September 12, 2012

Dr. Doug McLachlan, Community is Being Elevated Above Theology…

On September 9 a TV station in Chattanooga reported that the “Highland Park Baptist Church [was] Relocating and Renaming.”1 The Highland Park Baptist Church (HPBC) will henceforth be known as the Church of the Highlands. The report noted that,

In 1946, Highland Park Baptist Church started Tennessee Temple University. While the church is relocating and renaming, Tennessee Temple University will remain in the Highland Park neighborhood.”
Is the name change simply because the church will be relocating out of the Hype Park neighborhood? That is a reasonable answer, but certainly not the only reason. It is widely known that HPBC has steadily been moving away from its historic Baptist, separatist roots.

This kind of news is becoming all too common among once independent Baptist, separatist churches. The same is increasingly true of some colleges. Northland International University (NIU) was originally founded 36 years ago as the Northland Baptist Bible College (NBBC). It may be impossible to know for certain which change came first, but we do know that along with the name change the former NBBC as NIU has drifted from its fundamentalist, separatist moorings.2

Following is an excerpt from Dr. Doug McLachlan’s President’s Page. The subject is Philosophy of Ministry and was published in 1998.
In recent years there has developed a “tendency toward generic Christianity.” (Millard Erikson and James Heflin on Old Wine in New Skins, pp 50-ff). The trend, these authors say, is toward a “doctrinally generic Christianity” where the “specifics” of doctrine are dismissed or unimportant. One of the most visible symbols of this trend is the decision of denominational tags from the church name. In my mind this is a dangerous trend. It seems to me that the engine driving such change is the belief that specific labels inhibit church growth i.e., the expansion of community
Community is being elevated above theology, growth becomes more important than truth.
In earlier times the theology of a church was reflected in its name. To me, that approach still has great merit. The reason is this: generality in name of leads to a loss of specificity in belief. Covering our beliefs, hiding our theology by masking our identity and camouflaging our name may indeed attract a larger crowd (most contemporary consumers think little of “brand loyalty”), but it has great potential to jeopardize and weaken our doctrine, our truth-claims. It produces an environment where beliefs tend to be minimized, changed and in some cases even abandoned as irrelevant to mission, unimportant to ministry (Erickson and Heflin). 
Whatever their liabilities (and there are some), names reflect our belief-system. They say something about us. They announce to others who we are and what we believe. Even today, in our postmodern world, names like Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist alert us to a basic set of beliefs. The name becomes a summary statement of certain basic theological commitments. One of the reasons our name “Baptist” still has merit is because it identifies for honest seekers who we are and what we believe. And it represents our belief-system, the theological bedrock which is the enduring ground of our belonging. (Dr. Douglas McLachlan, President’s Page: Philosophy of Ministry, 1998)
Has anything changed from the time of this writing in 1998? Of course, Northland dropped “Baptist” from its name. Dr. McLachlan wrote,
“Even today, in our postmodern world, names like Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist alert us to a basic set of beliefs. The name becomes a summary statement of certain basic theological commitments. One of the reasons our name “Baptist” still has merit is because it identifies for honest seekers who we are and what we believe.”
That statement begs the question from honest seekers: Since Northland dropped their name “Baptist Bible,” we ask- who are they, what are NIU’s basic theological commitments and what do they believe? Sincere questions such as these one might expect clear, precise, unambiguous answers from the University president, Matt Olson. Yet, those answers (to date) have not been forthcoming.

Dr. McLachlan wrote, “specifics’ of doctrine are dismissed or unimportant.” In Matt Olson’s Confidence in the Next Generation article on the Grace Bible Church, a member of CJ Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries, a major specific of doctrine is not even mentioned. A doctrine that the current official NIU doctrinal position states was “temporary,” must be “rejected, opposed” and “cannot accept.” That major doctrine is Charismatic theology, which teaches that the sign gifts of tongues, prophecy and healings are active and should be sought after today. Yet, Matt Olson praised this church and its pastor.3

Has Dr. McLachlan Contributed to the Changes at NIU?
Dr. McLachlan played a role in the initial wave of visible changes that Matt Olson has brought to the former NBBC. Dr. McLachlan contributed to the new trajectory of NIU with his being one of the three (Sam Horn, Les Ollila) who traveled with Matt Olson to call on John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Rick Holland at Grace Community Church. From that meeting (April 2010) came the invitation to Rick Holland to speak to NIU’s impressionable young people in the college chapel.4

Dr. McLachlan wrote, “One of the reasons our name ‘Baptist’ still has merit is because it identifies for honest seekers who we are and what we believe.” Northland, your name was changed. You are no longer the “Baptist Bible College.” Who then are you and what do you believe?


