13 December 2007

The churchless Church

by Frank Turk

Yesterday I threatened to blog Kent's comment on Phil's post, and frankly I've lost interest in the 12 mistakes thing (I'll finish it, just not today), so rather than admit it was a boring idea I'll blog Kent's comments here under the heading of "other kinds of mistakes".

Kent said this:
I agree wholeheartedly. How could I not? It's Scripture. It's also what we do. We go out and preach the message, unvarnished, every week. Whether we grow numerically, according to Jesus, is dependent on the condition of the soil (Mt. 13).
Which, you know, is right from one perspective -- that we are called to preach the word, in season and out of season.

But here's a funny thing: I think Kent is making the same mistake that the people he is criticizing are making, only on the "do nothing" side of the fence. Here's what I mean, by way of first letting Kent elaborate on his own point:
Which brings me to a few questions. Why do even conservative evangelicals put so much emphasis on an invitation methodology (inviting unbelievers to some special event, many times with music)? Young pastors are generally convinced that to be a "success" (get big), they need a slick website, a kewl brochure, snazzy greeters, comfortable, casual dress, expansive parking, an especially decent building, and some events, especially around holidays, that will attract in unbelievers. This type of strategy was taken further by the Warren types and even more so by the emergent. In other words, it has become a matter of degree. Why should they stop their extremes if conservative evangelicals are using essentially the same strategies, just toned down?
Now, here's the thing: what if someone has all those things Kent mentions not in place of preaching the word, but actually as a result of preaching the word?

This is the mistake I think Kent is making, and I am sure he will amend and expand his own remarks in the meta as he sees fit: I think Kent operates under the assumption that either [a] preaching the Gospel mostly cannot be "successful" in terms of numbers exploding, or [b] preaching the Gospel does not really produce anything but saved people who will come to church and sit to listen to more.

And this, frankly, is the error of modern evangelicalism. Here's what I mean: as Phil said so well yesterday,
In other words, it is not just the strategy of preaching that seems foolish to human wisdom. It is the message itself. The gospel is an announcement that seems foolish and naive to the fallen human mind.
But what's at stake is not just eternal salvation: what is also at stake is the church itself -- which even Kent would admit has something which happens locally and communally.

The evangelical mistake is this: if we make a community with attractive values, maybe we can then slip the Gospel in sideways and draw people to Christ. It makes the community consequences of the Gospel the objective rather than something which is caused by the objective.

Kent's mistake is that he thinks that somehow the right effects of the Gospel somehow condemn a preacher if they are manifest. And let's face it: the right effects of preaching the Gospel in the New Testament include a growing church where there are some who are "in the church" but not "in the Gospel" -- as well as an "invitation methodolgy", welcoming greeters for outsiders, some obvious place of worship, and psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (notice Paul's range there, btw: from "inspired praise and worship" to "didactic teaching in music" to "songs which merely edify or encourage" -- a distinction Kent will surely reject). I mean, what do you do with a Roy Hargrave or a John MacArthur or a John Piper if Kent is actually right?

The evangelical error is to put the cart before the horse; the Kent error is to have no cart at all. So when he says this:

Should anyone be given the impression the music will "help" the gospel? Where in Scripture is that concept? We might say we don't believe that it does, but if it is what we do, are we not betraying our belief with our practice?
we have to wonder something: what kind of church does the Gospel produce, in Kent's view of things? Does it have any cultural effect at all? Are there saved people doing things in it, or does doing things automatically make you emergent and therefore a pariah?

It is unfortunate that I am going to have a day away from internet access today. I hate that. But I am sure there will be enough for the rest of you to kick around here that I can clean up the mess when I get back tonight.






73 comments:

Mark B. Hanson said...

On music, Paul encourages us in Colossians that music causes the Word to dwell in us richly. Music is not a tool to draw folks in, but to deepen the Christian in the Word. That it sometimes does more is a blessing.

centuri0n said...

Mark --

That's exactly right -- "does more".

This post is going to create interesting tensions, I think.

stratagem said...

Sure seems to me that this article today missed Kent's point. When I read what Kent wrote yesterday, it didn't seem as though he was really criticizing any of the specific techniques cited (kewl brochures, music, etc.). It seemed he was citicizing a nearly-universal reliance on these things, within modern evangelicalism. I believe a lot of Christians these days actually think that if the Gospel is ever preached without musical accompaniment (for example), it is destined for failure. To the extent people do think that, it is a lack of faith in the sufficiency of God's word. On the other hand, to condemn using musical accompaniment (again, e.g.) would be equally wrong.

That's the message I got from Kent's post. It's also the point I believe you, Cent, are making. So, perhaps you two don't really disagree all that much?

Drew said...

right on, cent.

centuri0n said...

Strategem:

It is possible that I read Kent too narrowly. However, I know Kent from his long-time interaction with this blog, almost none of it favorable as far as I'm concerned.

Kent is the kind of guy who thinks it's not relevant (or perhaps orthodox) to speak of a "church universal". Kent is unable to agree that people owe some kind of obedience to God in their covenanting/fellowship with their own local church. Kent thinks that any evangelism that takes place apart from woodenly reading a narrow bad of acceptable translations (and citing the verse numbers) is corrupted evangelism.

So I read his comments filtered through my past interactions with him. If he has something to add, I say let's hear it. I'd be willing to admit I was wrong about him and his comments. For the record, he doesn't display that same, um, flexibility.

chicagolandmark said...

So, James was serious when he wrote that just hanging out listening to good doctrine misses the point?

I agree with Frank. When a church is healthy, the people in it are doers. And the list of things from the original post are just a fraction of what the doers do.

Biblical faith, rightly understood, has always been about doing, and that's always been a point of doctrine as well. It goes at least as far back as sewing tassels on the the corners of your garments.

centuri0n said...

See: here's where Kent shows us his hand –

| Should anyone be given the
| impression the music will "help"
| the gospel? Where in Scripture is
| that concept? We might say we
| don't believe that it does, but if it
| is what we do, are we not
| betraying our belief with our
| practice?

You know -- since Kent asked, Paul says this:

[QUOTE]
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church
[/QUOTE, Col 1:24 for the verse wonks]

What Paul says there is that there is something we do which actually advances the Gospel which is not preaching. Now, Kent may object that Paul wasn't calling "playing grunge guitar" "suffering for your sake", and we might agree with him in principle. But here's the rub: Paul is saying that there is –something- which helps the Gospel here.

