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This morning I was inundated with a number of references to a sermon by a prominent Texas pastor. The fact that Ed Young says something controversial is not new. He has been in the news for bringing live animals up for his sermons and who could forget the whole 24-hour web chat from his bed, with his wife, atop his church building? Because of these types of stunts, I don’t pay much attention to what he is saying.

Today was different however. In the midst of a sermon he launched into a diatribe against Reformed Churches. His motto was that “Reformed Theology leads to Deformed Ecclesiology.” Can Reformed pastors afford to look in the mirror in light of the Scriptures? Yes. Absolutely. Do we have the corner market on the truth? Absolutely not.

At the same time, what Young said was truly troubling. Concerning his rant, Justin Taylor tweeted, “(it was) A sad mixture of prideful boasting and sinful slander against fellow pastors and brothers.”

But this is not the primary reason why I was troubled. My biggest offense was with what he said about the work of the Holy Spirit:

Are they all bad? No they just don’t reach anybody. Last year at Fellowship Church we baptized 2,632 people. One of the fair-haired boys of this movement, I will not call his name, they baptized 26 people last year. (he then drops his hand-held mic on the floor and looks stunned). Oh, he’s deep. What are you smoking? Are you kidding me? I cannot put my head on the pillow at night knowing we baptized 26 people.

Without going too deep, the Bible seems to teach that conversion is directly tied to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the same gracious, powerful, loving, God that brings 1 person to faith that brings 100 or 1,000 to faith. It was the same Holy Spirit that brought the Philippian Jailer to faith that brought Saul of Tarsus to faith, who also caused 3,000 to be converted on the Day of Pentecost. Whether 1 or 1,000, whether toddler or tyrant, whether home-schooler or hoodlum, it is all of grace and all of the power of the Holy Spirit.

The “fair-haired” boy who is leading the Reformed movement should be humbled and thankful for the evident work of grace in the life of those 26 people! If it was God in the 2,000, God in the 200, God in the 20, and God in the 2, then we must rejoice in his kindness!

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

…What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Ed Young should be ashamed for directly or indirectly belittling the evident work of the Holy Spirit. From my seat this would ironically undermine his premise of putting God in a box and far outrun any charges of theological pride, ecclesiological deformity, or missional lethargy.

May God forbid we ever despise the day of small things lest we find ourselves forgetting how small we really are and how big God and his blessings are.

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40 thoughts on “You Should Praise God for those 26 Baptisms!”

  1. Hollie says:

    The portion of his message that you mentioned was the part that troubled me the most too. I immediately thought of Luke 15:10: “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” It was so sad to hear him mocking the other pastor over numbers.

  2. Beau Weber says:

    In Ed’s own words…”Whosoever causes us to…”

  3. mike Rollings says:

    You did a great job in indentifying the problem. I am a Pastor and when I lay down at night I reflect on my faithfulness to the Gospel and how undeserving I am to even speak in the name of Christ. Any achievement in my ministry is nothing at all. God’s mercy and grace is everything.

  4. Darrin says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more believers among those 26 than Ed’s 2600.
    Thank for your work, Erik.

    1. Chuck Thomas says:


    2. blaine says:

      don’t fall into the game… those 2600 have nothing to do what Ed says…may every one of the 2626 grow in God’s grace

  5. Jerry says:

    I baptized one last year. So far this year I have baptized one.

    I praise God for the privilege of ministering to God’s people even if they are no more than a dozen at a time.

    That said, one has to wonder how many of the 2,632 will still be worshiping our Savior a year from now, five years from now. What you use to get them you need to continue to use to keep them. When these folks get bored with the stunts will they still be in church or will they run after some other fad?

  6. Frank says:

    Young’s speech was an evidence of arrogance and lack of grace.

    Some of the comments on this post are an evidence of arrogance and lack of grace.

    Our job is to seek God, and to stand in awe when He moves among the people He has called us to shepherd on His behalf. How are we any different when we look at his numbers and say that they are probably not really followers of Christ? It’s the same arrogance, just the other side of it.

    Erik, thank you for pointing out the error in Young’s speech, and the excellent challenge to be faithful with the people, no matter how many, that God has entrusted us with.

  7. great post.

    btw: Erik u should check out

    radio show sometime

    cause it would be a good show for u to check out, plus u and the host I see agree on many things.

  8. Darrin says:

    Frank, there’s no comparison. The main problem with Ed’s talk is the lack of *truth*, as well of grace. He is deceiving many, and as Erik pointed out, practices many such antics. This would naturally cause concern as to the validity of professions in many cases. We realize God is capable of doing anything, and converting each and every one. My comment was supposed to be lighter way of saying that I have more confidence in the small number brought in via biblical preaching, and Jerry gave a good description of the problem. I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. You might show us some grace too.

