Monday, April 18, 2016

Analysis: Online Video Plan of Salvation - Is It the Gospel?

Nothing in scripture disputes using video online to give the gospel, as biblical teaching allows for a microphone or a movable type printing press.  These are circumstances, like a hymnbook, which aid in something regulated by God's Word -- singing hymns.  I'm not criticizing the tool here, unless the natural circumstances themselves were contradicted by the Bible, such as the oxcart that carried the ark.  God had regulated that tool.  I'm asking that we keep the focus on the substance and style of the following video, especially evaluating its veracity.  I'm writing something here online on the internet on a blog, which is of a different nature than a video, but let us not digress here.

In recent days, I have noticed the presence of Kurt Skelly among independent Baptists.  Someone told me he believed in "lordship salvation."  I never investigated, but I saw his name on a recent conference roster advertised here in California, as a keynote speaker, so I decided to google "lordship salvation" and "Kurt Skelly" and I got nothing.  That wouldn't mean, I thought, that he didn't believe lordship salvation, although I would have expected someone at least reporting it, if he did.  That might be news.  Only one link came from that search parameter, and it was a five minute video presentation of the plan of salvation by someone other than Skelly, but I clicked on it anyway.  When I did, in the sidebar was a twenty minute video plan of salvation from Kurt Skelly, so I watched it to find out what he preached.  If he did believe in lordship salvation, I would surely hear it in that presentation.

His does not teach lordship salvation.  What he does preach is typical for independent Baptists though. I don't know Kurt Skelly, never met or talked to him, so there's nothing personal -- not at all. However, I will still judge his presentation to see if it is in fact the gospel.  Some have said he preaches and practices close to what unaffiliated Baptists do.

Men should prove all things.  It is loving to point out doctrinal error.  Nothing is more important to each of us than the gospel. We can be saved only through the gospel, but it must be the one and only, actual gospel.  Skelly says in his introduction that this is the message his church believes and teaches for salvation.  I have found that commonly churches, even though they might give some truth, don't preach a biblical gospel.  They mess it up.  It might be a message that has "worked" for them, but it falls short, often far short, of the gospel.

As Skelly begins, he reminds his audience of the new building and of the many people who have come to visit.  This doesn't have anything to do with salvation.  Scripture does regulate the methods (not the tools) God's people should use.  Jesus or the apostles didn't function like this.  That's as picky as I'll get.  The attraction for a church shouldn't be a building or that lots of other people are visiting too, a bandwagon type of propaganda.

Behind his presentation, for what one can say is only for dramatic purposes, Skelly uses music, an easily listening type of elevator music.  Music is again no scriptural means for propagation of the gospel, and especially the music he uses.  It contradicts biblical preaching.  The gospel isn't an emotional appeal, arousing someone by means of music.  Nowhere is that a method in scripture.  God authorizes preaching alone -- the sheer gospel.  The gospel really is good enough on its own.  Adding to it says that you don't believe that.  The additives don't help, and that would include the breathy-voiced, scrunched face communication style too.  They take away.  They turn this into a human enabled endeavor.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

Skelly starts (up to the 3 1/2 minute mark) with every man being a sinner, admitting he's a sinner and he needs help.  That is good. In preaching the gospel, every person should hear he's a sinner.  Of the thousands of people to whom I've preached the gospel, I've had only four people ever tell me they had never sinned.  I haven't found people won't admit they are sinners.  Over ninety percent of people will still say they are good people, even though they know they are sinners.

Point number two for Skelly is the penalty of sin (up to the 9 minute mark).  He quotes Romans 6:23 and puts some time in defining what "wage" means.  That's all fine.  He talks about death, going back to Adam in the garden.  That's OK too.  He says Adam died spiritually when he sinned, and he quotes from Ephesians 2 to say that man dies spiritually because of sin.  Again, good.  He then references Revelation 20 and 21 and says that after men die physically, they die spiritually by going to the lake of fire.  Actually they are already dead spiritually, and they go to hell when they die physically because they have died in their sins.  Spiritual death results in physical death, which results in eternal death.  When men go to the lake of fire, they are physically, not spiritually, cast in.  He is wrong with this statement and it's confusing.  Spiritual death is not when lost people are thrown into the lake of fire.

