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Church…What’s It For Anyway?

by Kelly Crawford
God draws the lost to Himself; not our groovy strobe lights.

It makes sense to discuss children’s ministries, better programs and outreach. It sounds like the right thing. But is it working? And even more importantly, is it biblical?

John McArthur did a heavy series on pragmatism in the church. That is, the notion that if something produces results, it must be good. He suggests that this is not what the Bible teaches. Adding to sound doctrine may have a nice ring, but is it what we’re called to do?

In unpacking the thoughts about outreach and children’s ministries, we must carefully examine our motives. One commenter mentioned that the church is primarily for equipping the saints…she is absolutely right. But you’re almost crucified for speaking such things in our postmodern world!

I see this as one of the most fundamental mistakes the church has made. We have confused the important gathering of the saints with the mechanics of The Great Commission. In Scripture, Paul wasn’t standing on his head to figure out how he could make the Sunday morning worship service more relevant to the lost to increase their numbers.

The numbers were increasing with Christians. The Christians were meeting together to be nourished, encouraged and equipped to then fulfill The Great Commission in their lives. Which brings us back to the natural workings of the family. Entire families were being instructed in the church. Children to old men were being addressed in Paul’s letters. Then the families were going back home, living out the gospel, and lives were being changed. That simple.

But when we change our whole focus, as so many churches are doing, thinking we can improve on God’s ways, we lose big time. Now, for the sake of bringing the lost in, making them feel comfortable, the whole service has changed. It looks different, sounds different, it IS different.

And the family has gotten lost in the shuffle.

I mentioned visiting a church on Sunday. It was a family member’s church, and I hesitate to write about it, because I don’t want to hurt feelings. But this was our experience.

When we drove up, it looked like we were just in any other parking lot. We immediately saw short-shorts, tight jeans, strapless tops, body piercings of the extreme kind, boys and girls hugged up, and hardly a single family. The children were already in the kid’s building.

During worship, it was obvious that it wasn’t only the visitors dressed inappropriately. As the music began, the same women in tight jeans and mini-skirts started swaying their hips. Is this bothering anybody else? Because my husband almost made the call to escort us all out. (And the babies are distracting???)

I am not exaggerating a bit. (My speak-her-mind 4 yo, with her eyes bugged out came and whispered to me (thank goodness she whispered!)…”Mom! That lady has a bra and she’s showing it!”

To my left, a teen aged girl, wearing a strapless top, stood between the legs of her boyfriend, facing him, (he was sitting), holding his head in her hands…I’m guessing you can picture what was at his eye level.

It was quite obvious that this church had a particular focus in outreach. Outreach is certainly needed. But I don’t believe church is the place to create a ministry geared for it. (Can you imagine Paul’s response in this situation?)

Because everything has to change. See, if the members dress modestly, they might make the visitors feel awkward. If there is any reverence of worship, visitors won’t “get it”. This church had gone to great lengths to making the lost feel welcome as their priority.

Hear me…should the lost feel welcome at church? Absolutely, inasmuch as that means that we meet them, greet them and love them right in and invite them to worship with us. But do WE change to get them to come and want to stay? No way. Why do you think Paul gave such careful description about the responsibilities of the older men and women in Titus?

If a lost person comes to church, it should be because he desires to find the truth of the gospel. He desires change. If he doesn’t desire that, he SHOULD feel uncomfortable in church. (“Now the light has no fellowship with the darkness.”)

God draws the lost to Himself; not our groovy strobe lights.

Unpopular as it sounds, church is for the believer. Unbelievers are welcome. But equipping the saints must be the focus or there can be no Great Commission.

The Great Commission is not about lowering our standards of worship or dress or behavior to meet those who are lost; it is about going OUT into the world and making disciples through the way we live, the way husbands and wives treat each other, the way children honor their parents, the way we love people, the way we conduct ourselves, allowing God to control every area of our lives. Sinners, saved by grace, demonstrating the power of change through an Almighty God.

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Anonymous July 22, 2008 - 11:05 pm

Ok, Kelly, I’m going to be the first to stick my neck out on this one. I’m suprised you haven’t gotten a ton of comments already. I believe churches are basically catering to the lost for two reasons: 1)Numbers and 2)Few churches still teach and believe that God is sovereign in salvation. Most are trying to do the job of “saving” the lost themselves, which means they must do all they can to attract them. The mandate of The Great Commission is to go and teach. But the work of converting sinners is left to the Holy Spirit.
I appreciate your zeal and boldness for the truth.
Beth H.

