Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Should Church Be For The Saved Or The Unsaved?

There’s a little debate going on over at GodTube about the validity of having a site that is explicitly “Christian” as though to say that God approves of it.

Russ Seehafer kicked off with this video entitled “Why GodTube.com is Stupid”:

Doug Eaton retorted with this video entitled “Why GodTube.com May NOT Be So Stupid”:

The debate hinges on the balance between what it means for Christians to be “in” the world but not “of” the world. Seehafer’s argument essentially asserts that having a site like GodTube is separatist and draws a Christian witness away from sites like YouTube. Eaton replies that Christians need a safe place to go – not to withdraw from posting on YouTube, but to have a place to find Christian material without dealing with all the anti-Christian sentiment at YouTube.

The debate brings to mind a line of questioning I’ve pondered about the nature of the worship services of local congregations. It is quite obvious that different churches take a different line of reasoning on the balance between the edification of the body and the use of worship and preaching in the service for evangelism. On one end you may have the puritans who open teaching in the service up to anyone with the assumption that they are already Christian and are properly motivated by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, you may find churches where worship has devolved into mere entertainment and teaching of cheap grace for the purpose of attracting “seekers”. A large high-profile church in a neighboring city has experienced an alarming shift in this regard. The founding pastor recently stepped down due to declining health. He had built the church on solid meaty teaching. The pastor that the congregation found to replace him has decidedly changed the focus of mass worship and preaching to a more “seeker-friendly” format. The message from the pulpit is noticeably milky rather than meaty and the worship has become increasingly entertainment-oriented.

There are finer factors that need to be considered. To begin with, children attend who yet need to be evangelized. One primary consideration here is that the parents should be doing this in the home. But the idea that the people sitting in the pews are at different levels of spiritual maturity. A word spoken, a concept given, will approach each differently. For some, it may be something they have never before heard or considered. For others, it will be a good reminder of something they need to maintain spiritually. The progression from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity is part of our sanctification. For each of the elect, one matures to the point where his eternal condition is manifest in a moment of salvation. Within the church, the means by which God accomplishes this is by providing an atmosphere of interaction with the Truth as revealed in the Bible that exceeds one’s current level of maturity. Therefore, the difference between a service oriented toward believers and a watered-down service oriented toward “seekers” is a false dichotomy.

This would seem to settle the debate. However, there is an element of needing to engage people from diverse backgrounds. (As for the kinist argument that everyone should just stay in their own group, we know that Paul himself planted cross-cultural churches. The most basin lesson from I Corinthians is that cross-cultural fellowship done right glorifies God.) The level at which we tailor worship and message for diverse people and yet seek to transcend differences and establish a unified vision of the Kingdom of God is yet a matter for clarity. Arguably, each congregation is called to a particular ministerial focus depending on the dynamics of membership and leadership that God has placed. So the levels may be different yet.

So the questions I have remaining are:

1)      What is the appropriate balance?

2)      What are the necessary considerations for determining that balance?

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