Friday, June 29, 2007

Rogers-Yarnell Dialogue on the Great Commission, Letter #3

Centripetal and Centrifugal, by Malcolm Yarnell

Dearest David,

Thank you for the two emphases in your first letter. Your first emphasis, upon faithful stewardship, is laudable and biblical. The same promise that has granted you a sense of purpose has also provided me personal guidance in living. I can only imagine that moment when I hope to hear my Lord pronounce us good and faithful servants. I envision kneeling before my Master, reveling in his presence, humbled by the loving touch of the one who has granted this human being creation and this sinner redemption. You imply that the obedient service the Lord desires of his people is defined in the Great Commission, and in this we certainly agree. Might we agree that such faithful service is best summarized in one word, "discipleship," a central concept in the Great Commission?

Your second emphasis, upon teamwork, a primary part of discipleship, is similarly laudable and biblical. To be in Christ is to be in Christ with other believers. Complete obedience to Christ’s commands necessarily entails working with all others who are entirely submitted to him. Productive teamwork is that which is formed by Christ, empowered by the Spirit, and motivated for God’s glory. Might we agree, then, that "teamwork" is a colloquialism for the church’s activity, and that the "team" upon which we should work together is in actuality identical with the "church"?

If so, let us turn our attention to the Matthean pericope that provides the most complete definition of Christ’s commission to the churches. The pericope for the Great Commission in Matthew 28 begins with verse 16, "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee,into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them." The disciples gathered at the command of Jesus, and his chosen place was at a mountain to the north of Jerusalem. The Master called and the disciples gathered.

The Matthean account of the resurrection appearances of Christ begins with the revelation of himself to the two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They were encouraged by Christ to not be afraid. (Wouldn’t you be frightened to see a crucified man walking around in perfect health, a man whose heart had shortly before emptied its contents on the ground as a result of the brutal thrust of a Roman spear?) The women were also given a command: "Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me" (28:10). The Master called and the disciples gathered.

As they traveled to meet their Lord, perhaps the echoes of Jesus’ earlier discourse on the church in Matthew came to the enquiring and excited minds of these disciples. It was a command with a promise. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (18:20). The New Testament term for “church” is ekklesia, perhaps a compound of kalein ("to call") and ek ("out"). The church is composed of those who have been called out by Christ and in his name have gathered, and he is there. Thus, after his resurrection, Christ called out to his disciples and commanded them to gather at a certain place. The Master called and the disciples gathered.

Only those who were called gathered, but all of those who were truly called gathered. This gathering was of the disciples of Jesus Christ, and he was in their midst. By definition then, at least according to Matthew’s, this gathering was a church. Indeed, we would be justified in saying the disciples were the first members of the first church. Subsequent gatherings are also called churches in the New Testament, but this was a first gathering of the church. The Master called and his disciples gathered.

It is only to the gathered that the commission comes to disperse. The call of Christ is both centripetal and centrifugal. The call of Christ both brings his disciples into one place and then disperses them into the world. More often than not, today, most Christians think of the Great Commission as a call to disperse to all the nations. However, dispersion occurs only after gathering, and the dispersion always refers new disciples back to the gathering. This is why Baptists should plant churches. The Master called and the disciples gathered.

It is common to hear otherwise responsible theologians speak of the "church" in rather vacuous terms. You can hear the indefiniteness of their ideas in such terms as "evangelical church," "ecumenical church," "emergent church," and most tellingly, "invisible church." Where exactly do these churches gather? Our understanding of the meaning of church should come from the New Testament. By etymology and by the context of Jesus’ own words, a church is a gathering. A church is a gathering of those who have been called to discipleship by Jesus Christ. The Master called and the disciples gathered.

Only after the Master called and the disciples gathered was the Great Commission given. Just as the Great Commission is given to all of those who are disciples of Jesus Christ (as outlined in Letter #1), so the Great Commission comes only to those who obediently gather for Jesus Christ. Discipleship begins in the gathered church. The Great Commission is given to the "team" known as the church, and it is to be completely fulfilled by the team working together. When the Master calls, disciples will gather, and we rightly call such a gathering, and only that gathering, "church". The Great Commission is both centripetal, calling disciples together, and centrifugal, sending disciples out. The Master calls. Will disciples today gather to hear the Lord’s commission? And will they then go out and obey it?

