Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Contextualizing

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

…from Mark Driscoll.

“There have been many adaptations in the church throughout the centuries
(Pews in the 13th century; 14th century the organ was introduced in the
church; 15th century the printing press; 19th century – electricity and
audio microphones, 20th century – loud speakers [differences between George
Whitefield and Billy Graham], radio preachers, more screens in churches than
theaters, the internet) – on the front end of innovation everyone’s critical
at the back end everyone’s using it.

Communication has 4 things – instant, constant, global, and permanent.
That’s true for critics and for the proclamation of the gospel.

Every church contextualizes. Where are you in the continuum? If you have
pews, you’re on the cutting edge of the 13th century. And so forth for
organ, screens, audio, website, etc. Can you do more? Are you doing all that
you can? All are contextualizing. The key is to name your year and name the
year you would like to be.”

______________________________________

My response:

As far as the church contextualizing historically, it is true. But I think
it was more proactive than reactive. The reason for some medieval church
architecture was not because there were pews or icons in the culture, but
because the culture was illiterate and the church wanted to teach the
people, through physical symbols, aspects of the gospel. Granted, the
medieval church went too far, but this is what happened. When the
Reformation came, changes in church architecture occurred. For instance, the
altar, icons, and crucifixes went and the pulpit was put front and center.
In some Calvinistic churches the pulpit was put in the center with the folks
sitting around the preacher, so I read today in Brian Chapell’s new book.
This was to give a vivid reminder of the priesthood of all believers. It
seems to me that, historically speaking, the church contextualized in order
to teach the world something about God, public worship, the gospel, etc. In
other words, the church was proactive in creating a climate that would
communicate something to the culture about what the church is all about.
They may have been wrong in their approach, but I think that’s what
happened. It seems to me that some today have turned the historical practice
on its head, when it comes to public worship. They may be right in their
approach, but I think that’s what’s happening.

Richard Barcellos
  1. Richard,
    Please forgive me brother that I missed the point you ably wrote. The problem is not in your transmission but in my reception – sorry -. I just want to ask if you are agreeing with Driscoll’s points or not.
    Thank you
    Edwin

  2. Edwin, I agree with Driscoll, when he says, there have been many adaptations in the church throughout the centuries. That’s clear to all impartial observers. However, IMO (and this is only my opinion, I could be wrong), the way the church adapted over the centuries was not to look out into the general culture for things that would remove barriors between the church and unblievers. IOW, the church did not look “out there” and see pews and conclude, “Hey, that will remove barriors. Let’s us them.” (FYI, I think pews are indifferent, I can take ’em or leave ’em. :-)) Instead, the church adapted things “out there” that would assist the church to perform her God-given task – to offer Christ to believers and unbelievers by the Word of God. I think the difference is important to maintain. For instance, there are various musical genres “out there”, we do not conclude that all such genres are equally useful for the purpose of public worship. We start with public worship and our privilege to sing to the Lord and go from there. We identify the essential things church music should possess then, and only then, should we go “out there” to see if there is anything appropriate for such a setting. I hope that clears things up a bit. Thanks for the question. It helps me to be sharpened by others like you.

    Rich B.

  3. “Are you doing all that you can? All are contextualizing. The key is to name your year and name the year you would like to be.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I really don’t think Driscoll’s conclusion is biblical. Was it Christ’s or the disciples’ goal to contextualize? How did the early Church contextualize? What does Driscoll presuppose when he asks “Can we do more?”…Seems like he assumes that there is more we *should* be doing in our churches to contextualize, to break down the “barriers” between the church and culture. But where is that emphasis in scripture? Instead of “Go ye and contextualize,” I read, “Preach the Word” (I Tim. 4:1-2).
    Whether we sit in pews or cushiony chairs, whether we use hymnals or PowerPoint, let us focus less on being culturally-consious in our method and more on being Gospel-centered in our message.

  4. Oops!….2 Timothy 4:1-2 (not 1 Tim!).

  5. Rich,

    It may very well be that the medieval church had a different perspective on what it adapted from the culture, however, shouldn’t we remove unnecessary barriers? And aren’t we getting caught up in a subjective perspective about the forms of worship, when we should search the Scriptures about the appropriate elements of worship?

    The problem I have is that a typical RB thinks anything short of the Trinity Hymnal is inferior, and that contemporary hymns are superficial and unworthy of worship. The fact is that the music used in writing the hymns in the Trinity Hymnal was contemporary in the day in which it was written. What makes music that is a few hundred years old superior to that which is used in our day?

    I know some brethren who use contemporary Christian music, such as songs by Chris Tomlin, Kathryn Scott, etc. who are just as edified and caught up in the praise of God, than any RB congregation.

    Why is this so much of a big deal in RB circles?

  6. I think Driscoll is right on, by the way. The guy gets a lot of slack for trying to be innovative in a godly way, for the sake of the gospel.

  7. And that’s not a blanket approval of everything he’s ever said or done…just wanted to qualify my last comments before I get blasted by some Driscoll hater.

  8. David,

    I think Driscoll’s question is an important one. My point, in part, was to show that contextualization is not as simple as assimilating indifferent things into the church simply becasue they are out there and becasue they might give us a strong-hold on the culture. Historically, the church often did what it did to create a distinct culture not to assimilate the general culture. Take pews, for instance; I don’t think the medieval church saw pews as a way to remove obstacles from between the church and the world because pews are indifferent and were commmonplace in the culture. Or art, as another example; I don’t think the medieval church saw art in the general culture then concluded art for church culture to remove stumbling blocks to the gospel. BTW, I am all for removing unnecessary stumbling blocks to the gospel. Right or wrong, they viewed pews and art as creating culture, not assimilating culture.
    I think we need to think long and hard about the principle of assimilation for distinct, proactive gospel purposes, not merely as a means whereby we remove potential stumbling blocks. The former is proactive and principled; the later is principled, but I think the principle is very slippery. As I type, I am wearing shorts, posting on fb, checking email periodically, tweeting, and pastoring a church that uses some contemporary music, etc….just to let you know that I am not living as if it were the 13th century. 🙂
    As far as 1 Cor. 9 goes, the context is clear – Paul was talking about social interaction “out there” not bringing indifferent things into public worship services willy-nilly to remove barriors. I am not for promoting barriors “out there” or when we gather. I am for thinking long and hard and acting carefully in accordance with the principles of Scripture, which I am sure you are, too! As far as traditionalism goes, everyone fits somewhere on that continuim – some just stay on the same tract longer than others. 🙂

    Rich B.

  9. Rich,

    Thank you for your thought provoking comments. Today we have the “seeker sensitive” movement, fueled by a theology that does not take man’s depravity seriously. On the other hand, we have the theologically correct (regarding 5 points) Mark Driscoll, and his “in your face — tell it like it is” style. He has captialized on a segment of the populace much like a Bill O’Reilly or Chris Matthews has (IMHO).

    Regarding Mark Driscoll — give me Phil Johnson in THAT on-going dispute.