He says it again here:

[QUOTE]
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. ... they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
[/QUOTE, Titus 2:1,9-10 for the verse wonks]

What we do "adorns" God's doctrine? Isn’t God's doctrine just beautiful in and of itself – isn’t it prideful to say we "adorn" anything of God's – that somehow we make it beautiful for others to see?

Now, here's what we can do: we can spend the rest of the day chopping off all the things which are untrue about the view that we can't do anything but preach in order to be doing the Gospel thing, or we can admit first of all that Kent thinks that there's only one part of Gospel preaching and his view is faulty at best.

And it turns out I got my day back, so I'm here most of the day now.

Josh said...

I think my problem as a young pastor is no one really helps us to understand which comes first in the chicken and the egg scenario.

Does the slick brochure come as a byproduct, in tandem with spiritual fruit, or before?

I want to keep away from entertainment oriented church as much as the next conservative - but what we have not done well in defining is what church should look like and freedom of choices that we have in Christ in our worship.

Is balance the answer, or do we really just have no idea what church is supposed to be?

Bill said...

2 Samuel 6:14-15 says "Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet."

I'm not trying to promote Charismatics or 'snake-swinging' here but..

It seems to me that David was so in love with God because of who He is (and what He has done) that he was willing to undignify himself to express his worship. I really think that is the heart of the matter here. Our evangelism to the lost should spring out of a loving devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (because he has redeemed us though we were dead in our sins) and should be carried out in a way that honors Him - chiefly, by being obedient to His Gospel. If you can present that message (unadulterated) in the setting of a pew, cafe, youth retreat or 'Life Center' gymnasium then by all means please DO IT!

It reminds me of what my pastor said a couple of years ago, and I will paraphrase:

Our greatest witness in reaching the lost is that they see believers completely and unashamedly consumed by the worship of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

To me, that is the greatest evidence we can produce for the Gospel. We practice what we preach.

.02
Bill

centuri0n said...

For the usual suspects on the other side of this argument, btw, just because Kent is wrong doesn't make your normal list of grievances right.

Let's think about this. Let's say I make an agreement with my pastor that we need a mission church next to the casino over the state line, and I volunteer to start it in my house which, strategically, happens to be about a quarter-mile from the casino.

My challenge to you characters is this: it would not be missions work if we were simply setting up a booth in which those who lost their shirts at the casino could geta sandwich and gas money to get home, but that it might be missions work if we were preaching God's word to them, proclaiming to repent and believe, and at the same time giving a sandwich and gas money to some who were in need.

The alms-like activity (not letting someone starve even though it is their own fault) is not the Gospel work, not the Kingdom-building work. But it is a -consequence- of the work. It cannot come first: it comes much later, and only in what we have to call "good company".

stratagem said...

Cent: First off, thank you for the kind and patient response to my note. You're right, I was not aware of the history of interactions you've had with Kent, so therefore I read only what he had written. Obviously you know a lot more about his past viewpoints than I do, so I'll defer to you on what he may have meant.

pastorbrianculver said...

You can tell a lot by what a church looks like by what message the pastor is giving the congregation. If it is just a "feel good" message with no mention of sin and judgment to hell, then no matter what is offered in the church (small groups, mocha mint latte, engaging music) it will still be ineffective in reaching the lost, because the people will have no idea how to reach them without presenting God's Law to them. When I watch John MacArthur's services, I see biblical preaching in a very large church, large parking lots and I am sure very glorifying music. The people are being trained biblically how to reach the lost because his teaching is edifying them with God's whole Word! Law to the proud, grace to the humble. Great post here centurion! thanks

Sharon said...

According to Colossians 3:16, music is a natural result of the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly, not a cause.

And for the record, I can't remember the last time we sang "Just As I Am" in church. Maybe it's because there are serious theological problem with is message . . . but that's another thread.

A Musician by Grace

Benjamin Nitu said...

great post, Cent!

You can have heat without fire, but you can't have fire without heat.

Let's not turn this conversations in a discussion about the methods, but let's go where Frank wants: to the root of the problem. The problem is not the method itself, it is the idea behind it: a method being more important than the message it presents.
When a lot of churches look first for a worship leader and only then look for a pastor, something is not right.

We don't need to bribe the world with the message; we need to present it, and with God's help they'll beg for more.

Strong Tower said...

On Strange Baptist Fire there is a discussion thread on the RPW, for those who are interested. And there is the recent dissing of Acts29. Then, there is this thing called X-mas. Now, that's irritating that I used X, eh? Am I making a connection?

When we survey Scripture there is much more that goes on in church than the preaching of the Gospel. "Adorning" I think would fall along those lines that is written about prudence/discretion/modesty versus flamboyance which is distractive. Admonitions in Scripture about women's dress can be brought to bear upon this. Really, and it is not a stretch, we are the bride of Christ.

Throughout the OT we see celebratory worship. The Law required such and it is not forbidden now simply because those forms have been fulfilled, is it? And those things adorned the Gospel even if it was hidden down under the ceremonial requirements. The question is, what forms, styles, etc., adorn the Gospel, seeing as how in both the OT and NT, celebrations are commended.

Is attracting a crowd through means bait and switch? Does the means require the dumbing down of the message (see the last post)? When Arbraham sent his servant to get a bride for Isaac, he sent gifts, but he did not hide the message, it was infact the herald which preceded the gifting. David's enterance with the Ark was not without overt celebration, which David did in the presence of the people, even gifting them. This Ark represents the Gosple. Anyway...

Our message should not in anyway be divorced from our worship, but worship, should not be divorce from our message. When we are doing this rightly, our worship should not be for the drawing, but should be for the participation of believers and in being so, should be attractive, not solicitously, but with modesty.

Preaching should result in this: "When a church is healthy, the people in it are doers." I would add to this, when the leadership is doing healthy ministry, the people will follow. If we find however, that the leadership are merely coordinators of "evangelistic" activities, more entertainment promoters than doers of the Gospel, preaching, teaching, and evagelizing in the community, it should not surprise us that the world views the church as entertainment or that the pewers begin to think likewise.

Cent is right- where and when do you see Jesus not preach the Gospel when he was doing outreach? It was woven into every step toward Calvary.