In Christ,

Malcolm

Introduction

Letter #1, Two Requirements for a Universal Fulfillment of the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #2, A Steward must be Found Faithful, by David Rogers

Letter #3, Centripetal and Centrifugal, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #4, To Whom is the Great Commission Given?, by David Rogers

Letter #5, The Great Commission is Given to the Gathered Church, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #6, The End-Vision of the Great Commission, by David Rogers

Letter #7, Both the End and the Means are Established by the Lord, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #8, A Matter of Emphasis?, by David Rogers

Letter #9, Complete Obedience versus Hesitant Discipleship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #10, The Universal Scope of the Great Commission, by David Rogers

Letter #11, Freedom, Power and Authority in the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #12, Enduring Submission to the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #13, Obeying the Commands of Jesus, by David Rogers

Letter #14, John Gill on Romans 14 and 15:1-7, by David Rogers

Letter #15, The Illustration of the Hypothetical "Common Loaf Denomination", by David Rogers

Letter #16, A Condensed Response to Your Last Three Letters, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #17, Further Discussion on Cooperation and Obedience, by David Rogers

Letter #18 (Part I), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #18 (Part II), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #18 (Part III), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #19, A Deep Division?, by David Rogers

25 comments:

blampp said...

Malcom,
Sounded like the musing of Dr. Fred Fisher (N.T. Interpretations Prof. at GGBTS) several decades ago.... but, still relevant! May your "Tribe" multiply!

Steve Sensenig said...

I love the tone of this exchange between you two. I don't really know what conclusion either of you are headed toward, so I wasn't sure if I would jump in or not.

However, there are a couple of things in this particular post that I'm not sure I see the point.

The Master called and the disciples gathered.

This statement is completely fine. I just want to establish to what point I understand, so I want to point out that, up until this statement, I have no disagreement. But then it goes on...

As they traveled to meet their Lord, the echoes of Jesus’ earlier discourse on the church in Matthew came to the enquiring and excited minds of these disciples

This is, as far as I can tell, conjecture. There's nothing wrong in and of itself in making these kinds of assumptions, but it seems to be part of the foundation of the point you're making, so I'm a bit unsure if you're stating this as fact. If so, based on what source?

The church is composed of those who have been called out by Christ and in his name have gathered, and he is there.

This seems to be completely legit, based on the text at hand, but then it seems that you go on to place a huge emphasis on the "gathered because they are called" concept, which I assume will play into your larger point in the future. (I'm not sure, though.)

However, the point of the "two or three" does not have to be so much of a formal "calling", as it does seem to emphasize the mere fact that two or three are together "in [Jesus'] name".

In this sense, when Jesus appeared to the women, could that not rightly be referred to as the first members of the first church, by Matthew's definition, rather than the disciples gathering at the time of Jesus' instructions to "go into all the world"?

Strider said...

