversion prove. Just ask a happy, moral, Mormon.

  26. Tim Reed says:

    My bad…I guess Anthony is right…creativity and gimmicks are the way to go if you want numbers….

    Are you for real? I’m about half sure that you’re someone trying to create a caricature of a watchdoggie. But just in case you’re not let me quote Anthony:

    At no point in my blog, and/or comments do I take God out of the equation. He is totally sovereign as He works in Oak Leaf Church and at every other gathering of believers. However, He blesses people when they produce with the gifts and abilities that he has given them.

    What you did is called a strawman. In the common parlance that means you just made crap up about people you disagree with. This is not just reprehensible but in direct contradiction to the commands of scripture.

  27. Bob says:

    Yes I am for real. I didn’t make up a strawman. My assertion was that numbers are not the “yardstick” of successful ministry.

    Just because Anthony claims to “not take God out of the equation” doesn’t mean that Anthony is correct in what he’s doing.

    IF God is sovereign, and I believe he is…then saying that He’s sovereign on one hand and then going on and on about “growth strategies” doesn’t make sense. One or the other is true.

    Preaching biblically sound, gospel messages is the aim…growth will come IF God ordains it.

  28. Tim Reed says:

    IF God is sovereign, and I believe he is…then saying that He’s sovereign on one hand and then going on and on about “growth strategies” doesn’t make sense. One or the other is true.

    Preaching biblically sound, gospel messages is the aim…growth will come IF God ordains it.

    If God is sovereign why are bother preaching at all?

    More importantly why bother battling over theology, practices, and other things that get teh watchdoggies like Old Jim over at New Truth all upset? After all, none of it matters, God is Sovereign. I will assume any response to this is your admission that you don’t really believe that God is sovereign and that your response is a man-centered addition to the gospel.

  29. Bob says:

    Simply put we preach because we are commanded to do so.

    Your “why do anything if God is sovereign” is laughable.

    The fact that God is the one who saves does not negate our love and responsibility to preach the truth.

    But then you know that because you read the scriptures.

  30. helen says:

    Anthony, do you think the views of Jesus Christ went unchallenged by those who disagreed with Him? They hung him on a cross to shut Him up.

    Didn’t work… the very fact that you and Michael are out there reaching those that others would shun is proof of that. I personally have seen salvation in men who would not even attend church until the acceptance and message at Oak Leaf was available to them.

    I thank God for what is happening here. May not be a real “theological” opinion, but it’s mine and I’m sticking to it.

  31. Bob says:

    Nice…comparing Anthony, who thinks that “small churches need more creativity” and better “marketing” to “grow the congregation” with Jesus!

    If Anthony’s goal is to see people attend church…then he’s on the right path…again; numbers are not the sign of doing things correctly…its the sign of being able to lure people into a building.

    My point was that numbers are not the yardstick of success. Preaching the word is.

    Are we afraid if all we do is preach the word every week that people in our church will become bored with it and move on to another more exciting church?

    This reminds me of the saying “What you win them with…you win them to.” and related to that “what you win them with…you have to keep them with”…

    Both point to something other than the supernatural work of God in a human’s heart.

    If someone is regenerated and saved by the power of the Holy Spirit, a new heart, new desires…you’re telling me that if you don’t throw creative, entertaining things at them week after week that they will leave? Then I question their profession of salvation. Goats need to be amused…sheep do not.

  32. Josh says:

    Robert said:

    “How about Noah…the man preached for a year or over that, but how many were saved? 8”

    Must be one of those newfangled translations. My bible doesn’t say that Noah preached to anyone. But I guess if your motive is pure (trying to tear down a church you’ve never been to), it’s ok to be a little sloppy with scripture…

  33. Bob says:

    No…it doesn’t come right out and say that “Noah preached to everyone but they didn’t listen”…
    2 Peter 2:5 says”…he (God) did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;” The word for “preacher” is kerukos which is defined “a crier, proclaimer, or preacher” So if Noah is a proclaimer/preacher…then I ‘m guessing he preached righteousness to the people of his day…not kept silent.

    I may be wrong but I’m not trying to be sloppy with scripture, I just made an assumption that I thought was reasonable given the language of 2nd Peter.

    As for the “tearing down a church I’ve never been to” remark…nicely done.
    I guess you’re now guessing my motives and assuming that I’m trying to “tear down” this church. I guess we are both guilty of assuming things.

