Finney Friday: A Wise Minister Will Be Successful

Why Finney? Because he won.  Or, visiting the chicken-and-egg dilemma, because he saw something in his American audience that made him think his approach would work. So, whether he was a lasting influence or there is an enduring American psyche’, we see our current context through Finney.

Today we’ll learn that the preaching ministry has a goal, and that goal can be quantified.  So can wisdom.  Finney used “new measures” to gain converts,  so we’ll see how to skillfully use them at “anxious meetings.”  Hint: does a doctor write out a prescription before he meets his patient? And please don’t quote the Westminster Shorter Catechism when trying to win souls.  Did you know that Christ’s ministry was successful “given the circumstances”? We’ll also consider proper pastoral education – which should include instruction on the “laws of the mind” – and see that profanity once saved a soul.  And always remember: if a minister is successful, don’t find fault with God who made him successful.

Finney Lecture XI: A Wise Minister Will Be Successful

TEXT. –He that winneth souls is wise. –PROVERBS xi. 30.

I PREACHED last Friday evening from the same text, on the method of dealing with sinners by private Christians. My object at this time is to take up the more public means of grace, with particular reference to the DUTIES OF MINISTERS.

The object of the ministry is to get all the people to feel that the devil has no right to rule this world, but that they ought all to give themselves to God, and vote in the Lord Jesus Christ as the governor of the universe. Now what shall be done? What measures shall we take? Says one, “Be sure and have nothing that is new.” Strange! The object of our measures is to gain attention, and you must have something new. As sure as the effect of a measure becomes stereotyped, it ceases to gain attention, and then you must try something new. You need not make innovations in everything. But whenever the state of things is such that anything more is needed, it must be something new, otherwise it will fail. A minister should never introduce innovations that are not called for. If he does they will embarrass him. He cannot alter the Gospel; that remains the same. But new measures are necessary, from time to time, to awaken attention and bring the Gospel to bear upon the public mind. And then a minister ought to know how to introduce new things, so as to create the least possible resistance or reaction. Mankind are fond of form in religion. They love to have their religious duties stereotyped, so as to leave them at ease; and they are therefore inclined to resist any new movement designed to rouse them up to action and feeling. Hence it is all-important to introduce new things wisely, so as not to give needless occasion or apology for resistance.

…A minister once appointed an anxious meeting, and went to attend it, and instead of going round to the individuals, he began to ask them the catechism, “Wherein doth Christ execute the office of a priest?” About as much in point to a great many of their minds as anything else.

I know a minister who held an anxious meeting, and went to attend it with a written discourse which he had prepared for the occasion. Just as wise as it would be if a physician, going out to visit his patients, should sit down at leisure and write all the prescriptions before he had seen them. A minister needs to know the state of mind of the individuals, before he can know what truth will be proper and useful to administer. I say these things, not because I love to do it, but because truth, and the object before me, requires them to be said. And such instances as I have mentioned are by no means rare.

…1. This is plainly asserted in the text. “He that winneth souls is wise.” That is, if a man wins souls, he does skillfully adapt means to the end, which is, to exercise wisdom. He is the more wise, by how much the greater is the number of sinners that he saves. A blockhead may, indeed, now and then stumble on such truth or such a manner of exhibiting it, as to save a soul. It would be a wonder indeed if any minister did not sometimes have something in his sermons that would meet the case of some individual. But the amount of wisdom is to be decided, “other things being equal,” by the number of cases in which he is successful in converting sinners.

…3. Success in saving souls is evidence that a man understands the Gospel, and understands human nature, that he knows how to adapt means to his end, that he has common sense, and that he has that kind of tact, that practical discernment, to know how to get at people. And if his success is extensive, it shows that he knows how to deal with a great variety of characters, in a great variety of circumstances, who are yet all the enemies of God, and to bring them to Christ. To do this requires great wisdom. And the minister who does it shows that he is wise.
…OBJECTION.–There are many who feel an objection against this subject, arising out of the view they have taken of the ministry of Jesus Christ. They ask us, “What will you say about the ministry of Jesus Christ, was not he wise?” I answer, Yes, infinitely wise. But in regard to his alleged want of success in the conversion of sinners, you will observe the following things:

(1.) That his ministry was vastly more successful than is generally supposed. We read in one of the sacred writers, that after his resurrection and before his ascension “he was seen by above five hundred brethren at once.” If so many as five hundred brethren were found assembled together at one place, we see there must have been a vast number of them scattered over the country.

(2.) Another circumstance to be observed is, that his public ministry was very short, less than three years.

