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.