Drive Through Worship
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2005 Jun 01
We like fast food, fast cars, fast internet access, and just about everything fast because we are busy people. We like fast time with our kids, that is, we spend quality time with them because we don't have enough time to do it right. We dislike going to the doctor because we don't have time to wait an hour for a five minute examination, though oddly, we do want more than five minutes when we get in to see the doctor. We want more than five minutes because then it's about us. We like to know what's going on with us. We like to focus on ourselves. That's why we like everything else fast.
Many like worship fast as well. The Metropolitan Church of the Quad Cities accommodated by sponsoring "Drive Through Church" this past Sunday morning. Deirdre Cox Baker reported last week that "the service will take five minutes and you don't even have to get out of your car." Rev. Rich Hendricks says that all one had to do was pull up in their parking lot. Humor was part of the service as some of his congregants were dressed like anglers in keeping with a fish theme. Clowns were positioned to attract cars into the parking lot. Each car was greeted by three anglers, presented with a take home homily (sermon), and a daily Scripture quote. Prayer requests were also taken.
A dark curtain has fallen over the Christian landscape of America. People are indeed more spiritual today than they were ten years ago. The problem lies in the fact that spirituality is not the same thing as true worship of a true and living God. Apart from the Christ of Scripture, spirituality is nothing more than dead works. The premise of "Drive Through Church" points to the dearth of truth in our land, even, if not particularly in the evangelical world. Scripture asserts that one who is born again will have Christ at the center of His life. Christ is not a mere object revolving with other objects around the self-centered individual who desires a quick-fix solution to the problems of his conscience grounded in hellish notions of how God is to be worshipped (the simple confession that "Jesus is Lord" should be sufficient support of that assertion).
The motive behind the event was revealed in the church's choosing of Memorial Day for this new service. "People will be busy doing any number of activities but we want to allow folks to have a moment or two, if that's what they can spare, to think about worship," said Loretta Gamble.
When I served as pastor while in seminary, in the midst of the worship service, ostensibly designed for the worship of God, I used to cringe and pray His judgment would not come down as our one deacon each week led us to sing "Happy Birthday" and "Happy Anniversary" to those who were fortunate enough to have those occasions that particular week. With "Drive Through Church," man-centeredness has reached astrological heights and God-centeredness isn't even a thought. With the advent of the five minute service, I feel so much better about my seminary church and those dear saints who could give God at least thirty minutes or so after they concluded their business.
God has given gifts to His church including pastor/teachers (Eph. 4:11). He also raises up deacons to minister to the people so that the elders/teachers can devote themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer (Acts 6:1-7). No where in Scripture do we find anglers and clowns in the service of worship or in the ministry of the word. These things may seem harmless to some and desirable to others but nothing could be further from the truth.
No doubt some will speak of doing whatever it takes to reach people for Christ. The problem lies in several false assumptions under girding that kind of thinking. These things are not harmless nor are they desirable. Quite the opposite, they are destructive. They destroy the glory and holiness of the God who has revealed Himself to us as majestic and unsearchable (Rom. 11:32-36). They militate against the worship of God as man's focus on self and his marginalization of God is catered to. They make God out to be someone who simply wants a tip of the hat when in reality He says in sum, "Forsake all and follow me (Matt. 8:22, 9:9; 16:24; 19:21)."
In terms of evangelism, Paul says he has become all things to all men for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-22). He is there speaking of his willingness to suspend his liberty, not a practice of demeaning the true and living God with spiritual harlotry and buffoonery. Moreover, sentimentality in regard to evangelism that leads to compromise of this sort and magnitude must be done away with. Our task is to do God's work, God's way, for God's glory (1 Cor. 10:3-15).
Hendricks asserts, "This is a way to try and reach out to people who might not otherwise approach the doors of the church...Some people don't relate to traditional church services at all." Yet, contrary to popular opinion, worship is not an evangelistic tool. People can indeed be saved during a worship service and Christ should be proclaimed at every Christian worship service. But, worship is an end in itself. The church gathers for worship and scatters to evangelize. God is ultimate, not man. That means that there is at least one thing more important than the salvation of souls: the glory of God.
God exists for His own glory and He saves for His own glory (Isa. 43:7; 48:9; Rom. 15:8-9). God created us for His glory: "Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth (says the Lord), everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory (Isa. 43:6-7)."
God chose a people for Himself for His own glory: "I made the whole house of Israel...cling to me, says the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise and a glory (Jer. 13:11)."
God delivered His people from Egypt for His own glory: "Our fathers when they were in Egypt did not consider thy wonderful works...but rebelled against the Most High at the Red sea. Yet he saved them for his name's sake that he might make known his mighty power (Ps. 106:7-8)."
God spared His people for His own glory: "I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out (Ezek. 20:14)."
God did not cast His people away when they asked for a king and rejected Him. He withheld for His own glory: "Fear not, you have done all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord...For the Lord will not cast away his people for his great name's sake (1 Sam. 12:20-22)."
God does all that He does for His own glory: "For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you...For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another (Isa. 48:9; 11)."
By way of summary, "Thus says the Lord God, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name...And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name ... and the nations will know that I am the Lord. It is not for your sake that I will act says the Lord God. Let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel (Ezek. 36:22-23; 32)."
Can there be any doubt that God does what He does for His own glory? Even Christ Himself prayed: "Father, the hour has come; glorify thy son that the Son may glorify thee." The consummation of all things will be for the glory of God in Christ: "Those who do not obey the gospel will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at in all who have believed (2 Thes. 1:9-10)."
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." We were created and the church is being recreated in Christ that God might be glorified: that we might worship Him. Therefore, evangelism is not God's primary goal. When we turn worship into an evangelistic tool, we make evangelism the goal. That is to get it backwards. God's primary goal, and thus the church's primary goal, is worship. Evangelism is a means to worship, not the other way around. We evangelize so that men and women might praise God for His mercy.
"Drive Through Worship" is nothing more than a predictable movement in light of the spirit of our age. We live in a culture that recognizes the spiritual, but in which few understand true worship or the true and living God. The alarming reality is that congregations on both coasts have established drive through worship services. According to Jet Magazine, the World of Faith Family Worship Center in Suffolk, Va., relocated to a former bank building in 2001 and began the practice. If a church relocates to a bank building, presumably for the drive through window, and then holds drive through worship, one would assume that this practice is normative for that congregation, if there is a congregation. Who knows? In any event, the lines between worship and evangelism are blurred at best and obliterated at worst.
At the same time, the question must be asked, "What is the church?" The church is comprised of God's people called out of the world unto Himself. They gather for worship and edification of one another through ministry gifts manifested by the Spirit. The brotherhood is critical in our understanding of church and that brotherhood functions through the various "one anothering" dynamics laid out in Scripture. We are to love one another, forgive one another, bear one another’s burdens, confront one another in love, etc. Those things do not occur in a drive through setting.
Moreover, the church displays the multi-colored wisdom of God before powers and principalities as the gospel breaks down all barriers between men and women (Eph. 3:10). Again, nothing of the sort is on display in drive through worship. Powers and principalities, angels and demons, see nothing of the wisdom of God as people simply drive through and give the proverbial nod to God.
[Part Two Tomorrow]