Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Going beyond "seeker-friendly"

Every generation has a new approach to worship. The Baby Boomers created the "contemporary worship" style. The current Generation X churches are "seeker-friendly." This is great! The only problem is when they come seeking and find nothing. We bring them in and show them how easy it is to be a Christian - that is to be a Christian in the same sense that one can be a Charger's fan - but never ask them to count the cost. While trying to put aside piety to attract sinners, we have turned church into a "museum of saints."1 hoping that, instead of being convicted by the Gospel, they will see how great Christians are and convince the, that was to be a part of our club.

But when the Gospel is preached, God is engaging the world in a temporal manner. The Gospel alone is attractive enough to draw seekers and sinners - who are one-in-the-same - and bring them into not just a club, but into communion with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

When the Church is instead a "hospital for sinners,"1 it becomes the most attractive, effective force on Earth. This is a place where needs are met, wounds are healed, bellies are filled, and hearts are poured out. This is where freedom is gained, and devotion is formed.

Instead we have opted for a moralism which is easy to fake. We're not open to any seeker, just the moral ones. We don't want the gays, the immigrants, the poor and dying. We want seekers just like us. They might have ragged edges (and who doesn't?), but those are easy to hide. They might change their lifestyles a little to fit in more, but this is just moralism on the surface. This is not true change or repentance. Jesus said to the moral leaders they were "whitewashed tombs" - they were attractive on the outside but dead within. He said it is what is in the heart that makes us sinners.

This is an impasse here, for the seeker-friendly church will not say we are sinners in need of grace. They do not admit to sin. Instead, they hold out morals to live by without convincing anyone as to why (and is it any wonder why Christians don't act any differently than the world?). Instead of sinners, we are just "off track" or "not living up to God's standard" or some other pillowy term. But without this knowledge, how do we extend grace? The seeker will ask, "What is this for? Why do I need forgiveness?"

But when we bring in the sinners - the rock stars, revolutionaries, politicians, gays, prostitutes and me - and extend to them the Gospel of Peace, we are humbled and fall at the grace of the one called Merciful. When our lives are laid out before the eyes of God and he imparts His righteousness over all of our sins, we are given a new perspective. What God has done for me is available for all! It doesn't matter what we have done, we are called "holy!" And on the Day of Judgment, when all of our deeds are exposed, we are not ashamed because we are viewed as righteous for nothing more than Calvary's Cross.

This is the first, and greatest need of the post-church of the 21st Century. We cannot forget the power of the Gospel. We cannot deny the grace of our Lord. This is the standard behind all other churchiness must follow. For without the Gospel of Christ, all else has no meaning or purpose and we can all go about our lives as if nothing matters at all.

1. These quotes are attributed to Morton Kelsey

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