September 1

September 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Under The Elmtree
In This Issue:

*  Biblical Literacy & Ministry Effectiveness

* Pastor’s Forums USA 2011

*  Biblical Literacy – Dr. George Guthrie

*  On Purpose Person – Web Conference Sign Up

*  Options for Pastors & Churches

*  Call to Intercession for Church in America

*  In the Next Issue – 10 Commandments of Preaching (1&2)

Biblical Literacy and Ministry Effectiveness

Inspired. Inerrant. Infallible. Unread. These four words describe with tragic accuracy the way the Scriptures are regarded by many professed believers. Intellectually affirmed but practically ignored. This is reflected in a growing deficit in biblical literacy. The trend-lines in nearly every aspect of ministry reflect significant decline. The correlation between a deficiency in biblical literacy and organizational decline is inescapable. According to Union University professor George Guthrie, only 16 percent of church-goers read the Bible daily. He cites statistics that indicate 25 percent of the people who go to church regularly DO NOT READ their Bible at all. It is irrational and unwise to deny this reality and the inescapable consequences. Jesus said ‘Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits’ (Matt. 7:20 ESV).

There is always hope. King Asa faced dark and turbulent times. God sent him Azariah the prophet.  Asa took courage. He claimed God’s promise – if you seek him, he will be found by you (2Chron. 15:2). After great spiritual apostasy Ezra led God’s people in prayer and fasting (Ezra 8:21-23). God responded to their pleas. God’s people today may seek him and perhaps, in his sovereign goodness and mercy, he will stem the decline and bring reformation to his church.

It is my desire to raise awareness of this deficit in biblical literacy and expose ‘the elephant in the room’. Until we shine the light of Truth on this pachyderm he will continue to bring devastation to the gospel message and to the glorious name of our Lord.

Answer the following questions. This focus may initiate a much needed correction. What is Biblical Literacy? What is the current literacy profile among professed believers? What are some probable causes or reasons for this profile? What is a beneficial and positive path for the future that offers correction and leads to God’s blessing?

What is Biblical Literacy?
“Biblical literacy is the ability and willingness to use reading, listening, speaking and writing to understand the word of God and be understood by others.”

What is the current profile of Biblical Literacy among professed believers?

Research conducted by George Barna produced the following profile.

* Many professing Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples.

* Five out of ten believe that anyone who is generally good or does enough good things for  others during their life will earn a place in Heaven.

* Four out of ten believe that the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different  expressions of the same spiritual truths.

* Seven out of ten born again Christians said they do not believe in moral absolutes.

* Only one out of ten Christians base their moral decision-making on the principles taught in the  Bible.

* 54 percent believe truth can be discovered only through logic, human reasoning and personal  experience.

This collection of data is ‘Exhibit A’ that a significant number of professed believers are largely ignorant of what Scripture declares.

What are some probable causes or reasons for this condition?

Reason #1 Unregenerate People. Job said “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). This is the longing of a regenerate life. Regenerate people possess a hunger for the Word of God. The Evangelical church has a growing compliment of people who may be ‘members’, but, they have never been born again. They have no desire to assimilate Truth and no capacity to order their lives by the postulates of Special Revelation.

Reason #2 Defective Theology. The Word of God is not mere information. “I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy,” declares David Wells in his book No Place for Truth. When Stephen was about to be stoned he told his antagonist that the Scriptures were ‘living oracles’ (Acts 7:38). Scripture has been reduced by many to mere information. Such people selectively ‘pick and choose’ what parts they will or will not obey. Paul pointed out the dichotomy between professing Christ and genuine conversion; ‘They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works’ (Titus 1:16).

Reason #3 Corrupt Metrics. What an organization measures defines and shapes that culture. Effectiveness is most often measured by a one dimensional metric; attendance, offerings, baptisms and activity. The Great Commission commands us to make disciples. Drawing a crowd and making disciples are two entirely different realities. Drawing a crowd is an event. Making disciples is a process transacted over time (Acts 11:26). This requires line upon line, precept upon precept instruction. This is Applied Theology. We value what we measure and what we are measuring is not transformation.

