it’s not that simple

Dave said (here and here):

Restore the local assembly to the center where God intended it to be. When your local assembly engages in Great Commission work outside its walls, find some folks you agree with and get busy doing it. Unity is built on agreement about the truth, not by politics. Few things are as political as trying to preserve movements once they have fragmented theologically.

Would that it were so simple. But it is not that simple. In the words of John Donne,

No man is an island entire of itself…

And certainly the pastor and church in question is no island, entire unto themselves. If we were talking about a small church in a small community it might be that simple, but … probably not.

Everyone influences someone else. That’s why our private decisions are important. They have influence on someone.

In particular, Dave is the pastor of an influential church, partly due to its history, partly due to its size, partly due to its location (in a major city), partly due to a particular aspect of its ministry (a leading fundamentalist seminary), and partly due to the impact of the ministry of its current pastor, i.e., Dave himself. When Dave speaks, many people do listen. When Inter-City Baptist Church takes a position, many people on the outside make observations, take notes, and some follow that lead. When Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary invites in speakers, the impact is felt not only by the current students, but by friends, alumni, and observers, both the like-minded and not so like-minded. That is the consequence of influence.

The fact is, God has blessed the ministry of this church and pastor for many years. That blessing enhances influence. Like it or not, that influence makes a difference in what others do and is subject to the public scrutiny, for good or ill, of outside observers. Some decisions will be applauded, others criticized. I suppose that every decision is likely to be criticized by someone, but I am speaking of the general constituency of influence that DBTS, Inter-city, and Dave Doran generally command. There are circles to whom these names mean nothing. But to those circles where these names mean something, they carry a measure of influence, and that influence is inescapable.

I guess it isn’t OK to call this Detroit/Doran circle of influence “fundamentalism”, but it does represent a group of people whose background, philosophy, interests, and ministries overlap and touch on one another in many ways. Some of this is due to the influence of other large educational ministries with overlapping constituencies and sometimes shared ministries (BJU, Maranatha, Northland, Central, et al). Some of this overlapping circle of influence is due to the influence of other large fundamentalist churches. Some of it is also due to the influence of parachurch entities like mission boards, the FBF, and even Sharper Iron and similar on-line communications hubs. What shall we call this group? The “Non-whack-job Conservative Fundamentalist Coalition”? The “Doran Axis”? I don’t know, you pick a name.

In any case, those of us in this group notice what others in this group, especially the influential leaders, are doing. We evaluate what they are doing and decide whether what they are doing is something we should also do. Maybe they have some speakers in that we think we should recommend to our people. Or not. Maybe they promote some new ministry that we think is worth gleaning some resources from for ourselves and our ministry. Or not. Everything that is done is watched, noted, observed, evaluated and decisions are made.

So it would be nice if one could simply reduce one’s ministry decisions to my local church and my local ministry, but it isn’t that simple. It probably isn’t even that simple for me, with a very small ministry compared to Detroit/IC/Doran, but it certainly isn’t that simple for Dave himself, no matter how much he might wish it is so.

The leadership Dave offers matters to a lot of us. The directions he goes matters. The people he cooperates with matters. The things he says matter.

It just isn’t that simple – there is more to the process than simply one’s own ministry and one’s own direction no matter how important the local church is.



  1. Don,

    It seems the points of Bauder and Doran over the past few weeks have been more to HOW and WHY we are to partner with other churches and organizations, not WHETHER to do so. Dr. Doran’s quote said as much when he said

    “When your local assembly engages in Great Commission work outside its walls, find some folks you agree with and get busy doing it.”

    I think he and Bauder are saying look: don’t make the fundamentalist label the thing that you unite around (because it’s not a useful label anymore). Unite around truth and make sure you unite with people who agree with you about things as basic as the local church. He’s also saying to get our own church’s house in order doctrinally, THEN find people who are going the same direction as you.

    The way fractured fundamentalism is going to find true friends to partner with, is not to look to who’s wearing what T-Shirt. It will be through figuring out the local church as a congregation, then looking around for like-minded congregations.

    To suggest that Dr. Doran is advocating some kind of hyper-local-congregationism is to miss his point entirely.



    • It is quite possible that I am missing the point. Wouldn’t be the first time.

      But if you think that I am advocating uniting around the fundamentalist label, then you are missing my point also.

      Perhaps others can shed more light on this. Even Dave himself!

      Don Johnson
      Jerimiah 33.3

  2. Not saying that at all. Maybe you’re missing my point about missing the point. :-) To affirmatively state what Dr. Doran is communicating, does not (necessarily) make you a target of his criticism.