SWORD OF THE LORD OMITS REPENTANCE FROM SPURGEON SERMON (Friday Church News Notes, December 17, 2010, www.wayoflife.org firstname.lastname@example.org, 866-295-4143) - Recently I received the following e-mail from Jim Koenig: “Last night we watched your video ‘How to Avoid False Professions’ for the second time and the segment on repentance was even more enlightening this time around. Over the years we have noticed that the Sword of the Lord has shifted away from the doctrine of repentance and cunningly led their readers in that direction. A good example is the Charles Spurgeon sermon ‘Only Trust Him’ in the November 26, 2010 issue. They have left out what he said about repentance. The original sermon can be found at www.spurgeongems.org/sermons.htm (sermon #1635) and the omitted part is on page three of the sermon, the 6th full paragraph down. Years ago my wife and I graduated from the Sword Soul Winning Director’s College, taught personally by Bro. Smith, Bro. Norris Belcher, and the late Bro. Larry Staner. At no time, never, was the word ‘repent’ mentioned or implied during the three day course. I am not anti-Sword, but they are 100% wrong on repentance and have influenced thousands of young preachers to spread their one-two-three repeat after me prayers.” COMMENT BY BROTHER CLOUD: I could not agree more. The Sword of the Lord truly has a problem with repentance, and this is not a new thing. While the founder of the Sword, John R. Rice, taught that repentance is “a change of mind toward God and toward sin” and “to turn from your sin” (What Must I Do to Be Saved, 1940), Rice’s successor, Curtis Hutson, changed the biblical definition of repentance. He did this in his influential 1986 booklet Repentance: What Does the Bible Teach? Hutson denied that repentance means to turn from sin (p. 4), that repentance is sorrow for sin (p. 8), and that repentance means “a change of mind that leads to a change of action” (p. 16). He claimed that repentance simply is “to change one’s mind.” Hutson quoted Scripture that appears to support his position but he ignored the many Scriptures that plainly contradict it. He misquoted the writings of men like his predecessor John R. Rice and mixed in a heavy dose of human reasoning. (See our book Repentance and Soul Winning for documentation of this.) Under Hutson’s watch, the Sword also removed repentance from some of the hymns in the 1989 edition of the Soul Stirring Hymns. For example, the lyrics of “The Old Account Was Settled” were changed from “O sinner, seek the Lord, repent of your sin” to “O sinner, trust the Lord, be cleansed of all your sin.” (They also did this with the lyrics to “Almost” and “Give Me Thy Heart.”) I am thankful for many things that the Sword has stood for through the years, but the issue of repentance is not a light matter. The Sword has been at the forefront of the downgrading of this doctrine and of the promotion of the heretical practice of “Quick Prayerism” whereby psychological manipulation, human salesmanship, and an empty “sinner’s prayer” have too often replaced Holy Spirit conviction and miraculous regeneration. I refuse to join hands in ministry with men who are guilty of this serious error. (The Sword has also been at the forefront of exalting men far beyond scriptural bounds.)
Brother Smith’s reply to this report was an exercise in missing the point.
THE DANGER OF QUICK PRAYERISM
As I said in my article, I am thankful for many things the Sword has stood for through the years. I am thankful for helpful things that I learned from Sword publications as a young Christian in the early 1970s that helped me personally. But repentance and soul winning methodology is not a minor issue that can be treated as a “non-essential.”
The Independent Baptist churches that have adopted Quick Prayerism have produced millions of false professions. It is not uncommon that one percent and less of their “converts” demonstrate genuine salvation. There are many churches that can show only a handful of new creatures in Christ for every hundred or even thousand converts they claim. There is something extremely wrong about that picture. It is a great confusion.
For years I have observed the sad fruit of this technique: multitudes of false professions, confusion about salvation, indifference to biblical truth, agnosticism, reprobate living, failure to practice church discipline, and blasphemy against God. In many communities across the land a large percentage of the population has prayed a sinner’s prayer under the ministry of churches practicing quick prayerism. VAST NUMBERS OF THESE HAVE NEVER BEEN BORN AGAIN AND THEY ARE NOW ALMOST INOCULATED AGAINST BIBLICAL SALVATION. When challenged about their lifeless spiritual condition, they commonly reply, “I have done that,” meaning they have prayed a prayer and have been given assurance of eternal life. Since they were not told that God requires that they repent of their sin and idolatry, they are comfortable and self-assured that they have a ticket to Heaven. In fact, this soul winning package actually gives “assurance” to such people and often even provides them with a “spiritual birth certificate.”
