is the church for believers or unbelievers? :: starbucks, the gospel, and outsiders among us

February 4, 2010

I wrote an artice in October 2009 called “Rick Warren is not the anti-christ ::  seeker sensitive cow tipping” that generated heavy traffic and a long string of comments.  I tried to make the case that, whether a church is “seeker sensitive” or “traditional” or “contemporary” or “fundamentalist,” there are sacred cows (untouchable ideologies and methodologies) in most local churches that could stand to be let out of the barn – for the good of the Church as a whole.  It was a call to unity – not sloppy doctrine – but true Biblical unity around the core truths of the Christian faith.  Lots of opinions were shared about church, and how to “do church.”  But the money quote from my critics was the following:

“The church is for believers, not unbelievers or seekers.”

Wow.  Really?  In your heart of hearts, is that what you really believe?  All this is for us, about God loving us, to encourage and save us.  Just for us.

I understand that you can make a Biblically supported argument for gathering together an assembly of the saints for the purpose of worship and revelation of scripture.  Absolutely.  But there is also ample Biblical evidence for making accommodations for unbelievers in your gatherings.  In a discussion about the gifts of tongues and prophecy, Paul addresses this in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 22, which starts with, “…if unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your church meeting…”

And is this not what we all should be longing for?  For unbelievers to come in to our church meeting?  To me, it almost seems ridiculous to think any other way, in light of Jesus’ two most compelling directives to His people: (1) The Great Commission in Matthew 28 to “Go and make disciples…” and (2) His emphasis on both loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves as the two greatest commandments near the end of Matthew 22.  Were these commandments given to us only as individuals, or as a collective?  In other words, if your church decides that the gathering of believers together in church is only meant to serve, encourage, exhort, and facilitate worship for the already convinced, then the only way to fulfill these commandments is to do so as individuals, OUTSIDE of regular church activity.  Do you believe that?  Does the Bible teach that?

My Pastor tells a story about his first visit to Starbucks… a few years ago, now.  Starbucks.  Perhaps the most inviting environment on the planet.  And yet Bob had never been there before.  He didn’t know the lingo.  He felt surrounded by people who knew the routine – insiders who knew their way around.  They knew the difference between a macchiato and a frappuccino, espresso vs. latte.  Bob was an outsider.

As he stood in line, listening to the insiders order their venti half-caf double shot hazelnut macerena’s with whip, his palms began to sweat.  Am I going to make a fool of myself?  Slowly, he worked his way forward to the counter, where he was just able to blurt out… “Coffee!”

What kind sir?

“Uh… Black!”

Tall, Venti, or Grande?

“Um… regular?”

Thankfully, Bob left with a delicious tasty beverage, and a sigh of relief.  And, he’s even become a huge fan of Starbucks coffee.  He can order with the best of ’em now – no meds needed.  And you know what made all the difference?  He went for the first time with a friend. A buddy walked with him through the line.  Introduced him to Starbucks.  Otherwise, how would he know the greatness that is the Starbucks coffee experience?  Bob might have NEVER gone in there on his own.  It wasn’t his crowd – wasn’t his scene.  Sure he went in seeking a great cup of coffee – he was pretty sure he could find one inside the doors of Starbucks, but going in on his own was a little daunting.

Please tell me this parable (true story) has connected the dots for you.

At Living Hope Church, believers gather to worship – to learn – to hear the word of God – to receive encouragement and exhortation – to be reminded of the Gospel.  But the Church isn’t for believers.  The Church IS believers.  And as a Body, our focus ought to be OUTWARD – on the nervous, uncomfortable, lonely, broken outsiders who need far more than a good cup of coffee.  They need to meet Jesus.  And how will they ever meet Him if they aren’t introduced?  And how will they ever be introduced if the local church puts a huge “insiders only” sign in the front door?

Local church – preach the fullness of the Word without compromise.  Let God’s truth penetrate and pierce.  He does the saving after all.  But for the love of God (and the love of people), make your church welcoming to the outsiders among you.  The stakes are sobering.  And thrilling.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  – Philippians 2:3-4

Where do you fall on this? Is your church eagerly inviting outsiders into your gatherings, walking with them through the process, or do they just mess it up for the insiders?

 

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

20 responses to is the church for believers or unbelievers? :: starbucks, the gospel, and outsiders among us

  1. That’s exactly said! Praise God for UNITY!!! U N I in it Together my brother in Christ! I cannot make an unbeliever come to the doors of my church. But as a daughter of the Almighty One, I can practice His teachings, be prayerful for the unbeliever, and be good n ready when they do arrive. To be of service when called on by Him.

