When I was in college, I remember for the first time hearing the phrase ‘Seeker Sensitive Church.’ There was, however, no real standard for what this really looked like in the church, as different churches who claimed to be Seeker Sensitive did things very differently. The idea was that a church that claimed to be Seeker Sensitive would go out of their way to create an environment (most of the time in their Sunday morning services) that would welcome, accommodate, and encourage the attendance of non-Christians.
This sparked a huge debate among many within the church as to the MAIN purpose of the Sunday morning gathering time. Some in the ‘In-Reach’ crowd stated that in order to be ‘Seeker Sensitive’ the Gospel would be compromised or watered down. The argument also continued that ‘discipleship’ in the church would be sacrificed and the main gathering time in the church would be Biblically shallow and lacking of ideas such as sin, repentance and Christ as the only way. Some of those in the ‘Out-Reach’ crowd would argue that they were fulfilling the Great Commission and to not be Seeker Sensitive was to be in conflict with God and His Word. They would also often make the Biblical appeal from 1 Corinthians 9:22 in which Paul states, “… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” While this debate has been going on for years, many church bodies are still having the conversation. There is still the question among many congregations of “Who do we want to be?”
So the question that I am dealing with is, “Should the Sunday morning worship service focus on in-Reach (ministry to the Believers) or out-Reach (visitors and lost)?” In other words, “What should the Sunday morning church gathering be about?”
In 2 Peter 3:18 Peter instructs the church to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” One of the reasons the church should gather together on a regular basis is for the growth of the body in Grace and in Knowledge. Certainly this is talking about the knowledge of the Gospel, but it is also talking about the meatier truths about God in His Word (Hebrews 5:12) in light of the Gospel. We are to grow, as believers, to be mature, Biblically driven, children of God. Then we will be able answer questions like, “Why am I here?”; “Why do bad things happen?”; “How should I treat those who are hostile to God?”, etc.
When God’s Word is proclaimed in a Biblically accurate manner, His people are encouraged to become more like Christ. We are told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Word of God is good for teaching, reproof (rebuke, admonition), correction, and training. Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is alive, powerful and reveals to us the thoughts and motives of our own hearts. God’s Word, faithfully taught, will equip and enable His children to carry out His good works and to: “walk worthy of the calling we have received in Christ (Ephesians 4:1).”
There was an epidemic in the days of the early church. This same epidemic exists in our churches today. False teachers and prophets had infiltrated the church and were spreading their destructive lies to anyone who would listen. Many in the church were fooled and believed what was being taught–another gospel (Galatians 1:8). Paul, Peter and other apostles spoke at length about this problem and how the early church should deal with it. It is essential, as the Church of Jesus Christ, that we know what the Bible teaches and are able to discern it’s Truths from any false, heretical teaching lest we, like so many are, ”tossed back and forth by the waves, and [are] blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).
Inevitably, there will be those who visit church who do not have a saving relationship with Jesus. There are also those who sit in the pew Sunday after Sunday who have never committed themselves to Jesus as well.
It is important in the Sunday morning worship service that the Gospel is presented in a very clear, concise way so that the unbeliever can understand. It is also very important that we lay the ground work of intentional prayer for the Saving work of Jesus in the visiting or attending unbeliever. The Gospel (the good news of the finished work of Jesus) can also be presented in various ways throughout the service… at times of offering, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, music, etc.
Times of fellowship also lend themselves to the Gospel message as well. Through the building of relationships and friendships the Gospel can be shown and put on display as unbelievers are confronted with the Love of Christ. It is true that the Sunday morning worship service can be a opportunity for the Bride of Christ to show love to other believers (John 13:35), as well as non-believers.
We must be aware that in our church gatherings, on any given Sunday, there will most likely be those who are searching for Truth, those who are confused about life, those who feel a deeper meaning (but not sure what that is), those who feel trapped in their own mess, etc. The Sunday morning worship service can be a great time, if we really, intentionally take advantage of it, to share and show the life changing love of Jesus.
The bottom line, though, is that both In-Reach and Out-Reach can be successfully accomplished at the same time. Look at what Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
If we are faithful with the Word of God in our Sunday morning worship service, then God’s Word will not come back empty. We must be faithful… God will produce the fruit.
The original question was, “What should the Sunday morning church gathering be about; In-Reach or Out-Reach?” While I believe BOTH is a good enough answer, I believe NEITHER is the better answer.
I believe the In-Reach vs. Out-reach deate, while valid concerns, can become the distraction. Our Sunday morning services should be about much more than us! Look at what Acts 6:27 says, “And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” This verse comes on the heels of Barnabas and Paul traveling through several cities and preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were believing the message of Jesus and were getting saved! Upon returning to Antioch, they gathered the church together and began telling them about what God had done. The subject of Acts 6:27 is not the gathered church or the new Gentile disciples… the subject is God.
If we are not careful, we will make discipleship the reason we gather! If we are not careful, we will make evangelism the reason we gather! These are BOTH areas that we MUST pay attention to. But the main point of focus for the church should be NEITHER of these two!
The apostle Paul says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified (emphasis mine), a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (emphasis mine). For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).”
Christ has to be what the Sunday morning service is about… not In-Reach or Out-Reach!!! Our worship of a great, incomparable, unequaled God. If Christ becomes secondary, then EVERYTHING else just becomes foolishness. We must keep Christ as our main focus.
Colossians 1:15-18 says it best, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.”
What do you think?