…Many ministers who have little or no success, are hiding themselves behind the ministry of Jesus Christ, as if he was an unsuccessful preacher. Whereas, in fact, he was eminently successful, considering the circumstances in which he labored.
…2. An unsuccessful minister may be pious as well as learned, and yet not wise. It is unfair to infer because a minister is unsuccessful, that therefore he is a hypocrite. There may be something defective in his education, or in his mode of viewing a subject, or of exhibiting it, or such a want of common sense, as will defeat his labors, and prevent his success in winning souls, while he himself may be saved–“yet so as by fire.”

…There is a grand defect in educating ministers. Education ought to be such, as to prepare young men for the peculiar work to which they are destined. But instead of this, they are educated for any thing else. The grand mistake is this. They direct the mind too much to irrelevant matters, which are not necessary to be attended to. In their courses of study, they carry the mind over too wide a field, which diverts their attention from the main thing, and so they get cold in religion, and when they get through, instead of being fitted for their work, they are unfitted for it. Under pretence of disciplining the mind, they in fact scatter the attention, so that when they come to their work, they are awkward, and know nothing how to take hold, or how to act, to win souls.

…Ministers should be educated to know what the Bible is, and what the human mind is, and know how to bring one to bear on the other. They should be brought into contact with mind, and made familiar with all the aspects of society. They should have the Bible in one hand, and the map of the human mind in the other, and know how to use the truth for the salvation of men.

…But when the blessing evidently follows the introduction of the measure itself, the proof is unanswerable, that the measure is wise. It is profane to say that such a measure will do more hurt than good. God knows about that. His object is, to do the greatest amount of good possible. And of course he will not add his blessing to a measure that will do more hurt than good. He may sometimes withhold his blessing from a measure that is calculated to do some good because it will be at the expense of a greater good. But he never will bless a pernicious proceeding. There is no such thing as deceiving God in the matter. He knows whether a given measure is, on the whole, wise, or not. He may bless a course of labours notwithstanding some unwise or injurious measures. But if he blesses the measure itself, it is rebuking God to pronounce it unwise. He who undertakes to do this, let him look to the matter.

10. It is evident that much fault has been found with measures, which have been pre-eminently and continually blessed of God for the promotion of revivals. We know it is said that the horrid oaths of a profane swearer have been the means of awakening another less hardened sinner. But this is a rare case. God does not usually make such a use of profanity. But if a measure is continually or usually blessed, let the man who thinks he is wiser than God, call it in question. TAKE CARE how you find fault with God!

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61 Responses to Finney Friday: A Wise Minister Will Be Successful

  1. mikelmann says:

    If you think this is all remote from current reformed circles, think again:

    PCA Teaching Elder Al Baker, who through the Southern New England Presbytery of the PCA, planted the Christ Community Presbyterian Church, West Hartford, resigned December 31 as Senior Pastor to begin two half-time positions in Birmingham, Alabama.

    … Baker – who has been an Associate Evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship (PEF) for the past 22 years – will give more time to promote a desire for revival and evangelistic outreach in local congregations throughout the broader Presbyterian family of churches and denominations.

    He plans to make several trips each year overseas for revival and evangelistic preaching. He also hopes to restore PEF’s emphasis on evangelistic and revival preaching in local churches which was prominent in the days of Bill Hill, Arnie Maves, Ben Wilkinson and so many other PEF evangelists.
    Believing that the American evangelical church is losing ground in our culture and must have a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he hopes to urge Presbyterian churches in particular to remember their great revival heritage, the combination of solid Reformed Theology, evangelistic passion, and the power of the Holy Spirit in conversion and sanctification.

    I’m not equating Reverend Baker with Mr. Finney, especially theologically (I know nothing about Rev. Baker). But revivalists have a core in common, don’t they? It would be interesting to know how his “measures” (techniques) compare with those of Second Great Awakening revivalists.

  2. dr p says:

    “…and the God that answereth by church growth, let him be God.”

  3. Zrim says:

    Quackery consists in pretention to an inward virtue or power, which is not possessed in fact, on the ground of mere show of the strength which such virtue or power is supposed to include. The self-styled physician, who without any knowledge of the human frame, undertakes to cure diseases by a sovereign panacea, in the shape of fluid, powder or pill is a quack; and there is no doubt abundance of quackery in the medical profession, under mere professional forms, where practice is conducted without any true professional insight or power. Such practice may at times seem eminently successful, and yet it is quackery notwithstanding. The same false show of power may, of course, come into view in every department of life. It makes up in fact a large part of the action and business of the world. Quack lawyers, quack statesmen, quack scholars, quack teachers, quack gentlemen, quacks in a word of every name and shape, meet us plentifully in every direction. We need not be surprised then to find the evil fully at home also in the sphere of religion. Indeed it might seem to be more at home here, than anywhere else. Here especially the heart of man, “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” has shown itself most ingenious in all ages, in substituting the shadow for the reality, the form for the substance, the outward for the inward.

