A while back when I was in the hospital just after the birth of our first son Victor, I remember I was standing in the hall outside a nurse’s station waiting for her to come back with some Cranberry juice for my wife, and I happened to overhear just a snippet of a conversation that was going on between a nurse and a very young couple, and I mean very young, who were leaving the hospital with their newborn. The nurse was trying to explain basic infantcare to this young guy, and she said that while mother’s milk would be best for the baby for the first few weeks, that it would be ok to supplement that feeding with a bottle every once in a while if he was hungry or mom needed a break. And so this fellow just piped up, “ok so we can give him Orange Juice and stuff?” To which the the nurse reacted with a horrified, “no, no, you can’t give him orange juice, just give him formula.”
Now of course you can’t feed a newborn orange juice because it is too much for his stomach. His digestive system isn’t ready for it yet, so it would make him sick and he would spit it back up. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with orange juice, but that child hasn’t grown enough to be able to take it in. Eventually, after many months of milk, that baby will grow and be ready to gradually move on to more omplex foods, first cereal, and then baby food, and then eventually solid food. Babies though, do not start out with surf n’ turf, we don’t expect them to.
Building on this point, recently in another forum I noted that when it comes to visitors to conservative Reformed churches, the preaching of the whole gospel is going to be an offense to them, and a worship service that honors the RPW is going to be profoundly countercultural and weird, but those offences are necessary, and in some senses we should glory in them.
But on the other hand, my experience is that one of the reasons the majority of the babes in Christ who come our way as visitors “don’t stick” in our OSP congregations is that we add unnecessary hurdles and offenses to the necessary ones. For instance, just one of the many we can add that I’ve seen alot is not helping visitors to sing. Our unchurched visitors don’t know the psalms and hymns we sing, and 9 times out of 10 they are embarrassed at the train wreck sound they produce trying to follow along accapella especially when they are sure everyone can hear them. Yes you can train a small congregation of committed Christians to sing accappella but you see there is far too much assumption that that is all that our congregations will ever be – the same small group of committed Christians and their kids that we started with plus perhaps a few heroic types who fought their way in. It’s part of the reason why the majority of our church plants fail– we act like we are going to be working with the same group of committed Christians and do little or nothing to help or accomodate the outsiders we are supposed to want to convert. If you aren’t going to add at least a piano as a circumstance, you better find some way of leaning over backward to help the visitor to sing, and this may mean, for instance, replacing 16th century tunes with 21st century ones.
Yes, many broadly evangelical churches have too much milk and little or no meat at all, so the congregation remain eternal babes, but we on the other hand too often take up the reverse policy and never provide any milk and then are surprised and depressed that babies reject a steak diet. Part of successfully planting an Old School Church will necessarily involve providing a diet that has the right balance of milk for your visitors and meat for the older Christians so that both can thrive and grow.