Recently, I entered into an internet conversation on the purpose of the church. Dangerous territory, I know, but fools run in where angels fear to tread. The conversation started by the posting of an article about a “church” known as “The Crossing” that some people were beginning to fear was taking on a cult-like appearance. This church is known for its seeker-sensitive methodology, seeking to draw in the unconverted to, allegedly, preach the gospel to them. Of the comments that followed, inevitably, one was from a participant of said church, defending its actions.
Initially, I refrained from comment and observed the conversation unfold. The defender of The Crossing repeatedly defended her church’s effort to reach the lost by offering a non-judgmental environment to those who would not enter a traditional church. She also repeatedly demanded people show her where in the Bible is was prohibited to invite people to church. Ultimately, her challenge was that if her church was doing the work of God, no one had the right to say anything negative. In fact to do so was to speak against God (interesting that she couldn’t see why anyone was making a connection with the cults).
What ultimately got me into this conversation was that she was making the same fatal mistake that many so called churches are making today. That is, she wrongly answered the question, “What exactly is the church?” According to seeker sensitive theology, the church is a building where you make the unregenerate person as comfortable as possible while you slide snippets of the Bible in between moralistic teachings on how to improve your life. The justification for this is that the hard doctrines of the Bible would push away the nonbeliever, thus preventing him or her from being willing to “accept” Jesus. The church therefore, is the recruitment center where hopeful Christians are wooed into “believing”.
However, what is the biblical definition of the church? The Bible refers to church as the “bride of Christ.” It is the universal body of believers who have been converted by the power of the Holy Spirit by leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is universal because it is not confined to the four walls of the local church building. It includes men, women and children of various nationalities, locations and even eras of time. It is confined only to those who have been born again by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The local gathering, the church we attend down the street, is where believers in the same geographic location meet to pray, worship and study God’s word. It is where believers grow in faith and learn about the spiritual gifts given to them for use in God’s service. In essence, it is a boot camp, not a recruitment center. Believers meet to be trained up in the word of God and then go out into the world to wage spiritual warfare. The believers are equipped for the work of ministry and go out and proclaim the gospel. Then God does the work of conversion in the heart of the unbelievers. Then those who become born again join the universal church and become plugged into a local congregation.
When the local church is treated as a recruitment center rather than a boot camp, spiritual soldiers are deprived of vital training and are rendered incapable of fighting in the war. Hopeful recruits are plugged into ministries despite their lack of conversion, thus rendering the work done ineffective because it is not led by the Holy Spirit.
My response to the “church” defender came down to this. Is it acceptable to invite a neighbor or friend to church where they hear the gospel proclaimed, and in turn, become born again? Absolutely! But should a church be modeled in such a way that the local congregation is where we try to woo unbelievers into “accepting” Jesus? Absolutely not! To do so is unbiblical and a direct contradiction of scripture. Any church that adopts such a practice is not a church. Let us not fear exposing such false practices because we will called unloving or intolerant. Let us stand for the biblical calling of the church and never waver in our dedication to the body of Christ