Dr. Yarnell,
I am pretty frustrated at your conclusions here. I have worked very hard in our ministry to teach people that the Church is NOT just a meeting and here you are making this your main point about Church. Ouch.
So, what to do? Let me make a few observations about the Kingdom of God and the comments section can go from there.
1. In all the parables where Jesus says "the Kingdom of God is like..." He never goes on to say "a meeting". Church is not a meeting. Church is a community. A community relates to each other- and therefore does sometimes meet- but that is not what they are. This is one of the big shortfalls of the American Church. They have defined the Church as a meeting or a building but in the NT the word Church does not refer to these- it refers to the Body of Christ- the people who are in a relationship with Jesus and with each other.
Two- Your definition of Church as a meeting- your word is gathering, I grant you that but I am not seeing a difference in how you apply the terms- is very Western orientated and not at all descriptive of the Biblical Church nor the Church I serve here in Middle Earth. Here, far from 'Cultural Christianity' in a Muslim nation I know individuals who live in utter isolation from others. They are the only believers in their communities. One whom our team ran into three weeks ago had not seen another believer in over a year and a half. He is faithfully following Jesus as best he can in his Muslim family and Muslim town. He is a part of God's Kingdom. He is a part of the Church. He is not alone in his situation. I know several like him personally. They are not sitting home watching football on a Sunday out of a sense of careless disobedience to Christ. They are serving their Lord with everything that is in them. When I meet with them we worship. We love each other. We relate. When I leave they are no less my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I could be misreading you but when I hear your emphasis on the 'meeting' I feel that you are shutting out all those not blessed to be an American like us with a church meeting in a big brick building every Sunday. I know you have traveled and so, perhaps, this is not what you mean. Maybe you are making another point that is eluding me.
For me- to put it positively- the Church is the Kingdom of God. It is His, ruled by Him, and as you said, sent out by Him into a lost and dying world. In this Kingdom we relate to one another as He commands. We love each other- and because we do, we like to meet together- not just Sundays but whenever we can. But the meeting serves us and honors Him. It does not define us. It is not who we are as the Church. I can not proclaim a 'gospel' that says, 'come to our meeting, this is salvation.' Jesus is our salvation. In Him we have life and in Him we have relationship to each other. I have not seen my Father, my Mother, my brothers, my sister, or their families in over two years. They are yet my family. I have never met you and yet you are my family. This relationship is not possible because we have met, it is possible because Jesus has created a new community of which we are both a part.
Well, I guess if nothing else you really got me going today! Sorry for the long rant.

OKpreacher said...

Dr. Malcom,

Thank-you for sharing your view of the text. We do share an amazing Savior. My goal, as well as yours, is to be found faithful. It is very clear the great commission is a calling given to every believer.

In a day and time where Southern Baptists are baptizing so few people, I think you should re-examine your beliefs on the Great Commission. No one is helped by telling people that the Great Commission wasn't given to them.

OKpreacher

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Blampp,

I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Fisher. It is good to hear, however, that he might approve of my interpretation. May His "Tribe" increase, and may I be found in it.

Steve,

The "echoes" language was merely rhetorical (even if poorly executed), but the fact that Matthew emphasizes both the calling and the gathering allows for the theological connection.

We should take a close look at Matthew 18:15-20 before claiming a lack of formality in Jesus' thought. Should not the church take our Lord's every word very seriously? His commands are not optional but necessary for his disciples to know and to follow.

Strider,

People meet. Brick buildings in the Western style are neither here nor there, but people still must meet. For a church to exist, there must be a people. For a church to function, they must meet.

OKPreacher,

Exactly who would qualify as a Christian disciple, if they do not seek to follow their Lord's commands? The Lord calls his people to gather together (cf. Hebrews 10:23-25). Is gathering together as a church not a requirement for true Christians? Dale Moody used to say, "There are no Lone Ranger Christians," and he is correct. (By the way, please don't take this one citation as an endorsement of all that Professor Moody taught.)

Strider said...

Dr Yarnell, I am sorry that you skipped the main point I made. A local church does meet together but that is not what defines it. A man can not exist without a head but that is not what defines him.
The universal church exists. It is His Bride that he is coming for. There are many who are a part of it and we should/must recognize that. Clearly I am missing your point here. I just do not understand what you are trying to accomplish by reducing God's Kingdom to the visible organization you call a church. The only reason I can think of for you to do this is so that you (meaning men like you) can control it. You can not control the 'invisible' church but you can be in charge of the 'local' church- the 'local' church is not a Biblical term by the way, no more than universal. I wonder if we too should just leave it at 'church= the Kingdom of God'.
I want to make clear I am not accusing you of being 'controling' or usurping Christ authority I just can think of no other benefit for the argument you are making.
Please help me here. This emphasis on the local meeting, other than letting you weigh and measure your brothers to determine if you let them into your closed communion or not, how does it lead us to the heart of God?

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Strider,

Brother, I am sorry if I did not respond exactly as you preferred.

First, I am not sure of why you believe I and whomever else you are referencing want to control the local church. It is ludicrous for anybody to want to control it. Indeed, it would be quite dangerous, for it is the Lord's church.

Jesus Christ bought the church with his blood; He established it with his Word; He sends it out with His commission. The church is ruled by Christ, governed by the congregation, led by pastors, and served by deacons.

