“Attracting” God?

Don’t plan your worship services to attract people — plan your worship services to attract God.

I hope this quote from a while back was just a poor choice of words on the part of a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. If not, I find this statement concerning.

Can you think of a story in the Bible in which people planned a “worship service” in order to attract their god? I can, only it wasn’t Peter or Paul or Samuel or Moses. It was the 450 prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:20-40 who ranted and raved and jumped around and cut themselves in an attempt to “attract” their god and get him to show up and answer them.

Christians worship an omnipresent God. That means God is everywhere. We don’t need to do anything to “attract” Him, conjure Him up, or even “welcome” Him into our worship services. He is already there.

What we need to do is plan worship services that honor God. Worship services in which we humble ourselves before Him, confess our sins, cry out to Him in prayer and praise, give our offerings to Him, and hear from Him as His word is preached. Worship services in which He is King and we bow the knee to Him. Worship services in which He must increase and we must decrease.

The idea of “attracting God” makes God small. Less than who He is. It makes His presence dependent on us and our actions. It puts us in the driver’s seat, in charge, over God.

And that is exactly the wrong place for us to be. Especially in a worship service.


The Mailbag: Potpourri (Pianist leading worship, hosting a women’s event, re-baptism…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections

Usually The Mailbag is all about mail I’ve received from readers, but today, I want to start by sending a thank you note to you!

Thank you from the depths of my heart to each and every one of you who donated so graciously and made it possible for me to speak at the Cruciform Conference in Indianapolis this October. I was floored by your generosity and it was a great way to celebrate my birthday. I’m so honored that you would partner with me in ministry to the ladies at the conference. Thank you and God bless you.

(I tried to make sure I sent an individual thank you message/e-mail to each donor, but if you donated anonymously or I somehow missed being notified of your donation, I apologize and hope you’ll accept my thanks here.)

If you’re going to be in the area, come on out to Cruciform. It will be a blessing to you, and I’d love to meet you!

I’m the pianist at my church, and my pastor has asked me to select the hymns for our worship services because it takes a lot off him and helps him out. I select the songs from a certain hymnal and two other doctrinally sound sources. Am I in an unbiblical position of “leading” the worship service when I select these songs?

This is a great question. It’s so encouraging when Christian women want to be godly in every aspect of their ministry at church!

No, that’s not leading, that’s serving your pastor and your church. Basically what you’ve got here is a body of songs your pastor already approves of, and he has asked you to whittle it down to four or five songs each week from this pre-approved “list”.

If you choose a song he doesn’t like for some reason or that doesn’t fit with what he’s preaching that week, he always has the prerogative to say, “This song isn’t a fit this week. Could you please choose a different one?” In essence, you’re presenting him with suggestions and he makes the final decision, so he’s still the one in the position of authority. I used to do the same thing for my husband when he was a minister of music at one of our former churches.

Thank you for serving your pastor and your church!

I loved your article Women’s Events on a Shoestring Budget. The funding tips encouraged me to put on an event for our ladies, but our small church has never done anything like this before. What kind of event should we have and how should we get started?

I was so encouraged to get a couple of questions like this in response to my article. Even at a small church (and sometimes especially at a small church) a women’s event can really help refresh and build up the ladies of your church. It can be a great outreach to the ladies of your community, too.

I would recommend starting small and then growing year by year. For example, if I were in a church with an attendance of 50-150, I would start with an in-house (only ladies from your own church) mini-conference. A Saturday morning simple breakfast (coffee, doughnuts, fruit – food that’s easy to get, serve, and handle), followed by a local speaker (maybe the pastor’s wife at a sister church, or even one of the ladies in your own church) and a couple of songs. You could end there, or possibly have a time of discussion around the tables afterward, or just allow the ladies to hang around and fellowship with each other.

The next year, you could build on that. Maybe the speaker does two sessions with a break between, and you invite/publicize to other local churches. The following year, you could do an overnight retreat or you could expand the conference to an all day thing and have more than one speaker. If you start small and grow your event each year, you’ll learn things you should and shouldn’t do differently along the way, and you won’t be biting off more than you can chew the first time out.

Another thing that might be a good idea is to have a meeting with all of your ladies and ask them what kind of event they’d like. You might be thinking “conference” and they might be thinking “movie night”. It’s good to brainstorm and take the pulse of your ladies on what they’d prefer.