    ..It is marvelous indeed how far this seems to be overlooked by the zealous advocates of the system of the New Measures in our own day. They propose to rouse the church from its dead formalism. And to do this effectively, they strike off from the old ways of worship, and bring in new and strange practices, that are adapted to excite attention. These naturally produce a theatrical effect, and this is taken at once for an evidence of waking life in the congregation. One measure, losing its power in proportion as it becomes familiar, leads to the introduction of another. A few years since a sermon was preached and published by a somewhat distinguished revivalist, in which the ground was openly taken that there must be a constant succession of new measures in the Church, to keep it alive and awake; since only in this way could we hope to counteract permanently the force of that spiritual gravitation, by which the minds of men are so prone continually to fall asleep in the sphere of religion. The philosophy this precisely, by which the Church of Rome, from the fourth Century downward, was actuated, in all her innovations. Her worship was designed to make up through the flesh what was wanting in the spirit. The friends of new measures affect to be more free than others from the authority of mere forms. They wish not to be fettered and cramped by ordinary methods. And yet none make more account in fact of forms. They discard old forms, only to trust more blindly in such as are new. Their methods are held to be all sufficient, for awakening sinners and effecting their conversion! They have no faith in ordinary pastoral ministrations, comparatively speaking; no faith in the Catechism. Converts made in this way are regarded with suspicion. But they have great faith in the Anxious Bench and its accompaniments. Old measures they hold to be in their very nature unfriendly to the spirit of revivals; they are the “letter that killeth.” But new measures “make alive.” And yet they are measures, when all is done; and it is only by losing sight of the inward power of truth, that any could be led to attach to them any such importance.

    J.W. Nevin, The Anxious Bench, Chapter Three, The Nature of Quackery and New Measures

  4. dr p says:

    @Zrim: great quote; a shame he went over to the Dark Side. I’ve been to charismaniacal services, and have endured CCW (contemptible – er, contemporary – Christian worship) and find both more lock-step and hide-bound by tradition (the American tradition of anti-traditionalism) than a Tridentine mass.

  5. John Yeazel says:

    Speaking of revival, Lily sent me this article about Piper’s “Christian Hedonism” from a Lutheran Pastor’s perspective. Since I classify Piper and his church as having revivalistic leanings and also have had some run ins with members of Pipers church, I gladly expose Christian Hedonism to this wonderfully humorous critique:

    I wish I had written it!!

  6. mikelmann says:

    “it came to my attention that now, not only were Calvinists sucking the joy out of being Christian, they were taking all the fun out of being a hedonist.”
    Funny stuff, JY. That’s a good read.

  7. John Yeazel says:


    Not all Calvinists suck the joy out of being a Christian- only some. And for the most part that is probably a caricature. The word caricature is getting a lot of exposure these days. Someone needs to write a good blog about that.

  8. dr p says:

    @JY: the article was spot on. ISTM the Piper crowd impinges its legalism on the doctrine of vocation; the revivalism is readily apparent.

  9. Richard says:

    One guy who has the Piper stuff nailed is Paul Helm–you should check out his blog, “Helm’s Deep.”

  10. RubeRad says:


    The chief end of man (here and now) is to glorify God and (at the last, when experiencing the vision of God) to enjoy him for ever. Here and now human life is to be dominated by glorifying God by what we think and do and feel, and endure, whatever the pain. Then, the Christian’s pilgrimage over, the faithful Christian will enjoy God when he shall be like him, seeing him as he is.

    It seems that Christian hedonism takes these two elements, the present Christian life and the life to come, and collapses them together.

    If I read Helm correctly, he is painting Piper as pushing a form of prosperity Gospel, or I guess better labeled “enjoyment Gospel”.

  11. John Yeazel says:

    I find it interesting to compare and contrast the critique of “Christian hedonism” from a local Lutheran pastor and a Reformed philosophical theologian. As far as I know, there is no such bird as a Lutheran philosophical theologian. Thus, the first question that comes to my mind is why is this so? There probably is such a bird but the Lutheran’s don’t make it a point to make that distinction among their peers. It seems to me that making that distinction puts one in a higher status group among the Reformed. Considering the problems that many philosophical types have caused amongst confessional theology one again wonders why is this so (the higher status that is).

    After reading Helm’s critique I think his main point was that “Christian hedonism” forces one into problematic realms when one reverts to self-examination before partaking of the Supper. If one examines himself with the category of how much satisfaction and pleasure one is finding in their walk with God one is examining himself wrongly. One should be examining oneself about what they believe and what they do, according to Helm.