Bill said it before I could get to it- the adorning should be this exuberance that flows from love, and people should see who it is that we love and not what we are doing, Michal!

centuri0n said...

Um, I think Josh just nailed it.

| I think my problem as a young
| pastor is no one really helps us
| to understand which comes
| first in the chicken and the egg
| scenario.

As Kang would say, "AHA!"

In the first place, somehow we don’t get that method flows from the Gospel (which is cart, which is horse?), and in the second place nobody's teaching this necessary matter to young pastors.

You mean Evangelicalism has somehow missed the pastoral letters entirely? That's somethin'.

| Does the slick brochure come
| as a byproduct, in tandem with
| spiritual fruit, or before?

Let me say plainly that it may never come at all, but that the "slick brochure" methodology has a flaw at its base: it portrays whatever it is you have as a megachurch, whether what you have is a megachurch or not.

That is: we're a church with a marketing budget. If it's you and 20 of your closest spiritual friends, you prolly don’t have a marketing budget, dude. Don't throw money away on things you can't afford which are not necessary for your church.

If you are a church, you ought to be doing more than gazing at your sanctified navels – something. Printing marketing products ain't it.

| I want to keep away from
| entertainment oriented church
| as much as the next
| conservative - but what we
| have not done well in defining
| is what church should look like
| and freedom of choices that
| we have in Christ in our
| worship.

I can say "amen" to that. Here are the sharp edges which hold that piece in place:

[1] Is the purpose to glorify God and edify people?

[2] Does your worship leader get that he's not the only "people" who needs to be edified?

[3] What would be the best way to do that – in the mode of every tribe, tongue and nation?

See: I think "regulative principle" and all that, but I also think that it's possible to worship God in song with a banjo and a washboard as much as it is with a big choir, a 4-part Gospel sing, or one guy and a hymnal. The question is only "what is the musical tongue of the people you have?"

That's a tricky little mud path to navigate – a very narrow way. I'd navigate it with fear and trembling, but I also wouldn’t force people in Mexico City to sing or listen to Gaither music, or force Arkansans to sit through Handel's "Messiah".

| Is balance the answer, or do
| we really just have no idea
| what church is supposed to be?

I think it's phony to say that the church "must" or even "can" only be "X" – because that kind of uniformity is where the Catholic church flopped a long time before it flopped on other issues. Church must be glorifying to God and edifying to people, and in that the centerpiece is God's word and all the beautiful and pride-crushing things that go with it.

We don't sing any Gregorian chats anymore – regardless of the truths that might be in them. Why? Because Latin is dead and the musical idiom is not just dated but in accessible. But Gregorian chant didn’t die last week when it became the vocal track for house music: it died a long time ago. We know we're OK to walk away from it. But what if we had Bluegrass hymns? What if we had Pop Music hymns? What if we had praise to our God which is biblically faithful and in a musical language which people today understood?

You know: Steve Camp and I have a lot of differences, but this ain't one of them. God deserves to be praised today, by the people who walk around today, using the music they know and understand today.

"Church" (meaning "corporate worship") should point at God, but it's out finger that is pointing. We point. My finger is a white, American, English-speaking, post-punk acoustic finger. Let me point at God with my finger and not the finger of a guy who has been dead 200 years.

Corinthian said...

Well, 2 quick points.
1) Sometimes when we preach the word, church shrinks. This happened to Jesus to where even the disciples said "man, this is hard to hear" and Jesus says "you going too?" and they said, uh, we quit our jobs, where would we go." Ok, loose translation, but preaching the word does not always lead to growth
2) The word can be preached through music and in this discussion we need to distinguish between music used to draw in folks and music that is rightly proclaiming truth. There is a power in music that eludes the spoken word sometimes. Witness the Psalms for example.

centuri0n said...

Strong Tower:

Gonzo.

Exactly.

Strong Tower said...

Gregorian Blue Grass Chants with a post-punk flavor-

I could mellow in that

Sharon said...

Let me point at God with my finger and not the finger of a guy who has been dead 200 years.

Referring to Bach? Luther? Calvin? Handel?

A Musician by Grace

donsands said...

" It makes the community consequences of the Gospel the objective rather than something which is caused by the objective."

Amen, to this hard phrase.

The objective of the Church is to wprship the Father in Spirit and in truth.
To then make disciples, and teach them.

This may look different in many cultures.
In America we actually celebrate Christmas, and it's a good thing.
In Sudan the Church is quite different at Christmas time. But they worship the Ftaher, and witness to the world of their love for Christ in a very hostile place.

I envy them in a way.

centuri0n said...

Corinthian:

on your [1], I agree -- but it is simply false to say that preaching the word will -always- shrink a church. It will -sometimes- shrink a church.

On your [2], yup. Exactly my point.

centuri0n said...

Sharon:

We can enjoy them all, appreciate them all, and love them all. We are not constrained to be only them, as they were not constrained to those who came before them.

centuri0n said...

Gonzo.

centuri0n said...

Is that you, Twitchell? The Gonzo avatar is perfect.

Corinthian said...

centuri0n:

Yep, just a sometimes. In fact I ALWAYS get suspicious of the depth of preaching ( or lack thereof) in rapidly growing churches, not big ones, but ones that got that way quickly. After all, the Mormons grow quickly, but uh, not Christian.
We only count growth through disciples, not bench warmers.

Strong Tower said...

It's outta my favorite movie...

but yeah, it "somewhat" fits...

Paul said...

Cent: "It is unfortunate that I am going to have a day away from internet access today."

I would love to see how many comments you leave on a day you have time.

=)

Josh said...

In regards to Cent's comments on the slick brochure

You said that we will give the appearance of a megachurch

At our convention all of the "succesful" guys were the pastors of megachurches with slick brochures and we were given a slick brochure from our national HQ.

What else am I supposed to believe other than the answer is slick brochures.(wink wink nudge nudge)

Could it be that there is more out there than brochures?

For context I belong to a Canadian equivalent of SBC - called Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists

dac said...

Corinthian - - exactly why would "real" Christian churches not grow fast?

As to what belongs in a church - far more than preaching the word. Preaching the word should be the first thing - but clearly not the only thing.

dac said...

In fact, I put forth that if only preaching the word is happening, but not living the word, that church will never grow.

stratagem said...

We don't sing any Gregorian chats anymore – regardless of the truths that might be in them. Why? Because Latin is dead and the musical idiom is not just dated but in accessible. But Gregorian chant didn’t die last week when it became the vocal track for house music: it died a long time ago. We know we're OK to walk away from it.