Reason #4 Powerless Pulpits. The seduction of contemporary culture rather than the mandates of Scripture shape much that passes for preaching today. Marketing techniques rather than Absolute Truth drive ministry. There is a demand for ‘how to’ homilies rather than the well crafted exegetical proclamation of God’s word. 57 % of evangelical pastors surveyed stated they would quit today if they had some way to care for their family. The Scripture declares that such a man is a hireling not a godly shepherd. Modeling is crucial in disciple-making. Only 38% of Pastors in this same survey indicated that they read the Bible for personal edification. Like Pastor, like people.

What is a positive and beneficial path for the future? I began by saying there is hope. We return to that now because we serve a gracious and merciful God. Believers have ‘Living Hope.’ Dr. George Guthrie, Benjamin Perry Professor of Bible at Union University, will conduct a Forum on Biblical Literacy at SouthEast Community Church in Columbia on Monday September 26, 2011. He is widely acclaimed for his work on this subject. He is a principle in an initiative titled Read-The Bible-For-Life (

You can register by following this link or call 803 776 5282.

Pastor’s Forums 2011 1.  Piedmont SC – September 13 – Mt. Moriah Bapt. 2.  Columbia SC – September 26 – Biblical Literacy SouthEast Community
3.  Baltimore MD – October 3 – BCMD North
4.  Baltimore MD – October 3 – BCMD South
5.  Shillington PA – October 4 – Berks Bible Church
6.  St. Augustine Beach FL – October 25 – River Oaks Com. Church   Pending 2011 1.  Fayetville NC – IABC
2.  Harrisonburg VA – James Madison Univ.