    1. Chuck Thomas says:

      As I scroll down through the comments, it’s “bingo” again. Well said.

  9. Dave says:

    I have greater confidence that the 26 people the Reformed guy baptized actually heard the biblical gospel of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ than any of the 2,000 people Young baptized.

  10. DebbieLynne says:

    Why were those kids dancing? Very bizarre…

  11. Jesse Carr says:

    I was genuinely concerned when I heard people applauding that. Were they applauding the fact that they “only” baptized 26 people? How disgusting.

  12. Another troubling part of the “sermon” was he said Calvinists put a social gospel in front of the true Gospel. That is really bizarre to me. If your “typical” Calvinistic church is anything, it isn’t overly romoting a social gospel. That is Rev. Wrights’ and Rev. Campolo’s bag, not John MacArthur’s. I wonder if he was saying that to send those interested in reformed theology on some goose chase?!? Like some bizarre reverse psychology. And the skinny jeans comment? Yes… I am sure R.C. Sproul wears the skinny jeans when he goes to the Justin Bieber concert. Maybe that is a poke at Matt Chandler, but Matt is hardly ultra-hip and groovy. Ed Young said what is a common opinion in our denom… I don’t know anything about Calvinism, but I sure don’t like it. He should repent. He needs our prayer, as does our convention.

  13. Chris says:

    It seemed to me that is upset that he is losing influence among younger people so he attacked the group taking it away.

    1. Kevin says:

      I agree Chris. It seems The Village Church is having an effect on young Christians around Dallas and Ed doesn’t like it. That is why he went on this rant. When young christians are hungry for God’s Word they will search out places to be fed. Obliviously they are not getting fed and Fellowship church so they are seeking places where they will be fed.

  14. Todd McLeod says:

    If I want to have my ears umm…tickled I’ll listen to Ed. But if I want truth and God, I’ll choose any Reformed Pastor over him any day! Praise God for the 26!

  15. jeff Hoening says:

    I watched Pastor Young’s sermon earlier this week and was struck by the sheer obsurdity of it – including jumping down into the audience, taking someone out of their seat, sitting down and describing how he’d like them to respond to his sermon – just odd (and he did this twice). Maybe meant to be funny, but it was just weird. I’ve subsribed to his podcast at iTunes and am uncomfortable with his often boasting of the work of Fellowship Church – how many campuses, people, baptisms, missions work, etc, etc. Beyond God’s Word itself, no one has a corner on the truth. Nice recap of it, Erik.

  16. jeff Hoening says:

    Should add that the Holy Spirit changed the world with 12 committed believers. 26 is more the double this. Praise the God who saves!

  17. Doc B says:

    I’m glad you picked up on this point, as it is the more important of several problems with his sermon.

    Many are offended that he attacked the reformed faith. That was certainly uncalled for, and wrong. But his personal assault on small churches, including the unnamed one in his sermon, was the most troubling to me.

    His remarks after the comment, the ones about him not sleeping, seem to indicated he puts the onus on baptisms on HIS work, HIS ideas, HIS leadership, etc., rather than on the HS. I think this explains his sin in what he said very well.

  18. Loren Sanders says:

    It was just a couple of years ago (Palm Sunday, 2007) when approximately 800 people were baptized in the Crystal Cathedral by Schuller and 4 helpers after they had heard the testimony of Evel Knievel. The math worked out to each of these five men baptizing 4 1/3 (4.3333) people per MINUTE!

    While I’m sure that Young would be duly impressed by these numbers, I would feel safe in assuming that the number of actual conversions that took place was (at best) immeasurably tiny – just as I’m sure it would be in Young’s own church.

    I am quite sure, that every once in a while someone in his church actually gets saved by the Holy Spirit of God interaction, and then they immediately leave and find a real gospel-teaching and believing church to attend.

  19. Tim says:

    My (former) pastor pulled essentially the same stunt during an evening service last year. It was a sermon more like a devotion in that he encouraged comments and questions from the floor during the time. When he said that churches that were only baptizing 10 or 20 people per year were not Spirit-filled and needed to quit wasting people’s time and close their doors, I raised my hand and asked him what he thought of the ministry of William Carey. <>

    1. Woody Bailey says:

      What did your former pastor say to that?

  20. Rod says:

    Ed Young Jr. would do well to listen to John MacArthur’s message delivered at T4G 2010 on the Theology of Sleep. MacArthur spoke of faithfully preaching the Gospel and then going to sleep because his part was to be the messenger, the Lord is the One who does the work on a person’s heart.

