Most of us have friends in seeker sensitive churches who we think love Christ, but we long for him or her to be equipped and grow in sanctification. Most of us invite them to church hoping one day they’ll join us. Often the situation unfolds like this:
- Friend agrees to attend.
- Friend attends and is bored or put off by the service.
- Afterwords he or she is nice about it, but won’t attend again.
- Sometimes we learn the service was too different than their experience and struggled to engage during the entire service, especially the expository sermon.
- We say, “If the Spirit is alive, he or she will come back.”
It’s this scenario that leads me to now say, “Please do not just bring your friend to an expository service.” As disciple makers, we must be more attentive and active in our invitations. Instead of just stepping foot into the church, we need to prepare the person for what he or she is going to do.
Here are four — minimum — preparatory truths needing our attention:
First, think about where the person comes from. Take note of the kind of church your friend normally attends. If your friend is in a seeker sensitive church, note this. This is the foundation to build off of and move from. Do not insult his or her previous church. As much as I disagree with the seeker sensitive approach to worship, some people are saved there and we can thank the Lord for this. But remember most of these churches do not teach their congregation how to prepare for corporate worship. Most attendees can walk into worship the same way he or she walks into a movie — casually. They can even sit through the service just like they do a movie, as a passive participant. For the mature believer, this is mind boggling. But most people do not know what they don’t know. It’s our job to prep them. Therefore, remember, the person you’re inviting may not know what to expect from the church leadership in worship. She may not know what the Lord expects from us in our worship!
Second, inform him about the goal of worship. The goal of worship is to honor the Lord. This is not a passive activity. It is an active action! We are to listen, follow, and engage! We are with Christ’s body, united in the Spirit, to exalt the Father! This requires humility at minimum. Lowering ourself where we belong to exalt Him. Godly churches have no desire to entertain people. We want biblical content communicated because it His revelation to us about Him! Church leaders exalt Christ presenting Him as if on a silver platter for all to see so that we will bow down and worship Him. Therefore, the goal in every part in corporate worship seeks to manifest His glory. Put Him on display. Because of this, we need to participate actively in exalting Him. Music doesn’t exist to set the mood. Music exists to praise Him and edify other believers (Col. 3:16). I sing because he is worthy. I want other people to hear the music and be encouraged by Him. Worship is not an event, it’s an engagement we participate in.
Third, prepare him for the music and sermon. Someone who doesn’t know what they do not know cannot be expected to understand why the music is different. Hymns can sound “old and dead” because the accompanying music isn’t lively and entertaining. Our friend may have been told the lively music proves the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the music. But this is false. We choose the hymns and other songs because the content is rich in truth. Prepare your friend for this. Music should teach us and draw our heart to the Lord. How do we do that? We use biblically based songs teaching similar themes and truths from Scripture. Scripture is proof of the Holy Spirit because it is His Word. Prepare your friend to emphasize and dwell on the content as he or she sings.
If your friend comes from a seeker sensitive back ground, an expository sermon will potentially sound dead. There is a large difference between an entertaining speech and a sermon. The sermon needs to exalt Christ by preaching the Word (2 Tim. 3:16-4:2). God wants us to know Him better and uses sermons to edify the saints (Ephesians 4:11-16). Ask your friend, “How do you learn best?” If he learns best by taking notes then encourage him to bring paper, a pen, and of course his Bible. If he is easily distracted by people, sit up close limiting the people distractions. Find out the text before the sermon, read it a few times and ask some questions from it. This isn’t about sitting passively, listening to a sermon requires active attention. When I listen to a sermon, I put a book mark on the text. I read from it when the pastor does and close my Bible so other texts don’t distract me so I can listen better. Know how you learn best and do it. Remind him this is from the Lord to edify your soul.
Fourth, remind the person church is a relationship with shared responsibilities. Church isn’t just an event we attend. It’s a relationship. We are the body of Christ. If church is an event, then there is a start and end time. However, our church is an eternal relationship where we dwell on earth together and will dwell in heaven together for eternity. This means, worship exists before and after corporate worship too. Tell your friend, “I’m not just going to hear the sermon. I’ll also be engaging others to serve, learn how to pray, and encourage my family. We are here to make disciples. I serve a role in this and must be active in my responsibilities — as seen in the one another’s.”