Monday, September 07, 2009

Does Accommodation to Culture Help Evangelism?

My last post, an evaluation of Stephen Davis' article on church planters at SharperIron, triggered my thinking on a major theme in his piece, that is, the place of culture in the evangelism of the lost. Here's the way Davis' pictured it:

You might be surprised at how many people think that new churches should dance to the same tune as churches which have existed for decades with their well-established traditions. The traditions are not necessarily wrong but may be unnecessary barriers in planting an urban church among those unacquainted with those traditions.

Davis earlier listed the traditions that he describes as "barriers":

Suits and ties are still de rigueur, morning and evening Sunday services with Wednesday night prayer meeting is the established pattern, the doctrinal statements exhibit great precision, and music is traditional.

Davis sees these as impediments to evangelism in the inner city. As I look at his list, I don't see any significant cultural issue with the time churches choose to gather on Sunday and midweek or especially a doctrinal statement. It seems that the music and dress are the two major contentions Davis thinks endanger evangelistic success. Both of these occur at a church meeting, the assembling of saints for worship. I'm stumped as to how they impede evangelism. I understand how that they might turn off someone who wants to dress casual and prefers faster or more heavily syncopated rhythms or sensually styled composition to their music, but I can't see how that a suit and a tie and traditional music hold someone back from getting saved.

These thoughts expressed by Davis in his essay expose a faulty soteriology. They are a common way of thinking in modern evangelicalism or perhaps fundamentalism, if Davis would claim to be fundamentalist. SharperIron proposes to be fundamentalist. Nowhere does scripture show accommodation to the world's way of living to help the gospel itself or someone's comprehension of the gospel.

Certain behaviors can impede the gospel, but they are unscriptural ones. Anything that fits within the perimeters of the Bible can't hinder the gospel. What Davis is communicating is that conservative dress and music hinder evangelism. Is that true? What is it about suits and ties and sober, prudent, and discreet music that keep people from being saved? Of course, there is nothing about them that would stymie someone's salvation.

An unsaved person thinks a certain way. He loves himself and pleasure. He likes his own way. Therefore, he would like for his god to be all about himself, his pleasure, and his own way. He fears death. He'd like to have some peace about his thereafter, but he doesn't want to give up the pleasure or his way to see that accomplished. Casual dress and modernistic music styles in his urban church plant send a signal to him that he can take care of that fear thing, while at the same time keeping his pleasure and own way. He likes that his religion can revolve around himself and his needs or wants. The casual dress and pop music fit right into his preconceptions. The Stephen Davis' urban church plant feeds those preconceptions. This is the Davis' idea of helping along the evangelism of the urban lost person.

Meeting the lusts of the lost does not aid evangelism. It wasn't the strategy that Jesus used. When an unsaved person came to Jesus to inquire of salvation, Jesus didn't feed his preconceptions. He challenged them. The unconverted need to know that salvation isn't going to be about them, but about God. God is seeking for true worshipers, not taking applications for an eternal timeshare. When the rich young ruler came to the Lord asking how he might obtain eternal life, Jesus didn't make it about something that he could get (Matthew 19:16-26). When a certain scribe told Jesus that he wanted to follow Him, Jesus told him that the "Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).

Davis offers an evangelistic methodology that will make sense to a lost person. What we see with Jesus doesn't seem effective as a church growth strategy. He didn't care about the demographic. He went everywhere with the same message of repentance and faith. Paul eschewed man-made techniques for evangelism. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5:

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

There is one Christianity, one worship, one Jesus, one gospel, and one faith and we are to preach it. Just because the world doesn't get it, doesn't mean that we tweak it to fit the world's preconceptions. We don't depend on the wisdom of men. We preach the gospel. Later in v. 10 Paul says that He reveals His saving truth by His Spirit. The techniques that Davis propagates are the wisdom of men.

The Jews required a sign, the Greeks wisdom, and the inner city person requires something else, according to Davis. All of these things stand in the wisdom of men. But God hasn't chosen to save people through man's wisdom. Instead, God has chosen the things which people despise to bring men to salvation, "that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Corinthians 1:29).

I would agree that we don't unnecessarily offend and especially someone's conscience. Paul's idea of becoming all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22) was a sacrifice on his part. For instance, he wouldn't eat certain food that he himself might like so as not to be a bad testimony to a Jew or a Gentile. All of this sacrifice by Paul, not self-gratification, was intended to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:10). The grace of God that brings salvation teaches to deny "worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12). Accommodation to worldly lust tends toward the unsaved not being saved. We should trust God's Word on this.

Accommodation to culture, that is, worldly lust, doesn't help evangelism. It does not harmonize with the gospel. It sends the wrong message to an urban community. It sends a new church down the wrong path. Instead, simplify the methodology. Dress in a representative way of the message of the gospel and then go out and preach it to everyone. Don't worry about whether they like your shirt and tie or the kind of music that you believe honors God. Be concerned as to whether you are preaching the gospel boldly, completely, and accurately. Depend on God. Pray. Live for the Lord. Don't give up. Keep evangelizing for His glory. Teach new converts all things that Jesus commanded. Preach the Word. Confront sinning Christians in meekness to restore them to God-honoring living. Support the weak. Strengthen the feebleminded. Warn the unruly. Be patient with all men.

Forget the aspects of location, launch team, and demographics. Know Scripture well. Obey it.


Charles E. Whisnant said...

I can't believe how much I agree with what you have written. To take off the tie and not wear a suit is going to help get people saved? Even a Calvinists can't believe that.

But that is exactly what so many church planters believe.

Really, great article.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Charles; it's just scripture.

Anonymous said...

Good post Pastor Brandenburg.
Paul's statement was about restricting liberties, not taking new ones!

d4v34x said...

