Against the backdrop of America’s Industrial Revolution, Jason Duesing compares President Theodore Roosevelt’s call-to-action in conserving the nation’s natural resources to, “The people of God needing to take action to preserve and protect the doctrine of the church.” America was growing at a rapid rate, yet Roosevelt had the foresight to recognize the immediate threat if changes were not made. Similarly, Duesing seeks to show, “Believers, acting under various constructs – from liberalism to ecumenism to even evangelism – have also engaged in ‘old wasteful methods’ with regard to the ‘natural resources’ of the doctrine of the church.” The purpose of this critique is to assess Duesing’s proposed solution to overcoming indifference and his call to awaken evangelicals toward both ecclesiology and the believers’ church.
Duesing begins by establishing the widespread doctrinal deterioration that has plagued the local church and contributes this breakdown of the Great Commission to the local church not protecting the gospel message, internal disputes, and attacks from outside the church. Where parachurch organizations thrived in evangelistic outreach efforts, the local church has become sterile in reproducing disciples, even within close proximity. Duesing then proposes the only way the true biblical gospel message will make it to the next generation is the believers’ church.
As the first champions of the believers’ church, since the Constantine Synthesis, Duesing acknowledges the Anabaptists were, “The pioneers of ecclesiological conservatism in an age not of ecclesiological indifference, but of ecclesiological intolerance.” This distinction separated them from the Magisterial Reformers who Leonard Verduin asserts, were primarily only concerned with, “The Anabaptists’ desire to move beyond Church reform to complete restoration of the church to its New Testament origins.” Duesing demonstrates, “The Magisterial Reformers were not looking to make many ecclesiological changes, [but were concerned with] the economic and political ramifications of separating the church from the state.” While the Anabaptists sought to conserve doctrine, Duesing contrasts, “The Magisterial Reformers sought to make membership contingent upon baptism as an infant, [and] just as the State carried the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing justice, so too did the Church support the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing the truth.” Ultimately, the Anabaptists recognized, “The only way to accomplish biblical purity in the Church was to separate completely from the existing institutions and establish a believers’ church, [which] no longer supported the use of the sword and refused to call for the death penalty even for those with divergent doctrinal views.”
Duesing does a worthy job demonstrating the state of affairs within the local church and the need for doctrinal reform. The gospel message has become so diluted and religion in general has turned more into an environment of pleasing people, rather than training and equipping disciples to fulfill the Great Commission. The formation of the believers’ church was truly a radical paradigm shift, rooted biblical teaching. This writer agrees, “For the sake of preserving what is essential for salvation for the next generation, a new call is needed to awaken evangelicals from a state of indifference toward ecclesiology and the believers’ church”
By only briefly touching on the decline of the church, Duesing’s call on believers to see “Ecclesiological Conversation as a Christian Duty” does not paint as vivid of a picture had the failure of maintaining a pure church been better demonstrated. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “The eighteenth century proved devastating for the General Baptists, [due] to theological problems, antiquated church practices, and failure to recruit new leaders of stature.” Had this been included in Duesing’s article, another comparison could have been made to the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution changed the way people lived and the Intellectual Revolution challenged the way people viewed God, the universe, and themselves.”
Duesing’s use of America, standing on the precipice of its own demise by reckless indifference sets the stage for a solid argument for the need of ecclesiological conservation and a movement towards the believers’ church. Duesing is right, doctrines must be upheld and biblical principles must never be compromised, even for the sake of unity, and the Anabaptists are a great example of what is sometimes needed to form a pure church rooted in biblical teaching.
Duesing, Jason G. “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving.” A White Paper from the CTR, Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006. http://www.baptisttheology.org/baptisttheology/assets/File/BelieversChurch.pdf (accessed April 6, 2017).
McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.
Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997.
 Theodore Roosevelt, “Conservation as a National Day,” in Conferences of Governors (Washington: G.P.O., 1909), 3-13.
 Jason G. Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” A White Paper from the CTR (Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006), 1.
 Matthew 28:16-20
 Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3.
 Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997).
 Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3-4.
 Ibid., 4.
 Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 5.
 H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 170.
 Ibid., 151.