The first ministry — we’ll call them Seeker-Friendly-Ministries — was especially concerned to make their meeting appealing to non-Christians. They worked hard to make sure that what they did looked as much like pop culture entertainment as it looked like “church.” There were funny skits, entertaining emcee’s, and well-choreographed dances to complement a few praise songs and a message. Each week’s meeting had a timesheet that was followed down to the minute and a production director that wore a headset and kept things on schedule throughout.
The second ministry — we’ll call them All-About-Worship — seemed less concerned with all of this appeal. In fact, they made it known that their purpose for meeting was simply to worship. The schedule was much more plain, by comparison. Everyone sang praise songs for 30–40 minutes, then there was a 30-minute sermon. There was a funny skit here and there, but they were infrequent and clearly not as much rehearsed.
I took several of my fraternity brothers to both. These were guys who weren’t involved in the Church and probably wouldn’t have even considered themselves Christians. Their reactions were interesting and unanimous. None of them cared much for the Seeker-Friendly-Ministries meeting. They didn’t say why; they just weren’t that interested, and I don’t recall any of them going back a second time.
But they all enjoyed the All-About-Worship meeting. And nearly all of them went back another time. Some became regulars there.
I remember sitting at a leaders’ meeting for Seeker-Friendly-Ministries where people were talking about what to do for the weekly meeting. After a lot of discussion about what kinds of skits and themes to use next year, the student who had just been named “Weekly Meeting Director” for the next year spoke up:
Here’s what I want. I want our weekly meeting to be about worship. I want it to be focused on God. I want to stop worrying so much about entertaining the people who might come, and I want to worry about us coming and worshiping. I’m not saying that selfishly because the thing is, I really think it would be more “attractive” to people who aren’t Christians to come and see us in genuine worship rather than seeing us put on a show.
That meeting happened 13 years ago, so I probably didn’t quote him perfectly here. But I think I got it pretty close, because what he said was profound and influential for me.
I think that student leader pegged what my fraternity brothers had demonstrated. Seeing a group of Christians genuinely at worship is more winsome than seeing a group of Christians put on an entertaining show. Our world isn’t lacking much for entertainment. It’s lacking quite a bit for genuine worship.
Sadly, that student leader’s thoughts were pushed to the side. What he said didn’t fit with the Seeker-Friendly-Ministries strategy. I tried to take a few more people the following year, but their response was much the same as before. After that, I quit trying and only invited my non-Christian friends to the All-About-Worship meetings.