Those who observe these things are made to think that salvation means little or nothing in relation to one’s manner of living.
I speak from extensive personal experience, beginning as a worker in Highland Park Baptist Church’s vast bus ministry and as a pastor of one of the Highland Park’s chapels in the mid-1970s, and as an Independent Baptist preacher and missionary ever since.
MY REPLY TO SHELTON SMITH’S CRITIQUE
I suspect that few of my readers are Sword of the Lord fans, but for the sake of those who might have read Brother Smith’s response I issue the following comments:
1. Brother Smith didn’t tell his readers exactly what article he was critiquing.
I suspect this is because he didn’t want them to read what I have actually written, and this will become clear as we examine the claims he tried to make.
2. Brother Smith made the point that I didn’t contact him before publishing my warning.
This has become a mantra within the Sword crowd’s good old boy network. They lightly dismiss “criticism” when it is issued publicly by a man who has not first discussed the matter with them. But when men publish materials publicly that influence thousands of people, that material needs to be critiqued in the same public forum. There was absolutely no need to contact the Sword on this particular issue, because their position on repentance is a matter of longstanding public record. Further, Shelton Smith did not contact me before criticizing my publication.
3. Brother Smith said, “he makes his charges that Dr. Hutson and I have a wrong view of repentance.”
In fact, I have never mentioned Shelton Smith in the context of repentance. My focus has been on Hutson and Hyles.
4. Brother Smith said that I said that the Sword has “influenced thousands of young preachers to spread their one-two-three repeat after me prayers.”
In fact, I didn’t say that. That was a statement made by Jim Koenig, a statement he made in the context of his own extensive experience. And I agree with his statement. Smith tried to dismiss Koenig in the eyes of his readers by describing him simply as a man “who worked in the Sword shipping department.” The more relevant piece of information is that Koenig graduated from the Sword Soul Winning Director’s College, taught personally by Smith, Norris Belcher, and Larry Staner. Why didn’t Smith tell his readers this important fact? Jim Koenig is right. The Sword has influenced thousands of preachers to spread the Quick Prayerism methodology. They have done this through their soul winning courses and through their uncritical association with the kings of Quick Prayerism. They can try to argue that Quick Prayerism is not wrong, but they cannot legitimately argue that they have not taught and promoted it. For decades they exalted and promoted the Grand Poobah of Quick Prayerism, Jack Hyles. We exposed his Quick Prayerism methodology in the report “Pentecost vs. Hylescost,” which was first published August 7, 1998.
I thank the Lord for men like Jim Koenig who are willing to speak out on issues that need to be aired publicly. This is as rare as hen’s teeth among Independent Baptists. I’m not talking about carnal gossip and cheap personal attack (which is the type of thing that is aimed toward me constantly). I’m talking about Bible-based reproof motivated by love for Christ and His truth. Of course, I know from sharp personal experience just how hard it is to speak out against error. Just in recent months, because of my warning about Lancaster Baptist Church’s CCM, I have called a Pharisee, a liar, a heretic, a hateful man lacking any Christian love, and the bully of the IB movement. It has been said that I am demon influenced, that my son abuses his family, that I lied about my credentials and didn’t graduate from Tennessee Temple, and that I have a “Cloud Complex.” Those slanderous personal attacks were not made against me by the supporters of Robert Schuller or Rick Warren, but by IB preachers and students at IB colleges.
5. Brother Smith says that Curtis Hutson didn’t change the doctrine of repentance.
This is simply nonsense, as I have documented many times. John R. Rice taught that repentance is “a change of mind toward God and toward sin” and “to turn from your sin” (What Must I Do to Be Saved, 1940), But Hutson plainly and boldly changed this definition of repentance. He did this in his influential 1986 booklet Repentance: What Does the Bible Teach? Hutson denied that repentance means to turn from sin (p. 4), denied that repentance is sorrow for sin (p. 8), and denied that repentance means “a change of mind that leads to a change of action” (p. 16). He claimed that repentance simply is “to change one’s mind.”