    Compare this with the local Lutheran pastors main point and you see a vast difference among the Reformed and Lutherans. The Lutheran pastor makes the same point as Helm in regards to the problematic nature and “soul torture” Christian hedonism leads towards but does not find it necessary to break hedonism down into a form of calculus (huh?). You have to admit that the Reformed have a great propensity towards over scrutinization- or perhaps paralysis of analysis. And they also have a tendency to want to revert to self-examination far too often, in my humble estimation. The Lutherans would say you are too closely treading on pietistic ground and would cause the same “soul torture” as you are trying to avoid.

    For what it is worth, I thought the comparison between the critiques was interesting to note.

  12. John Yeazel says:

    And, I might add, after reading Helms critique, I was asking myself why Calvinists are bent on sucking all the joy out of the Christian life. I was left with a lighter load and “winds in my sails” after reading the Lutheran pastors critique but the load was put back on and the winds had lifted a bit after reading Helm. Even if it was lighter load than Christian hedonism.

  13. dr p says:

    @JY: you speak of Lutheranism as a monolith; were/are there no Lutherans of a pietistical bent? There are plenty of Reformed who eschew broad evangelical autoflagellation, whilst a number of ostensibly conservative Lutherans wmbrace CCW and vainly imagine that they can filter out pietism which accompanies it.

  14. John Yeazel says:

    dr p,

    There definitely are Lutherans of a pietistic bent- the ones I associate with are not; I make it a point to stay away from those who show any signs of pietism. Or, if I cannot stay away from them I limit my time with them as much as possible.

    I am bad with abbreviations and do not know what or who CCW is. Are you speaking of Walther?

  15. dr p says:

    @JY: CCW = contemporary Christian worship. You avoid Lutheran pietists like I avoid their Reformed kith and kin. Thus I can’t say that Reformed are more of less bitten by that bug than the Lutherans. As for taking fun out of life, Rev PT McCain could use a bucket of Preparation H and a power washer. Instead of bringing sect into this, can’t we just say that no group has cornered the nastiness, navel-gazing, meddling, innovating, power-grasping, party-pooper, or any other public nuisance market? Having been both in the Reformed and Lutheran worlds, I can’t support your contention.

  16. John Yeazel says:

    dr p,

    I know of Rev. McCain and would agree with your assessment of him. I was just poking fun at the caricaturization that Lutherans have of Calvinists knowing that those who frequent this site could handle it and would not take it personally. And I think the comparing and contrasting of the two critiques brings out the caricaturizations pretty clearly. So, there seems to be some truth in the caricaturizing- even if you cannot support my contention.

    You must have had some bad experiences in some Lutheran churches. So far I have not had any except my pastors wife does not seem to like me too much. He tells me not to worry about it though. It is beginning to bother me though.

  17. John Yeazel says:

    Too many though’s- I find myself doing that all the time though

  18. dr p says:

    @JY: I didn’t take your post personally, but rather wished to contrast it with my own experience – particularly as I distinguish between the truly Reformed vs the merely non-remonstrant (eg Piper). You’re right about my experiences in the LCMS, which have been nearly as dismal as those in NAPARC. Choosing between the two is sort of like standing chin-deep in a septic tank with someone standing over you ready to ralph, and wondering whether or not to duck.

  19. John Yeazel says:

    Now that was funny dr p- almost as funny as Eminem; that is my nickname for MikelMann who keeps changing his psuedonymn and who remains a mystery as to his occupation and real identity. Is he a climatologist, movie maker or rapper? Darryl Hart once told me MM was his agent.

  20. dr p says:

    @JY: the above are hardly mutually exclusive.

  21. mikelmann says:

    Yeazel, you’re surprisingly uncomfortable with mystery…

  22. mikelmann says:

    “Choosing between the two is sort of like standing chin-deep in a septic tank with someone standing over you ready to ralph, and wondering whether or not to duck.”

    And “drink ye all of it,” Dr. P? That’s quite a metaphor. Why so harsh?

  23. dr p says:

    @MM: I call it like I see it, and I thought it a good analogy for a discussion in an outhouse. I’ll ensue lively debate amidst a love of confession and history any day; I’ll eschew the churchy machinations, legerdemain, arrogance, parochialism, pretzel-logic, nyah-nyah ad hominems, respect of persons, etc, for I’m afraid I have reached my limit and my experience is my experience.

  24. RubeRad says:

    Wow, that’s quite an image — is that better or worse than what Tantalus had to endure?

  25. Zrim says:

    Ok, I have to say this as a reminder: the concept of the Outhouse is not to invite potty jokes. The concept has to do with how narrow confessionalism is to broad evangelicalism what an outhouse is to indoor plumbing.

  26. mikelmann says:

    DrP, do you believe in the church?

  27. dr p says:

    @RR: depends on what you find tempting.

  28. dr p says:

    @Zrim: don’t you have the analogy backwards?

