Monthly Archives: May 2011

Do We Miss the Point of Worship? Is it for Seekers and Evangelism?

A blog post at New Reformation Press asks the question:  Is the Primary Purpose of Worship Evangelism?  This is a timely question, and a question congregations and church bodies must ask themselves in this day and time.  We are so worried about appearances, having a nice building, the latest technology, slick production videos, worship experiences, rockin’ worship bands, and being relevant, to name a few.  We just want people to like us and, well, if we are being honest (and calling a thing what it is), we want them to covet what we have so that they will join our church!!  We want them to feel “comfortable,” cozy, and at home.  We want to be “welcoming,” to the extent that we will remove the cross from the focal point in the church and hide it so as not to offend visitors (see PT McCain’s latest post over at Cyberbrethren.com Communion Without Baptism for more)! Isn’t worship about receiving forgiveness of sins and the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection?  Isn’t it about being fed with both Word and Sacrament?  Isn’t it about entering into the presence of the Triune God through the risen Christ who is present with us in Word and Sacrament?  Do we not really enter into heaven on earth when we enter into the sanctuary to sit at the foot of the Cross?  Shouldn’t we at least try to be stewards of the mysteries of Christ and teach unbelievers about them rather than changing our worship to fit the “felt needs” of unbelievers?  Isn’t this idolatry?   Do we have a FUNDAMENTAL misunderstanding of the purpose of worship???

New Reformation Press » Blog Archive » Is the Primary Purpose of Worship Evangelism?.

Monday, May 9th, 2011

No?

Then why are most ‘contemporary worship’ services centered on the ‘needs’ of ‘seekers’ and non believers?

I just don’t find modern Evangelicalism’s emphasis on converting the lost in the worship service in either the Old or New Testaments.

Paul in I Corinthians 14 touches on what might happen should an unbeliever visit a worship service, but this is by no means the main thrust of his argument. Many will appeal to the Book of Acts and the outdoor preaching of the Apostles. However, this does not occur in the context of Christian worship of the Lord or in the Church. This is public proclamation on the streets. The Great Commission addresses missions, not our worship.

Why do we build our congregations and our worship around the needs of non-Christians? This is a huge distortion of the church and its worship and is the cause of many of our ills. In the ancient church, visitors and catechumens were dismissed before the Lord’s Supper and the doors were locked behind them. The purpose was to hear the Word and to commune with the Lord in the Supper, and to pray, praise, and give thanks. The whole thing was geared towards believers receiving good gifts from their Lord; not to convince non Christians that they should become Christians and join the church. Although that may have happened occasionally, the bulk of the early churches’ evangelism was done through mercy ministries and the sending of missionaries.

The great liturgies of both the East and the West are patterned after the picture of Heavenly worship we see in the book of the Revelation. How did we go from that to what is often no more than a corporate seminar, with some music, a power point presentation, and the name of Jesus (hopefully) thrown in?

Given enough credence and sway the ‘worship as evangelism’ philosophy gives rise to prostituting the whole church in pursuit of non Christians. (Yes, Paul did say he became all things to all people in order to win some, but he never said he made God’s church all things to all people.) Below is a case in point.

A relative attended a very large and famous evangelical church in the area. Their services on Saturday and Sunday were geared to ‘seekers’ and on Wednesday nights they had a time of worship and teaching for the ‘core’ members geared towards believers, many of whom worked in the services on the weekends. The church ended up canceling the Wednesday night service. My relative was really disappointed about this. When I finally got a hold of one of the Pastors to ask him why they did this, he straight up told me that it wasn’t worth it to ‘fire up the building’ and bring in the staff for a full blown service for less than ten percent of their attenders. He told me that was between 1100 and 1300 people on any given Wednesday. (Note: This was several years ago. My relative no longer attends that church, and I have no idea what that church is doing now.)

1100 people. That is larger than 95% of the congregations in the U.S. All in the name of ‘evangelism’. This church offered worship services in Country and Western, Hawaiian, and Rock and Roll musical flavors among others.

But hey, there were huge crowds.

For those who are of this persuasion, a few questions.