  10. Steve, as far as Driscoll being a five-pointer, I am pretty sure he is not. We have a review of one of his books coming out in RBTR that points this out.

    As far as Driscoll goes in general, I am thankful that he puts things so plainly. It’s hard not to understand what he is saying. 🙂

  11. I agree with Barcellos AND Driscoll. That is, our worship as a way of life as well as our corporate worship should be driven by the two greatest commandments–love to God and love to our neighbor, both of which are ultimately biblical and theological concerns.

    How does this work itself out practically?

    (1) As Richard points out, churches historically did things like place a pulpit in the middle of the assembly to make a statement–the Word of God is central to the church’s life and worship. I suspect that Driscoll would agree that the proclamation and teaching of God should be central to corporate worship. Accordingly, I doubt that Driscoll sets a poker table or an X-Box on centerstage. Last time I watched a video of him preaching, he used a pulpit (though it looked a little modern and wasn’t hanging from the wall as in some of the old Protestant churches).

    (2) As Driscoll pointed out, pews were invented at some point in the history of the church. What was the theological significance of the pew? I’m not positive. But I suspect it was out of concern for the people. That is, perhaps those preaching the word wanted to make it easier for folks to listen to longer sermons. So they gave them a place to sit. I suspect that Driscoll’s church uses padded chairs. That’s even better. And there’s certainly nothing unbiblical with caring about people.

    (3) Some of the older churches used “sounding boards” over the pulpit so that the word could be effectively heard. That’s a theological motivation. Today, microphones and speakers work better. Plus they enable the messages to be recorded and distributed to many, many people over the Internet so the Word may run and have free course. That can be theologically motivated too.

    (4) When the printing press came out, Protestants, like Luther took advantage of that technology so that the gospel and truth of Scripture might be known more widely. Certainly, there was theological motivation behind that. Similarly, pastors like Mark Driscoll are employing various forms of modern media to get the truths out on the streets. I think that’s great. Indeed, I wish some of our RB churches would catch up with the times. A great deal of RB church websites (Richard’s excluded) look like they were designed back in the early 90s.

    (5) I don’t think contextualization applies merely to what happens outside the church because contextualization is a theological motivation (1 Cor. 9:19-23; 10:31-11:1) and God’s people are to be theologically driven both inside and outside the corporate gatherings. Not surprisingly, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to accommodate their gifts in worship both to the needs of the believers and to the needs of the unbelievers who are present. According to Driscoll, this is not being “seeker sensitive” (at least in the way that phrase is sometimes applied today) but rather “seeker sensible.” I suspect that if Paul were leading worship in one of our churches today, he’d be driven by the same gospel-saturated, soul-winning passion that drove him to say, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:32-33). May we imitate Paul, as he imitated Christ (11:1).

    (6) Our own Confession recognizes the need for “contextualization” even in corporate worship: “there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed” (2LBCF I, 6). Certainly, this principle is broader than merely accommodating people in the hours the church meets and the temperature at which the thermostat is set. If you’re in a culture where people wear robes and sandals, wear robes and sandals. If you’re in a culture where people wear pants and shoes, wear pants and shoes. If you’re in a culture where folks sing to the beat of congas, then sing praise to the rhythm of congas. If the piano is what most effectively lifts up the hearts of the people to God, then by all means use it. Same goes for genres of music, overhead projectors, amplification systems, etc. As long as it’s edifying, fitting, orderly, and in keeping with the general principles of God’s word, then contextualize to the glory of God.

  12. By the way, this is an important topic, and I’m happy it’s being discussed here.

  13. Bob, I am glad it is being discussed as well. I am still learning what folks mean by contextualization and accomodation. These have always appeared to me to be slippery terms. You said, “…As long as it’s edifying, fitting, orderly, and in keeping with the general principles of God’s word, then contextualize to the glory of God.” I think I know what you mean by this and I am pretty sure I agree. What seems to be happening in some circles, however, is a sort of willy-nilly approach to this. For example, assuming all genres are, in themselves, indifferent, does that mean that all genres are necessarily equally usefull? From what you said, I think you would say, “No.” So, contextualize to the glory of God; always remembering that this means doing it with informed discernment concerning the purpose of public worship and the dynamics involved with corporate singing. I can agree with that.

  14. Mr. Rondo you wrote “a typical RB thinks anything short of the Trinity Hymnal is inferior” How then will explain that the four RB churches that I am very familiar have all printed their own hymnal that is used in addition to the TH? All four of these RB churches would be considered to be on the conservative side of the RB specturm. I also know of at least one other RB church that does not use the TH at all!

    At some point, we must be careful not to break the 9th commandment is such sweeping claims.

  15. Just today, my wife and I visited a museum that recounted the history of German Christians that moved to Michigan for the express purpose of evangelizing the Native Americans. The record was clear – these Germans resisted to dress like the “English” and were set to maintain all their German cultural distinctions. Yet, they did reach the Native Americans with the gospel! Not only did they not become like other Europeans in America, but they certainly did NOT act or dress like the very people they came to reach.

    So, I guess we will have to simply give glory to the Sovereign God for the salvation of the Native American’s in 19th century Michigan.

  16. I agree with Richard and David.

    First, discernment is very important. Our communication of God’s truth, whether through preaching, prayer, or praise must be intelligible, fitting, and orderly so that saints might be edified, sinners might be saved, and God might be glorified. That commitment rules out, of course, an “anything goes” approach to worship. On the other hand, the NT is not like a “Christian Directory” that provides specific detailed information about what precisely is intelligible, fitting, and orderly for our specific situations today. But God’s given us general principles and sanctified common sense. So we know, for example, that communicating in modern English is more effective than communicating in Middle or Elizabethan English. What about genres of music. I think some genres or tunes fail to meet the “fitting” standard either because the mood they convey doesn’t fit the lyrics (which is true even of some traditional hymns in the Trinity Hymnal) or because they’re designed more for solos or duets or choirs than for congregational singing. Of course, tunes or genres inappropriate for one biblical theme or emphasis might be suited well for another. Moreover, I don’t think the NT teaching precludes choirs (Eph. 5:19) or solos (1 Cor. 14:26). In any case, we need much “informed discernment.” And what might be okay in the heart of Seattle may not be okay in Owensboro or Greenville. Accordingly, we shouldn’t just mimic churches like Mars Hill. We should prayerfully and carefully discern how to contextualize IN THE BIBLICAL SENSE OF THE TERM to our particular location and time. Our churches across the nation and across the globe shouldn’t look like Siamese twins but like fraternal twins.