    • Angie, you make my day. You are like a sparkler – but you don’t burn out. I love you, and I love that you guys are at Living Hope! Bless you sister! Keep shining…

  2. >Wow. Really? In your heart of hearts, is that what you really believe?

    Yup.

    And believers go out and preach the gospel. everywhere. Not just in the church.

    • Hey Paula! Glad to see you weigh in. Your answer makes a lot of sense (sincerely), and I know many churches with that mindset. Good churches. Do you think it is possible to have a local church that does preach the gospel and worship in Spirit and in Truth, and is ALSO intentionally welcoming to unbelievers? I hope so. I think so.

  3. No church believes that people shouldn’t be friendly and helpful to outsiders who come to church, or that inviting friends to church and helping them while they’re there isn’t a great idea. This sounds like a bit of a straw man. What people oppose is changing the structure of church and worship itself in order to focus on seekers. The analogy of a ball game has been used: if you want people to be interested in baseball, you invite them to a game and explain what’s going on, even though they might not totally get it the first few times. You don’t take them to a game that has simplified baseball down to a level where it hardly even resembles baseball anymore.

    • I agree with you – the baseball analogy is great. And this is NOT intended as a straw man argument. I agree with you that churches can “seeker-friendly” up their services to the degree that scriptural truth is compromised and what happens does not reflect Christian faith and the gospel anymore. But I also believe that there is a self-righteous mindset in other churches that puts up unnecessary boundaries for guests – simply by not taking them into consideration – and does so in the name of “genuine” worship or “sound doctrine.” In reality, those things are DEEPLY important, but those labels often get slapped on people’s traditions and what is comfortable (or inspiring) for THEM. We need to (and can!) care deeply for scriptural truth and true worship while ALSO welcoming unbelievers in to see what we’re all about. And then we explain it along the way. Thanks Kel. God bless.

      • Are straw men ever intended? ;o) Really, I just didn’t understand the overall gist in the problem/solution dichotomy here. In other words, you mention talking people through things and going through the process with them as the solution to the problem of ignoring new people. I agree. Every Christian church in existence would agree. Most of them need to do a better job talking to new people and helping them. But what does that have to do with churches “creating unnecessary boundaries for guests in the name of genuine worship or sound doctrine”? I don’t really get how, if this is the problem, then explaining what’s happening to people is the solution. Are churches creating unnecessary boundaries *in the name of sound doctrine* simply by refusing to explain things to guests? What does that have to do with their stance on doctrine? Do you understand why I was confused? No church is saying, “We’ll muddle our doctrine and have less-than-genuine worship if we bother to walk new people through this church process and explain things to them.”

        • OK Kel – I do understand your confusion. The explanation is not simple. At all. If you *really* want to understand why I would dig into this, there is a fair amount of back story on this blog. Want to read a hearty debate about church methodology, I’d recommend you read two of my earlier posts and the MANY comments that follow. (“designing ministry, part 2 :: good enough for church” -AND- “rick warren is not the anti-christ :: seeker sensitive sacred cow tipping”)

          That’s a tall order time-wise, so I’ll try to hit a couple clarifying bullet points:

          1) I think straw-men are intended all the time… when somebody likes debate but has a weak argument. 🙂 Sounds like blog fodder. But I honestly was responding to a sentiment of some of my most vocal critics (of my thoughts about church methods and our home church’s philosophy). That mindset can be briefly summarized this way: If you change your methods in any way to accommodate the spiritually curious, you are in danger of creating a man-centered, man-pleasing theology. And that means the true Gospel is compromised and is not the true Gospel. Therefore, anything that resembles “seeker-sensitivity” becomes the bathwater that the baby (seeker awareness) is thrown out with.