Biblical Literacy The Doctrine is Bibliology, with a focus on Biblical Literacy. Our speaker is Dr. George Guthrie, Union University. Dr. Guthrie has done extensive work in this area. The date for the next Forum is Monday, September 26, 2011. Knowing what God has revealed and how to properly apply that Revelation to life so that the results are genuine Transformation in God’s people is crucial. Plan to join us for this very important and timely Forum. You will be challenged and equipped to lead and serve with effectiveness. Go to and for some helpful resources in knowing what God’s word says and how to apply Truth to life.   The focus of Dr. Guthrie’s presentation on September 26 is as follows:   What is Biblical Literacy? Biblical Literacy – The Current State of Affairs Full-orbed Biblical Literacy Training in the Church As a Bible scholar at Union University, one of the oldest American universities in the Southern Baptist tradition, Guthrie has tracked the decline in biblical literacy with consternation. With earlier books (The Structure of Hebrews and Biblical Greek Exegesis) best suited for academia, Guthrie has switched gears to produce a reader-friendly, digestible, biblical literacy study program that includes this book as well as a participant’s workbook, study leader’s CD-ROM, and three DVDs for group use. Anyone “touched by the English language or Western culture,” argues Guthrie, should be conversant in biblical literature. Through informal kitchen-table conversations with evangelical scholars, Guthrie guides the reader through a study of historical context, differences in Bible translations, varieties of literary genres, and finally a heartfelt devotional on how to read the Bible in a postmodern world. Copies of this title will be available for purchase at the Forum.   Future speakers and topics in the Orthodoxy Series are Dr. George Zemek, Dean of Expositors Seminary for the Doctrine of Soteriology (March 2012). Dr. Fred Zaspel, author of The Theology of B. B. Warfield, The Doctrine of Christology, which was Warfield’s favorite biblical study, (September 2012).   R U On Purpose?? Web Conference Registration A number of years ago I led men through a Leadership Development module at SEC where I serve as Teaching Pastor. One of the crucial issues in Leadership is Life Management. The On-Purpose Person is one of the books I had the men read and ask them to master the principle of ‘being on purpose’. Kevin McCarthy and I have become ‘virtual friends’. He previously conducted Seminars in Orlando FL teaching the principles of an On Purpose Life. He is now making this training & equipping available via web-conferencing. This equipping is accomplished over six weeks, one session per week. There is live interaction for Q&A and slides that highlight the issues being addressed. Each session is recorded so if you miss the live session, you still have access to the substance that was covered at a time that fits your schedule. One of our men here at SEC applied this material to his life. He is a capable man, on Staff with the AP here in Columbia. Through this material he discovered 30+ hours per week that he could apply with much greater effectiveness as a Christ-follower and be On-Purpose as an Image Bearer, Husband, Father and AP Writer.   Now YOU can acquire this great skill – be On-Purpose. Here is the info to sign up.   What – Complimentary First Session of The On-Purpose Leader Experience Where – Live on the Web   For More Information:  Register Now – simply click on this link: When – Wednesday September 7, 2011 12:05 PM to 1:00 PM EDT   The first session is complimentary. When you decide to participate in the next five (5) sessions – – keep this Coupon Code handy when you register IUSSAVE$48 . The cost with the Coupon Code is just $99.   This may be the on of the best investments you have made in becoming an Effective Leader! IgniteUS Options for Pastors & Churches Research based on calendar 2010 shows that 95% of the churches in America ARE NOT making disciples. This is the one command in the Great Commission Food for thought! Read Heb. 13:7 & 13:17. IgniteUS provides equipping, resources and a metric to measure this critical dimension of ministry in the local church. Only 1 in 10 pastors is prepared to lead the Transformation Process without an outside voice to guide them – we come alongside and take this Journey with you. An outside voice makes a tremendous difference (Jn. 4:44). Our Effectiveness Rating is 91%. Call us!   1. 36 month Leadership Development Process transacted in 5 Phases. We provide the tools, equipping and coaching so that the Pastor becomes a Leader with biblical courage and excellence and the church becomes Healthy & Effective in making disciples fully formed in the Image of Christ (Col. 1:28-29). Reformation & Renewal!   2. 15 month Individual Leadership Development Process for those Pastors who want to become more effective Leaders. This is essentially the first three phases of the process.   3. 6 month process for churches that are essentially healthy and free of conflict and the usual control issues. The Leadership Team meets for a full day once a month for six months. This process maximizes Leadership and Intentional Disciple-making.   $$ In light of the tough economic conditions everyone is facing I recently extended the time line on paying for these processes from 36 to 60 months on the 5 phase process and from 15 to 24 months on the 15 month process. This makes genuine Reformation and Renewal both possible and affordable. $$ I am continually amazed as I present our Leadership Development Process around the country. Many in positions of Leadership are either unable or unwilling to admit the serious deficiencies that exist in the ‘status quo’ approach most have to ministry. It is no longer possible to deny reality – – the church is in precipitous decline. It takes humility, courage, sacrifice and tenacity to engage genuine Transformation. But, the results are far more rewarding than the risks or sacrifices required. I urge you to begin TODAY Pastor. Contact us for details. 803 776 5282 PRAYER – All efforts to see Reformation and Renewal come to the American Church are doomed to failure without earnest intercession (Acts 4:23-31). In the face of seeming hopelessness, God’s people should – can – do pray (Luke 18:1 – 8). Jesus asks a probing questions in v. 8 – – when I return, will I find this kind of faith on the earth?   Read my BLOG – – Also on the Home Page – A Monday Morning BLOG. New post every Monday morning. Comments welcome! Home Page – Click on this link to go to our Home Page: Click on the text line under the Feature Video that says “See what others are saying” for some recent testimonials. IUS Update This Update is sent to you on the 1st and 15th of each month. Please send comments or questions to us at Or, you may go to our BLOG on the home page of our Web Site. THANKS!

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