Dear Brother or Sister in Christ,
I am pleased to tentatively offer you the opportunity to speak from the pulpit at Bible Baptist Church. This offer is conditional on your agreeing to several terms, which I ask that you read carefully. This letter is lengthy, but I insist you read and understand it in its entirety. I realize that you will need to prayerfully consider whether you can honor these terms before you accept this offer to speak.
Please understand that I do not aim this letter at anything about you particularly. If I felt you would likely do any of the things below, I wouldn’t have even extended you this tentative invitation. Failure to respect any of these terms may put in jeopardy your honorarium or love offering, and any future invitations to speak at Bible Baptist.
I regret having to put so many conditions on this offer, but I must guard the ministry we are trying to build here. Unfortunately, I have seen guest speakers put pastors in too many awkward, embarrassing, or outright untenable positions, seriously damaging what the pastor was trying to accomplish in his own congregation or community. Fratricide—friendly fire—we called it in the military.
First, I care more about what you are for than what you are against. The Bible is the Word of God and it provides plenty of material for you to speak on and apply to the lives of believers.
Please keep the scope of your presentation or sermon to that which I have already discussed with you. Kindly keep your presentation to a maximum time limit I have already given you. This is essential in order to keep the flow of our service. Please police yourself and don’t make me have to be the enforcer of your time limit–it’s awkward and embarrassing.
We are an unaffiliated, autonomous, local Baptist church. We’re not part of any association, fellowship, or denomination. However, Southern Baptists and many non-denominational churches are playing on the same team as us. We are friendly to them, even while we are happy with our “independent” identity. I have even preached in Southern Baptist churches—and will continue to do so as the opportunity presents itself. In fact, I’m pretty certain that some day, some good Southern Baptist will be a guest speaker from my pulpit! If you have negative opinions of these groups, I invite you to keep them to yourself—too many of our independent Baptist brethren tell outright lies about Southern Baptists (or at least act like today’s SBC is the same SBC as it was 30 years ago).
If you denigrate Southern Baptists or other Bible-believing churches or denominations, or seminaries or colleges associated with them, I will personally intervene and remove you from the pulpit on the spot. You’ve been warned. Please save us both the embarrassment. Again, I don’t believe you’ll do this, but I have to say it in my letter.
Please, don’t denigrate or criticize any mission board, even if you’ve had a bad experience. It also goes without saying (so I’ll say it), don’t denigrate your own mission board.
Do not use our pulpit to criticize or denigrate any church, denomination, or religion that claims to be Christian. Yes, this includes Pentecostals and charismatics, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Mormonism, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yes, I do believe that the best of these groups are in serious error, and that, worse, many of them are heretical, false religions or cults that pervert the true gospel of Jesus Christ and lead people to Hell. You may certainly show the fault of specific false or erroneous doctrines they may practice or teach, but please don’t explicitly name the group that teaches the doctrine. I’ll explain my reasoning.
Beyond that, I’m also not particularly excited about people mentioning Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or any other religion that doesn’t even claim to be Christian. Just don’t mention them—at all—in either a good or a bad light. (The exception would be missionaries where the majority of people are one of these religions—demographical information is fine.) In general, please use generic terms like “false religions” or “cults”—but don’t attach the labels to any specific group (we will understand who you mean). Again, you may show the error of specific false doctrines they may practice or teach, but please don’t explicitly name the group that teaches the doctrine.
Now, for my reasoning: Trust me, I know something about winning people from false religions. You won’t do it by telling them that, not only are they going to Hell, but that their grandmother, who was a devout practitioner of that religion, is there waiting for them. You win them by preaching the true Gospel—they’ll figure out what they were taught is false. You see, when you get even the simplest fact about their beliefs wrong (and, trust me, they are waiting with baited breath for you to get something wrong), people stuck in false religions will dismiss you, tune you out, and mark you (and me, and Bible Baptist Church) down as not credible.
Please don’t destroy the relationships I am working hard to build with people stuck in false religions. You tell the truth of the biblical faith, the best you know how.
Our official Bible translation is the King James Version. Please stick with the KJV—and leave it at that. Leave any feelings or opinions you have for modern translations—positive or negative—out of your talk or sermon. Too many “pro-KJV” people cause extreme damage by “defending” the KJV with lots of emotion, demonstrably wrong “facts,” irrationality, circular reasoning, half-truths, untruths, character assassinations, and weak arguments! With defenders like that, the KJV needs no enemies. (I particularly view such KJV “defenders” as Gail Riplinger, Peter Ruckman, D. A. Waite, Bruce Borders, Jack Moorman, David Cloud, Jack Hyles, David Otis Fuller, and James Sightler as having been particularly unhelpful in the King James vs Modern Translations debate…if these are your heroes, you need new “authorities” on the subject of the King James Bible.)