Site Publisher Addendum:
Beginning Friday we will begin a discussion of Dr. Matt Olson’s What Matters Most series.  Brother Olson’s series originates at his personal blog and is reproduced at the pseudo-fundamentalist site SharperIron. Our new series will be under the title, What REALLY Matters Most?

1) WRCB-TV, accessed Sept. 10, 2012.

2) Is NIU “Unchanged?”

3) Is NIU “Opposed to and Reject[ing of] the Modern Charismatic Movement?

4) Resolved Founder, Rick Holland, Speaks to NIU Students


  1. Brother Martuneac,

    If we use the Bible to build a Biblical basis for naming a church, the word "church" would be used along with the name of the city or perhaps region. Thus "Church of the Highlands" sounds Biblical assuming "the Highlands" is the name of a city or region the church is located in. Theological distinctives would then be listed in a published doctrinal statement.

    When I first became a Christian like so many people you wouldn't get me near a church that sounded denominational or part of "organized religion." That is something you catch from the culture without knowing why. The word "Fundamentalist" also carries with it very negative connotations, much of it which is deserved. So to overcome these things IFB's need to excel above other churches at obeying the Bible, which unfortunately way too many don't. They often do a poor job of loving people and practicing Christianity which is a big reason many people will run off to the more contemporary churches where they give the appearance of being more loving and joyful.


    Scott Jonas
    East Wenatchee, WA

    P.S. I'm publishing under "anonymous" in case my previous post didn't get through. Blogger doesn't give very good instructions on how to do comments and I'm not sure if I'm getting through with other "Comment as" selections.

    1. Scott:

      Sorry I am late in posting your comment. I am in Charleston, SC to see one of my sons graduate from the Navy's Nuclear Power school today.

      Very little time to give a thorough reply. I think Dr. McLachlan's comments above speak to the issue. In the case of Highland Park and Northland both have changed radically from their former Baptistic, separatist founding. IMO, dropping "Baptist" would have been with purpose, to communicate what they have departed to have become. Furthermore, "Fundamentalist" didn't appear on the sign or literature of either so and passer-by would not necessarily have kept on going at first look if that label were a negative.

      As for suggesting many IFB churches don't do well at obeying the Bible and loving people I think you are over-reaching with "way too many don't." What I do know is that most, if not all of the modern day contemporary churches clearly disregard God's mandates for personal and ecclesiastical separation. The CCM culture being one example, NIU hobnobbing and loosely (for now) formalizing relationships with the modern day Charismatic movement another glaring example.

      More to add, but must be going now.

      Kind regards,


    2. Brother Martuneac,

      Based upon comments from yourself and others plus some recent comments by David Cloud at Wayoflife, I have much more insight into the motivations of Highland Park (or whatever it's called) and they don't sound good.


      Scott Jonas

  2. Scott,

    I think you may be misunderstanding the purpose of the ecclesia or the church assembly. In scripture, it is not geared toward drawing in or attracting the lost, but it is to be completed devoted to honoring and pleasing a righteous, holy, God. This mindset, that the assembly needs to do more to attract the lost or the carnal Christian, is completely unBiblical. Nowhere is there any Biblical instruction to advertise and attract the lost to the church assembly. Evangelism is about confronting the sinner with the Gospel, and it is to take place IN the world, not normally, IN the ecclesia. Too many folks buy into the "Go and invite" idea (based on the go and survey first), instead of "Go and Preach" command. Once you start basing your church or ministry on drawing in lost people, then you are building your whole ministry on what appeals to the lost or the carnal believer. The church is to be pure and holy and completely separate from the world. The saints are to assemble together as a spiritual body to preach the Word of God and edify one another with their spiritual gifts, as well as observe the Lord's Table and Baptism. Having then been edified and instructed and built up in the Word and faith, they then GO TO THE LOST WORLD, and preach the Gospel. Evangelism is to be done BY the church, but not IN the church assembly as a primary focus. HPBC is changing their name so they can now be "the funnest church" around according to Pastor Roberts. They're gonna ATTRACT the lost with skateboard parks, rock-climbing walls, and the same rock music the world already is addicted to, with a little Jesus thrown in. This is a perversion of the NT church assembly. If a lost man or woman attends the assembly, they should sense the distinctiveness and difference of those there, they shouldn't FEEL comfortable, they shouldn't feel at home with the same dress, music, language, etc. They should sense the holiness of God and sinfulness of their sin!