Brother Whisnant, "Even Calvinists"? If a calvinist were to fall to one error or another, I would think it would be more along the lines of thinking what we wear/sing/set as service time are absolutely irrelevent since all the elect will be saved anyway.

On the other hand, on what do we base the necessity of wearing a tie in the pulpit?

Gary said...

Hmmmm... I wonder if the 1st century church borrowed some of the "rythem and beat" of their culture when singing hymns or if the Apostles showed them a whole new beat? Our influences and understanding of music has to come from somewhere right?

Have you checked your hymnals to make sure that none of your old hymns were paradied?

How is it that the suit and tie are the standards for good Christians. Doesn't God want us to be modest in our apparel? I meant what if our new found brother in the Lord can't afford a suit and tie? I know that you'll probably say that the church can give him the necessary clothes, but doesn't that mean that his inner repentant heart is not good enough for God?

I'm honestly curious as to how you evangelize to the lost and how effective it is?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ryan, Thanks.


I would think that Calvinism would repulse some of the pragmatism, since it seems to say that man can't arouse anyone to seek God with his own effects and excitements.

Regarding the tie, I wasn't making a point of saying that the tie helped---I was more saying that it was irrelevant to evangelism. However, regarding worship, I think there is a principle for gathering believers in our culture to honor God with a dress up. When Bill Clinton appeared on MTV he wore suit and tie to represent his office. On the other hand, there is a philosophy behind casual as well. It's part of the modernistic philosophy. Read Wells books, starting with No Place for Truth.


I should assume that Godly people used rhythms in fitting with God's nature and spiritual worship.

I don't understand your word "paradied." I don't think it's a word. However, I judge each composition on its own merit, so the line of thinking regarding associations becomes a moot point.

Refer to my comment to D4 about the shirt and tie.

I evangelize the lost by preaching the gospel to the lost as much as possible in as many places as possible starting with right where I am. It is always effective.

d4v34x said...

Kent, my point exactly re: Calvinists. It seemed to me that brother Whisnant was saying, "this error is so foolish even the (error-riddled) Calvinists would't accept it." Not trying to read anything that isn't there, but . . .

I also agree regarding honoring the Lord with our dress in and out of Church. Not sure that means all US pastors must wear ties on Sunday night. Although I can think of other reasons to wear one. Namely, one is likely to cause more unnecessary ripples within the (some) congregation(s) by not wearing one than one is likely to cause with those "outside".

Gary said...

I was just trying to say that I'm sure that the early church's songs probably had a secular sounding rhythms, but the words were expressions of praise to God. Same with some of the old hymns. Isn't it the words and meaning behind the song that is important.
The contemporary Christian song: Here I am to worship.

" Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that your my God." etc.

It's the person's heart and motive behind singing the song that counts right. I know alot of Christians who sing with tears of love and joy for their Savior when they sing these songs.

The sound of the music is always changing. I'm sure that some of the great hymns that were written a hundred years ago were thought to be "the devils music" to some of the "proper" Christians of that time.

Oh also, please try not to use Bill Clinton as an example of a "good example". We don't want to confuss our children. Thanks and God bless

Kent Brandenburg said...


I appreciate your coming over.

Cain went to the right place. He believed in God. I think he was very sincere. He meant it in his heart. He brought the wrong offering and it was rejected. If it is fleshly, sensual, carnal, worldly, among other unacceptable traits, then God doesn't want it. We don't give God what we want. We give what He wants. It doesn't matter how good the Words are if the music is unacceptable to God. Some music is unacceptable.

Old Testament Israel was very sincere, their heart was in it, and they had great enthusiasm when they worshiped the golden calf.

Essentially what you are saying is that music itself is amoral. It isn't. Music is communication and communication can be corrupt. This is clear from 1 Corinthians 14 when it says that a trumpet brings different messages.

The point of the Bill Clinton illustration was that clothing does have meaning. If you choose to miss that to make an unrelated point about Bill Clinton, that's up to you.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

d4v34x - On the other hand, on what do we base the necessity of wearing a tie in the pulpit?

I think the issue with this is simply one of the desire to honour God. The way in which humanity best expresses a desire to honour someone is to dress up in our "good" clothing for them. There are preachers who think nothing of wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flipflops into the pulpil to supposedly preach God's Word. Yet, these same preachers would not even dream of wearing anything less than their "Sunday best" if they were going to meet the President or the Governour or some other high official.

This suggests to me that they have a low opinion of God and His majesty - and THAT'S what's at issue.

Stephen said...


Didn't suspect you watch MTV. You need to find some new rationale for suits and ties. This is funny: "When Bill Clinton appeared on MTV he wore suit and tie to represent his office." And sadly we know that he did in his office.


Stephen said...


You are even funnier than Kent in a pathetic way. I can't believe I'm reading this stuff. It's hilarious. You keep me coming back with stuff like this: "There are preachers who think nothing of wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flipflops into the pulpil to supposedly preach God's Word." How about if someone does this is Hawaii and it is their "Sunday best?"


Joshua said...

Behold the scoffer: He responds to an article replete with Scripture references and reason with laughter and mockery. He cannot be lured into a serious study of Scripture, because he cares nothing for what Scripture says on this matter.

Why? Because the weapon of his warfare isn't the Sword of the Spirit, it's the Polling of Barna. The weapons of his warfare are utterly carnal. He has nothing but scoffing for those who rely on something else.

But I'll feed the troll, give him a chance to excercise reason: Why can't I preach in a clown suit or with all my clothes inside out? When I preach I have a big bucket of fried chicken in front of me, and I take a bite every now and then in the middle of my sermon, but keep preaching with my mouth full - anything wrong with that? I'm from Australia, and some men here were a pair of short shorts and a singlet and thongs to the pub, so surely I can get up there like that. Won't even shave or wash, just yawn, scratch myself, pull up my stubbies so not to offend the prudes and saunter up the front whenever I want. Surely God will be pleased, or is there something wrong with all this?