In my view, most people on both sides of the KJV vs. modern translations issue get things grossly wrong and muddy the water on a needlessly controversial issue. Violate the KJV rule, and I’ll remove you on the spot. Save us the embarrassment.
Please don’t damage your credibility, or mine, or that of BBC, or (most of all) the credibility of our beloved KJV. Preach your heart out, using the KJV, and leave this issue to me, the pastor. For what it’s worth, I do not consider the use of the KJV a test of fellowship with otherwise likeminded churches. If this is a big enough problem for you, you may certainly decline this invitation—with no hard feelings on my part.
For those preaching: As for your preaching, use sound hermeneutical principles. Preach your biblical text in its historical, grammatical, and literary context. I have observed that too many of our independent Baptist preachers impose upon a biblical text a meaning the passage never held. Also, please attempt to make strong applications in your message—the truths of the Bible need to be applied in our lives. Answer the question, “What do I do with what I’m hearing today?”
This should go without saying, as it is a basic homiletical tenet, but please: Fact check your statistics, illustrations, etc., especially when delving into areas where you don’t have expertise. Too many good sermons are wrecked by wrong information that could have been easily verified—especially in the days of Google!
Do not make a direct appeal for funds or financial support. Leave that to me to do for you—and be warned, I might not. Too many speakers make direct appeals for support and really create sideways energy for pastors who must juggle many financial priorities.
Please extend an evangelistic invitation or altar call, if it’s appropriate to your message or presentation. Just be careful. We believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. What we don’t believe in is easy-believe-ism. I remain convinced that many of the great evangelistic “crusades” of the past decades preached a wonderful evangelistic message that fall flat right when thousands of people came forward, prayed a prayer—and their lives never changed. We never discipled these people. If you’re uncomfortable with extending an invitation, let me know and I’d be happy to do it for you.
Do not try guilting or manipulating the audience into responding to your invitation or altar call. Sadly, I’ve seen this done and it was extremely awkward for both the speaker and the pastor of the church.
Please, don’t get into the Calvinism-Arminianism debate—both sides misrepresent each other. God is sovereign and man has free will—the Bible teaches both. I’m shocked that two dead Dutch guys from outside the Baptist tradition still have such sway in our movement.
Our official church position on eschatology is premillennial dispensationalism, with a belief in a pretribulation rapture. But we recognize that many faithful Christians who love the Lord have honestly believed the Scriptures teach differently—and have convincingly argued for their positions. Therefore, this is not a test of fellowship—nothing about salvation hinges on your eschatological views.
If you fall in the “premillennial” spectrum, but believe the rapture may not be pre-tribulational, you are free to argue in favor of your position, if it is relevant to your message, and if you first mention that this church’s official position is that the rapture is, most likely, pre-tribulational. If you are amillennialistic, I would suggest that eschatology is probably not a good topic for you to preach on at this church.
I’m fine with you generically talking about modest dress. But, if you think women ought to wear head-coverings in church, or should never wear pants in church, you’ll want to keep that to yourself. If you think a man having a little hair on his ears means he might have sin in his heart, please keep that to yourself, too.
Jesus said if we’ve violated the law in one aspect, we’re guilty of the whole law. Most of us would argue that all sin is equal in God’s eyes. Therefore, don’t harp on one sin as if it were worse than all the rest. Yes, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about homosexuality.
I strongly affirm that homosexual behavior is sinful—just as are adultery, fornication, pornography, bestiality and all other sexual relationships outside of the one man, one woman marital relationship. But more than that, backbiting, gossiping, lying, cussing, stealing, covetousness, and all other sins are…well…sinful, too. Just let the Bible speak for itself, and since homosexuality is sexual immorality, you are free to generically speak against sexual immorality. (No, you don’t have to dance around biblical passages that specifically speak about homosexuality…just let the Bible do the talking.)
Please allow me, as the pastor, the exclusive right to deal with homosexuality and transgenderism. What I’m saying again here is this: Don’t ruin the relationships I am working hard to build. I’m trying to set the conditions for the Gospel to open doors and transform lives—not to shut doors because people somehow need to clean up their act before they come to church. (Look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, with emphasis on Paul’s words, “And such were some of you…”)
Please understand that I’m not out to be a “liberal compromiser”—I preach against sin, and you can and should, too. I’m not out to quench what the Holy Spirit puts on your heart to share with us—I want to hear it! Rather, I’m out to continue to build bridges to people who are outside of the faith.
Do not hesitate to contact me if you believe something you want to share may come close to violating these guidelines—I believe we’ll be able to talk through it so that you can share in a way that does not violate the terms I have set forth, yet still conveys the message God has laid upon your heart. However, if you feel that, overall, these are terms with which you are uncomfortable with or unwilling to accept, I will have no hard feelings if you turn down our offer to speak.