Golfers know the adage that you drive for show and putt for dough. The translation for non-golfers is that 300-yard drives donâ€™t matter if you three-putt the green on to which youâ€™ve chipped because of your impressive â€“ u-dah-man!! â€“ drive. In fact, if you donâ€™t sink your birdie putt (one under par for the golf challenged), you are not going to be much more than a duffer.
This adage would seem to apply to the Gospel Coalition, though it needs to be adjusted to this â€“ join for show and withhold the dough. According to Justin Taylor, GC is in the midst of a year-end fund-raising effort in which supporters who contribute the most will receive ten free registrations for the GC annual conference, along with ten free nights at the conference hotel in Chicago. (Since I doubt W. C. Fields would have been much of a fan of GC, I wonder if his joke would be that second-prize is 20 free conference registrations and 20 free nights in the hotel â€“ 30 if in Philadelphia.) And so that everyone can benefit from the effort, anyone who starts a campaign page at his or her blog or website will receive a copy of Tim Kellerâ€™s DVD curriculum, Gospel in Life.
To what purpose do contributions go? So far GC amounts primarily to a website/blog presence and a national annual conference. To accomplish this, the Coalition employs three full-time people. According to Taylor, â€œThe Gospel Coalition (TGC) is not a church, but it does exist to serve and honor the Church. TGC is ultimately â€˜a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.â€™â€ He adds that the Coalition is more than just a set of blogs or a conference sponsor but â€œ a place where â€˜humble orthodoxyâ€™ is modeled, thoughtful arguments are made, people are loved and honored, conversation is advanced, and the gospel is appliedâ€”all to the glory of God.â€
Among the benefits of belonging to the Coalition is the Ordinary Pastors project. Since the link that Justin supplied for this endeavor is defective, either GC attracts no ordinary pastors or they need another staff member.
Another feature that caught my eye was GCâ€™s directory of churches (which again has a defective link at Tayloyâ€™s blog). This is a nifty device that shows where GC congregations can be found across the greatest nation on Godâ€™s green (and warming) earth. But the directory comes with this warning: â€œDisclaimer: The Gospel Coalition does not endorse all churches in the directory. We are not able to fully vet all churches.â€
This is a remarkable concession and points to the relevance of applying the golfing adage about putting to GC. Apparently, churches will join GC but will not give. The advantage of this strategy is obvious â€“ you get some free publicity and can draft off the celebrity of John Piper and Tim Keller, but you donâ€™t have to find any money in your budget for membership dues. At the same time, why wouldnâ€™t a coalition committed to the gospel be willing to vet anyone that joins its ranks?
So Taylorâ€™s pitch for GC could be improved if the Coalition offered a better product. In fact, better products exist and they are called not parachurch organizations but churches. In my own case, the OPC can vouch in some way for all of the congregations that belong to its fellowship. Not only that, the OPC can vouch for all its church members who are in good standing. We also have a website with a church directory that allows people to find an OP congregation. We also have lots of publications that are widely available to anyone, whether they belong to the Gospel Coalition or to the Southern Baptist Convention or to Redeemer Presbyterian Church. And we have way more than three full-time employees â€“ just look at our directory and see all the pastors, missionaries, and teachers. And we also have a relatively uniform product â€“ all of our officers agree about infant baptism and follow the Westminster Confession on the Lordâ€™s Supper. And donâ€™t talk to me about the sovereignty of God. The OPC has the sovereignty of God coursing through its spiritual veins, from Van Tilâ€™s apologetics to its commitment to the ordinary work of proclaiming the gospel in the United States and foreign lands. For those interested in a conference, can anyone beat a visit with presbytery or an all-weekâ€™s paid trip to General Assembly?
By the way, the OPC is also having a year-end fund-drive, called our Thank Offering, which solicits offerings for the General Assemblyâ€™s programs and agencies.
If the OPC is a better philanthropic value than GC, why does Justin Taylor want his readers (including Orthodox Presbyterians like me) to give to the Coalition without mentioning better options like the OPC for spiritual investing? And a related question is why do parachurch organizations have no problem looking far and wide for contributors while churches donâ€™t expect non-members to give to denominational or church causes? I wonder, for instance, what kind of budget Kellerâ€™s Redeemer church has allocated for the Coalition in this fiscal year? Or Piperâ€™s Bethlehem Baptist? Shouldnâ€™t a fund drive for GC start with GC members, especially those congregations that have more than others? Meanwhile, shouldnâ€™t the Coalition be circumspect about raising funds from believers who should be giving to their own churches?
Of course, in that case, if church members gave to the local churches or denominations, then GC would have no budget. But since we have churches that need money, and churches that provide services superior to the Coalition, why does GC actually exist? I know such questions might seem mean spirited, further evidence of Machenâ€™s Warrior Childrenâ€™s instincts. But the parachurch folks only consider such questions impertinent because they have no sense of propriety. They have no idea that they are duplicating the work of the church and then taking energy and support from the very churches that they supposedly seek to serve.