Skelly attempts to explain why a loving God sends people to Hell.  He says, quote, "It is not God who sends people to Hell."  Of course, that isn't true.  God does send people to Hell, because He is a just God and men deserve it.  Skelly says men go to Hell for breaking "the law of sin and death," just like a pen drops to the ground because of the law of gravity.   Someone might be able to argue that, but the Bible itself doesn't talk about a particular "law of sin and death."  The Apostle Paul spends the first three chapters of Romans justifying God's wrath against sinners.  People hearing the gospel are going to have to be fine with hearing that, or they just don't see themselves as bad as they really are.

Skelly's third point is that the "gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (up to the 14 minute mark).  He says that the gift is offered freely with no strings attached.  He says that "the gift of salvation is the gift of eternal life offered through Jesus Christ our Lord."   He takes some time here explaining that Jesus died for us, that is, in our place, a substitutionary death, quoting Romans 5:8.  He also quotes and briefly talks about 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Then he also brings in the resurrection, saying that it showed that everything Jesus said was true and that the resurrection was "the exclamation point on everything that Jesus ever did."

Next, Skelly reviews his three points, saying that by dying for men, Jesus purchased their salvations. At about the 15 1/2 minute mark, he first talks about belief by speaking for someone in the audience in saying about the message he's given, "Pastor Skelly, I believe that."  Then again speaking for an individual person in the audience, he says, "Maybe even now, the Holy Spirit of God is speaking to you on the inside of your life and saying, 'You know, that's the decision I need to make...I need to make a decision to trust in Jesus Christ as my personal Savior."

Skelly goes on, "The Bible calls that being born again."  Then he gives an explanation of new birth, that someone must be born spiritually, like another birthday.  He says, "That's imperative...the second birth....trusting Christ as your personal Savior."  Going further, Skelly says that if "you haven't trusted Christ as your personal Savior, then the Bible has a promise for you," and he quotes Romans 10:13, "one of his favorite verse in all of the Bible."  He says, "Listen my friends, I know it sounds simple, but the simple fact of the matter is this:  it was anything but simple for the Lord -- He died an awful death for you and me."  Then, "Salvation isn't free to the Lord -- He paid an awful price -- but it is free to you and me."

At about the 18 minute mark, Skelly says, "He offers it (eternal life) as a free gift, almost as if I took this Bible, and said, 'I want to offer this to you as a free gift.'  What you must do is simply reach out and take it.  You say, 'Pastor Skelly, how do I reach out and take salvation?  By doing what the Bible said -- call upon the name of the Lord.  If you want to be saved right there at the computer screen (etc.)....why don't you make the decision right now to pray a simple prayer like this?  'Dear Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner.  I know that I've done many things to fail you and I'm sorry for my sins.  I'm asking you right now to come into my life and to become my personal Lord and Savior.  I'm trusting in you and you alone to take me to heaven when I die.  Please Lord Jesus, come into my life and save my soul.'"  He continues:  "Listen, if you've prayed that prayer, the Bible promises you this, For whoseover shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Skelly says that if you do what he said, then eternal life can never be taken from you, and that's about it.  People can't lose their salvation, but I wouldn't want people to think they would always have eternal life just because they prayed that prayer.  That is giving someone false assurance.

Salvation in this presentation, the gospel, comes down to praying a prayer.  This really is 1-2-3 pray-with-me.

I recognize that this is a 20 minute presentation, and you can't get everything done like you want in 20 minutes.  I don't think youtube stops people from doing more than 20 minutes.  However, there are necessary components for the gospel and Skelly doesn't mention them.  Some he does, but he messes those up.  I believe someone could give all the necessary components to the gospel in less than 20 minutes without a full explanation, so that's not the real problem for and with Skelly here.  To Skelly, salvation is a free gift which you get by praying the prayer that he prayed.  What is he missing?

Skelly does not mention repentance one time -- not once.  It is obvious that he doesn't believe that repentance is necessary to be saved.  You just receive the gift, pray the prayer.  He doesn't talk about who Jesus is.  He doesn't even talk about "believing."  He says, "Trust," which is one aspect of "belief," but no one would know that.  He uses the word, Lord, but it's all about Jesus as Savior and not anything about Him being Lord, even though Romans 10:13 does say, "Call upon the name of the Lord."

What Skelly teaches here is not the gospel.  It had some of the parts to the gospel, but it leaves too much out and botches other parts of it to be called, "the gospel."  The resurrection, for instance, isn't just about proving that everything that Jesus said was true.  Even if someone did believe that everything that Jesus said was true, he should at least tell people the truth that Jesus said.