          (2) A couple of times you make statements like “Every Christian church in existence would agree” or “No church is saying…” I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I think the problem I’m describing happens all the time – and yes, in the name of sound doctrine or genuine worship. Examples: (A) Even though the culture around us responds to popular music styles, we believe that Hymns with organ or piano are more reverent/proper/holy… therefore, we will ONLY use this style of music in our services. Of course, that in itself is not a WRONG choice – every church has its own style. But to castigate other churches who use contemporary music in order to provide avenues for worship that resonate stylistically with the surrounding culture… I think that’s self-righteous idolatry. Besides, even the hymns that most churches use were at one time the “cultural norm” of the day, and were often called “inappropriate for worship,” by the conservative church leaders of their day. (Like the tune for “A Mighty Fortress,” which was a bar tune in Luther’s day.) (B) Another example: Teachers who use difficult, “churchy” language with a degree of smug “holier-than-thou” attitude when speaking about the truth of scripture in a “mixed” crowd. The Gospel itself is a stumbling block enough. Why make understanding the message MORE difficult by using alienating language with no explanation and no regard for those outside the club? Think “sanctification, eschatology, hermanuetics, substitutionary atonement…” Those are meaningful terms to the well-schooled, but alienating to the curious. And why not simply help people find scripture passages that you mention from the pulpit? In fact, why speak at all as if you expect the non-church goers that visit to be bringing their Bible? Why not have Bibles available, or put passages on the screen… or even just let people know simple things like “Psalms is right about in the middle of your Bible.” A little understanding can go a long way without compromising the truth at all.

          (3) In the last third of your comment you seem confused (or might not believe) that churches might actually muddle their doctrine in order to be “user-friendly” to seekers. Whether or not it is a conscious choice, I think that happens all the time. HOWEVER, I also believe that many many GOOD churches, with solid doctrine, get thrown under the bus (by other Christians) in this regard because of their contemporary style or an overtly evangelistic vision for ministry. But the simple accommodations I’m talking about in my appeal to be OUTSIDER-aware as a church ARE the means for walking people through our church process and explaining things to them as we go.

          Does this help, or muddy the water even further?

  4. Joshua, you’re tragically misstating the position you’re opposing, but you’ve identified a crucial issue for all Christians, especially church elders, to consider. So rather than pick at the edges of your argument, I want to focus on your topic question and comment on the rest as it applies.

    We seem to agree that the church is made up of believers only. The disagreement is regarding who the local church is *for.* From your post, I’m going to assume this is a fair way of asking the underlying question: Why did God ordain the local congregation? I’m going to focus on what I’d say is the central characteristic rather than aiming for a comprehensive definition.

    The church exists in large part to distribute the means of grace (the Word and sacraments) to its members, by definition, believers. I’ll restrict my scope to the preaching of the Word. And by that I mean the whole counsel of God. The Law *and* the Gospel, rightly divided. Because every believer needs to be crushed by God’s perfect and holy law, realizing he cannot save *or* keep himself righteous, then comforted by the gospel of grace and pointed to Christ’s precious blood shed as his ransom (1 Pet 1:18-19; Gal 3:10-14).

    That message needs to be part of every service, because *that* is the unity we have in the Body of Christ; we are one because we have one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the Son of God, who was born as a man, fulfilled the law by living the perfect life we could not, then died in our place for our sins. We don’t need to be “reminded of the Gospel” as you put it; we need to be made to cling to it daily by faith as our only hope of salvation and only means of sanctification. The Gospel is for believers and they need to hear it!

    It is also for unbelievers, and they need to hear the same message! We pray that God would bring such to faith through the preaching of His Word. You were right to allude to Rom 10:14; *only* through hearing that will they believe.

    That common need of believer and unbeliever for the preaching of the Word is why your post was so misguided, Joshua. Anyone who sees the local church at having this calling will strive for the message of Christ and Him crucified to be comprehensible to the listener, for the edification of the believer and the salvation of the rebellious. Frankly, the arrogant myopia and selfish condescension you attribute to such people is offensive. The issue isn’t whether we should be polite and welcoming to the visitor in church; that’s a no-brainer. The issue is whether we seek to lessen the offense of the gospel in consideration of the unbeliever. I say absolutely not.

    What about your viewpoint? Am I saying that someone who says church is for the unbeliever can’t hold the same value in preaching the Gospel? Not necessarily. Indeed, many such people proclaim the importance of preaching the Word without compromise. But I have spent a lot of time reading many “seeker-friendly” resources, and I listen to a lot of sermons from “churches for the unchurched,” and I grieve that I can think of only one example where the messages are consistently Christ-centered.

    See, it doesn’t matter if it’s given in a church service, if the Gospel is not preached or preached mainly as a means to enabling obedience to the law, then the message is *not* Christian. That sort of teaching underlies every religion of man, but it offers no living hope (1 Pet 1:3); it leads only to despair, as the doer continually fails to meet the perfect standard.