Brother Smith, bless his heart, is actually between a rock and a hard place in this matter, because if John Rice was right about repentance, then Curtis Hutson was dead wrong, and if Hutson was right, then Rice was dead wrong. To say that one or the other (or both) of these men is dead wrong doesn’t bother me one iota, because my faith is not in man and I don’t have any human heroes who are beyond biblical critique. My counsel to Brother Smith is to honor the divine Rock above all of his IB heroes and the Sword’s Good Old Boys Network and let the human chips fall where they will. When you do this, all other “rocks” aren’t very hard, and then you don’t place yourself in the terrible position in which you have to fudge the truth and become “Mr. Facing Both Ways.”
6. Brother Smith had the gall to say that I did not “make even one Scripture reference” in my warning about repentance.
The Friday News reports are brief little things that aren’t intended to replace the articles and books. I have no doubt that Bro. Smith knows that I have written many articles and a lengthy book on this subject (Repentance and Soul Winning, first published in 2000). The fact is that I have dealt with practically every reference to repentance in the whole Bible, and I have documented the doctrine of repentance among Baptists and others over many centuries. If Brother Smith didn’t know this, a ten second search of my web site using the handy little search engine would have demonstrated it. Or he could have contacted me before he wrote his piece.
7. Brother Smith says that it is a misstatement of the facts to say that Hutson “removed repentance from some of the hymns in the 1989 edition of the Soul-Stirring Songs and Hymns.”
In fact, this is the truth and I gave the evidence in the Friday News report itself -- evidence which Smith ignored. For example, the lyrics of “The Old Account Was Settled” were changed from “O sinner, seek the Lord, repent of your sin” to “O sinner, trust the Lord, be cleansed of all your sin.” (They also did this with the lyrics to “Almost” and “Give Me Thy Heart.”) The fact that the lyrics to hymns were changed in the 1989 Sword hymnal was brought to light in April 2000 by Pastor Tom Stastny, who was then pastor of Beaver Valley Baptist Church in Montrose, British Columbia. Brother Stastny published the issue to an e-mail list called Independent Baptists Canada,” after he had communicated directly with Shelton Smith. In a letter dated March 21, 2000, which was published in full in Bro. Stastny’s e-mail post, Smith said that he was addressing the matter of the changes in the 1989 Sword hymnal by producing a “brand new hymnal” and that it would “be our policy to use the original editions of the hymns.” He said, “if there is a doctrinal issue that we believe to be substantive, we will either eliminate that hymn or, if we change it, we will make a notation to indicate that it has been revised.” Smith further told Bro. Stastny, “I believe the people responsible were well intentioned, and it was an intent to produce scriptural integrity, but the way in which it was done left us suspect and vulnerable.”
8. Brother Smith says that he is a “full-voice opponent of what I call ‘sloppy soul winning.’”
That is an amazing statement, and I would love to believe it.
Here is my challenge to Brother Smith: Send me an article in which you have plainly warned about sloppy soul winning practices and have identified exactly what this means and also warning about prominent Independent Baptist preachers who are guilty of it. I will print that article and will gladly tell my readers that Shelton Smith, for one, is not guilty of promoting the culture of Quick Prayerism. While he is writing this article, Bro. Smith could have his secretary send me all of the similar articles he has published in the Sword of the Lord over the years. Posting that package of material shouldn’t require a great deal of postage.
Brother Smith said that he is opposed to “manipulating people, using tactics like vacuum cleaner salesmen.” He claims that “it is absurd that this charge would be made” against the Sword.
If Brother Smith wants to prove that he is opposed to sloppy soul winning and manipulative salesmanship techniques and that my charge that they are so guilty is “absurd,” let him issue a warning about the late evangelist Carl Hatch, who was called “the world’s greatest soul winner” by Smith’s predecessor Curtis Hutson and by Jack Hyles.
