Timely Thoughts on 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.
- 2008 Mar 27
So much has been penned in regard to the seeker-sensitive movement it would seem wasteful to add anything more. Add to that dynamic the reality that the movement may now be considered old in light of new movements in the church and one is really hard pressed to address the subject. Yet, despite the fact that Willow Creek is adopting a new model and the emerging church is emerging as the model in vogue, most churches tend to continue with models that are long outdated as those models become the new tradition. At the same time, a few foundational issues to keep mind when thinking about the seeker-sensitive approach will be helpful no matter what model is being contemplated by any church at any time.
It is important that we understand three principles here. First, Christians should always put their best foot forward, strive for excellence, be winsome, and provide an inviting atmosphere for all including guests. A church, therefore, should do as much as possible to make “seekers” feel welcome. Greeters, friendliness, a clean nursery, room in the back of the sanctuary, not pointing out guests during the worship service, and any number of other things along these lines are critical. We should always be thinking of how we can get more people into the church and removing unnecessary barriers that might hinder them.
Second, we must understand at least two dynamics theologically. Thinking theologically keeps us connected to God and the Scriptures. If what we do is not pleasing to God, we labor in vain. When thinking about God we must be unswerving in our commitment to the authority of Scripture regardless of what may or may not appear to be the case.
The first dynamic is that “no one seeks after God (Rom. 3:11).” It is a false premise to survey lost persons to find out what they would like in church. Externals of that nature will never save anyone. Salvation is the result of a heart change wrought by the Holy Spirit. While we do not place unnecessary barriers that might drive people away, neither do we change our music or worship to fit what lost people want. All they want prior to conversion is connected to the flesh. And again, what they want will not save nor will it aid in their salvation.
The second theological dynamic is that worship is not a means to an end. It is an end in itself and the most important thing a Christian does. Worship is just that: the worship of God. While lost persons can and should be saved during a worship service, and while the gospel must be preached every Sunday (in the course of bible exposition), worship is not an evangelistic tool. To adapt a worship service to appeal to lost people in effect is to worship them and not worship God. It is to steal His glory. True worship is about Him and not them.
As noted, dead men cannot be saved by music style. Only God can change their hearts and He does so through the gospel energized by the Spirit. We must adopt the mindset that believers gather to worship and scatter to evangelize.
Third, we must grow up in our thinking. Quite frankly, lost people are not interested in seeing how much like them or the world that the church is. Rather, it is the difference that God has made in our lives that is striking to them (Acts 5:13-14). We don’t seem to understand that reality. We must let Scripture be our authority here and not our opinion. As alluded to, even Willow Creek has reported recently their approach has been wrong.
In sum, we must be seeker sensitive but we must not be seeker-centered. We must be God-centered. That alone glorifies Him. And, when we are God-centered, then we will increasingly gain God’s heart when it comes to lost people and we will open our mouths and do evangelism in the market place so that we won’t have to resort to other means to save souls. May God let that thought emerge in the church once again.
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