THE ELEPHANT IN THE FRONT ROOM


Editorial
The Elephant in the Front Room
By H. L. Wilkinson

A good brother & preacher, I’m sure, recently hit the nail on the
head when he said NOT using the name “Baptist” to describe our churches
is a “tough, divisive issue that really is an elephant sitting in the room of our
Association.” True, many don’t want to talk about this subject. But we must
if we care to maintain any unity whatsoever in our fellowship. The elephant
has been sitting there awhile & he is not going away on his own, if at all
before more damage is done to our fellowship..

The Name Baptist in Scripture. Baptist is more than a brand name
like Coke or Pepsi. It is a heritage received from God: “There was a man
sent from God, whose name was John” (John 1:6). The Holy Spirit chose to
use “Baptist” at least fourteen times in the New Testament with reference to
John. He was a giant, who is referred to more in the Old Testament than to
any figure who would later appear in the New Dispensation other than to
Christ himself (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 4:5, 6). Jesus said: “Verily I say unto
you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater
than John the Baptist: notwithstanding He that is LEAST (microteros =
later) in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he,” (Matthew 11:11). Jesus
was born approximately six months after John the Baptist. So, Jesus Christ
was the only man in history, who was greater than the Baptist!

Many have forgotten about John. This Baptist preacher immersed
Jesus in the Jordan River. And he also baptized the first twelve disciples,
because when a successor to Judas Iscariot was chosen, it was required that
he be “from the baptism of John,” (Acts 1:21, 22). So, a preacher called “the
Baptist” baptized not only the Lord, but also he provided the core material
which the Lord Jesus Christ built the FIRST Baptist Church. So, the Holy
Spirit actually “painted” Baptist on its SIGN, which is any “mark or symbol
having a specific meaning.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

The Name Baptist in History. Dr. W. A. Criswell, pastor of First
Baptist Church in Dallas, TX, then the largest Baptist church in the world,
wrote me Aug. 23, 1995: “I am persuaded that the church Christ built & said
would endure to the end is the church to which you & I belong & to whom
we minister. There is no possibility that that church of the Baptist faith &
commitment ever died. It was alive yesterday; it is alive today; & it will be
alive to the end of the age.” (See especially Matthew 16:18. I also suggest you
read a scanned copy of this entire letter below. It may surprise you.)

Of course, Dr. Criswell was writing of the Anabaptists, a GENERIC
name, that the Roman Catholic Church applied to a variety of groups
(Paulicians, Waldenses, Albigenses, Donatists, etc) denominated “heretics”
since they refused to recognize Catholic baptisms. Later, these Anabaptists
became known as Baptists. But
we had been called this for many
centuries beforehand. And millions
of our forefathers shed their blood
in Europe, North Africa, Turkey,
Armenia, etc. And later they were
whipped & jailed in colonial America for “the faith once delivered
unto the saints,” (Jude 3).

A strong PARALLEL is
still seen today in the Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. A
man in Murfreesboro once told
me his elderly mother-in-law was
a Holocaust survivor. And she had
the infamous prison identification
numbers tattooed on her shoulder!
How much do you think it would
have taken to have bribed this Jew-
ish lady into having these numbers
removed?
Of course, I don’t really
know, but I doubt if all the banks in
Murfreesboro, TN, would have had
enough cash in them to get her to
do this! This was a bloody sign of
her Jewish heritage, identity. And
so is the name “Baptist” we have
inherited from our forefathers!

Our Name in this New
Millennium? It really seems things
started to change in our work &
elsewhere about twelve years ago.
Do you remember the Y2K scare?
All the computers were going to
lock up at midnight, Dec. 31, 1999.
No one was going to be able to get
water, because they used computers
to control the water supply. The
electricity was going to go off &
many bought generators. Then two
jets hit the Twin Towers in New
York, another the Pentagon & a
third crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Alan Jackson wrote, sang:
“Where Were You When the World
Stopped Turning?”

By this time a new breed of
Baptist preacher had arisen who
knew Rick Warren but not J. R.
Graves. Soon Baptist signs started
to come down where they had been
standing proudly for decades in
places like Smyrna, Franklin, TN &
far beyond. And in the American
Baptist Association, the time proven ideas, methods of Ben Bogard, L.
D. Foreman, Paul Goodwin, Albert
Garner, Roy Reed, I. K. Cross, L. L.
Clover & A. J. Kirkland began to
be courteously, quickly “bowed to,“
but considered “old hat.” And, now
some in our fellowship started leaving the name Baptist off their signs
or more & more de-emphasizing it.
And why? To paraphrase one very
good brother: “We have about TEN
SECONDS to get people’s attention on the church sign or web site
before they go elsewhere.” And still
another: “The name ‘Baptist’ really
turns people off!”

However, a similar “argument” was undoubtedly made back
in the 1950’s by some budding TV
evangelists when Zenith Corporation invented the first remote control called “Lazy Bones.” Now, don’t
get me wrong. I’m not a Five Point
Calvinist, but it seems to me that
most of these “prospects” are just
plain lazy if they are willing only to
give God about “ten seconds.” They
surely can’t say: “I THOUGHT ON
MY WAYS & turned my feet unto
Thy testimonies,” (Psalm 119:67).
And especially one must question
if such “10-second seekers”
really have a divine appointment
with God anything like what the
Ethiopian Eunuch had when he was
saved (Acts 8:27-39). Moreover, we
need to ask ourselves: “Is someone
seeking the True Light or just
looking for Christianity-Lite in
a place that will reaffirm their ill
conclusions?” ( John 1:6-9; Luke
13:3, 5)

Conclusion: “There is
no new thing under the sun,”
(Ecclesiastes 1:9.) In every century
the essential issues of life & death
always remain the same. The world
is still turning even as it was when
Paul & Silas came to Athens &
some complained: “These that have
turned the world upside down are
come hither also,” (Acts 17:6).

The Lord’s churches are
already making an impact around
the world. And we can still turn this
world upside down! But the real
key to success in the fields white
unto the harvest is not so much
found in new technology as plain
old hard work, prayer, preaching
& teaching the Word of God. And
especially like Jesus, we must be
kind to all, show God’s love (1 Cor.
13:1-13)

Now,
just for the record, YES, I do pray
for those with whom I disagree
on this issue. I hope they succeed
in winning many souls to Jesus. I
“forbid [them] not” (Luke 9:49-50)
even as I also pray for my Methodist,
Nazarene, Pentecostal, Presbyterian
& all brethren in Christ to do the
same!

Again, YES the Internet &
other technology have tremendous potential! They should be used
to maximum advantage! But all
that twitters is not gold. And there
is absolutely NO EXCUSE for
throwing The Baptist Flag & much
else we hold dear into the ditch in
an attempt to reach those who have
less attention span than a mosquito.

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