After 17 years, why go to seminary?

At the end of this month, I begin classes at The Master’s Seminary. After seventeen years of serving in church ministry (with about 14 of those as the primary preaching pastor), I will work to obtain a Master of Divinity degree. It will take three years as a “full-time” student to complete my coursework. I say, “full-time,” but I will also remain the “full-time” senior pastor of Anchor Baptist Church. I suppose that makes me “double-time” – or perhaps just “out-of-time.”

Some of my friends (including my wonderful wife, Lindsay) can’t conceive of 3 years of graduate school as an exciting prospect. But I am thrilled about the opportunity! So, why am I enthused? And, why am I doing this now?

There are many reasons, but I’ve narrowed down my list to three.

Confidence in the Bible

Leading the charge is my growing confidence in the Bible. Not that I just started being confident. The Bible is perfect without question because it is God’s Word. In Bible college, I learned this a foundational principle: “The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is God’s Word.” The longer I try to serve the Lord, the more convinced I am.

Over the years I’ve preached approximately 2,000 messages from the Bible. Each time, I aimed to be faithful to the text of the Bible. God continually uses His Word to shape my thinking and my life. The more I understand and apply the Word, the more I realize how unique and irreplaceable the Bible is. There’s nothing like the Word to guide my life and ministry.

I must learn it more so that I can know, love, and serve God more.

Awareness of my Insufficiency

Continued study convinces me I have much to learn. To correctly apply the Word to pressing issues of today, Scripture must first be understood in its original context. I’m looking forward to immersing myself deeply in the Biblical languages. I want to comprehend thoroughly what the original recipients of God’s Word would have understood. Also, I want to ensure my understanding isn’t novel – it should be well-informed by the conversations about God’s Word throughout history. Three years of seminary training will do much to equip me in these areas.

The Kindness of God

I am also thrilled to get started on my M.Div. because of God’s kindness to me. Just over four years ago, we moved to the Los Angeles area to plant Anchor Baptist Church. I’m within driving distance of The Master’s Seminary where John MacArthur serves as President. It is a tremendous privilege to be able to study under a faculty that is committed to the faithful exposition of the Scriptures.

Please pray for me as I get started. This semester I’ll be taking Hebrew!

If you’d like to help out, here’s a list of required books that I haven’t purchased yet. I don’t have a complete list yet, so I’ll be adding to it continuously: required seminary books on Amazon.

Research Confirms: America Needs Evangelizing!

The Pew Research Center polled over 35,000 Americans from all 50 states concerning their religious beliefs. The results are both eye-opening and not surprising.

70% of Americans profess to be Christians

According to the study, “Christian” includes things that are definitely not: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, etc.

Only 25.4% of Americans identify as “Evangelical Protestant”. What exactly is that? According to the study, “Evangelical Protestant” includes the following types of churches:

  • Baptist – 9.2% (SBC – 5.3%; Independent – 2.5%)
  • Methodist – 0.3%
  • Nondenominational – 4.9%
  • Lutheran – 1.5%
  • Presbyterian – 0.8%
  • Episcopalian/Anglican – 0.3%
  • Restorationist (Church of Christ) – 1.6%
  • Congregationalist – 0.3%
  • Holiness – 0.7%
  • Reformed – 0.3%
  • Adventist – 0.6%
  • Anabaptist – 0.3%
  • Pietist – 0.3%
  • Other – 0.3%
  • Nonspecific – 1.5%

How many of these “Evangelical Protestant” churches are actually preaching the gospel? It’s hard to say, but a quick look at the list above makes it clear that all do not. If “Evangelical Protestant” = actually saved, then 75% of America is lost.

America: A World Leader in the Unevangelized

The population of the USA was about 318.9 million in 2014.

If this data is correct, 81,000,600 people in the USA identify themselves as “Evangelical Protestant.” For simplicity, let’s assume each of these 81 million people is genuinely born again.

That would mean there are 237,899,400 people in our country who will probably go to hell. In America.

It’s hard to put numbers like this in perspective. But consider this, there are only 3 other countries in the world with a total population bigger than the number of lost people who live in the United States: China, India, and Indonesia.

Did you get that? Only three countries even have the potential to have more lost residents than the United States. As the third largest country in the world, we are also home to a vast number of unevangelized.

About the Statistics

Most of the data comes from:
The Religious Landscape Study surveys more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states and analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and various demographic factors.

Population figures come from Wikipedia.

What have we Done? Is it Enough?

May God give us zeal not to waste our lives, but spend them for the salvation of sinners!

