If it weren’t hard enough to reach people with the Gospel message in our day, we often do the most exasperating things to complicate it. While I suppose every Christian group could conceivably falter here, I must relate what I have seen among Independent Baptists time and again. Worse than zeal without knowledge, it is zeal without understanding or integrity. We see it in both churches and colleges. Before I define or analyze, please allow me to simply describe cases of it.
Perhaps you have seen the interaction between two Independent Baptist churches in the same area. It is not always a mutual admiration society! In some cases, one church will actively attempt to lure members away from the other. Sometimes more energy is expended here than going after unchurched folks. Trumped up charges of the other church being more liberal is often thrown out, though differences in a few standards is the only noticeable difference. If you overheard either of them presenting the Gospel, it would really sound the same. Many feel this is perfectly legitimate.
Sometimes the same type of shenanigans appear in soliciting students to Bible college. In some cases it is not actually the college staff doing it, but some rouge supporters. Of course colleges must pursue young folks to come, but the issue is when we do it at the expense of other similar colleges. I have seen some colleges at its meetings allow other colleges to have a booth set up, and that is commendable, but that is not always the case.
Again, there are cases where the school is labeled so liberal that dishonesty is in play. It is ridiculous to paint something so similar as something so different. Every Bible college in the Independent Baptist world has more in common with each other than any other school outside of it. Majors or classes offered are a fair point of discussion, but to attack on minor issues is again a smokescreen for petty marketing. I once heard of a college staff member tell a pastor that he should come to their conference instead of another because it was the real deal. The other one wasn’t according to the staff member. In these type cases, urban legends of faults, like they aren’t really for soulwinning, etc., are passed around like bread. Sadly, it is rather moldy.
We so often lose sight of the big picture. What is our goal? Is it not to carry out the Great Commission and disciple believers and form local churches? My question is simple–are we pursuing the goal when we proselytize others who believe as we do? I think we all know the answer to that question.
It goes back to a concept I heard in business school years ago–the cannibalization of sales. It is bad business to come up with a product that steals from a current product in order to be successful. That is why the Coca-cola Company after creating the product Coca-Cola would not create and market another similar product, though they would create and market Diet Coke or Sprite. You might create Mello Yellow to compete with Mountain Dew, but after making Sprite you wouldn’t create and market another lemon-lime drink. See how it works?
We are giving the Gospel. You could argue that, in crude terms, we are marketing the Independent Baptist brand. In bottom-line language, we add nothing when we take from other Independent Baptist churches or schools. The only way that could be so were if our church or school were all that is important. I pray we are not so jaded as to think that! It is the Name of Jesus that is the big picture; there are so many that do not know Him that it is trivial at best, and criminal at worst, to give our lives to just repositioning what He already has. May God help us get on the right track and put a stop to this cannibalization within our ranks.
Find all articles in the series here.