Church Planting Thirty Years Later

In 1982 my wife and I planted our first church in Philadelphia – Faith Independent Baptist Church. The long church name seemed awkward back then but I wanted to be sure people knew up front where I stood. Fresh from eight years of ministry training at fundamentalist schools, I was a committed independent, fundamental Baptist. As extra insurance to validate my IFB credentials, I often added “militant and separatist” as well. The church’s doctrinal statement enshrined a dispensational hermeneutic essential for correct interpretation, the pre-tribulational rapture as the next event on the prophetic calendar, and the King James Version as the official translation. As a church we were known more for what we were against than for who we were.

Fast forward to 2011 where in the same city I am now working with a team of elders to plant another church in a spiritual wasteland where we parachuted in with a few families but without a significant core group. After thirty years of church planting I claim no special expertise, offer no guarantees of success, and sense an even greater dependency upon the Lord to build His church. Similar struggles, resistance to the gospel remain.

This one-year-old church is elder led, non-denominational, non-dispensational, and uses the English Standard Version. Much has changed. Most remains the same. I would venture to add that what is essential has not changed. In areas where change has occurred, thirty years of ministry, of study, of relationships, and of experiences have conspired to bring me to the place I am today. For many years IFB was all I knew or cared to know. Now I find myself rarely at home in this fragmented movement of competing networks. I find myself increasingly on the outside looking in. This is my journey, but I’m glad I was not alone.

After planting a church in Philadelphia from 1982-1987 my family and I went to France and then Romania in church planting and pastoral training ministry. Those years spent overseas provided opportunities for fellowship with believers from different horizons and spared me the need to engage in many of the needless conflicts being fought in the States. There was less need to conform to others’ expectations of what it meant to be safely within the fundamentalist orbit.

During that time overseas I pursued further studies with Reformed Theological Seminary’s extension in Budapest and in time completed a degree in theological studies. For the first time I was challenged from a different theological perspective by men with whom I had strong disagreements. Yet I was persuaded of their evangelical commitment, their love for God, and their commitment to God’s authoritative Word. I began to see that we could differ interpretatively and still enjoy fellowship in the gospel. I was moving away from former positions for which I could still argue but could no longer support biblically with integrity.

In late 1998 we returned to the States where I began a short residency in Deerfield, IL at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and where in 2004 I completed a DMin in Missiology. Once again I was struck by the combination of scholarship and godliness among the professors. There were differences in some areas but the centrality of the gospel transcended those differences.

From 1999-2008, I was missions pastor and director of church planting at a well-known suburban church. I travelled frequently and taught overseas in Russia, Ukraine, Lebanon, Peru, China, and several other countries. There were opportunities to teach in the area of missions and church planting at several schools and seminaries and invitations to preach at various conferences. My visits to China were especially revealing as we looked for house church leaders with whom we could partner for training purposes. I found myself looking for “significant compatibility” and agreement with the historic Christian faith rather than agreement with my convictions. My time in Lebanon among Arab believers caused me to look at Scripture afresh and contributed to modifications in my views on eschatology.

Some might find it surprising that personal experiences have influenced my theology to such a degree. In reality our experiences or lack of them have a great part to play in how we read Scripture. We read it with the eyes of those around us, those who trained us or those we look to for guidance. Our experiences should not determine our theology yet how we read and understand Scripture cannot be separated from our outside influences and experiences. Some may consider it a badge of honor to hold the same beliefs and convictions they held thirty years ago. While I can say that for the fundamentals of the faith, I must confess that second and third-tier commitments and interpretations are held loosely and are no longer a cause for separation or hindrance in partnership in the Lord’s work. Perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that I recognize it is His work not mine and that I labor in His vineyard not one of my creation.

On one hand, I have no argument with fellow believers who affirm their identity as independent, fundamental Baptists. I have no difficulty in seeing them as legitimate representatives of the diverse body of Christ. I have no reason to demean them or to expect them to cease being what they are. I have no desire to avoid fellowship and friendship with IFB men of integrity who are sound theologically and choose to remain within an IFB framework. On the other hand I find after all these years in ministry, with experiences and exposure to global Christianity, that IFB fails to describe how I see myself in my relation to the Lord, in relation to other believers, and in relation to the mission of the church.

The last few years have been especially decisive in the direction I have taken. When I returned from Romania in 1998 I knew that both I and the spiritual landscape that I knew had changed. Then in 2008, while temporarily living in France and helping to plant a new non-Baptist church, I wrote an opinion article on Fundamentalism. It was my way of signaling at that time that although I was on a journey out of Fundamentalism as I had known it, I wanted to remain friends with Fundamentalists. I began to write, to challenge conventions and traditions. I have not always been irenic and have not avoided controversy.

When I described myself as a “soft cessationsist,” questioned elements of dispensationalism, took issue with unbiblical separation, did not clearly espouse literal six-day, twenty-hour creation days, expressed my dismay at the paucity of resources committed to church planting, or challenged traditional thinking in the church’s engagement with culture, I found more criticism than interaction with the ideas. The criticism wasn’t about the gospel. It was mostly about culture, tradition and even personalities who thought I was out of line and should keep a lower profile.

Whether or not I should’ve written some of those articles for publication is another story although I have few regrets. I know there are some who are so much surer in many areas where I have questions. I know others who do not want to rock the boat and, to mix metaphors, prefer to fly under the radar. I suppose that would’ve been a safer route for me but that bridge has already been crossed. I must confess that I have found somewhat amusing the wide range of men who have disagreed with me, attacked me, or separated from me. There has been something for many to dislike although certainly not the same things.