  34. jearwood says:

    It’s not “assuming” something when we draw conclusions based upon facts. Was your original post intended to be supportive of Oak Leaf Church? I recognize that you believe the pastors at Oak Leaf are leading the congregation astray. Why are you trying to deny that now?

    You’re right though, I did “assume” that you haven’t been to Oak Leaf…Was I wrong? I’ll bet I wasn’t 🙂

    My point about being sloppy with Scripture wasn’t to play Bible trivia. I don’t think that you intentionally misrepresented the text to prove a point. I’ll point out, though, that even Peter doesn’t say Noah preached “a year or more.” I do think it’s ironic though how the faultfinders at Oldtruth and Slice (RIP) routinely parse to writings and statements of “seeker sensitive” pastors for evidence of “error” about any minor point.

  35. Robert says:

    Even though I was addressing another poster; I’ll respond to your comments.

    I did say Noah preached a year or more…that was an assumption on my part. I”m sorry. All assumption.

    Question: What “facts” did the other poster use to know that I was “tearing down” this church?

    My original assertion was this: Success isn’t determined by numbers according to the bible.

    Is that a true statement or a false statement?

    Does the bible teach that if you have scads of people attending your church and another church is very small…then you are a success and the other church is a failure in God’s eyes.

    I probably didn’t state my case very well…I hope that clarifies it somewhat…

  36. Scott Ingersoll says:

    As to the success being determined by numbers, what ever happend to the Gideon principle, which indicates that God isn’t interested in numbers, he’s interested in obedience.

  37. jearwood says:

    True, success isn’t measured by the number of people attending a worship service, but does that mean churches shouldn’t try to grow by bringing unbelievers into the kingdom? Numerical growth doesn’t necessarily equal spiritual success, but it doesn’t neccesarily equal apostasy, either. All things being equal, I think a growing church is preferable to a non-growing one. How many New Testament examples are there where the church didn’t grow when the gospel was preached to non-believers? In a nation of lost people, I would be troubled if my church was content NOT to grow. I also agree that church attendance does not “save” anyone, but people aren’t saved by sleeping in on Sunday either.

    Creativity in worship and preaching doesn’t remove God from the equation. Any hymn you listen to at your church is the creative work of someone. Does that make it bad? Martin Luther wrote hymns to be sung to glorify God. Was he trying to take God’s place? Any sermon that does not consist of a bare reading from the bible involves someone’s creative effort. Should he prepare it to the best of his ability, or haphazardly?

    Creativity cannot be a substitute for sound doctrine and bibical teaching. But it need not be divorced from it.

  38. Robert says:

    I see we agree that numbers aren’t a measure of success.
    I would ask then that why is your next sentence “but does that mean churches shouldn’t try to grow by bringing unbelievers into the kingdom.”
    I think that’s the crux of the whole thing that I’m saying; the “goal” should be to preach the word faithfully VS “growing the church.”
    Successful church = Preaching, teaching, exhorting, expounding on the word faithfully, members growing in obedience and sanctification.

    Whether the church is getting bigger or smaller is beside the point….right?

    And as an aside…why do we think that church is an evangelistic tool?
    When did we decide that we’d “do church” to attract unbelievers?
    Isn’t church the time for believers to come together in worship and fellowship?
    Isn’t the rest of the week where the church members “preach the gospel to every creature” and if these people are saved by God…then they will find a church?…

    does that make sense?

    As far as creativity goes….you mention “bare reading from the bible” …actually the word itself says what a pastor is to do in 1st and 2nd Timothy:

    Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.

    I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

    As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

    No creativity mentioned…right? Preach, teach, exhort, rebuke, etc.

  39. jearwood says:

    I’ve heard the “church is for believers” bit before. Where does the Scripture say that church “shouldn’t” be an evangelistic tool? In my mind, everything a believer does should point others to Christ. The gospel is regularly presented at Oak Leaf. Personally, I want every unbeliever to hear the gospel as often as possible.

    I also believe that churches should work to encourage believers who are not regular church attenders to follow the biblical admonition against forsaking the assembly of believers. The bible is clear that followers of Christ should meet regularly with one another.

    I agree with you that pastors should do more than simply read from the bible. They should “teach.” They should exhort. They should preach. All of these things require them to do more than simply read bare passages of text from the bible. Should they try to “teach” effectively? I say yes. God gives us talents and abilities, and expects us to use them wisely. John Piper, of whom I am a great fan, is very “creative” in his own way. Have you ever read one of his well-written books? Is he trying to take God’s place ?