    I also agree with David Charles’s comments above. It may be that a handful of RB churches have narrowly confined appropriate congregational praise to the blue Trinity Hymnal. But I think such RB churches are in the minority. Most RB churches I’m familiar with, even the conservative ones, are trying to supplement the hymns from the blue Trinity with other traditional and some contemporary hymns that are doctrinally sound. I think this demonstrates a sincere attempt to be faithful to Scripture while at the same time an attempt to accommodate in ways that are principled. Personally, I think our movement as a whole tends to be a little overly cautious and behind the times. But I know men, like my brother David Charles, love the Lord and are not trying to be “sticks in the mud” just for tradition’s sake. Guys like David are just trying to care for their flock and be convinced in their conscience before they adopt a given practice. I respect that.

    I do have one caveat with David’s last post. Brother, in my opinion I think those stuffy Germans should have at least been willing to smoke the peace pipe in order to accommodate the Indians they were trying to reach. I mean, come on. If Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo could enjoy some good pipeweed, why can’t we? Especially if it will get us into the tepees to share the gospel. 🙂

    Your brother,
    Bob Gonzales

  17. Now I know why David Charles insists on wearing Lederhosen when he preaches.

  18. Dr Gonzales,
    I didn’t get a chance to address your questions you brought before me on your blog on “Reformed Baptists not doing a good job of Planting Churches”. I’ve been too busy in the past weeks so please forgive me on my late reply. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to address you. I very much wanted to address the issues you’ve brought up.

    Going on the issues of worship. I agree with you that it’s horizontal as well as vertical. But I think the difference between what you seem to imply (since we were discussing how to reach the lost via church planting) concerning the horizontal SCOPE of that edification you speak of is different than how I see how Scriptures views the corporate worship of God’s people. You want to include the edification to the unsaved. And those are good intentions, but let’s think about this. How is the unsaved edified? Are they “edified” in the same things Christians are? The Bible teaches us that that is not the case (1 Cor 1:18). Now unless the Lord regenerates that person, Christians do NOT have the common ground of edification with unbelievers. The Bible teaches us that the corporate gathering of GOD’s PEOPLE, is primarily for the edification of GOD’s PEOPLE. It is NOT to say that we kick people out of the church who are unsaved. But we shouldn’t pander to the desires of what lures the unsaved (which by the way is the sinful nature!) just to “get them” thru the church doors. What we should be concerned about most is that God is up front and center. Now in the modern worships I’ve seen, I have yet to see that! It SHOULD NOT be a question of whether unbelievers will feel comfortable in our church service. Of course they would NOT if we are preaching the Word of God because they are unregenerate (1 Cor 1:18)! But if among those with us that have yet to make a profession of faith AND of which the Spirit has regenerated, then they WILL find edification in our worship. YES, even in singing these archaic hymns that the proponents of these modern movements called outdated! Because it’s the WORDS of the hymns that will bear truth to their spirit! And it is THOSE WORDS that will save them. As Jesus said, my sheep will hear my voice! The Word of God will NOT go void just because it wasn’t wrapped in some modern form palatable to the modern man. The word of God is eternal for all generations and it speaks to ALL cultures and generations. It’s NOT to say that church worship couldn’t be an evangelistic outreach — but it is ONLY so IN CONSEQUENCES to the raw preaching of God’s word. I say raw in that the Gospel is not to be CANDY COATED so that it’s easy for the unsaved to swallow it, nor should the worship be. It is not within God’s design. God’s salvation comes through conviction, not through entertaining.

    If it is not obvious to the readers how contextualization comes in, the topic we had discussed is modernizing the church for the purpose of drawing the unsaved to the church. What was targeted was the worship and how some have argued that one of the reasons RB churches are dying or not growing is because we’re not doing enough to entice the unsaved to join us in church services by adapting to the current culture. This is a danger because our culture is PREDOMINANTLY GODLESS. Would anyone object to that?! I think we seriously need to take heed on what we adapt to the church worship. Motivation to lure the unsaved into our church sanctuary is NOT justification to bringing in a culture to our church services that the unsaved/world finds attractive.

    The business of the people of God is to preach the Gospel. Period. The luring is done by the Spirit of God. This is what the doctrine of Irresistible Grace states and this is what separates us from the arminian’s and seeker sensitive approach to evangelism. We don’t have to do the luring, and especially not by things that the unsaved is naturally lured by! Now it’s not to say we shouldn’t go OUT THERE to the world to speak to the unsaved about the Gospel, but we shouldn’t have to lure them to coming to church. God’s Spirit and Word will do that. We just need to be faithful in preaching the Word and not candy coat it. And I agree that we’re NOT going OUT THERE ENOUGH to engage with the unsaved in challenging them concerning their beliefs and lifestyles. We need to GO OUT THERE.

    I disagree with your quote of Paul’s statements that we are to be “all things to all men” as a prescription to church worship. To do so would be IMPOSSIBLE. How can you possibly be all things to all men, in God’s worship?! The worship of God should NOT be about us, nor is it about reaching the unbeliever, it’s ABOUT GOD. The ONLY ONE we should be concerned of in our corporate worship IS GOD. Not all men! Pleasing men (believer or unbeliever) should not come to the equation of the worship of God. Men are edified NOT because they are pleased, they are edified because of the conviction of God’s Word (Heb 4:12). Paul never spoke those words in the context of worship, nor did Dr. Carson suggest that in the sermon you referred me to (except in the case of foreign languages … which is not the case in our discussion of RB American churches since English is spoken). 1Cor 9 is about Paul’s evangelism to the Jews outside the church. He was willing to adjust cultural elements so as not to OFFEND APART from the Gospel (because no matter what, the world will find the true Gospel offensive apart from regeneration). Many people WRONGLY apply 1Cor 9 to say that we should use culture to DRAW and ATTRACT lost people to Christ. There is a HUGE difference between “not offending” with culture and “attracting” with culture.

    The corporate worship of God’s people should not be directed to unbelievers, nor should it be directed as “entertainment” to anyone (note the difference between edification and entertainment. Not the same thing!) This godless society has put entertainment up front and center; there’s no place for that in God’s worship. We should NOT structure our worship to attract the world.

  19. Bob, maybe the Germans did smoke the peace pipe – hence, conversions! 🙂

    As far as 1 Cor. 9 goes, the context is clear – Paul was talking about social interaction “out there” not bringing indifferent things into public worship services to remove barriors. I think, with reference to local church, public worship, that turns things upside down.

    On another note, would it be sinful to refuse to participate in an indifferent matter “out there” in the culture, even though I knew not participating would cause a barrior to be fomred between me and an unbeliever? Would it be selfish and unloving of me to say “No” to an indifferent thing in the general culture, though I knew that if I partook it would probably open doors to people I otherwise would have no chance at reaching? OK, I’ll be specific, would I be sinning (selfish, unloving) if I did not drink wine at a dinner party where everyone is drinking wine, while knowing that it will cause unbelievers to turn me off?

  20. Good stuff Celou, thanks. I agree that not all accomodation is wise or even lawful! We do need to think hard about this stuff, and I am glad this subject is on the table. I think that the cultural shifts that are taking place around us have brought many of us into a cross cultural situation even though we have not left home. We are faced with many of the challenges that foreign missionaries have been facing for years. Successful efforts abroad have built upon a judicious use of this concept. I think it is hard for us to consider that WE would need to change anything about ourselves for the sake of the pagans around us.