1. Where is the Scriptural justification for making the worship service our primary means of evangelism?

2. If the main worship services are dedicated to attracting and converting seekers, how do you feed and minister to those already in the fold? From where do you draw your scriptural support for this?

3.What are the historical precedents for the ‘worship as evangelism’ model and how do they apply today?

I am still pondering a number of issues that touch on this subject and may post more later.

By Pat K

May 21st Doomsday, Judgment Day or Duumbsday??

A great post on the Harold Camping May 21, doomsday prediction.  Thanks to Worldview Everlasting’s Rev. Jonathan Fisk for the tweet and video referral.  Pastor Tony Pittenger of Bethany Lutheran Church in Port Orchard Washington has analyzed Harold Camping’s doomsday claims, with links to Camping’s documents showing the basis for their claims.  Pittenger concludes with this admonition:

“Do not be deceived. Doomsday predictions make for better television than do Jesus’ own words about the end but only Jesus’ words are true. The baptized believers have done exactly what Peter said to do when he was asked about our sin, indeed they have done exactly what Jesus said to do just before He ascended into Heaven and again when Nicodemus asked Him about the Kingdom of God. IN CHRIST YOU ARE READY NO MATTER WHEN HE RETURNS.

Trust in that. Trust in Him. Live your life on May 21st as a Christian would live any other day God has given.”

Read the whole post here:  Field Reports.

Hey, Preacher Man, Give Me the Gospel

And in follow up to the last post, Eric & Polly Rapp have a song that fits the bill.  You can learn more about them at http://www.ericandpollyrapp.com.  I have to thank Todd Wilken at Issues, Etc. for the referral as it is used as bumper music on the show for sermon reviews.  This song was inspired by Issues, Etc., sermon reviews.

The words of the song speak for themselves, but, boy, do we need to hear more of this or what?  Rapp calls to the preacher to give us the Gospel and then tells why:  (1) it gives salvation to those who believe;  (2) it tells me I’m a sinner and Christ died for ME;  (3)  it is GOOD NEWS;  (4) it is the sacraments — His BODY and BLOOD;  (5) it sounds foolish, but is the Wisdom of God;  (6)  it leads to the gates of Heaven;  (7) it tells of the God-Man Christ who took the wrath of God upon Himself for you and me;  (8) if you are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of you.  Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel — PREACH IT, but PREACH ALL OF IT!

Hey, Preacher Man

(© 2006 Eric Rapp. All rights reserved.)

After hearing one too many liberal sermons, Eric let loose with this passionate call to return to essential Christianity.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
It brings salvation to those who believe.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Tell me I’m a sinner and Christ died for me.

I don’t want to know about what you did last week on your summer vacation.
What you saw, where you went, or how much it cost.
Instead won’t you tell me all the words that give me salvation.
How He lived and how He died for me on the cross.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Give me the good news of God’s only Son.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Give me His body, give me His blood.

I don’t want to hear about new ideas you learned while in seminary…
Higher critics like Marcus Borg or John Shelby Spong.
Please don’t invite those learned men to preach in our sanctuary.
They’re wise to men, but fools to God, and such fools are wrong.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel–
not with human wisdom, just tell it to me straight.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Let me know I’m foolish. Lead me to the Gate.

I don’t want to hear an opinion piece on the news or political parties.
Democrat, Republican–to Him it’s all the same.
Please don’t tell me how I have to vote to earn the Father’s favor.
There’s nothing I can do for that ’cause Christ did everything.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Tell me of the God-Man who bore all the blame.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
When you preach the gospel, you shouldn’t be ashamed.

Preach the Word to YOU and ME, not US

“We may fear the damning, accusing YOU. We may fail to hold this office firmly and preach it. But ask yourself, which sounds better to you? Christ forgives us? Or Christ forgives you? And which do you think makes a better impression on the YOUs of your congregations? The Law which accuses YOU makes the Gospel which saves YOU so much sweeter. Don’t confuse the 1st and 2nd persons. This isn’t about US or WE. It’s about YOU AND Y’ALL. The Gospel never sounded sweeter than when it’s preached to YOU, or shall I say, FOR YOU precisely because the Law was preached TO YOU. Indeed, AT YOU.”
From a Sermon preached by Rev. Dan Torkleson at the Southwest Wisconsin District’s Pastors’ Conference, May 11, 2011.

