the vision thing

I’ve been involved in one of our interminable discussions of the state of fundamentalism on another blog. The topic of conversation shifted from the original post somewhat and one comment from a pastor in California brought up the idea of ‘vision’.

He suggests that it is easy to summarize in a few short words or a phrases the essential vision of various evangelical ministries, but questions whether that is true of fundamentalist ministries or institutions. I don’t happen to think that he is right, but he seems to think that the ‘visions’ of the evangelicals are more compelling than the lack of vision of fundamentalists.

Another complicating factor in making these comparisons is that the ‘competing’ ministries are represented by ministries strongly identified with a popular individual on the conservative evangelical side as opposed to more institutional or group oriented ministries/organizations on the fundamentalist side. In some ways we aren’t really comparing apples to apples here.

Having said that, the idea of ‘vision’ (or ‘mission statements’) leaves me cold. Too much corporate psycho-babble for me.

I wonder, however, if a few readers would like to chime in on the subject by giving us their brief ‘vision statements’ for the various ministries mentioned. Here is the list:

  • 9Marks
  • Ligonier
  • Grace To You
  • Desiring God
  • BJU
  • FBFI
  • Sword of the Lord

I am going to post the complete post I am reacting to after the jump, so I would suggest that it would be best if you write out your vision/mission statements first, without looking at the post or other comments. Then click through to my comments section and post your reaction.

We can discuss various other aspects of this post as well, but let’s start with how well we can define these ministries without looking up their mission statements on their web-sites or doing any research about them. If you aren’t that familiar with a ministry, ‘I don’t know’ is an acceptable response.

More below…

Here is the post I am reacting to in it’s entirety:

Will Dudding says:

February 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Don, Piper makes Calvinism understandable and makes us see the connection between the head and the heart. All he does is parrot Jonathan Edwards.

Anyway, to get back on topic, I’ve said before on a discussion on SI a while ago that another reason people are flocking to these ministries is about leadership, not the music.

  • When I look at 9Marks Ministry, without going to their website, I can tell you what they’re all about – they are trying to strengthen the local church by bringing people back to a Biblical model.
  • Ligonier Ministries – They want to awaken people to the glory and holiness of God.
  • Grace To You – They want the Word of God to powerfully change people through expository preaching,
  • Desiring God – they want to awaken people to the pleasure of knowing God as their supreme pleasure.

On the other hand, name me any Fundamentalist institution and ask someone what they exist to accomplish…would anyone beside their faculty be able to answer that with clarity?:

  • BJU – To preserve fundamentalism??
  • FBFI – to make resolutions every year??
  • Sword of the Lord – to preserve revivalism?

I know that my own alma mater has sent letters encouraging support of their college to keep the “old time religion” around.

To tell you the truth, I like the visions of the CE’s better!
So, fundamentalists have a choice – they can keep dumping on these guys and drive more of their best people to them, or they can acknowledge what they’re doing right and figure out what they’re not doing right, have the guts to admit it, change it and keep some of the young generation to carry on.

I’ll offer my own articulation of the vision of each ministry in the comments after we have collected a few from others. I am afraid my summaries may not be quite as ‘fresh’ as yours might be, I am already influenced by Will’s and will have read any that come in before I post mine. I have already written out most of mine, but let’s see what someone else might say before I put them out there. (That is, assuming I have any readers interested enough to post.)



  1. Sorry, I read Will’s comments before thinking of vision statements for the rest. I think Will’s summaries point out the general problem best. He strives to present the good feeling he has about the CE groups and the bad feeling he has about the Fundamentalist groups. This is the problem. Someone supportive of the Fundamentalist groups will provide positive visions for the Fun groups and point out the negatives of the CEs. So the whole defining of visions thing will be skewed toward the protective feelings for one group or the other. But these skewed views point out (I think) the problem that most people have (beware–generalization coming…) that a subconscious feeling exists that CEs are more positive in their approach while Funs are more negative. CEs and Funs both claim a hold on the gospel, but CE efforts are perceived as proactive for the gospel while Fun efforts are perceived as negative in pointing out problems. Whether or not true, it is at least a subconscious “feeling,” and it is this feeling that drives what is generally classed as “young funs” turning toward CE and away from Fun. People just generally like an emphasis on positives more than on negatives.