    Of course, God can use a talking donkey to carry out His will. And all of us are like Balaam’s beast to one degree or another, and thankfully God condescends to use us by His grace. He has used lots of mixed up preachers with half truths and broken methods to do his will. There are examples of missionaries who were successful who asked their converts to wear kilts and change to “christian” names… and God still used them.

    Our inspired examples (Jesus, and Paul for instance) show that their deep grasp of the gospel by their willingness to sacrifice considerable amounts of their own comfort, customs, preferences, and privileges to draw near to sinners, and remove barriers in all kinds of cultural ways. Anyone willing drink from the same bucket as the Samaritan floozy like Jesus and then be slandered for it? to sport a pony tail and use chop sticks like Hudson Taylor and be slandered for it? To wear Indian clothes like Amy Carmicheal and be slandered for it? To drink Chicha (spit beer) like Jim Elliot? or to follow orders and be circumcised (no anesthetics! Ouch!) like Timothy in order to open up doors to talk to Jews about the son of God? (Acts 16) Amazing to think that God did not use the word all by itself, but employed those “silly” things to help open up doors for the gospel. Perhaps at the deepest levels the issue of accommodation is so resisted by some because it involves dying to ourselves.

    BTW, I too know a lot of RB churches that now have song books featuring songs outside of the TH, and I am truly thankful for it. Thanks David for that balancing comment. Many of those same churches and pastors have had lots of arguments, “shed blood”, lost members, and been slandered as compromisers because of it too. I can speak from experience 😦 Even Biblical accommodation will put your name in the gossip rags.

  21. Richard Barcellos wrote:
    When the Reformation came, changes in church architecture occurred. For instance, the altar, icons, and crucifixes went and the pulpit was put front and center.

    Hi Dr. Barcellos,
    but these changes did NOT come into the reformed churches to accommodate the current culture. The changes were applied because of DOCTRINAL REASONS. In fact it was common culture then to have crucifixes up in the churches. The people were used to worshiping idols. To remove that was going against the culture. The reformers had to “unlearn” the current culture practices.

    You stated:
    It seems to me that, historically speaking, the church contextualized in order to teach the world something about God, public worship, the gospel, etc. In other words, the church was proactive in creating a climate that would communicate something to the culture about what the church is all about.

    But this “contextualization” came about NOT based on current cultures but based on SCRIPTURE. If you want to convey to the world what the church is about, don’t you want to convey what Scripture teaches? That we’re NOT LIKE the world? To “modernize” the church in bringing in the things that attracts the world is conveying to them that we are like the world. Which is opposite to what Scripture teaches.

    Please clarify what you mean by “It seems to me that some today have turned the historical practice on its head, when it comes to public worship.”

    Thanks,
    Jade

  22. Matt wrote:
    Of course, God can use a talking donkey to carry out His will. And all of us are like Balaam’s beast to one degree or another, and thankfully God condescends to use us by His grace. He has used lots of mixed up preachers with half truths and broken methods to do his will. There are examples of missionaries who were successful who asked their converts to wear kilts and change to “christian” names… and God still used them.

    Matt, God may have used all those things to bring about His will but it doesn’t mean we should condone nor justify the using of those “broken methods”, nor would God be pleased by the way we went about it. Would you condone preachers who speaks “half truths”?! If we study God’s word, and we recognize “broken methods” based on God’s Word, then we should know better to NOT use it! We should carry out God’s will as close as we can to His Word. There’s no excuse for anything short of it! To whom much is given, much more is expected.

  23. Jade, in trying to argue against my point you summarized it well. Perhaps if you read my post more carefully you would have understood me when I pointed to our inspired examples. In the past, as here you seem to lack grace in your postings. The first step in humility is to try listen. I am not your enemy.

    Our job is to be as faithful as we can, which involves what theologians call contextualization. God can use us when we sin, but we should never take that as a license to neglect what he has revealed. We are commanded to imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus, and in context he is speaking about this very issue. I Cor. 10:23-11:1

  24. Matt, please let me apologized if you felt that I considered you an enemy. It’s was NOT my intention and I hope you’ll forgive me. The problem with postings is it’s easy to misread the emotions behind the words and I no such ill will toward what you appear to perceive. But I have great concern in the manner by which we reach the unsaved. I don’t believe in using the means that attracts the world to get them into church. I believe God’s Word and the conviction of His Spirit can alone do that. The power by which people are saved TRANSCENDS culture. That’s what is powerful behind God’s word. Culture is not governed by it.

    Read my response to Dr. Gonzales above. 1Cor9&10 were addresses on the issues of what OFFENDS culturally outside the church apart from the offense that comes with the Gospel.

    I’ll try to be mindful since I had no idea (honestly) the offense you had taking to my posting. But I have to state it where I’m not agreeing with your approach, but will try to do so more gracefully. All that I have meant to convey above was to encourage you (and others) that what may “work” is not justification for us to adapt it. We’ve got to put it against God’s Word. That’s all. There was no intention of offense there. Again, I”ll try to be mindful of possible misreadings and I’ll try to do better in reading your post. And I have no idea what you have posted since my last post at Dr. Gonzale’s blog…. the job has been keeping me quite busy (and the thread doesn’t seem to be within scope anymore). So forgive me if I have not read your offense there.

    Blessings,
    Jade

  25. Jade, I forgive you and love you even if you don’t agree with me. I hope these discussions can help us sharpen one another and grow in the likeness of Jesus.

  26. Matt wrote:
    Jade, I forgive you and love you even if you don’t agree with me. I hope these discussions can help us sharpen one another and grow in the likeness of Jesus.

    Thank you Matt. And Praise the Lord for your eagerness to forgive me! I look forward to sharpening iron with you … well I’ll try to be more graceful about it to the very least! 🙂

    Blessings,
    Jade

  27. Correction to what I wrote:
    Culture is not governed by it [the word of God].

    What I meant to say, is:
    Barring languages, the preaching of God’s word is not governed by culture.

    Duh! Clearly it’s getting too late for me… 🙂

  28. Mike,

    Your Biblical examples seemed to morph in the hands of some of the men who claim to be leaders in “Contextualizing”
    Talking donkey is now “cussing preacher boy.”
    Water at well, now beer at the local pub.
    Circumcision is displaced by piercing that same organ, ink all over, and holes in the ears

    For a humorous take on this subject see:

    I also find it hilarious that some of our churches are jettisoning proven hymns for Matt Redman in the name of being contemporary! None, NOT one of the various groups of people I rub shoulders with outside the church listen to MR or would even consider what he does as good art.

