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.