I have no one to blame but myself although these experiences reinforced in my mind how important agreement is to Fundamentalists in areas where I believe we have scriptural latitude to disagree charitably. The agreement demanded by many IFB gatekeeper leaders, churches, and institutions in order to play in their yard far exceeds biblical teaching. The loyalty required by many in order to be safe requires submitting to traditional rather than biblical standards. It is not a virtue to have an inquiring mind in much of Fundamentalism. I had to decide whether I would shut up or speak out knowing that speaking out might marginalize me.

There are a few glimmers of hope as some IFB brethren have begun to break out of their isolation. I think particularly of Northland University which has invited professors from outside IFB circles and of Calvary Baptist Seminary with Mark Dever at their ATC Conference. Of course these moves have triggered substantial criticism from within IFBdom which comes as no surprise. Many IFB factions, which contribute little to theological reflection, brook nothing which deviates from their long-held conventions. I encourage those who choose to stay within the movement to continue their pursuit of God-honoring unity with those outside the IFB pale.

As for me, the time has come to seek to identify with men and movements which demonstrate greater generosity with dissent and challenge than I have found in my IFB experience, to identify with those interested in productive gospel-centered, church-planting partnerships, and God willing, to seek teaching opportunities to train men for next generation church planting. I have no illusions that moving on will bring greater resources or guarantee success in church planting. I’m not looking for greener grass. At this point any grass will do. I still welcome friendship and even partnership with my IFB brothers who have not drawn unreasonable lines in the sand. But I’m too old to jump through all the hoops, too ornery to kowtow and prefer relative obscurity and a few warm relationships to playing ingratiating politics and pleasing men.

Much has changed over the years but God has not. He is faithful and He remains the Lord of the harvest in these challenging and needy times, the ultimate Judge who knows the hearts, and the Accomplisher of His divine purposes. Before Him only I lift my hands, bend my knees, and bow my head.

[node:bio/steve-davis body]

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Andrew K.'s picture

Really enjoyed this piece. Fantastic. Smile

神是爱

handerson's picture

Steve et al.,

My husband and I are very much in the same place - willing to fellowship with and embrace those who embrace the Gospel, whether that is in IFB circles or not. But we are finding that it is harder and harder to find ministry placement (we are currently between ministries) because the IFB churches aren't entirely comfortable with our perspectives and other groups are wary because we were educated and ministered outside of their networks.

So here's my question: is church planting the only option left to folks in our position? We have really wrestled with this over the last year as we have gone through the excruciating process of resumes, committees, etc. and have less and less hope that he'll be easily placed in an established church. Church planting keeps coming up, not necessarily because we sense a specific call, but because we see the needs of people and have a passion to minister the Gospel.

How much of your experience and choice to pursue church planting was due to "not fitting" the mold? Do these things often go hand in hand?

Steve Davis's picture

handerson wrote:
Steve et al.,

My husband and I are very much in the same place - willing to fellowship with and embrace those who embrace the Gospel, whether that is in IFB circles or not. But we are finding that it is harder and harder to find ministry placement (we are currently between ministries) because the IFB churches aren't entirely comfortable with our perspectives and other groups are wary because we were educated and ministered outside of their networks.

So here's my question: is church planting the only option left to folks in our position? We have really wrestled with this over the last year as we have gone through the excruciating process of resumes, committees, etc. and have less and less hope that he'll be easily placed in an established church. Church planting keeps coming up, not necessarily because we sense a specific call, but because we see the needs of people and have a passion to minister the Gospel.

How much of your experience and choice to pursue church planting was due to "not fitting" the mold? Do these things often go hand in hand?

I'd be glad to discuss this further with you by email where I could say some things that might sound critical on a forum (not that anyone would think that Smile I do not think I could pastor an IFB church. If I did it would have to be one that didn't fit the mold. Church planting was not the only option for me at this time but a great desire. I looked at different networks of churches (SGM, Acts 29) and although they have much to commend them there were reasons for which they weren't a good fit.

Our church is looking at affiliating with EFCA (Evangelical Free church) partly because we want accountability and fellowship, partly because we are looking to the future when we are off the scene and want the church to be connected with a body of believers for partnership in God’s global work.

God bless you on your journey. Please feel free to visit with us in Philadelphia.

Grace & Peace,
Steve

ChrisS's picture

Specific to the literal six-day, 24-hour creation days, since God has plainly stated such, to "not clearly espouse" that Biblical truth is to open the door to undermining the authority of God's Word. Secular science should not be leaned upon in order to make friends with secularists, yet they, too, need to be reached, and observational science can be used to do so, in pure and true love for the lost, indeed. It's not about being right, but rather about using truth to accompany our burden for souls. The Gospel is indeed central, and a literal understanding of Genesis 1-11 is foundational to that, so when we insert millions/billions of years into Genesis, then others will (and have) allegorize Adam and Eve, and then we have no Gospel, if Paul under inspiration is accurate in Romans, and we know he is. We have let the culture invade the church, as opposed to using the church to impact the culture, not change it, but impact it.

Culture, no matter where or what, should have no say in the foundational aspects of God's Word, the fundamentals, if you will. So while I can see where some polite disagreement occurs in the "soft cessationist" or "dispensational" positions, I can also understand and agree with the proper criticism (I would hope it was direct, polite, and Biblically accurate) received on espousing other views of the Creation week. God has spoken plainly, and the Gospel is only strengthened by believing what He said. "In the beginning...evening and morning..." would apply to any culture and in any language, though I confess, I know only my native English for now. I can only assume that the original languages have to be understood and interpreted according to the same rules, whether people are English, Arabic, French, etc.