In a soul-winning seminar at Bob Gray’s Texas Baptist University, which I have on DVD, he taught the following technique:
Carl Hatch says:
I don’t ask anybody if they want to be saved. If you want a positive answer you must ask a positive question. If you want a no answer ask a no question. If you want a yes answer ask a yes question. Soul winning is positive. And in soul winning you use a lot of reverse psychology and psychology.
For instance, if you are lost and I say, “Mr. Smith, let me ask you a question. You don’t want to go to hell, do you?”
He will answer, No.
I say, “Wonderful, you want to go to heaven, don’t you?” He will say yes. I will reply, “Sure you do. Sure you do. Sure you do. Sure you do. I thank God for a man that doesn’t want to go to hell.”
Did you get that? I am reinforcing the fact that he wants to go to heaven. I’m keep everything positive.
I don’t say, “Can I show this to you?” or “Do you mind if I read the Bible to you?” That’s negative and you will probably get a negative answer. I don’t ask people; I just say, “I’m so glad you don’t want to go to hell and I will just take a minute here to show you some verses. I don’t have long and I know you don’t, either. There’s three things that you need to know. First, Jesus died for you. Isn’t that wonderful? Two, Jesus loves you. Isn’t that wonderful? Three, Jesus wants you to go to heaven. Isn’t that wonderful? And I’m so glad that you want to.”
See, I am being positive.
He may say he has a lot of questions, but unsaved people don’t have questions. Don’t get on unsaved people’s questions. Tell them that you will answer their questions later, but first you want to read a few verses of Scripture. Unsaved people don’t have questions. If you get them saved, that answers all of them.
Let me tell you how to deal with someone who has a dumb spirit who bucks getting saved. You share the gospel and get them to the point of praying the sinner’s prayer, but they stop. How do you get that type of person saved? Now, this will work in most cases. If he is a man, put your hand on his shoulder and say, “Mr. Jones, I want to have prayer for you. I’m thrilled you want to go to heaven. God has been good to you. Bow your head with me. Then I pray, “Lord, I’m so thankful for this man that doesn’t want to burn in hell. I’m so thrilled he wants to go to heaven and not take his kids to hell. I thank you for this man. And I pray you will help him to see that need.” While our heads are still bowed, I say, “Mr. Jones, if you want heaven as your home and Christ as your Saviour, pray this prayer. Lord Jesus.” And if he doesn’t repeat that and tries not to pray, I squeeze his shoulder. I use this technique. If I am dealing with the president of the bank, I take his hand and when it comes time for him to pray, I squeeze his hand. We’ve titled that the Carl Hatch squeeze. It works. If I am dealing with a woman, I ask her to put her hand on the Bible, and when it comes time to pray I just tap her hand gently. It works; it works.
The previous is from a Carl Hatch soul-winning seminar at Texas Baptist University. Hatch was called the world’s greatest soul winner by Sword editor Curtis Hutson and byJack Hyles.
Since Bro. Smith is opposed to sloppy soul winning, I am sure he will agree with me that Hatch’s technique was nothing more than cheap salesmanship. It might be a good way to sell a used car but it is a bad way to win souls to Christ. There is not a hint of such a thing in Scripture. We can’t imagine the Lord Jesus or the apostles doing such a thing. When Jesus dealt with the woman at the well, He didn’t ask a bunch of leading questions to keep the subject positive. He is the one who brought up the woman’s immoral lifestyle. When He dealt with Nicodemus, He confronted the man with his need of the new birth, which Nicodemus didn’t find positive at all. Christ told the rich young ruler to sell everything he had and follow Him. He told people if they didn’t repent they would perish, which is a very negative approach (Luke 13:1-5). He told the people that only those who continue in His Word are His true disciples (John 8:30-31). Jesus and the evangelists in the early churches knew absolutely nothing of the “Carl Hatch Squeeze.”
We have been waiting in anticipation for decades for the Sword of the Lord to reprove the Carl Hatch Squeeze and all such unscriptural nonsense. There has been no such reproof. If Quick Prayerism is wrong, the Sword of the Lord has lot to answer for before God.
