Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Thoughts on the Recent Controversy

I will always appreciate Pastor Sweatt for his gracious and selfless role he played in the creation of our new church plant. He allowed Andy Henderson to present his vision for a new church in the Hamilton Mill section of the northern Atlanta suburbs and then said that anyone from his church who wanted to go and help Pastor Henderson had his complete blessing and support. We started Grace Baptist Church with a good five or six families from Berean, one of those families being mine. Pastor Sweatt was more interested in building the kingdom of God than his own kingdom and thus serves as an excellent role model for other fundamentalist pastors in this regard.

I am also a fervent supporter of fundamentalism. I believe that churches and individuals ought to be fundamentalist in their outlook and philosophy because I believe that fundamentalism most accurately reflects Scripture’s teaching regarding New Testament Christianity. It grieves me when young men or old men depart from fundamentalism because I believe they are departing from the Scriptural ideal.

I realize, of course, that many so-called expressions of fundamentalism in this country are corrupt caricatures of that ideal. While I identify with fundamentalism, I do not identify or associate with every extreme expression of fundamentalism. In fact, I would encourage people to leave hyper-fundamentalism (e.g., militant KJVOism, Hyles-type ministries, abusive troubled-teen ministries, and those whose theology is so weak or whose legalism is so real that it actually teaches another gospel in the Galatians 1 sense), not to embrace conservative evangelicalism, but to find a more Biblically based fundamentalism.

In no sense do I put Berean Baptist Church into the hyper-fundamentalist category. Berean is a good church and Pastor Sweatt has served there faithfully for many years. They are conservative but in no way extreme.

That said, while I love Pastor Sweatt, there are things that he did in that message that are going to drive people away from “mainstream” fundamentalism because they highlight some of the very serious problems that exist within hyper-fundamentalism. I am not a pastor, but I have spoken enough to know that sometimes you say things that you had no intention to say. Some of these things may have been inadvertent, but some things I have heard him say before.

There is a fine line between supporting a man that God has raised up to serve a generation, and falling into ungodly, man-centered hero worship. We should never be blind followers on one hand or completely dismissive critics on the other. But please, promoting the likes of Jack Hyles and Bob Gray because they were soul winners is inexcusable. These men did not just have small foibles; they were blights on the body of Christ. We have got to distance ourselves (and rebuke if necessary) the idea that soul winning covers a multitude of sins.

Second, and I know this one has been beaten to death, but Calvinism is not our enemy. I am Calvinistic (probably 4 to 4.5 points) but I don’t think Calvinism should be stressed in the teaching ministry of a church. It can easily get unbalanced. Preach the sovereignty passages and the man’s responsibility passages in their Biblical proportion and according to each passage’s emphasis. Don’t try to solve the theological tension by pulling up either one of the stakes. If you have recently been convinced of the doctrines of grace, don’t go around making an irritating fool of yourself or getting all offended if your church is not as Calvinistic as you would like. It is not always easy to co-exist but it can be done with humility and appropriate deference. This plea, however, works both ways. We need non-Calvinistic pastors to realize that the problem with the Pipers and Mahaneys of the conservative evangelical world is NOT their Calvinism. If your people are reading Piper or MacArthur or Mahaney, don’t stress out over it. Most likely they are growing in the Lord. This is a good thing but it can also be a dangerous thing, and that leads me to my last point.

When fundamentalist pastors and teachers rightly say that the Bible is our sole and inerrant authority for faith and practice, your people will listen and believe it. When they read or listen to those who model that belief in their preaching and writing ministries, it thrills them. And when your people get a taste for it, nothing else will ever satisfy. Nothing. So here is the challenge that you must embrace with all your being – preach and teach the Bible as if the very words of it are God-breathed inerrant wisdom. Make sure that your people see that you are making God’s point, using His reasoning, His authority, and advancing His agenda, not yours. Be thankful for the men that God has gifted and given a national or international ministry. Don’t be jealous of them or think that you cannot measure up. Here is the beauty of preaching this way – you don’t have to be unusually gifted, you just have to work hard and be faithful with the text. No doubt there is skill involved but if you have been called to preach, God has given you the grace you need to effectively communicate His Word to the people to whom He has called you to serve. So, roll up your sleeves, pray over your text, and preach it!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

