Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Drawing People In?

Here's a thought-provoking article from the Internet Monk. And here are Lutheran reactions to that article at Paul McCain's blog. But the idea of Evangelicals looking for churches that feel like churches got me thinking.

If George Barna released a study that concluded that including the Lord’s Supper in a worship service was guaranteed to drive people away from the church, what would you do? If Thom Rainer studied 1,000 unchurched people and found that every single one of them was driven away from a church because the church advocated infant baptism, how would that affect the location of your baptismal font? If you had scientific proof that preaching Christ crucified would keep people from coming back to your church (or never coming in the first place), would you change the content of your sermons?

While the article is encouraging, I think it misses the point. We don’t embrace the liturgy of the church because it draws people in any more than we use Sacraments as ways to draw people in the door. The Sacraments are there because the Lord has given them to us. If they bring people in the door, great. If they drive people away, screaming in terror, vowing never to set foot in our churches ever again, we still must receive them.

If people want to return to churches where the history of the church is not denigrated, where the rhythm of the church year is repeated annually, where the liturgy is the same week after week, where sermons are preached in pulpits, where pastors dress like pastors and not baristas, great. God’s Word and Sacraments will be here for them. But if another study 10 years from now reveals a trend back toward pop-evangelicalism, God’s Word and Sacraments, wrapped in the holy liturgy, will still be here, doing what they always do: delivering forgiveness, life, and salvation.


Paul McCain said...

I think you raise a good caution, Jeff, but I think you might also have missed the simple, yet profound, point of the post. It is precisely as Lutherans are, who they are, that they offer refugees from Evangelicalism what they can't find there: namely, the purely preached Word and properly administered Sacraments. The problem with too many confessional Lutherans is they do have the mentality: it is here, they can find it, if they do, great. We should be far more aggressive about reaching out to Evangelicals and stop being shy about precisely what makes Lutheranism so unique, or stop moving away form it ourselves in an effort to imitate others. But, as I said, you do make a good point here to consider. We don't do what we do because it is "popular" but simply because it is what Christ has given us to do.

I would only caution that there is far too great a knee-jerk reaction against anything practical, pragmatic or simply common-sense approaches to outreach among confessional Lutherans. That's something to be worried about too.

Pastor Jeff Hemmer said...

I agree with those assessments, and welcome the warning against knee-jerk reactions.

And I think the exortation to stop shying away from what makes Lutheranism unique is among the best advice that can be given.

Now I've got to finish tonight's sermon in case any disenfranchised Evangelicals happen to wander through the doors.