9. In regard to my charge that “The Sword has been at the forefront of exalting men far beyond scriptural bounds,” Bro. Smith grudgingly admits that there is some truth to it.
He says, “Perhaps we have overdone something on this at one time or another. Mistakes can be made, and I would be the first to acknowledge my human limitations.” I am glad for this admission, but it is not a “mistake”; it is sinful idolatry; and it is not something that has been done once or twice. It has been a pattern throughout the nearly 40 years I have been personally familiar with the Sword. And it is not just in the paper; it is at the Sword conferences. The braggidociousness; the praise of man -- it’s far, far out of Scriptural bounds. I don’t recall the Sword issuing a warning when so many of their close friends were wearing the idolatrous “100% Hyles” buttons?
One of the many ways that the Sword has exalted men beyond the bounds of scripture is in placing some of them beyond biblical reproof. Let’s start with the Sword’s founder. When I tried to advertise the book For Love of the Bible in the Sword in about 1996, they refused to place the ad because the book contains the account of E.L. Bynum’s critique of John Rice’s attack upon the KJV. I reprinted part of Bynum’s gracious critique of Rice’s position, but even this mind “criticism” of one of their heroes was unacceptable to the Sword. This is their working practice, and I consider it idolatrous. The Sword has been at the forefront of promoting such unscriptural nonsense as “don’t shoot the man of God” and “don’t touch God’s anointed.”
10. Brother Smith says that some false professions will always happen.
That is a smokescreen, because it misses the point entirely. Of course there will be false professions when people are trying to win people to Christ. We have often stated this. Every church has false professions. I have been a church planter since 1979 and we have seen false professions. That’s not the point. The point is that there is a standard soul winning program that excels in getting false professions. Multitudes of them. And this is because the soul winning program is unscriptural and has many fundamental flaws. That is the issue.
We have dealt with this at some length in the article “What’s Wrong with Most Soul-Winning Courses?” December 15, 2010, which is available at the Way of Life web site.
In this article we deal with the following things: First, the typical soul-winning program neglects repentance. Second, the typical soul-winning program doesn’t emphasize the importance of patience and thoroughness. Third, the typical soul-winning program doesn’t emphasize the importance of answering sincere questions. Fourth, the typical soul-winning program is too formulaic. Fifth, the typical soul-winning program uses human psychology and salesmanship. Sixth, the typical soul-winning program promotes the error of giving assurance.
11. Brother Smith concludes with the old canard that soul winning is the important thing, and nothing should get in its way.
Smith writes: “Whatever the outcome with ‘our converts,’ you and I should not become discouraged. Our mandate and our mission must continue. We are still the Lord’s ambassadors. The Great Commission is still in force. But let’s be clear--when you have some professions that prove to be unreal, that doesn’t mean soul winning is an illegitimate activity. Some people are so cautious or so calculating that they don’t ever do anything but debate their concerns. They are busy, but their busyness doesn’t do much to get sinners saved.”
This is code language for the Sword crowd. They know exactly what he is saying, which is this: “Brother Cloud’s way of worrying so much about the scripturalness and rightness of the ‘technique’ gets in the way of the real business, which is soul winning. Just do it, folks, and don’t worry so much about how you are doing it, and don’t worry about the nay sayers.”
I don’t know about others, but my busyness in missionary work has had the result of the salvation of hundreds of sinners.
I passionately want to obey the Lord’s Great Commission, and I have proved it by spending decades of my life it in one of the darkest, most difficult parts of the world. Shelton Smith can’t say this. He has never lived very far from a Walmart and a Mall and a burger joint. He has not lived and preached year after year in a country where soul winning was illegal. I won’t back down on this matter before any man, and I won’t be put to shame by a cheap, manipulative technique (i.e., pretending that if you are are a critic of Sword-style soul winning programs you aren’t effective in winning souls and are hindering the Lord’s work).
I passionately want to obey the Lord’s Great Commission, but I also passionately want to do it in the Lord’s way and not man’s way. As best as possible, I want fruit that remains and not a bunch of empty professions. The only “statistics” that matter are those that please the Lord, certainly not those that merely impress man.
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