Lipscomb on Congregational Worship, or a critique of seeker-sensitive services from early summer 1866

This appears in the 5 June 1866 issue of Gospel Advocate,  Vol. 8 no. 23, pages 360-361:


There seems to be, with our brethren, a most fatal mistake with reference to the object of congregational worship on the Lord’s day.  There is an idea that seems almost ineradicable, that meetings of the congregation on Lord’s day are for the purpose of effecting, by personal influence, the world.  Hence, unless brethren can get the world to attend their meetings for worship, they become discouraged and give up the weekly assembling for the saints.  Hence, too, when a few of the world come, the object of the assembling is perverted by men who have no capacity for such work, delivering lengthy disquisitions on motly points of theology, and corrupting the simplicity of prayer by endeavoring to preach to the world through the form of prayer to God.  Now while we would be far from repulsing those of the world who are disposed to attend upon the congregational worship, we doubt exceedingly whether the true objects of Christian worship, have ever been promoted by the presence of the world.

The true and proper object of the weekly meeting, is as the family of God to meet HIM in his special and chosen appointments, where HE has promised to meet us.  Through these appointments prayer, praise, thanksgiving, observance of the memorials of the broken body and shed blood of our Savior and elder brother, and devout and prayerful study of HIS word, together with the observance of the fellowship and the kindly word of encouragement and brotherly love to our brethren and sisters.  tTese objects, then, are solely communion with God our Father, and with our brethren and sisters.  Now will these ends be advanced by the presence of strangers?  Are we more apt to be earnest, sincere, forgetful of all else in the presence of our Maker, with stranger eyes and ears present, than without them?  Are we not somewhat inclined to do what we do with a thought as to how it appears to those hearing and beholding rather than how it appears to God our Father?  Does then the presence of strangers not tend to distract our thoughts and interrupt the free current of our religious feelings?  We know this is the effect.  Again, in these family gatherings of the Lord, the least, humblest members should feel free, and should have the circumstances most favorable to make them to give a full and unrestrained expression to their wants and conditions, in a word, those circumstances should be sought that will promote the freest and fullest expression of intercommunion and sympathy between the different members of the family.  Now, brethren, is the presence of strangers calculate to have this effect?  In your domestic family circles does the presence of the stranger promote the exchange of expressions of love and sympathy?  Does it tend to encourage the little, shrinking, timid ones of the household to freedom and confidence of expression and thought?  We have always felt sorry for the family circle that never had private, social hours of its own, when the family feelings [361] and family affections might find expression and development free from the obtrusive presence of strangers. So we think and feel with reference to the gatherings of our Father’s family.  If we could only enter heartily into the spirit of these meetings as our Father intended we should, realizing that we are brethren and sisters, met together to cultivate and strengthen the family ties, that we should, in these meetings, draw nearer and nearer to God our Father, to our mother the church, and that the bond of parental affection should be more closely drawn around brethren and sisters, we would, I am sure, never, never regret the absence of strangers.  We find the primitive Christians met in private rooms, with the doors locked, in upper chambers, and in places of solitude, it is true, for fear of their enemies, in part, and yet, we think, in good degree, to have an hour of communion, sacred to themselves?  Will the brethren and sisters then learn that the virtue and efficacy of the weekly meeting is in no degree dependent upon the world’s being present, and that the object is to affect and benefit themselves. The unbelievers may be benefited by being present, therefore we would not repulse them, but the true interests of the church in those meetings are never promoted by their presence.  Let us learn that the true object is to meet and commune with God and one another, and not with the world.  “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”



One thought on “Lipscomb on Congregational Worship, or a critique of seeker-sensitive services from early summer 1866

  1. Pingback: David Lipscomb on the Purpose of Assembly « John Mark Hicks Ministries

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