Question to no one in particular: I would like to hear some thoughts on why the above logic (which I agree with) is applicable to music, but not to preaching? If it is applicable to preaching, why do we continue to hear people lifting up Spurgeon as being accessible to today's North American person? Seems a bit like a double-standard.

I'm not really at all into the whole Emerg*** "relevance" argument, nor do I have a particularly hard time understanding Spurgeon, but many people do have a hard time understanding what's so great about him.

Scott Shaffer said...

This is a timely post. Here is a quote from an article in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, written by Mark Morford.

It's a slightly mushy notion I carry over to the bizarre parallel universe of conservative Christian megachurches, those giant ultra-bland heavily shellacked stadium-size fluorescent nightmare warehouses that are still flourishing, more or less, simply because many of them are now dramatically diluting the fire-and-brimstone religion stuff, muting all that thorny theology and eschatology and even the right-wing intolerance (or, rather, carefully burying it, to be fed to you slowly, bit by bit, especially around election time) and replacing it with something resembling, well, a giant, cheesy self-help seminar.


With skits. And dance numbers. And a food court. And day care. And an iPod lounge. Self-esteem building exercises. "How to be a winner." "God has a plan for you." Only $29.95. Every week. Forever.


From what I read, this seems to be the modern megachurchly direction: minimize the dogma and melodrama and speaking in tongues, maximum the perkiness and nondenominationalism and piles of happy sanitized self-help schmaltz. In Jesus' name, naturally."

centuri0n said...

Stratagem:

Interesting question.

My answer would include a couple of bullet points:

-- I was pretty particular to say to Sharon, "We can enjoy them all, appreciate them all, and love them all. We are not constrained to be only them, as they were not constrained to those who came before them."

-- That said, there is something worth keeping in the list which Sharon gave, and in Spurgeon (since you mention him) insofar as they are analogous to our present church/culture "self". You know: there's plenty of Spurgeon we have to go and use a dictionary on to make sure we undersatnd what he's talking about. And the people he is talking about in particular are all dead. But the types of error he is refuting are still error.

On the other hand, let me suggest that Wagner's music is generally blapshemous and Handel's is not -- so the problem is not music per se: it's what the music is exaulting or what it is teaching us to love.

Handel's "Messiah" is still a great piece of music -- which many people just won't get because it's outside of their experience to "get" it. That's why it prolly has a special place in a particular type of worship service. And I would dare say that nobody is advocating that today's pulpits only break open the collected works of Spurgeon and start reading them to the congregation.

There's nobody on TeamPyro who'd advocate for some kind of historical stasis chamber to be erected around the various sanctuaries of the world in which we all would perpetually worship in England in the 1850's. But what I think we would all advocate for is, in seeking to reach the people who live here today, wherever "here" is and whenever "today" is, we are speaking truth with the same boldness and the same willingness to speak -to- them and not -at- them. Does that make sense?

dac said...

scott
I understand why you didnt link to the post.

Scott Shaffer said...

dac,

I'm not sure what you mean, but I tried to link to it but blogger rejected the link.

Scott

stratagem said...

Yes, that makes sense. Thank you. The day will come when Spurgeon will be completely inaccessible (as the Gregorian chants are now), so better enjoy him now; it will be the year 2100 before we know it.

By the way, I predict you are probably going to get some heat from native Arkansans about the Handel's comment. Also, I'm actually a bluegrass banjo player, too. No joke. So you really have to be careful about goring the oxen of us ultra-minority groups!!!!

Corinthian said...

Dac,
All I said is that I am suspicious, not that I catagorically reject rapid church growth. I have know of several that grew fast AND deep. But, the majority of fast track churches are , from my limited knowledge of the universe, selling style above, and usually at the cost of content. ie- Williow Creek.
The reason I am suspicious is because throughout scripture we see the difficulty of hearing and responding to the Gospel. Jesus himself said the road is narrow and few find it, so any mad rush down a wide road deserves inspection. Also, even after someone comes to faith, the road of discipleship, again according to Jesus, is difficult. So if a church is not just doing evangelism but also discipleship a la Great Commission, they will lose some even as they gain some through weeds, rocky soil etc.
So to answer as directly as possible, I did not say they would not grow, simply that I, underline I, am suspicious when growth is really fast. Where I live in NC , it is either prosperity gospel junk or seeker sensitive drivel.
thanks for allowing me to clarify.

Pedro said...

Josh --

I would work on a decent website with the statement of faith and audio for the sermons as well.

It did to me. Listening to the Senior Pastor preaching was step 1 and then I checked at the child ministries for activities for my kids.

p.s. I'm also a Canadian member of a FEBC church. God Bless.

Stefan said...

So we're down to discussing the rarest breed of all: large churches that preach the Word.

Our church was a church plant of a few families in the early 60s; now has circa 4000 attendees every weekend. Simultaneous translation into half a dozen languages; a strong worship ministry; Christmas productions; the whole bit. When my wife and I started attending as non-believers, I frankly didn't know what to make of it, and was even cynical that God could be found in a large church like that.

Anyhow, these things definitely draw in non-believers—such as my wife and I were—but that's not what keeps them there. It's the uncompromising expository preaching of the whole counsel of God week after week—almost all of our senior pastor's time here has been spent on series on just four books: Genesis, Psalms, Romans, and 1 Corinthians.

Folks eat this stuff up, precisely because there's such a paucity of it out there in the world (even the Christian world). Is it a bait and switch? Not at all. The authority and inerrancy of Scripture, and the sovereignty of God, are taken as a priori principles behind every sermon every week, and visitors are free to not return if they don't like it. And yet...something keeps people there...something draws them in. I was the furthest thing imaginable from a conservative, evangelical, born again Christian when we started attending there; and look at me now!

People come to Christ in our church—such as me! And they come to Christ by the power of the Word. Through pre-baptismal discernment by elders, as well as discipleship classes and accountability via small groups, we raise up new members to be godly Christian disciples who remain in the church and build up the body of Christ. Through our multi-year Bible school, we prepare members for whatever ministry in life God has called them to.

And we do missions and outreach, from the poorest neighbourhoods in the local community, to overseas.

Before I came to this church, I figured large churches were all the same...that they were glorifications of man. But some large churches are glorifications of God, blessed with called-out believers from all around by their sound teaching.