You could also get the men of your church involved in putting together and serving at your conference or event. I spoke at one conference where the men of the church actually put on the conference for their ladies – to honor and thank them. That was one happy bunch of ladies!

Just remember what I said in the article: Don’t try to compete with the expensive glitz, glam, and giveaways of mega-conferences. You do you, your church or host organization…And remember, it’s the caring and hospitality of the hosts that will make the greatest impact on your attendees, not the swanky food, decorations and swag bags.

I wanted to let you know I saw an inappropriate advertisement on your blog.

Thank you so much for letting me know. Rest assured, I don’t choose those ads, nor do I have any control over them. I can’t even see them from my end. I’m in the process of considering some formatting changes to the blog that may (or may not) put an end to the ads.

In the meantime, my article Advertising Redux explains what you can do to avoid those inappropriate and annoying ads on my site and on other sites as well.

I have a friend who was baptized as an infant, but since she was baptized in the name of the Trinity, she feels as though she can not be re-baptized as an adult believer. How would you speak to her?

I’ll bet that’s kind of a challenging road to navigate as her friend, isn’t it? Without a great deal more information I’m hesitant to give a definitive answer, but hopefully I can point both of you in a helpful direction.

I’m assuming if your friend is considering being baptized, she’s either a member of a local church or a candidate for membership at a local church. The first thing I would want to make sure of is that she’s in a doctrinally sound local church, because the second thing I’m going to advise is that she set up an appointment with her pastor to discuss this issue of baptism. (If the church she’s in isn’t doctrinally sound, getting her into one that is is job one, not baptism. Check out the Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page.)

Different churches and denominations have different understandings of baptism. Her pastor can explain to her how her church views baptism, why it is requiring(?) her to be re-baptized for membership, and how it understands Trinitarian paedo (infant) baptism versus credo (Believer’s) baptism.

Once she has sat down with the pastor and had all of her questions answered, she will need to search the Scriptures, pray for wisdom, and make sure her understanding of baptism lines up with that of the church she’s considering being baptized into. If it does not, she will need to further study the Scriptures to determine whether or not her personal view of baptism is indeed biblical. If it is but does not align with her current church, she will probably need to find a new church whose view on baptism she agrees with.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Church, Complementarianism, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should women give testimonies and reports, lead prayer and worship, read Scripture, in church?

I was wondering about having a female missionary giving a talk on her mission field in place of the sermon for that Sunday. Also we have had a female worship leader saying the prayer at the end of the service.

When we consider women’s roles in the church, it’s good to think about these “real church life” types of situations and how best to handle them according to Scripture. A couple of resources here at the blog that might be helpful to those thinking through these issues are my Rock Your Role series- especially, Rock Your Role FAQs.

There’s a lot to address in this reader’s question, so let’s break it down into several smaller questions.

1. Is it ever OK for another sort of presentation to take the place of the Sunday morning sermon?

Well, it’s not anathema or anything. The Bible doesn’t command a certain order of worship on Sunday mornings (for that matter, it technically doesn’t even command that we meet on Sunday mornings, but that’s a bucket of worms for another day), but as we read through the New Testament, it’s apparent that preaching and Bible teaching were the centerpiece of the New Testament church’s worship meetings. I think that’s a good example to follow.

I’m a little leery of anything taking the place of the Sunday morning sermon. If I were a pastor (which I know we’re all glad I’m not) I would probably consider scheduling special presentations such as a lengthy mission report, choir presentations, dramas, etc. during the Sunday evening service, the midweek service, or another day. If the mission report could be shortened to 10 or 15 minutes, perhaps it could take the place of other parts of the worship service, or the service could (gasp!) be lengthened a few minutes.

If the mission report has to take the place of the Sunday sermon, the optics of a woman giving the report are a little iffy, because it gives the appearance that she’s delivering the sermon. If a man could give the report, or if the pastor can at least take a teaching moment to verbally clarify to the congregation (for visitors and others who may not understand what the Bible says about women preaching) that the woman giving the report is not preaching or delivering the sermon, that would be helpful.

2. Is it OK for women to give mission reports or personal testimonies during the worship service?

(For the purposes of this question, I’m going to assume that whatever kind of mission work the woman is doing is in compliance with Scripture. Also, the reader did not ask about personal testimonies, but I’m throwing that in because the two are similar in nature.)