    For example, today I listened to a sermon on relationships that I’m quite sure a Mormon would have no problem affirming. That doesn’t make the content wrong–there were some valid observations and thoughts–but it wasn’t preaching the Word. The flock was starved that day, and the horror is that they probably don’t even realize it. I was on the spiritual Bataan Death March myself for five years; it’s easy to get lulled to sleep. Acts 20:26-31 should be the spirit of every pastor and warning to every member of the body…

    • Jason – you are a a clear communicator, a God-honoring brother, and a challenging mind to contend with. SO MUCH of what you say makes me go YES! I AGREE! And then… we part ways. In small degrees, but you seem to see them as much larger than I do. Again, great thoughts and a great comment. You make me think, although I’;m not sure I have the luxury of time to walk through it line by line as we have done before. I guess one genuine question I have for you – and one that may make all the difference – is this:

      Where does the Bible teach that EVERY single message the local church gives must focus on the specific gospel message… Christ dying on the cross for sinners hopelessly lost without Him? We agree on the centrality of this CORE of our faith, but the Bible has MUCH to teach about all of life… with Christ in the center. You seem to be saying that even if we are teaching Biblically sound truth, but we do not center every single message on the need for Christ, then we are straying into legalism, false doctrine, or simple self-help philosophy. Why? Is there not more to church than the service? Are there not more opportunities to speak the truth of the gospel message than from the pulpit once a week. And are there not a gagillion topics that God has given us His wisdom about in His word?

      Help me understand this.

      • Oh and one other thought… (Honestly. 🙂 I missed it the first time around – not meant to be mocking in ANY way my friend)

        I really believe that I did not write this post as well as I could have for the very reason you stated in your comment above. I did treat your point of view with undue condescension, and I honestly apologize. I really believe that you want to honor the Lord and help steer the Church (myself included)in the path of Truth. But you said, “The issue isn’t whether we should be polite and welcoming to the visitor in church; that’s a no-brainer. The issue is whether we seek to lessen the offense of the gospel in consideration of the unbeliever. I say absolutely not.” On its face I agree with that statement %150. However, you continue to say (or insinuate) that I do somehow want to lessen the offense of the gospel. I do not.

        • I need to take a bit of time to think about the rest of what you said before I comment, but I wanted to clarify something.

          The question for me isn’t whether you (or anyone who holds to your point of view) wants to lessen the offense of the gospel, or to minimize the gospel in preaching. Joshua, I hear your sensitivity and passion in your writing and in your voice when you speak. I’m sure that’s not what you want to do, and I’m willing to believe that’s the case for most who preach or write like you.

          Unfortunately, we can be sincerely, passionately wrong. The issue is whether it happens anyway. That is of first importance. And then, if it is, the question is why and how that happened, so it doesn’t continue (because I think we agree it’s not a good thing).

          My argument is that a correct ecclesiology is a hedge against having this happen. IOW, a consistent building on that foundation, given an otherwise orthodox theology, should avoid this particular problem in preaching. In like manner, an incorrect understanding of the church, no matter how well-meaning, is a slippery slope toward such an error, in spite of the rest of one’s beliefs.

          I could say more, but I’ll save it for the other post.

          • Jason, thanks for this. I appreciated this statement you made:

            “Unfortunately, we can be sincerely, passionately wrong. The issue is whether it happens anyway. That is of first importance. And then, if it is, the question is why and how that happened, so it doesn’t continue (because I think we agree it’s not a good thing).”

            Yes. I’m with you. I understand, I think, your hedge against a slippery slope argument… but are you speaking specifically of ecclesiology OR the centrality of the gospel in our preaching (or… both?)

            I’m growing here. Thank you

      • Joshua, it took awhile to get back to this; sorry. I’m going to give a brief answer to your question, and then I’ll give a link to a couple articles that are more complete (with more Scripture) that you can read at your convenience.

        You ask me where I’d find biblical support for my claim that every sermon needs to focus on the specific gospel message. I don’t want to get tripped up on the word “focus,” so I’ll restate my assertion:

        Every sermon needs to include the law and the gospel, rightly preached, and in that order. Every message should include the law, to show the holiness of God and our own character and action as sinners. Every message needs to end with the gospel because it’s the only good news for every sinner (so Christian and unbeliever are included). The articles go into this in more depth, but here’s a brief outline:

        – All have sinned. (Rom 3:23)
        – Sin is unavoidable in our lives, always close at hand, for believers and unbelievers. (Rom 7:21)
        – Our best works are still stained by sin. (Is 64:6)
        – We cannot save ourselves *or* live by works, i.e. by satisfying the law (Gal 2:16)
        – Our only hope is to constantly look to Christ and His life, death, and resurrection for new life. (Col 2:13-14; 1 Pet 1:3)

        I’m not saying that every sermon must use the same passage or the same language, but it should point to Christ and the cross; that is the turning point. This isn’t a call to shoehorn the gospel into a message as an afterthought, either. Scripture is Christ’s story, and the scarlet thread of redemption runs through it all. Good exegesis will reveal the gospel in the passage, if it seems to be absent. *Not* just showing Christ as example (which is still Law, though we like to soften it), but showing Christ *for* us, which is Gospel.

