31 January, 2006

Hide And Seek

Brittney inadvertently brought up a sore subject today. I have hesitated bringing up my views on Seeker churches because I know they are the elephant in the room. At least when talking with various friends and family members who've embraced the Seeker Driven Church. My own feelings on the matter are complex and continually evolving and revolving. It's odd that I don't write about this more often, since it's the crux of a lot of my prayer time--but I think that level of personal involvment generally lends me to consider it for private viewing only. But today, thanks to a PrimitiveSouthern Baptist Minister new to his pulpit, the issue is public and I'm going to chat a bit about it.

Worship is the act of acknowledging our Creator and Saviour with praise and thanksgiving. For those who have been saved and enjoy that personal relationship with their Saviour, our Worship time is similar to the time spent with our spouse. Daily devotions become akin to the suppertime conversations I have with my husband. They are intimate discussions about the mundane. They are the way He reveals himself to me through His written word and His Spirit. A church Worship Service is more akin to a date--time out on the town where you get to more fully worship his majesty in public.

(Ironically, "Personal Saviour" is a relationship that Pastor Dan says is not possible)

These public worship times have evolved over the centuries, leaving us with remnants of the myriad flavours of Church. If you most fully express your worship through liturgy and ritual you have all manner of High Church to attend. If you lean more toward Low Church you will find yourself in a more Traditional Worship setting. Chances are that if you are an American Christian (insert Randy Newman expletive here) your experience is either with a Traditional Worship or Pentecostal/Holiness style church. Both of these involve a pastor who is somewhat formally dressed, some type of choir (robed or in plainclothes) and a sermon buttressed by hymns. The hymns sung in the Traditional church tend to be more staid. It seems like 95% of them were written by either a Wesley, a Luther or Fanny Crosby. In a Pentecostal/Holiness church, the hymns are generally more upbeat and the congregation is more vocally participatory.

Pastor Dan's latest piece addresses the ills of the "Seeker Friendly" church, which is where I take issue with him. Many churches are Seeker Friendly without altering their church name or style of worship. A Seeker Friendly church is merely one where they don't wince if you come in jeans and allow you to participate in communion if you profess a relationship with Christ.

The problem as I see it is with the Seeker Driven church. These are the ones who have so completely altered the Sunday Morning Service from a time of worship to a time of entertainment. There are bands on the stage, skits, dancers in gauze who "interpretively move" to the music. There are clips from popular tv shows and films which buttress the Brief Message, and there is usually--not always, but usually--an overeager guy with a guitar forcing a repetitive drone through a simplistic chorus. The problem I have personally with these types of churches is not the way they dress but the type of "food" they serve. Worship has been redesigned. Instead of being an intimate time for the larger Body of Christ to experience their Worship, it is designed almost wholly to entertain the unbeliever. The theory (as I see it) is that people will come to church for the fun and realise that Jesus ain't no stuffy dude. They'll hopefully get saved and become members of the church.

Isn't that like meeting and marrying someone on a cruise ship? And then staying on the cruise ship for the rest of your married life? Sure, cruises are fun and the food is good, but there's no real-world relationship there.

I am an Evangelical Christian, though, and therein lies my largest beef with the Seeker Driven church. Many believers who have built these churches have done so with the best of intentions. They want to minister to the non-saved, to get them into church and into Christ's family of the redeemed. I understand their desire to bring new people to Christ. I just can't shake the feeling that it is contradictory to both parts of the Great Commission. First, are we "Going ye therefore" into "all nations" if we're just pulling a Mickey Rooney and "putting on a show"? And really, honestly, does the Seeker Driven church "[teach] them to observe all things whatsoever [God] commanded [us]"?

Is Sunday Morning Church to be food for the believer or a cheese-baited trap for the unsaved?

UPDATE: Pastor Reed has updated some information via the comments. I've corrected his church affiliation appropriately.

16 Comments:

At 11:05 AM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Phil said...

I'll roll with you on this one, Katherine.

You have absolutely nailed my dissatisfaction with church right now. Too many too easily become an insular club that wants to bring people in and exlude those who aren't in. Christians are tasked with going out and doing good in the world. I think I remember a quote (but not by whom) saying that the greatest test of the validity of a religion is the good it does for its non-adherents.

And you're point about the Great Commission is spot on too. Leonard Sweet once said at a conference I attended that he wonders if churches come up with all these new mission statements because we don't like the one we've been given.

btw, have you read works by Brian McLaren. Some of what you say is very resonant of his writing.

 
At 12:13 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Jeffrey said...

i always love ur posts katherine--even if i do tend to "lurk" here more times than not.

it has been a great discussion over at dan's blog.

i feel that the communal worship gathering (whenever it is that occurs) is for those who are the Church. Afterall what would "seekers" (to keep w/ the lingo of this post) be coming to worship?

the seeker driven/friendly conversation is not a new one. it has been around for several years. i tend to be a fan of neither the "seeker friendly" or "seeker driven" for various reasons. BTW, that doesn't mean i don't support the ministries of and befriend those who do prefer those methodolgies--it means i agree to disagree. who cares? we "Christians" bicker about enough as it is.

