I was asked to serve at a small Baptist church near the property in SE Oklahoma my wife and I bought some years with hopes of moving to in 2015. So this opportunity to shepherd a small flock provided the impetus for us to move a year ahead of schedule. I had traveled up to this church once on a general call to preach, having been recommended by the local Baptist association. I preached twice that day and was quickly invited back to “preach in view of a call”. I drove the 400 miles to do that on July 6, preaching from Hebrews 1:1-4 (telling them I would preach through that book if called) and had a meeting with the members of the church that evening.
I was asked if I believed in “once saved always saved” and I explained the believer’s security such that “easy believism” was not an option. The same lady asked me if I would be willing to have little children bring trinkets to me during the service so I could relate the trinket to Scripture. I told her the service was for the worship of God, not the entertainment of children.
I asked them what they thought the main function of the pastor was and was encouraged to hear several say “pray, study, preach”. I asked them what the main function of the church was on the Lord’s Day and was encouraged to hear several say “worship the Lord in song, hear the Word preached.” That provides a foundation upon which to build.
I was also asked if I believed in predestination and confessed that I had no choice because it is clearly taught in Revelation, Romans 8 and Ephesians. I was encouraged when that answer was met with a few “Amens!” Some questions about programs and Sunday School – I pressed on them the need to engage parents and to help young people grow into adults; so I would accept some “age appropriate” Sunday School for small children, but by 12 they need to be with adults – because we see this in Scripture and we see the need in our culture.
I was asked to step outside. About 5 minutes later, I was asked back in and told that they wanted to call me as their pastor. The terms were acceptable. We made provision to sell our house in Houston, bought a trailer to live in for a season and I moved on up on Aug 6, with my dear wife following in a couple of weeks. I preached several sermons (available here: http://gowenbaptist.blogspot.com/) and they had a very nice welcome dinner for us on Aug 24 and then the deacons told me they could not tolerate my preaching that included predestination, so they asked me to step down on Aug 31. They corralled the members the next day and then told me on Wed evening the whole church voted for me to leave.
The deacons would not answer questions about their view that altar calls are necessary nor would they be willing to reconsider their view on predestination if I showed them clear passages of Scripture that declare it. They are free-will people, have been all their lives and they have no interest in growing in grace and knowledge of Christ. I told them that if I had known they held to free-will theology, I would never have come to serve there. That being said, they have been very nice and generous and have offered to help us move our trailer off their property.
I am heart-broken over this, but unashamed of the messages I delivered while there – all 4 week’s worth. I put together a list of Scripture passages touching on this topic, see below. No man can come to the Father unless He draw him. How can free-will in a sinful creature claim credit for choosing to be saved? The lack of willingness to ponder Scripture and let that be a guide flies in the face of Christianity and denies the authority, sufficiency, necessity, and clarity of Scripture that I preached on while there.
John 1:11-13 (ESV) 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 3:6-8 (ESV) 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 10:25-30 (ESV) 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
John 15:15-17 (ESV) 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:11-14 (ESV) 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Revelation 13:5-8 (ESV) 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
Revelation 17:6-8 (ESV) 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
On man’s inability:
Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV) 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
1 John 5:11-12 (ESV) 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
God saves, not man:
John 6:36-40 (ESV) 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:44 (ESV) “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
Titus 3:4-7 (ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Romans 9:14-18 (ESV) 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.