I want to start my post with the following question:
What is the purpose of a church service?
- For the purpose of drawing unsaved people to our gathering so that the Gospel can be presented to them?
- A place and time for believers to be gathered together to worship and pray together, be taught, equipped and sent out to evangelize the world?
I personally lean toward answer 2. However, to be honest with you, no matter what yours or my answer is, the fact is that most churches are doing a poor job at both.
So here’s my extremely unpopular rant…
What is the deal with the obsession with having “Seeker-sensitive” churches? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we should present the Gospel in a way that even a child can understand. I also believe HIGHLY in doing things with excellence. Yet I keep hearing people talk about toning down our worship, and finding ways to make church a more comfortable place for sinners to come and stay.
I used a picture of Lakewood Church so that you know, I’m not picking on “non-pentecostal” churches. This is happening in churches of all denominations and sizes. Pastors are replacing a message from the Lord with lessons on how to have a happy life, and putting an encounter with the presence of God into a 10 minute window to keep those who want to be in and out of the building in less than an hour happy.
Here’s two reasons why I have a problem with this:
1) Our programs and our frills can never replace the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Our focus needs to be on Spirit-sensitivity and less on being almost politically-correct. Was Jesus politically correct? Did He (or the apostles for that matter) ever soften what He had to say about sin? Of course they approached everyone with love – but they never held back things like what Jesus said to the woman at the well who had 5 husbands (I don’t even read about Jesus having a concern about whether she would run away offended).
2) We have replaced personal evangelism with a program that we call a church service. I believe that the purpose of the church service is for Worship, Prayer, and the ministry of the Word (through teaching, preaching, exhortation, etc). Never is the focus to be on ourselves or those who are visiting, but on The Lord and on how we can better serve Him! If a sinner comes, he or she will witness the Presence of God that is made manifest in the atmosphere where the Spirit is made welcome. They will also witness the fellowship, love, and testimony of the goodness of God. This is where the opportunity to draw them in is so great.
I am by no means bashing anyone’s style of worship. I am just raising my eyebrows at what I call “misplaced focus”. We’ve replaced relationship with church attendance, worship with nice music, and personal evangelism with an invitation to a soft-sell church service (I could go on). I’m moving away from the thought that the church service is where evangelism is most effective. Think about it, it’s just plain lazy to invite someone to church as opposed to share Jesus with them. Please note, I don’t consider massive evangelistic crusades (especially in places where people have never heard the Gospel) a part of what I’m talking about – these provide a totally different atmosphere and different situation than the weekly church service.
If in the church service, we create deeper relationships with the Lord through worship, prayer, and the Word; we’ll create stronger Christians who are excited and well-equipped to share their faith with people who need a Savior. Then when that person comes to the church service, all of the stuff we don’t do because “people will think it’s weird” would make sense to them.