Left Behind: The Apparent Absence of Fundamentalists in Resurgent Church Planting

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While Fundamentalists often noisily do battle over issues important mostly to their sub-culture, there is a battlefield where Fundamentalists are conspicuous by their absence. There has been a resurgence in church planting in North America and few Fundamentalist churches have answered the call. The names of leaders in this resurgence are well-known and include Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Bob Roberts, and Ed Stetzer, to name a few. Whatever Fundamentalists think of these men, let there be no doubt that they are engaged in the most noble of tasks—the Great Commission—on a scale rarely seen and in cities which, with some notable exceptions, have been long abandoned by solid, Bible-believing churches. These leaders are not without their foibles, and controversy often surrounds or follows some of them. That said, it must be asked if there are any church planting movements in Fundamentalism with the depth and breadth of what is taking place in conservative evangelical circles.

Recently I attended a conference on church planting where several thousand active or prospective church planters and their wives were in attendance. Admittedly the presenters and attendees were from diverse evangelical backgrounds, a blessing in many ways in witnessing the diversity and unity of the body of Christ. Many in attendance could not plant churches together, a fact they recognized, due to doctrinal differences that are at the heart of one’s understanding of the nature the local church. One speaker, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, expressed his friendship with and admiration for Tim Keller, yet confessed that they could not plant a church together. There would be an immediate conflict over needing a bowl or a bathtub to baptize the first convert. Yet in spite of obvious differences and the inability to partner in church planting there was a laudable spirit of cooperation to help others plant churches by providing training, mentoring, and access to resources.

Why not?

We cannot partner with anyone or everyone to plant churches. But planting churches is not an option. It is a matter of obedience. If fundamental churches are lagging in this area they need to ask themselves why. The neglect of church planting is flagrant and perhaps nothing will hasten the demise of Fundamentalism more quickly than the inability or unwillingness of Fundamentalists to be engaged in this work. Alas, church planting requires cooperation and networking, rare commodities among many Fundamentalists, among whom the spirit of independence and individualism persists, and few churches have the resources to go it alone. In addition, churches must recognize that the churches they plant may not be a mirror image of the sending and supporting churches, an unacceptable condition and consequence for many churches.

Some of the reasons for the lack of church planting movements in Fundamentalism were addressed in an earlier article and won’t be repeated here. In this article I would like to expand on those earlier thoughts and raise some questions.

I will offer this opinion up front. Most traditional churches cannot reproduce themselves. There are exceptions to this generalization. For example there are pockets or regions, often surrounding Fundamentalist institutions of higher learning, where graduates stay on after completing their studies and where a constituency exists to plant churches with other graduates, faculty members, and support personnel. There are also clumps of believers who gravitate to certain areas where they are sure to find like-minded believers. New churches have also been planted with former members of other churches who fled the cities to find refuge and comfort in suburbia. These predominantly monochromatic churches are often racially and relationally segregated where Christians live in a bubble without realizing it since most people they know are in the same bubble.

There is nothing pernicious about planting affinity-based traditional churches, yet it must be admitted that these churches are mostly attractive to Christians who already share conservative values and fit in a cultural-Christianity mold which has sometimes been mistaken for the only valid expression of biblical Christianity. An artificial setting exists where there is little contact with unbelievers and where church programs cater mostly to insiders. Churches perpetuate this virtual isolation through the establishment of ministries designed to avoid contact with the world in order to protect believers from contamination. Few of these churches successfully reproduce themselves except occasionally when there’s the opportunity to support someone planting a new church that is like the supporting church—same music, same attire, same standards, same Bible version, same approved colleges and universities, and same loyalty to national leaders. This kind of church planting is often little more than the shuffling and reshuffling of those already committed to a certain vision of the church. A clone-like church is planted here and there, mostly in white suburban areas, but there are no church planting movements to speak of and few churches which reflect the diverse population of North American urban centers.

Toward solutions

So if most traditional churches cannot reproduce themselves what should we do? First of all, we should recognize the contribution that traditional churches make and have made to the work of God. They have a role in the outworking of God’s plans and should be appreciated. They have provided a legacy on which others build. It’s easy and mostly pointless to search for flaws in how they have done ministry and mistakes they have made. We should look on them with the same generosity and grace which we will want others to accord us in the future when they are looking back on what we have tried to accomplish. As one writer puts it, traditional believers and churches are like bricks on the understructure of a bridge. These bricks will not move to the other side of the bridge (i.e., they will not, need not leave their traditions) but they are necessary for the overall support of the structure, in this case God’s church (see The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, pp. 33-36). They are not to be despised or belittled for holding to traditions which are an important part of their Christian identity as developed in their contexts.

Secondly, although most traditional churches cannot reproduce themselves, they can still reproduce, and here is the caveat: they must be willing to allow churches they plant to have their own identity in obedience to the Scriptures and develop their own traditions and style of ministry. Simply put, they should be narrow where the Word of God is narrow and grant freedom where the Word of God permits freedom. Of course traditional churches have every right to expect that the churches they help plant possess the same DNA, the same core theological commitments. But if churches demand that new churches in different contexts look the same, do church the same, be governed in exactly the same way, emphasize and engage the same issues, and follow the same leaders, then we should expect to see more men—young and old alike—leaving Fundamentalism to experience and enjoy God-given liberty to plant Christ-honoring churches without being held hostage to the extra-biblical sensitivities of others.

For those traditional churches which are ready to meet the church planting challenge, let me raise a few questions as suggestive of where liberty might be accorded to church planters. In saying this I’m imagining a church plant in an urban setting with a significant number of university students who are skeptical of, if not hostile to Christianity as they’ve known it. The community has pockets of immigrants who live alongside young professionals who are buying and renovating older homes and displacing long-term residents who can no longer afford skyrocketing rents. In planting a new inner-urban church, consider the following questions:

  • Do you have one pastor carrying the leadership and preaching burden alone or a leadership team where the lead pastor is “one among equals in decision-making; first among equals in vision and leadership?”
  • Do you organize traditional Sunday School, Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday prayer meeting services or develop gatherings according to patterns more appropriate to cultural patterns where the church is situated?
  • Do you create and multiply programs for different age or affinity groups to attract people to the church or does the church seek bridges of contact in the community for incarnational ministry?
  • Do you insist on the exclusive use of more formal, traditional hymns and outdated gospel choruses or do you seek a balance with music that is theologically sound, spiritually uplifting, and comprehensible and which includes contemporary forms?
  • Do you employ a church name that creates unnecessary barriers or choose a name which reflects an aspect of your ministry without denominational code words?
  • Do you utilize a website designed to attract Christians who move into your area while confusing unbelievers with Christian-speak language like “separatistic,” and “militant” and listing everything you believe about everything, or do you simplify your public presentation in order to catch and hold the attention of the unchurched as well?
  • Do you place the American flag and the Christian flag behind the podium and give the appearance of supporting a conservative political agenda (usually Republican) or do you urge your people to be good citizens regardless of their political views and affiliations and refuse to allow politics to highjack the cause of the gospel?
  • Do you give public invitations after each service singing “Just As I Am” or “I Surrender All” with a decisional emphasis or do you emphasize progressive and radical transformation through biblical discipleship and in relational community?

In asking these questions I realize that not all of the elements in the first part of the questions are found in all traditional churches and that such stark polarizations do not always exist. Neither am I saying that all of these elements are inappropriate in certain settings. I am saying that the first part elements will not be found in most urban settings, are not essential “as is” to being the church, and that we must allow for liberty in contextualizing ministry. In other words, there are functions and there are forms. The functions are those elements which are indispensable to be the church and they center on and around the Word. The forms can be adapted and modified and should not be considered normative.

At this point I have purposely not given answers to the above questions. The questions are only a small sample of what needs to be asked. I cannot provide normative answers since there is no one model for planting churches. What I would like to ask in closing is this: are there churches that are unable to reproduce themselves who are interested in reproducing gospel-centered, Christ-honoring, theologically-committed churches which can be effective in ways and in places where traditional churches may never be found or effective? Perhaps nothing will contribute more to the kind of future in store for Fundamentalism then how Fundamentalists respond to this question.


Dr. Stephen M. Davis is on the pastoral team at Grace Church, a new church plant in Philadelphia, and adjunct professor in missions at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA). He holds a B.A. from Bob Jones University, an M.A. in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, FL), an M.Div. from CBTS, and a D.Min. in Missiology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Steve has been a church planter in Philadelphia, France, and Romania.

driven by pragmatism?

Steve, are you saying that we should be driven by what works? Shouldn't we be driven by Biblical patterns and mandates rather than cultural quirks?

With respect to the communities with an over-abundance of Christian college graduates (hello Greenville), I wonder if that isn't a function of the liberal arts curriculum in a relatively large urban centre. I wonder if there aren't a lot of college cities that have a similarly high percentage of their graduates 'sticking around' because it is relatively easy for them to find jobs there.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

I have led in the planting of

I have led in the planting of 2 churches here in the Albany area over the past 17 years and right now I am holding a Sunday evening Bible study in another town with the desire to plant a church there.

In Albany, the Southern Baptists haev targeted the area and are planting many churches. The Calvary Chapel people have also come to plant churches. The emergents are also targeting our area.

Over the years, I know of a few situations where fundamentalists said this was not an area that was good for church planting in instances where someone was here trying to do something. I do think that many fundamentalists take a "fast food" approach to church planting. They give the church planters a chart and show them the number of people to be expected by a certain time. If the church plant does not measure up to the chart, the church planter is led to believe He is a failure, in every case where this has happened, the church planter has left.

The Southern Baptists have come here, and they have done the research and know that this particular area of New York State is one of the least evangelized pockets of the State and of the entire Country. So, they pour money, and lots of man hours into sowing gospel seed. Some of their church planters live lives of tremendous sacrifice. While a few of their works have grown quickly, most have not. Yet they stay and keep going. I do admit that I do admire them for this. Under the leadership of Andrian Rogers, they establsihed a seminary here so they could train preachers in this area and have them plant churches here. I believe they have lost money on that seminary almost every year it has been here. Yet they keep it open because they see the need. Again, I admire that resolve.