If so, Mr Scoffer, than why is that? Could it be that some attire and some behaviour is inappropriate in certain places? Connect the dots... or don't, and just make pithy statements about how Bill Clinton eats chicken and we all know what he did.

Your disrespect and abuse of the house of God is just an extension of your disrespect of Scripture and irreverance for your Creator. You say you have faith - let us see it by your works. Your works are to persuade men to disgrace their God with unScriptural methods of worship and service. Where does that leave you?

Bill Hardecker said...

What I appriciate about Pastor Brandenburg is his firm love for the Word of God. He himself is a church planter and does it according to what the Bible says. BTW, a church planter is not the only one who needs to be responsible with reaching the lost, we too as members of our own churches need to do God's will by getting involved in our church's evangelism program. The church planter and the church member, both simply doing God's will, and God get's the glory.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Precise, pure, and pulverizing. The right colors and every one inside the lines. Praise the Lord! You said it better than I could have.


Praise the Lord!

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Regarding New (and Old) Testament music:

The NT believers were exhorted to sing "spiritual songs." This phrase assumes the existence of "unspiritual songs" and assumes that believers would be able to tell the difference.

OT saints spoke often of singing a "new song." This was a song new in KIND, meaning that it was different from "old" songs.

Both Old and New testament saints used music that was distinctively spiritual and not worldly.

The worldling, in spite of himself, can create and enjoy godly sounding music (he is created in God's image); but a Christian should not although he sometimes does (he's a fallen creature even though he's redeemed).

Stephen said...


To answer your charge "Behold the scoffer: He responds to an article replete with Scripture references and reason with laughter and mockery. He cannot be lured into a serious study of Scripture, because he cares nothing for what Scripture says on this matter." I care greatly and ultimately what Scripture says. It has guided my life as a believer for over 30 years. I care little about what you say in your bombastic air of seriousness. You seem to think that if someone throws out a couple of verses to his own ideas that constitutes scriptural support.

To answer your question - "Why can't I preach in a clown suit or with all my clothes inside out?" Why not? For you I think it might be fitting. If I'm the troll, you can be the clown. How you get to the clown suit, singlet (had to look that one up), and thongs from wearing a Hawaiian shirt? Don’t let the Hawaiians get a hold of you.


p.s. One reason I keep writing is so that people may discern between the clowns and the trolls.
p.s.s. In case you don’t get it this is my way of letting you know I don’t take you seriously.

Stephen said...


I have no issue with your comment: "The NT believers were exhorted to sing 'spiritual songs.' This phrase assumes the existence of 'unspiritual songs' and assumes that believers would be able to tell the difference." However I don't think my conclusions are binding on all believers. And because I believe in the local church I do not set myself up as critic and judge of musical choices made by other churches. (I'm not saying you do). Of course I have my opinions and may not agree with others' musical choices. We need to respect both the authority of Scriptures and the autonomy of the local church.

Please greet your father for me. You may not recall when Fairhaven supported us in planting churches overseas for a number of years and I had several opportunities to preach in the church. One thing I appreciated about your dad was his graciousness. Even back then we probably had some differences but we were together for the gospel and planting churches.


Anvil said...


I think you are putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Our best doesn't impress God ("all our righteousness are as filthy rags"), and He is concerned with what is in the heart. It is man who looks on the outward appearance. (I Sam 16:7).

Yes, the OT priests did have specific garments (which didn't impress God either -- they had a specific OT purpose for Israel), but with the NT, all that has changed. Apart from modesty (which includes avoiding "flashiness"), no requirements are made as to how apostles, teachers, preachers, etc. should dress. "Dressing to impress" is basically for man's benefit, not God's. That's why dress can be different in different areas/cultures. Seeing a man preach in a Hawaiian shirt would not worry me in the slightest. If, however, he was sloppy in his handling of scripture, gave an attitude of not caring about the things of God, made a mockery of the worship service, etc., then I would worry.

I have heard missionary Dennis Potts speak on a number of occasions (a missionary I believe your church supports). I always remember him speaking in a casual shirt like he would have worn in the Philippines, no coat, no tie. He was a man concerned for his ministry for God, for his church at home, and for the lost, and he obviously was not worried what people thought about his lack of "proper" fundamental attire.

Interestingly, I have seen fundamental, coat & tie type preachers preach in things like cowboy outfits, clown suits, etc. for Bible-Time or VBS. Why? It wasn't for a lack of respect for God. It had everything to do with the human audience.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to justify the seeker-sensitive model of doing church. However, judging a man's standing before God by the fact he might have a goatee or wear a black collarless shirt is not being biblical in your judgment.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I want to say hello to Anonymous, who left an anonymous comment. Sometimes I allow anonymous comments to stay, but I'm not going to allow one that makes a sharp criticism of us arguing about this, and includes a misuse of scripture to attempt to cower those who are involved. I'm also unimpressed with a question about what out "beef" is, as if that isn't clear from what I wrote. My wife and I have a code we use with each other---BQ, bad question. I BQ you. That was a bad question. So I don't include your comment.

Gary Webb said...

Titus will probably answer this as well, but Dennis Potts preaches in what is formal attire for the Phillipines, something he is careful to explain to American audiences. Your comment there is not being honest with the facts.

Anonymous said...


Your black deco shirt and goatee beard have no power over me.

"There are preachers who think nothing of wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flipflops into the pulpil to supposedly preach God's Word." How about if someone does this is Hawaii and it is their "Sunday best?"

If that *truly* were the case, then it wouldn't be a problem (though, honestly, I can conceive of that really being the case in America, in the 21st century). However, the example I had in mind occurred in Sanford, North Carolina, which makes your argument irrelevant.

