on the churchless church

Let me start this rejoinder to Kent by noting that everyone has busy days, and I expected yesterday to be one for me, but it turned out it wasn't -- so I had some time to devote to this meta. Kent, as we shall see in his response, didn't have that luxury, so those who thought less of him for doing things other than come here to blog need to relax.

Thus we should accept Kent's explanation of himself at face value and cut him some slack:
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.
And let me say, these are all honorable past-times -- all honorable pursuits. And they are also an interesting insight into Kent the real person rather than Kent the guy who comes to this blog to flog what he sees as the excesses of other Christians, but we will get back to that.
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), ...
Which, of course, is an interesting affirmation for a guy who asked only one non-rhetorical question in his comment, yes? The only non-rhetorical question in Kent's comment was this one:
Where in Scripture is that concept?
"That concept" meaning "music will 'help' the Gospel".

Now, here's the thing: my post was responding to Kent's overall failure to really grapple with the question of what church should look like. And I received his response in the context that he's the same guy who, when I posted the "of the Church" section of the LBCF, responded with a somewhat-point-missing criticism of that document as if that wasn't the historic baptist position on what the church is and ought to be. So when he starts decrying "music" and "greeters" and "slick marketing", there's context for reading him a little deeper than as if that was his first comment on this subject ever.

And, factually, the question "Where in Scripture is that concept?" is actually answered in the meta.
...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.
Oddly, I didn't call Kent a "fundamentalist". I said:
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.
And let's be honest -- Kent has openly argued against the idea of a church universal at TeamPyro; he has frankly criticized all exhortation that people should first love their churches before they try to judge or leave their churches; he is also -- however "scholarly" a spin he wants to put on it -- KJVO. There's no question about these things -- so to say I have "misrepresented" him is, in the best case, self-flattering.

As for treating me "nicely", I'm sure that's how he sees it. I don’t think I said otherwise.
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 Blog 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.
Here's the rub, Kent -- you say you hold the same position as Doug Wilson on this matter, but let's think about that claim. Does Doug Wilson say that translations made from the eclectic text are "perversions"?

That would be the jumping-off place for me in comparing you two. Doug's version of "KJVO" is a function of his presbyterian view of the authority of the church. Since you simply can't and don't share that (you're a Baptist, dude, of a particularly non-presbyterian stripe) -- and you instead demand (as your blog plainly demonstrates) that preservation cannot be separated from inspiration -- your position looks a lot less like Doug's than you need to make your self-defense here work out.
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.
What I really like about Kent is his willingness, on the surface, to open Scripture to start his thoughts. What leaves me a little flat is the way he handles the Scripture once it's open, and what he's willing to do to others with it as he goes. I am sure he believes that about me as well.

But that said, who would deny Kent's initial affirmation here? As in his original comment, it's completely a non-issue. We agree: the Great Commission says "go". We go.

But Kent tries to leverage this simple truth into a theology of worship -- when the passages he cites are not about worship, and especially not about post-temple completed-work-in-Christ NT community worship. But Kent does do something here which the reader ought to take note of: he says that what happens in community worship is not the same thing as evangelization. Keep that in mind as Kent tries to tag other epithets to my argument, below.

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.
Let's point something out: I didn't say, "Kent's church is a bunch of frozen chosen who never do anything for Christ." I said, "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." That is, Kent, as he expresses himself at the blog. No mention of Kent's church here: active mention of Kent's post. As in, that's what I cited.

There's no way to judge Kent's church: only a way to weight what he has said here and elsewhere at TeamPyro -- and that's what I have criticized. Kent thinks that evangelicalism has jumped the shark and does all kinds of extra stuff? Yeah OK: I think Kent's counter-argument -- given what he actually says -- is that we should do nothing in community worship except sit and listen to preaching. From the King James.