Stimulating

I definitely found the piece stimulating and I appreciate that. But there is much I object to here.
1. Yes, fundamentalists can do better at church planting
2. Bigger is not better in God's economy: quiet, rural church planting is just as important as "resurgent" urban church planting
3. Organizations like Continental Baptist Missions and Baptist Church Planters have been faithfully facilitating church plants for many decades. State fellowships across the country have been faithfully facilitating church plants for many decades as well.
4. "Traditions"- many of the questions in the question- list seem to assume that the practices involved are as optional as the color of the lobby carpet and that the churches who hold to them have not arrived at them through diligent (though admittedly often faulty) application of Scripture. It's not like traditional churches are just being stubborn.
5. Yes, the autonomy of church plants needs to be respected once these churches become independent and adjustments do have to be made for the cultural setting
6. If traditional churches are the backbone or foundation today but all the churches they plant are non-traditional, what will be the backbone/foundation in the future?
7. Isn't there some obligation for believers who step into the cultural wasteland of the American city to aim higher, culturally?

I can't buy the idea that tradition itself is in any way the problem. Arguably, our churches are not traditional enough--our traditions tend to be from the 19th century or later. A faith as ancient as ours ought to be characterized by more traditions that are much, much older. I tend to think that modern city dwellers who visit a Christian church ought to feel a bit like they have stepped back in time thousands of years to encounter the Ancient of Days, not like they have discovered a cool new philosophy of life that that looks and sounds like it was invented the day before yesterday.

Sorry for the rant. It's a pet peeve of mine.

Aaron Blumer wrote: 2. Bigger

Aaron Blumer wrote:

2. Bigger is not better in God's economy: quiet, rural church planting is just as important as "resurgent" urban church planting

I frequently hear things like this, and I find them a little concerning.

Often statements like this can reflect or at least encourage and legitimate either certain forms of sloppiness or sentimentalism, or both. What people are concerned to protect is a form of theological egalitarianism - note the following key phrase - with respect to a person's value coram Deo, before God. This is biblical and essential, in a way at the heart of the Gospel: rich people are not in the preceding sense "better" people than poor people, etc.

All very good. But it can easily become a form of sloppiness, just like secular egalitarianism, when it turns into a refusal to acknowledge differences in relative strategic value with respect to certain objectives. Take a simple, secular example. Is a five-star general more important than an airman? It depends, you say. If you're asking whether, qua human being, he's more important, than answer is no (here the good egalitarianism). But if you're asking whether he's more important with respect to the US Airforce and its goals, the answer is obvious, yes, he's far more important. You can't replace five-star generals, for example, the way you can replace airmen: five-star generals represent impressive natural ability and knowledge honed over thirty-plus year careers of increasingly complex service and responsibility. And here is where the sentimentalism comes in: a lot of people simply don't like to acknowledge, openly, this kind of obvious differentiation in relative value. Partly because, as C.S. Lewis says, the base, rather than noble, ground of the desire for equality lies in a hatred of people who are more excellent, virtuous, accomplished, etc. It's a natural part of sinful human beings to dislike people who are more skilled, accomplished, etc. than we are - that's one reason we tend to hang out in social groups in which we are not low-down on the status-chain and we tend to avoid and dislike social structures in which we are obviously inferior in relevant respects to other people with whom we have constant personal interaction. No one naturally likes that, and it takes a lot of maturity to be able to recognize and be grateful for people who are better trained, more skilled, have more importance vis-a-vis certain valid goals, etc than oneself does.

So the darker side of egalitarian sentimentalism is the basic human vice of envy. Envious sentimentalism can combine to make people sloppy in their statements about what I called theological egalitarianism.

Every mature Christian knows that many Christians who are more skilled at the Christian life than they are happen to be far less accomplished in other respects: they may be of average or even low intelligence, but their virtue, consisting in, among other things, what they do with what they have been given, far outstrips other people, who's natural and acquired accomplishments are far greater, but whose virtue is pathetic in comparison. Now because we recognize this important fact, it tends to flare up in the background of discussions like this one, so we say that the uneducated rural pastor is just as important in God's kingdom as a Tim Keller, or whoever.

And in a fundamental sense, as I said, we had better never forget that, because it's a truth that lies at the heart of God's economy. But we then can be tempted to say, "therefore, rural pastor Bob is as important with respect to contemporary church planting asTim Keller." And that's patently false, as Bob would be the first to say if he were listening: Bob, being mature, would be the last person to be bothered about the intrinsic distributions of gifting and calling, because his security doesn't depend on his talents, influence, etc. as it does for many other, less secure and mature, pastors and laymen.

It's important then to avoid sentimentalism and sloppiness out of the desire not to make some people feel less important. At that point, my attitude shifts to how I treat business, music, or any other practical domain, and I want to say: "tough, you need to mature and get on with your work." If one were talking about the importance of the country and rural ministry, then everyone who lived in cities and had no experience with rural life would quite rightly feel pretty unimportant - and if they were envious, marginalized - with respect to that goal. And if they were mature, they just ask would they could do to help, knowing they had other gifts and other priorities in their daily ministry. The case is the same, mutatis mutandis, when one is talking about cites and church-planting. The simple historical and sociological facts are the the world is becoming increasingly urbanized and globalized, thus the emphasis on the part of many church-planters is quite rightly on urban churches, developing a theology of the city, etc. And this is especially the case since conservative Christians have so obviously abandoned urban life and culture and moved into suburbs.

So the reality is a lot of these demographically traditional Christians are losing influence and are seeing the world change from under their noses into one in which they represent a decreasingly influential demograph. So what? If someone is getting their meaning and security from being at the center of things, not having to sit in second-place to cultural trends, and not having to be confronted by priorities that relatively marginalize their degree and kind of abilities, then, yes, they will be bothered. But mature Christians should have no problem with this.

I have never lived in a major city, have rarely lived in any city's downtown, and I have no problem whatsoever with the current emphases in church-planting. I think they are fantastic and I support them from my own suburban, or quasi-rural (or whatever it happens to be), location. I do all this while doing my best to support whatever ministries I'm involved with locally, to seek the flourishing of whatever community - rural, suburban, whatever - that I'm in. One of the most important things Keller critiques is tribalism: it kills the church, and it's rampant, I think, because it's a natural way we express our sinfulness but one that's wonderfully easy to coat with a theological veneer.

So, in sum, it's a mistake to move from "bigger is not better in God's economy" to "rural church planting is just as important as urban church planting." If trends towards urbanization were matched by trends to ruralization, if influence and power and corruption and poverty were evenly spread out across different forms of human organization, then maybe it would be justified to invest equal human, cultural, and financial resources in both rural and urban church planting. But the opposite situation is the case, so it would be sentimental folly not to recognize that, strategically, given our location in history and culture, we should be investing far more corporately, as the church universal, in some places and institutions than others, and, with respect to those relative, but still significant goods and goals, rural church planting is not as important. Maybe it will encourage rural and suburban ministeries to think of what the distinctive goals and goods of their locations are: obviously they have them, and with respect to them lots of urban emphases and skills are unimportant, but the reason you don't hear much about these goods and goals is because they are less relevant to the current trajectory of the world than they have been historically.

Every mature Christian should be able to recognize these changes and their significance, and then use wisdom to decide what they means for their own life and ministry.

For some people, it may mean nothing more than praying about urban areas, encouraging people in their rural congregations to be aware of these changes, and then remaining faithful to their own calling in their rural town.

For others it might mean being convicted about suburbia (more people should be, in my view, and would be, if they knew anything about the cultural history of suburbanization), and thus lead to life-style changes or even geographic changes. Etc. God alone knows what a person should do.

But I know we all need to recognize the broader strategic realities, regardless of how central or marginal we may be to them, that obtain in our time. No one is helped when we move from a proper concern about vindicating our own emphases, value, and ministry to a denial or indefensible downplaying of these broad strategic concerns.

I think that's one of the important implications of Davis's essay: we all need to mature, tuck our pride away, and start adopting a view about urban ministry and church planting similar to the one we have about other forms of missions: these are really important, even though I may not be the one doing it, so I'll support it as I can, Lord please show me how and make me willing.

Conspicuous absence?

I found a lot of value in Steve’s second part, especially the kinds of questions he asks. Provocative, I suppose, but I’m glad they are being raised. His most interesting question is in regard to fundamentalist cooperation. What can we do to broker this loose network of organizations as a cooperative force in church planting?

Happily, my day job allows me to travel around a bit to hang out with church planters, and I have been personally encouraged by the experience.

  1. Baptist Church Planters, Continental Baptist Missions, Evangelical Baptist Missions, and the Association of Baptists for Word Evangelism all have church planting initiatives in the US.
  2. Several state GARBC state associations have coordinated church planting efforts (Michigan, New York, Iowa, Florida, and the Pacific NW come to mind, but there may be more.)
  3. Ken Davis leads a http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=5751 ]church planting initiative at Baptist Bible Seminary that has resulted in ten new churches.
  4. Baptist Builder’s Club has recently announced a program to http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=8815 ]give church plants $50,000 over three years
  5. The 2011 GARBC Conference in Denver is entirely devoted to church planting, and the http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=10173 ]six churches that joined the GARBC in 2010 all have ties to formal church planting efforts.
  6. The Baptist Bulletin has recently published stories of urban church planting in http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=5389 ]New York City and http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=10476 ]Chicago , as well as church planters in http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=3994 ]Nebraska, and http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=4154 ]Schaumburg, IL , among other places. We’re headed to Phoenix this fall for another group of stories.

    Lest anyone begin to suspect where I work, I should add that there are other efforts being led by several other groups as well. All of these efforts seem to be tied together by an idea—one that might resonate with what Steve is saying above. Our traditional churches need to cultivate a “church planting” mentality from the very start. Roger Ridley in Nebraska was a great example of this. On the day they graduated from mission status, Ridley’s church in Gretna sent out a group of families to Chalco Hills. And on the day Gretna dedicated their new building, they sent out another group to Bennington. Same ceremony! Ridley’s basic idea was to mark every milestone of his own church plant by…planting more churches.

