I am not going to go out of my way to look for the worst possible examples. I'm going to be somewhat random about this to show the reality of the problem. Listen, I don't like churches using bad music and wearing immodest dress and allowing or even promoting worldly entertainment, but we're truly missing it if we can't be provoked by the widespread existence of an altered gospel. I'm going to look at a few high profile churches, but I decided to go to David Cloud's Way of Life church directory to reveal the magnitude of the problem. I will not know any of these people, so it won't be personal.
Starting with California, my state, I chose the first church one on the list, Hopewell Baptist Church in Alameda. Here's the section on salvation from the doctrinal statement:
We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose precious blood was shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-10; I Peter 1:18-19) and that in order to be saved, sinners must be born again; that the new birth is a new creation in Christ Jesus; that it is instantaneous and not a process.
Here's the last part of its "heaven" presentation:
4) We Can Be Forgiven Now
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” -Romans 10:13
If Jesus was willing to take you just as you are, wouldn’t you be willing to take Him, ‘just as He is’? If so, just ask Him now...
Please Make This Your Own Prayer
Dear Lord, I know I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. I believe you are the Son of God. You were killed, buried and rose again to pay the penalty of my sin. I now put my trust in You and accept You as my personal Saviour. Please come into my heart and save me. Take me to Heaven when I die. Help me to live for you, in Jesus' name, Amen.
I went to the next state, Colorado, and chose the first church, Elmwood Baptist Church, and it's section on "The Gospel":
HERE’S WHAT TO DO. Just simply respond to God’s offer!
Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
You can accept God’s gift right now!
Just by praying a simple prayer, admitting and agreeing with God that you’re a sinner, and asking Jesus Christ to take away your sin and be your personal Savior! That’s it! The Bible says so. . .
Romans 10:9-10 – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
God promises that if you will do this, He will save you and give you eternal life!
I moved on then to Connecticut where the first site was New Hope Baptist Church in Torrington, CT, where you'll read this in their doctrinal statement on sin and salvation:
We believe all men were born with an inherited sin nature received from our common ancestor, Adam. We believe that because of his nature, man is a sinner by choice, and he is totally incapable of reforming himself or ceasing from his sin by his own power. We believe the only hope of deliverance for man is a total change of mind (repentance) concerning his sinful condition and inability to change it, and a turning to Jesus Christ as the only Saviour. We believe that only through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the Cross can a man be delivered from his sin. We believe that all those who reject Jesus Christ as their Saviour are already condemned to an eternity in the Lake of Fire (Genesis 5:1-5; Acts 4:19; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:10-23; Romans 5:6-12; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-6; Revelation 20:11-14).
The same church has their gospel presentation under the tab "Jesus" and the title "Why Jesus Matters," and this is how it ends:
Going to Heaven isn’t about being good or religious. It’s about trusting Christ alone. Call out to Him, ask Him to come into your life, save you from sin, and give you His gift of eternal life. It’s the best decision you will ever make. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
If after reading this you accepted Jesus Christ, please let us know below! We would love to rejoice with you!
Cloud's site had only one church in Washington, DC, the next area or state, Northwest Baptist Church, and here's the last part of its plan of salvation:
God wants you to believe His Word and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
If you will . . .
. . . then, in simple faith believing, pray and ask God to forgive you of your sins and ask Jesus to save you from your sins by becoming your personal Savior. Simply pray a prayer like the following:
"Dear Lord, I know I am a sinner, and I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I ask you to forgive me of my sins, and I ask Jesus Christ to come into my heart and to save me from my sins. In Jesus' name. Amen."
If you received Jesus Christ as your Savior, please call or write us and let us know. We would like to be able to pray with you and to give you information to help you in your new life as a Christian.
I started with California, then went to Colorado, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia -- four random samples, picking the first church in each state on David Cloud's church directory. I'm not saying that Cloud would approve of these statements, just that I didn't go somewhere to search for something bad. Cloud has written a lot against easy-prayerism.
Here's how Paul Chappell ends the plan of salvation part of his website at Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College:
4 Believe and Receive Christ
In order to have a relationship with God and an eternal home in Heaven, we must stop trusting ourselves, our works, and our religions, and place our full trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sin and eternal life. In Roman 10:13 the Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is a promise directly from God that if you will pray to Him, confess that you are a sinner, ask Him to forgive your sins, and turn to Him alone to be your Saviour; He promises to save you and give you the free gift of eternal life. You can make that decision today by praying from your heart, something like this:
Dear God, I know that I am separated from you because of sin. I confess that in my sin, I cannot save myself. Right now, I turn to you alone to be my Saviour. I ask you to save me from the penalty of my sin, and I trust you to provide eternal life to me.
You'll never regret that decision! If you have just trusted Christ, we would love to know about your decision and give you a Bible and some other materials to help you learn more about that new relationship!
Here's what Jack Trieber says at North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara in their "Bible Way to Heaven" page:
We must believe in Jesus.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
To believe on Jesus Christ as Savior means to believe that He died for you, believe that He paid the price for your sin, and believe that He is the only way to Heaven. You can express your belief on Jesus by calling on Him in prayer.
Let us help you word a prayer. (Realize it's not mere words that save, but your faith in Jesus Christ.)
"Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that you died on the cross and paid the penalty for my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead three days later. I am placing my faith in you alone to forgive my sin and save me. Thank you for giving me eternal life, in Jesus' name, AMEN."
If you made a decision to trust Christ as Savior after reading this, we would like to know that we might pray for you and send you some more information.
