In a recent discussion about what you lose if you try to reproduce church worship online, a commentator posted the following response:
what does it matter? as long as people are being reached for Christ and the doctrine is sound, who cares if online worship replaces physical in-house worship for some? think of it this way, say you live in florida and really like this church in seattle. if you’re able to attend the seattle church online and be ministered to, what’s wrong with the methods used in online worship?
One comment, three questions. Let’s give this a shot.
- What does it matter? If the primary purpose of our lives is to recruit new converts, it doesn’t matter. If the primary purpose of our lives is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, it really does matter.
- Who cares? God.
- What’s wrong? It’s wrong because it inverts the purpose of worship and makes it all about us. Although worship does benefit us, its primary purpose is to benefit (glorify, bring joy to) God. Although he needs nothing from us, he instituted worship as the most appropriate way for us to regularly commune with him. As the Westminster divines discovered,
The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men.
God’s Word has so much more to say about how we worship than it does about evangelism. Just because we’re trying to attract the unsaved doesn’t mean that we get to override God’s acceptable methods of worship.
If we are to ignore and abandon proper worship just because people are being reached, why include worship in our services at all? The commentator does acknowledge that doctrine is important, though I don’t know why. If evangelism trumps the worship of God, why should doctrine matter either? Actually, if a church’s doctrine suggests that the worship of God can be jettisoned for evangelism, it’s not sound doctrine in the first place.
Recently, we’ve seen Perry Noble mock parents for being concerned about worship, and this comment is in a similar vein. Why be so uptight about worship when people are going to hell?
Why? Because worship is the whole point. Evangelism is the gateway to worship. When God saves us, he regenerates our heart and makes it capable of performing its most important function of worshipping and glorifying God. Instead, the Turnstile Church treats evangelism as a gateway to evangelism. That will work for a while, but at some point the newly recruited recruiters will ask why is it so important to be saved? If it’s just so that you can be a volunteer to help sign up more volunteers, you’re cheapening the faith by running the church the same way as a multilevel marketing scheme. When the primary value and purpose of a marketing operation is in recruiting rather than in enjoying the product itself, loyalty to the product and process is going to be tenuous and temporary.
God-directed worship gives us an answer to the question of why salvation is so important. God, by his grace, adopts us into his family, making communion with him possible and necessary. God desires our worship, and he wants us to worship in ways that he has directed. It’s appropriate to honor him by paying a great deal of attention to what those directions are.
Although it’s not its purpose, worship can be an evangelistic tool. When the unsaved see how we are able to enjoy God’s presence, a jealousy to be a part of that may suggest that the Holy Spirit is drawing that person to salvation, because we know that our natural condition is to rebel and hide from God. So, rather than considering God-directed worship as an optional extra, we should place it front and center and show the world that it is why and how we rejoice in our salvation.