And because Christ is our Lord is why we must obey His commands regarding our lives and our common life together in His church. He is our Lord and we are His servants. We find what His commands are by constantly referring ourselves to Scripture, asking for the Spirit to illumine the Word for us.

You will have to excuse me if I do not respond to your queries about the invisible church. I simply do not know where it is to be found in Scripture, or anywhere else for that matter.

As for the universal church, which I did not address, it is more of a question of when it is than whether it is.

As for the kingdom of God, you first deny its equation with the church, and then you assert its equation with the church. I am not catching the distinction there.

As for the reality of the local church, I simply ask you to consider every reference to "ekklesia" in the New Testament and ask the Spirit to show you to whom is the reference made.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Strider,

Perhaps you could also help me. What do you mean by "Cultural Christianity"?

In Christ,
Malcolm

Michael said...

I guess the question is, " Is Christ the head of the Church? or Is Christ the head of the churches?"
and, it might help if we consider the "kingdom of God" the collective of all Christians"

And Dr Yarnell, Are you a materialist? (most westerners are by the way)

the "invisible church" is a bit like the "trinity" neither are explicitly in the bible but there are implications.

I consider the "Invisible Church" as the pre-emptive collective of all christians in the world, dead or not. as far as I can tell it does not exist physically (Kind of like God, does it not say that God is a Spirit?) in the present time but is extra-polated back from the future.

on another note, I do believe that in your own words, you just invalidated that muslim man's
belief. I guess he'd better wait for a couple more christians before he can be a true Christian.

Have a good day,
Michael

Steve Sensenig said...

...the fact that Matthew emphasizes both the calling and the gathering allows for the theological connection.

It allows for the possibility of it, to be sure. But you seem to be banking a lot on it.

Additionally, I would ask what constitutes Matthew "emphasiz[ing]" something? He mentions, but how do we know it is to be emphasized?

Finally, I'm not sure why you are reading my reply to be not taking the "Lord's every word seriously". That's a pretty strong statement. Can you explain how I was doing that?

OKpreacher said...

Dr. Yarnell,

Once again, thank you for being open to this form of discussion. In many ways I feel like the beliefs I have held as a Southern Baptist are now being viewed by some in Baptist leadership as not baptist enough. I'm frustrated because I want to respond with integrity, but still stay true to what I believe the Bible teaches.

You asked what makes one a disciple of Christ Jesus, if they seek not to obey His commands. Clearly a person becomes a disciple the moment they repent of their sin, confess Christ as Lord, and surrender control of their life to Him. Proof that this commitment is real is the desire to be obedient to His commands. (Many times I fall short.) Yes, Hebrews 10:24-25, calls believers to meet together for the purpose of stirring each other up for love and good works.

My point was this; the great commission wasn't given to the church, but to every individual disciple. This doesn't mean that I think I can complete this mission on my own, but it does mean that I will be held responsible for what I did concerning the Great Commission.

As far as what role does the local church play in completing the great commission? It is by our service through the local church to our world that Christ is revealed.

Don't worry about quoting Dr. Moody. I think most bloggers realize that everyone has good points and then some not so good points. Be careful what you read and test everything to scripture.

Keeping It Real,

OKpreacher

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Gentlemen,

Let me see if I can try to answer some of your questions. It would be nice if you could answer some of mine, too.

Michael,

1. Either one is a Muslim or one is a Christian; one cannot be both Muslim and Christian. One will either affirm, "Jesus is Lord" (and by that, his full deity and humanity), or one will affirm, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet." There is no such thing as a Christian-Muslim or a Muslim-Christian, either from the Muslim perspective or the Christian perspective. Unless, that is, one is adopting an entirely third religion altogether. Have you seen Dr. Mohler's essay on the Muslim-Episcopalian priest? Where did you gather this idea that one can be both Muslim and Christian?

2. I am not sure what you imply by your question, but I will try to answer anyways. It depends upon what you mean by "materialist": If you mean by materialist, the possession of a body, then yes, I am a materialist. (If you are not a materialist by this definition, then you are not human.) If you mean by materialist, the worship of the material, then no, I am definitely not a materialist. What do you mean by "most Westerners are"?