We now largely live in an Acts 17 world, no longer primarily an Acts 2 world. People need to be introduced to God as compared to their gods, and that certainly begins in Genesis. Can they get saved without adhering to some literal belief? Sure, and yet subsequent generations will then potentially continue to undermine even the basic tenets of the Gospel, as we have allowed them to do with Genesis. If we say "It's all about the Gospel", I assume we are still meaning the entire council of God, and we start at the beginning, at least I hope we do, or people get only a partial story of who He is and what He has done and will continue to do.

Dr. Davis, I will be praying for your ministry.

Holding fast to the name of our Creator, for His glory.

Joshua Louk's picture

Hannah and Nathan,

Our offer for your family to join us in Romania still stands, and I don't see it sitting down anytime soon. We are continually praying for serious disciplers who are more passionate about God and His Word than about tradition or about pleasing people.

; ) Laurel

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Found Steve's essay interesting on many levels.
One thing that struck me is how often it's the guys who are really fervent "IFB" flag wavers who later become the most enthusiastic IFB departers. Then you have guys like me who would never have considered naming a church "independent fundamental..." in the first place. And a couple decades later, I'm not far from the same place I started. (I've actually mostly gotten more conservative and traditional over the last decade... and visits to a couple of other countries--as well as increased interactions with other perspectives from Anglicans to charismatics, Catholics, cultists and Muslims--only hastened that)

I'm not sure that means a whole lot but maybe it's a reflection of the fact that if young people approach movements and trends with their critical thinking in high gear to begin with, they are less likely to embrace these things with wild abandon--whether it's "their own" group or, later, some other.

JG's picture

So we might just say, "I'm no longer separatist, Baptist, dispensationalist, six day creationist, or culturally conservative. I now think Reformed people have a point, and I like words like 'missional' now. It's better that way, I'm happy, I think God likes it that way, and some other famous fundie people that I can name are moving the same direction, so I must be right. I'll still be your friend if I don't think you are too wacky."

I could have written this for you and saved you a lot of words.... Wink

Not that I agree with most of it (though you certainly have some fair points), or that I saw any Scripture supporting it. But that's ok, because I'm probably too wacky for you to care overly much what I say about it. Biggrin I'll rave on for a minute, anyway, in my normally wacky way, because I'm enough of an egotist to think my ravings might possibly have some benefit to someone who reads.

Opting out of IFB "networks"? Yeah, I'm not big on networks, either. Too much politics, etc. But you haven't just opted out of networks, you've changed doctrine, too.

You're going EFCA? EFCA is evangelical, always has been. They don't call themselves fundie, and didn't much care for fundies 30 years ago when I was at Biola. I doubt that has changed. So you are an evangelical now, but maybe you stick around as a missionary to fundamentalists, to try to convert us to a better way? I've already fallen away from the path of soft evangelicalism, it would be impossible to renew me to repentance on it. Too much error, too much accommodation with unbelief, too much worldliness.

When you see fellowship among evangelicals with the Robert Schullers of this world, you have to get out. I just couldn't stomach it any more. When you hear a single guy say he goes down to the beach in LA to check out the girls in bikinis and gives God praise for the beauty He's made in the world, and everyone chimes in and says, "Cool," you know you don't belong there anymore. When you see the politics that evangelicals play, it will turn your stomach just as much as IFB politics, or more. I'll not be going back.

You'll say the evangelicals you are going to fellowship with aren't like that. I hope they aren't -- but I said the same thing, too, and it didn't last.

After a while in evangelicalism, you're going to look around and see a lot of compromises, a lot of problems. Hopefully, you can have a positive impact in the face of that. Your fundie background will stand you in good stead, if you don't go overboard to prove to your evangelical friends that you aren't a fundie anymore. That's always a danger with fundies who go your route. It will be harder for you to stand (the way guys like Mohler stand) because they'll all just think you are backsliding into fundyism. I hope and pray you'll do better, and be a positive influence in a movement that has a lot of problems.

If you were truly a fundie by conviction, you've abandoned your conviction, and you'll slide a long way. If you were a fundie by convention, then there's no point in staying and pretending. That won't do you or fundies any good at all. So I'm not particularly upset by your article. I've got good friends in evangelicalism, and some of them show wonderful commitment to our Lord. I'm presuming you'll remain the same. But I'm too "wacky" to just let your article go by without a response. Escaping from soft evangelicalism does that to a person.

handerson's picture

Laurel - Believe me, overseas church planting is definitely on the table, but unless we change our view on tongues, it's going to be in an English speaking country Smile

To Aaron's point: I do find that as we broaden our circles of fellowship, we discover that people are pretty much the same. The weaknesses of separatist fundamentalism that lead some young people to move on are only replaced by weaknesses of other kinds in the new circle. We're currently attending a church that most people would classify as conservative evangelical and while it has been a blessing, it has also made me realize that there were several emphases that my separatist background did better.