        The two articles I’d point you to are “The Gospel Assumed is the Gospel Denied” by Rev Herbert C. Mueller, Jr. ( http://sidlcms.org/Documents/GospelAssumedGospelDenied.pdf ) and “Legalism and License” by Rev. Todd Wilken ( http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=8825 ). I’ll close with a couple quotes from them:

        “God’s Word puts us in the impossible position of struggling against our sin, the very sin that God forbids, the very sin that we cannot avoid. This position is impossible for us, but not for Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken our sin, the very sin that God forbids, the very sin that we cannot avoid.”

        “Any sermon that ignores this hinge between death and life–even though it may give great advice that is word-for-word from the Bible–will leave the hearers stuck in the “funeral procession” of their own efforts, their own sins.”

  5. One other thought (yeah, I know. Heard *that* before…):

    You said “We need to (and can!) care deeply for scriptural truth and true worship while ALSO welcoming unbelievers in to see what we’re all about.” I’d agree completely. My point is that I believe that is far more likely to result from seeing church biblically, understanding evangelism as a necessary *result* of its functioning for the believing body rather than as a *goal* of its function for the unbelieving visitor.

    • Good thought. While the vast majority of people reading this may well believe we are now officially “splitting hairs,” I understand the fundamental difference between these points of view. I need to prayerfully study, and think some more about it. Keep me in your prayers. This is a learning journey for me.

      Oh, and cut the dude some slack who gave that relationship message. 🙂 He’s a rookie, and wasn’t especially fond of that message to begin with. I understand he may well be preaching in a few weeks again, and I’d be curious to know what you thought of his theology at that point. Let’s keep in touch. 🙂

  6. Do I think it’s possible? Yes, I do. But not the way you seem to think (from our previous discussions). I don’t believe we should cater to the world’s tastes.

    On the one hand, you want to invite unbelievers in (let’s stop calling them unchurched, because that’s just confusing, no one knows whether they are unbelievers or believers that way) but only preach the gospel now and then… (and really, that is left up to the discretion of the preacher, which is dangerous). So who knows if they will leave and not hear the gospel, and then die sometime before they get back for your ‘gospel message’ sermon.

    On the other hand, if the church service is for believers, and you don’t give them the gospel, you are denying them the very food that keeps them able to even start to do these works in response to Christ’s love. It’s like saying “do we have to provide food at every meal? Where in the Bible does it say that?”

    In both your original post and Angie’s “I second that” comment, there is a cheer for “unity.” But unity around what? A way of life? That’s legalism/moralism. The Gospel (i.e. the person and work of Christ)? That’s Christian unity.

    I would suggest you (and Angie too if you’re still around) listen to a couple of radio broadcasts by Bob DeWaay and one of his elders, Dick Kuffel (they are from a church in St Louis Park)

    True and False Unity, Part 1
    Presented by Bob DeWaay and Dick Kuffel
    Broadcast Monday, August 24, 2009
    http://cicministry.org/audio/radio/20090824_cic_radio-True_and_False_Unity_Part_1.mp3

    True and False Unity, Part 2
    http://cicministry.org/audio/radio/20090831_cic_radio-True_and_False_Unity_Part_2.mp3

    We can have unity around lots of things and purposes, but the thing we unify around as Christians had better be the Truth. Without enough specificity regarding that Truth, we just have a crowd that all acts the same. A better word would be conformity. Communists and dictators are big on that sort of unity too. 🙂 Unity vs Conformity – we need to make sure we aren’t equivocating on those words.

    • Hello again Paula. Thank you for contributing here. Good thoughts. A few quick responses:

      (1) What you call “catering to the world’s tastes” I call “becoming all things to all people in order that I might save as many as possible…” (1 Cor. 19-23) I also call it being sensitive to guests. It’s that simple. It really is.

      (2) Why call people “unchurched?” It was a decision to unify our language. I’ve blogged about it before. In a nutshell, we were looking for a term that even unchurched people would say, “Yeah… I guess that’s me…” without poking them in the eye. We could call them “lost,” “unredeemed sinners,” “unbelievers,” “pagans,” what have you and would be technically correct, but it’s a needless poke in the eye to people you want to hear the Gospel. Why not let God’s Word and the Holy Spirit do the convicting rather than our labels?

