By Wendy Wippel
A church I visited recently, as an overture to the service, played (I am not making this up) the song “Jump” by Van Halen. A totally righteous version (pun intended), and appropriately, without the words which involve a guy trying to pick up a girl in a bar). But here’s my question: Why?
Today, 20 years into the Seeker-Friendly model for the church, the answer seems obvious; to prove to all involved or possibly involved that at this church we’re hip. We’re cool. We’re relevant. We’re just like you…..
So what’s wrong with that? Why did it bother me?
(And it did.)
Several reasons. First of all, 20 years into the seeker-friendly model, research indicates that the seeker- friendly model doesn’t really work. Churches have gotten bigger-nearly a thousand churches in the US now meet the definition of a mega-church (with at least 2000 people in attendance on Sunday morning), but they have gotten bigger in the same way that lots of things have gotten bigger. Crowds go where the hype is and there is a natural process of attrition and consolidation.
Churches have gotten bigger, but over the last 70 years, church attendance in the US has stayed pretty constant, 40%. And despite these seeker-friendly churches bending over backwards to present the right image-Starbucks in the vestibule, hip music, etc, the percentage of unchurched attendees who are assumed to have responded to that uberchic image represent, at best, about 15% of the attendees.
Secondly, secular music reflects a mindset that Scripture doesn’t really support: I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away. Psalm 101:3 ESV.
Is there anything intrinsically wrong with the music? No, of course not. I don’t really even have anything against the lyrics. They are, as rock lyrics go, pretty tame. But there is great Christian rock out there that could have been played without lyrics also, right?
But that wouldn’t have given the church any street cred.
And that’s the problem; street cred is the point.
Third, the music doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The mindset that thought Van Halen was a good idea on Sunday morning also thinks self-help and self-affirming sermons-with minimal scripture– is a good idea as well. Along with a watered down Gospel that presents Jesus as a life coach minimizing sin and the price He paid for it.
More importantly, the reason that Van Halen at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning really wet my Wheaties is that it defies scripture. It flies in the face of the weight of our Prime Directive, clearly communicated, as Christ-bearers in this fallen world:
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)
“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” (I Thessalonians 2:8-11)
Note the clear teaching in the verse from I Thessalonians to “preach the gospel without regard to pleasing fleshly instincts”. That would pretty much throw out Sunday mornings completely for most of today’s American churches at this point.
Can I get a witness?
When all is said and done, however, there is one slam-dunk reason that this seeker-friendly model gone amok should be re-examined. God formed us for a purpose. And he was gracious enough to tell us what it is.
“This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise:” (Isaiah 43:21)
We were created in His image, to praise Him and Him alone. And as trite as it sounds, there is, in fact, a god-shaped void in the heart of man that God and God alone can fill.
Verified by Scripture in John 7:37,
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
The word translated “from within them” is the word koilia, meaning, literally, a cavity. A hole. A hole that that is filled to overflowing by anyone who drinks from the living water that Jesus can provide. One confirmed by the Athenian’s Altar to an unknown God.
Please understand that, as someone who did not grow up going to church at all, I think that some distinction between Biblical Christianity Christ and Christian culture was probably long overdue.
Prohibitions on dancing, for example. I go to a seeker-friendly Southern Baptist Church and I have personally seen my pastor pogo-ing in the pew. A spirit-fueled celebration of the Lord which was the most fun I’ve had in a while.
But the world needs Jesus.
Tony, they can get anywhere, but truth is found only one place.
“But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
We may well attract curious seekers in with our contemporary music, our rockin’ kids programs and our Starbucks, but if we don’t tell them what it’s really about, we’re a “church fatale”. A party girl ready to treat seekers to a good time all the way to an eternity separated from God.
And that’s not our job. Our job is to give them the Gospel.
It’s definitely NOT to make the message amenable. God himself, in the Scriptures, tells us that,
“we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”
The last thing the lost need is to know people that are just like them. People just like them can’t help them. They need to know Jesus, the Jesus who died and rose again so that those that believe in Him can follow.
Our marching orders?
Go introduce Him.
Maybe next time I go they’ll play Highway to Hell…