Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Great Irony

There are those of us around the church for the past several years that have been pointing out a growing trend that we could only support anecdotally, but which has now been confirmed statistically. The church growth movement, in its desire to appeal to unbelievers with its style of worship, abandoned and encouraged other churches to abandon, "cold" or "dead" liturgical elements. Worship, including the architecture of our churches, was transformed over the course of several decades so that it was "less offensive" and "less alien" to the unchurched. This, we were assured, made the unchurched feel more at home, more comfortable. The implication being that they would come back to worship again and perhaps even be more inclined to confess faith in Christ. I do not (despite my critique) believe that these men and women have believed and taught this out of malice. I think they were sincere in their desire to evangelize. But their zeal was (if I may be so bold) out of ignorance. Has God used their churches to bring some to Christ? I do not doubt it. But He used a fundamentalist independent baptist church to bring my family to Christ as well. That doesn't mean we should embrace such as the best and truest system of doctrine or form of worship.

Now, as many of us have been saying for sometime, it turns out that the unchurched would really rather come to a church that has Gothic architecture and observes a high liturgy. We might ask the question, "Will the church once again adopt this approach in order to bring in the lost?" There is no need for speculation. The answer is, "Yes, they already have." Particularly within a "discussion" called the Emerging Church. These churches have largely begun to reintroduce elements of high liturgy in their churches. They use candles, stained glass windows, liturgical colors, etc in an attempt to bring in the unchurched. But these attempts, while heartwarming on the surface, turn out to be largely disconnected from any system of doctrine or historical identification with the church. Put another way, they usually don't know why they are using these elements or how to use them. Their use is disconnected from their theology and their worship. They are there simply as an appeal to the unregenerate.

Meanwhile, just as a clock is right twice a day, the historic churches that have faithfully allowed their theology to impact their worship forms and their architecture are benefiting from this new-found hunger among the lost. This preference will soon fade and the unregenerate will be looking for something else. I hope that those historic churches will take advantage of this time to double check themselves, making sure that they are preaching Christ and Him crucified. I suppose I mean this: Although we should not let the appetites of the unregenerate influence our worship, the fact that their appetites now coincide with our worship form may be considered providential. I also hope that our historic churches will not, as this fad among the unregenerate fades, give in to the renewed temptation that is sure to manifest itself; namely, to adjust our worship to reflect the appetites of the unregenerate in order to keep them among us.

Instead, let's continue to consider what worship looks like that is consistent with Scripture. Let's ask ourselves if we, as a body, are being obedient to the righteous standards given us in Scripture. And then, if we find ourselves in accord with Scripture, let's trust that God will act in His time and in His way, to bring the lost sheep of Israel into the fold.

(HT Jared Nelson @ Dead Theologians)


About Janice said...

Amen! Our Pastor attends the Twin Lakes Fellowship every year in MS. I can send a link to the free audio recordings -though you probably either went or are aware of the recordings.
Glad to hear your church visit went well this past weekend.

Matthew Bradley said...

Hey Janice! Can you post the link here in case someone else is also interested?

M. Jay Bennett said...

Great stuff bro!

Matthew Bradley said...

Not bad for a fundamentalist, huh? :^)

About Janice said...


The link above is the blog of Joe Holland, AP at First Pres. Kosciusko, MS (that's pronounced ko-zee-es-ko to us non-Mississippians).

The conference is free, open to any pastors interested in "ordinary means of grace" ministry as my pastor, Alan Johnson, puts it.

Matthew Bradley said...

Thanks Janice!

Jared Nelson said...

When I first started attending PCPC, I thought - Well, in principle the liturgy and building are appropriate for Biblical worship, but had my evangelical roots saying "but what about the seekers?!" I think you bring up a good point though, the seekers will always find a new fad they like, and we cannot constantly changing for their whims, but merely worship on principle with "reverance and awe." Anyway, there is no such thing as a seeker (Rom 3:10-11).