BTW, I know that you sincerely believe that this "come as you are" approach is a draw, but to the unsaved, it's a big joke. I know this for a fact. They make fun of you behind your back.

Anonymous said...


I think you are putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Our best doesn't impress God ("all our righteousness are as filthy rags"), and He is concerned with what is in the heart. It is man who looks on the outward appearance. (I Sam 16:7).

Actually, you've made my argument for me.

If you will recall, I *didn't* say that we dress to "impress God," which would invoke God's attitude towards man, and a perceived attempt to change it. Instead, I said that we dress to "honour" God, which is a completely different matter that involves man's attitude towards God.

At the heart of the matter is, as you say, what man's heart attitude toward God is. And as I said, one of the ways in which we demonstrate a desire to honour God is to "dress up" for church. I don't see why this is so hard for many to understand - they have no problem understanding that it would be completely inappropriate to wear a Hawaiian shirt and flipflops to meet the President or some other official whose position entails our respect (Prov. 24:21, Romans 13:7, I Pet. 2:17). If we are to give honour to an earthly person to whom it is due, then how much more ought we to be careful to give God our best in EVERYTHING (Col. 3:23-24)?

Yes, I understand that it's a different matter if we're talking about preaching going on at a teen camp or some other venue. And yes, I know that in some places, wearing your "good overalls" IS the equivalent to wearing a suit and tie in a suburban church. Trust me, I grew up in a state where that was literally the case, and hence understand that "my Sunday overalls" is a true artifice of rural culture among people derisively called "rednecks" and "hayseeds" (though I prefer the term Rustic-Americans, myself).

We can come up with all the nitpicking special cases we like, but it doesn't get around the fact that lies behind the whole "come as you are" movement in "seeker-friendly" churches. Even in rural communities, people wear their "good overalls" because they are just that - their GOOD overalls. They are still wearing their best out of a desire to give their best to God, to honour Him in the way they conduct themselves.

And yes, at a less formal, and especially non-church assembly venue, like a camp or a church "fun day", there should be no stigma attached to preaching in less formal clothing. But that is because there is not the matter of dumbing down our clothing to make God more acceptable to the lost.

This is not the case with the "seeker-friendly" come as you are routine. I do not believe I am imputing motives here, since these folks come right out and say what they're on about - which is, making people who already have no desire to really honour God more comfortable so that maybe they'll come in. The problem is, by doing so, they're allowing the unsaved and carnal to be the arbiters of what style of worship and respect is given to the Lord. That is an inversion. There is not the desire to honour the Lord, the desire is instead to lower the view of God's glory, of His right to receive our best, so that He will be more acceptable to people who are already at emnity with Him.

THAT is the heart attitude that, by their own admission (even if not in those words), underlies the dress-down movement.

And guess what? It doesn't work, in the long run. It just makes the lost respect the things of God even less than they did before. It merely helps to make the things of God contemptible and laughable in their sight. All that is accomplished is to lower the glory of God.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Webber,

Yes, I had intended to address the point about Bro. Potts, but forgot to do so. But you said what I would have anywise, so thank you!

Stephen said...


You claim more than I said and more than you know. "I know that you sincerely believe that this 'come as you are' approach is a draw, but to the unsaved, it's a big joke. I know this for a fact. They make fun of you behind your back." You seem to know what the unsaved say about me and others? Your vast factual knowledge astounds me!


Anvil said...

Pastor Webb,

I don't remember Dennis Potts saying purposefully that what he wore was formal for the Philippines, so I'm not trying to be dishonest. I'll accept what you say about his normal presentation. However, having said that, while what he wears may be formal for his congregation, it certainly is not for the U.S., so if the explanation isn't made with every message, one could still get the wrong idea, as I apparently did (though I don't care about coat/tie, so I wasn't put off in any case). I was more focused on his humility and love for God. Since it's been a few years, I probably wouldn't have thought on what he wore if it hadn't been for this topic.


I think I was just presenting the opposite side of the coin -- when we dress to honor a person, that person is often (but not always) impressed with that honor, or is at least acknowledging the public expression of it, since he doesn't know the heart. God sees through that.

I agree that we can do certain things to honor God, but He has made it clear that our honoring him is not by something like our outward appearance, as long as we follow what he *has* said, which in regard to clothing could be described as modest and gender appropriate. The one NT passage that might speak to your view is about the wedding garment, but even that is figurative. Even with the OT priests, whose apparel was directly specified by God, Isaiah makes it clear that God saw them as an abomination when their heart wasn't right. I don't see similar dress regulations for NT preachers/teachers/church members, but God is still concerned with the heart. The only clothing that will concern God in the end is being clothed with Christ's righteousness. So again I say, while dressing up *may* be a sign of what is inside (but often is not), it is mainly for others, not for God. Apparently if I don't wear a suit and tie to church, *you* may believe I am not honoring God, but only He knows the heart. If I were coming to a church where I specifically knew that people would be offended (in the scriptural sense), I would happily wear a coat and tie, but I would be doing it for the same reason that Paul restricted his meat eating, and not because I believe the coat and tie faction is correct.

Thinking about your example of the president, I think the same thing applies. His family, whom he knows, has no need to dress up around him, no matter how much they honor him, and I even doubt that close friends and other family dress up when they visit him privately in the White House or at Camp David. When people do dress up for him, it's because either he doesn't know them, or they see a need to show others publicly that they honor him. Again, how that is done would be entirely dependent on the other humans present and the culture they are in.

We honor God when we do his commandments, when we love the brethren, when we recognize his holiness, when we bring the offerings he wants (e.g. a broken and contrite spirit). Those are hard enough. Wearing a coat and tie are not in that list, and I see no reason to add to the list some requirement based on "what would we do for the President of the U.S.," especially when we know the criteria are completely different.

