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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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

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.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

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.

Joel Shaffer's picture

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.

Anne Sokol's picture

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.

Rob Fall's picture

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..

Steve Davis's picture

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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!”

Dan Burrell's picture

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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.

Jay's picture

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

RPittman's picture

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.

Don Johnson's picture

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

TimL's picture

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"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

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.

Steve Davis's picture

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

Alex Guggenheim's picture

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.

Joel Tetreau's picture

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;

Becky Petersen's picture

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Steve D wrote:
they felt their church could not partner with us...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.

These are all non-trivial concerns, for reasons I've already posted about. People disagree on these issues and often quite strongly. Some would say "but these should not be so important to folks that they feel they can't support a church plant." Perhaps. But that's an assertion that needs some support, needs substantiating.

In the case of translation, for example, I wonder how many would say "Shame on you who are KJVO for not supporting a church plant that doesn't use KJV" but would think it was quite reasonable to refrain from supporting a KJVO church plant? This would be my inclination. But if the question is nontrivial, it remains non-trivial no matter how folks answer it. If I'd be reluctant to support a KJVO church plant, I can't very well blame KJVOs for not supporting a multi-translational church plant.

The case is similar for music. I would not be enthusiastic about supporting a church plant that insists on only using Gregorian Chant (I don't think there is such a thing, but wouldn't that be an interesting development!?) But if the music question is non-trivial, can I turn around and say that those who are not eager to support a church plant that uses very contemporary music are elevating something beyond its importance? How can any question involving the direct corporate worship of the Most High be unimportant?
My point is that it might be a bit sad that more IFB churches aren't quick to get on board in supporting "non traditional" church plants, it is inevitable and many of these issues are indeed weighty.

Polity.. .this is bigger than the other two in my opinion, depending on what differences we're putting under that heading. Should a local church be under the governance of a regional bishop? Whole denominations have formed over that question. Within the loosely defined category of "congregationalism," have deacons? elders? both? Again, people have strong beliefs about these things that they back with Scripture. They are not shoulder shrugger questions.

Are they important enough to warrant "less effectiveness" in church planting because we're not putting enough resources there due to these differences? Well, that's a debate worth having. Since the Great Commission includes "teaching them to observe all things," it seems like churches would want to plant churches that share their beliefs on what the "all things" are that they should teach.

In the end, since no two churches are going to see eye to eye on every hot issue, individual churches have to decide what they believe is important enough to be a show stopper when it comes to supporting a church plant. But the positive side to that is that church planters have to think carefully about what issues are worth losing support for. In that sense, the accountability is a healthy thing. Though it may result in fewer churches planted, it is possible that those planted are better than they would be in a "we'll support any church plant as long as it preaches the gospel and holds to core doctrines of the faith, no other questions asked" model.

Becky Petersen's picture

How many churches are we talking here? The Calvary Chapel movement can't be THAT big, but the SBC and generally "evangelical" movement seems much bigger than the IFB movement. It would then be logical that these churches have the funds and manpower to start more churches--everywhere...not just in the inner city.

Does anyone have the numbers?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
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.
On this issue, my suspicion is probably not. There are people doing it. And in fact, in some places, it can be pretty cheap. Right now, in Detroit, I think you can get some very cheap places to live and meet. Finding space in Manhattan can be very expensive, I am sure. I recently played golf with a young man who had been an investment banker on Wall Street in Manhattan. He hated it for a lot of interesting reasons, including cost of living. Finding space in downtown Detroit or the New Center or Fox District can be fairly expensive probably. Finding space in southwest Detroit or the west side or the far east side of Detroit is far cheaper, I imagine (and there's a good market driven reason for that ... One place is a decent place to be; the other, not so much).

The problem is actually elsewhere, IMO, which has to do with city culture, urbanization, fear, the proverbial American dream, etc. If you're dream is a house with a big yard for the kids to play in you won't find it in Urbania. If you are scared of people with their pants sagging to their knees, who walk with one hand texting on their phone and the other hand holding their pants up, you won't like Urbania. If cars with loud music and spinners make you nervous, Urbania will not sit well with you. If people whose English is a little messed up (or almost non-existent in some cases), you won't like it. But Suburbia has its own problems. Let's not kid ourselves. But the impression is different.

I think we also need to recognize that there are different kinds of urban areas. Philly, Detroit, NYC, LA, etc are different types of communities in many ways. Urban areas are typically defined, at least popularly, by racial diversity and population density. It's not really about income, per se (poor=urban; middle/upper class=suburban), though that may be a natural product of it). There are business districts, residential districts, projects, slums, owner-occupied, gentrification, etc. These all create different types of communities.

So there is probably no "one size fits all answer" to this.

