Monday, September 10, 2007

When Will the Church Learn?

I was alerted to this article at Justin Taylor’s blog, Between Two Worlds. It seems that Sally Morgenthaler has changed her views on the so-called worship evangelism she pioneered. Her book, “Worship Evangelism” was very influential and enticed many churches to adopt her philosophy. In hindsight, she now admits that despite all the effort that the contemporary church has placed on cultural relevancy, it has not yielded the intended outcome. Despite the multiplication of mega churches utilizing strategies including her worship evangelism, the church has failed to significantly reach the unchurched.

But while I appreciate Morgenthaler’s honesty, I wonder if she has really changed her pragmatic thinking. In her article she points out that in the early days of the Worship Evangelism strategy, the unchurched were actually responding to the pragmatic strategy; that is until the novelty grew wearisome. Eventually, only the well-established seeker megachurches survived. Ultimately, these meagachurches became nothing more than one more choice on the menu for church-goers shopping for the next thrill. But I also noticed in her article that she is a contributor to the book, “An Emergent Manifesto of Hope”, edited by emerging gurus Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. Given the emerging church's aversion to propositional truth, tragically, she may be just trading one error for another. Yes, I know, the emerging church denies any claims that they are simply adopting another pragmatic strategy, but that is essentially what they are doing. Pandering to what the postmodern society desires. I wrote a post some time ago pointing this out.

She comments on the observations by an “unchurched journalist”. “No sad songs. No angry songs. Songs about desperation, but none about despair. Worship for the perfect. The already arrived. The good-looking, inoffensive, and nice. No wonder the unchurched aren’t interested.” A little further and she advocates that that we “worship well and deeply”, including songs containing anger, despair and sadness, returning more to the Psalms, where David expressed these emotions. I agree that we should return to a more genuine heartfelt worship. Not as a tool to appeal to the lost, but for our expression of worship toward God. To be fair, I don’t think she was necessarily advocating using that as an attempt to appeal to the lost. The main thrust of her statement was directed at the focus of our worship being the “overflow of what God does through us beyond our walls.” And I agree, but with one caveat. I also agree with something that Jim Hamilton wrote in a post addressing this same article by Morganthaller; there should really not be a dichotomy between our corporate worship and our overall worship reflected in our daily life. Both are vitally important.

Singing and music in Scripture is never intended to be used as an evangelism tool. The Scriptural exhortation to sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs are meant to focus our thoughts on God and edification of one another. (Ephesians 5:19) They are not meant to be used as just one more tool in our arsenal of clever pragmatism to supposedly spread the gospel.

God chose the preaching of the simple message of the cross to be the vehicle by which to reach the lost with the gospel. Not eloquent, clever speeches or fanciful methodologies, appealing to the desires of the culture. (1 Corinthians 1:17-29; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5) This is to be done regardless of what the culture wants. (2 Timothy 4:2) If the culture resists and refuses to listen, we are to do it anyway. The measure of our success should not rest in numbers, but on the change in the hearts of those who believe, whether it is one or 1,000. If one were to judge the ministry of Jeremiah, according to the standards of contemporary evangelicalism, he would be deemed a failure. The man steadfastly preached the unadulterated message that God commanded him for over forty years, yet his message was continually rejected by the people. We must be willing to exercise the same steadfast faith and commitment.

In a vain attempt to supposedly reach the lost, churches have so watered down the truth in order to produce a lowest common denominator faith to get people in the church, and now are inept at providing any help in equipping believers in the faith. And this equipping is necessary if believers are going to be able to go into the world, being strengthened in their faith, brought to spiritual maturity and be an effective witness and testimony to the gospel of Christ.

While I certainly believe that churches should engage in outreach outside of the church, unless this effort is under girded by the proclamation of Scriptural truth, churches will come to the same dead-end that the liberal churches met; a hollow message that really offers no long-term hope to the spiritually needy.

It is time for the church get back to the basics of what the church should be doing instead of be driven by the latest pragmatic approaches devised through the clever schemes of man. It is time for the church to look to the teaching of Scripture to find out how we should be carrying out the ministry of the church, rather than the ideologies of man. Inevitably, man's ideas will lead to eventual failure, while providing a temporal illusion of success.

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