    What to do? Of course, I’m not suggesting that Funs drop the negatives because a major doctrine of Funs is the separation issue. But I would think that a strong, concerted, premeditated emphasis be given on the truth, beauty, and goodness of the gospel that is at least equal to the generally protective (negative) emphasis against gospel impurities. That would help change perception that Funs are merely negative, scowling legalists looking about primarily to denounce rather than enjoin in glorious pursuit of the kingdom.

  2. Should be interesting.

  3. Dave says:

    Just a passing comment–those two lists are really apples and oranges, thereby skewing any worthwhile comparison. Why not develop a list that is compatible: BJU–Wheaton or Union University; FBFI–NEA; Sword–Christianity Today or [not really another apple] 9Marks E Journal; ???–9Marks/Ligioner/Grace to You/Desiring God.

    I put ??? because I don’t really think there is a comparable ministry among those who call themselves fundamentalists. It may seem self-serving, but the closest thing I can think of is Missions Mandate, but that really is more narrowly focused than any of the others.


    • Thanks for the comments so far. This is just a housekeeping note… I’ll be out the rest of the day, work day at our church. We are putting the finishing touches on an handicapped ramp (Yay!! finally got around to it after 10 years…) and our rebuilt shed.

      So… any comments after this will be waiting in the queue until I get back.

      Don Johnson
      Jerimiah 33.3

  4. Just looking at their websites… which should represent what they want the world to know about them… this is what I found either on the first or second page regarding a summary of their “mission.”

    9Marks – Helps local churches re-establish their biblical bearings and ministry methods

    Ligonier – Resources to teach people about God and His holiness

    Grace To You – Dedicated to the exposition of Scripture

    Desiring God – To spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ

    BJU – Exists to grow Christlike character that is scripturally disciplined, others-serving, God-loving, Christ-proclaiming and focused above

    FBFI – Exists to provide a rallying point for Fundamental Baptists seeking personal revival and the opportunity to work with committed Bible-believers in glorifying God through the uncompromising fulfillment of the Great Commission

    Sword of the Lord – NADA

  5. Don:

    I appreciated the comment you posted this morning at my blog under my article that was also gleaned from the same thread that spawned this article of yours here.

    I’m not sure how to address your question on the various ministries just yet. I have to mull this over a bit more, but thanks for provoking some thoughtful consideration on this.


  6. Wow, I’m famous…uh infamous now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against fundamentalism – I identify myself as a fundamentalist and I am a card carrying member of the FBF! I came out of the Sword and Hyles crowd looking for some sanity in fundamentalism and found it for the most part in the FBF-type of fundamentalism. Maybe it’s just because I’m in California (the land of fruits and nuts) that I don’t really perceive a compelling, unifying, battle cry among them except the lamentations fundamentalism is disintegrating and too many people are being attracted to the CE’s. That’s simply my perspective as a ‘young’ (in my 30’s) fundamentalist whom I hear so many people complaining about. Fear of man and intimidation by disfellowship doesn’t work on me anymore like it did when I was part of the IFBX or hyper fundies. I can care less if people in Hammond, Greenville, Lancaster or my own backyard in Santa Clara accept me or not. Likewise, I don’t really care if the reformed crowd think I’m too Arminian for them either. When I smell the slightest hint of someone trying to intimidate or manipulate by fear, I automatically resist it no matter if it’s from the Fundies or ConEV’s.

    My whole point of view is not to wave a flag for one side or the other, but rather to just point out that I don’t see much leadership that help bring clarity to ministry on the fundy side, so naturally I’m going to look over the fence and even visit the other side to see what they’re doing. I don’t always like what I see and I don’t do it when I get back to my side of the fence.

    • Well, thank you to all who commented today. I hope a few more will chime in on this topic. Also, thanks to SI for the link. As of this writing (10:53 pm PST), I have 241 hits today, most of them making their way here from SI.

      First, I intended to provide a link to Pastor Dudding’s blog in my original post but in my rewrite, I think I omitted it. My apologies.

      Second, to Will:

      It certainly isn’t my intention to make you infamous, I simply wanted to engage the subject you brought up in your post. I do tend to agree with Ed Vasicek, who said on SI:

      It amazes me that for nearly 2,000 years, Christians got along without vision statements. Wonder how they managed?

      I am antagonistic to the ‘corporate mindset’ that has heavily influenced modern Christianity. I think it is a lot of psycho-babble, with emphasis on the ‘psycho’.

      Be that as it may, it is not vision statements so much as what outside observers actually perceive as the vision of a particular ministry that is interesting. Sometimes this tells us something about the ministry, sometimes something about the observer, and sometimes both.

