Archive for November, 2009

Baptist History in Wisconsin

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My grandfather, David Cummins, had several great passions during his life — my grandmother Mary, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the local church. Just below his relationships with his wife and his Savior was his love for Baptist history. His books, each entitled This Day in Baptist History, can be purchased here, here, and here (3 volumes). He had completed much research for his final volume before the Lord called him home this summer. I loved my Papa dearly, but regret that my interest in his research, i.e. Baptist history, is a recent phenomenon.

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Since I’m from Tennessee originally and then from Michigan until I went off to college, I have little knowledge regarding the history of Wisconsin, where I now reside. My wife Emiley, a native of our incredible state, is presently teaching her 4th grade class a unit on Wisconsin history. That being said, I have a learned a great deal about Wisconsin in the past few weeks as a result of her preparations and teaching.

As I understand it, our first city, Green Bay, was established in 1764. Almost three quarters of a century later (72 years), a missionary named Richard Griffing was used of God to establish the first Baptist church in Milwaukee in 1836. To put this in perspective, the first Baptist church on American soil was founded in 1639 in Rhode Island, of course. That puts the development of Baptist churches in Wisconsin roughly 200 years behind the development of such churches in at least one other state, and roughly 150 years behind the development in many others. Each of these states: RI, MA, ME, SC, PA, NJ, DE, CT, VA, NY, NC, MD, NH, GA, VT, WV, TN, MS, OH, IL, IN, AK, MO, AL, LA, MI, and IA had Baptist congregations before WI did!

That aside, Baptist churches were started in WI and eventually began to thrive. The following is a copy of the obituary of Julia Griffing, Richard’s wife (found here), which indicates that Griffing did not just plant in Milwaukee, but was used of God to reach many in this state:

Pewaukee, April 21.—The death of Mrs. Grifflng occurred on Wednesday morning April 15. In better health than usual through the winter, a short time ago she took a severe cold, which was followed by pneumonia. After a short illness, she peacefully left us.  Her daughter, Mrs. Edward B. Smith, of Howard Lake, Minn., was with her through her illness and has the satisfaction that she was with her through the winter.

Mrs. Griffing was a woman of remarkable strength of mind and character and in a marked degree retained her mental powers until the end of her earthly life. She came to Wisconsin when the Indian trails were the only highways and has lived in our village in the same house for fifty-five years. In these days of change, this fact is worthy of note.

Julia Bacon was born in Granville, Mass., Jan. 8, 1816. She became a Christian at twenty and was baptized by Rev. Richard Griffing, to whom she was married in August 1836, 67 years ago.  They came directly to Milwaukee, when it was only a hamlet. Mr. Griffing was sent as a missionary by the Baptist Mission society, his field extending to Green Bay on the north and as far west as he could reach. He organized the first Baptist church in the state, once the first Baptist church of Milwaukee, now the North Greenfield church, of which Mrs. Griffing was the only surviving original member.

After one year there and four in Prairieville, now Waukesha, they returned east for one year, came again to Wisconsin, lived nearly three years in Washington Co., and about two years in Lisbon, before settling in Pewaukee.

Twenty-seven years ago April 10, Elder Griffing died.  Mrs. Griffing was the mother of six children.  Only two survive her, her daughter and one son, Sherman B., of Dakota; also twelve grandchildren and one great grand child.

A history of early life in the wilds of Wisconsin would make an interesting tale.  Sometimes Mr. Grifflng was necessarily absent on his preaching tours for three months at a time. Meanwhile his wife bravely did her part, whether encountering the frequent visits of roving Indians or listening to the howling wolves by nights. To relieve her loneliness she taught her nearer neighbor’s children, thus earning the distinction of being the first school teacher in Waukesha.

Despite the late start of the Baptists in our state, this thanksgiving season, I want to thank God for using Richard Griffing to establish a Baptist work in Milwaukee!

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Reasons for Relaxing Baptism

Our Anabaptist and Baptist forefathers were mistreated, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered by Catholic and Protestant alike over their commitment to a New Testament ecclesiology centered on believer’s baptism by immersion. I wonder if we modern-day Southern Baptists will follow our forefathers to so radical a conclusion. It does not seem likely that we will have the stomach for it. Indeed, today some Baptist pastors, contrary to the New Testament, are willing to lead their churches to relax the necessity of baptism by immersion for membership in the local church. Such a move is based on misguided reasons, such as appeasing pedobaptist friends, fostering church growth by making it easier for some people to join Baptist churches, or allowing Reformed soteriology to blur Baptist ecclesiology.

From Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, chapter by David Allen, pg. 105.

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3 Reasons I Hate Religion: Forthcoming Tract

Hopefully, by January 1 the new gospel booklet entitled “3 Reasons I Hate Religion” will be available. I am still working through proof-reading for clarity, especially. This particular tract is being written for use in my community, a very religious and churched place, and consequently will operate under the assumption that the reader has some biblical background.

Here’s a sneak preview of the three reasons:

  1. Religion presents a “little Jesus.”
  2. Religion is affected by the “obelisk factor,” getting the gospel backwards.
  3. Religion provides a false sense of security.

