This is a guest post by Ken Fryer. Ken is currently serving on staff at Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport, LA. He is active in the work of the Southern Baptist Convention, having served in many denominational positions including President of the Louisiana Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Second Vice President of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Trustee.
This post was originally published in 2007 and has been updated here due to recent events that have taken place in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
In 1983, I was a student at East Texas Baptist University and was called to Broadacres Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana as Minister of Music. I was warned not to accept the position by the previous minister of music because the pastor was a Calvinist. I asked, “A Calvinist? What’s that?” He replied, “That means God predetermines that some will go to heaven and some will go to hell and they have no choice in the matter.” I was stunned. I had never heard such teaching.
I marched into the pastor’s office with my Bible open to John 3:16 determined to set him straight. The pastor asked me to read two books with an open mind and an open Bible: Election: Love Before Time by Kenneth D. Johns and The Five Points of Calvinism by David Steele and Curtis Thomas. I took the books and read them with the intention of disproving them. As I opened my Bible, the Holy Spirit did what the Holy Spirit does – led me into a discovery of truth. I read my Bible more than I had ever read it. I desired God more than I had ever desired Him. I thirsted for the things of God more than I had ever thirsted. I praise God that, in His providence, He led me to that church in Shreveport. I praise Him that He led me to these timeless truths that exalt the great triune God.
Through the years, I served various churches, in the role of a staff member, whose pastors did not embrace the doctrines of grace. In only a couple of those churches did I have the freedom to express my doctrinal position and , even then, only privately. You might say that I was in the stands.
I began to fellowship with some pastors who believe and teach the doctrines of grace. I subscribed to the Founders Journaland attended some conferences that expounded these truths, but I never let it be known that I loved these precious doctrines which the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention held so dear. You might say that I was on the sideline.
There came a day when I was no longer content to be in the stands or on the sideline – I had to get into the game. Well-meaning friends warned me to stay on the sideline. They advised me to “believe what you want to believe but don’t be too open about it.” Today, many would suggest to Calvinists they should follow that advice. Translation: It’s fine for you to be a Calvinist, but don’t be too vocal about it or it will cost you.
A word to my non-Calvinist brothers
I love my non-Calvinist brothers. The man whom I consider to be my mentor in ministry is a non-Calvinist. I believe that the vast majority of these men are godly men and attempt to “rightly divide the word of truth.” I gladly join with men of God who faithfully preach the Word and who are passionate about the gospel.
I encourage my non-Calvinist brothers to give us Calvinist brethren the same respect. When we say that we love missions and evangelism, please don’t ask the question, “How can you love missions and evangelism and be a Calvinist?” When we say that we love to see souls come to Christ – believe it; we love to see souls come to Christ!
I also encourage my non-Calvinist brothers to refrain from making Calvinism an issue of contention in our convention. Do not exclude those who cherish the doctrines of grace from denominational service simply because of their doctrinal stance. I could cite many examples of individuals who have been excluded from service merely because they are Calvinists. I could cite examples of persons who have been rejected for associational positions because they hold to the doctrines of grace. I could cite instances of churches that have been denied membership in their local association simply because of their Calvinistic beliefs. State conventions an local associations are reconsidering what it means to be a “cooperating member church” and, make no mistake, Calvinism is a factor. It is open season of Calvinists in many quarters.
I urge my non-Calvinist brethren to chart a different course. Chart a course other than “the Calvinists have hijacked our convention and we must act now” course. Chart a course of support for Dr. Frank Page’s Advisory Committee on Calvinism, whose stated goal is to “…develop a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism.”
A word to my Calvinist brothers
Preach the Word! Be true to your theological convictions. Speak the truth in love. Contend for the faith. Be cooperative and participative in your association, state convention, and the SBC. Have the courage to address issues, when necessary. I encourage you, if you are still in the stands or on the sideline, to get into the game!
I am determined to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, and mind, to preach the Word, to share the gospel with all men, to love my wife and family, to love my church family, to love God’s elect (Calvinists and non-Calvinists), and to love the truth of His Word. Soli Deo Gloria!