3. The Trinity has a strong biblical basis (most clearly in the Great Commission itself). The invisible church has no biblical basis whatsoever. Until I am shown otherwise, from the biblical text, I can only take the invisible church to be a mere supposition created through neo-Platonic influences upon the early medieval Christian mind, a supposition taken up by the magisterial Reformers. (Those "Westerners" again.)

Steve,

1. I am not sure I have ever heard of a church that did not gather on the basis of obedience to our Lord. Perhaps you could tell me of a church that does not respond to the Lord's call and does not gather? I would really like to see that. The Scriptural basis of our salvation is a divine calling; the Scriptural basis of our service is a divine calling. The church gathers on the basis of divine calling. If it doesn't gather, it is not a church. If it doesn't gather on the basis of Christ's call, it is not his church.

2. Discipleship is another way of saying followership: we must obey our Lord's commands. That is serious business, indeed! Perhaps you could help me: What part of our Lord's commands, or what part of God's Word, is non-essential for us to take with ultimate seriousness?

OKPreacher,

1. Where did you get that name? I imagine it means either Oklahoma Preacher or Okay Preacher. The Oklahoma preachers I have known are generally much better than okay.

2. Can we agree that the Great Commission is given to both individuals and churches?

3. Could we then build on that and agree that all Christian disciples must obey their Lord and actually covenant (with others) to become a church, or covenant with an existing church?

I enjoy the interchange and hope we can help each other come closer to the truth as revealed in God's Word illumined by His Spirit. It is far more likely that we will understand him more clearly if we listen (and obey) together. May the Lord bless the ministries of each one of you.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Steve,

You asked for clarification as to why I assumed you were taking things less than "seriously". On the one hand, there was this statement by you,

'However, the point of the "two or three" does not have to be so much of a formal "calling", as it does seem to emphasize the mere fact that two or three are together "in [Jesus'] name".'

On the other hand, there has been a great deal of talk of late about non-essential aspects of our belief. You may not have been thinking in line with this distinction; if so, my statement certainly might have come across rather strongly.

And yet, your use of "formal" and "emphasize" suggest at least "informal" and "de-emphasize", which led me to think you were categorizing aspects of our Lord's commands in "serious" and "less-than-serious" terms. If I have misread you, personally, I apologize. If not, I don't think I should.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Oh, and the use of the word "mere" brought to mind the idea of de-emphasis, too.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

One more thing.

Please stop calling me, "Dr. Yarnell."

We are all equal before the cross.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Bart Barber said...

Dr. Yarnell (I'll call you whatever I like),

Great article. We've heard some suggestions that the church, as you see it, is merely a product of Western or American thinking. Considering the writings of folks like Barna and the rampant abandonment of church among Westerners, why wouldn't we conclude that this hyper-individualistic, isolationist predilection for non-church Christianity is merely a product of Western or American thinking?

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Rev. Dr. Barber,

The devil has not liked the church ever since Christ declared war with her as his instrument upon Satan, death and hell. One of the ways the devil strikes back at the resurrected one is through his bride. I imagine the dislike that even Christians sometimes have towards the bride of Christ stems ultimately from such principalities and powers, although it may appear in cultural terms, whether Western, Eastern, Northern, or Southern.

In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Yarnell

OKpreacher said...

Malcom,

1. My name does describe my location and most of my sermons.

2. Yes, we can agree.

3. Yes, I believe we can.

I have a question. Are you equating invisible church with the universal church? I know you are passionate for the local church, but what are your views on the universal church? Thanks in advance.

Keeping it real,

OKpreacher

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Okay, OK. I do not equate the invisible church with the universal church. I believe the universal church will gather at the Lamb's Supper. Is that okay for OK?

In Christ,
Malcolm

Bart Barber said...

"Okay, OK"

snicker…I had to read it twice before I got it.

OKpreacher said...

Malcom,

What a great day of rejoicing that will be.

OKpreacher.

Steve Sensenig said...

Malcolm,

Perhaps you could help me: What part of our Lord's commands, or what part of God's Word, is non-essential for us to take with ultimate seriousness?

I feel like I've just been asked "Do you still beat your wife?"