      Third, as I said in the original post, I agree with Dave that the ministries mentioned are really quite different from one another, really in different categories. But what we are interested in here is ‘perception’ of various ‘names’ in two different … what? … camps/brands/movements [nah, not movements!] of Christianity.

      So the question isn’t ‘are these the same kinds of ministries’, but ‘Can the average observer identify the basic vision of these ministries?’

      I also think it is particularly relevant to this discussion to talk about these particular ministries because they are in the mix of the greater discussion we are having over the issue of so-called Conservative Evangelicalism. Much as, say, a comparison between BJU and Wheaton (as Dave suggests) might be more equivalent as categorical entities, Wheaton really isn’t part of the discussion in this debate over CEs, is it? Maybe BJU and say Southern Seminary would be a better comparison, although I realize Southern isn’t a liberal arts university. In any case, we aren’t talking about comparing these ministries, but rather about how we perceive them.

      Fourth, I think Dan is right in saying that Fundamentalists generally have the perception of being “negative, scowling legalists”. Unfortunately, the perception is inescapable. Fundamentalists stand for the unashamed proclamation of the gospel. [I’d prefer to say “the old fashioned gospel” to distinguish it from the new fangled ‘gospel’ we seem to be awash with these days… but I’ll leave my old fashioned adjective out for now.] In standing for that gospel, Fundamentalists also are quite willing to contend for it, as we all know.

      If we contend, we will be accused of being “negative, scowling legalists” and other nice names. See references to us by many conservative evangelicals.

      I think that we are going to shortly see some difficult days ahead where close friends may part company over some serious issues. How do you suppose those on the fundamentalist side of the question will be described?

      With nice names, no doubt.

      Fifth, I notice the thread title at SI was changed. I didn’t see the original title, but I see that it was at the suggestion of my friend Bryan Bice. He used to sit directly behind me in a Greek class, back on the Ark. I think he missed my point, however. He says I am “contemplating whether or not fundie organizations/ministries have vision statements”. That’s not it at all. I would in fact prefer that they don’t have official vision statements. What I am after here is, as I said earlier, can the average observer easily identify the basic vision of various well known conservative evangelical and fundamentalist ministries.

      Ok, all of this covers my response to the comments offered so far, both here and on SI. I’ll offer my perception of these ministries next.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      • Now for my summary perceptions of ‘vision’:

        9Marks – the biblical function of the local church
        Ligonier – ??? I’m not too familiar with them… I’ve heard the name, of course. Is this R.C. Sproul?
        Grace To You – expository preaching
        Desiring God – promoting pleasure in God
        BJU – uncompromising complete Christian higher education
        FBFI – promoting fellowship among fundamental baptists
        Sword of the Lord – promoting a particular emphasis on preaching and, especially, soul-winning

        As you can see, one needs to be relatively familiar with a particular ministry to have a sense of its vision. I am not that familiar with Ligonier, so I can’t comment.

        I’d like to expand on my comments concerning the fundamentalist ministries. Some might not understand what I mean by my brief summary statements, so here is a bit more:

        BJU: uncompromising complete Christian higher education – the founder established the University to enable Christian ‘boys and girls’ to get a quality Christian education in a school that would build rather than tear down their faith. The school is intended to educate the whole man, not just provide an academic education. That was the purpose at its founding and I would suggest is still the heartbeat of the school today. The fundamentalist emphasis is an essential part of the overall philosophy, but it isn’t the central feature of its vision and never has been.

        FBF: promoting fellowship among fundamental baptists This purpose has been repeated again and again by the leaders of the FBF in their meetings and in the pages of Frontline. Whatever other purposes the FBF may have held in the past (when it embodied a fellowship concerned with modernism in the Northern Baptist Convention), this is what it has become. It isn’t hard to see that this fellowship is what it exists for. Some may not value the emphasis. Personally, I have to say that it has been a great blessing to my ministry.

        Sword: promoting a particular emphasis on preaching and, especially, soul-winning On this one, bro. Dudding may not be so far off when he says ‘preserving revivalism’, although I think he means it more negatively than I would. There are some aspects of what is called revivalism that I think need correction, but the concept also has some things to be commended. (It isn’t my purpose to get into that subject with this post, however.) Soul-winning was a major emphasis of John R. Rice. Perhaps subsequent leadership has diminished what that means, but it still remains a central vision of the Sword.