And let's point something out here as well -- notice how Kent has now leaped into the accusation that doing more than that in community worship "can change the nature of the Gospel". As if singing to guitar accompaniment rather than piano has any effect on whether the Gospel is being preached -- where's the chapter and verse on that one, Kent?
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.
In my first draft here, I was going to let that one slide, but it's simply too obvious to ignore. Where did I say anything about "anesthetizing" anybody? Where did I say that was right? But what I said was, in fact, that there is a difference between adopting a method which makes the Gospel a side-dish and preaching the Gospel in such a way that people become greeters, and singers, and preachers, and lovers of people. Kent's original comment frankly condemned any of those things as superficial and falsifying of the Gospel – and that's complete hokum.
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.
Listen: I take at face value Kent's willingness to be a preacher in a lost city. What I object to is Kent's blanket condemnation of everyone who does it differently than he does. Decorating a comment with "Rom 1:16" doesn’t change the fact that what Kent has said in fact denies the power of the Gospel – it denies that the Gospel can be preached in a cultural idiom where people sing because they're happy, they sing because they're free because God's eye is on the sparrow and they know He watches … um, we – but maybe instead of singing it that way, they sing Chris Tomlin's "Forever".

Does Kent live differently than he argues here? I'd say "good on him" for doing it – but then we come back to his argument and have to ask ourselves if he's serious about it or not. I'd rather he ditch the bad arguments and live well – in fact, I'd congratulate him for it.

Here's the really bizarre thing about Kent's reply: he wants to make the evangelization/edification distinction in his initial remarks, but then to forget that's what he as already affirmed.

Kent: if you're right in the first place and we have to separate evangelization from edification, community worship is a place where we are speaking to the regenerate, for their sake. Your preaching on Sunday Morning, then, is not an evangelization process: it's edification. And in that, if you are underscoring what God hath said to the people God hath called, why is it wrong to do that using a song written last week rather than a song written last century?

You can't make the ev/ed distinction about worship -- expanding the right-minded view of a closed table into a wrong-minded view of a closed community experience -- and then go off about how "methods" are wrong in worship time. Well, you can -- you just contradict yourself.

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.
What are the right effects of the Gospel, Kent? For example, is vigorous singing worship using a contemporary musical idiom a "right effect of the Gospel"?

If it's not, then what has happened here is that you have defined a narrow band of activity as "Gospel culture" in an anti-biblical way. How do we know? Because I am certain the apostle Paul never sang one verse of "Amazing Grace", and never used a piano or organ -- and you do.
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?
Your ev/ed distinction does this, and it was implicit in your original remarks because it is implicit in your view of the church.
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.
Let's not let this one get by, either: I said "an invitation methodology" which Kent transposed into "the invitation methodology".

There is no question about one thing: the NT demonstrates to us plainly that we are not to leave people hanging after we have proclaimed to them that they should know for certain that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. Our job is to then instruct or invite them to repent, believe and be baptized – that's the end of Acts 2 if you need to check the work here. But it is also plain in the NT that we are ambassadors for Christ who plead of His behalf (2 Cor 5 for the fact-checkers). This implies an invitation -- that is, as Webster's says, "a formal request to be present or participate".

Do you need 75 verses of "Just As I Am" to do that? Yeah, prolly not. But when you proclaim the Gospel you also invite the lost to taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Even Kent does that – he simply doesn’t like the ways others do it. And that, frankly, is my beef: his narrow-band view of taking the Gospel to people.
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.
So you do it – you have friendly people who greet visitors – you just think that doing it for the sake of preaching the Gospel and growing your church is wrong?

... um ... Do I need to unpack that?
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.
I see. Worshipping in public is now the equivalent of Byzantine Orthodoxy. That, Kent, is the kind of statement you ought to think about a little more thoroughly before you post it as a public opinion.

I'd love to see your extended commentary on the propriety of Spurgeon preaching in Royal Surrey Gardens Hall or on the propriety of Grace Community Church's facilities.

Here's the thing Kent: on the one hand, you're the kind of guy who will (rightly) get on about how worship is to God alone for His glory alone – but after you get over that, you want to also say, "in a hovel which we didn’t spend a lot of money on. Clean, neat, orderly, inexpensive."