Quote:
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 tend to think not, but I have no data on that. I think people don't plant churches in the city for the same reason there are suburbs ... It is considered a better place to live. So you have people who will spend 2-3 hours a day commuting to an 8 hour a day job, for the benefits of Suburbia. Generally, suburbanites are considered a "higher class" of people, and I think that often affects it.

I think there is also an element of "people like me" syndrome. We all like to be around "people like me." We are more comfortable that way, so we default to it. Given the option of hanging around "people like me" or "people not like me," most of us will choose the "people like me." Which means if you didn't grow up in the city and don't understand city/urban culture, you will be very uncomfortable there.

Problems in the city are typically of a different nature as well. You don't have the tight buttoned up, good-looking problems like you do in Suburbia. I know, that's oversimplified, but that's the impression. Suburbanites, particularly in churches, are much more likely to hide behind a facade. And that makes it easier to pastor in some ways, or at least easier to pretend like you are pastoring.

Quote:
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.
In my experience, yes, from both ways. We have had people in our church say, "I don't know why they don't go to their churches over there" (they being people who look differently than "we" do, and not in the way they dress). We have had people in our church whose family and friends have said, "Why do you go to that white church?" My desire is to overcome that. I am trying to lead our church to be a "multi-racial church of first generation Christians." I would love to have some people committed to that. It's a church culture that has to be created intentionally.

But I have talked to people who are "scared" of our community because of the impression of crime, drugs, and danger, I have never felt unsafe here. Maybe it's just because I don't think. I used to have a Rottweiler, and people would say, "That's a great dog to have down there." Not really. I remember about a year ago when there was a police shoot out a few blocks from a large church in our area in a "better neighborhood," emailing a few friends and joking that "I am glad I don't live in a dangerous area."

But the reality is that we, for the sake of the gospel, must embrace some things that run contrary to what the American dream tells us to pursue. And we do it because Jesus said to do it. (We don't do it on the model that Jesus left heaven to come to earth and therefore I should leave the suburbs to go to the city; I think that is a bad model based on a poor understanding of what Jesus actually did.)

All that to say, I think there is a complex of reasons. But strategic church planting is not only good, it's necessary to the great commission, IMO. I would love to see church planting in Detroit. I think we could do it strategically and see ten churches planted in ten years, but we have to have people committed to being Detroit city people--moving, living, shopping, working, recreating, playing, and being in the city.

Enough rambling, eh?

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
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.

It all depends on where you are trying to plant your church. If you are trying to lease a storefront in my inner-city neighborhood in Grand Rapids, you will pay around 700 per month for about 2000 sq ft. However, if you decide to launch a church in a uppity, upscale yuppie neighborhood in Grand Rapids, you will pay at least 3000 per month for about the same amount of space. Even cities are different. For instance, in the south Bronx, leasing space for a church in an impoverished area is more expensive that leasing space in the upscale yuppie neighborhood of Grand Rapids.

Quote:

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.

In the Midwest, its not affordability that keeps Baptist Fundys out of inner-city neighborhoods, it is the crime and poverty itself. Rarely have I seen fundamentalists that live in the crime-ridden, poverty-stricken neighborhoods where they are church planting or even pastoring. I have seen Jack Hyles influenced churches that send buses into those neighborhoods, but they mainly reach urban children (once the kids get to be about 12 years of age they stop going).

There are always exceptions, however. For example, I am excited about a Baptist Mid-Missions church plant in the South Bronx called Commonwealth Community Baptist Church. One of the church planting couples, Sam and Jen Lake (http://www.samandjenlake.com/ ) are at about 78% of their support have committed to living in an apartment within in the church once their support is raised. This will give them some great advantages in building bridges with many of the people in the community so that they can proclaim the gospel and disciple the urban poor in their neighborhood.

By the way, the ministry that I run (Urban Transformation Ministries or UTM) is currently partnering with a church plant that is being started by Calvary Church of Grand Rapids (a mega-church which happens to be IFCA). We are combining about 30-40 redeemed thugs (former gang members and drug dealers) in their early twenties (almost all African-American) that have been discipled through UTM with about 50 or so middle-class evangelistic white people (some of which who live near or in the target area) to form a multi-ethnic church called New City Church. There are some aspects of the mother church which will be passed on. There are some that will not for the reasons that Steve has pointed out. From observing many different threads and even this post, we Fundamentalists seem to be more sensitive towards not bringing our cultural baggage in our overseas cross-cultural church planting than cross-cultural church planting endeavors in North America....

Quote:
'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 no one cares.

There may be a few more barriers to overcome, but I have seen it happen on several occasions. An evangelical church in Chicago named Lawndale Community Church is one example. It was started by a substitute teacher/football coach who discipled a group of teenagers/young adults in one of the poorest communities in America. Today the church runs about 500 people (mostly African-American) and the church planter (Wayne Gordon) is still the lead pastor. http://lawndalechurch.org/ However, Wayne Gordon spent a lot of time developing leadership from those he discipled, most of which are African-American.

