Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: Tomorrow Arrives; Substance X Departs

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tomorrow Arrives; Substance X Departs

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was "Tales of Tomorrow", on for 2 or 3 years in the early 1950's. Watched on our black & white 12" Dumont TV with FM and Aircraft Radio bands between channels 6 and 7 on the analog tuner.

The show itself was an anthology, in which the cast was the same most of the time, but they had a different part and setting each week. There were a lot of anthologies on, back then.

I remember the details of exactly one episode, entitled simply "Substance X". It was an interesting concept, that episode. It seems a man from a small town in Wisconsin (as I recall) had left to become a scientist, and returned home with a revolutionary new food. It looked like a brick of Velveeta, and you'd pinch off a bit of it and eat it. It tasted exactly like whatever you wanted it to.

Think of a big juicy steak, chomp on some of Substance X, and you'd taste the world's best steak.

Envision eating some strawberry shortcake (like I did with son Brad & daughter-in-law Connie at their home this evening) and bingo ... you'd taste strawberry shortcake.

The scientist moved into a small house and gave this stuff out to anybody who came and asked. Shortly, the entire town was dining on Substance X every meal. That continued until one young lady got tired of that and grabbed an apple or some such, and tried to eat it.

It tasted terrible. She could not even swallow it, it was so foul-tasting. She then tried every other food she could find, with the same results.

She started asking other folks to try some normal food and they all said the same thing. Everyone, without exception, said normal food ... ALL of it ... now tasted so bad they could not eat it. None. Never. Nada. What had started as a seemingly benevolent experiment had turned into an unbreakable addiction. The show ended in a poignant scene where the young lady, broken, showed up at the good doctor's door and said "I'm hungry".

From where I sit, something akin to that has been happening in the SBC. The organization, formed to serve the local churches, has quietly assumed the role of exclusive chef for however many churches and members the SBC actually has. That was easy to do, as we welcomed those guys several hundred miles to write SS material, tell us what we believed (can you say 95% deny tongues?), who ought to lead us, who ought to qualify for what, etc etc ad nauseum.

WELL. Tomorrow seems to have arrived. It's today, now, and folks are losing their taste for spiritual Substance X. We no longer have to see the good doctor to find good food. Truth be known, we never really did have to, but we did it anyway. Owing to the internet, and some vocal people, and a new generation of young'uns whose hearts are not wedded to the SBC, the good doctor has been challenged.

Case in point: The Lifeway Study. I have no doubt that the survey is a lot closer to the truth than the oft-quoted 95%, and the survey results reflect about what I'd expect them to. But I mostly just talk to ordinary folks out here, so I'm not privy to what the good doctor might know. I guess.

I wonder how many cases there are like the one I experienced. I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Alabama Baptist, stating what I thought about the then-new IMB rules/prohibitions/guidelines re: PPL's (a term with which I still disagree, but that's another story that nobody want to hear) and missionary candidates. The AB published it, and I got a call from a local pastor. It seems his wife has a PPL, and the IMB's pronouncement had made her feel disenfranchised. He called me to thank me for writing that letter; he said it had really helped his wife.

And I wonder how many stories like that will never be told, or how many folks there are out there, who feel the same way. Maybe the problem isn't that we don't hear enough from the ivory towers; perhaps it is that the ivory towers don't hear enough from the grass roots. Or don't want to. Or both.

I commented on Wade Burleson's blog, that "Pleasing everybody pleases nobody". Until we find a way to change that human tendency, we'll always have one camp that thinks tongues is ok, and one that doesn't. And that's going to spell two teams, or I'm a monkey's uncle.

I have to go now. Time to toss a banana to my nephew in his tree.


At 8:18 AM, June 05, 2007, Anonymous marie said...

This whole thing is sooo outrageous!!! What are the leaders of the SBC scared of????

I came out of an SBC church where the Pastor had actually had an uexplainable experience at a Mark Rutland conference. Shortly after that, he closed down the altar and said no-one could come there unless you were joining the church or re-dedicating your life. He essentially nipped the Spirit in the bud, and the church started dieing spiritually thereafter.

It is amazing! He knows the Spirit works in these ways but is purposefully denying it and is so afraid he will lose control (I guess).

Is that what this is all about - the powers that be are afraid the Spirit might actually take control and do things they don't approve of???

At 8:29 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Marie, thanks for the comment.

I've seen more cases than I can recall, of someone having an "unexplainable experience" and walling it off. Without exception, it seems as if the Holy Spirit simply left them, thereafter, to go it on their own. A little like the Spirit departing from Saul, who went right on being a king because he'd learned how.

In fact, the phrase "unexplainable experience" reflects the inner need for man to explain, to pin down, to master that which happens to him. Well, we get that naturally. Adam started it.

At 9:12 AM, June 05, 2007, Anonymous marie said...

You know waht? I am READY for the unexplainable! Please LORD, let the only explaination be that only YOU could have accomplished it!