  29. Jade, you said:

    Hi Dr. Barcellos,
    but these changes did NOT come into the reformed churches to accommodate the current culture. The changes were applied because of DOCTRINAL REASONS. In fact it was common culture then to have crucifixes up in the churches. The people were used to worshiping idols. To remove that was going against the culture. The reformers had to “unlearn” the current culture practices.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Jade, your point was my point; so we agree. 🙂

    Also, you asked for clarification on this: “It seems to me that some today have turned the historical practice on its head, when it comes to public worship.” What I meant was I think it wrong-headed to start with the general culture, asking it what would be most non-offensive in church culture, then creating a church culture. I think we should start with a robust theology of public worship under the New Covenant, then utilize indifferent things in our various cultures which assist us in accomplish our task. In other words, I think local churches must create church culture. I realize most will say, “That’s what we do!” and am willing to leave it at that.

  30. I don’t have a lot of time, but I think this statement by Veith is very appropriate here: “The church has always had to confront its culture and to exist in tension with the world. To ignore the culture is to risk irrelevance; to accept the culture uncritically is to risk syncretism and unfaithfulness.” (If you have not read “Postmodern Times,” you really should do so if this is an area of interest to you.)

    I think these general principles ought to assist each congregation in working through this. I also think we need to move away from “RBs think that only the TH is right.” The last time I checked, the RB movement is not monolithic; there are genuine differences among churches and that is o.k. I for one could care less what other churches use to sing.

    jpb

  31. I agree with Jim Butler on all accounts!

    Again, let me point out that the German missions to the Native Americans did not include any capitulation to their culture (beyond the exigencies of language) yet there they are on the pages of history! Native American one with us in Christ!

  32. This train is heading south. Time to get off.

  33. Jim, churches use to sing the Psalms. Should we then chuck the Psalms? The problem I have with modern movements is a complete disregard on history. It’s not to say that we should start living in the 16th century. I won’t go as far as what R. S. Clark proposes. But some of these modern proponents had once alluded to that these puritans are good for christians, but they have nothing to contribute to the evangelism of the unsaved in the modern world. That’s apparently being short sighted. These puritans that we speak of happens to be some of the greatest evangelists, like Whitefield and Spurgeon. I hardly see these men as incapable of reaching the lost in any generation or culture. In fact they know very well about human nature in its depravity which has not at all change through out history. And in understanding human depravity then you would know how to reach the lost. When I read some of their works, it’s as if they are addressing the very society we live in NOW! That’s what amazes me about their work and I think it would very short sighted for RB evangelists to just chuck the work of those who have gone before us (and who are doctrinally sound) and say that they have nothing to contribute to evangelism today.

    I mean look at Spurgeon as a prime example … he didn’t adopt to the current culture of his time and for the most part of his ministry he kept the organ out. But that action did not prevent the masses from coming in! Thousands and thousands came to his church; not because they were drawn by music or his adoption to the culture, but because of his preaching. Now only if men would preach like him, we would not be having this discussion. His emphasis was always on the power of the word and nothing else. Would you call that a church that failed because the church didn’t “contextualize”? Hardly.

  34. Jim, Veith’s book is excellent! And Jim, RBs are just like all other denominations of Christians – messed-up from head to toe, me being the chief of the messed-up ones. We are sinners saved by grace in the process of being sanctified! I know you know and acknowledge that. Every church, and circle of churches, has a church culture they think is best, at least for their situation, many times, most likely, because it works, other times because they think they are applying biblical principles and creating a church culture condusive to the biblical principles of worship. In our very diverse North American culture, many different models of church culture seem to work. For example, the largest church in the area I used to live was a Fundamentalist Baptist church. Men wore ties, women dresses, no boozing, no movie theatres, etc. and God saved sinners through that ministry. They created a church culture and God blessed them, so it seems. Was that church culture like the general culture “out there”? No, not at all! I know, I know, some will say, “But they are Fundies!” OK, I agree; but the point is there are some very large fundy churches in various places in America (with diverse cultures) that give the appearance that God is saving sinners through them and they are very counter-cultural. What does this prove? Well, maybe nothing in itself. But at least this much seems to be the case: Large ministries which have apparent signs of gospel blessing are not always culture-adapting in their church cultures. I would put John MacArthur’s church culture in the same category. GCC does not look, feel, or smell like the culture of the San Fernando Valley, yet God’s blessing is obviously upon them. I am sure the examples could be multiplied. So to conclude, I guess we have to realize that God blesses some ministries that are counter-cultural and even some who deliberatly go out of their way to be so. There is a way to be not like “them out there” and still win them. 🙂

  35. David, thanks for the funny links there.

    Your mention of Biblical examples “morphing” is interesting to me. First, do you have problem with drinking beer? or do you have problems with drinking beer with sinners? I think that is not a morphing of what Jesus did at all. I try to drink beer with sinners whenever the opportunity arises, and use it as an opportunity to talk about the things that God really cares about (not what goes into the mouth, but what comes out) and I know that many of the pastors that are personally commenting on this blog do the same thing, though they may at times hide it from pharisees in their lives. I don’t think we should use unwholesome language, and we are all probably agreed on that. But piercings? is that sinful in every case? if it is, what part of the law of God is that breaking? or is that a matter of the heart? I am not actually advocating body piercings, but I am not going to make judgments where God’s law is silent.

    Second, I wonder if there is a risk that the repeated emphasis (through out blogs) on the excesses of others might lead us to miss the point. I see what I believe is a pattern in some RB thinking (I definitely know that it was part of my thinking) to allow our discussion and even practice to be controlled by the excesses of others. We can define ourselves negatively in terms of what we are NOT. So what if some people abuse the idea of contextualization. Should we let a fear of what “those” people are doing keep us from following Christ? If people abuse grace should we get rid of that? if people abuse the law of God, should we get rid of that? There actually are some pretty radical Biblical examples and commands that we need to deal with if we are going to be consistent in our commitment to scripture. I really wonder what is behind this negative perspective. Is it fear? Do we feel threatened by them? Or is this a part of the “slippery slope” kind of argument, which doesn’t even sound like a Biblical concept at all. Lawful and unlawful would be better. I would love to see discussion on this issue that was not defined by polemics.

    Jim, great quote by GV. thanks.

  36. Matt,

    I do enjoy the malty beverage and I am a sinner. When I drink with unbelieving sinners, my relationship with them is such that they do not think anything of it (wow! You’re a cool Christian! So tell me more about this Jesus!)

    Whatever we may think of body piercing, that Paul had Timothy circumcised is NOT the same as having dime size holes in your ears. As for marking the body, I think that history will show that Christians have always considered Baptism as THE mark to have.

    Beyond all these brother, except for the issues of language, the Gospel simply does not need to be dressed up (or down) or embellished a whit. We can simply preach Christ pierced, and raised from the dead and God will save His elect. There is no need to torture God’s worship or harangue God’s people to be more like their neighbor to reach their neighbor! I have seen an old black man with a bad smell about him reach out to rich white kids in the name of Christ. Now, THAT is true Christianity!

