Evangelistic vs. Doctrinal Preaching: Is That The Right Question?

The first conversation from the Elephant Room was on preaching to build attendance vs. preaching to build attendees. Over on his blog, James MacDonald posted parts one and two of the dialogue between Steven Furtick and Matt Chandler. Unfortunately, the embed on Furtick’s opening statement isn’t working, so I can only show Chandler’s response. I’d highly encourage watching part one on James’ blog:

(If you’re reading from the RSS or email, please click through to see the video.)

Having watched both clips, I definitely appreciate where both men are coming from and their (in my mind) equal passion for seeing the gospel go forth. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe we’re asking the wrong question when we talk about evangelistic vs. doctrinal preaching. Maybe the question isn’t so much one of building attendance vs. attendees as it is this:

What is the purpose of the corporate gathering? Is the Sunday gathering primarily for nonbelievers or for the believer?

Or am I also asking the wrong question?

Let’s chat in the comments.

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  • http://mrben.jedimoose.org/ mrben

    A lecturer when I was at university said that too often the church had defined itself as God in the middle, and then a big circular wall around the outside – if you were inside, you were “Christian” and if you were outside, you were not. He said that, in reality, God was interested in which way people were facing and moving, regardless of where they were with regards to the “wall” – there are too many people “in” the church who are facing and moving away from God, and too many people that the church has excluded and made to feel unwanted because they don’t necessarily conform, despite the fact that they are facing and moving towards God.

    Preach the word, and preach the gospel. I see this clearly in guys like Mark Driscoll, who manages to go deep in his teaching, whilst still bringing people to the message of the gospel. 

    Fascinating videos – I’ve seen some of Matt Chandler, but Steven Furtick was a new name for me. The Elephant Room stuff has been amazing. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ron.lair Ron Lair

    A very good question that the church as a whole needs to spend some time working through. Going by what I see in the New Testament, a church gathering is meant to be a time of worship, prayer, administering the sacraments, fellowship, edification, and doctrinal teaching. All of which are explicitly Christian within this context. That being said, I believe the Gospel should be clearly proclaimed at every gathering. I also think effort should be made to explain the proceedings to the uninitiated. But, major evangelistic efforts should be focused on where the unbelievers are rather than trying to lure them in for their dose of evangelism. If you try to do it all during a Sunday service, are you really doing any of it well?

  • http://matterofdiscernment.com traci

    I love that this issue is being discussed. It’s a critical element of discipleship. The question of evangelism versus doctrine might be too simplistic, because doctrinal preaching can’t avoid evangelism. In response to your question, I would say the church is for God. I know that’s an unfair clarification, so I’ll follow your point. It’s definitely for believers. They gather to worship Him, learn about Him, and be strengthened to go into the world to represent Him. Everything non-believers get out of church is what God uses to draw them to Him, not what ministry does to cater to their perceived needs.

  • Andrew Hall

    I think that the fundamental problem here is the caricature that doctrine is for believers and the gospel is for unbelievers.  Preaching the gospel both edifies saints and confronts sinners.  I don’t see this as an either/or option, but a both/and.  If we make the gospel our focus, is preaching doctrine non-evangelistic? And if we make the gospel our focus, is evangelism non-doctrinal?  I think not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503357629 Jeanie Brown Schwagerman

    It seems to me in the American church, we have more seeker friendly churches which I think is unbibical and unhealthy.  I see nothing wrong with a church using for example VBS, need based program (like money management, raising children, etc.) to meet the needs of the community and to show Jesus.  However, I feel that a church can have a statement of faith, such as the doctrine of sin, and the members do not understand the depth of that doctrine, it is not being teached.  That to me is unhealthy and unbibical.  By doing so the church is becoming as a whole people pleasers instead of God pleasers.  The church has become more of a social gathering instead of a house of Zeal for the Lord.  When I see a pastor pulling more from other men (qutoes from books) than the bible, I wonder what has church really become.  I worked at a church setting for 10 years, I loved the church, my job, and the ministry I was involved in.  However, because of my own attititude and plainly my own sin, I became complacent.  The church was more horizontal, evangelistic in its teaching.  People would want more depth and the pastor would always say, I will not spoon feed.  Some people of left of course, but some stay because that way of ministry was suited for them.  I now belong to a compository teaching church.  I have taken this time to reflect and even relearn and cling to the truth.   The truth of the matter, if the body is being well fed at the Kings table, the body will go out and share with the world.  It saddens me that church has become more me focus (ask to see a church’s budget and if payroll expenses is less than 40%, than you have a church that is focused on the needs of others).  Should it be consumer driven or gospel driven.  I prefer gospel driven. 

  • Daniel Lyle

    Both/and… As “post-modern” Christians we often
    setup false dichotomies which have no Scriptural foundation. We work
    so hard to trump one truth over another when we should be working to
    rationalize them and understand how they work in harmony.

  • http://hereiblog.com/ Mark

    I resonate with what Chandler said. The exchange was interesting. Chandler gave examples from Scripture, but was not responded to with Scripture. The question is somewhat of a false dichotomy, but not totally given the propensity of some churches to hold worship services as if they are evangelistic services.

    When Furtick reply at the end was interesting. He speaks of “growing” believers which almost sounds like his goal is to teach people how to do the word of God prior to believing so that they will grow into believers. That’s probably not exactly what he meant though, but he could have been clearer when speaking of a focus of reaching people far from God and growing believers.What Furtick seems to miss is that evangelism, the gospel, et al are doctrines. The imperative is grounded in the indicative. We follow Christ and attempt to do His will because we are Christians; we don’t do in hope to become Christians in the process.Corporate worship is for believers to gather and worship God. Even Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:23,
    “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?” (ESV). The warning about speaking in tongues concerning unbelievers indicates that the corporate gathering was not focused on evangelism of the unbeliever, but worship.

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