        After writing this, I went to the web-sites for the fundie ministries on our list. Both the BJU and the FBF have mission statements. For comparison to my summaries, here are the ‘official’ statements:

        BJU: Within the cultural and academic soil of liberal arts higher education, Bob Jones University exists to grow Christlike character that is scripturally disciplined, others-serving, God-loving, Christ-proclaiming and focused above.

        FBF: The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International exists to provide a rallying point for Fundamental Baptists seeking personal revival and the opportunity to work with committed Bible-believers in glorifying God through the uncompromising fulfillment of the Great Commission.

        Refreshingly, the Sword site has no easily identifiable mission statement!

        Before signing off for the night (the Slovaks just beat Russia!!! heh, heh), I’d like to make a bit of a comment on the appeal of the evangelical ministries.

        It is quite obvious that the things emphasized by these ministries have an appeal to Bible believing Christians. These ‘visions’ are things, generally speaking, that we believe in.

        Moreover, the fact is that we find these ministries to be useful to us in our own ministries. I have used materials from John MacArthur’s ministry. I have appreciated Dever’s books, for example. I submit that fundamentalists have always appreciated the useful tools created by non-fundamentalist but theologically orthodox ministries.

        So they are useful, but that doesn’t mean we should enter into formal ministry partnership either. (That is what koinonia, biblical fellowship, means – formal ministry partnership; cooperative sharing of gifts, time, and cash in common endeavours.)

        The reason? As so often said, it is a fact that embracing these particular ministries without reservation will inevitably entangle you in charismatic and ecumenical errors. This is easily documented.

        It is the entanglement we object to, not the vision and not the usefulness.

        And it is the fact that we resist the entanglement that makes us out to be ‘negative, narrow-minded legalists’. So be it.

        Don Johnson
        Jer 33.3

  7. Don: “The reason? As so often said, it is a fact that embracing these particular ministries without reservation will inevitably entangle you in charismatic and ecumenical errors. This is easily documented.

    It is the entanglement we object to, not the vision and not the usefulness.”

    I would agree with that to a great extent. How does attending one of their conferences differ from using one of their resources? I don’t see it as partnership in the way you’re describing per se.

    However, our church is hosting a conference on expository preaching with Steven Lawson and I am promoting it to anyone who is willing to come and learn how to preach biblically. I guess that would entangle me too much since he’s a close friend of MacArthur who’s friends with Piper who is friends with Driscoll who is friends with Robert Schuller who’s friends with the Devil himself.

    • Hi Will

      Attending conferences wouldn’t be partnership, as far as I can see. I wouldn’t go out of my way to hear some of these fellows speak, but if it were convenient, I might try to hear any of them (or even people much further to the left than them).

      In the past, however, men who have consistently pursued the conferences of evangelicals often slide into some kind of entangled ministry partnership with evangelicals. That doesn’t mean they have lost their salvation, but it does demonstrate a lack of commitment to fundamentalist ideals.

      And yes, hosting a conference featuring a major evangelical speaker would be ministry partnership. Does your partnership with Lawson put you into partnership with MacArthur’s resolved conference where Lawson also spoke? No, not exactly. Does it put you in into partnership with charismatism since Mahaney is involved with the Resolved conference? No, not exactly. But it does begin to entangle you in that orbit.

      Let’s put it this way, are you going to challenge Dr. Lawson about the terrible music that is reportedly involved in the Resolved conference? Are you going to challenge him about his tolerance of charismatism and ongoing gifts through his partnership with Mahaney?

      I kind of doubt it.

      So to the extent that you wouldn’t make those challenges, you are becoming entangled.

      That’s dangerous, in my opinion.

      We could ask Dave, who commented earlier, whether I am right in thinking it dangerous. I doubt he would have Lawson to speak in his church, and precisely for the reasons that I think it would be dangerous for me and for my people to do the same. Of course, I don’t know if he will read through all these comments, but if he does, I wonder what he would say to this.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. Good Morning Don:

    I wanted to expand upon this from you,

    Fundamentalists stand for the unashamed proclamation of the gospel. [I’d prefer to say “the old fashioned gospel” to distinguish it from the new fangled ‘gospel’ we seem to be awash with these days…. In standing for that gospel, Fundamentalists also are quite willing to contend for it, as we all know.”