  29. dr p says:

    @MM: church, yes; sect/theological boutique/synagogue of the libertines vs synagogue of the tent makers, no. Not that I’m planning to swim the Tiber or Bosporus (or even the Channel), but I’m starting to question whether every organisation that calls itself a church is one, and at what point one becomes or ceases to be one, true marks and all that.

  30. Zrim says:

    DP, re the analogy, I don’t follow. Have you read the About tab?

    Re the church, if you’re starting to question whether every organization that calls itself a church is one then remember that’s how Harold Camping got started.

  31. John Yeazel says:

    Not in regards to church life, sanctification, the Lord’s Supper etc. etc.- just in regards with occupations and real identities- I love messing with Calvinists almost as much as Calvinists love messing with Lutherans.

  32. John Yeazel says:

    I’m trying to make a link for the notorious dr p but it is not letting me. So, I guess I will just have to tell dr p to go to the web site new reformation press and listen to the video version of Rod Rosenbladt’s The Gospel for those Broken by the Church. Having had some very bad experiences in some evangelical churches I found listenting to the tape was helpful.

  33. dr p says:

    Yes, Zrim, I’ve read your various tabs, and generally like and agree with what I read; however, having actually “ridden the pine-box pony,” the plumbing and general ambiance of narrow confessionalism is so much more elegant than splinter-laden broad evangelicalism that I must wonder which party is really in the outhouse; see CS Lewis’ /The Last Battle/.

    I’m no Campingite, but neither do I feel obligated to recognise as a legitimate church every sect and schism, or take seriously their excommunicating others under the guise of concern for souls and ecclesial purity (those Westminster Presbyterians Who Put On Their Trousers Before Their Socks have lawlessly separated from the Associate Presbytery of Those Who Put On Their Socks Before Their Trousers). There is questioning every organisation a la Camping, vs selectively doing so by historically used criteria. You appear to be setting up a false dilemma. Your thoughts?

    @JYM: I will look for this video; I do like “Uncle Rod (as he was once known on White Horse Inn)” and can imagine him having a lot to say worth listening to.

  34. Zrim says:

    DP, I appreciate the apparent eschewing of pettiness and divisiveness, but isn’t that just part of any package comprised of sinners? I’m sensing quite a bit of impatience and intolerance with the human condition, and interestingly is a large part of what seems to animate the anti-institutionalism of the revivalism under examination here.

    But another human analogy is marriage. The way you talk sounds an awful lot like those who remain unmarried because they perceive what they assess as bad marriages. I get it, and on some days I REALLY get it, but don’t you think maybe that’s a big part of the point, namely that we are to endure our human failure for the sake of something greater? It seems to me that there is good reason for the marriage-church analogy in the Bible. Could it be that perfectionism is what lies behind institutional cynicism?

  35. dr p says:

    @Zrim: this past summer my wife and I celebrated 20 years of being two sinners (who produced four others) bound in the marriage covenant with our faults and foibles, so I think I get the analogy. Let’s press this, though: should one of us have habitually broken the 7th commandment without any sings of repentance, the offended party would, should remonstration fail to restore fidelity, have the right to a biblical divorce. We’re not talking burnt toast and habitually raised toilet seats here, but infidelity – which God abominates. Would such a divorce represent “perfectionism” or “institutional cynicism?” Hardly, and I think you know it.

    “And foidamore (as Bugs would say),” the marriage analogy is between Christ and HIs Church corporately, rather than between Christians and the Church (universal as well as particular) or Christ and individual believers…unless, of course, you’ve swallowed the bridal mysticism buncombe (which I pray you haven’t). I understand the covenant of church membership to cut both ways; ie member to body and body to member. No offence, but you as a church officer suggest I’m inordinately focused on the former whilst I as a mere pew-pilot might suggest you to be a bit too focused on the latter. In doing the work of the Kingdom, we have our duties and responsibilities to each other: I am to study the peace and purity of the church whilst supporting it with my time, talents, and wealth, and you are to provide godly oversight and example. If I fail to uphold my vows, you have every right – nay, the duty – to correct me in the manner you yourself would wish to be corrected; if you lord it over me, frustrate my desire for justice with blocked courts, and in other ways abuse your office to provoke me to wrath, don’t plan on spending my tithe. You don’t get to collect for services not rendered or abysmal workmanship; ie thou shalt not steal.

    You mistakenly identify the new measures with anti-institutionalism rather than recognising a power-grab for what it is; ie revivalists love institutionalism as long as its their flavour of it. How can I say this? “Because he won;” ie Finney et Cie played the game better and gained control of the institutions, leaving us to sit in the outhouse (from the human perspective).

