Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

9 Sep 2014

Mid-America Conference on PreachingOctober 16-17, 2014“Striving Together for the Faith of the Gospel”


Dear Fellow Servant of Jesus Christ:

It seems like every day brings more bad news in this crazy, sin-cursed world. And it seems, at least sometimes, like God’s people are dropping into defense-mode as the world becomes increasingly hostile toward Christianity. While all of this may be new to us, it is not different from the landscape that the churches in the New Testament faced. The Philippians, for example, were “granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29).

The darkness of our day should make us more urgent about obedience to Christ’s commission, not less so. To that end, the theme for our fall conference this year, based on Philippians 1:27, is “Striving Together for the Faith of the Gospel.” By God’s grace, we’ll gather for two days, October 16-17, to focus our attention on biblical truth about building greater unity within and between our assemblies for the sake of the gospel. Incredible gospel opportunities are all around us. We need to sharpen our focus on biblical truths that will equip and encourage us to make the most of them.

I hope you will plan to join us on October 16-17, 2014 for what I believe will be a wonderful time of refreshing fellowship, helpful workshops, and encouraging preaching. We will do all that we can to make it a time of genuine spiritual encouragement for you. We would love to have you join us!

For the sake of His name,

David M. Doran


5 Responses

  1. I love the theme, wish I could come!

    Question though. How will you be faithful to Phil. 1:27 and also your theme: “focusing our attention on biblical truth about building greater unity within and between our assemblies for the sake of the gospel”?

    After all, the point in Phil. 1:27 is preventing different assemblies in Philippi but rather maintaining unity in a single church comprised of all the saints in Philippi:

    “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi” who are to remain unified in one church: “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”(Phil. 1:1, 1:27). They were all in one church (cf. Phil. 4:15).

    Will you disallow other churches in the Detroit area from sending people?

    “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel… Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Phi 1:27, 2:1-2)

  2. Dave Doran


    Hope you don’t mind a brief reply (vs. a long one).

    If I were to concede your point, which I don’t, we would still want to work toward unity between the true churches of Christ in various cities, so the theme would be applicable. You assumed that I was referring to all of the churches in a single city, but I wasn’t. I believe their can be genuine gospel cooperation between cities far removed from each other geographically. So, we’ll have a good time exploring that at the MACP.

    As to your point, though, I think you’ve gone beyond the text in demanding that there be only one assembly in each city (and really stretched it to suggest there should only be one church in the Detroit area which contains dozens of cities, townships, and even villages). You could make the case that there was only one assembly at Philippi, but the unity for which Paul calls does not exclude the possibility of them with one accord sending a missionary to the far side of their city. The text simply doesn’t say here, but we do see such movement stated in 1 Thessalonians 1 and described in those texts in Acts which speak of the gospel spread through a whole region.

    It seems as if you and I take the polar opposite view on this thing. I’d love to see churches multiplied all over this area which are faithful to the gospel and seeking to reach their immediate community for Christ. I think we need more God-centered, gospel-saturated churches, not fewer. May God be pleased to this in metro Detroit!

  3. Dave,

    I applaud you for taking on the topic of church unity and I hope that Philippians will be carefully handled at your conference. I hope that the conference makes much of Philippians and the glorious Savior it reveals.

    In spite of your reply I would still suggest that there ought to be little doubt after reading Philippians that Paul wanted only one church in unity, in Philippi. The first two chapters provide both positive and negative examples of unity coupled with extensive precepts on unity. Not only are these precepts marked by the number “one,” or “the same.” They also can’t be carried out obediently unless all the saints in Philippi (Phil. 1:1) are altogether in one church: they must be “striving together,” “maintaining the same love,” “united in spirit, intent on one purpose,” “with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves,” “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Those things can’t be fulfilled by Christians in separate churches without stretching the words to meaningless drivel. All the saints, not some, are required to do all these things – not just conference attendees from churches, or elders from churches. If all the saints do not these things with each other, they flagrantly disobey Christ (Phil. 2:5).

    The matter of “one church unity” in Philippi is hardly incidental to the letter. The conflict described early in chapter four makes this even more apparent to the reader, for the threat of schism lurks and upon reflection, reveals itself to be the dark occasion of the letter (Phil. 2:21, 4:3). Many students of it have understood that unity is not only one of the letter’s major themes but that Philippians defines what unity actually is. Perhaps this is not so new, for early Christians located the epistle in the canonical section of NT books focusing on ecclesiology.

    The more we study it, the more we see it. Modern commentators recognize that even its opening words “in Christ Jesus” in Phil. 1:1 are to be understood ecclesiologically (rather than soteriologically) due to the inclusion of “with the overseers and deacons. And this is simply but one point to assert that when it comes then to unity among churches, we ought to define what unity is from the NT documents themselves. That would help us define how genuine our “genuine gospel cooperation between cities” really is, considering we make our actual measure of unity among churches in other cities with a very select subset of “true” churches in other cities.

    As far as “demanding that there be only one assembly in each city” I agree that the boundaries of a modern city on a city planning board might be too far apart for Sunday travels. Is Detroit one of them? That’s a separate question than going to Scripture to see what God, in foreknowledge of modern cities, has given us in His ancient word. I’ve tried to passionately express some thoughts on that here.

    I would suggest the onus is on your esteemed conference teachers to show from Philippians how “the unity for which Paul calls does not exclude the possibility of them with one accord sending a missionary to the far side of their city.” More broadly, if we agree the Bible is sufficient to teach us all things God wants us to know about church planting, including geography, then we ought to find positive proof for such an activity as planting multiple churches in a single locale in both precept and example.

    I’m afraid I don’t see it in the NT, nor will “for the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth (1 Thess. 1:8) sustain such a claim. Paul planted the churches in Achaia, not the Thessalonian Christians (2 Cor. 10:13-14). Few exegetes take that verse to refer to Thessalonian evangelistic forays throughout Greece and “in every place,” but rather, a praise from Paul in light of their faithfulness to his gospel and his ministry.

    Blessings on you and yours,

  4. Dave Doran


    I’ll gladly leave you with the last word on it and promise that we’ll all do our best to handle the Word carefully.