Summary: Who is the church for? Believers or unbelievers? Or to use more contemporary terms - churched or unchurched. Listen today as Pastor Steve addresses who is the church in the midst of the seeker-sensitive movement.
Recently I was invited to attend a church planters conference in Lake Yale. At that conference I was exposed to various teaching and methods for reaching the unchurched. As I sat there and listened and took notes, I couldn’t help to think how we have somehow missed it when it comes to the purpose of the church. I talked with pastors who shared with me various methods they were using to reach the lost. One pastor even asked me "Who is your target?" Having a few days to think about this and talk about it with several people, I have come to the reaffirmation that the church is for the church not the unchurched. Let me tell you what I mean by that statement.
The church is not for the unchurched
It is not for the lost or even the carnal and disobedient. It is for the saved, the regenerate, the redeemed, the obedient. What we do is not understandable by the unchurched. The apostle John said it this way: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." That is a monumental statement — "the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." Since the world does not know us why do we cater to what they want in the church? Why are we tailoring the church for them? The only One we should be concerned about when it comes to the church is God. The unchurched do not understand spiritual truth nor can they. Paul said, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor.2:14). The only contact that we need to have with the unchurched is not to find out what will get them to church and keep them coming, but to show them that they need to surrender their life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The church belongs to Jesus Christ
Colossians 1:18 says that "He is the head of the body, the church." And since that is the case, we must understand what He says about His church. John MacArthur, in an article called The Seeker-Sensitive Movement, asks "What exactly is the seeker-sensitive movement?" Some of you might be asking the same question. He says, "In a nutshell, it’s the push within churches across the country to make worship services more ‘relevant’ and therefore more attractive to the world. It’s the driving force behind the marketing ploys and high-tech entertainment gimmicks churches use to promote growth." John Armstrong, who is the founder and director of Reformation and Revival Ministries in Carol Stream, IL, states that the movement is "fast-paced, light on doctrine, and very heavy on music and drama" (The Mad Rush to Seeker Sensitive Worship, Modern Reformation.org).
In a book review of The Purpose Driven Church written by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California, Jim Delany writes: "In January of 1998, Dr. Dennis Costella attended a "Building a Purpose Driven Church" seminar where Warren taught that the following must occur to transform a traditional church into a dramatic growing church (March-April 1998, Foundation magazine): (1) A contemporary-styled, non-threatening "Seeker Service" must replace the traditional Sunday worship service; (2) The dress must be casual; (3) The music must be contemporary; (4) The message must be only positive so that saved and unsaved alike can feel better about themselves after a message that often mixes psychology and an uplifting Scripture text; (5) Church ministries must be geared to meeting needs, with support groups for depression, eating disorders, infertility, homosexuals’ family/friends, post-abortion, and marital separation. Warren scoffed at the idea of passing out gospel tracts or going door-to-door since the typical "Saddleback Sam" is offended by such old-fashioned evangelism; (6) Doctrinal instruction is not given to the church as a whole on Sundays, but is available in sub-groups apart from formal church services; and (7) A spirit of pragmatic compromise must prevail. Warren was trained as a Southern Baptist (he frequently speaks at SBC events), but said, "It really doesn’t matter your denomination, folks. We’re all on the same team if you love Jesus." (Source: 6/98, Calvary Contender.)"
In the book Ashamed of the Gospel, John MacArthur writes: "Scripture says the early Christians ‘turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6). In our generation the world is turning the church upside down. Biblically, God is sovereign, not ‘unchurched Harry.’ The Bible, not the marketing plan, is supposed to be the sole blueprint and final authority for all church ministry. Ministry should meet people’s real needs, not salve their selfishness. And the Lord of the church is Christ, not some couch potato with the remote control in his head. I never hear the term ‘user-friendly church’ without thinking of Acts 5 and Ananias and Sapphira. What happened there flies in the face of almost all contemporary church-growth theory. The Jerusalem church certainly wasn’t very user-friendly. In fact, it was exactly the opposite; Luke tells us this episode inspirit’ great fear...upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things’ (v.11). The church service that day was do disturbing that none of the unchurched people ‘dared to associate with them.’ The thought of attending such a church struck terror in their hearts, even though ‘the people held them in high esteem’ (Acts 5:13). The church was definitely not a place for sinners to be comfortable — it was a frightening place!" (p.51).