    My wife and I endure each others’ sins and imperfections, but each of us expect fidelity from the other. Now, do I really sound like a functional Finneyite, or do I rather expect all parties to abide by the rules out of love and respect for each other? I’d ask for your thoughts, but I’m quite sure I’d get them regardless – it is, after all, your outhouse.

  36. dr p says:

    Erratum: should read “No offence, but you as a church officer suggest I’m inordinately focused on the latter whilst I as a mere pew-pilot might suggest you to be a bit too focused on the former.” Mea screwuppa.

  37. John Yeazel says:

    The point between you and Zrim is getting subtle and hard to discern in regards to the point that is trying to be made. Rosenbladt goes into the problem that the church can sometimes do great damage to people when they mistakingly add Law to the Gospel and make it sound like the Law is the Gospel or the Gospel is the Law. Some respond to this Gospel (which is really Law) with an inordinate amount of sadness and despair in their lives and just drop out thinking they can never make it with such high demands on their lives. Others turn angry and turn on anyone with any kind of religious belief. We can all think of examples of those who fit into each category. Rosenbladt first started speaking about this problem that a church which is not proclaiming and heralding the Gospel properly can cause when he was watching a 60 minutes episode about the death of comedian Sam Kinnison. Sam died in his brothers arms after an auto accident outside of Las Vegas and the 60 minutes reporter asked his brother if Sam had any religious belief since he was known for speaking harshly against the church. Sam’s brother quickly responded that Sam died a believer in Christ and that one could expect to see Sam in heaven but that Sam was not very fond of the Church because of what he found there. The point being when the Gospel is not proclaimed the way it is supposed to be proclaimed the church will be a breeding ground for things other than it is supposed to be. So, pew-pilots should be concerned about whether the Gospel is really being proclaimed in their churches. Rosenbladts exhortation was that the church should sympathize and empathize with those who have dropped out and those who are angry at the church because of the reasons for which have been stated. When the Gospel is not preached week in and week out the church curls up and dies and really becomes a breeding ground for Pharisees.

  38. John Yeazel says:

    I should say it becomes a breeding ground for Pharisees and pietists.

  39. John Yeazel says:

    BTW, this is exactly the thing that Finney did. He turned the Gospel into Law and Eli Whitney wrote an excellent book about the burned out district in upstate New York which was the legacy of the Finney revivals.

  40. Zrim says:

    DP, actually I am not an officer but an ordinary member. I’m trying to understand what would make someone so skeptical about the relationship of the individual to the church. From what I can tell it seems as though your personal experience has been less than ideal. Not to minimize that, but when one says he’s not sure whether every organization that calls itself a church is one it sounds like the default setting is going from ecclesiastical to individual. But from my Reformed perspective, a true church is where the three marks are evident, even when there are bad personal experiences going on. Contrariwise, there is no church where the marks are non-evident but good personal experiences are happening.

    And we simply disagree about the nature of revivalism. True enough, non-denominationalism is a form of denominationalism, but revivalists generally eschew confessional, sacramental and formal expressions of piety. I’m not persuaded that revivalism is merely a power-grab (that seems rather cynical as well). I think it’s more fundamental than that. It’s the privileging of experiential spirituality over creedal religion.

  41. dr p says:

    @JY: I watched the video and found it helpful, albeit not completely relevant due to the fact that I’m not an alumnus of Christianity. A dear friend who is a PCA minister had served in the Burned-over District and confirms your statements.

    @Zrim: we’re not communicating; ie I’m not sceptical “about the relationship of the individual to the church,” and don’t believe you to be pollyannish about it; our difference is over the nature of it. I suspect that we also differ over what is and is not a church vis-a-vis orders, apostolic succession, the three marks (one of which is not a lively coffee hour; your point is well taken), etc. Historical understanding would, economy aside, not recognise an independent home prayer and Bible study group that appoints good ol’ Clem as its pastor as a proper church; in fact, this is a frequent m.o. of revivalists. Does good ol’ Clem even have a table to fence? By what authority does he preach or administer the sacrament besides the just consent of the governed? What does his discipline mean? Is this a church, or merely a religious club or conventicle? Do they have any authority over their membership aside from that conveyed by voluntary association? On the more modern side, home church is an oxymoron, no?

    My first church having been AOG, I find your statement “privileging of experiential spirituality over creedal religion” interesting, as I see “experiential spirituality” to be the creed; ie my feelings trumps your intellect. They spell their beliefs out as clearly as we spell out ours; ours just happen to be checked against the sound exegesis of solid scholars whilst theirs are…well…not. If there’s no power grab, then, how did Finney win; ie what was the nature of the contest? From my reading it was sort of like what one sees when a parcel of Presbyterians naively establish a parent-controlled school in what they imagine to be the Batavian fashion (although minus the key element of membership subscription): non-Reformed parents start to send their kids, or may even be lured by downplaying Reformed creedalism (gotta pack ’em in to meet budget), eventually exceed 50% of the families, and then vote Westminster out. We should guard our creeds as jealously as they do theirs; go to such a church and see what opprobrium you bring down upon yourself when your hope is no longer built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Scripture Press.