 
At 12:30 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

KC--as usual, you hit home on the subject.

Have I recommended Donald Miller's books to you yet? If not, go and read them. I think you'll enjoy them.

I do see what you're saying. We need to have church that is relevant. It needs to be connecting to the body and accepting of new members to that community of fellowship. I also seem to recall that John Wesley wrote some of his hymns to popular bar songs of the day since the people alrready knew the tunes. So, I don't see anything wrong with using pop culture as a way to a deeper spiritual thing. You compared it to your talking to Tim. Along those lines, using something familiar to open a door or have a light go on or make a point aint' a bad thing in my mind. If you do it right. I don't care for the videos shown before, after or during a sermon if they have no relevance to it. But if you're using it to make a point or put something into a concret form that might be more understandable, then I can see it. Same thing with interpretive dance...I mean, I don't get it, but I'm not a dancer. I can see how the interepretive dancers might see this as their way to express something to God in a language I don't understand. But again, it's all in how's it being done. Is it like vaudeville and just the next act or it is an authentic piece of worship to God and a way to connect with Him on a deeper level?

If it's a worship and connecting, I'm all for it. If it's just let's keep them heatens entertained with the bells and whistles and make Jesus a cool dude, then I'm not impressed..

 
At 12:31 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

wow. Thanks for the compliments, guys.

I guess when I say "seeker friendly" in conjunction with my church (First Baptist Nashville) I tend to see it as meaning that if you come in and are unfamiliar with church, you are not turned away but greeted warmly.

If you've been saved, you are welcome to take communion, and you can wear jeans and not feel left out.

But that's the extent of it. We don't sell coffee (we do offer it free to the homeless who come in during the service.) and we don't change our message to 'water it down' for the "Seeker". My philosophy (and I assume that of my pastor) is that if you are truly Seeking, we don't want to pull a bait-and-switch. This is the God we love that we hope you find and love, too.

Isn't it such a fine line, though, between being too insular (Phil's point) and too open (Jeffrey's point)? The best analogy I can come up with is that in my mind Church should be gas station for believers. You come to get refueled, have your oil changed and then continue driving on the road. That analogy is flawed though, because it implies that worship is only for the worshipper's needs and leaves out the grander part of serving God through the offering of ourselves in His worship.

I haven't read Brian McLaren, but I will add him to my growing list.

we "Christians" bicker about enough as it is.

Yes, we do, don't we? We've ALL (me included) sort of developed convenient situational amnesia for 1 Cor. 1:10-13.

 
At 12:43 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Phil said...

Katherine,

For McLaren, either read A New Kind of Christian or wait until April for The Secret Message of Jesus.

I got an advance copy of TSMOJ and have been reviewing it on my blog. It's faith shaping.

 
At 12:57 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Jeffrey said...

for the sake of space i grossly over-simplified my previous comment. lol.

What I dream of is a time when we can exise the term "go to church" from our vocabulary, for we are the church. Yes, gathering with other sojourners to worship together should "refuel" us, but one issue that grieves my spirit is the dependancy we've created on that.

I long for a time when we don't all "come to church" to get refueled individually, but instead say, "hey, let's all pile in the same car and enjoy the journey together (regardless of location and style)." If we were all together in the same car to chip in throughout the ride, wouldn't the gas be cheaper? lol

Michael said: "If it's a worship and connecting, I'm all for it. If it's just let's keep them heat[h]ens entertained with the bells and whistles and make Jesus a cool dude, then I'm not impressed."

rock on. and i like the interpretive dance illustration.

i guess one of the main problems i have with the "seeker" conversation is that it attempts to program relevancy (and if you'relevant, you shouldn't have to say, "hey, we're relevant") and segregates us [christians and non-christians] even further into "us and them" camps.

I guess i would rather see authentic worship, whether it be at your house during the week or at a communal worship gathering, than a dependency on an event and a program.

ok, i'm stopping now. dang i have a comment length issue.

 
At 1:05 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

What I dream of is a time when we can exise the term "go to church" from our vocabulary, for we are the church.

heh. You're talking to the woman who grew up Mennonite, remember? Home churches, Gatherings, etc. are my stock in trade. They're how I prefer to worship, with a daily communion of believers, and how Anabaptists were culturally forced to worship for many centuries.

I think that Sanctuary worship, and all that word (sanctuary) implies are a cultural safety net for many Christians, and a cultural ritual for many others. In the past few years, though, I've toned down my opinion on Sanctuary worship a bit, if only because in conversing with Chinese Christians it seems that we've got a Grass-is-Greener issue. The Chinese who are forced into Gathering worship underground would love to participate in open Sanctuary worship.
It seemed to me to be kind of odd for me to be so begrudging of a freedom for which others yearn.

Nevertheless, I will probably go to my grave thinking that compartmentalising corporate worship into a Sunday Sanctuary activity allows American Christians to limit God's relevance in our lives.

 
At 1:16 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Phil said...