Read the full text Witness, Mercy, Life Together. «.

I need to hear from the Pastor in the pulpit that I AM a SINNER and that Jesus forgives ME.  All too often the words the Preacher lumps himself in with the rest of us sinners, defeating the purpose for which he is called.  Don’t soften the message of the Gospel by saying, “We’re all sinners.  Jesus died for us all.  Jesus forgives.  We’re all forgiven.  He lives and now we live in love and peace.”  While there is truth in those generalized statements, it sounds more like the old Coca Cola commercials — I’d like to teach (pause) the world to sing (pause) in perfect harmony….  And don’t just talk generically and generally about sins of greed, lust, and selfishness, to which we all can nod our collective assent, but hit the sins in the congregation, in the world around us.  That’s the song our Preachers need to sing.

If the law does not accuse me of wrongdoing, then I will not know my sin.  If the law does not condemn me, then I have nothing to repent of.  If the law does not tell of God’s anger and wrath, I will never know the import of Christ’s love for me.  Yes, we are all forgiven, but there is a reason the preacher is at the front of the congregation — he has been singled out and called by Christ to proclaim the very word of God to his flock.  He is different — no less a sinner than I am — called to carry out the apostolic function of preserving and defending and proclaiming the clear message of Christ until he comes in spite of what I or others in the congregation may want to hear.    For the very Word is placed into the Preacher’s mouth each time he stands to preach.  Get yourself out of the way preacher man and let Christ speak.

Stephen, The First Martyr — Sunday School Lesson, May 8, 2011

Acts 6-7.  Listen to this week’s interview with Deaconess Pam Nielsen and Pr. Todd Wilken here on Issues, Etc.

Stephen was one of the seven chosen by the Apostles to serve as deacons, essentially, to assist the Apostles in the ministry of that early church.  The Greek Christians complained that their widows were being neglected and left out of the daily distributions of food and other necessities by that early church.  They made it the work of the church to take care of the poor and the needy, in their midst, caring for their daily needs.

Luke describes Stephen as a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, full of power and grace, who did great wonders among the people.  Some of the Greek converts to Judaism got into a dispute with Stephen.  The specifics of the dispute are not mentioned in Acts, but Luke suggests that it had to do with Scripture and most likely Christ as fulfillment of the Old Testament and the Way to Life.  These Greek converts instigated rumors of blasphemy against Stephen.  They seized him and brought him before the council and elders charging him with their false accusations of teaching about Christ.  Luke tells us that all who sat on the council looked at Stephen and his face was like the face of an angel.

In the midst of the council, Stephen recounted the history of the people of Israel and how it led to the rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ.  Stephen does not mince words.  He confronts them with the very Cross of Christ and how their rejection of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit killed the Savior on the Cross, and, ultimately, will lead to their own death.  It is fitting that Luke points out that the accusations were brought by Greek converts to Judaism, for they are included in Stephen’s message.  Thus, his message is not limited to the people of Israel alone, but to all people.  Just as Israel was the church, God’s chosen people on earth, so too are we the church God’s chosen people.  We cannot escape the accusation that we killed our Lord, nor can we shift responsibility to God’s ancient chosen people.  They are still God’s special people, chosen for a purpose.  God does not forget His promises.  What He has in store for them remains in the council of the Godhead.

Yet what happens to Stephen should serve as a message for believers in His Church — the Word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing.  It is difficult for unbelievers to grasp, painful.  It causes anger and resentment in them, but it is God working on them, a suffering that they must endure to receive faith.  They will turn this anger, resentment, and wrath on us as God’s visible instruments in Christ on earth.  Their pain will in turn be our pain, and we must be prepared for it.  In Stephen’s case, He was stoned.  The ring leader was a pharisee of pharisees, from the tribe of Benjamin.  He held the coats of the men who gleefully pummeled Stephen to death with stones.  As he died, Stephen was given by the Holy Spirit a glimpse of the Glory of God, with our Lord Christ standing beside the Father’s Glory.  He was given the faith to pray for those who persecuted him to death.  God grant each of us this faith to endure to the end.