Thursday, May 04, 2006

Intelligibility or Familiarity?

A frequent objection from the missional crowd (by the way, who says they get to co-opt that word?) is that Reformed or traditional worship is "unintelligible" to non-believers.

Let's pause here and examine this charge for a moment.

Imagine the following scenario during a worship service: The pastor says something like, "Let us pray together and confess our sins and shortcomings to God," then everyone prays, and then the pastor says, "God is a loving and forigiving God, and if you confessed your sins to him, he forgives you for Jesus' sake."

For the life of me, I can't figure out what is so unintelligible about this! Assuming the non-Christians present actually speak English and have come across the words pray, sin, and God at some point in their lives, then I must conclude that they can at least figure out what's happening all around them: Christians sin, God doesn't like it, but when they confess it, he forgives them because he loves them.

Is it familiar to them? Certainly not! But unfamiliarity is not the same as unintelligibility.

But when you stop to think about it, Christian worship is unfamiliar to everyone before they become Christians (just like the culture of Bangkok is unfamiliar upon one's first visit). As with the entire Christian life, the longer we walk with Jesus and worship him, the more comfortable and familiar we become with him, his people, his Word, and his worship.

After all, if creating a church experience that is completely familiar to the non-believer is our goal, we'll have to ask ourselves, "But if our church is no different from what they get in the world, why would they bother to show up?"

Enter the Xboxes, the velcro walls, and whatever else will entertain the religious consumers.