You have severely misread me, I fear. My point was simply that when Jesus said "where two or three are gathered in my name", that passage mentions nothing about calling. Nothing.

I must admit that I am completely baffled as to what point you are trying to make any more.

I'm going to sit back and watch the discussion develop further before engaging again.

Strider said...

Malcolm, I don't want to be misunderstood on this point: I love the local church and that is what I seek to plant. The Church is the community of the redeemed. Real evangelism is expressed by our love for each other (the church) and it ought to result in more communities of faith. Here in Middle Earth we are trying to avoid extraction evangelism. This means that instead of taking a person out of his existing community to bring him to 'our' church we plant the church in his commmunity so that it will be transformed. I think you and I will agree with the concept of Church as we talk about it this way.
Where we seem to disagree is the present reality of the Universal Church. Our eternal family exists now. This is very important to me for several reasons. One, in my illustration in my second comment there are individuals who do not have a communtity yet. They are alone and isolated through no disobedience of their own. They are my brothers and sisters none the less and when Jesus comes for His Church He will be picking them up along the way- not just those who are sitting in a building with a 'First Baptist Church' sign. You dodged Michael's question because he misspoke by saying 'muslim' instead of ex-muslim but his and my question still stand: Are you rejecting men like these who have no fellowship in a local Church?
Next the Universal Church is important to me because I think it is how God sees us. You and I gather on Sunday with a few people and this is all we can see at once and we say we have been to 'Church'. Paul says that God views us as 'One faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father of ALL.' You and I have never met and yet we are brothers and memebers of the one true Church that Jesus is building. If you come out here to Middle Earth I will bring you into my home and we will break bread together and pray for each other. We will talk about God and His Church and share how we have seen Him at work and in that we will worship together.
What I mean by 'cultural Christianity' is all the ways that we have adopted traditions that suit our culture and then placed them on a level of Scripture. For many years for instance, Sunday School in SBC life was a Church essential. In the thinking of many you could not possibly have a 'good' Church without a Sunday School and yet there is no SS reference in the Word whatsoever. It is a good tradition that God has used in the life of many but it is not an essential to the faith that many SB's believed for many years. So, as I look at the scripture here in Middle Earth and try to sort what I am to be teaching I need to be careful not to teach my culture but only the Word. This is difficult but we have made progress and the result is an empowering of the local church here that is remarkable. The reason I bring it up is because I wonder if your overemphasis on the local church is not in fact Biblical but rather a cultural reaction to problems we have had in individualistic America.
Well, this is another long winded comment by Strider. I hope this one actually answered more questions than it brought up!

Alan Knox said...

Dr. Yarnell,

You said: "I imagine the dislike that even Christians sometimes have towards the bride of Christ stems ultimately from such principalities and powers, although it may appear in cultural terms, whether Western, Eastern, Northern, or Southern." Actually, I have not heard anyone say that they have a dislike toward the bride of Christ. From what I've read, the "dislike" is aimed at the various organizations and systems that call themselves "church". Some have demonstrated a problem disassociating these structures and hierarchies and organizations from the bride of Christ - that is, the people of God. Thus, they associate a dislike of the organizations with a dislike of the church. They are not the same.

-Alan

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Steve,

Apparently, we will have to agree to wonder what the other was getting at. Please do let me know where I might clarify. If you prefer to contact by private email, you can gain that by visiting the SWBTS website and looking at my faculty page.

Strider,

1. As for this gentleman whom you mentioned, I make no judgment as to whether or not he is a Christian. However, a disciple of Christ will obey Christ's commands and His Spirit is pretty clear, both in the Gospels and in the rest of the New Testament about the need for common worship. This shouldn't mean permanently extracting a convert from a culture, but it should mean preferably planting a church in that culture.

2. As for the Universal Church, I point you to my next letter to David.

3. As for teaching only the Word and not our culture, this is my goal, too. However, such things as the reality of the local church and the name "Christian" are not cultural, but biblical.

Alan,

I share your distaste for organizations that claim to be the church, but are not, and for organizations that would supplant the church or its head, but should not. Our hearts are one on this issue.

I hope you will turn your eyes now to David's latest letter.

In Christ,
Malcolm