R. B. Ouellette at First Baptist Church of Saginaw, MI ends his "Going to Heaven?" page with the following:
Will you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? Will you rely on Him and Him alone to forgive your sin and give you everlasting life in Heaven? If you will, say the following prayer to the Lord (remember, to do anything other than receiving Christ is to reject Him).
Say a prayer and trust Christ now“Lord, I admit that I am a sinner. I don’t deserve to go to Heaven. But I believe that you sent your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sin. I trust Him, and Him alone to forgive my sin, to become my Savior, and to take me to Heaven when I die. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
In John 6:37 Jesus says “…Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” If you sincerely accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He promises to let you into Heaven when you die. He promises that He will not under any circumstances (“in no wise”) cast you out. That’s the best news in the world!
The articles of faith of Pensacola Christian College on salvation read:
We believe that Christ’s blood, shed on Calvary, is the only Atonement for man’s sin (1 Pet. 1:18–19, 1 John 1:9, John 14:6). We believe that salvation is a free gift of God for “whosoever will”; it is by grace, through faith, plus nothing, and believers are eternally secure. Salvation is received only by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work. “Whosoever will” may come to Christ; God does not pre-elect persons to heaven or hell.
I'm just reporting here. I know there are places where you get an accurate gospel presentation, presenting a true gospel. However, it is a mish-mash out there, where one is indistinguishable from another, all mixing together. Those with a biblical presentation joining with those with a false or at least inadequate one.
What missing above? Repentance. Lordship. You don't get a sufficient understanding of Jesus Christ. Faith is less than saving faith. The plan is reduced to a prayer. Jesus is only Savior. They skip necessary parts to something less than salvation. Some do this out of ignorance and others on purpose. With the latter, they have a plan that produces more professions and greater "success." When I say ignorance, some of it is voluntary ignorance that turned into self-delusion. They've convinced themselves now that this is salvation. For many, so much false doctrine has spread for so many years, that it is now a different religion.
Should anyone be sending people to these churches where they don't understand or even know the gospel? Are these errors enough to separate? If someone pushes people toward these churches, even with a disclaimer, giving them some kind of approval, how serious is the gospel to someone? We've got to get more serious about the gospel, what it is and what we say that it is or what we will allow to be called the gospel.
You have stated here something that I have been greatly concerned about for years. Too many fundamentalists I know will condemn anyone who is evangelical (even if that evangelical gets the gospel right) but will bear any an all errors of those who wear the fundamentalist tag. Without a doubt it is the doctrine of the gospel itself that has run aground on the fundamentalist shores of big numbers, and yet those within fundamentalism who do understand and believe the gospel often say nothing about the error, and even more, continue to fellowship with those who are involved in this error. Many of these men practically condemn someone who believes in paedobaptism to hell as being among the worst of heretics, but give a pass to those who promote a "gospel" where Jesus is split into at least two parts, Savior and Lord, and that the Savior part may be believed on while the Lord part is still rebelled against. Many of these men condemn someone who is amillennial as a heretic, but freely fellowship and promote men who strip the gospel of repentance. Thanks for a much needed post. May the truths pointed out have a good impact on those who read it.
Most of these statements of faith, and "plans of salvation" are form templates. I looked at a bunch more from Cloud's directory. It's like they all sent away for the same generic template and posted it.
The wording is so similar in so many that I think you're right. People just copy each other. They're not very doctrinal usually, and what does that say for churches. I believe they are more pragmatic than biblical in most cases. I think you'd find most of them do terrible preaching too.
Dear Mr. Brandenburg, I thought I would share my story of using the directory to find a church in Arizona while visiting my parents. Newly married my wife and I wanted to be ready and find a good church to visit in the town. We used the directory to locate two churches both of which did not have a website. The second church we visited was for the evening service. The church professed to be a fundamental baptist church. During the worship service to meet those around us the pastor played rock music, later I found it to be Elvis Presley christmas music, either way it was ungodly music not worthy of worship. During the service a man entered the church and at which point the pastor changed the message to a more direct salvation message ending with a call for those to raise their hand who wanted to be saved or something to that effect, I don't remember the exact wording. The man raised his hand and as such the pastor asked those who would like to be saved to say a prayer and begin to say the prayer which those were to repeat either out loud or to themselves. After the pray-a-prayer of salvation the pastor had the man come-forward and introduced this man as a new christian and member of the universal church. During the whole service there was never a mention of repentance, turning from sin to the living God. Clearly this pastor was universal church, rock music and I would say anti-reptenance. It truly was a sad evening. The morning service church I had spent some time in as a child. This church is not anti-repentance but one who does highly promote pray-a-prayer salvation alter calls after the morning service. So my question If a person were to rebuild the church directory what is a clear way to vet the churches before listing them?
What church directory was this? I don't have one listed here. What you said, sadly, doesn't surprise me, but I'd be interested in the directory.
Your idea of starting a directory for such a situation as you talk about would take a lot of work, but might be worth it. I can't tell you of a strict church directory. What I do is look at almost every directory, or go google maps and start clicking and reading 4 or 5 spots on the doctrinal statement. I don't go many places anymore where I don't know of a good church, but people are going to do that, especially people in the military.
Mr Brandenburg, I believe it was Dr. Cloud's site. I did check today and both of those are not listed on the way of life directory, which is good. I did a quick google search for fundamental baptist church directories and was able to locate both churches. So I can't say precisely which one. Sad as it may sound I am not sure the labels fundamental and baptist are very useful in finding a good church--a starting place yes. As joke I told a friend we should call ourselves paleo baptists, ha, after a quick search that term was used too.
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