I hope you're not suggesting that this is what I'm suggesting.
If I may explain, the fact is that there are more people who need to be ministered to by the gospel than the current number of good gospel-preaching churches today. I live in San Diego and attend a PCA church. It is a large, metropolitan area which needs good churches throughout the area.
Our strategy is to plant as many churches in the area as possible. We don't want to set up one big church downtown and have everyone commute to it, as is the mega-church model. Many churches within the surrounding neighborhoods is a better way to reach people for the gospel. It is NOT about, as I think you are suggesting, giving people what they want. It is NOT a seeker-sensitive model.
So far, our church has planted eight locations in the county, but our church recognizes that the PCA does not have enough resources to effectively reach all of San Diego county. Therefore, we support and partner with other like-minded gospel-centered churches that are not in the PCA.
Others may think that having one perfectly WCF-complaint, exclusive-Psalter church in a major city is enough for God's word to reach people, but I don't think so.
No, that's not what I'm suggesting, I was just using the example to make a couple of points. First, although the model I was suggesting might be successful, it presupposes that issues like polity, worship, and doctrine are more the result of tradition and preference than anything else, and that it doesn't really matter what we practice in regards to these things, as long as the gospel is being preached. It presumes that the Bible doesn't teach things about them and that God doesn't really care much about them at all. They may be important to us, but they aren't important to Him. If I believed that, I'd cease to be a Presbyterian immediately, because I'm not Presbyterian because I was born into it, or I happen to like it's traditions. I'm a Presbyterian because of my conviction that it is the best expression of the theology taught in the Bible - and yeah as irritating as we are to the world I'm a Puritan, not a Latitudinarian, when it comes to theology.
As it so happens, I believe many Pentecostal and even Anglican churches preach the gospel, but I also believe that their worship is unbiblical and produces a harvest of bad fruit. Frankly I don't want to use the resources that the Lord provides to us to teach people Dispensationalism, Arminianism, Pentecostalism , and so on, even if a gospel presentation is tacked on. I don't want to have started churches where there are no elders, or where the Minister is appointed by a Bishop, or where there is no Confessional statement by which the Minister is held accountable, or a constitution that protects the rights of members and provides them the ability to receive a fair trial and even an appeal. I don't want to start a church whose governing body has no higher court keeping them accountable via review and control, and so on.
To put it quite simply, if I were able to plant churches of any stripe, I would be forced to say that the 2000 Puritan ministers who chose to be kicked out of the Ministry in 1662 because of their refusal to accept the Act of Uniformity were wrong, and I don't, or that Jenny Gedes should have bit her tongue and stayed on her stool. They said that things like church government, worship, Christian liberty and so on are not things we should compromise on in order to see that the gospel gets preached.
Now before someone misunderstands me, I have had wonderful fellowship with more Pentecostal, Baptists, Independent Fundamentalists etc. brothers and sisters in Christ than I can count, and I'm sure I'll see them in heaven, but while there is much we agree on, I have no desire to spread abroad their theological distinctives, some of which, I consider downright dangerous (Pentecostalism in particular). And lets face it, how could I in all seriousness say that I subscribed to the idea that as WCF 28.5 says "Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance" and then plant churches that do exactly that.
Now I'm not saying I want just one Presbyterian church in every city, I'd like to see many planted. I want to see as many solid OSP churches planted as we can.
Well said, Andy. Why this is so hard for some to understand this I don't understand, unless they really believe (whether they admit it or realize it or not) that ecclesiology really is optional, that the Bible doesn't definitively say anything about it. Again, there is more to being Reformed than just accepting the Five Points. This is the Puritan Board, not the Latitudinarian or Broad Evangelical board.
The untenability of "let's all play nice and win the whole wide world for Jesus while we downplay our doctrinal distinctives" was demonstrated the other week when probably the most outspoken advocate of this view posted a statement of bare minimal evangelical doctrines as an example of a statement those with differing views could subscribe to in cooperating on the mission field. The statement asserted "believer's baptism" by immersion.
The first church I joined after being converted was Wesleyan. I believe the gospel is preached there, and Wesleyan distinctives, especially on soteriology and particularly sanctification, are NOT emphasized as the pastor doesn't believe in a 2nd work of grace, etc. Nonetheless as a convinced Presbyterian I do not support this church with my gifts and wouldn't support planting another, even though it does preach the gospel.
As a convinced Presbyterian I say: Let the Presbyterians be Presbyterians, Baptists be Baptists, Anglicans be Anglicans, Pentecostals be Pentecostals, etc. Away with calls for "evangelical reunion" that exalt unity at the expense of truth. This pragmatic, relativistic spirit of planting as many churches as we can provided they subscribe to some bare minimum evangelical standard serves only to suck the marrow out of Geneva, Canterbury, Wittenburg, etc.
Furthermore, to think that a church could openly support others that differ with it and maintain it's own distinctives for long is unrealistic. I submit that such a church that does this will not maintain its distinctives for long since it has demonstrated how unimportant they regard them by their actions. But some it would seem would be happy with that outcome, believing as they do that ecclesiology (and in many cases, soteriology) really doesn't matter after all.