By Charles G. Goodall
Israel of old looked at the nations about them and said to God,, “Give us a king.” Brethren in recent years have looked at the denominations said to God, “Give us control” or “give us conversions.” Specifically, Crossroads and Boston have provided such attraction. Brethren, who should know better, have “picked and sorted” among the Crossroads strategies, and made the trek to Gainesville or Boston allegedly to find out “the good things” that they are doing.
It is categorically untrue and deceptive to say that Crossroads and Boston are doing a “lot of good things.” Jesus said of the false teachers of his day that “ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him two fold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15). Crossroads and Boston are wrong, wrong, wrong! They have the wrong system of evangelism and conversion(1), the wrong baptism, the wrong approach to the Scriptures, the wrong organization, and the wrong edification system.
Those in the Boston movement teach that “disciple’s baptism” is necessary for salvation.(2) Disciple’s baptism requires that one understand before he is baptized that he must foresee that he must undergo a program which will require him to be a “discipleship partner” for a “discipler. ” Gordon Ferguson, in the May 29 issue of the Boston Bulletin, said, “To baptize a person who has not made a decision to be a disciple (Boston style, CGG) is to baptize someone who does not understand repentance. . . Anyone who does not approach baptism with that understanding has been mistaught . . . Those who are offended by this teaching are for the most part those who are threatened by the possibility that they may not be Christians. ” Nothing could be more absurd and further from the truth. Baptism of the New Testament required none of the Boston “methodology.” “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16) were the instructions given Saul of Tarsus.
Boston teaches that they are obtaining a progressive revelation of God’s word.(3) They cite Philippians 3:15 as proof that God continues to reveal the truth to his followers. They maintain that “one church per city, every member evangelism, discipleship partners, training of ministers through discipling relationships, women leading women, church reconstructions, disciple’s baptism, and evangelists discipling elders” have been revealed to them by God in modem times. They prefer the motto, according to Ferguson, “Where the Bible speaks we are silent, where the Bible is silent we speak.”(4) The Bible, by contrast, teaches that we have been provided with every good work (2 Tim. 3:16) and that revelation has been given once and for all (Jude 3).
The Boston system, with its Romish arrangement of “pillar churches,” “reconstruction,” “zone leaders,” and “house church leaders,”(5) is a long way from the autonomous New Testament church with elders conducting the oversight (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28). Boston alleges, “The idea of a non-cooperative . . . separation from each other as congregations is absolutely non-Biblical . . . contrary to the purpose of God and sinful.”(6)
Boston methodology subjects a convert to a system that enslaves the new member in order to expedite his growth. The system was conceived in Catholicism and exploited in communism. While Jesus, as God, may well have ordered the lives of the disciples while they prepared to be apostles, one would be totally inept to produce any suggestions from him or the apostles that he wants us to do that, much less what Boston does, with men today. The methods they use violate one’s freedom in Christ as well as his free moral agency.
Someone says, “they are zealous, sincere, and courageous.” Paul said of those of a similar temperament, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:2-3).
The cold reality which my brethren who look with envy on Boston will not accept is that most people will not accept the truth. The disciples in effect asked Jesus near the end of his ministry, “Lord, is this all?” (Jn. 12:36-38) The lessons of “many be called, but few chosen” and “narrow” is the way to salvation and “broad” is the path to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14; 20:16) are echoed through almost every chapter of the Bible. The stark reality is that mass conversions are not to be expected and that when they do occur the methods of those with astounding results should be viewed with great scrutiny and care.
Brethren in various congregations, who have viewed the methodology of Boston with favor, have introduced what I call “friendship evangelism” and have reflected unfavorably on what they call the “common approach. ” The “common approach” they feet emphasizes too much the commandments, the church, the kingdom and the use of proof texts especially when it comes to baptism in conversion. They espouse instead a method that would forego such exposure. In their terminology they prefer to focus on love, the king, and spiritual experiences without seeing others as the ones who are wrong with God and as sinners who displease him. This “friendship evangelism” would forego or postpone exposure to the reality that Christ has promised to save only those uniquely in his body (Eph. 4:23). What the system does is hide the uniqueness of the church from the convert until what those who use the approach consider a more favorable time. The result is that a congregation is able to work with a much larger base of “converts” and apparently with much greater success than neighboring congregations.
Brethren, always ready to be “where it is happening” suddenly flock to be a part of the excitement. The problem is that there is no guarantee that those converted by such a system will remove themselves from influence and participation when they refuse to accept the uniqueness of the Lord’s people. Instead, from their perception of a brotherhood of saved on a much larger scale, they are in a position to wreck havoc on a congregation.
Boston and Crossroads are changing almost daily. Recently Crossroads in Gainesville refused “reconstruction” from Boston and have struck out on their own.(7) They still use the same ungodly methods they always have, they are just not in the Boston hierarchy.
In conclusion, we observe that the effect of using Boston methods is parallel to the effect of the social gospel appeal. We told our digressive brethren who tried to lure people with fried chicken and ice tea that the converts would be as cold as the chicken and weak as the tea. Brethren who try to lure people with a feather touch and a pitcher of warmth will find the converts as flighty as the feathers and as empty as the pitcher. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Conversions of the New Testament involved a radical immediate exposure to the truths of the gospel. The result was, “See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? “, “And now why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized,” and “. . the same hour of the night” he was taken to be baptized (Acts 8, 16, 22). Can we expect less in our day and time.
7. (Note: Original document did not include corresponding number within article). The Growing Local Church, church workbook, p.14.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 23, pp. 715-716
December 1, 1988