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

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.

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Don Johnson's picture

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

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

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.

Aaron Blumer's picture

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.

Joseph's picture

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.

KevinM's picture

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.”

NathanL's picture

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!)

dcbii's picture

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

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.

Dan Burrell's picture

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

Jay's picture

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

RPittman's picture

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?

Steve Davis's picture

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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.

Susan R's picture

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.

Larry's picture

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.

DaveMarriott's picture

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.

KevinM's picture

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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.”

Rob Fall's picture

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..

DaveMarriott's picture

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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.

RPittman's picture

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?

RPittman's picture

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.

RPittman's picture

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.

rogercarlson's picture

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

Rob Fall's picture

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..

    Barry L.'s picture

    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.

    Steve Davis's picture

    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).

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