Does this mean we're doing something better than the one-pastor church in a small town? Absolutely not. The greatest blessing of all is that we are now able to host conferences for pastors in small churches, to encourage them preach the pure Gospel in places that do not have the resources of a large church. All the conference sessions have only one theme: preaching the Word, because in the end, whether it's a church of 30 believers or 3000, that's all that matters.

centuri0n said...

sewing:

DOH!

Stefan said...

Oh, and our pastor preaches on sin and repentance, too. (Duh, hello, Romans!?)

Strong Tower said...

Quick Sewing, put your church in the Vadersave Historical Stasis Chamber.

By the way, where is this little piece of heaven?

I've heard of of few of these run by a bunch of weirdos. There's one out in California, an alien nation on the west coast, where some flaming maniac named Phil is a member. There are others too, but we really don't want the Word to get around.

Stefan said...

Gonzo:

We're in Vancouver, of all places—think Seattle, but even more so. Oddly, though, there's not only our church, but also a large Westminster-confessing Anglican church in our neck of the woods, a Founders-friendly SBC church, and I'm sure a few more anomalies. (Despite what Paul's anonymous associate claimed in Titus 1:12, God called even Cretans to be believers....)

SolaMeanie said...

There is a segment of this discussion that reminds me of the old church of Christ saw, "we speak when the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent." Of course, in practice they think the Bible's silence is a prohibition, among other serious errors including baptismal regeneration.

Okay, main comment. I have long said that the modern evangelical church is too numbers-obcessed. If the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed and the Word is faithfully taught, the Holy Spirit will act through His Word and draw people to Himself. Anything else a church does, whether it be glorious Christmas/Easter cantatas, dramas, you name it, is secondary to that main emphasis. In fact, I would argue that evangelism is not the main purpose of the assembly of believers. Evangelism is ideally something each of us does whenever God grants the opportunity.

There is nothing inherently wrong -- in my view -- with music, hymns, choruses, cantatas, or programs. It all depends on whether they are indeed supportive to the main purpose or have become the main raison d'etre. If that's the case, Houston, we have a problem.

stratagem said...

All I know is that at the last numbers-obsessed church I attended, one particular Elder was more interested in sound systems, than sound doctrine.

Stefan said...

Or lighting the choir, than being a light to the world? ;)

Jeff Voegtlin said...

So where's Kent. I'm looking forward to his response.

stratagem said...

I also wondered where he went.

So, I went to his blog to read up on where his head's at.

The first thing I notice is the silly King James Only business: Yes that's right, immediate loss of credibility, in other words. (Sorry to play Capt. Obvious on that point).

And to think I was defending this guy's writing, this morning!

DJP said...

KJVO is rather a massive automatic credibility-whacker, isn't it?

Silly Old Mom said...

Cent,

Many of us would call *hearing* grunge guitar "suffering for your sake."

Josh,

Great questions! Ones my pastor specializes in answering...

Eternal Truth Ministries

And he's originally from Canada! What more could you want? :-D

Stefan said...

Josh: Come to the reFocus Canada conference next spring. We are especially trying to reach out to young pastors, Paul-to-Timothy-style, primarily in Western Canada; but we wouldn't turn away an Easterner at the door. ;)

Stefan said...

We had John Piper this spring; D.A. Carson will be among the speakers next spring.

dac said...

I would think Rule #1 applies to commentors as well as pyrites - I don't think ken is obligated to respond to being called out by Frank anymore than Frank is obligated to respond to Ken.

dac said...

sauce for the goose and all.

stratagem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stratagem said...

DJP: As far as KJVO, it certainly is a credibility killer with me (and I expect, just about anyone else). There is generally room for alternate opinions on any subject, but KJVO may be the exception; someone who espouses KJVO has a serious deficiency in judgment.

Meeting a real, live KJVO person always rattles my faith in human beings as reasoning creatures, and raises a lot of other questions for me, e.g.: Are there any NASB-only people out there? Are there any KJVO people who endorse the Apocrypha, just because it was contained in the original 1611 KJV?

Now that Kent has registered himself in the KJVO, zero-credibility group, it's likely just as well that he didn't show up here to defend himself. :-)

dac said...

Why should Ken bother responding?

Frank started this with a very well reasoned, not derogitory post. It responded to a statement by Ken, but he did it in a way that was not personal. An interesting post.

For whatever reason, Ken choses not to respond. Certainly within the intent of Rule #1, he has no obligation too.

There is some good discussion by others.

Then, as it is wont, the meta digresses to non related issues

Then people start after him on unrelated issues to the original post. My, arent we all superior to Ken.

Just why should he post with that type of reception?

Jeff Voegtlin said...

I'm a friend of Kent's and I can assure you he's not running from defending himself here. I was just surprised that there were so many comments made before he got here.

And since I'm a friend of his I'm sure I have no credibility either, but I would encourage you to actually read what Kent says about the KJVO position (there are many of them). He's quite a respectable scholar, even if you don't agree with his conclusions.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello Frank,

If you don't mind, I'll explain why I didn't answer right away. I just read this, 8:44pm, California time. In addition to being a pastor of a church in the San Francisco Bay Area that we started 20 years ago with zero people in the most expensive housing market in the country and the most liberal population, just north of Berkeley; I teach in our Christian school, also working with the school program, which is tomorrow night, and, also, I coach my son's basketball team, and we left at 3pm for a 4:30pm game, after which we did the fast food stop on the way home and then waited for a few parents to arrive to pick up kids (deep breath), dropped off one boy, and then came home to greet my lovely wife and three beautiful daughters, before checking email, answering two, reading a little news, and then popping over to Pyro. Now it's 8:54pm.

I'm still rejoicing in the Scriptural truths I wrote in my comment (which were also mainly formed in questions that were left unanswered, hmmmm), and that joy hasn't waned after having read Frank's commentary. I then went to the comments and I saw that upon those not generally going in Frank's direction as much as he wished, he decided to try to smear me a little to help "frame" a post in a more favorable way for him, essentially to bias the opinions of what I wrote. I appreciate the opportunity for a defense now that some of you have pretty well prejudged me based upon what someone else has said about me, who truly doesn't even know me. I don't consider myself a fundamentalist, but what is it that Phil has said about fundamentalism in his Dead Right presentation? "The machinery of fundamentalist separatism has in effect established a form of excommunication without any due process. All someone has to do to ruin your ministry in fundamentalist circles is publish a negative story about you in one of the fundamentalist gossip rags, and if it gets enough circulation, you will be branded for life." I'm sure that Frank might say that he has allowed for some due process and doesn't like "branding," but he really doesn't know me at all. All of my interaction in the past with him has been on only a few issues, from which he could not possibly make all the conclusions that he makes. And I have always kept those discussions to the actual Scriptural topic at hand, not wandering off into my own interpretations of what I think that Frank thinks. I've always treated him nicely too.

