so what to make of all this?

Today’s church is a mix of all kinds of groups, some of them seemingly far removed from traditional norms. Many of the ‘contemporary’ and ’emerging’ groups look at more traditional churches and say things like “If the 50s ever come back, your church is ready.” (That would be which fruit of the Spirit?)

Yesterday, an event was held in Reston, VA called ‘the Whiteboard Sessions‘. Here is the description of the event:

The Whiteboard Sessions is about the power of an idea in its raw, most conceptual form. One simple idea could forever change your life and ministry.  We’ve invited 8 of the most inspiring leaders in ministry to share one compelling idea in just 30 minutes each. They come from different ministry circles and use a variety of methods, but they all have one thing in common: a love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a desire to see lost people reached. You will be stretched by their thinking and challenged by their insights. The very idea you resist could be the key to God’s future for you. Who knows, you might even find confirmation for the dream God’s already revealed to you. But whatever the reaction, one thing is certain: you will never be the same.

The speakers were described by some of those involved as coming from the Reformed tradition, the Contemporary Church world, or from the Emerging Church – the ‘right wing’ of the Emerging church, that is (i.e., the allegedly ‘good’ side).

Here are the speakers, most of whom I do not know:

  • John Burke, Gateway Community Church, Austin, TX
  • Darrin Patrick, the Journey, St Lous, MO (Vice President of Acts 29 Church Planting Network – Mark Driscoll’s group)
  • Vince Antonucci, Forefront Church, Virginia Beach, VA
  • Mark Batterson, National Community Church, Washington, DC
  • Tim Stevens, Granger Community Church
  • Perry Noble, NewSpring Church, Anderson, SC
  • Ed Stetzer, Director of Lifeway Research and Lifeway’s Missiologist in Residence.
  • Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC

The group is very … eclectic … shall we say?

But what are we to make of this??? What does it mean when a conservative joins in with others of quite a different sort? Well, you can get a little insight from the remarks of the participants themselves.

There are a whole host of videos here, I will concentrate for this blog on two that feature an interview with Mark Dever.

On this video, you really need to pay attention to the question that begins about two minutes in and the answer that follows. The essence of the question is about ecclesiology (the ‘doctrine of the church’ for normal folks). Ed Stetzer asks Dever to explain how he doesn’t mind ‘ecclesiology’ being expressed in different ways. Dever’s church is ‘very tradtional’, but he is comfortable with others applying things in different ways.

In the answer, Dever mentions Bob Kauflin of the Sovereign Grace churches, very charismatic and contemporary in style. Dever says “I can’t say their style is wrong” and that in the “kind sovereignty of God”, the Lord uses all sorts of styles. So as long as you have some kind of preaching, prayer, singing, baptism, Lord’s supper, membership, your style doesn’t matter. What are we to make of this?

Also on this video, see the discussion on ‘contextualization’ starting about 6:30, in which Dever makes appreciative comments of Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren, about 7:15 in. What are we to make of this?

Now… Dever also says some very good things in this interview, as he does elsewhere. But what are we to make of some of these things? Isn’t there some kind of disconnect? Doesn’t Dever’s conservativism (alleged) seem rather out of place compared to others in this place? Watch a few of the other videos to find out what kind of men I am talking about, what kind of ideas.

In the second Dever interview, Ed Stetzer, the interviewer, asks my very question, right at the beginning. Basically, he says, “what are you doing here? what are you doing giving legitimacy to this group” (BTW, Stetzer mentions another well known Reformed fellow, Tim Keller, who apparently is at a meeting with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church as he asks this question.)

Dever says “if I am going to speak somewhere where I think it will confuse someone over the gospel, then I don’t want to do that”… man! But his presence here sure confuses me! What are we to make of this?

And even more…

What are we to make of fundamentalists who are trying to cosy up to Dever and give him legitimacy in fundamentalist eyes? Where is this going to lead us? What are we to make of that?



  1. You can’t have it both ways with God, but you can have it both ways in evangelicalism and fundamentalism. You can’t call down man-centeredness and then endorse it. Warren is as bad or worse than Hyles. The big difference is that Warren is more worldly, lower standards, and uses modern versions. Do these latter observations mean anything? Yes, they do. Popularity. Warren is more popular. Fundamentalists love the warmth of popularity.

  2. Good work here Don.