Today’s question comes from a Q&A session in one of our recent One-Day Workshops.
You said that church is for believers and unbelievers, what do you mean? I tend to believe that worship is for believers and we bring our friends / neighbors / unbelievers, but don’t cater the service primarily to them. What does a wise and healthy balance look like?
It will be a rare public worship service where you don’t have people of varying belief levels present. Andy Stanley quips “Assume they’re in the room.” As we walk into a weekend service, we assume three broad categories of people:
Spiritually seeking. Many of your guests will fall into this category. They may be closed to the gospel (atheist, agnostic, skeptic, cynic) or open to the gospel (trying out churches, inquiring about Christianity), but they have not yet received the gospel. We address this group by carefully explaining each portion of the service. In a sermon, our pastor or teaching team will often speak to this group by assuming their defensive posture and raising some of the objections that may have formed in their minds.
Spiritually immature. To be clear: we are all spiritually immature about something. Depending on the subject, there is someone in the crowd who needs to take a next step. If we are talking about serving, you can bet that there are at least 1/3 to 1/2 of people who have never considered how to use their gifts to serve others. We give specific action steps on how people can move forward.
Spiritually mature. Again, to be clear: there are people who are spiritually mature in some area, but rarely all areas. Maturity doesn’t mean there isn’t room to grow or that we’ve mastered it. It just means the cookies don’t have to be quite on the bottom shelf for this crowd to reach them. This is Paul’s admonition to serve up meat and not milk, and next steps of obedience are still integral. An example would be a message on evangelism: you know these things. Here is how to proclaim these things.
Here’s the big point: our weekend services should address all three groups of people. To assume that our pews are full of mature believers is foolish. Likewise, to preach only apologetic sermons to those outside the faith is imbalanced. Some services will be geared more one way or another, and some services may be specifically skewed for a strategic purpose. But over the course of any several-week period, you should be able to see clear patterns that the corporate gathering is accessible for both believers and unbelievers.
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