    “We were convinced that if we were to start a church, it should have a church-planting mentality from the beginning,” Roger told me a few months before he died. “We don’t really want to be a big church.”

Great article!

Thanks for putting this together. Favorite quote:

Quote:
cultural-Christianity mold which has sometimes been mistaken for the only valid expression of biblical Christianity

Fundamentalism would be so much better off if more people could discern the difference. Although probably no one would say that everything about the way he does church is a fundamental, many people will still consider most of those things hills worth dying on. And this does directly affect church planting in a negative way, because fundamental churches will typically not financially support any mission work that is not in line with them on just about every cultural issue.

"So, your radio station mission wants to transmit the Gospel into the Arab world? Hmm, show me your song library first." Because this will trump where they stand doctrinally. Their presentation of the Gospel could be spot on, but they will get no support if their song library includes anything that would not be performed in our church. Often we're not planting churches, we're planting clones, because we can't discern the difference between what is cultural and what is biblical as you described.

Nice job. I know this issue is close to your heart. This article will ruffle some feathers, and that's a good thing. (Off topic: BTW, I live in the western suburbs of Philly, and you might just see me pop in sometime. We recently had dinner in your area, on 40th between Chestnut & Ludlow. Distrito - I highly recommend it!)

College town influence

Don Johnson wrote:
With respect to the communities with an over-abundance of Christian college graduates (hello Greenville), I wonder if that isn't a function of the liberal arts curriculum in a relatively large urban centre. I wonder if there aren't a lot of college cities that have a similarly high percentage of their graduates 'sticking around' because it is relatively easy for them to find jobs there.

I think you are on to something here, Don. I live in the same town with Duke University. Apart from basketball, the main thing Duke is known for is medicine. While I find the Durham area deficient in many aspects, I can say that I have seen more doctors, health-care providers, etc. here per capita than I have seen anywhere else. It's almost like you can find one on about every corner. Blue Cross-Blue Shield (medical insurance) even has a giant location here. I don't know if it's graduates setting up shop, or people coming for more education and also working at the same time or what, but it's very obvious that Duke's medical school has a large influence here, and it may be the same type of phenomenon as what is happening with Greenville and BJ grads/churches/etc.

Dave Barnhart

Numbers game?

Joseph, I'm trying to distill the argument from your post. Nobody who knows me thinks I'm egalitarian or particularly sentimental. So I'm with you on that as far it goes.
But I don't see the relevance.
Scripture is pretty clear that God is not in the numbers game. That is, we can't reduce His program to "what will get the most people saved in the least amount of time" or even "what strategy will produce the largest number of mature disciples?" I'm not sentimental about small, I simply am not dazzled by big.
When God chose a people for His name out of the many nations of the earth, He led them to a land, drove out the former inhabitants and set up a nation... where they fought for millennia to a) hold on to their faith against the surrounding polytheism and b) fought to maintain their sovereignty.

I'm reviewing this only to make the point that there are lots of "better strategies for reaching the world" we could come up with. God was apparently not mainly driven by "getting it done as expansively and quickly as possible."

Admittedly, the shift involved in the Great Commission is much more focused on "reach and teach," but again, Acts does not always describe what is strategically prudent. Philip is led away from a thriving revival in Samaria to talk to one guy out in the wilderness. Seeds were probably planted in that act that gave rise to Coptic Christianity, but Philip could not have seen that nor would the aposltes have sent him to the desert road if they'd had a church planting strategy meeting.

So what I'm really batting for here is balance. The article assumes that fundamentalist absence from "resurgent" (I'm not clear on what that even means) and urban church planting is, in itself, a terrible indictment despite the fact that we are planting churches all over quietly and on a smaller scale. Now it may well be that the lack of "resurgent urban" work really is a gross failure, but there's no argument for that here. It's assumed.

I suggest that we look at reaching folks out in the small towns without "big conference drama" as not being less important than the other... though also not more important.

I'm not trying to be cynical,

I'm not trying to be cynical, nor am I trying to simply lob a rhetorical "bomb" --

I truly wonder how many fundamentalist churches are started annually by "intention" vs started by splits. My observation is that it would be that the latter is responsible for more "church plants" than the former. Also, the preoccupation with "size" in fundamental circles would seem to de-emphasize spinning off congregations intentionally as church plants.

All in all, a thought-provoking and useful article. Thanks!

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

Agree with Joseph

Actually, Aaron, I think that Joseph is on to something.

I'd argue that the reasons why most IFB churches aren't planting churches are:

  1. because they're just as numbers obsessed as the seeker-sensitives (as in, we're up to 100 people - God is really blessing us!) although they'd never admit it. It's hard to push others to plant a church when you're focused on funding your ever-growing business / church. I think we run our churches more like businesses and less like churches than we might care to admit.
  2. because they are afraid to move outside of the typical IFB culture and do something that they wouldn't do because it doesn't line up with typical IFB norms...you mean, we might have to allow people to wear something other than shirts and ties to church? Use something other than the King James? Listen to something other than WILDS music?
  3. they are focused primarily on winning people 'just like us'...Rather than moving into cities (where the demographics and culture are FAR different from ours), they reach out to areas where the culture is very similar to typical IFB culture - white, educated suburbia. Greenville is a perfect example...there are all kinds of church plants in Greenville - but I'd be curious to see how many church plants are heading into the center city as opposed to reaching away from the city, into suburbia.

    I've seen this in the church I just resigned from, and I've seen it in other IFB churches as well.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Which Fundamentalism . . . . . . . . . . . .

I was under the impression that church planting was well and prospering. Many church planters are among my personal acquaintances. Most of these comments are not representative of the part of Fundamentalism that I know best. In a parallel vein, missions are booming. There are increasing numbers of missionary candidates, strong missions financial support despite the economy, and missionaries are reporting thriving works on the field. The mission boards, of which I speak, are not part of the GARBC circle. I am referring to BIMI, Baptist World Mission, Worldwide New Testament Baptist Missions, Macedonia World Baptist Missions, etc. Additionally, there are many local church mission boards springing up as well as the well-established ones such as Tabernacle Baptist Missions International, Prayer Baptist Missions International, etc. According to my experience, we have seen an increase in church planting and missions over the past decade in my circle of Fundamentalism. Perhaps we ought to define what part of Fundamentalism that our comments represent. What do you think?

cultural quirks

Don Johnson wrote:
Steve, are you saying that we should be driven by what works? Shouldn't we be driven by Biblical patterns and mandates rather than cultural quirks?

I would agree that biblical patterns and mandates drive us. However, many cultural quirks – and we all have them - become institutionalized and mistaken for biblical patterns and mandates.

Tradition or tradition

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I can't buy the idea that tradition itself is in any way the problem. Arguably, our churches are not traditional enough--our traditions tend to be from the 19th century or later. A faith as ancient as ours ought to be characterized by more traditions that are much, much older. I tend to think that modern city dwellers who visit a Christian church ought to feel a bit like they have stepped back in time thousands of years to encounter the Ancient of Days, not like they have discovered a cool new philosophy of life that that looks and sounds like it was invented the day before yesterday.

No problem with Tradition except when traditional churches expect churches they plant to hold to the same traditions it took years for the traditional churches to develop. All churches develop their own traditions. If you were to step inside our church plant you would find a blend of ancient and contemporary. For example, we sing hymns and contemporary music; recite the Lord's Prayer, Apostles' Creed, etc.; we observe the Lord's Supper weekly, and move purposely from Praise to Confession to Thanksgiving to Prayer of Intercession to Proclamation to Celebration, etc. And anyone who listens to our audio on our web site will hear preaching that is anything but seeker-sensitive, moralistic, or pragmatic.

Random thoughts

As long as we distinguish between evangelistic efforts and what constitutes 'the church', then I'm on the bus. Some churches neglect equipping the saints and edifying the body in favor of increasing the number of converts, while others are, as Bro. Davis describes, rather in-bred. You don't have a church body if you just have a building full of lost people, and you certainly don't want a work that is stagnating and well on its way to putrid.

Is there enough church planting going on in urban America? Are Christians in general reluctant to climb into the trenches, and in a sense get their hands dirty? That's probably fair to say- it's human nature.

I also believe that there is much liberty when it comes to methodology, but I don't believe in catering to the lowest common denominator. When our standards of excellence are high, people rise to the challenge. Of course, our standards of excellence should be about embracing Biblical virtues, not what is popular according to the Cultural Fad of the Month Club, or blindly clinging to extra-Biblical Fundy quirks.

As for 'outdated' or 'formal' traditions, we don't consider Shakespeare or Bach outdated- they are classic and enduring for a reason. Some church traditions are such, IMO, because of that same element of purity and endurance. I don't ever want to live in a world where folks stop aspiring to something wholesome, more beautiful, more majestic than what is considered 'must have' in Seventeen magazine.

I’m blogging at Every Day of Education, helping homeschool families on a budget use real books and real life experiences to prepare their children for the real world.

I like a lot of things about

I like a lot of things about this article. and I appreciate it. I think fundamentalists need to think through these things a bit more carefully that perhaps we do.

However, I am curious about the data that Steve is using here (or is there any hard data?). Is there really a big disparity in terms of percentages or ratios? There may well be, but before we determine that fundamentalists aren't planting churches and evangelicals are (or however we want to characterize this; please don't jump on that particular wording), I would be curious about the percentages. Say for instance, for every 10K church attenders, how many churches are planted? Would the numbers for evangelical churches be that much different than for fundamentalist churches? And who is being included in "fundamentalists"? Depending on who you talk to, that includes everyone from Paul Chappell/PCC/Crown to MacArthur/SBC Founder's.

Fundamentalists are generally smaller churches (for whatever reason, some good and some bad, IMO). So it may well be that the number of church plants are not all that different. I would discount church splits as church plants for these purposes (as Dan references).

Perhaps, Steve, you can help us out here.

BTW, I am not trying to make any point here. I simply have no idea who's doing what in what numbers.

Not Sure Where's He's Coming From

It seems that the author is doing all he can to distance himself from anything that smells of being boldly fundamental or Baptist. From the opening line in which he uses "their" instead of "our" to the simple language of "outdated gospel songs" and "church name that creates unnecessary barriers," it seems that if the author is still a Baptist and a fundamentalist, he's not having very much fun!

