do the ends justify the means? (again)

i’m telling you, mine are the most brilliant readers on the blogoshpere.

we’ve been discussing the debate over external experiences as a function of church ministry.

one side says:

In church world in the 90s, you may have heard leaders use the phrase, “It’s all about the weekend, stupid!” The philosophy was if the weekend services aren’t great, it impacts the growth of every area of the ministry…We celebrate the people who show up for services on Sunday because we know it leads to thousands of people taking next steps and experiencing life change.

the other side says:

But the moment we believe transformation occurs via external experiences, the emphasis of ministry must adjust accordingly. Manufacturing experiences and meticulously controlling staged environments become the means for advancing Christ’s mission. And the role of the pastor, once imagined as a shepherd tending a flock, now conjures images of a circus ringmaster shouting, “Come one, come all, to the greatest show on earth!” In Consumer Christianity, the shepherd becomes a showman.

please indulge me while i edit and present some of the comments i’ve received on this subject.

Web:  A critical flaw in (his) argument lies in his presumed primary recipient of the music and/or worship. It seems that he is operating under the impression that the primary recipient (or audience) is people–the consumers (believers and unbelievers) that will “experience” it. If that is the case, by all means, make it lively and attractive. Rock the guitars and strobe the lights. But if the primary recipient is God, then we are compelled to use all of our creative energies and physical giftings, along with our earnest practice and effort to make it glorious to Him, without regard to the approval of man. This does not relegate worship to the “dull and boring”, far from it. It compels worship to be thoughtful, meaningful, expressive and excellent.

Daniel H:  On the area of music, I read the other day that if you consider old hymns and old time gospel music, it was considered new and contemporary at one time. We can’t expect to reach a new generation with means that aren’t relevant to them. I think it is perfectly fine to use modern techniques to attract people into church, as long as the Gospel is the main attraction, and not just a side show.

WBMoore:  I dont think our focus should be on the people, but neither do I think they should be ignored. Our goal is to lead people into worshipping God. It has to be about God, but it has to lead people TO God. What does that will be different for different cultures and subcultures.

Grateful:  The Heart of Worship, is all about GOD. It’s not a show, it’s not to please the consumer, it’s not about us…Our worship, preaching, programs, advertising or anything else, shouldn’t be mediocre, because God’s awesome. It should be our best, but NOT because anybody else is looking, or attracted or glorified.

bbylsma:  If you draw people in because of the experience you offer them then at some point if another church or organization offers them a better experience they will most likely switch to them. Connecting with people on a consumer level is anti evangelistic because it’s anti discipleship. If we are trying to make disciples enticing them with experiential worship makes them followers after what exactly, certainly not Jesus. How many people turned away from Jesus because of the hard things he had to say, those drawn in because of the miracles quickly dispersed when he drew hard lines for them to follow. Maybe instead of being hypocritical to the world around us offering them something experiential that won’t last we should just lay it out there and show them that worship exists beyond all the lights and guitars and drums.

spiritualway:  I have no idea of where church is going to end up on its present course, but maybe my fifteen year old granddaughter says it better than I: “Good things fall apart, so better things can fall together. Better things fall apart so the best of things can stay together.”

ed elliott:  The failure i perceive in the Church in my generation is the failure to equip the everyday, non-professional saints for ministry. When denominations subtly and relentlessly professionalized Christian ministry, the equipping function of the Pastor, which is primary per Ephesians, got lost in the gathering…Let’s give our members (especially all of the retiring members with time on their hands) the money, tools, leadership and organization to engage a hurting, chaotic, unbelieving world.

i really believe that this conversation is critical.  it’s not simply about determining direction for the future, it’s about our (the church’s) ability to reach the next generation. do we have any hope of being viable?  or will we continue to slide slowly and painfully into obscurity?

which side are you on?  tomorrow i will conclude with my thoughts on the issue.


One thought on “do the ends justify the means? (again)

  1. Worship is when I enjoy God and his desires. And worship manifests itself in an obedient life.

    I see our time together on Sunday, then, as an opportunity to lay the sacrifices of our obedient lives at Christ’s feet. We come to celebrate the transformation that has taken place in our lives, and to encourage one another in that process of enjoying God and being obedient to him. It should be a lot more about helping one another seek God during the everyday than it should be about “corporate worship,” songs, music, preaching, etc — though these things are useful in encouraging one another… if we use them that way.

    I hear a lot of people saying the church’s time together on Sunday is not about us, but about giving worship to God. I just don’t buy that. The reason we all come together is because it is largely about us. The community exists to encourage and empower further worship and mission — everyday lives lived as God intends. So it must be about us. The problem is most of us are waiting until we get to a particular building and time of the week to worship God. Bad news: it’s too late at that point. Worship isn’t what’s done inside those doors; that’s a celebration of the worship of my life, and an encouragement to further worship.

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