And our lead pastor for New City Church is white. For the last 5 years he has preached and taught Bible studies with our students in different programs and our students (all of which are African-American and influenced by the hip-hop culture) have embraced him as their pastor.

Becky Petersen's picture

Joel Shaffer ][quote wrote:
From observing many different threads and even this post, we Fundamentalists seem to be more sensitive towards not bringing our cultural baggage in our overseas cross-cultural church planting than cross-cultural church planting endeavors in North America....

Thanks so much for taking so much time to post.

I suppose that this is true...your comment about the baggage. One thing may be that people don't set out to start a cross-cultural ministry, or even try. Some people are openly disdainful of trying to bring in hispanics or blacks into a home church. It is a bit frustrating! I wish every single IFB individually would get a burden for someone who is "not white" or "not American born" or "someone with an accent" and try to reach them.

I would esp. like to see more churches in the US try to reach foreign exchange college students or FE high school students, or who are in the US temporarily. Why doesn't everyone work on a foreign language or work on reaching out to those who speak tentative English?

However, I was wondering about the "white church" thing and whether or not they would go to a church where they are in the minority. I know that a church I know in Greenville has tried to work on reaching the community where they are, but at least when we were there, most from the community didn't feel comfortable there.

Before I say that everyone is unconcerned, I'd like to suggest that doing this is hard work--so, maybe IBF church members figure that they haven't reached "all the easy people" yet, so they are still working on that. ;0

I also think that people are pretty busy in their daily lives with all the programs of the church and schooling, etc. and don't have a lot of time for the kind of personal outreach/relational living that reaching a person who is unlike you would take. I'm not saying it is right--but I think it might be one of the problems.

Maybe churches need to be confronted more often about trying to reach people "unlike" the typical white, middle-to-upper-class suburbia.

I do think that really unchurched people come to church without a lot of expectations and presuppositions....about music, service order, even name, etc. (We sometimes expect them to--it's transfers from other churches who have all those expectations.) They are like blank slates and can be taught (within reason) however you do things. That's what we've found, anyway. It is easier to start with new believers, but you don't have instant help with SS, etc.

As to the name...We WANTED to add Baptist to our name after people figured we were JWs when we just called it something like "Bible study" or whatever--I can't remember now.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

I went to Dave Doran's blog and read his full response to the post, excellent by all means and thoroughly enough in the limited space he deals effectively with many faults in the premises of the questions without failing to demonstrate some appreciation for the article.

Steve Davis's picture

Becky Petersen[/quote wrote:

One thing may be that people don't set out to start a cross-cultural ministry, or even try. Some people are openly disdainful of trying to bring in hispanics or blacks into a home church. It is a bit frustrating! I wish every single IFB individually would get a burden for someone who is "not white" or "not American born" or "someone with an accent" and try to reach them.

I would esp. like to see more churches in the US try to reach foreign exchange college students or FE high school students, or who are in the US temporarily. Why doesn't everyone work on a foreign language or work on reaching out to those who speak tentative English?

However, I was wondering about the "white church" thing and whether or not they would go to a church where they are in the minority. I know that a church I know in Greenville has tried to work on reaching the community where they are, but at least when we were there, most from the community didn't feel comfortable there.

Maybe churches need to be confronted more often about trying to reach people "unlike" the typical white, middle-to-upper-class suburbia.

Not all church plants can be cross-cultural (multi-ethnic) if there is not diversity in the community. It can't be made to happen but there can be intentionality. It might start with the leadership team mix in a new church plant. Urban areas will usually present more opportunity for multi-ethnic and foreign student ministry. We recently met an Asian young lady, PhD visiting student at University of Penn, who became a believer here in the US. My wife does a Bible study with her to try to ground her before she returns to her country.

Urban churches will often see much transition and will have a gospel-growth mindset rather than church-growth (although church growth is good), that is reaching and grounding people where they are knowing they will be moving on. Our church plant has a number of African Americans, a few Asian families, some homeless, recovering addicts, a couple of PhDs, a great mix. From what I have learned from Afro-American pastors, it may be more difficult for Caucasians to attend Afro-American churches than vice-versa. Of course it depends on the church culture of different groups. We find that new converts, of whatever ethnicity, have less trouble being part of a diverse church.

Suburban churches that don’t have a diverse community can partner with city churches in a number of ways. We have people from white suburban churches help with some of our homeless outreach, particularly in helping with meals. This summer we asked our suburban sending church to ask the congregation for air conditioners no longer being used and were able to provide some to poor families who were suffering in the stifling heat. Partnership of suburban churches who share resources with city churches is key to urban church planting.

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