    As to the negative press; my view is it is not those of us who are happy being who we are as (RB) Christians. Rather it is those who want to “contextualize” that are always complaining: Reformed Baptist are legalist, Reformed Baptist are narrow, Reformed Baptist don’t evangelize, Reformed Baptist don’t plant churches, Reformed Baptist churches are dead, Reformed Baptist are boring, Reformed Baptist wear ties ….

    Sometimes when I see my reflection in the mirror I am startled that I don’t have Reformed Baptist horns yet! 🙂

  37. Defining what we are “not” is not unique to RBs.

    http://www.acts29network.org/about/doctrine/ (scroll down)

    I also doubt that it is unique to Acts 29.

    Is there not a fundamental distinction between what we do in worship, vs. what we do as private Christians? Using an example above, if I went out tonight and invited adulteresses to church tomorrow, I would not tell them to bring their buckets of water so we could drink together in worship. If your point is that I should go and witness more to adulteresses, I agree. But if the idea is that the church is failing because we don’t drink out of buckets of water together in public worship, then I have to disagree with you.

    Also, contextualization is just that. Mark Driscoll’s “look” (ripped jeans, printed t-shirts, etc.) would not be contextual to the church I pastor. Instead of getting mad at him or having him get mad at me, we could look at this as the division of labor: he will reach who he will reach and I will reach who I will reach. If I showed up in his garb, I would be grossly out of place and non-contextual. If we are really going to be all things to all men, some of us are going to have to suit up. God does, after all, have His Ned Flanders’ in the world.

    jpb

  38. To everyone in general

    There is no such thing as “American Culture” in music. There are a variety of American Sub-cultures that express themselves in Christian music:
    Classic Rock
    Country
    Punk
    Pop
    R & B
    Big Band
    Hip-Hop
    Traditional (whatever that means)
    Praise
    Old Tyme Hymns
    Blue Trinty Hymnal
    Exclusive Psalms

    Etc. etc. etc.

    There isn’t a single music station in LA that gets better than a 5.0 aribtron rating.

    As far as instruments:
    Piano — generally accepted by all
    Organ — hated by many
    drums — ditto
    guitar and electric guitar
    High School band instruments

    So, in our bid to be “all things to all men” what kind of music will we use? I don’t care what you choose — you will not find a STYLE of music that is pleasing to even more than half of the culture. The sub-cultures LOVE their own style and mock the others.

    My advice still holds. We sing “traditional” (whatever that is) and generally people do just fine — and then listen to their own Mp3 players at home for their STYLE.

    One more piece of advice for everyone. Pull out a picture of yourself from 20 years ago. Show it to your kids and see their reaction. What is COOL today does not REMAIN cool!

  39. Jim,

    I do think that it matters what a pastor wears. To be honest with you, sometimes I think that we Baptist have lost much by rejecting the “Clergy shirt.” There have been times where I have watched a man engaged and recognized as a pastor because he simply wore a uniform that indicated what he was. All the while I sat there uselessly “incognito.”

    As for the young people at MD’s church, I would be willing to bet a ton of cash (sorry not of the Canadian kind) that many go home, stay up late and watch Conan O’Brien who always wears a suit.

    BTW it very cool to see you post here!

  40. David, you are gracious and I appreciate your thoughtful answers. I am not sure if we disagree on what contextualization is or if you are still working through things on your own. At first your criticized some people for drinking beer in pubs, and then you said that you do it as well. My understanding of this concept has never been that people will think I am cool. But that by sharing with sinners in as many indifferent areas we can gain trust and create relationships that will open up doors for the gospel. I understand what you said about the bare preaching of the word, but I disagree and don’t believe your view squares with scripture. Jesus didn’t just preach at sinners, he ate and drank with them. When asked why he said it was because he came to seek and save the lost. His methods did not involve preaching to them without living with them. Our lives are to adorn- to dress up the gospel in many different ways.

    Jim, thanks for your insight about a division of labor. I think that is really a great way to look at it. May the Lord use his people in every sphere to reach people. I agree that there is a difference between public worship and our private lives. But I do not think that means that our cultural context has no impact on our public worship. We are going to meet somewhere, speak some language (much more specific than plain old english), eat some food, where some food, and preach against the sins of our own personal Cretans. We may not need to share buckets with the adultresses, but we will need to share pews with them. A while ago in my experience we began inviting more unwashed sinners to church and there was a pretty strong reaction. People began to complain when sinners with tattoos, or single mothers showed up at worship. They did not want their children to see that. If they did not want to share a pew in church, you can bet they would not be willing to share a meal in their house.

    We can probably debate on just what the ramifications for public worship are, but I think there is no such thing as an uncontextualized Christianity. Even RB churches overseas look very different from those stateside. Our cultural practices even in public worship look very different from the way Jesus would have spoken, sang, and dressed; very different from first century, medieval, or reformation Christians. I think part of this is like realizing for the first time that you, yourself have an accent. All the time it seems like other people talk funny, until you realize you have your own peculiar way of saying things. And “our way,”- our accent is not specifically commanded in scripture. But it is very important to us. I think part of the proof of this is how reluctant we are to be willing to change anything about ourselves. The way WE do things is the right way, the we do things is very important to our comfort. I think that we should pause to think about just how important a lot of the circumstances of life are just as important to others and be willing “please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” (I Cor. 10:33)

    Thanks for all the friendly discussion. Your thoughts have challenged me to think more deeply and go back to scripture for clarification. Thanks. I think we have kicked this around and clarified things so that now we are at the point where really we have exposed some fundamental differences. I’ll step out for now.

  41. Wear some clothes! oops

  42. Matt,

    I have been watching the conversation, but before you step out, could you list what you think are differences among RB’s concerning contextualization?

    This would be most helpful.

    Thanks

  43. Last comment, then I am out. Matt said,

    “We may not need to share buckets with the adultresses, but we will need to share pews with them. A while ago in my experience we began inviting more unwashed sinners to church and there was a pretty strong reaction. People began to complain when sinners with tattoos, or single mothers showed up at worship. They did not want their children to see that.”

    You’re dealing in a different context than I am. This is not a problem at our church. We recently baptized and received into membership a man with a long pony tail who always has guns on his t-shirts. We also have some tatooed members. We even have a member who wears a t-shirt with the “No Aliens” symbol (not hispanic, but extra-terrestrial aliens) with the caption “The earth is full, go home.” Be careful of projecting your experience on the rest of RBdom.

    jpb

  44. Jim wrote:

    >>>Be careful of projecting your experience on the rest of RBdom.

    I think this may be happening with a number of the brothers. When I hear them talk it really sounds like they are frustrated in their church setting and then they begin to blame other RB churches for their local church problems, lack of growth, etc.

  45. Jim, thanks for the clarification. My point actually was not to project or generalize, but to give an example of how contextualization is related to our worship gatherings. Sorry if it came across the other way. That example, and your example, shows that there are cultural issues in our worship services. I also wanted to make a point that how we act in worship will affect how we act outside of worship on this point.