On a Motherless Mother’s Day

This Mother’s Day will be my first without my Mom. She passed away this past Wednesday from ovarian cancer, just weeks short of her allocated three score and ten years. My last real conversation with her occurred back in September, the night before her surgery to that was to remove a tumor that had developed on her ovaries. As I posted before, the doctors didn’t know at the time that it was cancerous or that it had spread to several other organs. Everyone thought it would be a relatively routine surgery. That, of course, turned out not to be the case. A quick hour-long surgery turned into a six hour ordeal that my Mom was not physically able to endure. She suffered a rather debilitating stroke that left her unable to speak, eat, or walk without sustained physical therapy and extraordinary effort on her part. So, while I was able to communicate with my Mom after her initial recovery period, it was never really the same. I often think back to that conversation, wondering what more might have been said . . ., yet very thankful for that time, even though I don’t remember any of the details of the conversation.

My Mom taught for years and years at various Christian elementary schools, eventually becoming principal in her later years. In some ways, it all started when he took a summer to tutor me after a disastrous experience at an LA area grade school. I don’t remember this, and I can’t believe that it is true, but I’m told that I was NOT the most cooperative young man during that time. I think my Mom would say that was putting things mildly. I can only hope that I was not as bad as my kids sometimes were during their first year of homeschool. But I digress. Even though my Mom’s degree was not in education she was an excellent teacher who made a lasting impact on her students. One day, after her surgery, my Dad and I got to my Mom’s ICU room and discovered a strange lady, probably in her 30’s, sitting there with my Mom. When we asked who she was, she said she was a student of my Mom’s back when she was in the 5th grade. I don’t even remember who my 5th grade teacher was.

Random memories…hours playing rook, scrabble, ping pong and other games; the best chocolate chip cookies ever, always preparing yummy lunches and snacks for our family trips; scaring her out of her wits when first learning how to drive; cheerfully waking me each morning as I was growing up; taking care of me when I was sick; road trips together to my cousin’s weddings; and pulling me aside during my trip to California when I first introduced Daphne to my family and saying, “Don’t blow it with this one!”

I am thankful for the time we had back in February when the whole family was able to visit with Mom one last time. Jennifer played her violin and the kids sang to her. My one regret is that she will not be able to see the children grow up completely or see them get married off. And, living across the country has made it difficult for my kids to really get to know their grandparents. Nevertheless, the time they spent with her was special and they all cried when they heard the news of Mom’s passing.

I could go on but I will close with this. Daphne has watched my Dad unselfishly take care of my Mom during her last days and told me that I have a lot to live up to. Well, Mom has set the bar pretty high, too.


Carol M. Olsen, 69, went home to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on May 6. For eight years until her retirement in 2007, Carol was principal of San Bernardino Christian School and prior to that taught 14 years in the same school. In all, she spent 32 years in Christian school ministry in schools in California and Washington. She was a member of Heritage Bible Church, Highgrove, CA. She was born May 20, 1939 in Johnson City, NY, moved to Waynesboro, VA as a teenager, and received a BS degree from Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC, in 1961. She met her husband in college and was married December 18, 1961, in Waynesboro, VA.

She is survived by her husband, David Efting, of Colton; son Andrew Efting and his wife Daphne and grandchildren JD, Jennifer, and Anna Grace of Suwanee, GA; son Eric Efting and his wife Kimberly and grandchildren Alina, Tommy, Casey, and Erica of Victorville, CA; son Scott Efting of Sunnyvale, CA; and sister Jeannie Kollarits of Staurts Draft, VA.

The funeral service will be held Monday, May 18, 10:30 o’clock at Faith Bible Church, 2898 North G Street, San Bernardino. There will be a viewing at the same church on Sunday afternoon, May 17, 2:30 – 5:00 o’clock. Interment will be at Desert Lawn Cemetery, Calimesa.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to San Bernardino Christian School, 2898 North G Street, San Bernardino, CA 92405.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rev. Henry J. Olsen followup

Since my last post, my Dad did some digging for me an found a relative who sent us a copy of my great-grandfather's Certificate of Ordination. The interesting thing, if you click on the picture to look at it full size, is the signature of Oswald Chambers.

Rev. Olsen was my Mom's grandfather. They will soon be reunited as my Mom is in her final days of fighting ovarian cancer and a stroke. My Mom's other grandfather was also a pastor, the Rev. Arthur E. Blann. It appears that he also signed the ordination certificate. I'll need to ask my Dad about that. At any rate, here is a picture of me as a baby, with my Mom and Dad, my Mom's parents, and my Mom's grandparents, the Blann's. I am most grateful for my godly heritage.