But Contemporary Worship Brings People to Jesus! … Right?

“…there’s an even deeper flaw in our thinking. Worship is not an evangelistic tool. We don’t worship together to attract unbelievers.” - C. Leaders


Regarding the notion that the Sunday morning service is not for evangelism, that might not be its primary purpose, but evangelism is clearly referred to as a purpose of the service in 1 Cor. 14:23-25. Now we could quibble “well that’s the gift of prophecy, not music!”, but then we would come into contact with the….songs…. of the prophets. Most of the prophets are, after all, written in poetic, lyric form, and are thus amenable to becoming……you got it, songs.

I would also be interested to see how many here would affirm another claim that Aigner makes, that the service is to administer “Word and Sacrament”. Any takers?

Overall, Aigner’s article seems like a little bit of a straw man—those who advocate the use of modern musical forms, starting with William Booth, have never relied solely on the argument “but people are being saved.” Now that would be the outgrowth of well designed music that effectively communicates the Word of God, but Booth’s argument was more fully “why should the Devil have all the good music?”. It is, really, the question of whether the music is well suited to communicate God’s Word to God’s people, and give them a good, lyric opportunity to return praise to Him.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

My family has been desperately trying to find a church home, all to no avail. I am now convinced there is no church in Topeka worth attending. At least for me. As I have stated, I lean a little Calvinist in soteriology, and was called a heretic by the pastor of my last church after teaching a Sunday night “sermon” on “The Use Of the Word ‘All’ in Salvation Scriptures.” Mind you this was after the previous week the pastor challenging me to talk about this. It just turned out him and the deacons all thought I was wrong. So I felt I had little recourse but to leave.

Anyway, every other evangelical church in town is very modernist in their approach to preaching and worship. They use CCM. But here is the thing, if you are going to use CCM, can you at least play with some gusto? I can’t tell you how many churches we’ve visited where there are 3 bored looking people on stage during the music, one singing, another mechanically strumming guitar, and a nearly catatonic geriatric fellow playing drums like he is afraid to actually hit the drum head.

Then, pick songs people know! Its probably me, but I have no idea who Crowder is. Or Mercy Me… Or Casting Crowns. Those 3 were on the “set list” (hate that phrase for church by the way) for the church we attended last Sunday. I noticed almost no one singing… Everyone was just standing there. A few were chatting amongst themselves. But very few were worshipping that I could tell.

Then the sermons… oh my. I’ll move on…

Church after church I’ve heard the pastor say, “God told me…” Over and over again. This even applies to the meaning of the text. They’ll say, “I was thinking about this text this week, and Jesus told me ….” Hey, if I was at a charismatic church that would be one thing. But these are Southern Baptist, or Independent Baptist, or Bible churches. I quite frankly don’t care what you think God told you. Quote Scripture, sir, or leave!

Finally, there are a few fundamental type churches, but every one is explicitly KJV only. Not preferred, but ONLY.

Not doing that either.

So I am honestly lost… Pray for us and our city of 200,000 people. I at one time thought I was called to this town to start a church for this very reason, but I have come to realize that just must not be God’s will as I have not met one person who even remotely agrees with me that the things I have written above are a problem. I have found no kindred soul in town. I am truly sad.

Edit: Presbyterians… all liberal in Topeka, except for a good friend of mine who is a Reformed Presbyterian. Which means they sing psalms only, acapella. When you add in the synod stuff, paedobaptism,and his postmillennialism, I just can’t do it. A few other churches are amillennial. I just can’t go there…

You just can’t mess with Christians’ preconceived notions of the meaning of the word “all.” Never mind studying how the word is used in the Bible. We can’t let the Bible mess up our theology, can we? And, if you follow that one up with a study on the various Biblical uses of the word “world,” you’ll be hurtin’ for certin’.

G. N. Barkman

[G. N. Barkman]

You just can’t mess with Christians’ preconceived notions of the meaning of the word “all.” Never mind studying how the word is used in the Bible. We can’t let the Bible mess up our theology, can we? And, if you follow that one up with a study on the various Biblical uses of the word “world,” you’ll be hurtin’ for certin’.

If I had a nickle for every time I’ve heard a person say, “I looked up ‘all” in the dictionary (or in Greek) and it means… all.” Oh really… Then explain this to me:

Mark 1:5 “And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

If “all” means “all”, did the man at the Bethesda Pool go see John the Baptist? What about the Romans in Jerusalem? What about Pontius Pilate… or his wife?

Oops… it turns out “all” means “a whole bunch.”

And I did also preach on “world” earlier… Not received well. If you just honestly read the gospel of John and note the word “world”, you’ll see that there are many obvious uses by John of the word “world” beyond “everyone.”


I feel your pain in that I also lean Calvinist, but my church leans the other way. I have decided not to make an issue of it, or let it bother me, because of all the other positives the church does offer, especially in the area of conservative music, which is very important to me. I’m not sure why your pastor would have encouraged you to teach on a subject that he and the other leadership felt strongly against your position. That seems odd. For my part, I would have found something different to speak on…and I do. I would never get up in Sunday School and teach on something that I know the leadership is opposed to, and I have not felt that limiting at all. I don’t remember the text I was covering one time, that used “all” in a non-exhaustive sense. It wasn’t a soteriological passage, just something else. And I did note that it is not always true that “All means all and that’s all all means”. It was clear from the passage that what I was saying was true — but I didn’t take it any further than that, and really just mentioned it in passing. I was content with just letting that sit there as food for thought.

