If I had ten dollars for every time I've heard a seeker-driven pastor justify the crazy antics that happen in their churches by claiming that "the church doesn't exist for believers", I'd be able to purchase James MacDonald's home with cash. These seeker-driven antics include such things as playing AC/DC's Highway to Hell to open their Easter service, refusing to preach the Bible with any depth or accuracy, performing Michael Jackson's Thriller, recreating the famous kiss scene from the Spiderman movie and a whole host of other crazy worldly stunts.
When you call these pastors out on their antics their responses are predictable and consistent and usually go something like this:
Church Attender: Hey pastor, why don't you ever preach exegetical sermons? I feel like I'm not being fed here because your sermons usually only contain 3 or 4 verses taken out of context in order to teach some relevant life principle.
Pastor: Why are you so selfish? The church doesn't exist for you. It's not about you.
Church Attender: Hey pastor, why did you have the worship team begin our Easter service with AC/DC's Highway to Hell rather than a song proclaiming Jesus' victorious resurrection from the grave? AC/DC is worldly at best and satanic at worst and that blasphemous song should not be brought into God's house.
Pastor: Why are you so selfish? The church doesn't exist for you. It's not about you. Church isn't for the already convinced its for the not yet convinced.
Church Attender: Hey pastor, why are you preaching about movies rather than preaching God's Word like 2 Tim 4:1-3 commands?
Pastor: Why are you so selfish? The church doesn't exist for you. It's not about you. Our church exists for people who are not yet believers.
Notice that each time the pastor answers using the standard seeker-driven talking point and doesn't answer the question but makes a blanket claim that the church doesn't exist for believers and therefore the person asking the question is guilty of selfishly believing that the church exists for them.
Anyone who's been railroaded by these tactics knows that something is way off about these claims being made by seeker-driven pastors but don't exactly know how to put their finger on the problem or know how to put it into words. This post will help you do that.
Notice that every time the word pastor has appeared, thus far, in this post that I've bolded it and underlined it. That is to help you spot the irony of the statements being made by seeker-driven pastors and that irony will help you identify the underlying error in their tactics and methodologies.
Here's the irony...No where in scripture does it say that the church exists for unbelievers. BUT, there are clear passages that state that pastors and elders are to serve the church. Therefore, it is ironic and foolish for a pastor, whose job is to serve the church to justify methods that don't serve Christians by claiming that the church doesn't exist for believers.
Here are the key passages that address this topic. We'll begin by first looking at the passages that discuss spiritual gifts. The reason for this is that the ability to teach God's word is a gift given by the Holy Spirit to certain people within the body of Christ.
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts is to Build Up the Church Not The World
The Bible teaches that God, The Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different believers for the building up of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4–7). Teaching is one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to pastors and this gift is to be used specifically for believers.
Ephesians 4:8–13 states this very clearly:
“(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,”
In clear and unambiguous language God states that shepherds (pastors) and teachers in the church exist to equip the saints (not unbelievers) and to build up the body of Christ (not the world). This is clear and irrefutable.
Those Who Have the Gift To Teach Are Commanded to Feed Christ's Sheep by Teaching the Word of God
The duties of shepherds and teachers within the church are governed by the instructions given by Jesus Christ.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15–17)
Notice that in this passage Jesus doesn't tell Peter to entertain goats or dazzle the world. Instead, Christ soberly and firmly reinstates Peter after he'd denied Jesus three times. And Peter was reinstated into ministry and that ministry was to shepherd and feed Christ's sheep. These commands by Jesus to Peter stuck with him his entire life. Peter himself would later exhort elders (pastors) with these words:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:1–4)
This shepherding language is also use by the Apostle Paul when he addresses the elders of the Church of Ephesus. Here are Paul's words of exhortation:
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28–31)
It's clear from these passages that pastors are not literal shepherds and that Christians are not literal sheep. All of these images are metaphors that help create a mental picture of the difficult and sacrificial work of pastors. So, when Jesus told Peter to "feed my sheep" what was Jesus referring to? What does a Pastor/Shepherd feed Christ's sheep with?
The answer is simple, the Word of God, and two passages will suffice in demonstrating this fact:
“[Jesus] answered, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 3:14–4:4)
No commentary is needed for these verses because they clearly teach that God's Word is 'sheep food' and that pastors are to be feeding the scriptures to Christ's sheep.
The Bottom Line
The next time you hear a seeker-driven pastor attempt justify his shallow sermons and entertainment driven stunts by claiming that "the church doesn't exist for believers", kindly inform him that regardless of who the church exists for, his job exists to serve believers and Christ's sheep and that if he won't do his job that he's rebelling against Jesus Christ Himself.