Intelligibility is Not Cozy

Yesterday at Knox Presbytery (CREC), we had a good discussion surrounding the issues of “seeker sensitive” worship and “seeker sensible” worship, a discussion that flowed into the evening.

Here are just a couple of quick comments about it. First, my operating assumption is that the worship service on Sunday morning should be structured for believers, and not for unbelievers. The impact of such a service can certainly be evangelistic, but not because that is its primary purpose. There can be evangelistic effects, but this does not shift the purpose of the worship service. But what about . . .?

“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,  the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Cor. 14:24-25, ESV).

This is a standard text that is appealed to in these discussions — Paul assumes that the service should be intelligible, but modern Christians assume that intelligibility is so that the unbeliever or “seeker” will be put at his ease. But note that Paul insists on intelligibilty for precisely the opposite reason — so that the secrets of his heart will be disclosed, and that he will be overwhelmed and fall down on his face.

Worship should be intelligible, but also weighty — the weight of glory. It should not be breezy, and easy to climb up on. There is much more to say about this, which I hope to do soon, but for now we should note that we have to make a distinction between Christians and non-Christians, and that Christian worship should be intelligible to them, and absolutely not put them at their ease. Having made that distinction, we have to distinguish between Christians who are familiar with a particular liturgy, and Christians (who already love God) who are not familiar with it. For outside Christians, I would argue that our worship services should be weighty, intelligible, and edifying. But more needs to be said there.

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