  42. John Yeazel says:

    Finney and those like him usually win because our default settings are wired towards the Law (Phariseeism) and experiential religion (pietism). It is much tougher to persuade others of the counter-intuitive Gospel of grace (and I might add to treat with empathy and sympathy those broken reeds of the church who either no longer attend churches or are so pissed off at church that it makes it nearly impossible for them to benefit from Word or Sacrament ministry). The road to final acceptance takes much breaking down by the Law and the buliding back up again with the Gospel and Sacramental ministry. (it seems that Romans 7 is what the normal christian life is all about). And this is all accomplished in the less than perfect enviroment of the Church where simul iestus et peccator sinners attend. The Church should really be a hospital for those who know they are sick rather than a higher life victorious Christian living revival meeting where you go to get pumped up again like Hans and Frans. A good church should be a place where we can learn the scriptures indepthly and accurately, get our sins forgiven week in and week out through the Gospel and Sacraments and live in fellowship with others in a covenant of grace community.

  43. John Yeazel says:

    IN the covenant of grace community of the church one gets exhorted, encouraged and built up by the faith of the other believers in the community. It may also mean being sent to the woodshed on occasion but us Lutherans don’t resort to that as much as the Reformed seem to. I find woodshed ministry to be very problematic and hard to accomplish appropriately and properly since we all are sinners and could be sent to the woodshed more often than not. I was once sent to the woodshed at an evangelical church and it turned into an iquisition that ended up doing more harm than good. So, it takes a lot of wisdom to it properly with the intent being to restore the believer again to the covenant of grace community.

  44. John Yeazel says:

    dr p,

    I did not mean to imply that you were among the alumnus of Christianity. I did take a hiatus from the church for about 10 years after the inquisition at that evangelical church my family attended which ended up in a divorce from my wife of 15 years (along with 5 kids) and then having to travel back and forth from Chicago to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area every weekend to try to salvage my kids for the next 10 years. This made it difficult to become a member of a church again for those years.

    This makes me leery of those who have never been on the receiving end of the woodshed but want to spout off about the necessity of church discipline all the time. I have also been disciplined by my brother in our family business who is a flaming arminian and who has delusions of his own moral integrity. Those delusions have been broken down in recent years.

    It is my contention that if discipline had been applied appropriately and with wisdom both my marriage, family and job probably could have been slavaged and I would not be in the predicament I am in right now. But I have learned to accept what has happened with a higher purpose in mind. I feel as though I have served my time, so to speak, and am hoping for some restoration in my life soon.

  45. Zrim says:

    DP, I am sure we differ over what is and what is not a church. But what got my attention was your comment about starting to question whether every organization that calls itself a church is one. I could be over-reading, but it just sounded like you may have been suggesting that even those that have the marks (yes, I know we differ) are suspect.

    Re experiential versus creedal religion, again, I get your point that “everyone has a creed.” And that’s because we are creedal creatures by design, no matter how much we try to escape forms. But at the same time, and this is my point, there is a significant difference between those who employ creedal confession in their worship and those who employ personal testimonies. The former is an extrinsic faith, the latter an inward faith. Confessing the triune God is very different from experiencing Jesus in my heart. And it’s not just my point. Ask any revivalist to regularly endure Reformed worship and he can’t stomach it any more than we can stomach his, and that’s because he knows the difference between experiential and creedal spirituality.

  46. dr p says:

    @JY: amen to it all, although one hears little of the positive aspects of kirk government like visitation, solid preaching, and use of the table; there may be something to the return of auricular confession to the more conservative areas of the LCMS.

    On a related note, do you see the Christian counseling movement as a “new measure?” I caught a considerable amount of flak for suggesting so.

  47. dr p says:

    @Zrim: perhaps you over-read or, just as likely, I was not sufficiently clear; either way, the marks are the marks are the marks. As for the us vs them, I suggest a better divide to be between those who historically worship the God of history versus those who, like the Little Drummer Boy, sentimentally worship a God of sentimentality.. An historical understanding of testimony is that it was what you gave before Caesar’s assisting you to lose 20 lbs of ugly fat for not renouncing Christ, versus how lucky He must be to have you on His side. Rev Smith, although tongue in cheek, hit the nail on the head in his /How to Become a Bishop Without Being Religious/.

  48. dr p says:

    @JY: forgive me, a self-confessed techno-ninnie, for not having seen the first portion of your post; for I do not wish to appear to have blown you off. I thought my situation was bad, at least in the continuing consequences for all of us whilst the Babbitts, Holy Willies and Elmer Gantrys still get to play church with seeming impunity. DG you’ve found a confessionally sound and supportive church home. Consideer yourself added to prayers.