    About names in the Bible, that was first century when every church was a NT Baptist, separatist church as planted by the Apostles and those saved on the day of Pentecost. As false teaching and compromise has come into churches, it is important to identify with doctrinal distinctives. HPBC and NBBC were founded with those distinctives in mind. It cannot be argued that there is less need NOW, to be distinctive in these days, in fact, we should probably be MORE distinctive with our labels. Regardless, HPBC did not rename to be more Biblically distinct, but to be more generically marketed to attract the unregenerate sinner (skateboarder). Northland Baptist Bible College did not become NIU to be more Biblically distinct in an apostate age, they did it to be more accepted by the unregenerate world. This is why accreditation is a big emphasis among once separated Bible colleges, they want credibility with the world. When a church or ministry begins to make decisions based on numerical growth, attraction of the lost, acceptance and credibility with the world, instead of militant loyalty to God, His holiness, and His Word, they have bought the seeker-sensitive philosophy of ministry to one extent or another. HPBC and NIU are seeking to broaden their appeal, attract new people...they are not seeking to please God by practicing separation, but to please men by adaptation.

    IFB churches should love the lost enough to go to them and preach the Gospel to them in their homes, their neighborhoods, their schools, their jobs, their stores, etc. That would be the best love they could show to a lost man. Once they are saved, walk them into the assembly then to be baptized, and discipled and equipped to go out and do the same. …Sorry so long, Lou!

    His servant and yours,
    Steve Rogers
    PS, Scott - I have ties and firsthand knowledge of both. I grew up in Chattanooga and my wife, sister, and father in law are NBBC grads.

    1. Brother Rogers,

      I agree with much of what you said regarding the church. But when I speak of a lack of love from churches, I'm speaking of love for the brethren. One big issue has to do with hospitality or lack thereof. For example, I've attended three IFB churches over the past dozen years, and in all that time never was directly invited by anyone to their home for a meal. I know of others with similar experiences. Hospitality is twice listed in the Bible as a qualification for being an elder/bishop. Yet I rarely heard teaching on the subject. It is a very important way not only to show love for the brethren but also love to the lost.

      In contrast, my mother unfortunately has dabbled in various cults over the years and I I've been invited by them numerous times to their homes for a meal.

      The second issue is what I call "screamin' preachin'" or "preaching in anger" by so many IFB pastors, which as best I understand started clear back with Billy Sunday. I don't think that is a Biblical preaching style nor loving in any sense and hope you and other men who post here aren't among them. That style of preaching has probably done more harm than good for the cause of Christ and violates 1 Cor. 13 plus a lot of other Scriptures. I don't understand how the other men in the churches can allow such men to remain in the pulpits. It has also not only driven a great many people towards contemporary churches but has driven many out of Christianity altogether. Second most harmful might be the belittling and condescending attitudes of many KJV defenders towards those who disagree with them.

      Lastly, in regards to church disobedience, way too many IFB churches, ministries, and universities have become wrapped up by the tentacles of feminism. The evidence is very easily seen by the increasing number of short haired and/or immodestly dressed women in so many churches, and although the Biblical teachings are clear the men of the church seem afraid to do anything. A great many churches preach separation but many of those same ones contradict themselves by not separating from the destructive influences of feminism. And I personally think that what many are witnessing now happening in the universities is in large part a result of a compromise with feminism that started long ago.

