I was just listening to talk by David Bisgrove, from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and heard a great soundbite. In fact, I have stopped listening in order to write this. David was talking on the subject of sharing the good news of Jesus in a post-Christian culture. Let's cut to the chase:
Scripture tells us that ... non-believers are expected to be in our worship services ... [They should find our] worship challenging and comprehensible, NOT comfortable.
When you preach, or teach, preaching is done as if the whole community is listening...If you preach as if non-Christians from the community are there, even if there are not, it will not long be long before they are brought.
In most (even thriving) churches the whole service usually assumes
- a lot of biblical knowledge
- a we-them mentality
- a lot of evangelical terminology.
Most Christians, even if they are edified in the church, know intuitively that their non-Christians friends would not appreciate the service.
Sad but very true. For years now I have lamented the "Christendom" or "Holy Huddle" approach to meetings, where it is always assumed everyone is a Christian, an often a mature one at that. I always feel somewhat bad about this, because people often respond with "but the service blessed me", "I really found the Lord during worship", "the sermon was really interesting". I'm glad David Bisgrove has hit the hammer on the head of the nail with this one. Public Christian meetings should not be catering for obscure teaching, bless-me praise times, and lengthy in-house announcements which often bore the people the news relates to, let alone anyone else. I think many churches believe their public meetings are a cross between a social gathering and an annual general meeting. In other words, there is a preoccupation with internal, inward-looking, in-house matters, rather than the public proclamation of the gospel, a time of worship which both Christians and non-Christians can in some way enter into and appreciate, and a time of corporate prayer for the city and nation.
Now some people will say, "but Alastair, we want meat, not milk; we want depth, not shallowness; we want to glorify God, not be seeker friendly". I suppose the answer to that is two-fold: One, as David Bisgrove went on to say, should people really be seeking such things from a public worship/gathering ? He points out that Redeemer has other venues and times where education, training, counseling, etc. takes place. They don't jam it all into their Sunday meetings. In addition, I believe it is possible to hold a public Christian meeting in which God is given the glory, he is worshiped in Spirit and in Truth, and the gospel proclaimed, in such a way that both Christians and non-Christians can a) comprehend/appreciate and b) be challenged by and (c) be given space for appropriate ways to respond.
So what do you think?