I was reading Batterson’s blog this morning and I think the guy has been reading my thoughts. Seriously, I have been thinking about this for the past two years:
You see the shift in current sermon message styles and even in newer worship music styles. Here’s my hypothesis:
The seeker sensitive shift that occurred in the 1980’s (starting with Willow Creek, Saddleback and others) was to have worship experiences where those that were unchurched or had been burned by the church could come, hear about the Love of Christ in a way that was non-judgemental. The idea was that people would not become theologically aware until they become environmentally comfortable. I agree with much of that sentiment. There is much good in that.
The danger in that is that some pastors, and I don’t think it is a majority, but some have backed away from preaching the full counsel of the Bible and have soft served key teachings that might be offensive. Words like “sin” and “repent”, words that are in the Bible are often winced at and instead the temptation is to replace them with words and phrases that are more….palatable.
What I see among churches that are experiencing growth, that are reaching the unchurched, are impacting rising generations, and that are becoming leaders in new and innovative ministry are those that 1. chose to do ministry in ways that are creative, innovative that push the boundaries of “we’ve always done it this way” 2. communicate the Gospel and God’s Word in a way that is honest, real, challenging, sometimes confronting, and relevant.
The shift that I see and that Batterson touches on is that while the seeker sensitive approach was in part due to a generation that had seen a church that was “bible thumping”, rising generations value authenticity, the real deal, and honesty. You don’t have to be “beating someone over the head” to show them the truth of scripture. I think it is not only possible, I think it is CRITICAL that if we are to continue to reach and engage the culture, we must communicate in our music, in our messages, in our communications, and in our relationships in ways that are real, relevant, Biblically centered, full of grace and love, and honest.