I don’t see why either would be a problem biblically, as long as she doesn’t veer off into preaching, exhorting, or instructing the congregation (which I have seen happen), because that’s the biblical prohibition, not that women are never to open their mouths in church. I once heard a pastor say that when someone is going to give his or her testimony in his church, he has the person write out what will be said and then goes through a “dress rehearsal” of the testimony with the person where he can offer advice or editing. This is a really good idea, not just because of women (and men) who tend to veer off into preaching, but to correct any false doctrine the pastor wasn’t aware the person held to, to keep the testimony from going too long, etc. This would work for mission reports too.

I would encourage women who give reports or testimonies to check in with your pastor well in advance and ask if he has any advice, parameters, or concerns with what you might say. Focus on the fact that you are giving a report on, or testifying to, what you have personally seen, done, experienced, or learned. It’s fine to talk about something God has taught you through His Word or read a verse you found helpful in your situation. What’s not fine is to turn things around and tell the congregation what they need to do, learn, think, or believe. I know we’re constantly driving home the point that when it come to church, the Bible, doctrine, etc., it’s not about you…it’s not about you…it’s not about you. In this case…it’s about you and your story – giving all glory to God, of course.

3. Should women lead prayers or read Scripture aloud (verbatim, no commentary or teaching) from the platform during the worship service?

(I’m throwing in Scripture reading even though the reader didn’t ask about it, because my answer is basically the same for both.)

I would discourage both for a couple of reasons.

First, while neither is technically a violation of the “letter of the law,” so to speak, in the times we live in where so many women and their churches are in rebellion against the biblical role of women in the church, having a woman lead prayer or read Scripture from the pulpit or platform may send a message – to visitors and church members – that your church doesn’t want to send.

If a visitor walks in and sees a woman leading in this way she could draw the conclusion that your church is egalitarian. If she’s looking for an egalitarian church and thinks she’s found one, you’ll eventually have to disabuse her of that idea, possibly months down the road after she has already joined the church. If a visitor who’s complementarian comes in and sees women leading in this way, she could also draw the conclusion that your church is egalitarian and get up in the middle of the service and leave before you have a chance to explain the situation. The same kinds of conclusions could be drawn by the members of your church with similar results, causing unrest in your church. Why put a stumbling block in front of your visitors or members?

Second, there seems to be a tragic dearth of male leadership in the church in general. So many men are either too lazy or too afraid to lead, or they see very few examples of what leadership by a godly man looks like. I think it would be great for the pastor to sometimes ask men who need to learn leadership skills to dip a toe in the water by leading a prayer during church, and at other times ask a spiritually mature man to model leadership skills by leading prayer during worship. Sometimes, these kinds of situations aren’t about women’s roles, but men’s needs.

4. Should women be worship leaders (lead the congregational music)?

(Let me just take a moment to say that my husband has been a minister of music for about thirty years, so I do have some experience in this area.)

No, women should not serve as the worship leader. The primary reason I say this has more to do with the position of minister of music – a term I think we need to get back to – than the role of women in the church. The secondary reason I say this is in #3, above.

Overseeing the music ministry of the church, selecting music for worship and the teaching of biblical truths, being in charge of half of the worship service, and leading the congregation in worship is not some inconsequential thing that can be shuffled off to any Tom, Dick, or Harry who happens to have a nice voice. It is a pastoral role. As the pastor shepherds the congregation through the exhortation of the preached Word, the minister of music shepherds the congregation through the worship, praise, declaration, and imploring of the words we sing. Preaching is when God speaks to us. Singing is when we speak to God. And we need a pastor to teach and lead us to do that biblically.

By biblical definition, women are not to be pastors or hold that kind of functional authority over men in the church. Therefore, women should not hold the position of minister of music or “worship leader” (singing in the choir or on the praise team, singing solos, playing an instrument, etc., under the leadership of the minister of music, is, of course, fine). By the same token, men who do not meet the biblical qualifications of pastor or elder should also not hold the position of minister of music. Placing biblically unqualified people in pastoral positions is not only disobedient to Scripture, it exposes the church’s low view of, and lack of reverence for the lofty act of worship.

Please read Scott Aniol’s excellent article on this subject: Who Leads Worship?

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.