I am a fundamentalist church-planter presently; further, I've been around church-planting my entire life. I'll share briefly what I've observed in response to several of the bullet points:

  1. Scheduling of times for worship, genuine fellowship, Bible study, and prayer -- in ways that meet the needs of that particular group of Christians, not necessarily the expectations of the larger culture, and certainly not the expectations of any 3rd party Christian group or pressure.
  2. At the church-wide-participation level, I've seen vibrant community outreach such as park Bible clubs, youth gospel events, even (gasp!) door-to-door evangelism depending on the context. At the individual level, I've seen the following encouraged, practiced, and modeled: getting involved in community events, community athletics, regularly frequenting community gathering places -- all for the purpose of gospel witness.
  3. All of these churches have been Baptist. It is possible to take a potential "barrier" and turn it into an opportunity for gospel conversation. Very frequently in my Lutheran-Catholic dominated community, people will ask me: "What is a Baptist?" I usually answer, "At the most foundational level, a Baptist believes the gospel. Now let me explain what I mean..." If we are truly about church-planting, we are seeking to make disciples of people who are not already disciples. When we have opportunity to love on a family or individual and if the gospel penetrates their hearts and begins to transform their lives, they usually don't care what name is on our church sign. However, when mature Christian families are looking for a place for their families to worship, grow, etc., the name Baptist says something about our identity as a body (far from a barrier) -- something that I'm not willing to hide.

    By God's grace, the Lord used my wife and I to plant a church in Delafield, WI (just 30 minutes. west of Milwaukee and 30 minutes east of Watertown). We were sent by Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, WI. The pastors and deacons of Calvary gave us freedom to be creative as missionaries in our new community. Even before we were autonomous, they recognized (since they are unashamed Baptists) that the new body would be self-governing and independent. As a result, they never laid out expectations for dress, music, church programs, or service times.

    A year later if you were to visit one of our services, you would see people in blazers and ties as well as people in shorts and t-shirts. You would see traditional great hymns of the faith mixed with certain newer melodies like "Power of the Cross" or perhaps a Chris Anderson hymn. You would hear announcements for small groups throughout the week. If you were a new believer, you'd have space and time to grow coupled with the challenge to actually do so.

    Fundamentalists are planting churches! We do have the ability to think like foreign missionaries, while making disciples in the United States. Further, there are many older men in leadership who understand these things and are promoting these things. This mother-church "oppression" that this article speaks of is little known to me. I challenge you to take a trip to Apple Valley CA, Bakersfield CA, Delafield WI or Macomb Township MI. There you will find four Maranatha graduates planting churches with great freedom to lead their congregations according to the authority of the Word in their given contexts.

    My point in bringing all this up is this: all that I've mentioned has happened with the full endorsement and encouragement of many fundamentalist leaders -- Dr. Doran had a hand in each of the two CA plants. My father, Dr. Marriott, sent the planters to Apple Valley and Macomb, MI. Dr. Loggans was involved in sending us to Delafield, WI. Baptist World Mission was involved in one of them as well.

    Which part of fundamentalism is failing in church-planting? I'm not seeing it. In many ways, fundamentalists have always been planting churches, even before it was a cool thing called a resurgence.

Question for Steve

Steve--

Would you describe church planting as "starting a church with new converts" or "starting a new church with believers already living in a geographical area"? I'm sort of curious about this, because it seems like the second category fosters some of the attitudes you are trying to correct. Seems like a church built on new converts wouldn't have as much of the baggage.

church planting models

KevinM wrote:
Steve--

Would you describe church planting as "starting a church with new converts" or "starting a new church with believers already living in a geographical area"? I'm sort of curious about this, because it seems like the second category fosters some of the attitudes you are trying to correct. Seems like a church built on new converts wouldn't have as much of the baggage.

There's not one model of church planting. Some churches are intentionally begun with a core group of believers with a sending church's blessing. Other churches are planted where there are not many believers to start with and will usually take longer to get off the ground and reach a level of sustainability. It's a catch-22 because it is a blessing to have mature believers partner with you to plant a church, to serve, to give, to love those who come. We have been blessed by some families and individuals who have sensed God's calling to help plant an urban church. We are thrilled that some Christians have purposely moved into or near Philadelphia to help plant churches. You need to lay out the vision carefully so that what is really baggage is identified and made a non-issue. We all have baggage but it's knowing how to deal with it.

Ruffled feathers

NathanL wrote:
Thanks for putting this together. Favorite quote:

Quote:
cultural-Christianity mold which has sometimes been mistaken for the only valid expression of biblical Christianity

This article will ruffle some feathers, and that's a good thing. (Off topic: BTW, I live in the western suburbs of Philly, and you might just see me pop in sometime. We recently had dinner in your area, on 40th between Chestnut & Ludlow. Distrito - I highly recommend it!)

I thought I'd post my response to your post since you liked the article, live near Philly, might visit us, and know good restaurants Smile .

Really, I do take both affirmations and criticism seriously but don't know if I'll have time to answer them all so I’m dumping this on your post. The article was directed to urban areas -"on a scale rarely seen and in cities which, with some notable exceptions, have been long abandoned by solid, Bible-believing churches." Of course there are some cities, perhaps mostly in the South, where churches abound. And sure some fundamentalist churches and associations are planting churches and new churches are needed in rural and suburban communities as well. I'm talking about scale and major cities – centers of influence and creators of culture (mostly bad). I don't know what's happening in every city but this is an opportunity for me and others to learn.

I'm glad to hear of church planting that's taking place and of various groups engaged in church planting. Still, in major urban areas I see nothing of the "scale" of what other groups are doing. Perhaps Philadelphia is an anomaly but although there may be some fundamentalist churches here - few, small, and far between, there are few efforts that I am aware of to plant new churches. Yet I personally know of SBC, PCA, AOG, CMA efforts of scale to plant multiple churches and put resources where their plans are. Something about being able to work together!

If nothing else I would hope that pastors and churches ask themselves some hard questions about their commitment to the gospel and reproducing. As one writer says: “most churches are primarily concerned about the people in the church and the people most like ‘us’ and that the “shift from mission to maintenance [has become ] a core value in the local church.”

Some thoughts.

Mmmmm, have you checked out Hamilton Square Baptist Church? We are a "downtown" (one block from Van Ness Avenue at Geary and Franklin). We identify ourselves as a Fundamental Baptist Church. Our answers to the questions in the OP are probably contrary to the way the author (I presume ) thinks the should be answered. Because of demographic shifts, we have had to "re-plant" ourselves two or three times over the last 129 years.

As for the "numbers" game, a church plan and work for growth as the Lord allows them to grow. It should not be content with its current attendance. That being said, for a good period of time HSBC saw minimal growth for many years. For a few years, we barely had enough new members to replace those that went home to be with their Lord. Over the last five years we have seen the congregation grow. Some of the new membership is from Christians dissatisfied with their current home church. Most of the new people are new Christians who were saved through the witnessing of our people.

N.B. Metro Baptist Church of San Diego is being planted by Tim and Eileen Sneeden. Tim is a former assistant pastor at HSBC. We are their sending church.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Urban Only?

Dr. Davis,

Was the article about urban church-planting or church-planting in general? It seems that you are saying it was about urban church-planting, but yet I read:

Quote:
There has been a resurgence in church planting in North America and few Fundamentalist churches have answered the call.

And again,

Quote:
We cannot partner with anyone or everyone to plant churches. But planting churches is not an option. It is a matter of obedience. If fundamental churches are lagging in this area they need to ask themselves why. The neglect of church planting is flagrant and perhaps nothing will hasten the demise of Fundamentalism more quickly than the inability or unwillingness of Fundamentalists to be engaged in this work. Alas, church planting requires cooperation and networking, rare commodities among many Fundamentalists, among whom the spirit of independence and individualism persists, and few churches have the resources to go it alone. In addition, churches must recognize that the churches they plant may not be a mirror image of the sending and supporting churches, an unacceptable condition and consequence for many churches.

And again,

Quote:
Most traditional churches cannot reproduce themselves.

Granted much of the article deals with "Urban" church planting, but it seems like the article doesn't shift in that direction until the final one-third. The first two thirds seem to support a sort-of "fundamentalists are inept at church-planting" thesis.

Questions

Rob Fall wrote:
Our answers to the questions in the OP are probably contrary to the way the author (I presume ) thinks the should be answered. Because of demographic shifts, we have had to "re-plant" ourselves two or three times over the last 129 years.

No, I don't presume and contrary answers are okay. As I said: "At this point I have purposely not given answers to the above questions. The questions are only a small sample of what needs to be asked. I cannot provide normative answers since there is no one model for planting churches." Glad to hear of the church planting effort in San Diego.

Urbi et Orbi

My first paragraph also states: "on a scale rarely seen and in cities which, with some notable exceptions, have been long abandoned by solid, Bible-believing churches." I don't believe Fundamentalists are inept if you mean lacking aptitude or skill. I think it's more a question of inability to cooperate or allow freedom in some areas. And many churches do not have the resources to plant churches on their own and/or can’t work with other churches to accomplish that – thankfully with some notable exceptions. I also stated that it's a matter of scale but that may be due to the decreasing number of those calling themselves Fundamentalist.

Dan Burrell wrote: I'm not

Dan Burrell wrote:
I'm not trying to be cynical, nor am I trying to simply lob a rhetorical "bomb" --

I truly wonder how many fundamentalist churches are started annually by "intention" vs started by splits. My observation is that it would be that the latter is responsible for more "church plants" than the former. Also, the preoccupation with "size" in fundamental circles would seem to de-emphasize spinning off congregations intentionally as church plants.

All in all, a thought-provoking and useful article. Thanks!

And splits are not always bad. It is better to depart in peace, if this can be achieved, than to dwell together in strife (e.g. Abraham and Lot). There are times when we cannot agree and God is honored more by our amiably agreeing to separate than to remain entangled and bicker. Somehow, we seemed to have overlooked the fact that unity is based on commonalities, not differences. Even so, God in His sovereignty brings good out of our evil intentions and wicked doings (e.g. Joseph and his brothers). Although it may have been a church split, two separate churches can reach more people sometimes than one larger church. What do you think?