I'm tired of the explainable, I'm tired of "having" control....Oh that we would die to this world and allow the Spirit to do His work.

I wonder what He will have to do in the US to get our attention?

At 9:26 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Amen, Marie. In fact, He's already doing some of that in my life ... check here for details.

And some other things, including what all I'm involved in WRT the SBC, which I'd have never dreamed 18 months ago.

At 10:46 AM, June 05, 2007, Anonymous marie said...

Wow! I read your link and what an incredible experience! It just goes to show that God will accomplish His will through us if we are only willing that He do whatever is necessary to do it!!!

I have prayed for this gift as well, but have not been given it, as yet.

BTW, just want you to know that I really enjoy your comments that I see in the blogdom world. You have a discerning spirit that cuts through to the quick. I pray the LORD will use your wisdom to open eyes and ears to hear Him and to deposit truth into those who read your words!

At 10:55 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks again, Marie. I keep hammering at my SS class (young marrieds) that I'm the least likely guy in the world for God to do this stuff with, and if He'll do it through me, He'll use ANYbody. If they're willing.

It was 1974 when I asked, earnestly, and then I forgot it altogether. 20 years later, God did it.

He is always worth whatever wait He deems appropriate.

At 11:11 AM, June 05, 2007, Anonymous Lee said...

Wow, I think you and Marie have really hit the nail on the head. I really like the analogy with "Substance X" because it's exactly what has happened. Case in point. The SBC has been lamenting the drop-off in baptism statistics over the past few years. Actually, they've been slowly but steadily declining for more than two decades, but the solution has been to come up with some kind of denominational program or emphasis to help get the statistics back up. Like that's ever worked before.

As far as being afraid that the Holy Spirit might move, and that might affect someone's control over the church, I think that's exactly the difficulty Southern Baptists face, both in their churches and in the convention itself. I've been reading Neil Cole's book, The Organic Church, and he quotes a Korean pastor who, after being given a tour of several American megachurches made the statement, "It's amazing what you people can do without the Holy Spirit!" The fact is, you can build a congregation on a corporate model by wise allocation of resources, creative thinking and "selling" the program. But I think most megachurches would be sorely distressed at having the Holy Spirit show up, because the structure they've built doesn't need him. In smaller churches, the resistance to having the Holy Spirit in their midst is that it would interfere with the personal kingdom of influence they've built. Some folks would have to play second fiddle to God, and in a lot of Southern Baptist churches, they're just not used to doing that.

God doesn't speak with a Southern accent.

At 11:33 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Lee: Thanks.

In fact, I don't think English was His language of choice. I think it may well be a heavenly language that nobody wants.

Well, some do.

Furthering your thought about what has or hasn't worked, somebody needs to point out that the system we've used is what's built the record we have. Like 16 million claimed members with 6 million in church, and probably 20% of THOSE are kids who aren't members. So the response when the numbers slide is to tell us to do some more of that.

I've heard insanity defined, in one sense, as doing the same thing over again but expecting a different outcome. It ain't gonna happen.

Mark Devers spoke in Greensboro about the old saw about trying to close the back door of the church (to maintain members). He said what we ought to do is close the front door and open the back, and then teach the people how they should live, and insist on it (via church discipline). He said by the time the folks who wouldn't live what they professed had left, maybe the ones inside would have something going on that the folks outside in front would want to get in on. THEN, open the doors.

Lot of truth in that.

At 11:42 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Incidentally, Marie, I don't think there IS such a thing as "rededicating your life". When someone "backslides", what really happens is they turn their back on God and simply live in sin and rebellion against God. There's no remedy for that, that I can see in the Bible, other than repentance and restoration. But we don't want to make someone feel bad by admitting they sinned, which is humiliating, so we let them "rededicate", which sounds so noble.

We're a lot more PC than we ought to be.

At 2:49 PM, June 05, 2007, Anonymous marie said...

Yes, I've never thought of it that way! Thanks for the new insight!

What's PC and what's WRT? Sorry to be so ignorant!!!

At 3:22 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Marie: I don't let people downgrade people here. Not even themselves. You're not ignorant. :)

Sorry .. I have carpal tunnel syndrome and I abbreviate a lot (why IS abbreviate such a long word?). WRT is With Reference To, and PC is Politically Correct.

Oh, if I ever say IMO, that's In My Opinion.

At 9:36 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger CB Scott said...


It is funny. We knew the results of that study long before it was taken. We have spoken of it many times over lunch. All anyone had to do was talk to people and the facts would have revealed themselves.

Funny also, is the fact it has caused us no trouble. You do, I don't. I guess it is just a spititual thing:-) with some people.


At 9:49 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


Yup. Just shows to go you how upside-down the whole thing's gotten. And when someone sends a message up the chain that we ought to act like this, all sorts of swords rattle.

You said it. Spiritual.


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