I understand what you think about dress (though I disagree) since you are tying it to the seeker-friendly/church marketing model. Not everyone that preaches without a coat and tie, even in the U.S. is part of that, or does it for any reason like that.

Anonymous said...


I think the problem is that you are arguing and not discussing, that is why I'm doing this anonymously.

Let's look at some of what has been said.

Stephen: "Titus: You are even funnier than Kent in a pathetic way"

Joshua: "But I'll feed the Troll"

Stephen: " If I'm the Troll, Than you can be the clown"

Blog Administrator Kent: " Joshua,
Presise, pure, and Pulverizing. The right colors and every one inside the lines."

Hmmm were is the brotherly love and respect? Why doesn't the Blog Admin. not try to keep things at a discussion level and not an argumental level? Does this talk honor God and make Jesus proud of his children? I don't think that when He told us to be as little children, that this is what he meant.

You said that I misused Gal. 5:14. Let's see what Matthew Henry has to say:

The apostle urges that all the law is fulfilled in one word,even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. If Christians, who should help one another, and rejoice one another, quarrel, what can be expected but that the God of love should deny his grace, that the Spirit of love should depart, and the evil spirit, who seeks their destruction, should prevail? Happy would it be, if Christians, instead of biting and devouring one another on account of different opinions, would set themselves against sin in themselves, and in the place where they live.

Where am I misusing scripture?

It is written: Matthew 5:22:

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Discussing your differences with respect is far more Godly than arguing and insulting one another.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I decided I'd print this time. I think it's true that Stephen has been nasty and not discussing, now that you tell me what you are talking about, but Joshua's reference to troll, do you know what at troll is? It is a technical term for someone who comes in and is nasty like Stephen was. However, I don't mind Stephen coming here and taking his shots. For one, he's not anonymous, and, two, it does represent what the other side has going for them.

Regarding my saying that Joshua's comment was good. It was. I thought he should have been angry, and what he said was substantive.

Pointing out "trolling" isn't a lack of love, as it relates to Stephen, in my opinion and I'm sensitive to scripture that you might quote. Joshua's not calling him a fool or Raca. In other words, he's not condemning Stephen.

Having respect I think is good, but I also believe that a Joshua needs to answer a Stephen with a stronger tone. He did.

I didn't say that you didn't get Galatians right in its understanding. I think I said that you took it out of context. But if you're talking about Stephen, I agree.

Do you have anything good to say, Anonymous? Because all we got was negative.

Stephen said...


Is there another Stephen writing here? You said, "I think it's true that Stephen has been nasty and not discussing." You then repeat "and is nasty like Stephen." I admit I have not been discussing. I don't think blog posts lend themselves to that. It's more I said you said who said what. And I confess I have been having a bit of fun with some of your lapdogs. But nasty? Please! Not that I can't be but I was really teasing some of the guys who always write the "go get'em, you're always right Kent" posts.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Sorry Stephen,

You were nasty. Words like pathetic and lapdog are both nasty. And, Anonymous, you can see what's going on now.

PS Ferguson said...

As someone who has actually visited Dennis Pott's church, there are a few facts being overlooked. He does wear the formal Philippino dress for preaching in, but that still establishes the point that he is seeking to wear a formal attire before God in worship. Secondly, I am sure Dennis Potts does not wear the same attire when home preaching in America. Thirdly, Potts is not infallible as e.g. he is not a KJV/TR man and I do not think I have to follow his principles in every area.

As A.W. Tozer once remarked, “Pure Christianity, instead of being shaped by its culture, actually stands in sharp opposition to it.” I watched the two introductory videos on the Calvary Lansdale website and what strikes you is the desperate attempt to make themselves "relevant." They repeatedly waffle on about the gospel, culture, and evangelism forgetting that there is a defence of the faith and miltant separation that is integral to a seminarian education. Actually, it is just the type of place that the "Steve Davis'" of this world would be comfortable in.

The vast majority of those pictured and interviewed sport the "goatee" and they would rather be seen naked than with a tie on! There is nothing more depressing and less dignified than seeing middle aged men dressing in shirts more suited to a nightclub in the hope to be "cool." The whole business of "Fundamental" Seminaries now is like the monolithic malls that have taken over the world. Everyone now dresses like the Neo-Evangelicals, talks like them, listens to their music, has the same goals as them, reads their books, and sports their elf-like goatees. Are their any old-tyme separatists schools left in the States?

Ironically and tragically, many of the leading NE have now been outflanked by groups like Calvary Lansdale in attempting to look like the world. Just listen and observe the dress of RC Sproul and Al Mohler to see a very clear example of this:

As a consequence of the character of God, and as we are offering our music to Him, it is necessary to offer Him the very best we can do. Psalm 33:3 tells us to “Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.” The musicians selected for the worship of the Temple (2 Chron 5:11-14) were mature (above thirty) and clearly very talented, which obviously mattered. The concept of musical skill is mentioned several times in the Bible (1 Sam 16:18; 2 Chron 34:12; Ps 137:5). They were also well dressed in “fine linen.” So here we have order and excellence with Levitical music directors, a trained orchestra (trumpeters), and choir (Levitical singers) joining together to praise the Lord. The performance of the ministry of music was subordinate to the priests (1 Chron 23:28). The Levites did not sing whatever they wished but from an inspired God-Centred hymnbook of the Psalms “praising and thanking the LORD” which sang that was written for corporate worship. They were headed up by a theologically mature Levite, Chenaniah, who taught them the theology as he “instructed about the song” (1 Chron 15:22). The other prominent musicians such as Heman, Asaph, and Ethan (1 Chron 15:19) it should be noted were Levitical priests, men who had been trained in the Scriptures. All the temple musicians and singers were prepared spiritually and set aside and ordained for their ministry (1 Chron 15:12, 14).When Moses met the Lord he had to remove his shoes from his feet and when David went into the tabernacle after the death of his son we are told he, “washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped” (2 Sam 12:20). Zephaniah 1:8 warns about clothing, “And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.”