Jeff Straub's picture

My brother . . . well, this is all you promised it would be but nothing new to me. We have known each other for what, 37 yrs. now since those early days at Greenville in the weight room! Who would have thought that our journeys would last this long or be filled with the pathways that the Lord has taken us. Perhaps Aaron's above comment is apropos at some levels, but at others, when one brand of IFB is all one knows, at least initially, then it is little one if one embraces a wrong form. When I went to that school where I met Steve, I had no idea what a fundamentalist was and soon learned a party line . . . complete with protests outside a World Council meeting. Too much IP I guess! (You have to be an insider to know who IP is). Anyway, Steve, we have shared so much of this journey together and ended up in similar places. To be sure, I am not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to dispensationalism. Nor have I the sympathy for Waltke's misguided view of Genesis, but I have come to appreciate a whole coterie of men outside IFB circles who are good and godly men if "misguided." ;). I once called one of these men godly and another friend from within the IFB world balked . . . how could a non-separatist be godly? Well, what the dear brother was saying was that if one didn't hold his views . . . then one couldn't be godly. Boy, have we come to that in the IFB world?

You and I will remain good friends, I think because we share a common burden--a burden to reach a lost and dying world. I am grateful to you for that first trip to Fetesti now nearly 15 years ago. It put a burden in my heart to help train nationals which I am happy to say has most recently been realized in a two-week teaching junket in India! Thanks for the encouragement and friendship along the way. I do miss those late night conversations we enjoyed in Ukraine and Moscow on the ordo salutis! I think you are moving the right direction in that regard! :bigsmile:

Don't forget your old friends!

La revederie! Frate smecher! Drum bun!

JS

Jeff Straub

Mike Harding's picture

Steve Davis is a personal friend of mine and has been so for over thirty years. I first knew Steve and his brother John shortly after their conversions. Both brothers left Philadelphia and relocated to my home church, Oak Forest Baptist Temple (Pastor Bill Schroeder), and then attended and graduated from BJU. I have had both these men preach at our church (FBC Troy) for various events and retreats. Both, I assure you, are outstanding preachers and effective communicators. John left fundamentalism many years ago and has pastored several evangelical churches since. John married my pastor's daughter, Dawn Schroeder, and Steve married a wonderful young lady from Inter-City Baptist Church.

It was John Davis who encouraged me to continue my seminary work at DBTS. At that time I had an undergrad degree in Bible and Minor in Greek as well as an MA in theology from BJU. With the encouragement of John Davis as well as Dave Doran I finished my M.Div. and Th.M. at DBTS. I supported Steve Davis as a church planter and missionary for several decades. I started my journey as a cessationist, young-earth creationist, dispensationalist, separatist, etc. Thirty years later I am still a cessationist, young-earth creationist, dispensationalist, separatist, etc. Yes, some things have changed. I am more Calvinistic now (four point) than I was thirty years ago. I am a much stronger advocate of the Lordship of Christ when I present the gospel than I was before. Though I am a separatist, I have always appreciated the preaching of John MacArthur and I don't think Mark Dever is the "Devil" despite the potential etymological linkage.

Without question we are influenced by the people we meet, the schools we attend, and the ministers with whom we fellowship. Rolland McCune perhaps more than any other professor had the greatest influence on my theology. Having read of Steve's experiences, I certainly understand why he positions himself as he does. It does not change my love for him as a Christian friend nor my appreciation of his valiant efforts to advance the gospel. I wish Steve and John well in their pioneer efforts both at home and abroad. However, I do sense a sadness within my own spirit when I read these things. In the fundamental circles with which I am most familiar (BJU, DBTS, MBBC, CBTS, etc.), I have seen a great deal of good that I thank God for in my heart. I have chosen deliberately to stay within those circles and use what little influence I have to improve ourselves spiritually, theologically, evangelistically, and intellectually. The grass is certainly greener on the other side mind you. Perhaps as Steve says things are that much better over there. Yet, I suspect that there may be patches of astro turf and plenty of fertilizer as well.

Pastor Mike Harding

Steve Davis's picture

I'm thankful for the good friendships with guys like Jeff and Mike. Hard to believe we go back to BJ days and were in the same graduation class. These are the kind of friendships that I believe will endure. As Jeff said "we have ended up in similar places." I have no desire to burn these bridges. My not wanting to be identified with a movement does not entail departure from my friends and I would hope co-laborers in the gospel.

As for some of the differences I have great appreciation for the contribution of dispensationalism and still struggle with texts and interpretation. I probably lean toward historic pre-mill but eschatology is one area where I believe we can differ and enjoy fellowship and even partnership at some level. I do not agree with views of Genesis that relegate the events of Genesis and Adam and Eve to myth. I affirm divine creation and the historicity of Adam and Eve as the Apostle Paul clearly did. I remain agnostic about whether the days must be six literal 24-hour days in which creation took place. I think there are other views which although I may not hold them they are legitimate and I am not convinced by many YEC arguments on the age of the earth. To say that calls me into question in the minds of some. Jeff is right that I am moving in the right direction in the ordo salutis or hope I am. Maybe not his direction although that is another area where we can differ. We do share a burden to reach people with the gospel and that transcends our differences which are not of a fundamental nature. I loudly and clearly affirm the fundamentals of the faith, contend for them, and separate from unbelief. For some brethren that is not enough. And I can't dot all their "i"s.

Mike's church was one of the most enjoyable churches that I have preached in over the years. I would preach there again if he had me and would have the courtesy to not preach on areas where we differ. Same goes for Jeff and Central where I've had the opportunity to speak and would again. Actually Kevin Bauder articulates ideas that greatly resonate with me and if that was IFBdom I would be glad. In saying that I recognize that there are slices of IFB with which I have great affinity and would like to enjoy fellowship with them in Christ and in the gospel while we continue to discuss and debate second and third tier beliefs.