And before I get into anything on the actual subject at hand, since we have already left it to move to my belief on the preservation of Scripture—I take an original language preservation position, the same as John Owen and Francis Turretin. It is a very similar position to that of Douglas Wilson of Gog and Mablog to put in a perspective you could grasp in a few words. If you think that ruins my credibility, then so be it.

I'd like to deal with what Frank wrote in three points. First, I will hopefully briefly examine his debriefing of my comment. Second, I want to treat a few of the comments (many of which are patently false). Third, I will explain of what I originally wrote in a comment to Phil's post. I'm going to get only to the first segment in this comment.

Frank writes:
"I think Kent is making the same mistake that the people he is criticizing are making, only on the "do nothing" side of the fence."

I answer: Scripture is sufficient and perspicuous. God didn't give us a Bible and expect us then to read between the lines for our methodology. God did give us a way to accomplish His work. Silence isn't permission (and I'm not talking about using computers or the like). A basic in NT methodology is "go," and I know that "go" in Mt. 28:19 and Mk. 16:15 is a participle, so that going is assumed in making disciples and preaching. Scripture presents this template: we gather for edification and we go for evangelization. I believe that the modern day church problems come foundationally because we have turned this around. That's essentially what I was pointing out. And then using unscriptural methods to get it done, or to think that somehow we can accentuate the gospel with a non-scriptural method.

Our church and me don't "do nothing." We go to hundreds every week with the gospel and have many opportunities to preach it to them. Our people are salt and light in their offices, places of recreation, among family members, as they go out and let their light shine. I'm reporting to you Frank that the Gospel is being preached here by this galley slave. I don't know how I could be advocating a "do nothing" approach, when I'm simply saying that there is a way that it ought to be done, and not doing it that way can change the nature of the gospel. Phil's article dealt with the foolishness of preaching and he contended that "preaching" was the content. Keep reading into 1 Corinthians 2 and see what Paul says about methodology and the "accentuation" of the preaching. He makes much of that, as do I.

Frank writes: "I think Kent operates under the assumption that either [a] preaching the Gospel mostly cannot be "successful" in terms of numbers exploding, or [b] preaching the Gospel does not really produce anything but saved people who will come to church and sit to listen to more."

I answer: We can see results from preaching, but it should be because of that content that Phil talked about, rather than some kind of anesthetizing that we do through the methods we use, so that the message can be more palatable to a lost world. Jesus lovingly told us that the condition of the soil was the variable that determined "success." He also said that "narrow" is the road, and "few" there be that find it. Rocky soil often comes from wrong methods which ruin the soil and result in a lot of foliage, but little fruit. And I do believe that the gospel produces saved people, Frank (Romans 1:16). And I don't have to assume anything about preaching the gospel. I've been doing it faithfully for over twenty years in a place no one would mistake for the Bible belt.

Frank writes: "The evangelical mistake is this: if we make a community with attractive values, maybe we can then slip the Gospel in sideways and draw people to Christ. It makes the community consequences of the Gospel the objective rather than something which is caused by the objective."

I answer: I find nothing wrong with this statement. I think it is right on. This seems to be a major point and I haven't disagreed with it at all.

Frank writes: "Kent's mistake is that he thinks that somehow the right effects of the Gospel somehow condemn a preacher if they are manifest."

I answer: What?!? Where is that "mistake" found in my comment? I don't condemn church growth. I'm a full time pastor. How did that happen in the Berkeley area if we started with zero and didn't grow? We're presently helping get two other churches started and they're both growing.

Frank writes: "And let's face it: the right effects of preaching the Gospel in the New Testament include a growing church where there are some who are "in the church" but not "in the Gospel."

I answer: The tares in the wheat. OK. What have I said that disagrees with this?

Frank writes: "as well as an "invitation methodolgy"

I answer: Where is the invitation methodology found in Scripture, Frank? Why would you assume that a growing church would also take that methodology? The wisdom from above that Jesus proclaimed surely is superior to our new fangled ideas. I'm not saying that it's wrong to invite people to church, but this has become the major method of evangelicalism and it isn't in the Bible. Look at John 6 to see what Jesus did with seekers, among many other places. He didn't try to make them feel comfortable with what He said. And this is the pattern of Jesus exclusively through the gospels. Salvation is a miracle, but we often want a strategy that we can "get" and techniques that will "work," that we have seen "succeed" (result in more people coming and staying). God is glorified when we do it like He said to do it, because when its done, then we know He did it.

Frank writes: "welcoming greeters for outsiders"

I answer: I didn't say I was against greeting. We're about as friendly a church as one could visit, but I'm talking about it as part of the church growth package and mainly as a part of the invitation methodology or philosophy.

Frank writes: "some obvious place of worship"

I answer: Look how much emphasis (lots) is put on this in our culture (something that I believe stems from the tradition of the cathedrals of the Byzantine Empire) and then what the Bible says about church buildings. Nadda.

Frank writes: "and psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (notice Paul's range there, btw: from "inspired praise and worship" to "didactic teaching in music" to "songs which merely edify or encourage" -- a distinction Kent will surely reject)."

I answer: Respectfully Frank, this is a poor exegesis of either Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19, especially considering what the rest of Scripture says about music. All church music is to be worshiping God. In the ninety plus times that Scripture mentions the direction of music, it is always "to God." Our concern is whether He likes it or not, not whether we do. As a byproduct of offering God what He wants ("worship"), we get teaching and admonishing (those are supportive participles). We won't get the teaching and admonishing by changing this to the purpose of the music. And they are sung "among ourselves," among God's redeemed. Never ever in Scripture is music for evangelism. John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Ephesians, "That is not the intent for music, and when emotions are played on without a clear or complete presentation of Gods' truth, such music can be counterproductive by producing a feeling of well-being that is a counterfeit of God's peace and that serves to further insulate an unbeliever from the saving gospel."