  21. Mark says:

    “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”

    Ed Young:
    “Are they all bad? No they just don’t reach anybody. Last year at Fellowship Church we baptized 2,632 people.”

    seems dangerous, bragging about numbers. just saying.

  22. Troy says:

    Baptizing 26 persons is never a bad thing. If however, your church is considered a “mega” church… (thousands of members) or has grown by several hundred, then the statistic, while not “bad” in itself, is indicative of a soft’ish view of evangelism. In this case, it would appear that your church is simply absorbing the “saved” frustrated saints who are choosing to worship under another roof. In other words, the gospel is not being aggressively sown and transient congregations are not a sign of success. We should not be trying to build our own kingdoms but His.

    Mr. Young, I suspect, let slip some frustration in his sermon by choosing to make a point (very dramatic) by belittling those baptsims and comparing them to their own statistics. He messed up by doing so. I think his point… was lost in the translation.

    Furthermore, the tenor of his sermon will do more to aggravate reformed pastors than encourage constructive dialogue.

    “The Reformer is always right about what’s wrong. However, he’s often wrong about what is right.”
    ― G.K. Chesterton

  23. Jeff says:

    Baptism does not equal repentance and salvation. I wonder how many of the 2600 + were baptized for their second or third time? I would pray that we don’t and wouldn’t boast about anything, much less numbers. Ed Young appears to be either immature in this area, let his “jealousy” get the better of him, or is a false prophet. We should humbly correct, but also pray, not only for him, but his “followers” as well.

  24. SLIMJIM says:

    Incredibly sad. In addition, I think it’s so cardinal this comparison number game that’s often played by worldly seeker sensitive pastors.

  25. Austin says:

    Even though I have enjoyed some of Ed Young’s preaching and teaching, this “stunt” makes me pretty upset. Thank God He allows some men to lead and pastor huge churches who have major influence. Thank God they baptized 1,000’s, but let’s also thank God for those pastors who pastors small church or only baptize a few each year. Reformed or not, we are all in this thing together and should encourage one another, not make fun or tear down. Wish Ed Young would use his words more carefully and think about what he is really saying. Thanks for this post!


  26. Josh says:

    Frankly a reformed blog calling nearly anyone arrogant without pointing out the constant diatribe of ignorance and arrogance coming from reformed blogs/speakers is the pot calling the kettle black.

    Erik, you yourself clearly implied that ‘arminians’ could be among the dangerous in your church ( though of course, likely not the most dangerous(the implication though is still clear)

    I frankly have found the opposite to be true. Arrogant Calvinist’s driven by some insecurity that they may be seen as emotionally charged rather than intellectually founded in their faith preach what is an internally logical system (very humanist/Greek thinking) that they will even claim to be ‘the gospel’ (eg. even great’s like spurgeon) and anyone that disagrees is likely heretical.

    For every Ed Young Jnr that stirs the pot, treating Calvinist’s the way Calvinist’s regularly treat everyone else (cue – semi pelagian accusation) there is a hundred loud mouthed Calvinist’s on their blog calling everyone else heretics, pelagians or whatever else comes to mind.

    Ed Young Jnr is pointing out something (and I agree arrogantly) that Calvinist’s will often fail to admit. Whilst Calvinists continue to try and convert some to a systematic theology, people are going to hell. (Whatever, I guess, God want’s most of them there doesn’t he, just a little bit better than the devil who wants us all there)

    Such is seen by the comments on this wall itself. Questioning whether those 2000 thousand plus are really saved (and if so surely they would leave). I don’t know if they are saved, no human does from this sort of distance.

    People on this wall would even have a problem with the Three thousand getting saved at Pentecost.

    There is a presumption that he is one talking of a small church, (plenty of arminian churches are small) He is clearly talking of someone (church size does not matter really) that thinks that his particular theology (in this case Calvinism) is his security and mission not the great commission. If one is Classically Arminian (as I am) and is distracted by obsession with that particular understanding to the detriment of the mission Jesus called us to, that person should be brought to task.

    To the Calvinists on this wall, what proof do you have that you are saved? It can’t be your confession because plenty have confessed and walked away so badly no one would think them ever true believers, it can’t be a changed life, we all have seen that reverse. How do you know?

    1. cheryl tryer says:

      There is an appointed time for everythingand everyone. When the
      angel Palmoni (old test.) perhaps numbers the last appointed countedfor salvation. look up

      1. cheryl tryer says:

        I didn’t know I was a Calvinist for a few years
        after I was saved. Not at an alter or reading
        or repeating a prayer (although any of these
        methods are fine) Key word in salvation is
        repentence. It is a lifelong work of santification.
        Wow verses for me. Eph 1. Predestined, fore-
        ordained before the foundations of the world.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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