No, I don’t think the grass is greener elsewhere and I not looking at what side I’m on. Actually moving where I am today has cost me in some ways far more than if I had stayed put in a ministry position and operated under the radar. But any cost is being rewared in other ways. Not for a moment will I denigrate or deny the good that has been accomplished in fundamental circles. And I respect those like Mike who stay where they are and in the areas he mentioned has remained firm. They love the same Trinitarian Creator God and Lord of the universe, contend for the same faith, preach the same gospel, affirm the authority of the same Word, look forward to our Lord’s eternal reign, and share the same burden for the lost. On this and most things we agree and that’s enough for me.

Bob T.'s picture

We have seen your journey from certainty to increasing doubt in articles you have written and were posted here on SI. Such a journey has been taken by thousands since the 1930s and 1940s. In 1947 the journey was given a name by those who were taking it. They called themselves NEW EVANGELICALS. At least SI was able to give you a forum for your journey confessions. Your biography and destiny has already been written about in a book titled "Promise Unfulfilled, The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism," by Rolland McCune. As it is often said; "those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." We will, and occasionally do, remember you and others like you in prayer. I have been on that other grass where it looks greener. It is full of yellow spots and dead spots with those getting more numerous and larger all the time. Better watch where you step. :cry:

But as they say in Philadelphia; "don't let the door hit you in the back on your way out." Wink

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Like Steve and many other Pastors, I have my disappointments, struggles, and I wrestle with decisions about direction. I wonder sometimes if we are too fixated on movements and not fixated enough on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Chris Anderson<br /> wrote:
We have looked in faith to Christ,
Beholding God’s atoning Lamb.
He for our sins was sacrificed,
Thus we, though dead, have been born again.

Refrain:
Jesus, Your beauty fills our eyes—
First looking, we were justified;
Now gazing deeper sanctifies,
Till face to face, we are glorified.

We still look each day to Christ
And by the unveiled view are changed.
The Spirit wields the Truth with might,
Conforming us to the Son unstained.

We will look one day on Christ
When He appears, triumphantly.
That blessed hope now purifies,
Till seeing Him, we like Him will be.

handerson's picture

I was struggling with this myself. This whole need to "come out" (pardon my phrase, it's the only one that seemed to fit) is very disconcerting to me. As is the response. Have we really reached this point that our identity rests primarily in who we associate with? Perhaps I'm just young and naive, but it feels so one dimensional and I hate that good men are forced to it.

Shaynus's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Found Steve's essay interesting on many levels.
One thing that struck me is how often it's the guys who are really fervent "IFB" flag wavers who later become the most enthusiastic IFB departers. Then you have guys like me who would never have considered naming a church "independent fundamental..." in the first place. And a couple decades later, I'm not far from the same place I started. (I've actually mostly gotten more conservative and traditional over the last decade... and visits to a couple of other countries--as well as increased interactions with other perspectives from Anglicans to charismatics, Catholics, cultists and Muslims--only hastened that)

I'm not sure that means a whole lot but maybe it's a reflection of the fact that if young people approach movements and trends with their critical thinking in high gear to begin with, they are less likely to embrace these things with wild abandon--whether it's "their own" group or, later, some other.

Aaron, exactly my thoughts. I've always been confused by the people who announce they are leaving fundamentalism (with the exception of this present example). I grew up at Bob Jones University (I gained my ID number at age 6 weeks) and have been in mostly Bible churches unaffiliated with anything. It seems like the closer churches are in fellowship based on separatism (like the IFB) the more one has to decide if your're in or out. Those of us in fundamentalist loose land have less of a need to break with anything (or not). What movement am I in? I couldn't tell you. I just know that various people and groups have influenced me for good: both evangelicals and fundamentalists. Why must I choose affiliation? I don't think I do.

Steve Davis's picture

Bob T. wrote:
We have seen your journey from certainty to increasing doubt in articles you have written and were posted here on SI. Such a journey has been taken by thousands since the 1930s and 1940s. In 1947 the journey was given a name by those who were taking it. They called themselves NEW EVANGELICALS. At least SI was able to give you a forum for your journey confessions. Your biography and destiny has already been written about in a book titled "Promise Unfulfilled, The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism," by Rolland McCune. As it is often said; "those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." We will, and occasionally do, remember you and others like you in prayer. I have been on that other grass where it looks greener. It is full of yellow spots and dead spots with those getting more numerous and larger all the time. Better watch where you step. :cry:

But as they say in Philadelphia; "don't let the door hit you in the back on your way out." Wink

Thanks Bob. I knew I could count on you for remarkable insight in true Bob-fundie fashion. However, for the record, my journey has been anything but one from certainty to doubt unless you mean my doubt as an individual to get it right on all the interpretative issues that you and others seem to grasp so clearly.

As for "New Evangelical" you toss that term around so often and flippantly as derision it's practically meaningless. You fall into what Kevin Bauder described in an article last year: "These men apparently divide all American Christians into only two categories: Fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals. If a Christian leader is not recognized as a Fundamentalist, then he is considered to be a new evangelical, with all the opprobrium that follows."

Shaynus's picture

Bob T. wrote:
We have seen your journey from certainty to increasing doubt in articles you have written and were posted here on SI. Such a journey has been taken by thousands since the 1930s and 1940s. In 1947 the journey was given a name by those who were taking it. They called themselves NEW EVANGELICALS. At least SI was able to give you a forum for your journey confessions. Your biography and destiny has already been written about in a book titled "Promise Unfulfilled, The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism," by Rolland McCune. As it is often said; "those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." We will, and occasionally do, remember you and others like you in prayer. I have been on that other grass where it looks greener. It is full of yellow spots and dead spots with those getting more numerous and larger all the time. Better watch where you step. :cry:

But as they say in Philadelphia; "don't let the door hit you in the back on your way out." Wink

Can't tell if this is a joke. Hopefully it is.