  40. Bob says:

    You didn’t interact with the main points of my post. The “church as evangelism” was an aside.

    Be that as it may, the “argument by silence” is a logical fallacy. That argument can be used for any number of “the scripture doesn’t say we can’t!” situations.

    You said “in my mind” as a starting point for your next point….let’s just use the scriptures as our guide…our opinions are secondary.

    Did you notice that in the passages I sited; not once is “creativity” mentioned as something that is needed to “grow a church?” In fact, “Growing a church” being successful is never the issue…it’s always an exhortation to “be faithful to preach the word you have received”….

    And as far as these red herrings that you keep throwing out about what are creative activities song writing, book writing….none of which have anything to do with the topic at hand….which is….

    Is the statement; “Small churches need to be MORE creative because their success depends on it”….true?
    Numbers are the measure of success in God’s eyes….

    Let’s focus on the topic at hand.

    Does the bible support that these are true statements or not?

    Read 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus…I already sited some direct passages but didn’t site them all.

    Getting unbelievers in the door of a church through “creativity” is never an issue. The gospel is preached…souls are added as God wishes….nothing about being creative to get more “success.”

    Do you have any comments that reflect directly on these passages or have something that is backed up directly by scripture?

  41. helen says:

    I would personally like to invite “Bob” to visit Oakleaf real soon. Come hear the Word, NOT theology or ideaology, or any other ology. Just come. We welcome you with open arms.

    You took the “creative” comment and worked it every way but the way it was meant… You continue to attack men who live to spread the Word of God to the saved and the UNSAVED… Jesus said those who weren’t sick didn’t need a doctor. Do you think He meant that literally? or was he speaking of the unsaved needing His teaching more than the saved? Do you think He is worried about how we reach them, or just pleased that we reach them at all?

    Come and meet those you debate. Come and hear the teaching you doubt.

    Come and see the things we see weekly, men coming to church who never came before. Children who get up early to be sure they don’t miss Kidventure on Sunday mornings. Volunteers who start before 6am to make sure everyone who walks into that theatre feels welcome and wanted. No creativity here, just Truth.

  42. Robert says:

    I’m sure you’re a great person, and I’m sure that everyone at Oakleaf is very sincere.
    With all due respect; you just added more rhetoric to this thread.

    The issue isn’t whether people feel welcome and wanted or what I “think” Jesus is more worried about.

    Please, if Pastor Anthony can support his statement with scripture instead of opinion…then by all means…go for it and silence the critics. If not, then be gracious and admit that this is not scriptural at all but he chooses to believe it anyway.

    Pretty simple. The pastor’s been around long enough to know what I’m asking.
    God bless,

  43. Michael says:

    guys…this is not that complex.

    pastors are called to teach. creativity is not REQUIRED.

    creativity is a tool, that’s it. it is neither good nor bad on its own. i want to preach the word with truth and no compromise, and i want to preach it in a way that people can understand and in a way that they remember. i want lives to be changed, not just to communicate a bunch of information.

    anytime a preacher recites a poem, sings a song, tells a story…that’s some form of creativity. i don’t know of many churches where a guy gets up and reads the bible word for word and offers no commentary.

    the argument is about semantics. of course the churches success does not DEPEND on creativity. it depends on God.

    of course numbers are not the only measurement of success. nobody here is saying that.

  44. Scott Ingersoll says:

    The ongoing discussion regarding the comment Anthony made on church creativity brings to mind the old adage, “words have meaning.” Sometimes our verbal mistakes are minor and hearers generously do not hold the speaker’s feet to the fire. But because of the great difference in the convictions and beliefs of the two sides in this debate, as well as the underlying passions involved, we on our side cannot let the statement go. This reason this is so is because what the words “Churches that are smaller have to be even more creative, because their success depends on it,” connote, is what we understand and believe to be fundamental, highly destuctive, doctrinal error. We must therefore hold the speakers feet to the proverbial fire.

    Moreover, it is not that we misunderstand what Anthony said. It is a very clear, self explainatory statement. THE question to be answered is, was it an erroneous statement or not? “If” Anthony believes it was an erroneous statement, he should admit it, rather than continue along a dishonest, futile, and embarrasing defense of false doctrine. On the other hand, if he believes he’s correct, then I, like Robert, must ask “Where’s The Beef?”