Frank writes: "The evangelical error is to put the cart before the horse; the Kent error is to have no cart at all."

I answer: This is sheer slander. My comment said nothing of the kind and neither could someone read this from my comment. They could only read this into my comment.

I'll hopefully be able to read through the comments on this post. I'll look forward to it. I'd be glad to talk to anyone about any of my positions. I would assume that you here welcome that kind of due process, unlike, you know, fundamentalists. Thanks Jeff for sticking up in my absence.

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SolaMeanie said...

Ron,

It might have been best if you had just linked to your rather lengthy essay rather than posting the whole thing in the meta.

Kent Brandenburg said...

My comment, I believe, represents something very important. At the root of the problems that we are dealing with that Phil wrote nicely about in his 1 Cor. 1 post is this invitation philosophy. I could systematically take you through Christ's methodology in the gospels and show that evangelicalism in many cases is flawed on a fundamental level with their techniques, that actually do change the nature of the gospel. We stick with Scriptural methods, which are sufficient, and God gets the glory. His glory matters in all things! Now for the comments....

Strategem wrote: "Sure seems to me that this article today missed Kent's point."
I answer: Exactly Strategem. He created a dustcloud when I made a legitimate point. Deal with the point! Don't rewrite me to make me say what you want me to mean. What do you think of that? Later you go on to agree with Frank. What do you think of yourself now? And how about deferring to me about what I "meant," not Frank. You got what I meant, but after Frank put it through his blender, you were in the choir. Come on, Strategem!

Frank wrote: "However, I know Kent from his long-time interaction with this blog, almost none of it favorable as far as I'm concerned."
I answer: Isn't that a little ambiguous and truly judgmental. Why am I not favorable Frank? We argue from Scripture, not theological correctness. Stick with arguing the point, not hijacking your own thread.

Frank wrote: "Kent is unable to agree that people owe some kind of obedience to God in their covenanting/fellowship with their own local church. Kent thinks that any evangelism that takes place apart from woodenly reading a narrow bad (sic) of acceptable translations (and citing the verse numbers) is corrupted evangelism."
I answer: I feel like the geico caveman here. What? Existential meltdown? Here are two lies, boldface lies in a row. Why not stick with what we're talking about? Why? Because Frank's article is not correct. I'm making a legitimate Scriptural point and I'd be glad to debate him on it any day, especially without these kind of rhetorical techniques, however. I absolutely believe in allegiance to fellowship with someone's own local church. I've never taught that salvation is tied to a particular translation. I've argued against it. To smear me with lies, Frank, come on! Let's not blur the point of my comment by attempting just to discredit me.

Frank wrote: "For the record, he doesn't display that same, um, flexibility."
I answer: What?!?! What is this?!

Frank wrote: "What Paul says there is that there is something we do which actually advances the Gospel which is not preaching. Now, Kent may object that Paul wasn't calling "playing grunge guitar" "suffering for your sake", and we might agree with him in principle. But here's the rub: Paul is saying that there is –something- which helps the Gospel here."
I answer: Do the Pyros actually believe this application? Phil, Dan? You believe this, that the gospel needs help? Colossians 1:24 says nothing about that! Jesus said, "It is finished," and no additions to the gospel are necessary to aid it. Look at Galatians 5:1-3. We can misrepresent the gospel, yes, and we can tarnish the gospel, yes, and water it down, yes, but we can't add anything to it to make it better. I'm amazed that people stand by and let this one go! Is this that much of an old boys club? Or do we show agreement in public to keep a unified front? The gospel plus nothing is the power of God unto salvation.

For the record, Frank "might" agree with me in principle that "grunge guitar" won't aid the gospel. I'd like to hear how it "might," Frank.

Do we really "adorn" the gospel unto salvation by having greeters and a snazzy brochure and an ornate sanctuary? That's just my point. We might do these things because they are excellent, but they in no way help the gospel. There's also a chasm between adorning doctrine and helping the gospel. Perhaps we should get a little more precise with our language.

Josh—your comment is spot on.

Benjamin—I'm on the side of not bribing the world. Did you read the post? Frank thinks we can aid the gospel with "Jesus stuff."

Corinthian—Right on with point 1! Point 2, however, you won't see that anywhere in Scripture. I say we keep to Scriptural methods and give God glory.

That's it for now—gotta run. Back later! :)

centuri0n said...

You can find my response to Kent's first rejoinder here:

http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2007/12/on-churchless-church.html

centuri0n said...

Ron's post got deleted for being off-topic and verbose. If he wants to post the link only, he's welcome to do so.

Be that as it may, nobody here is advocating for a "seeker friendly" approach to ministry. What I am particularly on about here is the excessively-barren view of church that any church which has a greeter or makes the assumption that lost people might show up is somehow, as Kent has said, "changing the Gospel".

Stick to that subject. Don't try to straw-man me as an advocate of "seeker sensitive".

centuri0n said...

Kent:

I can speak specifically to you about why I don't have a favorable impression of your interaction here.

[1] You yourself do a marvelous impression of iMonk. That is: all criticism of you is portrayed as ad-hom, whether it's ad-hom or simply a statement of your mistakes.

[2] You are a sloppy exegete, reading scripture for the most part through a lense which is very clouded by your own theological paradigms -- and because you can't take it when someone points that out, you demonstrate [1].

[3] You can't see Scripture unless the verse numbers are attached.

[4] You don't recognize historic definitions, and don't apologize or make good when they are pointed out to you.

[5] You ignore reasons given to you when they are listed, and you ignore examples when they are presented.

If you need links to examples of this stuff, I can provide them. I want you to specifically think of the post where I cited the LBCF and you didn't recognize it before you blustered on about a "universal church" -- that post is a perfect example of almost all 5 of these issues.

centuri0n said...

As to my "existential melt down", Kent, it's interesting that now that I'm not actively posting on one's necessary relationship to the local church, you have abandoned all your arguments against such a thing -- or forgotten them.

As to the range of translations you believe are acceptible, your blog calls non-KJV translations "perverted". You have portrayed those who disagree with you as "MVO", which is a bizarre view of denying the exclusivity of KJV -- how can multiple version be "exclusive" to the place of being branded "only"? And who in that camp denies that the KJV has value?