The Scriptures record that there is a singing style of a harlot (Isa 23:15) and a dress style of a harlot (Prov 7:10). So clear is this that the Scripture does not need to detail this.

Don Johnson said...

Actually, Paul, Dennis doesn't always wear a coat and tie when preaching in America. That is why he came up in this thread. I have to say that Dennis is a fine missionary. He and I were out soulwinning one night in our home church in Greenville back in the days when that church was a good church. I've always been very appreciative of him.

Kent, a troll is a fellow who makes a comment on a blog and then sits back and watches everyone fight it out over what the troll said. You can read all about it here:

Steve, it's been a long time! I doubt if you remember me, I don't think I lived on your hall, but we were in the same dorm at least one of your years at BJU. I don't recall if I ever had a disciplinary issue with you, but you had a reputation amongst us for that in those days.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Joshua said...

Pastor Brandenburg really summed it up well, but I'll add a little more. I made a few statements about Stephen.

One was that he was being a troll. Internet trolls post comments to stoke fires of debate, then refuse to participate properly. They often continue in the discuss, but just to keep the fires burning. Note how Stephen keeps coming back but just makes little comments that don't address anything of substance.

I accused him of trolling, and he is.
I said he was scoffing. He replied by calling me a clown.
I said he wouldn't respond using Scripture. He didn't.
I said he would ignore the logical argument and make silly comments. He did just that.

This isn't a personal attack. I'm a school teacher by trade, and when you have students acting like Stephen is, you rebuke them sharply, focusing your rebuke upon their behaviour and actions rather than them personally. It isn't pleasant to watch, but it is necessary.

Stephen said...


Your name rings a bell. You're probably right. I had a well-deserved reputation for being hard-nosed. I hope I have matured and mellowed some. I see you're pastoring in Canada. God bless you brother and if you ever get near Philadelphia let me know. I no longer give out demerits!


Stephen said...

P S Ferguson:

Do you read this before you send it out? "The vast majority of those pictured and interviewed sport the "goatee" and they would rather be seen naked than with a tie on!"

And this: "Ironically and tragically, many of the leading NE have now been outflanked by groups like Calvary Lansdale in attempting to look like the world. Just listen and observe the dress of RC Sproul and Al Mohler to see a very clear example of this." Maybe they don't look good in a beard.


Stephen said...


Ok. Let's assume I'm nasty (since we aren't discussiong anything of sustance). I used "lapdog" after your "nasty" comment. So that doesn't count. That leaves you with "pathetic." I recall you said you felt sorry for me (I see you've felt sorry for others in your blogs. Now if pathetic means marked by sorow, among other things,or taking pity, is it much different than you feeling sorry for me? Admit it and I'll stop. Maybe we're both nasty.



Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Stephen.

I'm glad to find out what's wrong about what I wrote in my post. You've got Gary, Anvil, Anonymous, and yourself coming on to take a negative side, so obviously that is welcome here. What I've read hasn't been impressive and has missed the point. You haven't addressed what God's Word says at all, just made derogatory and personal comments that haven't answered anything that I said. I've allowed that, but it hasn't helped your unscriptural point of view. It might impressive to some of your Lansdale buddies, and that is a very unfortunate statement about the condition of Calvary, Lansdale, departing greatly even from its days when Dr. E. Robert Jordan led there. I think you should be concerned about your violation of God's Word.

For any of the critics of this post, I never said anything about it being wrong NOT to wear a tie. I've already made that point in the comments and it was obvious in the post. I said that it was irrelevant to evangelism to be sure NOT to wear one. Stephen makes cultural accommodation an important aspect of evangelism in an urban area. This belies the Bible. It smacks more of Trinity Evangelical in Deerfield.

Even wearing the respectful, formal Filipino shirt, the Barong, which I've worn before in doing a Filipino-American wedding, is 'dress-up' for Filipinos. I think that can be appropriate. This is far different from something that is all about one's own personal comfort, casualness, and a worldly philosophy. That Stephen and Gary can't see that fits within the postmodern removal of meaning from almost anything and everything. And this is done for someone's fleshly desires.

Anonymous said...

I only made a statement about the insults and you put me on the troll's side!?! Just kidding Stephen, I'm still getting used to the fact that a troll is no longer a mythical creature trying to eat unsuspecting goats crossing a bridge.

I honestly had not planned to make another comment and only wished to observe, since I am not as learned nor do I have any experience in church planting like Brother Kent and Brother Stephen. I'm only commenting this time, because you seem to think that I'm a very negative person.

My 2 cents worth on this topic and if you want change back I'll understand is:

I think that a pastor or elder should dress the part. They have accepted the higher calling of God and just as CEOs dress up to represent their company, and presidents dress up to represent their country, pastors should dress up to represent our God.
When a pastor is church planting or out evangelizing, I think that he would get a better response by wearing the tie and letting the Holy Spirit do the talking.

A friend of mine went to visit his pastor at their church during the week and while talking, a man came in off the street seeking to speak with the pastor. The man approched my friend first, because he was wearing his business suit and asked if he was the pastor. My friend said no and pointed to the pastor (who wears regular clothes during the week) and the man got angry, because he thought that he was being lied to.

Pastors do not need to dress down when they go out, because the world knows that their is something different about them and that they have a special calling.

In regards to the congregation and new believers, I think that it is a milk/meat thing. Older believers should be dressed up to set an example and show reverance to God, but new believers should not be condemned if they don't wear their "Sunday best" due to a lack of comfort in wearing suits or if they don't have the money for such articles of clothing. As long as the clothing is modest and respectable they should be shown love and acceptance and let the Holy Spirit do the necessary work in them.