Intentional design?

Steve Davis wrote:
KevinM wrote:
Steve--

Would you describe church planting as "starting a church with new converts" or "starting a new church with believers already living in a geographical area"? I'm sort of curious about this, because it seems like the second category fosters some of the attitudes you are trying to correct. Seems like a church built on new converts wouldn't have as much of the baggage.

There's not one model of church planting. Some churches are intentionally begun with a core group of believers with a sending church's blessing. Other churches are planted where there are not many believers to start with and will usually take longer to get off the ground and reach a level of sustainability. It's a catch-22 because it is a blessing to have mature believers partner with you to plant a church, to serve, to give, to love those who come. We have been blessed by some families and individuals who have sensed God's calling to help plant an urban church. We are thrilled that some Christians have purposely moved into or near Philadelphia to help plant churches. You need to lay out the vision carefully so that what is really baggage is identified and made a non-issue. We all have baggage but it's knowing how to deal with it.

Dr. Davis, thank you for your article. It has generated some good conversation and has helped me crystallize some of my own thinking in this area. Like you, I would like to see more church-planting among Fundamentalists. However, I suspect there is more going on than meets the eye. Unless I am misreading your post, you are speaking of organized efforts. You are applauding the systematic, organized, intentional efforts of the SBC and other conservative Evangelicals. This approach is a model that can defined and taught in seminary, I suppose. On the other hand, Southern Fundamentalists have a strong tradition of church planting efforts by individuals who do not intentionally employ a specific model. Many of these individuals are married couples who move into an area, get a job, and set about planting a church through Bible studies and evangelization. Sometimes they are supported as missionaries by their local church and sometimes not. These are probably off the radar screen but the movement seems to be flourishing. The problem with programs and systematic methods is that we tend to rely on them instead of the Holy Spirit and God's power. After all, as I understand God's mandate, we are called to be faithful (I Corinthians 3-4), not produce results.

I think we do have one other fundamental point of disagreement. You mentioned baggage and I'm not sure what you mean specifically except possibly hymns, traditional services, etc. There seems to be a presumption that this is why churches don't grow and church planting isn't taking place. Well, I beg to differ. How do we know this is the problem? I've found people to be very adaptable in their culture and form. IMHO, the problem is not the so-called baggage but it is simply that we are not getting out there and doing it anymore. In other words, the prosperity of Fundamentalism and its upward social mobility has blunted our edge and curbed our zeal.

Is cooperation necessary?

Steve Davis wrote:
My first paragraph also states: "on a scale rarely seen and in cities which, with some notable exceptions, have been long abandoned by solid, Bible-believing churches." I don't believe Fundamentalists are inept if you mean lacking aptitude or skill. I think it's more a question of inability to cooperate or allow freedom in some areas. And many churches do not have the resources to plant churches on their own and/or can’t work with other churches to accomplish that – thankfully with some notable exceptions. I also stated that it's a matter of scale but that may be due to the decreasing number of those calling themselves Fundamentalist.
Dr. Davis, is cooperation necessary to bring souls to Christ and plant churches? Are large scale organized efforts more productive than many small unaffiliated small efforts at the grass-roots level? This point, I think, must be justified before going further. Also, I'm wondering what resources that even small churches lack in planting churches. The way Fundamentalist churches were planted in the South was that a man and his wife moved into town, got a job, and began visiting, holding Bible studies, and door-to-door witnessing until a nucleus of believers had been won. They rented a small store-front building within their means and began holding services. Sure, it was a struggle but God was faithful and the church grew.

Roland, While I agree with

Roland,

While I agree with you that SOMETIMES splits are good, I think thatis rare. Most of the time, they are due to much sinfulness and arrogance than defending the Faith, in my experience.

As to the thrust of the article, I am still digesting it. What I do agree with is that we in Fundamentalism are not doing enough in inter-city church planting. Still thinking through alot of the article.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

How we "do church" at HSBC

Comments at ***

Steve Davis wrote:
SNIP

For those traditional churches which are ready to meet the church planting challenge, let me raise a few questions as suggestive of where liberty might be accorded to church planters. In saying this I'm imagining a church plant in an urban setting with a significant number of university students who are skeptical of, if not hostile to Christianity as they've known it. The community has pockets of immigrants who live alongside young professionals who are buying and renovating older homes and displacing long-term residents who can no longer afford skyrocketing rents. In planting a new inner-urban church,

***You are describing the last 30 years of San Francisco history and what we have at HSBC.
Quote:
consider the following questions:

  • Do you have [a ] one pastor carrying the leadership and preaching burden alone or a leadership team where the lead pastor is "one among equals in decision-making; first among equals in vision and leadership?"
***Kinda sorta [a ] but then we've had to develop our leadership in house. (Nobody comes to San Francisco to join a Fundamental Baptist Church) So, we are only about a generation thick (Historically, nobody stayed in SF to be a member of a Fundamental Baptist church)
Quote:
  • Do you organize traditional Sunday School, Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday prayer meeting services or develop gatherings according to patterns more appropriate to cultural patterns where the church is situated?
  • ***A again kinda sorta. But our single adult, married couples and senior groups are active. We also have a Monday evening Informal Bible Study. There are three (3) Sunday Morning Adult Bible Classes. I teach the International (I thought ESL was bad marketing) Bible Class.
    Quote:
  • Do you create and multiply programs for different age or affinity groups to attract people to the church or does the church seek bridges of contact in the community for international ministry?
  • ***Yes. When the International Class was made up primarily of Russian speakers, we translated various English language documents into Russian. If anyone wants a Russian pdf of Pastor Innes' "How Do I Know What's Right For Me?", let me know and I'll send it on.
    Quote:
  • Do you insist on the exclusive use of more formal, traditional hymns and outdated gospel choruses or do you seek a balance with music that is theologically sound, spiritually uplifting, and comprehensible and which includes contemporary forms?
  • ***Yes, for the hymnals in the pew rack. But, we also have attracted people who want the traditional hymns. We're not big on Gospel choruses outside Junior Church.
    Quote:
  • Do you employ a church name that creates unnecessary barriers or choose a name which reflects an aspect of your ministry without denominational code words?
  • ***HSBC was started as Zion Baptist Church in 1881. About five years later, the name was changed to Hamilton Square Baptist Church. The church at the time and for the next ~70 years was located across from Hamilton Square a public park.
    Quote:
  • Do you utilize a website designed to attract Christians who move into your area while confusing unbelievers with Christian-speak language like "separatistic," and "militant" and listing everything you believe about everything, or do you simplify your public presentation in order to catch and hold the attention of the unchurched as well?
  • ***Please see www.hamiltonsquare.net From the number of people who say they found us on the web, I think the site is doing its job.
    Quote:
  • Do you place the American flag and the Christian flag behind the podium and give the appearance of supporting a conservative political agenda (usually Republican) or do you urge your people to be good citizens regardless of their political views and affiliations and refuse to allow politics to highjack the cause of the gospel?
  • ***HSBC has the American and Christian flags in the front corners of the main auditorium. However, the flags have been there since Harry Truman's second term. As for the second clause, how can we be a lighthouse of God's Truth if we do not call the pagan agenda an agenda of "death". Sorry for dancing around the issue, but I don't want Google to trip over certain key words.
    Quote:
  • Do you give public invitations after each service singing "Just As I Am" or "I Surrender All” with a decisional emphasis or do you emphasize progressive and radical transformation through biblical discipleship and in relational community?
  • ***Both, if an invitation is given, the closing hymn only one or two verses might be played or sung through. We do not as (IIRC) Dr. Bauder put it rely on "crisis" decisions for Christian growth. However, if God has used a particular message to touch folk, then opportunity is given for them to respond. However, we also for the last ~15 years have had a comprehensive one on one discipleship program.
    Quote:

    In asking these questions I realize that not all of the elements in the first part of the questions are found in all traditional churches and that such stark polarizations do not always exist. Neither am I saying that all of these elements are inappropriate in certain settings. I am saying that the first part elements will not be found in most urban settings, are not essential "as is" to being the church, and that we must allow for liberty in contextualizing ministry. In other words, there are functions and there are forms. The functions are those elements which are indispensable to be the church and they center on and around the Word. The forms can be adapted and modified and should not be considered normative.

    At this point I have purposely not given answers to the above questions. The questions are only a small sample of what needs to be asked. I cannot provide normative answers since there is no one model for planting churches. What I would like to ask in closing is this: are there churches that are unable to reproduce themselves who are interested in reproducing gospel-centered, Christ-honoring, theologically-committed churches which can be effective in ways and in places where traditional churches may never be found or effective? Perhaps nothing will contribute more to the kind of future in store for Fundamentalism then how Fundamentalists respond to this question.

    SNIP

    Hoping to shed more light than heat..

    I applaud Hamilton Square for

    I applaud Hamilton Square for being a lighthouse in San Francisco. I had the pleasure of knowing one of Pastor Innes' sons in college and learned much about his dad's ministry. Alot of folks would be skeptical that an IFB church could thrive in that area. Great to see it happening.

    I'm curious as to urban ministries in blighted areas where crime and poverty are rampant. It's hard for me to see a "traditional" IFB church succeed in such a place. I would love to be proven wrong because I see cults like JW, Islam, etc. making headways yet IFB churches seem to neglect this segment of the population.

    HSBC

    Barry L. wrote:
    I applaud Hamilton Square for being a lighthouse in San Francisco. I had the pleasure of knowing one of Pastor Innes' sons in college and learned much about his dad's ministry. Alot of folks would be skeptical that an IFB church could thrive in that area. Great to see it happening.

    I'm curious as to urban ministries in blighted areas where crime and poverty are rampant. It's hard for me to see a "traditional" IFB church succeed in such a place. I would love to be proven wrong because I see cults like JW, Islam, etc. making headways yet IFB churches seem to neglect this segment of the population.

    I likewise applaud HSBC and appreciate that Rob took the time to answer the questions. I think it will help others. Since I've been asked how I/we answer some of these questions I will try to respond later today.