"Nevertheless, I will probably go to my grave thinking that compartmentalising corporate worship into a Sunday Sanctuary activity allows American Christians to limit God's relevance in our lives."

Bingo.

 
At 1:52 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Dan the Baptist said...

You know what you all are right. My wording was wrong. Every Church should be seeker friendly. The churhces I was talking about in my post were indeed "seeker driven" churches. I have people that come into my congrgation all the time that have on casual clothing and that is fine.(the qiuestion is if you have a siut when do you wear it if not at church?)

BTW. I am not a Primitve Baptist pastor I am a Southern Baptist Pastor. My Grandad is a Primitive Baptist and I was saved after leaving his church. (I can explain if need be)

One more thing. I have a link from my church web site to my blog and most of my congregation read it. Therefore is there are any comments that seem to me as vulgar then I delete them. If I ever deleted one of your I apologize and I really do not know why I did it. But as far as Burrito and Raven I had no choice.

Once again I love you all and I know when I spene eternity with each of you Heaven we will have plenty of time to discuss all these little subjects. But mainly we will be worshipping the Father

 
At 2:13 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

BTW. I am not a Primitve Baptist pastor I am a Southern Baptist Pastor. My Grandad is a Primitive Baptist and I was saved after leaving his church. (I can explain if need be)

Sorry, Dan. I followed your blog info to your church and in reading the "About our church" link conflated the church's Primitive Baptist history with its present affiliation. I didn't see anywhere listing SBC--my bad.

The churhces I was talking about in my post were indeed "seeker driven" churches.

I kind of gathered that's what you meant. I wrote this post because the non-Christians (Brittney, et. al.) who read your blog don't always get the nuances of Church politics. Heck, I've been saved since I was 4 and I don't always get the nuances of church politics.

 
At 2:17 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Michael, how did I totally miss your comment? Good grief.

If it's a worship and connecting, I'm all for it. If it's just let's keep them heatens entertained with the bells and whistles and make Jesus a cool dude, then I'm not impressed..

Exactly.

 
At 2:19 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Jeffrey said...

"The Chinese who are forced into Gathering worship underground would love to participate in open Sanctuary worship"

a wonderful point Katherine! If in fact I appeared as if to communicate that there should only be small home gatherings, i apologize. I am a lover of communal times of worship with larger numbers of disciples. I only meant to say what you so elloquently stated in your final paragraph that Phil echoed--that if our "corporate worship" dependency is all we cling to, perhaps our affections are somewhat misdirected.

 
At 2:23 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Jeffrey said...

Dan, thanks for the clarification.

KC, to true on the church politics. oh crap, wait, that phrase [church politics] is a 100 comment post waiting to happen! lol.

 
At 5:11 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Dan the Baptist said...

Yes in our church history which needs to be changed they were indeed founded as a PB church. However they then went to missionary baptist and sometime many years ago joined the SB's.

 
At 11:09 PM, February 03, 2006, Blogger Dan McGowan said...

so much great stuff in this post and in the replies... where do I begin?

First - glad I stumbled onto your blog - I'll be back!

I agree with the sentiments raised regarding the over-produced, entertainment-driven worship services. It's just gone too far. However, there are too many who use that as their defense in an attempt to destroy the use of the arts in our worship while at the same time, trying to debate their cause to "bring back the great old hymns!"

It's NOT about style and form... ever. God never changes, but our WAYS of worshiping Him do - they always will.

The issue is - because of this drive we have for entertaining each other and always being on the lookout for the latest and greatest everything, we have ended up worshiping everyhing BUT God... and that is idolotry - and God is not a big fan of idolotry!

I believe it all starts with we who are leaders... no matter WHAT we do - heavy band-led music, choral music, dramas, video presentations, dancing - you name it - whatever it is, the HEART of that expression MUST be UNMISTAKABLY (and I mean by everyone in the room) directed ONLY toward the authentic worship of God. If not, you might as well play songs from The Grateful Dead (did that age me?) because it will have the same impact in terms of worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ.

I just get nervous when we start hinting that the use of creative arts in ministry is "bad" - it's not. In fact, it is quite Biblical, again, when used as a tool to worship God, rather than make everyone happy so they'll come back!

 
At 11:19 PM, February 03, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Glad you stumbled across.

I admit that I'm a hymn fan, and often think they get short-shrift in some churches.

Honestly:

Oh to Grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be...
Let thy goodness like a fetter
bind my wand'ring heart to Thee

Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Take my heart, Lord
Take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above!

---
That just speaks to my heart on so many levels. But I'm a writer and I love words. I can understand how other things speak to other people, including choruses. There are many choruses I love just as much as hymns. And there ARE hymns I can't stand.

I don't love the hymns because I think they're better. I love them because they just happen to be the avenue through which I best express my worship. I can't sing, but the words often do my singing for me.

If not, you might as well play songs from The Grateful Dead

I like them too. ;=p Maybe not in church.

In fact, it is quite Biblical, again, when used as a tool to worship God,

David danced before the Lord. We should, too. As long as the dancing is before the Lord and not for the audience, then great.

I guess we all kinda agree here.

 

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