Word Warrior July 22, 2008 - 11:07 pm

Yeah, the theology path kept popping up in my mind too…’cause that has everything to do with what’s happening…just a lack of understanding about who does the saving. Kudos for being brave 😉

frustrated in the pew July 22, 2008 - 11:44 pm

I’m so disappointed… I didn’t know you visited my church on Sunday! I would have LOVED to meet you. Oh, you weren’t in Texas? Well, we have the same strapless tops, short skirts, and tight shirts at our church. There have been some Sundays when I almost moved my family of 7 to another pew b/c of the inappropriately dressed person sitting in front of us. Why aren’t we being taught modesty from the church? Why isn’t the church teaching us parents how to raise our children Biblically? Why isn’t the church teaching husbands and fathers how to lead their wives and children? When (and WHY) did the church move away from teaching these important things? If any of you go to a church that teaches these things, you are BLESSED!

Mrs. Lady Sofia July 22, 2008 - 11:49 pm


Wow! What a powerful and thought provoking testimony! When you began this topic the other day, I had to admit that I was a bit “annoyed,” and felt that you were “attacking” ministries for young children. However, after reading this post, I see that is not your intent.

After reading about your church experience (the church you were visiting), I guess that is the reason I have had problems with churches in general. I visited a church several years ago that condoned men and women to live together who were not married. It’s often difficult to find a church that adheres to the gospel as you described in your post. Most of them are aimed, as you said, in trying to “win the lost” by lowering standards to others can “feel good” and “join the club.

At any rate, you are a bold woman, and I admire how you stand-up for what you believe, even in the face of opposition. It’s a powerful testimony for me to be able to do the same with my faith.

Jen in Al July 23, 2008 - 9:02 am

Thank you, Kelly, for “being strong and courageous” and simply stating the obvious. it is amazing how we as Christians can literally not see the forest for the trees. you would think these things would be a matter of biblical common sense but do we as Christians have any? it is so humbling and makes me praise the Lord to not have to be in that type of “worship” service all the time. My heart breaks for all the families that do. thank you so much…jen in al

Katherine July 23, 2008 - 9:36 am

I have been excited about these last posts. Beth H couldn’t have said it better. I struggle with the same issues at my church too.

Catherine R. July 23, 2008 - 10:28 am

You just described most of the churches I have been to.

At the church where I got saved there was a group of young adults who smoked and cursed (and much more) outside during the break. They made no effort to get to know anyone other than the people they came with. And I was there for 2 years, it never changed. What’s the point of even going to church? So that you can live however you want and still get a free ticket to heaven?

Ann July 23, 2008 - 10:56 am

I know what you mean! Please put on some clothes, my ten year old son does not need to see that–especially at church!
What do you think about casual modest dress? I mean not tight jeans and a nice shirt or something like that?

Jennie July 23, 2008 - 11:54 am

Hi again! I agree that church should not lower their standards to reach out to the world. In my comment to you yesterday, I described my church’s outreach (My church is celebrating its 50th anniversary in a few months, under the same Pastor the whole time, btw). I am having trouble reconciling this post with your posts about family. I see these as two separate issues. A church can have an outreach program for sinners and still train the saved at the same time. That is exactly why there are different classes. Our pastor stands in the pulpit speaking against the ungodly displays you described each week. I bet we have many visitors who don’t come back because they feel uncomfortable with our standards. But I am sure we have even more come back because they want what is different about most of the people they see at church. I am curious under your methods how many people you know of have come to the Lord? Numbers do matter, becuase by following the Great Commision we are filling the body of Christ. I would rather teach my children to reach out to people of all backgrounds in the safe environment of church than invite an alcoholic who beats his wife into my private home. Once they are saved and living for the Lord, they are welcome. But with young kids, you cannot have the average unsaved person over for dinner without being a little concerned. For instance, one of our church’s more recent outreach programs is Reformers Unanimous, a faith based addictions program. People actually show up drunk sometimes. Would you invite the whino off the corner into your home, with your little ones? I wouldn’t. But at church it is a neutral location where we can minister to them and teach them why Jesus is the only solution to their addiction, not another 12 step program. Whereas I would invite my neighbors who I know something about into my home, I would not invite the average RU attendee (until they are saved and sober, then they are more than welcome). I think that is just common sense. So under your model, how are we to reach the under belly of society, when admittedly, most of us function in a different arena entirely?

I think we can have both a Biblical church with standards that reaches out to the lost, and also teaches their saved members how to live the Christian life. I know this, because I attend that church, and have for the last 11 years. I have seen the broken father walk down the aisle and turn his life over to Jesus, and then his whole family start attending church. And I have seen the teenager do the same, and then bring their divorced parents who got remarried after coming to the Lord. I think you need to consider there is another way, that serves both the family and the unsaved, under one roof. The church is the body of Christ, so saying it is exclusive to one group is an oxymoron.

Anonymous July 23, 2008 - 12:11 pm

Has anyone else read this e-book? I always think of it when topics like this arise.


Tracy July 23, 2008 - 12:21 pm

Like others have said, the church you visted could have been mine! After much prayer and waiting, DH has agreed to visit another chuch this weekend. A church that believes in family integration and doesn’t even have a youth group! I am hopeful that it will go well and that DH will fell led to switch.