    You are not arguing against mormons, or jehovah witnesses, you are being confronted with people who, like you, hold holy scripture to be the ultimate authority and containing ultimate, singular truth. We cannot agree to disagree on such a fundamental matter as what constitutes church growth, since the entire bible, from beginning to the end, is about Christ’s Church, providing detail after intricate detail about how it is constituted.

    Anthony: Many are viewing this site, some from your own congregation. You are being called upon to demonstrate your pastoral leadership, integrity, and honesty, by resolving this debate one way or the other. As I stated earlier, words have meaning. They are not elastic Joseph Goebbel’s tools for creating one’s own desired reality, they are designed to communicate truth. Your words brought you here – now, quit yourself like a man – because your words shall ultimately judge you (Matt 12:36-37) – one way or the other.

  45. jearwood says:

    Scott et al:

    Yes, words do mean something, but I’m curious why you are so insistent that Anthony issue some mea culpa acceptable to you. The original criticism was that Anthony left God out of the equation, instead claiming that human effort is what causes a church to be successful, however success is defined. That’s fine, but perhaps you should read his other posts where he clearly states his belief that God is ultimately who we rely on at Oak Leaf or at any church or in any endeavor. Only by ignoring his subsequent posts responding to that criticism can you stand by the original criticism of his original statement,. Do you disagree with that subsequent clarification? If so, address that. If not, your continuing demand that he retract or apologize or whatever (?) strikes me more as a desire to be declared the ‘winner,’ rather than a desire to clear up wrong doctrine.

    An interesting theological discussion of the role human efforts play in God’s designs could be had here. No one here disputes the absolute sovereignty of God. But it also seems clear that God expects us to use our best human efforts when He gives us a task to do. The lazy servent who buried his talent could have, in Jesus’s parable, doubled his money by happening upon a treasure trove, despite his laziness. But that’s not the way Jesus told the story. God can bless the ministry of church or pastor who is lazy, but that’s not the model in scripture, nor is it our experience in the real world. Churches that set out to clothe and feed the poor are generally most successful in clothing and feeding the poor. Believers who study the Word regularly are normally the most equipped to use the power of God’s Word in their daily lives. Men that seek out opportunities to share the gospel are usually the most successful in sharing the gospel with the lost. Should pastors and church leaders use all their gifts and talents to advance God’s Kingdom? Should we expect churches run by such men to be more effective than those run by shirkers?

    Do you believe human effort has no effect on the success of a church, success defined in whatever way you wish. If your pastor doesn’t prepare his sermons, but just throws something together at the last minute, would it matter? Does your church advertise in the yellow pages? Have a sign on the street? Is that sort of promotion attempting to take God’s place? (After all, if God wants someone to go to a particular church, He doesn’t need to advertise, right?)

    Clearly God’s will cannot be thwarted by man. However, God works through human efforts. How these two somewhat contradictory principles are reconciled is the real issue here.

  46. Bob says:

    Again…scripture is the rod by which we measure. If “success depends on creativity” then we can all go home knowing that Pastor A nailed it.
    pretty simple

  47. Scott Ingersoll says:


    If God’s will cannot be thwarted by man, as you have just admitted, then answer these questions:
    Why, if it is God’s will that none perish but that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9), are not all men are saved. Has man then thwarted God’s will? Or did you not really mean what you said?

    Scott Ingersoll

  48. bob says:

    Oh no! The dreaded 2 Peter 3: 9 debate!! That’s another thread in itself! 🙂

    But…you hit it on the head: IF it’s God’s will that NONE perish and that ALL are saved….they why aren’t they? Good one….

    Email me if you’d like to delve into that one off this thread 🙂


  49. jearwood says:

    No, I meant what I said, especially when I pointed out how that premise seems contradictory to my second premise: that God’s works through the efforts of man. Surely you don’t believe that God can set out to do something and have his will frustrated by the efforts of man? I certainly don’t think 2 Pet. 3:9 means that God is less than omnipotent. How God chooses to exercise His omnipotence is a matter of His sovereign judgment.

    When David went out onto a field to face Goliath, the battle was never in question: God was in complete control of the outcome. But what if David had chickened out and refused to face Goliath. Would God have “forced” David to have courage and faith?

    As you both obviously know, the theological issues surrounding free will vs. God’s omnipotence and sovereignty are vast. I don’t claim to have the answers, and I suspect anyone who glibly claims he does is fooling himself.