Perhaps before January, I will be able to post the actual text from the tract.

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15 Reasons I Don’t Often Call Myself “Evangelical” in My Community

While I technically am evangelical in the truest sense, here are my top reasons for not calling myself an evangelical in my community (off the top of my head):

  1. Evangelicalism is not what it used to be.
  2. Sadly, the gospel is often assumed because of simple church attendance, instead of continually clarified and passionately emphasized for the lost and for the believer.
  3. I believe that a church service should be primarily crafted for believers, not for unbelievers (although I address unbelievers every week). We are sensitive to the ultimate Seeker (the Holy Spirit), and consequently try to realize that we minister in the “sight of God” first and foremost.
  4. In my community, evangelical often = entertainment. One church in my area has enough flashing lights during its worship to put an epileptic in the grave. I tell people if they want to be entertained, there is a theater on the hill that has Sunday matinees.
  5. Egalitarianism seems to rule the churches in my community. If they don’t have a woman as pastor, they certainly have them leading in every other aspect of a worship service, lest they appear old fashioned. Such a perception would certainly be fatal.
  6. Sadly missions often = “better beer for serbians,” “dentures for swiss senior citizens,” etc. I exaggerate, but you know what I mean. Sadly, mission no longer includes the gospel in far too many churches. The concept has been hijacked and replaced with pseudo-kingdom language that imports good deeds in the place of gospel preaching and church-planting.
  7. My views of inspiration and inerrancy extend to Genesis 1 as well as to all the historical details of the OT, a position that is not cool anymore.
  8. I don’t have time for apostates, nor do I think they are misunderstood.
  9. I don’t like Rick Warren, his books, his associations, his talks, or the way he chooses translations that suit his purposes. Plus, I think Hawaiian shirts look silly. Jeans and a blazer is way cooler.
  10. Many “evangelical” churches in my area are mesmerized by Nooma and Elvis, I mean Rob Bell.
  11. When I see other Christian youth in the area, I am so excited they are passionate about God, but so troubled for them when I hear that they have never really been given a doctrinal foundation. Sadly, for many, the first atheistic secular humanist professor who shoots a dart at their balloon of God-passion will successfully turn them into a recovering evangelical, instead of one who believes every word of Scripture.
  12. I struggle to find any redeemable value in the Catholic church.
  13. I still think Billy Graham compromised even though my Dad was saved through his ministry.
  14. I have no time for infant baptism and think that this is often a gospel-issue. In other words, when churches teach that their people are “in” or “okay” because of their infant baptism, they are in error at the highest level. I cannot cooperate with this.
  15. Evangelical churches in my area get together for a youth conference in which they baptize the teenagers at the conference. Am I the only one who sees a huge problem with this?

Now for the caveats:

  1. While there are a lot of evangelicals like John MacArthur and Mark Dever, sadly these guys are not the norm.
  2. I’m sure I have many blind-spots. I am being sanctified too, still working out my salvation. I need more humility too. However, humility doesn’t mean that we should stop calling spades spades.

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Piper on Pleasures

From John Piper’s most recent sermon on John 6:

Every honorable pleasure that we have in this world was designed to give a faint taste of heaven and make us hunger for Christ. Every partial satisfaction in this life is designed by God to point to the perfect satisfaction in Jesus, who made the world for Himself. The pleasures of warm bread should send our senses and our spirits to Christ, the bread of life. The pleasures of cold water on a hot day when we are really thirsty should send our sense and our spirits to Christ, the living water. The pleasures of light which makes all beauty visible should send all of our senses and spirits to the light of the world, Jesus Christ, which is why light exists. That’s why water exists. That’s why bread exists, and everything exists for Him. If you don’t know that, you are probably drowning in idolatry.

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From the Front-lines: Tire Guy

Don’t we all love waiting rooms? Yesterday I sat in a grungy, smoke-filled waiting room, surrounded by old editions of Sports Illustrated and National Geographic. Although it was almost 2 Pm, the morning coffee still sat in an almost full carafe, but frankly it did not interest me in the least. Perhaps I am becoming one of those detestable coffee snobs — I digress. 

An older man in a Brewers club jacket and Green Bay Packers ball cap entered the room and sat down right across from me. I picked up a conversation with him and moved quickly to spiritual things. It all went something like this: 

Do you consider yourself a Christian? I asked. 

He replied, Well, after 40 years of Catholic church, I’d sure hope so! 

That really is a long time, sir. Let me ask you this — have you ever read the Bible cover to cover? Read the rest of this entry »

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From the front-lines: Medical Professor

For the past two months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet the same medical professor on the same day of the week for the same purpose — talking about the Bible, Jesus Christ, and His gospel. For the purpose of anonymity, we will simply call him Robert. Shortly after completing his undergraduate degree, Robert was “called” (his word, not mine) into the field of medicine after standing by a dying woman in an ICU, wondering if he could develop equipment that could be used to prolong her life. Robert is a very intelligent Roman Catholic, morally upstanding in his own eyes.  

We hit it off instantly one day in the coffee shop. I honestly can’t remember exactly how it happened Read the rest of this entry »

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