Wondering if you mind me linking to this post from my blog?

rcsnickers July 23, 2008 - 2:14 pm

I thank the Lord our church Solid Rock is nothing like what you described! We have family members who attend a church like you described and we shy from attending with them. Come to our church and pray they hear and heed to the message/example.

Thanks for the bold post!

Julie July 23, 2008 - 2:17 pm

I love my church, but Im pretty sure you were visiting us. I pray everyday for the leadership. Dh and I gave our Pastor a copy of Voddie Bauchman’s book. I don’t think we are anywhere near leaving and sometimes I get scared. I worry it will be harder to hold onto my children when they see all their friends go off to youth group/camp/fellowships. Dh and I plan to offer other ministering opportunities for our whole family in hopes of replacing these “fun, entertaining” activities. But lets face it kids are kids. Thats why we have to protect them. Their judgement is tainted. I know there will be resentment in my kids hearts because they don’t get to do what others are doing.
Dh says any church we go to will have problems. I totally agree with that. I guess I just wish I could go to a church that was a little more like minded sometimes. We are so incredibely different.
Our pastor truly has a heart for families and building men up, but he disdains “old school”.
I think we can still reach the lost without being worldly. Your right people who are searching should be uncomfortable in church. We used to call that conviction, now we are afraid it is going to scare them off.
Thanks for posting these last few posts. They have encouraged me.
Sorry for the long comment. 🙂

Word Warrior July 23, 2008 - 2:44 pm


It is rare that your church has been able to maintain both the focus of equipping the saints and evangelizing the lost. In and of itself, I wouldn’t try to argue with that model.

I’m trying to bend our minds around something, though, that is a rather foreign and lost concept…

The “church” as in the body of Christ, is everywhere at all times. The physical “church” as in the building we meet in on Sundays, is one tiny part of that. The physical church building is a place of worship and equipping. Here’s what I see as a big problem…hear me out…

Unbelievers can’t worship. Now before everyone gets upset with me for being an “exclusivist”…remember, the physical place of worship on Sundays is a small part of the Great Commission. A very important part, but it’s not the sum total of the Christian life. I think we have this picture that if we say “church is for Christians” then we must be saying, “we don’t care about the lost”. NOOOO!!!!! Quite the opposite!

The meeting of believers on Sunday is a vital part of bringing their sacrifices (both praise and tithes) to the house of the Lord, and then receiving instruction in sound doctrine. That’s all it ever was in Scripture.

Once we try to make it a place to evangelize the lost, we inevitably weaken the very foundation of its purpose. Both in undermining our worship practices (now we must be more seeker-friendly) and in encroaching upon the family to take part in all the extra programs.

Whereas if we would let church be what it was meant to be, the families (and indivduals) could thrive and grow and be rooted and grounded for the work of the Great Commission the other 6 days of the week.

Church must be our refuge…our place of refueling, gearing up, reinforcing our lives to be able to do the Kingdom work at hand.

Does this make sense?

Mrs. Santos July 23, 2008 - 6:27 pm

You have really put my thoughts into words. We recently started going to a family integrated church. Once a month there is a service that is done at a retirement home, and we do support missionaries, but other than that I felt at first like we were in a nice “Christian huddle.” I would leave church feeling encouraged and exhorted and ready to walk after the spirit…but at the same time feeling like I did not want to invite anybody to church…they might snicker, they would wonder why all the women are in dresses and why does everyone have so many kids and why is it only the men stand up in church to talk…what’s up with the hymns?

I was LOVING church and at the same time afraid of the stark contrast there was with the culture around us. Was it O.K. to be so different? Of course, yes, especially because we live in the Kingdom of God. We are bound to be different and it is exciting to know that there are others out there living out the Word with joy.

Thanks for this post…may link to it from my blog if it’s o.k.

Mrs. Santos

Brenda July 24, 2008 - 11:37 am

We have said this for years–glad to hear it put so well. I know others have thought my husband was crazy when he said church was for believers.

You said it.

Anonymous July 25, 2008 - 10:14 pm

Once again, i cannot even believe the judgement and condemnation and ridiculous blanket criticism.

If you are in church to WORSHIP, don’t you think your constant criticism and judging of others’ attire and movement is going to hinder your worship? You are obnoxious.

I suppose you also think Jesus should not have dined with sinners or ministered to an adulterous woman at the well.

I am embarassed to be thought of in the same circle as you.

Perhaps you should post signs around your church property with rules about who may enter and worship our God. They must be dressed correctly, they must not sway, they must already be perfect, huh?

Dana July 30, 2008 - 8:25 pm

I am just now coming to this post. I feel the exact same way. It’s difficult to leave our church because my best friend’s husband is our minister, and they’re very, very dear friends, even though we have differences. Thing is, my friend takes these differences personally. She says if we do indeed leave then it’s about her husband not being a good minister. I say that it’s not about him at all. He’s a wonderful speaker, I just don’t think most people “get it”. I’m rambling now. Thanks for posting about this.



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