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Right. If unbelievers are there, they listen in as it were on our worship and by hearing the word preached and sung, the elect will come to faith (Rom 10). I argued against this back in college and recall a book written by a woman entitled "Worship Evangelism" in which she quoted everyone from Hybels to Sproul. That sure didn't speak well for her competency. Looking forward to reading your paper!


Hello Lee,

Thanks for putting this up. From your precis it promises to be a good read. I am looking forward to reading it.


p.s., any plans on making your dissertation available for public consumption?


Just finished reading your paper. I found myself writing notes in the column that you then stated on the next page. It's always nice when that happens in my reading. Best quote is on p.19 - "Worship is not a means of evangelism but the end of evangelism." You could have pointed to 1 Pet 2:9-10 there or on p.16. One thing you may want to address is what Paul intends in 2 Tim 4:5 when he calls Timothy to do the work of evangelist. I don't know, but I would imagine Keller and his followers make much of that.

In light of the social action of the missional movement, I'm thinking it might be fair to say that the difference between the church growth movement of the 90's and the free spirited missional upstarts is that the former "targeted" Republicans while the latter are after young Democrats. I might be wrong, but there might be some truth to it. Anyhow, Keller's emphasis on "the arts" is no different than what Willow Creek was touting in the 90's.

Without reading any other critiques, I made a first hand investigation of Acts 29 "pastors" and found that some of them don't even preach the gospel. I'm not kidding. One guy was just all about being like the culture. I guess we gotta get inked!


Hello Lee,

I just finished a quick once-over. This is a wonderful biblical-theological critique. I found not only the criticisms to be sound, but the positive proposal concerning what worship is was (1) crisp (2) exegetically sound and (3) edifying. I find myself looking forward with even greater anticipation to worship this Lord's Day!

It struck me in reading this that the missional mindset is not merely reductionistic, but entirely lop-sided. It isn't as if they make the mistake of confusing with the church is (a convenanted community of those whom God has redeemed) with what the church does; it's that it confuses what the church is with one part of what the church does (outreach, evangelism, missions).

Thanks again for putting this together!


Bill Baldwin

Thanks, Lee. Very helpful and very clear. When I was pastoring, I would often try to address unbelievers during my sermon. The attempt always seemed a little forced and tacked on. I figured this was just an area where I needed to improve. At the risk of making excuses for my own defects, I think your analysis is more accurate. The "evangelism" seemed forced because it didn't arise from the text. To use the phrase that is truer than its proponents know, I was "making" application.

We're currently attending a church where the pastor is quite influenced by Keller. He frequently addresses the unbelievers, and I think there are a fair number of them. But when he gets to the (weekly) Lord's Supper, he inevitably divides the audience into us and them. He addresses the unbelievers in order to exclude them. He doesn't do this in an unkind way, of course. But it's still a matter of making sure they understand that they cannot take part in the meal until they have been washed clean.

I suspect that the more "missional" a service is, the more awkward and incongruous it will seem to fence the table in this way.

It seems to me that the Lord's Supper is simply another part of the worship. It says in its way the same things that the singing and the prayers and the sermon say in theirs. As such, it should be neither elevated nor segregated. (This would be an argument FOR weekly communion, in my opinion. The arguments against tend to give the Supper a privileged and elevated status, making it unique among the elements of worship.)

This makes me wonder whether it is the entire service that ought to be "fenced". Perhaps the proper time to address unbelievers is before the Salutation and Call to Worship. The minister can take the opportunity to assure unbelievers that they are welcome to stay and observe; but without faith, they cannot participate.

I suppose this should even include the singing. That seems kind of confrontational and I wince a little at the thought. But maybe it's right to warn the unconverted here as well that these songs are the cry of faith made by the redeemed soul to the one who bought us and gave us the right to call on God as Father. Such words cannot come truly or rightfully from unbelieving lips. Dare we allow (even encourage) unbelievers to sing such words falsely and presumptuously?

I need to think more about this. I should say, though, that we'll probably continue attending this church with the "missional" worship service. The Gospel is still preached there, and preached well. I'm learning more and more to unite a strong tolerance with my inevitably strong opinions. The church is a messy place. Any congregation or denomination that appears to have cleaned up that mess is probably full of Pharisees.



Thanks for your article and post. I've followed your stuff for a while but never commented. I have a few questions of clarification.

First, you are not saying that things like have poor or bad music are good, but you are arguing that Keller's argument for them is flawed, correct?

Furthermore, would you say that Christian/non-Christian is not a helpful way to frame our preaching but rather belief/unbelief? In my mind, the Christian and the non-Christian both struggle with unbelief. Sometimes there are questions raised that cause me to doubt my faith, and I find that Keller's probing those questions to be encouraging to me, as a member of the flock. The believer and non-believer need to same thing: the Gospel.

Therefore, while you may not think it is is appropriate to single out non-Christians, would you say it is appropriate to address unbelief?

I certainly think the ground for which Keller argues for his practice is unsound, but I wonder if a little tinkering and precision allows for Keller to pursue a similar model. What do you think?


Keller's "missional" emphasis may also tie in with a tendency to employ extra-biblical metaphors, such as his portrayal of the Trinity as a "divine dance" (in Chapter 1 of "King's Cross," Chapter 14 of "The Reason for God," plus several of his sermons, borrowed of course from C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity"). The missional emphasis fosters a subordination of doctrinal soundness to what is appealing to non-believers -- and, alarmingly, to many believers, as evidenced by the widespread and often gushing praise lavished on the "divine dance" metaphor among Christian and even Reformed readers of Keller's books, despite the fact that this metaphor plays havoc with the attributes of God and His triune nature.


Brandon - right, I'm not advocating poor music but I am troubled by Keller's argument that we need quality aesthetics to attract unbelievers to the church or to the gospel. As to your second question, I think there is a difference between the unbelief that we as professing believers struggle with and the unbelief of those who are not professing Christians. In the case of the former, the preacher can appeal to what professing believers profess to believe, reminding them of what they believe, strengthening their faith and drawing out the implications for the Christian life. But the preacher can't talk that way to outsiders. To put it another way, we cannot preach the indicatives to those who are not baptized.

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