Question and Answer
Why are Baptists so passionate about evangelism?
Is there something inherent in Baptist theology that makes evangelism such a overwhelming priority, or does this merely reflect the personality and passion of individual pastors?
That is a very good question and not easy to answer, so I asked a friend who was raised in Baptist churches and attended a Baptist college but is now a Presbyterian pastor.
A "passion for souls" is not the exclusive domain of Baptist churches or pastors. Some of the greatest evangelistic preachers have been Reformed (Whitefield, Edwards, etc.). The Reformed faith has the greatest cause for zeal for evangelism in light of the understanding of the importance of God's glory and sovereignty in the salvation of sinners. Reformed preaching always should be Christ-centered and gospel-centered, that is, preaching that opens up the Word of God and points to Jesus Christ as the Savior who meets the desperate situation of sinners by laying down his life for his sheep.
It is perhaps, though, more than just the derisive title that Reformed folks get as "the frozen chosen" who aren't very zealous for evangelism. In the history of the OPC there have been many pastors who pursued evangelistic opportunities or even developed evangelistic outreaches like the Boardwalk Chapel in Ocean City, N.J., or Keys Chapel in Key West, Fla. I think it may be that the Reformed faith sees evangelism as part but not the whole of both the Christian life and the purpose of the church. If we are saved to witness, as some people put it, then a great deal of the New Testament's teaching goes by the board. If the church exists only to do evangelism, then God being at the center of worship is lost. Worship will (or should) foster true zeal for God's glory in the salvation of sinners and a deep desire to have those around us worship him. That is the understanding of the Reformed faith. It keeps us from making our worship or our churches man-centered, that is, geared toward drawing people in regardless of whether God is pleased with what we are doing or not.
Reformed churches need to appreciate the passion for witnessing seen in many Baptist churches and certainly ask themselves if they share that same zeal, but that is different than skewing our understanding of Scripture to make soul-winning the sole and all-important task of the church.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.