    As for traditional IFB churches in areas you mention my experience shows they will need to tweak the tradition. In our area of West Philly with its share of blight, crime and poverty, I don't know of any IFB churches. Of course the area is largely Afro--American and I don't know any Afro-American Fundamentalists (yes I know there are some, but few).

    Clarify?

    Steve Davis wrote:
    I don't know any Afro-American Fundamentalists (yes I know there are some, but few).

    Could you clarify this a bit? Do you mean that there don't seem to be any 'well-known' Afro-American Fundies, or that Fundy churches don't have black members, or that black churches don't join IFB fellowships/associations...? Or something completely different?

    I would agree that the percentage of Afro-Americans in the IFB churches I've attended has been small, but they were and are there. I have visited a few SBC churches that would consider themselves Fundy that have a significant number of faithful Afro-Americans in their congregations. But if the question is about how many Afro-Americans are in staff positions, publishing books and getting their pics in The Fundamentalist, then you are right about the lack of Afro-American representation in the Fundy world. But even in my limited experience, I can't say that I don't know any Afro-American Fundies.

    I’m blogging at Every Day of Education, helping homeschool families on a budget use real books and real life experiences to prepare their children for the real world.

    More thoughts on cultural quirks and traditions

    Maybe this helps explain my POV and provide some food for thought.

    When it comes to how a church does things, it's ways and customs, there are fewer things that are "neutral" than many seem to suppose. The reason is that once you have brought Scripture to bear on what you're doing, and applied it as best you can, you are bound by conscience as a church.
    If a congregation believes it's ways and traditions are right, it ought to aim to reproduce itself with most of those traditions intact. If it believes they are not right, it ought to replace them with ones it believes are right--either way, if it engages in church planting, it should aim to reproduce itself. It should be expected to want to reproduce itself.

    Now I'm not talking about the cluster of purely functional choices and routines (though these also relate back to principle eventually, the relationship is distant and often the only principle involved is "act wisely" / "be good stewards"). Examples: things like whether you have pews or chairs, light with incandescent or florescent or candles, pass a plate or use a box in the lobby, etc. But it's actually hard to come up with items that even belong in this category. Churches that use hymnals often do so because they believe it matters. Churches that use an offering box rather than passing a plate often have some biblical principles they believe guide them to this conclusion. Churches that baptize in rivers rather than interior tanks often have what they consider principled reasons for that.
    And music... as controversial as it is, one thing ought to be obvious to all: just about everybody believes their position is a principled one.

    So we should not expect churches that participate in church-planting to feel that these things simply do not matter. Again, the attitude I often see assumes that churches that are particular about alot of what they do are just being arbitrary and persnickety. Certainly there are many cases where that's true, but there only has to be one exception to defeat the generalization that churches ought to joyfully plant other churches that flout their own ways of doing things.

    I agree that there is sometimes (perhaps quite often--I wouldn't know) a problem here because churches do not understand how the application of principles in their setting needs to be adjusted when the same principles are being applied to a different setting. Some principles will apply the same way and some not. So there are two errors to avoid here: the one that says "a church plant in a truly different cultural setting should be a carbon copy of our church" vs. the one that says "all these traditions are just clutter in the way of effectiveness, and 'mother churches' need to quit being so fussy."
    Neither of these is a good option. Maybe nobody is really saying the latter, but I get that impression.

    Quote: Of course the area is

    Quote:
    Of course the area is largely Afro--American and I don't know any Afro-American Fundamentalists (yes I know there are some, but few).

    The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association is a small group of African-American churches that are fundamental in their doctrine. They have developed a partnership with the GARBC over the past two decades. http://www.fbfa.us/

    Quote:
    I'm curious as to urban ministries in blighted areas where crime and poverty are rampant.

    Its not just the fundamental churches that are not church planting in these areas (correct me if I am wrong Kevin M., but Continental, BCP, ABWE, Baptist-Mid-Missions, and etc.... only have a few churches from each organization in these impoverished urban communities that are being planted), but all of the Conservative Evangelical organizations that Steve mentioned as well. For example, the vast majority of churches that Mark Driscoll plants in urban centers are among the uppity, artsy, creative class of people, not among the urban poor. The one evangelical organization that is focusing all of their church plants among the urban poor is world impact. http://www.worldimpact.org/

    One of the interesting population trends across the country is that the urban poor are being priced out of cities because the yuppies have moved in their neighborhoods and they can no longer live in that neighborhood because they can't afford it (gentrification). Therefore, they are moving into older suburban communities. In fact, one neighborhood in Wyoming (Godwin Heights), which is a suburb of Grand Rapids has some 50 or so languages spoken (70 or so ethnic groups) in that community making it the most diverse community in all Michigan. Some of it due to gentrification and some due to immigration. I have a friend who is planting churches in this older suburb with the Baptist General Conference.

    Urban Church Planting is quite diverse and takes on many different forms. Anyway, thanks Steve for stimulating our thinking.

    Aaron Blumer wrote: When it

    Aaron Blumer wrote:
    When it comes to how a church does things, it's ways and customs, there are fewer things that are "neutral" than many seem to suppose. The reason is that once you have brought Scripture to bear on what you're doing, and applied it as best you can, you are bound by conscience as a church.
    If a congregation believes it's ways and traditions are right, it ought to aim to reproduce itself with most of those traditions intact. If it believes they are not right, it ought to replace them with ones it believes are right--either way, if it engages in church planting, it should aim to reproduce itself. It should be expected to want to reproduce itself.
    but i think these issues are more a matter of conscience, not spelled out stuff in scripture, right? and conscience varies among people, and even changes in the same person, you know?

    i was thinking of this thread as I was reading a missionary prayer letter in a foreign country where people dress quite differently. and there was a team from a conservative american college and they looked just like they would look in their school year books. Jumpers, keds, button-downs with ties.

    i've struggled with this myself b/c of Hudson Taylor's policy of dressing like the national people. when i came to ukraine with a BJ trip, we were instructed to not wear hose, wear comfy tennis shoes and clothes, etc. We were absolutely bizarre-looking. all ladies here dress up, they wear hose, dress shoes, fitted clothing. We went and sang in the chernobyl region, and the ladies asked the pasor if we were wearing "disposable" clothing because we were afraid of the radiation -- and there we were in the eveyday BJ clothes we always wore.

    anyway, i think fundamentalists, because we are so consumed wtih the Word of God, which is a good thing, can apply it definitively to cultural areas that really are just cultural and could be done one way or another. and it's hard for us to see where that begins and ends.

    Anne Sokol][quote=Aaron

    Anne Sokol ][quote=Aaron Blumer wrote:
    SNIP i've struggled with this myself b/c of Hudson Taylor's policy of dressing like the national people. when i came to Ukraine with a BJ trip, we were instructed to not wear hose, wear comfy tennis shoes and clothes, etc. We were absolutely bizarre-looking. all ladies here dress up, they wear hose, dress shoes, fitted clothing. We went and sang in the Chernobyl region, and the ladies asked the pastor if we were wearing "disposable" clothing because we were afraid of the radiation -- and there we were in the eveyday BJ clothes we always wore. SNIP.
    After 20 years of working with the Slavic Evangelical Christian-Baptists, I can give a hearty AMEN to this observation. When my wife buys a new dress, the first place she wants to wear it is to church. These folks dress knowing they are going to the house of God (Isa56:7) and will corporately enter the royal presence.

    Hoping to shed more light than heat..

    Afro-American Fundies

    Susan R wrote:
    Steve Davis wrote:
    I don't know any Afro-American Fundamentalists (yes I know there are some, but few).

    Could you clarify this a bit? Do you mean that there don't seem to be any 'well-known' Afro-American Fundies, or that Fundy churches don't have black members, or that black churches don't join IFB fellowships/associations...? Or something completely different?

    I would agree that the percentage of Afro-Americans in the IFB churches I've attended has been small, but they were and are there. I have visited a few SBC churches that would consider themselves Fundy that have a significant number of faithful Afro-Americans in their congregations. But if the question is about how many Afro-Americans are in staff positions, publishing books and getting their pics in The Fundamentalist, then you are right about the lack of Afro-American representation in the Fundy world. But even in my limited experience, I can't say that I don't know any Afro-American Fundies.

    I would say yes, yes, and yes, to your questions, generally, because there are some exceptions. Of course often demographics don't allow for diversity. Joel mentioned a small group of fundamental Afro-American churches.I think there was also a group associated with Southwide Fellowship.

    I did a cursory search at a few major Fundamentalist schools. I haven't found any Afro-American (or Latino) seminary professors (at least for the ones with pictures readily available). All I've seen are white and probably Republican :-). I'm not trying to analyze this or indict anyone but it is an interesting observation in response to your questions.

    Reproducing

    Aaron Blumer wrote:

    If a congregation believes it's ways and traditions are right, it ought to aim to reproduce itself with most of those traditions intact. If it believes they are not right, it ought to replace them with ones it believes are right--either way, if it engages in church planting, it should aim to reproduce itself. It should be expected to want to reproduce itself.

    One problem with this viewpoint is that established churches developed their traditions over time. The traditions may be good, valid, and right for the church where they developed. New churches cannot be expected to adopt them without time and reflection, although they may choose to do so, if they are traditions and not Tradition, that is, apostolic in nature with a biblical basis.

    The Answers - if anyone cares

    I am grateful for the buzz the article created. Do I write provocatively? What can I say? I’m not alone (so it must be okay in my defense) and I’m not writing to the choir (oft-used excuse) and I’m glad for discussion generated (I don’t get paid for clicks). I have been involved in church planting directly and indirectly for thirty years and still have a lot to learn (note hint of humility). I do not expect what I write to resonate with everyone and don’t really care (well maybe a little). That’s not the point. I do think that the questions raised will be of more help (notice I didn’t say great help) to those involved or soon-to-be involved in hands-on church planting. For those who are pastors of established churches I’m not begging for support (but won’t turn any down). One quote to set the stage concerning these questions since I am not so deluded to think they are the only or best questions to ask.

