Someone will object, “But why can’t we do both?” Fair question but my growing impression is that those who talk most about “exegeting the culture” seem to spend more time doing that than teaching the faith. This has been an issue with the Crystal Cathedral (now Willow Creek) model for decades. “We’ll win them on Sunday and teach them on Wednesday.” Really? Apparently Wednesday has been removed from the calendar. If all these new converts were really being taught on Wednesday would they really stand for what passes for worship on Sunday? They can’t actually teach the Reformed faith on Wednesday with without provoking an all-rebellion and that would kill the goose laying the ostensible golden egg on Sunday morning.
R. Andrew Myers (HT: Wes Bredenhof) reminds us of the how the Huguenots taught native Americans to sing God’s Word (the Psalter) in French in the 1560s in Florida. We might quibble with their missionary strategy (one thinks of 1 Cor 14). Perhaps they also taught them French but Andrew has a passage from Robert Stevenson about the lasting effect of French psalmody upon one group of American natives.
My point is that we say that we want to reach the lost. We tell ourselves that in order to do that we have to “exegete the culture” the result of which is, it seems, to make the church look less like the church and more like the surrounding culture. My concern is that we’re not actually “reaching the lost” as much as we’re shifting baby-boomer evangelicals out of megachurches and other places and then ditching Reformed piety and practice in order to accommodate their revivalist assumptions and baggage. If we are really about reaching the lost, do the lost, the unchurched, really care what we sing? Why will they be more attracted to “Shine, Jesus Shine” than to Psalm 23?
Could it be that we aren’t really “reaching the lost” at all but just telling ourselves that we’re “reaching the lost” in order to accommodate ourselves to the prevailing evangelicalism in order to boost our attendance numbers?
What hath “the mission” of the church to do with “church growth”? Can anyone show me a clear, sane, biblical, confessional case for concern about “church growth”? Reaching the lost? Fulfilling the mission? Making disciples, preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, and administering discipline yes, but “church growth”? I don’t think so.
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