I don't have much to say in regards to the music part as I'm learning from you guys right now.

When I Googled 1st century Christian music, the sites that I saw said that the first century Christians did not use instruments and showed commentaries on people that said that instruments in church should not be allowed.
I think that when Jesus said that we needed to worship in Spirit that in regards to music we should sing to him from our heart and if an instrument helps to put us in that special place than I think that God is ok with that and his heart is filled with joy.

If I'm wrong than show me and let me know how much change you want back. Remember, I'm not the pro here. You guys have much more experience.

Please, I'm only here to observe right now and really do not wish to post any more comments.

May God truly bless all of you and thank you for your faithfulness in your calling to the Lord.

Lou Martuneac said...


If I may pick up on a subtle theme in this article.

You wrote, “These thoughts expressed by Davis in his essay expose a faulty soteriology. They are a common way of thinking in modern evangelicalism or perhaps fundamentalism, if Davis would claim to be fundamentalist. Sharper Iron proposes to be fundamentalist.

Interesting article and FWIW I share what appears to be your skepticism over whether or not Sharer Iron (SI) is for and about Fundamentalism.

IMO, based on the nearly four years of SI existence and obvious track record (shrinking participation outside its own moderators and admins not withstanding) it (SI) has always been proactive for the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism, its star personalities and fellowships.

Then we can read how SI defines itself, “The site has *four thousand members (several hundred active) who identify with conservative evangelicalism of the fundamentalist variety.”

That is IMO very telling on what SI is for and about.


*SI 3.0 cannot produce 4,000 registered members. Furthermore, it is obvious to any objective observer there may be several dozen at best active at SI including its moderators and admins, far from the hundreds claimed.

Anonymous said...

Anvil - I think I was just presenting the opposite side of the coin -- when we dress to honor a person, that person is often (but not always) impressed with that honor, or is at least acknowledging the public expression of it, since he doesn't know the heart. God sees through that.

The point I'm making is that "dressing up" is a typical way that we, with our limited capacities, have for showing that we respect and honour the one we are dressing up for. Conversely, "dressing down" indicates a casuality that would be inappropriate in many circumstances, even purely under the sun.

In essence, how we dress can *show* our heart.

Certainly, I'm not saying that dressing up for church -> being right with God. There are many, many lost people in dead churches who put on their Sunday best but are whited sepulcres within. However, the reverse of the equation I denied above is more than likely true in most cases - being right with God -> dressing up to honour the Lord with our best.

I will ask you personally. If *you* were going to be meeting the President or the Governour or some other high official, would *you* wear a pair of faded jeans with ripped out knees, a sloppy and unironed Hawaiian shirt, and flipflops? If not, then why not?

Stephen - I apologise, I should have clarified that I was speaking in a general sense, using a plural "you." In other words, those teachers who think that they are really scoring some points and doing a good work by dumbing down standards to bring in carnal and unsaved people are fooling themselves. The lost laugh at these efforts. And that IS something I know, since I've heard many of them say so themselves.

Pastor Brandenburger - I don't think I'd call Stephen a "troll." A "troll" is someone who comes to a thread, tosses out something designed to inflame a response, and then sits back and laughs while people get themselves bothered about it. Trolls don't interact, they just throw a grenade and skedaddle. Though we may disagree with him, Stephen does seem to be making the effort to stay around and interact with other commenters.

Anvil said...

Looks like I wrote too much. I'll have to break this into two posts.


First, I'll just give a direct answer to your question. You're not going to like this, but the answer is "it depends." If the president or the governor were coming to my house, I would probably wear a collared shirt with khakis or something similar, which is very common attire for me. I wouldn't be trying to be a slob (which I would argue a Christian should never be), but I'm not going to try to present myself as different from what I really am by wearing a suit in my house. If I were going to visit the president or governor, it would depend on the circumstances of the meeting. If it were for some kind of ceremony or award, etc., I probably would wear some kind of suit because of the occasion. As far as a Hawaiian shirt, with the current President being from Hawaii, if he were meeting me in my house, I might even wear one of those instead of one of my regular shirts. If it were to work out with him, I would probably wear some nice-looking workout clothes. I would never wear ripped jeans or flip flops, but I never wear those anyway, not in my own house or even on vacation in Hawaii (as my family would confirm). As I said before, though, one of the President's family while working around the house could easily be dirty and wearing ripped-up clothes without any dishonor to the President, because they already know each other well.

I do understand what you are getting at -- dressing nice IS showing a form of honor, but for whom? I still contend that it's for other people, not for God, who desires a different form of honor. Neither the president nor the governor know me. If they did, my view of what to wear around them would be entirely different. If I were, for example, one of the President's old schoolmates from Punahou school, I would probably not think twice about wearing whatever casual clothes were normal for a resident of Hawaii. Dressing up to go meet them would be a way of showing honor when they have no other basis for knowing what my view of them is. And as I mentioned before, in public, any dressing up for people I know is for the benefit of other people, not for the people I know. People that know you will know if you truly honor them, and it won't be by your dress. Members at a church who look below the surface to see what fruit comes out of a person will also know much of the time if that person is being honoring to God, and that apart from the clothes being worn.

God is entirely different. Even those of us that don't know him are known by him. The honor God wants is shown by the publican who would not even lift his eyes to heaven but prayed "God be merciful to me a sinner." This is also the same God who mentioned that adorning should not be with gold, jewelry, fancy hairstyles, or costly apparel (something you could argue that for rich people IS their best). It is a meek and quiet spirit that is of great price, just the opposite of what the world would tell us. I find it interesting that even with people who believe your way about dress, they still have even better clothes that are not for use in church. Even most pastors have tuxes and formal wear for weddings and funerals, but they don't wear them each Sunday. Why not? Don't they want to give their best to God? Why is looking like greedy Wall-Street moguls in our dress not worldly, but a goatee and a collarless shirt are? Why is wearing Filipino clothing appropriate for ministering to Filipinos, but wearing whatever "best" clothing inner city people might wear somehow "wrong cultural accommodation?" These are questions that are not answered well (or at all) by the "dress your best" position.

