Saturday, January 26, 2008

“Shoot straight with me!”

Stadia will apparently launch Genesis Christian Church in Gilbert, Arizona in the near future. The church has a web site giving information about the church and publicizing the new congregation's "Grand Opening." Genesis replaces Gilbert Christian Church which closed its doors this past fall. It will join an extension campus which Mesa's Central Christian Church recently opened. Gilbert should be an excellent location for a church plant since it is a rapidly growing suburb in the Phoenix metroplex.

Rumors abound that Stadia will not place leaders in new church starts who preach and teach baptism for the remission of sins. I checked out the church's web site and their statement of faith. Like many such statements, the language is sufficiently vague on many points. The section on salvation, however, is so vague as to say nothing. Individuals from any evangelical denomination can interpret it to suit their particular perspective. I rather expected this would be the case because the church planter selected for the church's start, although said to be a product of Mesa's Central Christian Church, was educated in a state university, Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary, and Phoenix Seminary. In other words, unless well educated at Central, he has no solid background in the principles and plea of the Restoration Movement.

I emailed the church planter and asked him for a definitive response to his and the church's understanding of the purpose and place of baptism in salvation. I got back an email which gave an equivocal response. He also stated that he assumed I wanted to know how the church viewed the relationship between baptism and salvation and told me to "be straight with him." I responded without any equivocation and asked him bluntly if baptism had anything to do with salvation. To date the man who wanted me to "shoot straight" with him "because he could handle it" has yet to respond.

I know he has no obligation to respond to me but I always wonder what these guys have to hide. I asked an honest question and I hoped I would get an honest answer. I should have known better!


jim said...

Michael, does one have to be baptized to be saved? What if they have a regenerated heart and before baptism they die. Would that person have eternity with God? I am not personally challenging your position or any churches stance on the subject of baptism, I just like talking about the subject b/c it can cause a stir amongst different denominations. I believe there is only One true Church and isn't based on a particular denomination. Many Churches of Christ have changed even their stance on baptism as a direct way of being saved (salvation), so how do view this? I would love to hear!

Skip said...


Thank you for your blog. I found my way here after seeing your letter to the editor at Christian Standard's website.

What you address here is a real concern of mine. Stadia is taking profit made from CDF investors and borrowers and using it to plant churches that are not Restoration Movement churches. I think that is terrible. How are they getting away with that? There are people who know what is going on and they are either in agreement or simply turning a blind eye to it. That is wrong.

Here is an example of church they started that is not Restoration Movement in doctrine It is called Journey 2L2.

Stadia started this church in NJ with a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor. Here is what they say about salvation.

Salvation: We believe that salvation takes place when a person believes and accepts that their sins have been paid for by Christ’s death and resurrection.

You can read for yourself their weak and evasive statement about salvation.

I also read your post about the Paul Williams' column. Brother Williams' church planting group helped plant a Southern Baptist Church in New York City. I am not sure what he believes about baptism. I am not sure he knows either.

I saw a comment from the minister in Philadelphia. Perhaps he knows about this church in NJ and what they believe. I don't think it is too far from him.

Are you still in AZ? The letter to the editor had you in CA.

Keep of the good work!

Michael Hines said...

As opposed to some in the Restoration Movement I will answer your question in a direct and unequivocal fashion.

First, the Bible indicates that regeneration does not precede baptism. The Holy Spirit washes the inner man at the same time one is immersed into Christ in baptism (Titus 3:5).

Second, does this mean that the unimmersed in very case are lost if they have come to faith. The Bible does say we are "justified by faith" (Rom. 3). There is something here that is not often expressed in contemporary Restoration circles: God judges on the basis of their ability to "know". Beyond that the Bible simply does not say what happens to those who come to faith but are ignorant of their need to be immersed (usually because of the false teaching and traditions of the denominations) or something tragic happens to them. Thankfully the latter does not happen often making it a "red herring." My opinion is that God knows the heart and makes allowances.

I believe that the biblical teaching is that one is saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8), through faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9), in baptism (Colossians 2:11-13, Acts 2:38, and Titus 3:5).

I know the churches of Christ are going through some major changes. In fact, they are recapitulating all the steps that led to the separation between the Disciples and the Independents -- acceptance of destructive biblical critical studies, open membership, and neo-orthodox theology to name a few. You also have acapella congregations accepting Calvinism (Reformed Church of Christ) and even more strange things. Many Independent leaders are making a major mistake in thinking that the non-instrumentals are always strict and conservaive. That's just not true any longer.

Anonymous said...

I saw your report regarding the Stadia church plant in Gilbert, AZ in The Restoration Herald. I became interested in two church plants by Stadia nearby a few years ago. In one case the minister leading in one plant visited my wife and I. At that time I specifically asked him about his stance regarding baptism. It was very obvious that he did not believe in baptism for the remission of sins. He had come from one of our well known Bible Colleges and had served on the mission field for a number of years; however, when he returned from the field he served as the minister to a demoninational church before becoming involved with Stadia. Yet he was chosen by Stadia to lead in the church plant.

In another instance I traded emails with the minister involved in another nearby church plant and also asked him about his stance on baptism. It was similar to that above. He had been converted from the Catholic church and became a Baptist before joining with Stadia.
I also talked to an administrator with Stadia about my dissatisfaction regarding their stance on baptism, but got no satisfactory response. However, another minister with Stadia that was involved in counseling ministers in new church plants was doctrinally sound on the issue as demonistrated by the content of a sermon I heard him preach.
We in the Restoration Movement need to be very careful with regard to our involvement with Stadia as it appears that they are recruiting few, if any, ministers for their new church plants that are doctrinally sound on the topic of baptism for the remission of sins.

Michael Hines said...

There are altogether too many "disciples of Zwingli" in the Restoration Movement today. Years ago the Christian Standard published a John Greenlee article which noted that "the camel's nose was once again under the tent." The first time occurred when the liberals invaded the movement drawing the Disciples wing into false doctrine. The second time was the encroachment of Evangelical (Faith Only) doctrine. Evangelical doctrine originated in Zwingli's platonism.