DaveMarriott's picture

Dr. Davis wrote,

Quote:
As a church we were known more for what we were against than for who we were.

And this article demonstrates that now he is known more for who he is than for than what he is against?

Ironically, he started his ministry with a position against what he believed to be unbiblical separation in that he claimed to be a militant separatist and even had "independent" on his sign, but since these former convictions created a perception that he was defined in terms of what he opposed, now, he continues to oppose what he perceives to be unbiblical separation (albeit a different position) and is thinking of encouraging his local church to partner with the EFCA, and we are to believe that he is no longer defined in terms of what he opposes?

No matter how hard he tries to escape all the "dogmatism" and perceived negativity, he cannot escape being defined by what he opposes, except now he is simply in opposition to his former positions.

I am still struggling to see the publishable value of this article. From my perspective the author basically communicates, "I have left this 'fundamental' world because fundamentalists are prideful, smelling of dogmatism in their positions. I continue to affirm the gospel, but I will not quibble over such minor matters as the continuation of spiritual gifts, the kingdom of God, or even whether or not the evening and the morning were really the first day, etc. If anyone still gets bent out of shape over these minor matters, I don't have time for them anymore. Oh and by the way, while I still have the podium, if some of the finest churches in fundamentalism will still invite me to come and preach and influence the next generation, I'd love to. In fact, sign me up! I promise not to be controversial or touch on areas where there may be disagreement."

My advice to the author, albeit unsolicited: You claim to desire to be under the radar ("relative obscurity" is I think how you termed it) and content with just a few ministry friends, but yet you took the time to write a polemic against the fundamentalism of which you have been a part, thus showing up on the radar? If you are going to leave the 'IFB' orbit, just go ahead and do it. But do it quickly. Do whatever it is that you think God has called you to do. However, leaving in this manner makes you look a bit ugly and even desirous to take as many people with you as possible. Go do the missiological work that you have done and for which you have trained, but please stop writing to us, if you are no longer among us.

jpdsr51's picture

DaveMarriott wrote:
If you are going to leave the 'IFB' orbit, just go ahead and do it. But do it quickly. Do whatever it is that you think God has called you to do. However, leaving in this manner makes you look a bit ugly and even desirous to take as many people with you as possible. Go do the missiological work that you have done and for which you have trained, but please stop writing to us, if you are no longer among us.

The difference between you and Steve is that he can leave the IBF orbit [your words ] yet still love those in that orbit and welcome their fellowship, even yours. The universe of gospel-centered Chrisitianity is large enough to contain your orbit and others. Unfortunately, some mistake their orbit for the universe and end up living in a very small world.

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Steve Davis's picture

DaveMarriott wrote:
Dr. Davis wrote,
Quote:
As a church we were known more for what we were against than for who we were.

And this article demonstrates that now he is known more for who he is than for than what he is against?

Ironically, he started his ministry with a position against what he believed to be unbiblical separation in that he claimed to be a militant separatist and even had "independent" on his sign, but since these former convictions created a perception that he was defined in terms of what he opposed, now, he continues to oppose what he perceives to be unbiblical separation (albeit a different position) and is thinking of encouraging his local church to partner with the EFCA, and we are to believe that he is no longer defined in terms of what he opposes?

No matter how hard he tries to escape all the "dogmatism" and perceived negativity, he cannot escape being defined by what he opposes, except now he is simply in opposition to his former positions.

I am still struggling to see the publishable value of this article. From my perspective the author basically communicates, "I have left this 'fundamental' world because fundamentalists are prideful, smelling of dogmatism in their positions. I continue to affirm the gospel, but I will not quibble over such minor matters as the continuation of spiritual gifts, the kingdom of God, or even whether or not the evening and the morning were really the first day, etc. If anyone still gets bent out of shape over these minor matters, I don't have time for them anymore. Oh and by the way, while I still have the podium, if some of the finest churches in fundamentalism will still invite me to come and preach and influence the next generation, I'd love to. In fact, sign me up! I promise not to be controversial or touch on areas where there may be disagreement."

My advice to the author, albeit unsolicited: You claim to desire to be under the radar ("relative obscurity" is I think how you termed it) and content with just a few ministry friends, but yet you took the time to write a polemic against the fundamentalism of which you have been a part, thus showing up on the radar? If you are going to leave the 'IFB' orbit, just go ahead and do it. But do it quickly. Do whatever it is that you think God has called you to do. However, leaving in this manner makes you look a bit ugly and even desirous to take as many people with you as possible. Go do the missiological work that you have done and for which you have trained, but please stop writing to us, if you are no longer among us.

If there was no publishable value why waste your time writing a diatribe against it? BTW, I haven't left the "fundamental world” and hold unashamedly to every fundamental doctrine of the historic Christian faith. There are fundamentalists who represent fundamentalism well. You do not and I would suspect that most would disavow your tone and caricature of what I wrote. You put words in my mouth about "fundamentalists [who ] are prideful, smelling of dogmatism in their positions." I may've just met one like that but I don't think you represent anyone but yourself. And yes I will happily fellowship with IFB men who so desire. Sue me.

