Is Church for Believers Only?


Reading an intriguing post about Ted Haggard and his return to the role of pastor triggered a long-held belief of mine:

Church is meant for believers only.

When I consider the state of the American Church, I’ve got to think that our emphasis on encouragingSainte-Chapelle church stained glass lost people to come to our church meetings has only succeeded in diluting our ultimate effectiveness. As it is said: The good is often the enemy of the best.

The early Church model was to send believers out, beyond the doors of the assembly. They shared Christ out in the streets. When the lost outside responded to the message and became believers, they were brought into the church assembly proper.

Today, though, we have believers bringing the lost into the church assembly with the hopes that the church leaders will convert them.

I believe this is a grave error for the following reasons:

1. All teaching and preaching within the church ends up dumbed down. Whether intentional or not, the tendency is to preach and teach to the lowest common denominator—which in this case are the lost. This robs the believers of their opportunity to “go to the next level.”

2. The church remains in justification mode and never moves into sanctification mode, so long-term discipleship suffers. Momentum for mission is lost when unbelievers in the seats cause problems within the church assembly, especially if they have been attending a long time and remain steadfast in their unwillingness to repent and come to Christ. They drain resources that may best be spent elsewhere.

3. The believers in the seats can punt their need to understand the salvation process and how to present the Gospel to others, instead relying on their leaders to do that work through the Sunday meeting. This robs everyone of growth and aborts one of the major bedrock gains of the Protestant Reformation: the priesthood of all believers.

I see this time and again, yet the modern model remains.

What if we made it known that our church was meant for believers only ? How would it change the way we function, grow, and meet the needs of the lost?