Donald Sensing has a short post about the wisdom of churches modifying their methods to make non-members feel comfortable. Rev. Sensing recognizes the imortance of accessibility, but most of his commenters are firmly against the idea and seem to feel there's great value in erecting a barrier between the church and non-members, and thus between God and non-believers.

I'm a member of the leadership team at Venice Baptist Church (like deacons, elders, or what-have-you; even the different name reflects the point of this post, heh), and we've been tweaking our accessibility for five years or so now. We never compromise Biblical doctrine, but our goal has been to make our church a place where if people felt uncomfortable it's because of the message of God, not because they don't understand what the heck is going on.

Many of Rev. Sensing's commenters laud the value of words like "hymn" and "sermon" and decry using modern language, calling it "Church Lite". That's the same general arguement used by people who insist that the 1611 King James Version of the Bible is the only acceptable translation of God's word, despite the fact that most modern English speakers can't understand more than half the text. Not because they aren't spiritual, but because the meanings of words have changed dramatically in four centuries. The fact is that modern translations are simply more accurate and based on better manuscripts and better scholarship. I grew up with the KJV and have memorized tons of scripture in it, but I don't use it anymore because it's difficult even for me to understand -- and it's easy to get wrong ideas from it because of the changed meanings of words and phrases.

(Plus, Jesus didn't speak 17th century English, he spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, so if you want to be pedantic go learn those and read the Bible in the original languages. Even then you'll have to depend on your language teachers and history books to interpret the meanings of the words you read, so it's not like you'll be getting a more "pure" understanding of the Bible than you do if you read the translations done by teams of hundreds of experts.)

Over the past five years or so we've made a lot of changes to our methodology, without sacrificing Truth. We got rid of our choir and now have a "worship team" that includes (gasp) drums and electric guitars. We sing songs written within the past decade. We have video games set up in our kids' rooms for game time. We use modern translations for our scripture readings (and memorization) so that everyone can understand what God has written to them.

The effect has been substantial. Five years ago the average age of our membership was around 50, and there were zero nursery-age kids. Now our average age has dropped to around 35, and there are tons of babies everywhere. "Oh sure, but everyone's so much less spiritual now." Please. The younger people are invigorating our church's passion for God. The younger people give far more time and money to God than the older people do (or can). The younger people are raising Godly children for the next generation. That's not to say everything's perfect by any means, but our church is on the road to health and growth.

On another note, many old-liners sneer whenever people mention that a church is growing. It's not about numbers, they say. Yeah, sure, it's not about numbers, except for the fact that every person who accepts Christ is one more person who's not going to Hell, you self-righteous twits. And maybe they'll serve God, and maybe they'll tell their friends, and then maybe some more people will escape eternal damnation. Other than that it's not about numbers, you're right.

Jesus was accessible and relevant in his day, and even the exalted King James Version was written in the common vernacular of its time (which is why the Church hated it). Anyone who thinks the pinnacle of Christian liturgical development is back in 1950 is delusional. The message of Jesus must be presented to everyone, in every language, in as clear and understandable a manner as possible.

I should have posted this passage before. Here's Paul's opinion on the matter.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.



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