Bob T.'s picture

Shaynus wrote:
Bob T. wrote:
We have seen your journey from certainty to increasing doubt in articles you have written and were posted here on SI. Such a journey has been taken by thousands since the 1930s and 1940s. In 1947 the journey was given a name by those who were taking it. They called themselves NEW EVANGELICALS. At least SI was able to give you a forum for your journey confessions. Your biography and destiny has already been written about in a book titled "Promise Unfulfilled, The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism," by Rolland McCune. As it is often said; "those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." We will, and occasionally do, remember you and others like you in prayer. I have been on that other grass where it looks greener. It is full of yellow spots and dead spots with those getting more numerous and larger all the time. Better watch where you step. :cry:

But as they say in Philadelphia; "don't let the door hit you in the back on your way out." Wink

Can't tell if this is a joke. Hopefully it is.

No, it is not a joke. It is said without any hate or animosity but with a realization that all that Steve Davis has written has been with an apparent desire to drag other younger Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals into his world of increasing doctrinal doubt.

I have been in and among the world of NEW EVANGELICALS. There is little excuse for some of their acceptance except they view love as being that which is above truth. In so doing they not only diminish truth but redefine biblical love in a non biblical worldly manner.

As for Steve Davis accusation of throwing around the term NEW EVANGELICAL loosely? The very doctrines that he asserts that he has changed on are the very doctrines used by the NEW EVANGELICALS to describe their new mentality and openness. It is a sad scenario to see some in ministry change to more openness that embraces the exact definition of NEW EVANGELICALISM but then attempt to separate themselves from that historic term. Usually this occurs when they have friends or contacts who are still Fundamentalist or Conservative Evangelicals and they want to keep an open door to them. Instead, they should not let the door hit them in the back on their way out. Steve Davis has written numerous articles published here on SI in which he has been very vocal about his new found viewpoints. He has done so with an attempt to persuade others as one still in or sympathetic to historic Fundamentalism.

The term IFB has been used as an example of what must be left for this greater truth enlightenment. However, there are a wide variety within what some call IFB. Also, Fundamentalism is more than IFB. It does include independent Bible churches, other independents, and some Presyterians, that due not endorse those broader viewpoints on Charismatics, creationism, etc.

Due to time at Biola and Fuller, and some friendships since, I have more than a few very close friends and acquaintances who are other than Fundamentalist in outlook. Many meet the primary definition of NEW EVANGELICAL. We have, and occasionally do, have friendly contact and personal fellowship. However, I keep a distance in ministry cooperation and endorsement and insure that they do the same when appropriate. A Biblical standard Christian has a duty to protect the flock as admonished by Paul at Acts 20:17-35. This is the heart of Fundamentalism. It is a primary difference in ministry outlook between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism.

It is sad when those who were brought up with a more Fundamentalist background, or whose first days of the Christian journey were under such influence, start rejecting doctrines that are clearly part of holding to a literal biblical standard. Christian Life Magazine published an article friendly to the New Evangelicalism in 1956 titled "Is Evangelical Theology Changing." They described the views of the "New Evangelicals." These included the views as espoused by Steve Davis as that which now describes his changed views. So Steve, if you cannot be described as New Evangelical than no one can and such a self labeled movement must have never existed. By your own confessions you are NEW EVANGELICAL. Why do you find it an offense to be called such?

You have expressed a desire to still be accepted by institutions and churches for preaching. You have promised to avoid any subject of controversy. However, has it occurred to you that your previous published articles have made you yourself controversial. Some on here have indicated they are your longtime close friends. I have a couple very close longtime friends that have gone on a similar journey as yourself. A few years ago I preached in the church of one. Since then he has changed even more. He now is open to Charismatics and present day prophets. Now I would never have him in my church pulpit and I would graciously as possible refuse an invitation to his church pulpit. I may attend his church as a visitor if in the area. I would seek fellowship and friendship with him and his family. But ministry ties are not any longer possible. I would hope you would respect the position of churches and institutions whose doctrines and views you no longer endorse and not accept ministry involvement with them.

So it is not necessarily unkind to ask persons such as yourself to not let door hit them in the back on their way out. It is probably the ethical thing for you to do. Also, do remember to watch where you step in that new green grass on the other side.

Steve Davis's picture

Now I get it.

1. I hold to the fundamentals of the faith but refuse to take a position on issues deemed important enough to separate over by some. I AM A NEW EVANGELICALL!
2. I hold to divine creation and the historicity of Adam and Eve but do not take position on the age of the earth and believe there are other legitimate viewpoints on the 6 days of creation. I AM A NEW EVANGELICALL!
3. I hold that God can work in ways analogous to what we find in the New Testament in pioneer situations in working miracles although I have no sympathy for the Charismatic movement. I AM A NEW EVANGELICALL!
4. I hold to the imminent return of Christ and to the establishment of His eternal kingdom and hold some future details loosely. I AM A NEW EVANGELICALL!
5. I hold to the unity of God’s people and although I don’t want to be identified with a movement I still seek fellowship in the gospel with individuals who remain in that movement. I AM A NEW EVANGELICALL!

Thanks Bob for bringing clarity to this and the 1956 Life article was a big help. BTW, to clarify an equally important point the door hits you in another place – not the back!

Andrew K.'s picture

I'm a bit confused here.

I don't see anything in Steve's article that could be taken as a rejection of historic fundamentalism or even a willingness to work with those who reject the fundamentals of the faith. And yet some here seem to be dropping unsubtle hints toward slippery slopes and ready to commence a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunning ]shunning .

Way to prove his point.

This is why the younger (and sometimes older) generation leaves you in name, Fundamentalism. Sometimes we really don't understand who you are and what you're talking about.