      (3) I understand your concern(for both believers and unbeleievers) coming to our church and not hearing the gospel presented in all it’s fullness or clarity. I really do understand that point. However, I think we part ways (as I’m discussing with your husband) about the NECESSITY of preaching a purely GOSPEL centric message EVERY time we teach/preach. We realize that people are in a process, and they will almost always have more than one interaction with us (even if that is only through an individual in our church.)( That’s why we stress relationship building – so that we have ongoing inroads to people to share the Gospel.

      (4) Thanks for the links about UNITY. I understand that point of view. At some point, however, even you and Jason must agree to not sweat the small stuff for the sake of unity in your marriage, right? Where you and I disagree, I believe, is on what issues constitute the “small stuff” and what is so foundational that it will make or break a local church. We don’t simply want conformity – which, I agree, is not a desirable goal. We want to UNIFY the CHURCH around what really matters. And at some point, we feel that… or I feel that we ARE adhering to the truth of scripture, we ARE seeking after the heart of God, we ARE presenting the gospel message without apology or modification, and yet we are not “acceptable” in the eyes of other church folks who feel their way is better/safer/more correct/more righteous/more biblical/fill-in-the-blank.

      So, unity YES. Centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes. Conformity, NO. We’re not talking about a legalistic “lifestyle.” On that we agree. But how we decide with whom to align and with what to unify, you and I will probably not see eye to eye.

      Thanks Paula. I appreciate the tone of this interaction, too. When we discuss I continue to refine my understanding, and I am learning.

  7. Joshua, even after writing my original post on a similar subject (see http://jeffreyholton.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-church-about-itself-or-is-it-about.html ), I still have to think that there’s a differentiation between church being *for* unbelievers, and church being *warmly welcoming* to unbelievers.

    Then again, does it even need to be that?

    Church is about worship. It’s about building human beings into God’s new community (as John Stott said in his commentary on Ephesians).

    Actually, maybe that definition forces us to examine the distinction we make between the “seeker-service” and the “traditional/fundamentalist/liturgical” type. Isn’t it supposed to be both? Why should we think that honoring God with the latter makes us unapproachable to the outside world (when, as you point out, people come back to Starbucks and learn the lingo once they realize the product is good!)? And why should some of us fear that the former dishonors God by presenting a corrupted worship?

    Not to make light of the process of salvation, but my mental image for evangelism is usually a good ol’ game of “Red Rover.” Red Rover, Red Rover, send Joshua on over… Joshua may not WANT to be on our team at first, but according to the rules, he’ll quickly have fun helping us out. (Unfortunately, I think my oversimplified model also works for explaining backsliding.)

    We’d probably do well as Christians to back off the argument for a good long while, like maybe forever, and get back to the work of worshipping God and inviting others along for the ride.

  8. Hey friend! In response to your first sentence, I agree. I have set up a bit of a false dichotomy on purpose to spur discussion. You are right… There is an important distinction between “FOR unbelievers” and “warmly welcoming to unbelievers,” and I believe in what’s behind door #2.

    In response to your second sentence: ABSOLUTELY YES. And that is the point of this post. Because I feel there are many churches who are God-fearing, Bible-believing, Gospel=preaching, worshiping church families who do NOT make efforts to be warmly welcoming to unbelievers. And that breaks my heart.

    I am consistently trying to clarify that a “seeker-sensitive” church approach does NOT = “seeker-driven.” The local church needs to FEED THE SHEEP and provide opportunities to respond deeply to the truth in worship. Unbelievers can see that, respond to God as He nudges them. They will observe what is true, and how His people genuinely respond. Genuine faith is attractive. So why not make efforts to create a welcoming environment for unchurched people, and let God do His work once they are in the door and feel at ease?

    Love your last sentence. I’d love to see that day. But I am in active discussion (over the long haul) with some good friends and brothers who see the function and methodology of local church life from a distinctly different perspective. I’ll continue the discussion until we (A) find common ground wherever possible and (B) clarify our differences and can agree to disagree as brothers. The issues underlying are SO complex, that we’re still working them out. And I’m learning along the way.

    Hopefully these posts challenge other brothers and sisters to think and rethink their understanding of our role as the Church.

    In the mean time, yes. Let’s WORSHIP and invite others to come see what Jesus is all about. Amen. Thanks Jeff.