Churches Shouldn't Be Evangelistic

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Back when I was even less of a mechanic or carpenter than I am now (which is hard to believe, for those who know me) I once needed to pound something in and I didn’t have a good whacking hammer handy, so I grabbed the nearest thing. It’s really hard to pound in a nail (or whatever it was—I don’t remember now) with an adjustable crescent wrench, but it CAN be done.

I’ve been reading for years about various theories of church growth and evangelism and two of the big ones have been “seeker friendly” with “seeker services” (now, possibly, slipping in it’s vogue rating to be replaced by the) “emergent church”.

For a brief explanation of both of these “movements” let me say that they are both geared (at least ostensibly) with addressing the fact that a lot of folks who don’t go to church are staying away because they find typical churches to be stodgy, irrelevant, boring, etc. So, goes the wisdom, church should change to attract the unchurched.

Now, for the sake of this blog, I’m going to ignore the churches that have abandoned the gospel in an effort to attract the lost. Such a philosophy is ultimately useless (and I don’t use the word “ultimately” advisedly here).

But let’s talk about the churches that are trying to keep the gospel message in-tact—maybe even strengthen their presentation of it—but are doing so in “new” ways. Some of those ways are to use drama to impart truths. To have fewer “sermons” and more interactive teaching moments. Switch from hymns to contemporary music. Et. al.

I don’t have any problem with any of these things. In fact, I think they’re good ideas … as far as they go.

Let me pause for a moment and tell you about an emergent church I know about. Their “service” now resembles a coffee shop more than what most of us church-goers think of as a church service. Folks come in to a dimly lit room that’s decorated with fake plants and has tables and chairs instead of pews and soft (Christian) music is going. There are stations where one can go to take the Lord’s supper and there are people there who, in rooms off the main room, teach. It’s not exactly like Sunday School because sometimes they have curriculum and sometimes they just allow the people who come in to ask questions and they study scripture to find the answer.

This, we’re told, appeals more to Generations X, Y & Z than your typical church service. And let me say that I have no problem with it. If the gospel’s being preached (or taught), more power to ‘em.

Other churches have seeker services. In these, the music is generally contemporary (in an attempt to be akin to the music the seekers listen to at home, on their Eye-Pods, etc.), the sermon/lesson is geared to people who don’t have a strong Biblical or church background and—ideally—the whole service is designed to encourage the seeker to want more and—thus—come back to the church on a Wednesday or get involved in a home study or something.

Again, I’m thinking here about congregations that do this well and I have no problem with the idea.

I just can’t get past the idea that we’re using a wrench where we’re supposed to be using a hammer. [Editor’s note: hammers are not necessarily violent tools. They are the tool of choice for certain jobs and that’s what I mean here. I could have mentioned using a butter knife for a screwdriver and gotten the same idea across.]

I’ve heard some really good praise bands, but I’ve never heard one yet that couldn’t have been out-performed by a half-dozen bar bands in the city where the church was. Plus, when people go to hear music they go to a venue that’s going to play “their style”. They go to country bars or hip-hop bars or rock bars or whatever. Church, by its nature, appeals to a cross section and can’t please everyone, so focusing on any one style exclusively will always alienate someone.

I’ve seen some really good church dramatic groups and many of them were almost as good as the local high school drama class.

And sermons? Not only do people not go anywhere to hear people preach, most adults rarely go anywhere to be taught. Not often, anyway, and not week after week.

Let me cut to the chase of this blog: I think churches are for the faithful to be recharged and taught and ARE NOT for evangelism. Christians, us individuals who walk out of that building and go to jobs and ballgames and whatnot, we’re the evangelists. It’s our lives that are going to impact this world.

I think a congregation could never hold a seeker service, could punt the whole emergent concept out the door and into the swamp, and sing all their songs in Latin while the preacher did his very best Ben Stein impersonation (except without the vigor and verve) and the congregation would grow and fulfill Christ’s purpose if the people who made up the congregation were out being salt and light in the world.

If dramas and contemporary music and dim lights and whatever help us recharge those spiritual batteries and get us out the door and into the lives of the lost, then let’s use them! But can we get rid of the notion that we’re doing this stuff so that the lost will come to us (and we won’t have to dirty ourselves with going to them, which, too often I’m afraid, is the real goal) and stop trying to pound nails with a wrench?

Comments? Email me