Either we are giving our best to God because He deserves it, or not, dude. That is: it's one thing to toss $5 million on a building in the hopes that it will attract more people and then forget the Gospel ought to be the centerpiece, and another to preach the Gospel until you have to run 7 services over 2 days to facilitate all the people who are coming, and then use the money they are giving to build a facility which will get them all in in 2 or 3 services. The latter is beautiful and an expression of how powerful the Gospel is; the former is crude and denies the power of the Gospel. The building is not the issue: whether the building is the objective or the consequence of the community is the issue. You miss that broadly.
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.
Holy Mackerel! We'll get to the rest of this in a minute, but this one is a real keeper, Kent – especially given your evangelism/edification paradigm.

Let's start with your proof-texts, and then work out only one standard deviation from there.

Col 3 looks like this in the KJV:
    12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Sure: Paul says "singing ... to the Lord" here without any doubt. But the context here is that they are singing to the Lord for the sake of each other. Its objective is to let the word of Christ dwell in everyone richly – not simply to give God His due.

But, as I said in my original post, you reject the idea that there are 3 kinds of musical expression here, and they are of different types, different degrees. What Paul is plainly –not- saying here is, "sing from the hymnal, only from the hymnal, and nothing but the hymnal". What he plainly –is- saying is that by all means necessary edify each other in the Lord – not just in v. 16 but in the sense of the whole passage.

And in that the object of worship is God, but we benefit from doing it: we receive something when we are doing the "by any means necessary" part. That's Paul's point in Col 3 – not to limit the scope of a hymnal which isn't even written yet in a language which isn’t even spoken yet.

As to Eph 5:
    17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
That issue of "speaking to yourselves" is almost wholly overlooked by Kent, as is the matter of what kind of heart it takes to "make melody".

See: in the world of Kent's argument – whether this is the world he lives in or not – when people sing for joy, sing out of thankfulness, and sing in a way which doesn’t just engage their mind and spirit but their heart and soul, these are somehow bad people – because, apparently, they have their own likes and dislikes in mind rather than only God's.

If Kent's point is that we shouldn't happy songs for the sake of attracting people with a back-beat, that'd be fine – but plainly he's taking it farther than that. His point is that any time we don't sing only the exalting hymns and psalms, we are out of the worship pocket – but what about Psalm 6? Sure: the Lord is the deliverer, but that Psalm is about David's troubled state. Can we not sing Psalm 6 in church?

If you say, "It's inspired: sing it," well – what about songs like Ps 6? What about songs that demonstrate our need in light of our Lord the deliverer? Blasphemy? Or like a psalm -- which is to say, a spiritual song.

There may be ten-thousand mentions of songs "to the Lord", but when we start looking at what those inspired versions of songs say, we have to have a little broader understanding of what it means to sing a new song, to sing to the Lord.
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."
Well, Kent, again you conveniently revert to your ev/ed distinction, but here's the problem: it says plainly in 1 Cor 14 that it is far more likely that if we are edifying the faithful, we are also evangelizing the unbeliever. You know: when Paul says to put a leash on the spiritual gifts and get serious about love and "prophecy", his point is clear that the objective of corporate worship is lifting up God in a way that edifies the believer with the hope of evangelizing the unbeliever. Can you only do the last part and hope to do what Paul says here? Certainly not. But can you only do the first part and not hope for, not intend, and indeed not expect the consequences that Paul says are right and good?

You may here say, "well, Paul isn’t talking about singing here." That's myopia - intentional near-sightedness - especially if you will defend the way you interpret the great commission. If you can interpolate the call to evangelize all people into a demand for closed worship, it is a far smaller and simpler rational jump to move from the use of spiritual gifts to the use of music.
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.
Let's keep in mind, Kent, that even in defending you own position here you want to draw a false distinction between edification and evangelism in worship. Let's also remember that it's you who has lavished condemnation on anyone who doesn't do it your way.

You eliminate the cart of the church from the horse of the Gospel by eliminating any praxis which expresses relational Christian virtues in a way which you don't like. You go too far in your argument -- and I suggest that you probably can't live as you argue. It's not possible because you live in an English-speaking culture which is 100 times more economically and politically stable than the church Paul wrote to, and therefore inherently expresses itself differently than those churches.
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.
I admire, at least, your ability to stay inside one theme, Kent. Look forward to your next response.