You deny the usefulness of modern translations, dude. That's not my fault -- and not make me pointing that out a vice. It's what you believe.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey Frank,

I don't know Imonk nor am I familiar with his argument style. I don't remember ever reading him. I will say that you are ad hominem, and any reader of adequate intelligence can see that. Your picture is next to strawman in the dictionary and I'll show that. I did not strawman you once, and I welcome you showing me the one time I did. :)

Frank writes: What I am particularly on about here is the excessively-barren view of church that any church which has a greeter or makes the assumption that lost people might show up is somehow, as Kent has said, "changing the Gospel".
I answer: The first two-thirds of this sentence is a strawman. I've already been clear that the point wasn't "having greeters," but the invitation philosophy that still hasn't been answered. You are arguing with yourself on this, Frank, because no one has claimed what you are saying they have. You should really find someone who thinks that way to argue with him if you need it.

And regarding "changing the Gospel," you've argued for "help" for the gospel. Church growth is to be supernatural (1 Cor. 3---Christ builds the church). We sow and water, and He gives the increase. Sowing and watering does not include a deco-font and a casually-dressed staff picture on the brochure. The spirit of this isn't what we see in the ministry of Christ. Why would you be arguing against this, Frank? It doesn't make sense.

As to your #1-5 for my "unfavorable dealings" with you, I just don't agree, Frank. IMO, it constitutes you pulling the game board when you don't like how things are going.

As to my "existential melt down", Kent, it's interesting that now that I'm not actively posting on one's necessary relationship to the local church, you have abandoned all your arguments against such a thing -- or forgotten them.

Your last comment in that series needs quite a bit of correction. Why are we talking about it though? Was that the point of Phil's or your thread? How did it come in except for a serious red herring on your part? I'd be glad to argue that position like Douglas Wilson has with James White, but is that really what we're talking about? I really want to know Frank. How did we get to the preservation and translation issue?

I don't believe non-KJV translations are "perverted." I myself preach from the original language text and I often will give my own translation of the text.

You have portrayed those who disagree with you as "MVO", which is a bizarre view of denying the exclusivity of KJV -- how can multiple version be "exclusive" to the place of being branded "only"?

Only the KJV and NKJV comes from what I believe is the ecclesiastical text. I'm not eclectic or critical text, Frank. Based on translation philosophy, I use the KJV. I use the MVO tag sort of like we call pro-choice, pro-abortion. The title KJVO is used pejoritavely to smear, and you can see that it's worked, as shown in some of the comments. Someone can deny inerrancy and retain credibility, but if he believes in perfect preservation of the original language text, then he has lost it? MVO, yes, a return fire pejoritave. You don't like it? I could have guessed that. Comprende'?

Frank writes: You deny the usefulness of modern translations, dude. That's not my fault -- and not make me pointing that out a vice. It's what you believe.
I answer: Dude, I've never made a point of denying the usefulness of a modern translation. You've like never read my saying that. And like, Dude, that's like so far off topic. Like, dude, you've hijacked your own thread.

Gotta go, Frank. Good talking to you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

In the above comment, as I reread it, Frank actually wrote this: "As to my "existential melt down", Kent, it's interesting that now that I'm not actively posting on one's necessary relationship to the local church, you have abandoned all your arguments against such a thing -- or forgotten them." And then I commented on it. Sorry.

Kent Brandenburg said...

This is also Frank's: "You have portrayed those who disagree with you as "MVO", which is a bizarre view of denying the exclusivity of KJV -- how can multiple version be "exclusive" to the place of being branded "only"?"

donsands said...

"Only the KJV and NKJV comes from what I believe is the ecclesiastical text."

What do you mean exactly? This is the text the Church believes?

Could you expand on this a bit? My brother is a KJVO guy, and he drives me crazy in that he says Jesus Christ wrote this version, and even the chapter and verses.

centuri0n said...

Kent is doing a very conspicuous job of reply to me at my blog -- to his credit. But because this is a -critical- side issue, I have D-Blog thesis for Kent to consider engaging:

"The church universal -- that is, the visible church in all places -- is a necessary prerequisite to asserting such a thing as an 'ecclesiastical text' for the OT and NT."

I will defend the affirmative if he is willing to engage this topic. It's an important issue to face, given how serious Kent has been in the past about both the false nature of affirming the universal church and the true nature of the so-called "ecclesiastical text".

centuri0n said...

Don:

The worst examples of KJVO are the ones who demand that the KJV English is itself inspired from God -- over and above any text the KJV may have been translated from, and in spite of the KJV translators' confession that their translation was, in all humility, a starting place and a work in progress. These guys are for the most part "baptists".

The other major specie of KJVO is the "ecclesiastical text" group -- who are, by and large, not baptists. This is important to note because their theory of why the KJV is the best and ultimately only valid translation cannot be reconciled with baptist ecclesiology.

Their view is this: the church in all places has been God's tool in history for the preservation of His word, and that providential action is manifest in the texts the KJV translators used to assemble the KJV -- those texts, they say, are the "ecclesiastical" texts, preserved by the church, agreed to by the church, and therefore the texts God has maintained in fulfillment of prophecies such as Isaiah 40 or Ps 119:89.

Now anyone, without regard to ecclesiastical theology, can agree in the general sense to the idea that it was people in faith who preserved God's word through time. Nobody denies that. The question is whether or not one text type is the "preserved" type over and above all others. A frankly-stupendous book on this subject is James White's The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust The Modern Translations?.

Anyone interested in this subject should read The Translators' Introduction to the 1611 KJV. It eliminates so much myth and conjecture on this subject as to be perhaps the best refutation of all the KJV-O and KJV-prefered positions.

But there's a key matter which I want to address before I finish up here: the matter of what it takes to have an "ecclesiastical" text. What this requires is a church which recognizes both the validity of other expressions of the faith as "churches" and fellow saints. It requires, frankly, a theology of a universal church not just in this age, but in all ages past -- because the "ecclesiastical text" guys have to receive the text from someplace which, geographically and theologically, doesn't much look like their local church.

If Kent will admit this, he will have to revise and append his past remarks decrying the theology of a universal church as "roman catholic". If he won't, he'll have to do a better job of working out what kind of "ecclesia" it takes to preserve a text in the way he says he believes.

I am also closing this thread. If Kent wants to engage this topic, he can contact me and we can have an extended exchange at D-Blog.