John wrote the gospel of John so that people would believe that Jesus is the Christ.  That is the point to the whole book of John.  Someone receives life when he believes that Jesus is the Christ.  To believe Jesus is the Christ, someone needs to know what it is to believe and then who Christ is.  No one would understand that Jesus is the Christ after hearing what Skelly said.  He would have no idea who the Christ is.

I believe Skelly likes his "plan of salvation."  He likes the smoothness of it.  He likes how people like what he says.  I don't believe he likes the gospel.  I believe he's turned off by the actual gospel, which is why he leaves parts out, the parts that won't work for him, and that he thinks will ruin his presentation.  Either that, or he just doesn't know what he's talking about.  The latter is a more merciful analysis than the former.  Maybe it is some combination of purposeful and ignorant deceit.

I understand why Skelly might have a big group (church).  It doesn't surprise me.  I also understand why he is popular among independent Baptists.  He has succeeded by keeping it real, being authentic, knowing these secrets to success.  Others want what he gets out of that.  It's sad.

I can tell you that what Skelly does here, I hate this stuff, the whole method, the manipulation that it is and represents.  I don't want anything to do with it.  Skelly perverts the gospel of Christ.  Does he preach another gospel than what Jesus and Paul preached?  I believe he does.  Neither do I want anything to do with those who would have anything to do with what Skelly is doing here.  Do not promote him or men like him!!

Choose you this day whom you will serve.


Tyler Robbins said...

Excellent comments.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks. I'm afraid it's been turned into a game that is played. It has components of the real thing, but on many important, vital, necessary features, it is fiction. People need to know it and call it out.

Tyler Robbins said...

How on earth can somebody think repentance is not part of the Gospel? How on earth could somebody think that unbelievers shouldn't be told Jesus is Lord? Peter told Cornelius and his household this before they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:36)!

Several years ago, I sat through a presentation by a missionary at another church. The man gave a fiery Gospel message. The Pastor of the church (a friend of mine) was excited about the man, and afterwards asked me what I thought about him.

"He never mentioned repentance once," I said. "I don't like him."

The Pastor was obviously taken aback and irritated with me. "Well, I'm sure that was implied," he offered.

I don't think it was implied. I think that missionary didn't believe repentance was part of the Gospel. I can't imagine what would convince a man of that! Astounding!

Kent Brandenburg said...

I wonder if someone could go to hell because of this, actually we watch him get tossed in, and then the concern is, you hurt the preacher's feelings. I'm sure he's a nice guy. Gotta be. Chances are he's spectacularly nice. People obviously like him. Maybe this is what he thinks or what has worked, but it can't be the same as something with Lord and repentance in it. Even "believe" was too much for him. This shouldn't be controversial.

Your scenario shows the lack of discernment. People are frozen. They don't know what to say. They are afraid to say it. Say it, like you have.


James Bronsveld said...

Forgive the lengthy quote...

Spurgeon correctly wrote, “Repentance is an old-fashioned word, not much used by modern revivalists. 'Oh!' said a minister to me, one day, 'it only means a change of mind.' This was thought to be a profound observation. 'Only a change of mind'; but what a change! A change of mind with regard to everything! Instead of saying, 'It is only a change of mind,' it seems to me more truthful to say it is a great and deep change—even a change of the mind itself. . . . True conversion is in all men attended by a sense of sin, which we have spoken of under the head of conviction; by a sorrow for sin, or holy grief at having committed it; by a hatred of sin, which proves that its dominion is ended; and by a practical turning from sin, which shows that the life within the soul is operating upon the life without.”

Those who are aware of the importance of repentance mention it. Those who are not aware of it, will not mention it, and should not be evangelizing. The third group, made up of those who are aware but deliberately omit it, are in an entirely different group...wolves who must be kept out of the sheepfold.

And what does the last part of II Pet. 3:9 mean? ("that all should come to repentance" - εἰς μετάνοιαν χωρῆσαι) If I'm not mistaken, χωρέω has the idea of giving place or yielding. Sounds like repentance is the state of being/dwelling place for the truly converted sinner.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm totally with you, agree, and thanks. It is refreshing.

Brendon Dunn said...

Thank you Kent for taking the time to produce this critique.

I found the whole "Salvation Message" thoroughly nauseating. It also came across quite effeminate, due in part to the sappy music (it was "As the Deer" - a typically shallow, cliché-ridden piece of doggerel that presents Jesus as the singer's boyfriend). Skelly's performance is representative of the emasculated version of Christianity that dominates our day.

