Website owner: James Miller
MY CRITICISMS OF BAPTIST CUSTOMS AND PRACTICES 10/77 I question the prudence, value or propriety of the following customs, practices and tendencies in conservative Baptist churches: - Various contests. Sunday School contests, Bible reading contests, Visitation contests. To me a church should be a place of worship, quiet reflection and reverence. These contests give it a commercial, worldly air. It becomes more like a circus than a church. I just don't like these contests. I think they destroy the proper atmosphere for worship. Church is not the place for competition and emulation. Competition is worldly, not spiritual. Indeed it is sin. - tendencies for preachers to intersperse jokes and levity into sermons. I don't like it, don't think it is proper or right for a house of worship. - tendencies toward emotionalism in the sermons. The best sermons are considered to be the hard-hitting tirades and harangues. I mistrust this emotional tendency. They resemble too closely the tirades and harangues of Adolf Hitler. They stir strong emotions and create strong beliefs, feelings and attitudes but I have my doubts about those beliefs, feelings and attitudes generated. Too many are too unchristian and wrong. Hard-hitting, nice sounding, categorical statements are too deceptive. They sound great and true, stir strong feeling, but too often contain hidden grains of error. This type of preaching is too much like brainwashing. To me Christian belief is an appreciation of spiritual truth and an honest trust in God that comes only with quiet teaching, reflection over holy scripture, and observation of life. I don't think true Christianity is the blind, militant fanaticism this type of preaching leads to. - the strongly doctrinaire emphasis. The preaching tends to be highly theoretical, abstract, obscure and visionary. It tends to be made up of obscure deductions and reasonings of a highly impractical and theoretical nature arrived at by parsing holy scripture (this is a consequence of the pride they take in preaching the Bible only, relying on no other source but holy scripture for their beliefs). At any rate I am highly skeptical of highly theoretical, visionary and abstruse arguments and reasonings. I like the simple and uncomplicated. I like both feet firmly on the ground. - public, extemporaneous praying. I have my doubts about this type of praying. I feel the prayers tend to be empty; many nice sounding words saying nothing; that people "pray to be heard" as the Pharisees in the Bible. Jesus said to go into your closet to pray and I think his injunction was a good one. I would prefer a good prepared prayer to an empty extemporaneous one. - practice of giving testimonies. I don't like this practice. It is too much like boasting. People give testimonies just because others expect them to or they "feel they should". They give a testimony and contradict it with their life, doing more damage than good. I think too much folly comes of the practice. I think the best testimony is the good life. I distrust too much talk. - their aggressiveness and pushiness in witnessing and soul- winning. They give the impression that it is one's duty to aggressively accost strangers on the street and speak to them about their spiritual welfare. I think one's life and example are his best witness, that it is impolite, unchristian and useless to attempt to push anything down someone's throat. At most, you have a duty to witness only to those who know you, have confidence in you, and want to hear what you have to say. Talking to someone about his spiritual welfare is very touchy business. - Wednesday evening prayer meetings. I am doubtful about them for the same reason I am doubtful about extemporaneous, public praying. I am in favor of restricting praying to the closet. I think public praying tends to be empty, shallow and "done to be heard". - Bible studies. I don't like them. I think they result in more bad and folly than good. They produce a lot of half thought out ideas and opinions. I don't think that one can arrive at deep spiritual truth by discussion. Discussions only give the foolish consensus of common, superficial minds and thoughts. For me, deep spiritual truths are discovered only in the quiet of solitude --- through thought, reflection, meditation on holy scripture, and observation of life. - Sunday Schools. I think they are mostly a waste of time. I don't think I ever learned anything in Sunday School. I learned on my own --- through serious reading of the Bible. - obsession with building bigger and bigger. Many Baptist preachers spend the most of their time harping on one of the following topics: 1. Importance of attending all services 2. Importance of becoming involved in church activities 3. Giving money to the church 4. Going out "calling" (to bring more people into the church) 5. Soul- winning. Three quarters of their time is spent talking about one of these topics. This seems to be the sum total of what "spirituality" means to them. If you do these things that is all that is necessary. You are then a spiritual person. That is the extent of their spiritual depth. It just doesn't impress me. It sounds to me more like an ambitious preacher trying to build an empire for himself; like the worldly ambitions of an unspiritual man seeking his own aggrandizement. Every one of these themes has the single result of building a bigger and bigger church. And bigger and bigger churches bring in more and more money. - they "pick and choose" from holy scripture. They pick that which agrees with their dogma and doctrine and omit that which they don't like. They emphasize the "plan of salvation" and "eternal security" and use scripture that bears out their beliefs in these areas but totally disregard any scripture that speaks of the importance of obedience, goodness and just living. They totally gloss over and ignore any scripture that deals with the importance of love, forgiveness, kindness, meekness, patience, etc. Thus, in fact, they are very dishonest in their treatment of holy scripture. They are guilty of the very thing they so rabidly accuse others of.