    I appreciate and agree with your comment above. I would, however, expand on it to include- The Fundamentalist is also historically recognized for his fidelity to balanced, biblical separatism from unbelievers and/or disobedient brethren, which is IMO where the real divide in Fundamentalism is going to be over the so-called “conservative” evangelicals (ce).

    Those who still identify with Fundamentalism, but have a growing affinity for the star personalities and conferences of the ce camp, are becoming increasingly less inclined to make a practical application of the biblical mandates (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; Romans 16:17) when it comes to the obvious doctrinal aberrations and/or questionable methods of ministry among the ce men. Most can barely find their voice to admonish over or raise a warning to our own in regard to one of the most egregious of the issues coming from Piper and Mahaney, which is their teaching that the charismatic sign gifts are active and should be sought after today. Then there is the ecumenical movement among some ce men that has recently come to the forefront.

    There is a growing willingness among some in IFB circles to allow for and tolerate these aberrant doctrines and practices in the ce community that they (for now) would never allow for or tolerate in their own ministries. Why? Because they preach “good” sermons or write “good” books? Is it ever right to set aside fidelity to the Scriptures for a preferred fellowship?


    • I agree with you in application, Lou, but the idea of “contention” in my definition encompasses separation. Separation is certainly part of the package, but it isn’t all there is to the ministry of contending for the gospel. Making it the sole focus or the prime focus distorts the whole ‘vision’ of what fundamentalism should be, I think.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. Brother Will:

    I appreciate the charity and balance you bring to this discussion. Some others tend to get somewhat exercised over the kind of considerations that Don and I interject. The comment you posted this morning at my blog was quite helpful to the discussion. I think Don and his readers will appreciate it as well.

    Anyway, I’m pleased to see you are in large agreement with Don on the “entanglement” issue he raises. It is a real and valid concern, which you acknowledge.

    As I noted to you elsewhere, continued participation with the ce camp conferences, apart from admonishing them openly and warning others, will desensitize you to the obvious problem areas we’ve discussed. You (as well as others who are embracing the ce men) won’t go to bed one night determined to resist these errors and wake up the next morning ready to embrace them fully. That slide will, however, happen overtime- incrementally. This is a primary reason why God gave us His mandated hedges of protection. We, all of us, are susceptible to and can be drawn into egregious doctrinal errors and/or practices originating from within or without the church (Acts 20:29-30).

    I’ll close by paraphrasing a sermon except I heard many years ago. The original application then was to interpersonal relationships and was directed to teens over whom they choose run with.

    You show me who your friends and fellowships are- and I will show what you are now or soon will be.


    PS: My use of “You” is not meant for YOU only. I mean these comments of mine for any man who is growing in his affinity for the conservative evangelicalism or on the fence about it.

  10. Don,

    Here’s my instant thoughts.
    9Marks—You should have at least these nine marks if you’re going to be a scriptural church.
    Ligonier—Really smart people love reformed theology.
    Grace To You—Find out what the Bible means, unify on what we say is essential.
    Desiring God—Desire a God with few restrictions, you’ll find real pleasure in that.
    BJU—Fight and maintain a certain fundamentalist application of Scripture to the world.
    FBFI—Here’s fellowship for those who see evangelicalism as too loose and like mainly BJU types of stands.
    Sword of the Lord—Build churches numerically through revivalistic methods and preaching.

    • Thanks, Kent… I think!!!

      Way to lighten it up, with a bit of a ‘smiting below the fifth rib’ thrown in.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. Don:

    Thanks for that follow up. I believe I understand what you refer to, and I would be in agreement with you. I am aware and do agree that there is a larger consideration to “earnestly contend(ing) for the faith which was once delivered,” prior and/or in addition to separatism.

    Thanks again,


  12. Don said:
    “So they are useful, but that doesn’t mean we should enter into formal ministry partnership either. (That is what koinonia, biblical fellowship, means – formal ministry partnership; cooperative sharing of gifts, time, and cash in common endeavours.)”

    I think this is a great summary. I can appreciate and profit from much of what Dever, MacArthur, etc., produce. However, I would add one disclaimer: It would be foolish for me to make any of these men or (collectively) all of these men my primary influence. Obviously, that place belongs to the Word of God. My other reading, listening, etc. comes from a variety of sources; but I purposely seek out materials from solid sources. The problem is most fundamental literature is not backed by lucrative book contract$ and expensive marketing. Perhaps we need to buy our books based on our beliefs instead of yielding to fleshly marketing technique.