Trueman: The Seeker-Sensitive Clown Show

At the heart of the Saddleback project is the idea of seeker sensitivity, of making the church a relaxed and comfortable place for outsiders. The underlying motivation is no doubt a good one. We do not want churches to be unfriendly and unpleasant places. If God is a hospitable God, one who loves the widow, the orphan, and the sojourner, then the people who bear His name today, as in the days of the desert wanderings, should be so too. And yet there are a number of very real dangers here . . .

First, we live in a childish age, where immaturity is lionized, whether it be the spoilt-brat behavior of some celebrity or the cheap tantrums of Joe Public on Twitter. True, Jesus commands His disciples to have the faith of children, but there is a big difference between serious childlikeness and silly childishness. Leading worship as a pair of giggling cartoon characters can only be described—and that with charity—as the latter.

Second, the church is not called to mimic the world. Far from it. There is only one description in the New Testament of how an outsider should react when he blunders by accident into a church service. It is in 1 Corinthians 14:24–25. Paul tells us that such a person will be convicted and fall on his face, knowing that God is there. Presumably, this is because he finds himself in the presence of a holy God and is overwhelmed by his own sense of unworthiness. Turning worship into a comedy skit seems unlikely to produce the same result. In fact, far from being sensitive to the needs of any seeker, it sends a clear signal that the gospel is unworthy of attention by any serious-minded person, believer or unbeliever.

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Carl Trueman | “Turning worship into a clown show” | August 9th, 2023


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  1. As for me, I see Dr. Trueman’s comments in the absolute center of the bullseye. “In fact, far from being sensitive to the needs of any seeker, it [turning worship into a comedy skit] sends a clear signal that the gospel is unworthy of serious attention by any serious-minded person, believer or unbeliever.” I believe the giddy descent into foolish childishness is at the root of much that is appalling, whether in language, entertainment, significance of issues, making decisions about matters of importance, or assigning value. However, I have known children – childlike children – who respond to what is true, noble, worthy with the desire to know more and to grow in understanding. Thank you for this clear-sighted indictment of settling for a mess of pottage.

  2. Sounds like a couple or more churches in my area ( The Story, Impact). Great places for life tips, and law-lite messages from non-denom denoms.

  3. From (Mega Warning Bells ahead) on Saddleback’s founder. I’m all for good works and yet… Mere Humanism is not enough!

    “ Pastor Rick Warren is the author of The Purpose-Driven Life, which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. His has become an immensely influential voice seeking to apply the values of his faith to issues such as global poverty, HIV/AIDS and injustice.

    Pastor Rick Warren is one of the world’s most influential Christians. His Saddleback Church, founded in 1980, boasts a congregation of 22,000, and his Purpose-Driven Life is one of the best-selling books of all time. Warren’s mission is to attack what he calls the five “Global Goliaths” — spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease, and illiteracy and poor education.

    He teaches that doing good is the only way humans create significance in our lives. He and his wife famously became “reverse tithers,” donating 90 percent of their considerable fortune to philanthropic causes. Warren is particularly passionate about fighting AIDS, and in 2006, his church hosted the second annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church, attended by US Senator Barack Obama, among others (controversial within the evangelical movement, because Obama is pro-choice).

    In recent years, Warren has become a prominent steward of social justice, speaking out on poverty relief and encouraging spiritual leaders to play a role in guiding the planet toward sustainability. (He even attended the premiere of An Inconvenient Truth, after meeting Al Gore and producer Lawrence Bender at TED2006.)

    Given his global focus and considerable platform, Warren has become a sought-after advisor to world leaders, speaking at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and the Council on Foreign Relations. His involvement in the 2008 Presidential election sparked controversy and praise from both sides; during the campaign trail, he hosted candidates John McCain and Barack Obama at Saddleback Church for a forum on moral issues. It was the first time McCain and Obama appeared together publicly as presidential candidates. When Barack Obama was later elected to office, he asked Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.

    What others say
    “Rick Warren is arguably the most influential pastor in America.” — The Economist

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