  50. Scott Ingersoll says:


    What I hear you saying is that God is absolutely sovereign except when it boils down to who comes to Him. That is what you are saying, isn’t it? Because if that is what you are saying, then obviously, God is not “absolutely sovereign” (your words).

  51. jearwood says:

    Don’t know how you got that from what I said. Are you saying God is not omnipotent?

  52. Scott Ingersoll says:


    By the way I am not insistent that Anthony apologize. I think that being a pastor, he needs to be responsible for what he says. He may have issued a partial retraction, but he offered no substantive scriptural to deal with the issue, on point. Anthony can do whatever he wants to do. I suspect he will not do anything further than what he has done. But, again I think he has a responsibility, especially to his congregation, as a representative of God, to state his position precisely; and I do not see how he can do that without clear reference to the gospel which he claims to be preaching, and which God will hold him accountable for properly handling. Am I being unreasonable?

  53. Scott Ingersoll says:


    I’ll cut to the chase. I am saying that, while I do not understand how God can be Sovereign and still allow men to have a free will, I do not see in scripture that I am required to so understand. What Scripture tells me to do is believe it is the Word of God. That is why I believe that man does not choose God but that God chooses man. I back up my position scripturally: “you did not choose me, I chose you”. . . . “no one comes to me unless the Father draw him”. . . . “you do not believe in me because you are not My sheep (not, you are not my sheep because you do not beieve me)” . . . . “Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated.” . . .”He chose us before the creation of the world . . . . and finally, but by no means the last, “but as many as received him, to them he gave the right to Become children of God, to thoe who believe in His name: who were BORN NOT OF BLOOD, NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, BUT OF GOD.”

    My point? I believe what I am required by scripture to believe, call me glib. I am not required to believe that man freely chooses God, in fact, the aforementioned scripture references are contrary to such thinking. Unlike you I do not see contradictions and paradoxes in scripture. when i say God is sovereign, I mean it completely, without giving any credit to man. Man does what he does because God preordained it and because He is Sovereign. It is rediculous to suggest the possibility of David having choseng another course. Do I understand fully how God directs everything man does, or that no sparrow fall to the ground apart from Him? No. But that is something scripture does not reveal, so it is ok. What is not ok is disbelieveing clear scriptural dictates, because they do not jive with our preconceived notions of reality. And that is what I believe you are doing through what I understand you to be saying. However, I would be happy to be proven wrong about this.

    Instead of believeing scripture over presupposition, you have apparentlly done the reverse, chalking your inability to face the truth of scripture up to a vast theological issue. Choosing instead to embrace man’s free will, whch you cannot support with scripture, over clear scripture on the issue of salvation, makes no sense to me. I’m sure we would both agree that man’s heart is deceitfully wicked, so why trust it.

    Am i a fooling myself because I believe what scripture says? I’ll take that risk base on my solid faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel.

  54. jearwood says:

    I find it pretty funny that you believe I am wrong about something that I have twice said I don’t understand. Which premise do you disagree with (and do you believe is not supported by the Scripture?)

    1. God is sovereign and His plans cannot be thwarted by man; or,

    2. God works through human efforts.

    Both principles are plainly supported by Scripture, and you apparently agree with the first. Why is it ridiculous to suggest the possibility that David could have chosen another course? What is your Scriptural basis for that proposition? Was he an automaton? How could he be “commended for his faith” (Heb. 11:39) if he had acted in the only way possible?

    I’m also not sure why you believe I’ve chose to “embrace man’s free will.” I don’t think the issue of fore-knowledge vs. predestination is as simple and clearcut as you apparently believe it to be. I recognize that my human mind is capable of error, despite my best efforts. I am not troubled by that. I am satisfied to study God’s Word and earnestly seek Him.

  55. Scott Ingersoll says:


    I told you that I do not understand God’s sovereignty and how he remains sovereign and still gives man a free will. The comment you have made about the “automan” is the six million dollar question. But as I stated, it is something we do not need to know and must accept with an unclear understanding of God’s sovereignty. If you insist on knowing the answer to that issue before you can believe that God has mapped out everything man does (Prov. 16:33) ahead of time and man still operates under a free will, I guess you will have to ignore 2 Peter 3:9 and the like as paradoxes. One of my points was that because we are not God there are things we cannot know, things that are to wonderful for us to understand. Furthermore, God has told us that we are incorrect in thinking that we are altogether like Him, so we best not mess with thing that we are not entitled to know. I do not understand why I have to repeat myself, but somehow I don’t think I am getting through.