      Around five years ago I considered courting a young lady that went to Northland but when I investigated the college, it only took me a few minutes to figure out that I couldn’t recommend that anyone send there children there largely because of the feminism. I was saddened that she had chosen to stay there and work after graduation (for the president I think) which led me to believe she supported those things as did her father. Eventually I dropped the idea of a courtship. I prayed for years that she'd return home, which she eventually did but I don't think was for the reasons I was praying for. Perhaps I'll explain more later in comments to other articles as to what I looked for at that and other colleges. However I already know that a great many will disagree with my methods and conclusions which I also find sad.

      God Bless,

      Scott Jonas

  3. Scott, since you reference three churches that you’ve attended and I happen to pastor one of those churches I will respond to your complaints. I will not belabor these points for this is getting off the immediate topic of this blog article. Should you desire to discuss this further you know where my office is.
    You speak first of all of a lack of love for the brethren and then bring up the idea that hospitality is inviting people to one’s home for a meal. You refer to the qualifications of a bishop/elder/pastor involving hospitality. Have you studied out the Greek word (philoxenos; an adjective) used in I Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:8 (also used in I Peter 4:9; and the noun form of the word [philoxenia] found in Rom. 12:13 and Heb. 13:2)? The words mean literally to friend, befriend strangers or foreigners. Based upon all the references of these two words we find that this qualification is not just for pastors but is expected of all believers. Since all believers are to show hospitality, you stand condemned by your “understanding” of hospitality. While inviting someone over to your home for a meal is certainly hospitable, it is not the only means by which hospitality can be demonstrated. Your charge of a lack of love or hospitality by myself and the church I pastor is not grounded in reality. There have been scores of individuals that have commented quite the contrary to your assessment. As far as the cults, well, one would expect them to be overtly kind initially to prey upon people. We seek to live by our Biblical teachings and examples not from false teachers.
    Your second complaint is of screaming preachers. Well, I know that I don’t fit that category but you do bring up Billy Sunday. Have you actually read a biography of Billy Sunday? Have you read any of his sermons? Have you read what his contemporaries say of him? You state, “That style of preaching has probably done more harm than good for the cause of Christ…” Really? Billy Sunday preached to an estimated 100 million people in his 39 years and some 300 crusades. More than a million came to Christ in those crusades. When men like Sunday, Bob Jones Sr., Mordecai Ham, and others preached in those protracted meetings a century ago, saloons closed their doors, houses of ill repute lost business, whole communities and cities were cleaned up, church attendance soared. That could hardly be described as causing harm to the cause of Christ. You bring up I Cor. 13 and love is profitable but even in love we are harsh at times. Yelling at your child to STOP at the end of the driveway and not rush headlong into the street is not unloving though it sounds harsh and unkind. Read of John the Baptist’s preaching (Luke 3:1-9 where John proclaims “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come” that sure sounds “loving” doesn’t it?), or Christ’s woes to the scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites (Matt. 23:13-33). I seriously doubt that their denunciations were done softly. While I understand some of what you are saying and would agree that there are some out there that yell without substance to their tirades and are to be condemned yet you lump all such preaching and disdain all such preaching. As the saying goes, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.
    Part 2 coming.

  4. Here is part two of my response.
    Your third charge is your idea of feminism, which is then referenced to people in my church. I find your ideas of womanhood rather fanciful and fully unbiblical. We are a Baptist church which seeks to live by the understanding that the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice. The ideas of womanhood that you proposed to the father and to me have no footing, no foundation, no basis, no shred of reality in the Scriptures. Instead they are a twisting and wresting of a couple verses of the Bible, a tactic typical of false teachers or unknowingly by untaught, ungrounded, immature believers.
    Lastly, I’m rather shocked that you would end by saying, “However I already know that a great many will disagree with my methods and conclusions which I also find sad.” Your statement is a bit arrogant. Sure I disagree with your “methods and conclusions” because they are not based upon the clear teachings of the Bible or founded in reality.
    Your contentions that you level against people are based solely on your own preconceived notions of what should or should not be done, rather than based upon Scriptures. I am not above correction or criticism and I am by no means perfect but base your case upon the Scriptures and not your own conjectures. I will answer one day to my Savior and Lord for the way I have cared for my flock that He, the Chief Shepherd, has entrusted to me, His undershepherd. I don’t take that responsibility lightly.
    Now, let’s return to the topic at hand.