"A Lesson From A Sandwich"
“Unbelievers don’t know or understand hymns or metrical psalms – so let’s ignore these things!”
“Unbelievers don’t understand the Bible – so let’s either keep our readings brief or avoid the book altogether!”
“Unbelievers are uncomfortable with lengthy public prayers – we’ll keep them short!”
“Unbelievers are suspicious of preaching – so let’s make sermons short and ‘relevant.’ We’ll talk about … say… hot- button political issues, heartache, self-improvement, mere-morality, or the challenges of raising teenagers.”
And so the mistakes continue to multiply until the final product is as strange as my Mc Fillet O’ Chicken.
So how do we correct this?
By starting in the right place – with the first component of worship.
What is it?
Simply this; we must believe that Lord’s Day worship is not about unbelievers. It’s not about their wants, their musical tastes, their felt-needs, or anything else. Lord’s day worship is about God, His wants, His commands, His requirements. The concern of the worship of the Church is to please the Lord of the Church – our Faithful God who has taken great pains to reveal Himself in His Word. Our prayers, our praise – every element of our worship services – must be in accordance with the Scriptures. Above all the Word of God must be faithfully preached as the climatic act of public worship. Why? Because in faithful, expository preaching the Triune God of the Universe condescends to speak to His people.
Yes! Let the unbelievers in the door each Sunday! By all means, compel them to come in! But when they do, ensure that they get a glimpse of the glory of our God, a fearful understanding of His might, and a grasp of His wonderful grace in Christ Jesus. Whatever we do, let’s not stroke the affections of unbelievers, let’s not try our best to put them at ease, let’s not say to them through word or deed, “Now we know that you’re not interested in Christianity or the church so we have something else for you today.” No! The fact is, we DO NOT have anything else for them. If they don’t want our Savior who are we to suggest to them ways of spicing up their marriage? If they won’t hear our gospel who are we to offer them rules of conduct to make their jobs more satisfying? At the end of the day, all we have to offer them is a Prophet to teach them, a Lamb to take away their guilt, and a Shepherd-King to guide and protect them. In a word, all we have to offer them is the One we gather to worship each Lord’s Day – and He is enough. Yes, of course, we want our worship to be marked by intelligibility and clarity. But no! We do not want our worship to feel casual or “normal” to the unbeliever. Because what happens Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day is anything but “normal.” The great covenant making God is condescending to meet with His people once more in a special way. He is meeting with them around Word and Sacrament. He is renewing His covenant with them. Here is the Triune God in the midst of a people once dead in trespasses and sins who He has raised to newness of life. Here is the Triune God calling His people together and graciously giving the unbelieving world yet another sign that the Kingdom of God has indeed come. This is anything but “normal” and cannot truly be conducted casually if it is to have the ring of authenticity about it
As British pastor Geoffrey Thomas wrote in and article entitled Goat-Sensitive Worship:
“If the style and mode of our expression when we meet in God’s presence is just like that which the goats hear in the office or in the schoolyard life then we have failed them. We whom the Lord is seeking and saving are sensitive to their real needs... So our worship will be simple, spiritual, substantial, warm, reverent, characterized by free prayer, great hymns and metrical psalms climaxed in expository preaching and anchored in proven forms that quickly gain familiarity and so become better means of channeling people to the God we are serving, and away from noticing clever servants who are speaking.”
By the way, when I realized my Mc Fillet O’ Chicken was all wrong I exchanged it for a proper one. I would urge you by God’s grace to do the same.