    Also, please be more specific when you say that God works through human efforts, that is a totally openended statement, obvious to everyone. So, what is your point? If you are trying to tell me that God needs us to accomplish His tasks, I beg to differ with you. As you well know God does not need chariots and horses, and we were not there to help when he created the universe, so what is puny little man going to accomplish that God has not already preordained?

    If you are saying that God accomplishes HIs will through man, I agree. His will is accomplished in that He is glorified in all that He does, whether it is in His loving and protecting his Church (men) or destroying the wicked (men), He is glorified and his will is accomplished. However, we cannot change that preordained plan (Eph. 1:9&11), because God’s will is perfect.

    Next, foreknowledge precedes predestination and is not opposed to it – those He foreknew (foreloved) He predestined . . .(Rom. 8:29), so either you did a boo boo, or you misunderstand these terms.

    Whether or not you exhibit a proclivity toward free will, I don’t know, perhaps we will discuss that another day. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one, so long as you can agree that man has nothing to do with his own salvation, and therefore ascribe to the fact that we are save by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone – the flesh profiteth nothing.

  56. jearwood says:

    “ascribe to the fact that we are save by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone ”

    Amen. Doesn’t sound like we really disagree. It sounds like we both admit we are not able to fully comprehend God.

  57. Bob says:

    I’d like to comment on 2 Peter 3:9 if I could…

    I’d like to start with the assumption that the scriptures are inerrant. The do not contradict. There are “paradoxes” but remember that the definition of paradox is a “perceived” contradiction that is able to be reconciled.

    The issue is that there are plenty of verses that plainly say that our salvation is God’s choice. and that God saves some while allowing others to go to hell.

    So what do we do with 2 Peter 3:9? That’s a paradox. But, it’s able to be reconciled easily enough.
    Let’s begin with the text which says:
    The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

    Since context is everything in reading a passage…let’s ask…who is this letter written to?
    The answer is in 2 Peter 3:1 “beloved.”

    So who are the beloved? The answer is also found in the first verse:
    “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.”

    So this is the “second letter”…let’s go to the first letter that Peter wrote to see just who these beloved are…
    Here is the text of 1st Peter 1:1:
    Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
    May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

    So now we know who Peter is addressing; the elect of God. That puts the comments of 2 Peter 3:9 in their proper context:
    Peter is reassuring the “elect of God” that God isn’t slow about his promise to them but is patient, not wanting any (of the group that he’s addressing) to perish, but all (of that group; the elect) to come to repentance.

    Context is everything. There are no exegetical or syntactical grounds to assume that Peter shifts the meaning of “tis” to mean “everyone who ever lived or who will ever live” for this verse. Only a persons presupposition about God wanting to save everyone does that.

    In addition to the context the issue of “tis” and it’s range of meanings also plays into it. The word “some” as in “some count slowness” and “any” as in “any” should perish; is the same word in the Greek, “tis” and one of it’s meanings is “certain ones.”
    So the verse could just as easily be translated “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as certain ones count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that certain ones should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

    As if that’s not enough; the word “all” is Strongs #3956 “pas” and is commonly translated “some of all types.” That fits in nicely with our exegesis of the text.

    Strongs lexicon even makes a point of saying that “all” rarely means “all individually without exception” to make sure that we don’t make that exact mistake of reading into the word “all” “everyone who ever lived without exception.”

    You may not agree with this, but that’s what the text says in context. There really is no reason to believe, based on 2 Peter 3:9 that God is not sovereign and that He will not save whom He chooses.

  58. Bob says:

    I just noticed your comment on the “foreknew” of Romans 8:29.
    Please notice that the term “foreknew” is not “God passively sitting on the sidelines reacting to what we do concerning our salvation”…

    the Greek term “proginosko” is an active verb. It’s something that God “does” to “us” as the direct object. It’s a personal term.
    It says that God foreknew us, but let’s be careful to not ascribe more meaning to that term than is there…it says nothing about God “seeing what we’d do” and reacting to it. It merely says that He foreknew us.

    It’s only used one other time and there it says that God “foreknew” Jesus. That doesn’t mean that God “looked down the corridors of time to see what Jesus would do”….and then reacted to it.

  59. Scott Ingersoll says:


    Yes, but in different ways.

  60. Scott Ingersoll says:


    That is what I was asking for from Jerwood, but never got. Well stated.

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