All that to say, you may be forced to decided between options that are not ideal and you will have to decide what you can live with and what you can’t. For me, I found that I could not live with non-conservative music, even if the theology and preaching was otherwise excellent. I don’t know what your options are. I am certainly not Presbyterian, for all the reasons you mentioned, but I might decide to live with those differences if that was my only option. Or I might go back to your non-Calvinist church, if that was the only issue (but that might not be the case).

I do get that there may not be any good options, though.

How I got to that message is a long story… it wasn’t just me dropping a bomb.

Up until that point I thought the topic was open to discussion. Sunday night was 10 people maximum and the format was not a sermon, but a Bible study. I was asking questions rather than preaching. I was not an elder, or a deacon, or ordained in any way, so I felt I could not “preach” on doctrine.

What I did for over a year was do topics. For example, I did Ezekiel 32-39 on end times and Israel. I did a series on “Bible Discrepancies” that are taught to college age students. We live in a college town. I know what the religion prof teaches there. And most of the attendees were grandparents. So I wanted them to discuss such things… It turned out to be too abstract for them.

During Christmas in Jan 2020 I had read Anselm’s work “Why God Became Man.” It was the first proposal on what is today substitutionary atonement. So, I did a message on it. The pastor happened to come to that one, and asked me a specific question publicly afterwards. That led to the “Use of All in Salvation Scriptures” message or study the next week. I fully expected the pastor to be there given his public challenge to preach on a certain verse and what it meant.

My approach was not sermonizing, but going to passages of Scripture and asking questions. One man in particular did not like it. He kept openly interrupting me and disagreeing. It was such a big deal I basically stopped the study.

I thought I should call the pastor to tell him what happened right away. BTW, there were never any deacons or elders present at any of the Sunday night meetings. (I know…). I explained briefly what happened, and without looking into it further, or asking me any more details, he asked “are you ready to repent of your heretical views…” I said nothing. I was shocked because, as we had discussed before, the Southern Baptist Convention is probably 1/3 or more Calvinist leaning with soteriology. Calling it “heresy” was a strong move at that point.

The next day, my mother unexpectedly went into the hospital. COVID was just starting to hit big. We were not allowed to see her at all in the hospital. She at first seemed to get better, then they ventilated her and later she died over a period of three weeks.

During all this, the pastor, who I previously thought of as a friend (not just pastor), only tersely took my phone calls. When my mother unexpectedly went on a ventilator (she was not in the hospital for breathing problems but for a fracture found in her back), I called the pastor. We talked for maybe 30 seconds… he said he had another important phone call, and would call me back. He never did… A week later he told me to “Read Revelation 21-22” when I told her my mother passed… and that’s it. Really. Nothing else. I am not leaving anything out. It was that terse and uncomfortable.

The relationship was over…I am still hurt and dumbfounded.

My main problem with finding a new church home is not the Calvinist thing. It is the horrible worship (I mean boring CCM as I said above, that has meaningless lyrics and it just useless). But even that isn’t the big thing. The big thing is the absolutely horrible preaching I am hearing. I don’t mean delivery. I mean no exposition to speak of. I mean saying “God told me…” several times a sermon. I mean topical “let’s be a better you” sermons. Oh its awful. None of these guys (over a dozen I’ve visited) demonstrate that they have ever read a sermon book, or every took anything to heart from a class on giving sermons. Hey, if you are charismatic personality wise, I suppose you can wing it. But these guys can’t!

One guy talked about Alabama football three times in his sermon. I live in Kansas. I don’t care about Alabama!!! Another constantly used hunting illustrations. I don’t hunt! You don’t have to hunt to be a “man.” Move on.

Another preached on a psalm (I don’t remember which one, it was a while ago). But kept quoting song lyrics of various CCM songs. At the end, he gave 3 CCM songs to help “get in the presence of Jesus.”

Oh I am really frustrated.

And one more thing, these are not small churches. I am talking 100, 200, even 400 people churches.

One more I just thought of. A large independent Baptist church for the area. I’m guessing 800 people. This pastor founded the church 25 years ago. We attended about 6 weeks. Every week he mentioned several times his side gig job of delivering packages for FedEx… A pastor of a church with 800+ working a side gig! And using it for sermon illustration. He used the illustrations like he was working to survive and not go into debt. What is going on? I’m telling you this is a nice looking church facility. Beautiful building. New. Just bought and upgraded a church that closed to be their youth facility and totally remodeled it. Lovely building. The pastor’s wife is the secretary and his daughter runs the children’s ministry.

Mark, one thought that occurs to me is that sometimes the gray hairs in the congregation actually run the church instead of the deacons, and this may be what you ran into. It’s very common among churches that are graying because they didn’t reach the younger generation for Christ; the organizational structure becomes ossified because nobody has dared challenge them to grow Biblically. Introduce something that doesn’t fit the standard narrative, and all heck breaks loose. You also have a lack of personal contact (what you saw when you were grieving your mother) that comes from running a system instead of reaching people.

Smart pastors watch out for that—at another church, my first meeting as a deacon was to the finance committee, and after I went there, I commented to the head deacon “we have two deacon boards”. We moved quickly to put finance issues back in the hands of the deacons, and the pastor (the head deacon’s son actually) made sure he took many proactive steps to emphasize Biblical theology instead of “what had always been done here.”

Good luck in your search for such a church.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark have you tried some of the “church finders” through organizations you trust? I’m guessing you have. I’ve been where you are at several times and finally settled on going to a church I have some disagreements with but that is otherwise excellent. My area is like the one you are describing. My wife is from Illinois and she was amazed when she got here how non-religious people are. It might actually be better since there is less false pretension. We will pray for your family.