And now permit me, with all earnestness, to plead with you on behalf of Christ and Christ’s Holy Gospel, that you would stir yourselves up to renewed efforts for the spread of his truth, and to more earnest prayers, that his kingdom may come, and his will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Ah! my friends, could I show you the tens of thousands of spirits who are now walking in outer darkness; could I take you to the gloomy chamber of hell, and show you myriads upon myriads of heathen souls in utterable torture, not having heard the word, but being justly condemned for their sins; methinks you could ask yourselves, “Did I do anything to save these unhappy myriads? They have been damned, and can I say I am clear of their blood?” Oh! God of mercy, if these skirts be clear of my fellow creatures’ blood, I shall have eternal reason to bless thee in heaven. Oh! Church of Christ! thou hast great reason to ask thyself whether thou art quite clean in this matter. Ye say too often, ye sons of God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Ye are too much like Cain; ye do not ask yourselves whether God will require your fellow-creatures blood at your hands. Oh! there is a truth which says, “If the watchman warn them not, they shall perish, but their blood will he require at the watchman’s hands.” Ah! there ought to be more of us who are preaching to the heathen, and yet, perhaps, we are indolent and doing little or nothing. There are many of you, yea all of you, who ought to be doing far more than you are for evangelical purposes and the spread of Christ’s gospel. Oh! put this question to your hearts; shall I be able to say to the damned spirit if he meets me in hell, “Sinner, I did all I could for thee?” I am afraid some will have to say, “No, I did not; it is true I might have done more; I might have laboured more, even though I might have been unsuccessful, but I did not do it.” AH, my dear friends, I believe there is a great reason for some of us to suspect whether we believe our religion at all.

– From Spurgeon’s Sermon: “Gospel Mission”

The Church Planting Passion of Charles Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892, bio) is well known as “The Prince of Preachers”. He was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 20, became pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Church.

The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000 – all in the days before sound systems. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the new Metropolitan Tabernacle. When the congregation moved to the Tabernacle, they did not sell the building on Park Street. Spurgeon admitted that if it was sold, they would probably be able to cover the Tabernacle’s construction cost. However, they maintained it as a separate church! As Spurgeon put it, “You know if we were to build one chapel, and sell another, that would be the ‘goose-step’; there would be no marching, it is merely putting one foot up and the other down, but never getting farther.”

When the cornerstone was laid for this magnificent building, Spurgeon laid bare his heart for the planting of other churches:

God sparing my life, if I have my people at my back I will not rest until the dark county of Surrey be covered with places of worship. I look on this as the beginning of the end. I announce my own schemes: visionary they may appear, but carried out they will be. It is only within the last six months that we have started two churches—one in Wandsworth and the other in Greenwich, and the Lord has prospered them. The pool of baptism has been stirred with converts. And what we have done in two places I am about to do in a third, and we will do it not for the third or the fourth, but for the hundredth time, God being our helper.
C.H. Spurgeon at the Ceremony of Laying the First Stone of the New Tabernacle on Tuesday, August 16th, 1859.

He reiterated that building a large building would not cause them to be inwardly focused:

…we do not mean to build this as our nest, and then to be lazy. We must go from strength to strength, and be a missionary church, and never rest until not only this neighborhood, but our country, of which it is said that some parts are as dark as India, shall have been enlightened with the gospel.

This burden began early in his ministry. Five years prior, he preached a sermon entitled Preach the Gospel for the purpose of stirring up men from his congregation to preach and start churches: “I have preached this sermon especially, because I want to commence a movement from this place which shall reach others. I want to find some in my church, if it be possible, who will preach the gospel.”

Spurgeon stated that he would send men to start and pastor other churches until he didn’t have a man left. “Spurgeon encouraged his people to be out carrying the gospel on Sundays. During his career, he frequently arranged to have a group of members leave the Tabernacle to start a new church, and often one of the prominent men of the Tabernacle went with them to provide leadership” (Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, 1984, p. 137).

“We have never sought to hinder the uprising of other churches from our midst or in our neighborhood. It is with cheerfulness that we dismiss our twelves, our twenties, our fifties, to form other churches. We encourage our members to leave us to found other churches; nay, we seek to persuade them to do it. We ask them to scatter throughout the land to become the goodly seed which God shall bless. I believe that so long as we do this we shall prosper. I have marked other churches that have adopted the other way, and they have not succeeded.”
C.H. Spurgeon from sermon no. 626, The Waterer Watered, delivered on Sunday Morning, April 23, 1865, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

In fact, they sacrificed to pay young men to pastor congregations throughout England. “Believers–Lights in the World” was preached in 1862 and mentioned the start and financing of four churches during that year.

Cheerfully you give week after week for the support of our young ministers, and I think our friends will continue to do this. At any rate the Lord will provide and friends far away may be moved to assist us. I want still more aid, for the field is ripe and we want more harvest men reap it…Four Churches of Christ have sprung of our loins in one year, and the next year shall it not be the same, and the next, and the next, if the Holy Ghost be with us, and He has promised to be with us if we be with Him.

It’s estimated by Doug McMasters 200 or more churches were founded by Spurgeon, members of his church, and students at his Pastor’s College. There were over 40 of these in London alone.

May God send a mighty revival of evangelism and church planting in the USA!

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

Is Sin a Little Thing?

Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison? Who knows its deadliness? Sin, a little thing? Do not the little foxes spoil the grapes? Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock which wrecks a navy? Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual droppings wear away stones? Sin, a little thing? It girded the Redeemer’s head with thorns, and pierced his heart! It made him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe. Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil. C.H. Spurgeon