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 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


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

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