    “In asking these questions I realize that not all of the elements in the first part of the questions are found in all traditional churches and that such stark polarizations do not always exist…. The questions are only a small sample of what needs to be asked. I cannot provide normative answers since there is no one model for planting churches.”
    But here’s how I would answer. I have no fear or qualms about saying what I believe. But in the article I felt that would be distracting as if I had all the answers (second note of humility). We are in a new church plant, have been meeting weekly for 6 months, have seen God and work and know every good thing comes from Him. This might be enough for another article but I don’t want to wear out my welcome or alienate my friends.

    1. Do you have one pastor carrying the leadership and preaching burden alone or a leadership team where the lead pastor is “one among equals in decision-making; first among equals in vision and leadership?”
    We are working in team ministry (four men at this time) but do have a lead, salaried pastor. We believe that there needs to be one man who provides vision and direction for the church. We work and pray hard for consensus on the leadership team. Two men on the leadership team are younger men who are also being trained and mentored for future church plants should the Lord so lead. The lead pastor does about 65% of the preaching and sets the schedule for preaching choices and schedule. Having others preach provides training for them and another voice for the congregation. As a leadership team we have worked our way through many books together and are now working on “The Archer and the Arrow” on preaching.

    2. Do you organize traditional Sunday School, Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday prayer meeting services or develop gatherings according to patterns more appropriate to cultural patterns where the church is situated?
    There is not a right way or times. We have a Sunday afternoon service since we rent from an Episcopal church. We use another church for baptisms since the Episcopal font is not big enough. We meet only once weekly as a congregation and have what some might call blended worship although we don’t really think in those terms. We have Wesley hymns and Hillsong/Third Day music in the same service. We observe the Lord’s Table each week after the preaching (which serves as our invitation) and have a fellowship meal each week. Of course logistically some things are easier to do in a small congregation between 4 and 5 hundred – closer to 4 than 500 (I didn’t say 4 hundred :). We also have small groups during the week (Grace Groups) which meet geographically.

    3. Do you create and multiply programs for different age or affinity groups to attract people to the church or does the church seek bridges of contact in the community for incarnational ministry?
    We are not against programs but we are purposely using a Simple Church model. We know it will get more complex as we move along. However, we are not trying to do everything in a building (which we don’t have anyway). We are not interested in multiplying programs to keep people out of their homes and neighborhoods and in a church building as many nights as possible. We are engaged in the community on many fronts from literature tables at Jazz Festivals and Night Out Against Crime, involvement with the Police Clergy, etc. For us to be incarnational is to be visible in the community as Christians, representing Christ. For us most of our outreach goes on in the community not in the church building through programs.

    4. Do you insist on the exclusive use of more formal, traditional hymns and outdated gospel choruses or do you seek a balance with music that is theologically sound, spiritually uplifting, and comprehensible and which includes contemporary forms?
    As mentioned above we might be called blended in our choice of music. The lead pastor chooses most of the music (with input from others) in order to insure that whether the music is more traditional or classic (which we love) or more contemporary, that the music is theological sound an fits with how the worship service flows (see “Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice” by Bryan Chapell).

    5. Do you employ a church name that creates unnecessary barriers or choose a name which reflects an aspect of your ministry without denominational code words?
    Let me say that I do not encourage churches to change their name or Baptist churches to drop Baptist from the name. If they do, fine. The first church we planted in Philadelphia almost 30 years ago changed its name and dropped Baptist when they moved to a new location, a re-plant in some ways. They didn’t need my permission but I supported their decision. In our case, moving into Philadelphia we did want something simple – Grace Church. If there are barriers we would rather they be inside the church when the gospel is preached not at the door thinking that a Baptist church is for, well, Baptists. The church is for sinners, including Baptists. Do we want people attracted to our church? Yes, but not because of our vast array of programs (which we don’t have) or our entertaining music (because we are not here to entertain) or our winsome preaching (nobody would accuse us of that). We want them attracted by the Word and by the worship. Some will return. Many will not.

    6. Do you utilize a website designed to attract Christians who move into your area while confusing unbelievers with Christian-speak language like “separatistic,” and “militant” and listing everything you believe about everything, or do you simplify your public presentation in order to catch and hold the attention of the unchurched as well?
    I should confess that over 50% of our guests find us on the Internet. Most of them are Christians who have moved into Philadelphia and are looking for a church. We do not put on our web site everything we believe about every issue. We do want the web site to hold people’s attention and with a clear gospel presentation on the front page. But we do try to avoid Christian jargon or wave certain flags that others may find important.

    7. Do you place the American flag and the Christian flag behind the podium and give the appearance of supporting a conservative political agenda (usually Republican) or do you urge your people to be good citizens regardless of their political views and affiliations and refuse to allow politics to highjack the cause of the gospel?
    This would not be an issue with many churches I suppose and I have no quarrel with those who practice differently. We are patriotic and believe Christians should be responsible citizens. But as a church we do not pledge our allegiance to a flag or a nation. In my opinion conservative churches have become associated with conservative politics.

    8. Do you give public invitations after each service singing “Just As I Am” or “I Surrender All” with a decisional emphasis or do you emphasize progressive and radical transformation through biblical discipleship and in relational community?
    I am not saying that invitations are never appropriate. But at times there is too much emphasis on making a decision, walking an aisle, getting right with God – multiple times and publicly (with eyes closed) rather than an emphasis on radical discipleship. Often invitations are simply you need to do more, pray more, attend church more, and follows moralistic preaching which brings tinges of guilt and emotional response. As I said above we give an invitation every Sunday in preparation for the Lord’s Supper. We invite those to the Table whom God invites and ask people come forward to take of the bread and cup.

    Let’s be able to disagree on some of the questions and answers and work together for the furtherance of the gospel in urban, suburban, and rural America (and beyond). And to slightly misquote a friend of mine: “Let me extend an invitation to those who have a burden for the cities to come to Philadelphia. We’re already working on it and would love the help and to help you!”

    Great Stuff

    Steve....the more you write, the more I like it. Please don't let this be your last article. I like the challenges, the perspectives, the dialogue and your replies. This has been one of the best articles and subsequent threads on SI in a while. Thanks!

    Dan

    Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

    Agreed

    Steve Davis wrote:
    One problem with this viewpoint is that established churches developed their traditions over time. The traditions may be good, valid, and right for the church where they developed. New churches cannot be expected to adopt them without time and reflection, although they may choose to do so, if they are traditions and not Tradition, that is, apostolic in nature with a biblical basis.

    The key phrase would be "without time and reflection." This goes both ways. The traditions should be neither perpetuated nor abandoned without time and reflection.

    Dave Doran's Blog

    A recent blog by Dave Doran called suggested that the articles I’ve written on SI should be called “Provocations.” http://tinyurl.com/2b53kf6 He also confesses it a little “irritating” to ask questions without stating immediately what I believe. There are some (who don’t want or can’t post publicly on SI) who think I should be less winsome and generous in answering criticisms. I make no apologies for this style of writing which is much different in a forum discussion than a seminary paper. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not shy about what I believe. Dave’s blog does not allow for comments so I thought I should provide some reflexions on his comments. I don’t have a personal blog so these comments may be lost on the post and perhaps I will incorporate them into another article in the “Provocations” series.

    There is a different perspective between a church planter and pastor on what questions need to be asked and how to answer them. I think this is a fundamental difference between Dave and me. And here I use Dave as potentially representative of other pastors. It is not personal and I hope our exchange will be beneficial. I have known Dave for many years, was supported as a missionary by the church he pastors while in France and Romania, and have taught as an adjunct at the seminary there (although I’m not counting on that happening again but would be glad to do it :-). Inter-City is a great church and my wife grew up there. So I have only respect for Dave, the church, and the seminary.

    When someone accepts a call to a church many questions have already been answered by church practice established over the years. As one pastor friend told me the best thing to do is to “stop watering certain plants and let them die.” I think that’s good advice for a pastor accepting a call to a church. To introduce radical change might be disruptive and appear disrespectful of the previous pastor. Although some of the traditions may be more 1950s than first century it is wise to move slowly.

    When someone plants a church there is the opportunity, indeed the necessity, to think about how to start. Questions are raised that are not of immediate concern to a pastor. There is the possibility of great misunderstanding between the new church plant and sending churches or potential supporting churches. I’ve experienced this first hand. Apart from our sending church, which has been supportive although maybe not always comfortable with what we are doing in Philadelphia, there is only one other church that provides any financial support. It’s a small two year old church plant in Brooklyn which tithes on its offerings each month to our new church plant. That’s it. The rest of our support comes from individuals and, in my case, I’m looking for part-time work since it may be some time before the church can fully support me in an area with 28% unemployment and rampant poverty.

    Before returning to Philadelphia to plant a new church I had discussions with a number of pastor friends, mostly from IFB churches. Although they appreciated what I was doing and were personally supportive, they felt their church could not partner with us. For some it was a constitutional matter (which they often inherited) that stipulated agreement to the nth degree. For others it was the sensitivities of church members who would react to a church not using the same translation, the same music, the same polity, and the same name. I understand that and did not travel church to church to raise support. (BTW, we would welcome support from IBF churches if they can live with the differences.)

    In short I am not surprised that some pastors would disagree with what I’m doing and writing. Theirs is a different calling, with different gifts, and different perspectives. I have never been called as senior pastor of a church (yes, I have been asked). I do not know what it takes to pastor a church long-term and to have inherited buildings, prime location, place of influence, and financial stability (and I realize that not all pastors inherit that). I’m not being critical of that. It may be that I not am gifted in that way. That is God’s calling and equipping upon the lives of these men. I admire pastors who take a church and stay for years. However, I have been involved in planting churches in Philadelphia, France, and Romania, and recognize that I am co-worker with the One who is building his church. I’m not an expert and often plod along learning as I go.

    Those who have never actively planted a new church, who have never met in their living room, who have never had only their family and who knows who show up, who have never worked bi-vocationally to support their family, etc., will not have the same questions and/or answers as church planters. That’s to be expected. And it’s not that pastors could not plant a church. Many of them are gifted in leadership and preaching where they could plant a church is that’s what God called them to do. I‘m not arguing for one being better than the other. But it’s different and some of those differences can’t be understood until you’ve walked in the church planter’s shoes.

