The article, entitled Planting Urban Churches, was written by Stephen Davis, someone who has taken a liking to influencing the young and restless fundamentalists and fundamentalist frauds at SharperIron. He is at a theologically correct location, Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, and he has the credibility to make the connection---culturally, the deco black shirt and goatee beard, and educationally, the D. Min. in "Missiology" from the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Davis doesn't have to build a blog audience, just plunk in the driver's seat of the bus that is SharperIron and take everyone for a spin.
Davis' article makes me feel sick to my stomach, renewing my wife's suggestion to let these things go. But I want to tell you what's so wrong about it, make it a teaching moment. Forget the title of his article. He's not about churches. He's about some kind of group or club or institution, but not a church. You'll note the lack of scripture in his article. When you hear "Missiology" from Trinity you might not want to think the Bible.
A group across the street from us has exploded in numbers with their rock concert platform, uber-casual apparel, and carnal entertainment. Their leader comes from Trinity. People gather to hear a month long series on U2 lyrics or an "outreach" centered on the Hollywood film, Evan Almighty. The Trinity graduate will admit that most of the people who come are unconverted. There's your Missiology. Something's definitely Missing; it's God's Word. It's fun though.
When I read Davis and watch the other Trinity grad, I think they could be twins. They both have the "I'm authentic" get-up required by the zeitgeist. They talk the same about the church. If the world is the NFL, they're both wearing the replica jersey, at the same time insisting that they're not in the game.
What Davis Describes
Nothing called church planting, urban or rural, should look like what Davis describes. He shouldn't be listened to as an expert. It's up to you, but you've been warned. I'm convinced that there shouldn't be able to be an entire doctorate that could be gotten in something called Missiology. I recommend to anyone---just study the Bible---imitate what you read there.
And what is it you read there? You start by going out evangelizing. And guess what? The gospel is the same for rural, urban, kids, adults, elderly, grunge, biker dudes, and university professors. Remember that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)? Remember that it is spiritual weaponry that pulls down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)? Remember that the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)?
But that's not why the urban church doesn't grow, according to Davis. We've got to assume from what he writes that "meaningful relationships" are required with people "outside the church" in order to evangelize them. And why don't we have those relationships? He says because of "personal separation issues" and "traditional taboos." This is Trinity speak you're hearing. You get it from your Missiology D. Min. It means "you gotta be likem to winnem." For armchair theologians, it is Pelagian influence. And it is definitely you winnin' 'em with your missiological technique. In the end, you get the glory too (see 1 Corinthians 1-2 on this)!
What you really have to do is to get to everybody with the gospel. That's what Jesus said (Mark 16:15). When you do that, the lost will hate it. They walk in darkness and hate the light. Because love is supernatural, you can keep loving your enemies and Jesus says that they'll like that---being loved. It's not going to depend on what beans you choose for your cappuccino. Davis is saying that they'll like the light if you offer it to them in a fancy container, maybe with a label in graffiti font. The young church planter, Davis says, has a dilemma. If he is to succeed he's going to have to make a choice to burn some bridges with the mother church. The pews, the traditional hymns, and the reverent appearance all spell church planting disaster for the Davis system.
What's ironic is that these things of which Davis speaks are just window dressing. They don't matter. But they are really everything to the church planter. He's doing the planting. You can see that plainly when Davis writes:
When people ask me how to plant a church, what steps need to be taken, I try to explain that church planting is more of an art than a science.
An art? What? The kind of brush strokes you make is what will will have the greatest impact, he says. This is the difference between success and failure in the urban community. He's reading right from the Rick Warren playbook on this. Ignore him. Listen to him at your own peril.
This seems to be the paradigm that Davis learned in his Missiology work at Trinity:
Church planting involves numerous details such as strategy, demographic studies, fund raising, location, and gathering a leadership and launch team.
Wow. That's foolishness. The world won't think it is, but it is foolishness. Run away from his thoughts as quickly as you can.
Love the Lord Jesus. Go and evangelize. Learn your Bible. Preach it. Love people. Worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth. That is the simplicity of all of it. How big will you get? I don't know, but what does it matter? God will be glorified. It's not going to make one bit of difference whether you have pews or padded seats. If the key is the big screen and powerpoint, then you are doing something very wrong. Know this. If you think the difference maker is the microphone head attachment, then you've got deep problems in your scriptural understanding.
Scripture doesn't present church planting. It presents evangelism that might end in a church being organized if people are saved. You don't need any of the things that Davis says you need. My first recommendation would be: don't take Missiology like Davis did. Know your Bible. Know the gospel. Preach it. It's powerful.
In his last paragraph, Davis crescendos:
Neither should church planters be expected to adhere to extra-biblical, albeit longstanding traditions (sic) which would be impositions on a new church and deform its identity. There should be mutual respect and humility between church planters and their sending churches.
This is a bunch of socio-economic psychobabble with all of the catchphrases included. Deform its identity? Come on!
New converts don't need to be dressed up in a suit and tie, but the pastor wearing these will have zero impact on the newly saved. He has become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-4). He won't go out from you, because now He is of you (1 John 2:19). Be glad that you have a different culture than the world---your music is different and your dress is different. Don't be ashamed of that, any of it.
So what's the reaction of the SharperIronites? I'm thankful to say that the new owner wasn't so convinced, even though he did publish the trash. Another comment reads of the typical new postmodern flavor.
Great article. The dynamic here between the more "traditionalist" approach and the less "traditionalist" is not just seen in new churches that are "inter-city." Great work.....looking forward to seeing more on this. I like the idea that both sides must be careful. Both sides must show charity. Both sides must be what they believe God wants them to be.
Of course, this assumes that the old way was only tradition. It always was tradition. Does anyone see the disrespect here? The way churches operated were just tradition. The new way, the outside-the-box modernistic methods, what's that? So they show charity and both agree that both sides are right? There is a mammoth chasm between them culturally, but those differences are meaningless---that would be the point. Really? Is that true? Of course not.
One of the young fundamentalists writes this:
More "close to home" is a friend of mine who wanted to rent out a theater for showings of "The Passion of the Christ" in his very secular culture--and found himself afoul of the "theaters are evil" conviction of his constituency.
"The Passion of the Christ" as an evangelistic tool, harmonizing with Stephen Davis. Renting out the theater. All of this about reaching a very secular culture. We've got secular, very secular, soft serve, and chocolate fudge. Where do we get this type of thinking? Missiology. Did Jesus do anything like this? Paul? Not all all. It's not just foolish. It's faithless. It's a way that can't just trust what God said to do. The scriptural way isn't sufficient.
There should be outrage over this faithless foolishness.