Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Church and the Gospel

How "Church" should be done is a subject that is at the forefront of more than just a few disagreements among Christians for the last .... well for the last 2000 years. In light of that fact, it should come as no surprise to us that it comes up often today.

One question that has come to my attention recently pertains to who the worship service should be "aimed" towards. It may be that the "seeker sensitive" service that was all the rage for quite some time now, may be on its way out in "modern" churches. Some would argue that the seeker sensitive service missed the mark, because it was aimed at the wrong target. A church service should be for the Christian, not for the person who is trying to decide whether or not they should become one, they say.

Frankly, I agree with that assessment, to a point. Anyone who has followed this blog for any time probably realizes that I am a conservative Baptist (and I hope that term has no connotations that I am unaware of). As such I don't have much time for the whole seeker sensitive thing. From what I have seen of it, the seeker sensitive church, to a large extent, has come down to luring in people (who are interested in spiritual things) by promising to be relevant and entertaining, and to enhance their life, but never really getting to the subject of sin and the answer to sin.

Now a second way of looking at a church service has more merit, in that a church is an assembly, and a Church (note the capital C) is an assembly of believers (and being a Baptist, I would add baptized believers). John 4:23 says "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." Hence a church service, or worship service would rightly focus on those who are already Christians.

So far, this second type of service is a pretty good description of ValleyView Baptist over the past year and a half that my wife and I have been members. Nearly all of the sermons from our pastor (who has recently moved on to another church) were basically aimed toward edifying the body of Christ. While the subject of sin and the gospel were certainly not avoided, neither were they stressed because after all, those receiving the sermons were professed Christians. This is NOT meant in any way to reflect adversely on him; the fact is we miss and love him dearly.

In this vein of "doing church" specifically for the Christian, I recently heard a pastor say that he no longer invites people to church. He said he does his evangelism only after getting to know someone. Some of you may agree with him. Others may be shocked. Me? Well ....

I have to agree that there is no point to inviting someone to your church if the gospel is not going to be preached. And just as important, if sin is never going to be mentioned, there is no point in preaching the gospel, since the man with a terminal illness who doesn't know it, will have little use for a life saving medicine. Wasn't that a major problem with the seeker sensitive service? So, by all means, if you are not going to preach about sin and the gospel, don't invite unbelievers to your church. But I do believe that may come with its own issues.

I have heard (from more than one source) that young people attending Christian colleges, in many cases, cannot even articulate the basic tenants of the faith. Do you think there is a chance that many of these never really were born again? After all, if they grew up in the typical seeker sensitive church, they may have never been told of their desperate need of a saviour. But does this not also apply to the child who grew up in a church where "church" was done just for Christians?

Let me tell you a little story that helps explain how I come down on this issue. Nearly 10 years ago, my wife and I attended a church service due directly to an invitation in the form of literature brought to our door. No, not Jehovah's Witness or Mormon; some Baptist's go door to door also.

This was a fairly small church. Small enough that new faces were noticed by everyone, not least by the pastor. In retrospect, I have no doubt that the pastor of that little Baptist Church modified his sermon "on the fly" in order to present the gospel to these strangers. I would bet that he did the same the following Sunday. By the third consecutive Sunday, he probably expected us and prepared accordingly.

If you haven't already guessed, that chain of events is how our most merciful God chose to save me. Maybe that prejudiced me, but I certainly would never feel shorted by a pastor who felt the need to preach a little hell fire and damnation topped off with the good news in place of an edifying sermon. In fact, I believe that a little more preaching of the law (which identifies sin) and the gospel would be a God honoring addition to any way that you might chose to "do church."

One last point. If you, as a pastor, seldom preach the law and the gospel, just where do you expect your flock to learn to evangelize? Or do you plan on doing it all yourself?

1 comment:

Recliner Commentaries said...

Excellent post!