  49. John Yeazel says:

    I appreciate that dr p

  50. John Yeazel says:

    It seems to me that if Word and Sacrament ministry is being performed the way it should be and the Pastor is doing his job like he should be in the local congregation, then the saints who attend should be adequately equipped to meet all the trials and tribulations which they may meet in this life with the ability to overcome them all. God, through His Son and the Holy Spirit promises to be with us until He comes again at the end of this age.

    Intense Christian counseling is probably only necessary in severe mental disorders like Rod Rosenbladt made mention of in his teaching. For most people, Word and Sacrament ministry is sufficient for what ails us (namely, our guilt before a Holy God), although there may be times when we may need more specialized care.

    In regards to whether the Christian counseling movement could be considered a new measure, you would have to define what you mean by new and old measures more clearly because I have found that people have varying ideas about what those terms mean and entail. Zrim could probably answer you better on that issue than me.

  51. John Yeazel says:

    I should have said Zrim, MM, and RubeRade could answer you better than me because they are more involved with the Presby’s and OPCers.

  52. mikelmann says:

    I don’t see a lot in common between nouthetic counseling and new measures. New measures strike me as psychological and emotional manipulation to be “successful” with success equating to sudden converts. At its best, nouthetic counseling is the adaptation of biblical principles to aggravated problems of various kinds that do not seem to be otherwise resolved. It can be too exclusive and it can be overemphasized at the expense of the means of grace, but that’s its abuse rather than its essence.

  53. dr p says:

    @MM: what strikes me as innovative about CCM (Christian counseling movement) is the creation of a new office of Christian counselor, non-ordained and outside of divinely mandated kirk regimen hence unaccountable in any meaningful way. I’d agree with you if such counseling were restricted to clergy and deaconesses (real ones rather than female deacons). Presbyter might be priest writ large, but counselor appears to be wanton gospeller writ small.

  54. Zrim says:

    Mike may not see a lot in common between nouthetic counseling and new measures, but it does seem to me that those inclined toward new measures are also inclined toward nouthetic counseling. If nothing else, it may be that what attracts someone to both is the biblicism and pietism that inheres. Or, like the man once said, “it appears to suffer from a pietistic piety that runs roughshod over the regular ministry of pastors and elders who are ordained for the purpose of providing counsel, instruction, and exhortation…” So, DP, I think you’re sort of onto something.

  55. dr p says:

    @Zrim: great link, but let’s ramp it up a bit: as a generalist I often have to refer patients to specialists for care beyond my ken. Enter the schooled, degreed counselor, to whom parishioners/patients are now referred outside of the local church, not to a diocesan/presbyterial/classical officer, but to a freelancer. What we have now is a full-fledged “tyranny of the expert” situation. I’d be curious if any sort of statistical analysis can demonstrate a clear advantage of this sort of thing over the sympathetic pastoral ear – not that that would end the discussion, though.

  56. Zrim says:

    DP, I’m all for the wisdom of the generalist, but is the tyranny of the expertologist remedied by the pastoral jack of all trades? I’m skeptical.

  57. dr p says:

    @Zrim: I’m sceptical that the “expertologist” actually exists. Martin and Dierdre Bobgan wrote a series of books critical of CCM as well as secular psychology, concluding that the sympathetic ear had a slightly better track record than the diplomaed and certified. It’s one thing for me to consult a cardiologist; this is something different.

  58. dr p says:

    @Zrim: PS: maybe Rev Jack needs to delegate to his deacons more, particularly diaconal issues like budgets and property issues, so that he’ll have the time for his parishioners? Just a thought.

  59. Zrim says:

    DP, I’m confident that the sympathetic ear has a much better track record than it is commonly assumed. Still, I’ve always been flummoxed by the assumption that pastors are trained marriage counselors. My own suspicion is that at least part of this owes to the eeeevangelical tendency to marry popular psychology and religion. Plus, I think a healthy doctrine of limitations would be a good prescription, because sometimes even relationships are as serious as a heart attack and doctors of redemption do well to consult doctors of creation.

  60. dr p says:

    @Zrim: true enough, but I’m often flummoxed by claims of expertise sans demonstrable proof of same – see your Nevin quote. Sure, ministers (like all of us) have their limits, and it’s only an humble grasp of this that allows us to not constantly turn fender-benders into train wrecks, but I maintain (from reading and personal experience) that a distracted ministry that refers its relational problems to alleged experts should become undistracted, get to know its parishioners (people, not tithing units), eschew the corporate model of doing church, and make better use of the means of grace – then we can talk about what a particular pastor can and can’t manage.

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