神是爱

Charlie's picture

I have scanned the multi-verse, and in all possible universes that contain SI, this thread goes the same direction. Just thought you should know.

Steve, I hope, I really hope, that you do find meaningful association with a church, not a movement, where you can find support, accountability, and ministry partners. A non-affiliated individual is, in some ways, even more separatist than a separatist movement.

As I am moving to Philly, you may see me some Sunday soon at Grace Church, if that's where you're worshiping.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

jpdsr51's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
I have chosen deliberately to stay within those circles and use what little influence I have to improve ourselves spiritually, theologically, evangelistically, and intellectually. The grass is certainly greener on the other side mind you. Perhaps as Steve says things are that much better over there. Yet, I suspect that there may be patches of astro turf and plenty of fertilizer as well.

Hi Mike:
I only have fond memories of preaching for you at Men's Retreats and Bible Conferences. You will always be loved and admired by me. I do appreciate those, like you, who can stay within the IBF movement and exert a corrective and progressive infuence and remain true to the gospel. Though I wish that staying it wasn't at the cost of denyig Christian fellowship to others. We disagree on a many things though I think we could have healthy and friendly face to face discussions on them. But, I am sure we agree with so much more that would unite as brothers in Christ. You are a bright (I was going to say and 'young') guy. I would like to see you pursue fleshing out the relationship between between the doctrine of union with Christ as it relates to Christian fellowship. I love you, brother.

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

jpdsr51's picture

[quote=Bob T It is said without any hate or animosity but with a realization that all that Steve Davis has written has been with an apparent desire to drag other younger Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals into his world of increasing doctrinal doubt [/quote]

And now Bob has the privelged insight in being able to judge one's motives, but at least he does it without any hate or animosity. Really, Bob?

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Shaynus's picture

Bob T. wrote:

No, it is not a joke. It is said without any hate or animosity but with a realization that all that Steve Davis has written has been with an apparent desire to drag other younger Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals into his world of increasing doctrinal doubt.

I have been in and among the world of NEW EVANGELICALS. There is little excuse for some of their acceptance except they view love as being that which is above truth. In so doing they not only diminish truth but redefine biblical love in a non biblical worldly manner.

As for Steve Davis accusation of throwing around the term NEW EVANGELICAL loosely? The very doctrines that he asserts that he has changed on are the very doctrines used by the NEW EVANGELICALS to describe their new mentality and openness. It is a sad scenario to see some in ministry change to more openness that embraces the exact definition of NEW EVANGELICALISM but then attempt to separate themselves from that historic term. Usually this occurs when they have friends or contacts who are still Fundamentalist or Conservative Evangelicals and they want to keep an open door to them. Instead, they should not let the door hit them in the back on their way out. Steve Davis has written numerous articles published here on SI in which he has been very vocal about his new found viewpoints. He has done so with an attempt to persuade others as one still in or sympathetic to historic Fundamentalism.

The term IFB has been used as an example of what must be left for this greater truth enlightenment. However, there are a wide variety within what some call IFB. Also, Fundamentalism is more than IFB. It does include independent Bible churches, other independents, and some Presyterians, that due not endorse those broader viewpoints on Charismatics, creationism, etc.

Due to time at Biola and Fuller, and some friendships since, I have more than a few very close friends and acquaintances who are other than Fundamentalist in outlook. Many meet the primary definition of NEW EVANGELICAL. We have, and occasionally do, have friendly contact and personal fellowship. However, I keep a distance in ministry cooperation and endorsement and insure that they do the same when appropriate. A Biblical standard Christian has a duty to protect the flock as admonished by Paul at Acts 20:17-35. This is the heart of Fundamentalism. It is a primary difference in ministry outlook between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism.

It is sad when those who were brought up with a more Fundamentalist background, or whose first days of the Christian journey were under such influence, start rejecting doctrines that are clearly part of holding to a literal biblical standard. Christian Life Magazine published an article friendly to the New Evangelicalism in 1956 titled "Is Evangelical Theology Changing." They described the views of the "New Evangelicals." These included the views as espoused by Steve Davis as that which now describes his changed views. So Steve, if you cannot be described as New Evangelical than no one can and such a self labeled movement must have never existed. By your own confessions you are NEW EVANGELICAL. Why do you find it an offense to be called such?

You have expressed a desire to still be accepted by institutions and churches for preaching. You have promised to avoid any subject of controversy. However, has it occurred to you that your previous published articles have made you yourself controversial. Some on here have indicated they are your longtime close friends. I have a couple very close longtime friends that have gone on a similar journey as yourself. A few years ago I preached in the church of one. Since then he has changed even more. He now is open to Charismatics and present day prophets. Now I would never have him in my church pulpit and I would graciously as possible refuse an invitation to his church pulpit. I may attend his church as a visitor if in the area. I would seek fellowship and friendship with him and his family. But ministry ties are not any longer possible. I would hope you would respect the position of churches and institutions whose doctrines and views you no longer endorse and not accept ministry involvement with them.

So it is not necessarily unkind to ask persons such as yourself to not let door hit them in the back on their way out. It is probably the ethical thing for you to do. Also, do remember to watch where you step in that new green grass on the other side.

Bob T., I can't respect your diatribe. If you were all I knew of fundamentalism, I'd catch the door about to hit Steve, then walk through it behind him. No offense, but that's the effect of what you're telling younger fundamentalists: it's always your way or the highway. Therefore, it's the highway. You're probably doing more harm to your position than good in this forum by this kind of rhetoric.

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