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‘Seeker-sensitive’ services fail biblical standards, prof says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Worship services designed to attract so-called “seekers” — unbelievers who may be open to the gospel — fail to meet the biblical standard for corporate worship, Old Testament professor Daniel Block insisted in a Nov. 6 chapel message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We do not worship in spirit and in truth when we treat the assembly on Sunday morning as a come-as-you-are event or as an event where ALL find acceptance,” Block declared. “The invitation to salvation is unconditional, that we must affirm. But the invitation to worship is not.”
Block joined the Louisville, Ky., seminary faculty in 1995 as the John R. Sampey professor of Old Testament interpretation.
Preaching from Revelation 5:1-14 in which the Apostle John reports his vision of the heavenly court in worship of the Lamb — Jesus Christ — Block noted debates today among evangelicals over worship forms, usually related to music.
Rather than arguing over contemporary or traditional music, Block said Christians should ask themselves the fundamental questions contained in Psalm 24: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in his holy place?” The imagery, Block noted, is a king’s court of the ancient Near East where a supplicant bows on his face before the monarch and speaks only after the ruler has given permission.
American evangelicals answer the questions of Psalm 24 in a variety of ways, Block said. In some churches, those of the correct skin color, social status or financial standing are deemed “acceptable” to join in worship.
“In some circles, especially seeker-sensitive-type churches, the answer is simply ‘whoever,'” Block said. “As if worship is possible by all and sundry, and so we gear our services to attract especially the non-Christian and the carnal Christian. But in the process we forget the biblical qualifications for acceptable worship.”
The psalmist’s answer was those with “clean hands and a pure heart,” Block said. An exposition on the meaning of that phrase is contained in Psalm 15, he said. As in the heavenly scene of Revelation 5, Block said only “the holy ones,” saints, may offer acceptable worship to God. “Anyone else is blasphemy,” he said.
In addition to recognizing that only believers may worship God, Block said Christians must also acknowledge “our unworthiness to stand before the Lamb.”
Quoting a refrain from a popular Christian song, “I sing to you, you sing to me, but our audience is Jesus,” Block asked, “Who do we think we are? By his grace we are invited to an audience with him. When worship happens, what he says is far more important than what we have to say!”
Insisting “our religious culture has become as narcissistic as our world,” Block cited one popular praise song as an example. Although “God” is not the subject of any of the sentences in the song, “I” is 28 times, Block reported.
“With that kind of focus, we might suppose that all the hallelujahs are praising how good I am. Worship is not about, ‘Oh, how I love Jesus.’ But, ‘Oh, how he loves me.'”
Rather than a haughty, arrogant spirit, Christians must prostrate themselves before God, Block said.
“By definition, worship means getting down on our faces, licking the dust before God because we are unworthy to be in his presence,” Block said.
But contemporary evangelicals “have lost all symbols of humiliation, contrition, self-depreciation. No. Now that we are free and enlightened, we enter the presence of the Lord with chin up and chest out and hands raised as if to say to the Lord, ‘Here I am. Aren’t you lucky!'” Block thundered.
“We may discuss appropriate forms of worship until the cows come home, as we say in northern Saskatchewan,” the Canadian-born professor concluded. “But until we are overwhelmed by the awesome glory and majesty and grace and mercy of the One we worship, all such discussion is moot, and all our efforts irrelevant. … May the Lord give us grace to abandon our arrogant and foolish ways, to recognize our unworthiness to stand before him, to plead for his grace and to let him be the focus of our worship.”

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  • James A. Smith
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