    Steve, I am not sure if I qualified to comment on views among RB’s on this issue. I could make several observations though:

    1- RB’s don’t have well developed views on this. I can’t think of a single sermon (until this year), conference message, or paper that I have read by RB’s on this issue. I think that we need to hear from some people, especially over seas missionaries who have navigated this course.

    2- We do have our own (though not completely homogenous) RB subculture. Some may disagree, but until the last 5 years especially many RB churches in America had a culture that was typically white, middle class, moderately educated, artistically classic, and politically conservative. We are doing almost nothing to reach ethnic groups in North America. You can see my church planting research paper for stats on this. http://matttroupe.blogspot.com/ I think we do this naturally, but the result has been that we take our own peculiarities for granted and expect others to conform with us, or put up, or leave.

    3-Through many conversations with other pastors, members, listening to sermons, and reading blogs I also believe that in a number of ways we have done the exact thing that we were trying to avoid. We have syncretized (or are at risk of syncretizing) our christianity with our culture. Some believe that reverence in worship means that you wear a tie, especially when preaching. Multiply this effect out in a number of areas and the effect can easily result in judgmentalism when people do it differently. Steve, I remember visiting your church and you told me that a number of visiting people were critical because you passed an offering plate and a number of other things that were out of step with some people’s practice. I realize that we are now seeing a situation where lots of churches are changing, but this has been because of a push toward contextualization, in my opinion, and that it has often been opposed.

    4-We have not had to think about it as much as we are now because the culture is changing around us. DA Carson has some great messages on this at the gospel coalition. Evangelism and the 21st century: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/resources/author-index/a/DA_Carson/topic/Evangelism#

    we no longer live in a nation where people share christian assumptions about the world, life, humanity, and sin. The issues of contextualization are actually far deeper than blue jeans. It really has to do with studying our culture to understand how they think and find an angle for the gospel. Because of this, the present issue is not facing us alone but the whole of the western church.

    A lot of conservative christians (not just RB’s) are not fully aware of the changes happening around them because the are not involved very deeply in a conversation with unbelievers. I know lots of people who don’t have very many unbelieving friends, in fact they avoid them- everything is done with christians and so they are suprised that the world has changed around them. I have spoken with numerous RB pastors who have told me about similar problems.

    This issue is important because we approach different cultures and societies differently with the gospel. Think of the difference in how Paul preached to Jews rather than Gentiles. If we only ever preach in our churches, talk to each other at our conferences, and write on our own blogs then there will be little need to adapt our approach. We are already adapted to communicate with one another very well.

    5- the root issue is how we understand the mission of the church. Contextualization only matters if you believe that the role of the church is fulfilling the great commission, and if you believe that the way you live makes a difference in that process. If you believe that the role of the church is simply to be holy, worship and preach the word inside the church then these ideas will seem absurd. The great commission is the only reason you need this concept. If church becomes a place to huddle against the coldness of the world rather than the army of God, then these war time strategies are of little use. The bigger issue, IMO is that we need to have a more clear understanding of the mission of the church as God’s agent to bring the gospel to the world. I believe this is the biggest issue. If people don’t think their inactivity or indifference to reaching their neighbors for Jesus, and doing everything short of sinning is hiding the light under a bushel (Matt 5) wherever that might exist, then this discussion will continue to be a place of friction.

    6- I believe that we/some/many RB’s have a poorly constructed understanding of the idea of “the world” and what it means to be separate from the world. This leads us to think that certain things are sinful when they are not. This doctrine is key in the play out of any Biblical idea of contextualization

    7- I believe that there is a risk of a lack of discernment in looking outside our fish bowl. When we see other people singing different music, or whatever, and we see some area of obvious compromise it is easy to throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to learn to draw fine distinctions in these areas and use the Bible instead of our culture or tradition to make our points.

    these are some primary thoughts without time for more extended reflection. I would love to hear what you think brothers.

  46. Someone want to take this test? It’s True or False.

    1. In a recent study, unchurched Americans indicated that they preferred mor traditional-looking church buildings by a nearly two-to-one ratio over the generic warehouselike structures built in recent decades.

    2. In a recent survey, more than 85% of the unchurched people surveyed said that a church’s theology and doctrine would be their primary consideration in choosing a church.

    3. In a recent book with a forward by Tim Keller, the author said, “The relevance of the church depends on its ability to identify the latest cultural trends and imitate them, whatever they might be.”

    4. In the same book, the author said, “…pressure from church leaders to fit in with the world: we have to.”

    5. Same book, “Not music, not entertainment, but theology-truth. New generations are thirsting for truthfulness, not trendiness.”

    Be careful and enjoy!

    Rich B.

  47. I admit I haven’t read all the comments on this post, but here is an example of the Gospel clearly proclaimed by Driscoll in a place where it is not heard! Ironically, wouldn’t that make it counter-cultural 😉

    http://www.crystalcathedral.org/hour_of_power/videos/detail.php?contentid=4300

  48. The coat and tie was counter-cultural for Driscoll. Good for him.

  49. Great message by Driscoll, btw.

  50. Guys thanks for all the great perspectives and links.

    BTW, David I think you mentioned something earlier that shows me that you grasp what I was talking about. Why don’t you wear a clergy shirt? If it will open up more doors for the gospel you should. I’ll buy one and mail it to you if you will wear it 🙂

    Rich, I like some of the points you were making…or at least that I think you are making 🙂 The point isn’t to be traditional, or contemporary, or groovy, but to be faithful to the gospel and to connect with our own communities. I think Jim was making this point as well.

  51. Matt wrote,

    “The point isn’t to be traditional, or contemporary, or groovy, but to be faithful to the gospel and to connect with our own communities.”

    Bingo. This has always seemed self evident to me, and I imagine, to many others. Perhaps that is why there are no extended treatments of the subject: “15 Ways to be Contextual” because it underlies our on-going preaching. We don’t need to blog about meeting sinners, or Twitter about it, or Facebook about it, because it’s just the way the Christian life is supposed to be lived. When we come across someone in our church who looks down on sinners, we correct them. I like to think that faithful pastors have always been stressing this. I’m sure there are those who do not (you have met many of them), but then, they are not faithful pastors, a phenomena not peculiar to the RB movement.

    If the RB movement has dropped the ball in this area (and I’m not convinced it has), then praise God He is raising up others to emphasize it.

    jpb

  52. Jim wrote:
    Bingo. This has always seemed self evident to me, and I imagine, to many others. Perhaps that is why there are no extended treatments of the subject: “15 Ways to be Contextual” because it underlies our on-going preaching. We don’t need to blog about meeting sinners, or Twitter about it, or Facebook about it, because it’s just the way the Christian life is supposed to be lived. When we come across someone in our church who looks down on sinners, we correct them. I like to think that faithful pastors have always been stressing this. I’m sure there are those who do not (you have met many of them), but then, they are not faithful pastors, a phenomena not peculiar to the RB movement.

    Amen Jim. When I come a cross an unsaved person, contextualization isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but only the conviction to share the Gospel to that person. And the same can be said with most of the folks I know that loves the Lord.