End part 1

Anvil said...

Begin part 2:

I agree with Pastor B. that this is not about wearing a tie or not. For me, at least, I'm interested in the greater principle. If the "dress your best" principle cannot be applied consistently, then I would argue it's either completely wrong, or it needs a great deal of modification. Those with this position have yet to explain away many of the problems. You can call something like preaching casually at a camp a "nitpicking special case," but any single valid counterexample is enough to disprove an assertion given as a general principle. If the principle is belied by the special case, it's an incorrect principle. Further, if we dress up to honor God (who sees us all the time) only in church, is that not just as dishonoring as only thinking on him in church rather than meditating on him at all times as he desires from us? If dress is really a part of our worship of God, shouldn't it be all the time?

As I mentioned earlier, I would actually agree with many here about some of the accommodations made by those in the seeker-sensitive church movements. I don't see how dressing differently (which is not the same as having a slovenly appearance or attitude) is even wrong, let alone anywhere near watering down or distorting the gospel message.

End part 2 of 2

Anonymous said...

Hi Anvil,

I think you are misunderstanding the extent of the "dress your best" principle - what we're talking about is the principle of doing so in the setting of the local church. Worrying about clown suits in the park and casual dress at a teen camp is somewhat beside the point. Besides, if we took *your* argument to its logical conclusion, then there's no problem (other than the legal aspects, of course) with going to church naked (think about it).

The point is simply this - dressing your best is a way of showing respect and honour to the one you are dressing that way for. In a job interview - we dress our best. In a meeting with a high official - we dress our best. Going to a funeral - we dress our best. Why should going to the place where we corporately meet with God, in the assembly that is called the "temple of the living God" and the "pillar and ground of the truth," the place where God meets with His people as they come together for worship, be any different? If we honour mere men, then why wouldn't we honour God?

And again, honouring God is a heart attitude. It is a heart attitude that is noticeably lacking in the seeker-friendly atmosphere of a "come-as-you-are" church.

And guess what? If the President - even THIS President, as much as I disagree with him - were to come to my home, I would wear my best. I'd see it as being inexcusable to do otherwise.

The reason why? The meeting is not about ME, it's about HIM.

And that's the same way it is when we go to corporate worship in a church assembly. We gather to worship, and that gathering, that worship, is about God. It is not about us. It's not about making us feel good, or comfortable, or entertaining us. It's about giving glory to the Lord. Now, if the best clothing that one has is a good pair of jeans and a polo shirt, then so be it. By wearing it, they are honouring the Lord with their best.

Yet, that's why these seeker-oriented groups tout their "come as you are" standards - they are trying to appeal to people, to make them feel good about themselves and comfortable instead of encouraging people to honour the Lord. There's a reason why such groups also tend to have very little in the way of applicative preaching from the Bible, nor do they mention sin but more than rarely.

It's all part and parcel with the notion of lowering our view of God down to the point where He no longer is "threatening" to the average lost or carnal person. Yet, God SHOULD be somewhat threatening to the one who is not right with Him. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and all that. If He's not, why would we think anyone will truly be moved to repent and believe and get right? Why bother repenting if there's nothing God really demands that you repent of?

What's at issue here is not really dress standards, per se, but whether we have an exalted or a debased view of God.

Anvil said...

Hi Titus,

Sorry it took a while to get back on this.

First, I agree with you on the logical conclusion of my position -- nakedness IS where it would lead, and as we know, before the fall, that was the ideal when man was in perfect fellowship with God and was unashamed because sin was not present. However, because sin did enter the world, God clothed man in skins and later gave some standards (modest, gender-appropriate) that of course, trump any logical conclusion.

As far as "dressing your best" in the setting of the local church, where is that found in the scripture? We find passages about doing things decently and in order, rules about the exercise of spiritual gifts, not being gluttonous and drunken at the Lord's table, and in James we find that if we judge based on appearance of clothing, then we are partial and become judges of evil thoughts. (Note that while the context later talks about the poor, it doesn't demand that the one wearing the "vile" raiment be poor to not be so judged). I could again mention the verses about adornment in this context. What we do see about dress seems to be in contradiction to the idea that one must always be well dressed in church.

You didn't even deal with my questions about Pastors and members not wearing their absolute best every Sunday, but saving that for weddings, funerals, concerts, etc., which would seem to be a tacit acknowledgement that usually the absolute best isn't worn to church, but is for other occasions.

I disagree that I would dress "my best" for some of the occasions you mention. I would dress appropriately, which is not necessarily the same thing. In my line of work, to wear a suit to an interview is foolish -- it only makes the interviewee seem as if they are trying to impress with their dress because they can't with their skills. In a meeting with a high official, as I said in the last post, it would depend on the circumstances. To a funeral, I would usually wear a suit, because of our culture, but I wouldn't if the family requested otherwise.

I agree that to a large extent, our attitudes about God are deficient to say the least. However, I don't see that wearing a suit makes one iota of difference. God knows our hearts, and we are truly naked before him no matter what we are wearing. It IS fearful to fall into his hands, and we do owe him honor. I don't believe the biblical record shows that dressing well in an NT church is part of the honor he requires, even if it seems "normal" in our culture to do it for men, who look on the outward appearance.

To the extent that much of the seeker-sensitive worship approach is about self and not about God, I agree with you about some of the attitudes involved. I still disagree that dressing in a casual, but neat, modest, and appropriate way must needs come from those attitudes, and hence I reject the idea that dressing in that way for church shows dishonor to God.