I was recently reading a pastors blog who was explaining his philosophy for planning Sunday services. To him the most important thing seemed to be tailoring the Sunday service ENTIRELY for the unchurched person, while neglecting the believer. His words in effect were:
“I want to remove anything from the service that an unchurch person does not understand. I want them to be completely comfortable.”
Completely comfortable? I think he may have missed the point of the gospel.
ON ONE HAND we should be mindful of unbelievers in our church services, making sure we don’t get too carried away with things. For instance, in I Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul instructs (and rebukes) the church about speaking in tongues during the services, using the gift of prophecy, and other similar controversial issues. To make his point, Paul imagines a hypothetical scenario in which an unbeliever shows up at church and can’t figure out what in the world is going on because everyone is speaking in tongues. Paul states that this form of extremism is confusing and unhelpful to the unbeliever. The conclusion: our language MUST BE CRYSTAL CLEAR if it’s going to do anyone (including the sinner) any good.
But ON THE OTHER HAND, Paul suggests if the unbeliever is confronted with the prophetic power of God in a way that he CAN understand “…he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Cor. 14:25)
THAT IS EXACTLY THE POINT. Not that the unbeliever would be COMFORTABLE. But rather that the presence of God would be MANIFESTED and UNDENIABLE in the church services.
Whether they completely get it or not at first, they should SENSE it…
Whether they completely agree with it or not, they should be DRAWN TO it…
I don’t think that’s going to happen if we tone it down or dumb it down. Don’t get me wrong, at PCC we are fully committed to reaching people who are far from God. We go to great lengths to target unbelievers for evangelism and we are sensitive to their fears and hang-ups when the come to church. Our goal is that they be filled with the life of God and become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
That’s why I believe the best way for them to connect with God is to offer them an amped-up, full throttle, passionate presentation of the gospel. We will lift our hands in worship. We will sing to the top of our voices. We will pray passionately. We will shout in church and clap our hands. And when it comes to preaching/teaching God’s Word, we will present it hard-hitting just as it is written.
It’s like going to a college football game for your first time. You are sure to encounter things that you don’t really identify with yet. But the passion is overwhelming. The volume is very loud. The mullet haircuts and shirtless rednecks are a bit too much. “I wish those fools would sit down and shut up. They are destracting me from the game.”
But there’s something about the atmosphere that DRAWS YOU IN.
Even if you don’t like everything that’s going on in the football game, you can just sense that THIS IS THE PLACE TO BE. Before you know it, you are screaming at the top of your voice right along with the hardcore fans who fully understand it all.
Get my point?
At PCC, I want our Sunday morning experience to be SO DISTINCTIVE, unique, and full of passion, that, even though you (or unchurched Sam or Pam) may not fully understand it at first, you are DRAWN INTO the experience and can sense THIS IS THE PLACE TO BE.
You don't want to scare the unbeliever away on the first Sunday. Sometimes it takes several Sunday with God speaking to their hearts for them to accept him as their Lord and Savior. I grew up in the Assembly Of God church, so the speaking in tounges doesn't scare me but I can certianly see where it would scare someone who had never heard it.
That's the truth!
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