    I think sometimes Christians makes sharing the Gospel far more difficult than it really is. Just talk to the person like you would with anyone else. You don’t have appear cool or some how assimilate to whatever culture. The folks that I have approached that I may not come across often have been more than surprised that I befriend them. I didn’t try to be assimilate, I was just myself. And they were encouraged that I didn’t try to be something that I was not. They see the genuineness in your love for them and your commitment to live up to your convictions because they can see that you don’t live like the world and yet are not afraid to risk ridicule for sharing the Gospel to anyone. That’s what it means to be salt to the world.

    I think the major obstacle Christians have in sharing the Gospel is fear or rejection. But we need to remember, it really isn’t within our power to save folks. The process of salvation begins with God and ends with God. It really is about God’s desire to prepare the sinner’s heart to believe the Gospel. Our job is to be FAITHFUL in sharing that Gospel to all we come across. Before sharing with a person, I make it a habit to pray to the Lord to prepare their hearts to receive the message and to give me courage to share the FULL Gospel and leave the results with the Lord.

  53. Jim, one jpb is enough, thank you. 🙂

    Jade said: “When I come a cross an unsaved person, contextualization isn’t the first thing that comes to mind… I think the major obstacle Christians have in sharing the Gospel is fear or rejection.”

    Jade, I think you are right, at least with reference to me. When I got saved, folks did not go out of their way to be like me in things indifferent. They just loved Christ and me enough to open their mouths. I think unbelievers, since they are created in the image of God, want genuine love. If they smell anything of me trying to “fit in” with them, I think it’s a turn-off to them because it’s not who I am. I think I understand what folks mean about contextualization and assimilation, I am just not convinced that it makes the difference that some seem to think it does.

    Thanks for the iron-sharpening discussion.

    Rich B.

  54. Actually, Driscoll should have worn a gown to be consistent. 🙂

  55. A note to no one in particular and of no particular relevance (contextually at least)

    Mark Driscoll got to speak at the Crystal Cathedral because he is famous. Fame is something they really appreciate. Driscoll has carved out a niche for himself as a “Grunge Preacher” and become quite well known. Now, the Crystal Cathedral, in Orange County, with Robert Schuler, is as far from Grunge as you can get. One of the employees at the CC (who will remain nameless) attends our church as often as he can — usually he can come every other week. He tries to get Sunday AM’s off — and work the afternoon shift. That is a HUGE operation down there.

  56. “Grunge Preacher”? That’s too mild! Let’s just face it, guys. Mark Driscoll must either have a demon or he must be a glutton, winebibber, and friend of sinners. He’s certainly not one of us.

  57. You’re kidding, right Bob? Dictionary.com has four entries for grunge (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grunge). The fourth one is “a style or fashion derived from a movement in rock music: in fashion characterized by unkempt [sic] clothing and in music by aggressive, nihilistic songs.” Though Driscoll is not an agressive nihilistic singer, his attire is at least relatively unkept, except when he preached at the CC, which I am glad that he did so (i.e., preach there and dressed the part, though he should have gone all the way and worn a gown :-)). The way you stated that antithesis does not bode well for either “us” or Mark Driscoll.

    Steve, were you insinuating that Driscoll was either devilish or Jesus? I hope not. 🙂 Do you hate him? I think not. I know you too well.

    Let’s face it, in the judgment of charity Driscoll and “us” are all believers in Christ, stumbling along the way of imperfect service for Jesus and imperfect sanctification by His Spirit. Let’s be careful not to sling at him or at eachother or others, for that matter.

    I am increasingly growing “hateful” of this medium.

  58. Rich wrote:
    Let’s face it, in the judgment of charity Driscoll and “us” are all believers in Christ, stumbling along the way of imperfect service for Jesus and imperfect sanctification by His Spirit. Let’s be careful not to sling at him or at each other or others, for that matter.

    Bob replies:
    Rich is right. I overreacted. I really don’t think Driscoll is demon-possessed or a worldling. As best as I can tell, he’s a pastor who has a heart for sinners and is trying to reach as many pagans with the gospel as possible without compromising the offense of the cross. And I think there are things we can learn from him.

    At the same time, I don’t think we all should woodenly mimic all the methods and strategies employed at Mars Hill. For one, many of us minister in different cultural settings than MD. Some of what he does in Seattle wouldn’t fit or fly where I live in the buckle of the Bible-belt. Moreover, some of Driscoll’s methods and strategies are based on judgment calls and his wisdom is not infallible. As Tim Keller points out, there are dangers in both directions: under-accommodating and over-accommodating. Perhaps there are times when MD over-accommodates.

    Whatever we think about accommodation (and we should think about and discuss this issue), we must not allow it to become an end in itself. Preaching Christ to sinners should be our great preoccupation. Any kind of principled and biblically regulated contextualization should remain in its proper place–just a means to this greater end.

    I’m afraid that I can sometimes get caught up in discussions and debates about the method while failing at a personal level to carry out the mission. What good is it for me to learn how to accommodate and befriend sinners if I never get around to sharing Christ with them? May God have mercy on me! I shouldn’t have a passion for contextualization as a end in itself. Rather, I should have a passion for souls, which passion in turn compels me willingly to set aside my rights and/or preferences and to accommodate myself in principled ways to those whom I’m trying to reach. The great end of it all should be the greater glory of God.

    Rich, thanks for your balancing remarks.

  59. Bob, thank you for your last post. I heartily agree with your sentiment expressed in the last paragraph.

    Thank you all for allowing me to participate in this discussion; I am back to obscurity now and the completion of my MDiv 🙂

    jpb

  60. Bob, you are welcome and you are right – we must think about accomodation. We all do it. We should not make too much of it, nor too little of it. It’s not the cure-all for everything, but it is important and with our shifting cultural tides and fads it is important for us to think critically about the world around us and figure out what becoming all things to all men looks like in our given sub-cultures. May the Lord help us!

  61. I really appreciate Dr. Gonzales’ last paragraph in his previous response. Lately I have been doing some thinking and blogging about cultural relevance and the church. One of my main concerns is this: When people think of an Acts 29 church or an RB church, they ought not to think first of all about a church that is devoted to contextualization and characterized by a culture ‘coolness’ or a church devoted to a historical group of people characterized by cultural indifference and stylistic traditions. Rather, they ought to think, both churches are distinctively like Christ. They ought to be able to say, “That church is inexplicably God-honoring and Christ-exalting. They are the church that has a love for God’s people and a love for the lost which permeates their lives. They are a church more so than any other church that seeks to be like Christ, and it is clear when they gather that they come to worship Him.” Oh to God that our churches would be marked by Christ rather than marked by contextualization or an unyielding effort to hold on to preferential traditions.

  62. There’s nothing wrong with most churches today, that could not be remedied by a sock placed in timely fashion into the mouths of most “Worship Pastor”, and fasting from Pastor Driscoll for a period of time.

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