Notice how he attempted to soften the points about the sinful depravity of man and the punishment of hell by speaking very generally, using pronouns like "we", "us", and "they". Eg. "WE are sinners," and, "WE are on the road to the lake of fire." Not once does he say, "YOU have sinned." But, in contrast, when speaking about the good news, he switches to "you". Sinners might get offended if you tell them they are sinners, you know.

Skelly has been a keynote speaker at some of the big and influential IB churches here in Australia, and the majority of IB pastors here lap this junk up. The Hyles style of manipulative salesmanship, with no repentance, no lordship, and a repeat-after-me prayer to invite-Jesus-into-your-heart is so prevalent and has been for so long, that it is regarded as the Biblical method of evangelism.

Those who question or criticise such techniques as a perversion of the Gospel will be labelled as sowers of discord, negative, proud, judgmental, meddlers, majoring-on-minors, engaging in friendly fire, and ultimately as enemies of the Gospel.

Many pastors apparently think it is more important to remain in good standing with their pastor buddies than to defend a pure gospel.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Brendon Dunn,

I agree with everything you wrote. I'm sorry it's that way, but it will continue unabated if people don't say anything and then do something about it.


Farmer Brown said...

He does seem soft, and his presentation is soft. I suppose most men are soft in this society.

I see a real problem here being the use of an artificial finish line for being born again. Most salvation presentations end with a prayer of some sort, and then some kind of reassurance of the persons state. Often Romans 10:13 is cited for this.

This is never exemplified in the Bible. Peter never said to do this in Acts 2, 3, 4, 10, Stephen in Acts 6, 7, or Philip in Acts 8. Paul never calls for this either, and neither did Jesus. There was not a finish line.

Philip best shows this with the Eunuch when he questions the current condition of the Eunuch's heart. How can Philip know this man is born again? He can only know by what the Eunuch does next. Does he keep the commandments? Does he join an assembly? Does he continue? That is how you know, but it is not as tidy as a sincere prayer.

The "finish with a prayer" philosophy, even on the end of a good gospel presentation gives a false sense of security both for the evangelist and the proselyte. So many unbelievers cling to having prayed a prayer, and even good and earnest believers look to a faltering new convert and cling to that moment.

But that moment is an artificial finish line. The change is entirely internal, as is the process. We see this so clearly with Philip in Acts 8 and with Peter in Acts 10. The best and proper conclusion to an evangelizing effort is Philip's conclusion. Make sure they understand, ask if they believe, and then baptize them and move forward.

Anything else is a forced conclusion. This presentation, like so many others, creates a false finish line.

James Bronsveld said...

I hate to weigh in with another quote, but Farmer Brown's thoughts on a "false finish line" reminded me of something I read from Francis Wayland not that long ago. It's comforting to know that this issue was agitating even in his time. If you have the time, download and read his Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel (1864).

He goes through a lengthy but persuasive argument for the great need for expository preaching, then makes a point about how its lack produces, among other things, churches where people do not have a firm Scriptural foundation for their hope, and gives this damning example: "Do we not find some [in our churches] whose hope rests upon the fact of their supposed conversion some fifteen or twenty years since...?" That's right, the fact of their conversion. If there's any question that he's referring to some form of decisionism, all doubts vanish when he goes on to emphasize the importance of self-examination and piety. This issue (though possibly in different forms) was a problem in Wayland's day, and he identified strong doctrinal expository preaching as its antidote. As the post mentioned, we must give the "pure Gospel" and only the Gospel. If we believe the Word of God is quick and powerful, it doesn't need us to help it along with music or the addition and subtraction of any of its parts.

Unless, of course, we're looking for something other than the genuine Spirit-born conversion of wretched sinners.

Joe Cassada said...

Don't know the man, nor have I ever heard his preaching. But it is plainly obvious from this video that he most definitely does not believe in Lordship salvation. I'm not sure why anybody would think he does unless sometime, somewhere, he preached a sermon that sounded as if he did.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

I agree with your false finish line point.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree that there is a lack of exposition that results in this wrong understanding or a lack of biblical theology -- they aren't pulling their theology from the text, from exegesis, but from tradition.

Kent Brandenburg said...


People, it seems, and I've noticed this, will go way out of their way to hear something that want someone to say or believe. If he really believed lordship, there's no way he could leave this video up. He would do everything to remove it. He'd also have a lot of explaining to do to everyone for years he had been saying salvation was what he says it was.