    Illustration

    Quote:
    Before returning to Philadelphia to plant a new church I had discussions with a number of pastor friends, mostly from IFB churches. Although they appreciated what I was doing and were personally supportive, they felt their church could not partner with us. For some it was a constitutional matter (which they often inherited) that stipulated agreement to the nth degree. For others it was the sensitivities of church members who would react to a church not using the same translation, the same music, the same polity, and the same name. I understand that and did not travel church to church to raise support. (BTW, we would welcome support from IBF churches if they can live with the differences.)

    This is, for me, a perfect illustration of what I was http://sharperiron.org/article/left-behind-apparent-absence-of-fundament... ]trying to convey in post 10 . It's also a sweeping indictment of typical IFB priorities.

    I know that's not why Dr. Davis wrote this, but I couldn't let it go without noting that.

    "Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

    Not justifying. . . . . . . . .

    rogercarlson wrote:
    Roland,

    While I agree with you that SOMETIMES splits are good, I think thatis rare. Most of the time, they are due to much sinfulness and arrogance than defending the Faith, in my experience.

    As to the thrust of the article, I am still digesting it. What I do agree with is that we in Fundamentalism are not doing enough in inter-city church planting. Still thinking through alot of the article.

    Roger, I am in no way justifying the reason that caused the split. There is usually enough guilt to go around for all parties. My point is simply that the result is not always deplorable. It is a solution to a recognized problem. Separation is better than bickering because each part is freed from quarreling to carry on the work of the ministry. Physical unity is not necessarily the same as spiritual unity. God, who is a God of peace, is better served perhaps by two separate physical entities united in purpose (i.e. both striving for the Gospel) than a single quarrelsome physical entity that is consumed by its own internal fractiousness with no thrust for the Gospel. That's my point.

    from one church planter to another

    Steve Davis wrote:
    Those who have never actively planted a new church, who have never met in their living room, who have never had only their family and who knows who show up, who have never worked bi-vocationally to support their family, etc., will not have the same questions and/or answers as church planters. That’s to be expected. And it’s not that pastors could not plant a church. Many of them are gifted in leadership and preaching where they could plant a church is that’s what God called them to do. I‘m not arguing for one being better than the other. But it’s different and some of those differences can’t be understood until you’ve walked in the church planter’s shoes.

    Hi Steve

    Well, I've spent my entire adult life as a church planting pastor. I've done all those things. I may not be gifted for it, because it has been a long, arduous, discouraging process ...with some eternal victories along the way that make it worth it. However, if self-sufficiency is the mark of success, we haven't succeeded. We are about 3/4 of the way, and always hopeful.

    However, I would have to say that I agree with Dave's perspective on this. That was behind my earlier comment about pragmatism. I think the music question is probably the most important question as our culture is increasingly steeped in ungodly music - addicted to it, I'd say. For lost folks to come to Christ and begin the process of sanctification involves a massive change of thinking and values. In my opinion, you stunt growth in holiness by lowering the musical bar. I also see no need to remove denominational labels - be what you are. There are too many generic non-descript who knows what churches around who don't define themselves. If people are turned off by the name, they'll be turned off by the doctrine once they find out what you believe.

    Just my opinion! Certainly not looking for a music debate!

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

    thoughts from a church planter

    I suppose this has been a very interesting article for any church planters to read. We've only been involved in church planting (and cooperating!) for about seven years now, so my opinions aren't worth much. But for whatever it's worth, I posted some thoughts over on the LAHope blog: http://www.lahope.org/?p=1370 ]"Dr. Steve Davis Stirs the Fundamental Pot"

    Q&Q

    Dave Doran wrote:
    but I’ll confess to finding the “I’m not saying I believe that, I’m just asking questions” approach a little irritating at times.

    This is one of my favorite methods of working things out in my mind, but it's hard to do without including the answers in the questions if you've already formed some opinions. I get handed my head quite often when I do this, and I can see why. For instance-
    Steve Davis wrote:
    Do you insist on the exclusive use of more formal, traditional hymns and outdated gospel choruses or do you seek a balance with music that is theologically sound, spiritually uplifting, and comprehensible and which includes contemporary forms?

    The words 'outdated' and 'balance' make this sound more like a statement than a question. I would say, however, that insisting on one genre of music over another for no other reason than "It was good 'nuff for Grandma so it's good 'nuff for me!" is very shallow reasoning, and no better than adopting contemporary forms (as opposed to contemporary in a purely chronological sense) simply because they have modern appeal. As for outdated choruses, if I never sing "Do Lord" again for the rest of my life, it will be too soon.

    I don't envy pastors, missionaries, and church planters the duty to discern the appropriate and proportionate use of native and modern culture in their ministries while keeping God's agenda and glory paramount.

    I’m blogging at Every Day of Education, helping homeschool families on a budget use real books and real life experiences to prepare their children for the real world.

    Stirring the Pot

    TimL wrote:
    I suppose this has been a very interesting article for any church planters to read. We've only been involved in church planting (and cooperating!) for about seven years now, so my opinions aren't worth much. But for whatever it's worth, I posted some thoughts over on the LAHope blog: http://www.lahope.org/?p=1370 ]"Dr. Steve Davis Stirs the Fundamental Pot"

    Hi Tim:

    Thanks for joining the discussion, for your comments, and perspective as a young church planter. I checked out your blog and glad to hear about church planting in LA. We also have a friend in common who you mentioned - Dr. McAllister. We worked together as hall monitors in the days at BJ before they changed "monitor" into something wimpy like hall leader. So it was a while ago.

    I'm glad you found a few things to agree with. As for the rest I will only comment on what you think I imply about traditional/conservative churches not able to be evangelistic, loving, etc. I did not mean to imply that and don’t believe that. I have many friends (maybe fewer now Smile who pastor traditional churches. Some of them still have me preach for them. I am not anti-traditional. I lean more to a "third way" as articulated in Jim Belcher's book "Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional " which I would highly recommend. In our church plant you will find a mix of traditional (including the Apostles' Creed with "Christian Church" substituted for "Catholic Church") and contemporary.

    As for “conservative” I would recommend Roger Olson’s book “How to be Evangelical without being Conservative.” There’s a lot of husk there but I like much of what he says about the conservative label, mostly understood today in a political sense. I don’t mind using it in-house but it’s not helpful outside the church, IMO.
    God bless the work in LA,

    Steve

    Whenever I read material

    Whenever I read material posted by Steve Davis one thing is for certain, it will not be patronage for which he is guilty. In my opinion he is a thinker (as his material leads me to believe and clearly his pursuit and gain of educational credentials gives further indication), I always appreciate that. But of course I find myself on another side of his views more than less of the time with regard to ecclesiastical issues. And this is not an exception.

    I don't doubt that these questions were asked in some form or another in 1820, 1850, 1890, 1910, 1940, 1975, 1995, and now 2010. I do caution many who might seem excited with such explorations, because they appear to come with certain assumptions, as if the course of their direction has already been validated. I believe within many of the questions that Steve Davis asked are issues that warrant much more debate before accepting their premise and demand a rather aggressive interrogation of their proponents before skedaddling off with a happy tune that we have found some new enlightenment.

    This is not to take away the value of a legitimate audit of the approach fundamentalists or CEs use in planting churches in new areas but I do believe that the view that urban and inner-city culture is so rampantly disjointed and in need of constant monitoring and attending and subsequently contorting our local assemblies in a way that proves we are involved, caring and incarnating ourselves is highly an exceptional case.

    Most people do have schedules or adapt to schedules. And most humans, because of our integrated nature have very similar schedules. While it is valuable to understand or see that in some places not all people are going to be able to meet on the Lord's day and therefore it might require an alternate day for corporate worship, it would be rare. But at times I sense a bit of insistence that we attempt to find an excuse to go counter to this, even when it is not necessary just to prove how insightful or broad we are.

    Think of the churches in Asia Minor during Paul's tenure. They certainly did not have a "christianized" culture yet they all learned to meet on the Lord's Day. While it is not prescribed as a command it certainly demonstrates that their former culture wasn't what was foremost in their minds, rather their new identity in Christ and the values it brought to them. This is something I believe that is being too minimized or misclassified in the article's sentiment.

    One of my favorite references on culture is from the LCMS http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=837 ]LCMS on Culture :

    Quote:
    The church must develop and maintain its own cultural language that reflects the values and structures of the Scriptures and not of the current culture. This church language can only be shaped by a biblical theology which affirms the real presence of Jesus Christ in worship and our belief that this presence binds the culture together as a community. The context that shapes our distinct Lutheran ethos is Scripture, theology, and history. Local circumstance is secondary. Traditionally, this Lutheran culture is liturgical, theological, and counter- cultural.

    This certainly might give room to some of the things suggested by Davis but I believe it also confronts some of the absorption of the culture around us that is being too greatly esteemed.

    Church Planting

    Steve,

    Thanks for your work my brother. For those of us who have taken a shot at church planting it is a thrill to hear from those who have done it - lessons they've learned from "the road." You should give out a 1-800 number for those of us doing this (1-800-calstev). Smile

    Straight Ahead my man! Keep "stirring that pot" amego!

    jt

    Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

    Could some of the problem of

    Could some of the problem of not planting churches in the city center simply be a problem primarily financial? It costs more to find a building to rent in the city center than "when you live"--since most IFB missionaries can't afford to live in the city center.

    Do the SBC have a separate fund they can draw on to help with them rents, etc. that others don't have access to?

    Maybe that is one of the reasons that so many churches have been started in the suburbs. People found places to live, started inviting people over to their houses (as one person mentioned). Most could not afford to the inner city condos, and chose a cheaper place outside the center. Thus, the people who were drawn were from their area.

    I'm curious if there is a lot of prejudice in an inner city work. Will black people willingly come to a church pastored by a white person? Do THEY receive negative feedback from their friends and family for doing such a thing? Or is it that noone cares.

    Note to Anne...my daughters told me a long time ago...Mom, DON'T wear a denim jumper and tennis shoes/keds in public. No one dresses like that here! Smile

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