Why worship is more important than evangelism 8

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Who cares? God.
  3. 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.

8 thoughts on “Why worship is more important than evangelism

  1. JT Aug 14, 2009 10:15 am

    Two points:

    1) Worship is more than just singing in church. Perhaps the most powerful way to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” is to evangelize.

    2) You said, “Recently, we’ve seen Perry Noble mock parents for being concerned about worship”

    Actually you have that backwards. He was mocking parents for being more concerned with what people say about them than about worship.

  2. Albert Aug 14, 2009 11:07 am

    JT:

    What do you base your first point on? How do you conclude that evangelism is the best form of worship?

    If you look at the scriptural basis for the 1st question of the catechism, you won’t find anything about evangelism. David repeatedly asks God to incline His ear to him, and to teach him the ways of God.

    In the other references, it is stated that we are to glorify God because he is sovereign and we are commanded to in His sovereignty. Yes, evangelism is important, but I don’t see where it’s included as a part of worshiping God.

  3. James Duncan Aug 14, 2009 3:21 pm

    JT, I’m with you in not assuming that worship only includes singing. We often leave this out of our thinking, but the preaching of the Word is a key element of worship. Because the Word is the instrument of God’s saving power, preaching and expositing his Word faithfully is simultaneously evangelism and worship.

  4. Josh Aug 14, 2009 4:13 pm

    The Great Commission is to go and make disciples in all the world. This commandment is the NT version of Genesis 1:28 when God told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” God created Adam and Eve to bear fruit after their own kind, just as believers are to bear fruit after their own kind. (It’s amazing how consistent God’s Word is, isn’t it?)

    Obviously Adam and Eve did other things than “be fruitful,” but that was the primary commandment God gave them. In the same way, Jesus’ parting charge to the disciples was to be fruitful and make disciples. He says we glorify the Father prove ourselves to be His disciples if we bear much fruit. John 15:8. If we die to ourselves we’ll bear much fruit. John 12:24. In John 15 Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” When the seed of the gospel falls on good soil, it will bear fruit 30, 60 or even 100 fold. Mark 4:20. In Phillipians 1:22, Paul says “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” Our purpose for remaining on earth is to be fruitful and save as many lost people as we can. We can (and will) worship God in heaven, but we can’t save people there.

    The point is, God has given us a mission…a primary purpose. That doesn’t mean we ignore other good things, but it does mean we need to stay focused.

    • James Duncan Aug 14, 2009 9:56 pm

      Josh, I must admit that’s a novel connection to me. The dominion mandate and the GC just have too many dissimilarities for your analogy to hold.

      1. Although families grow by multiplication, the kingdom of God doesn’t advance by such mathematics. There are too many times where God advances his kingdom by subtraction for these to be the same thing.
      2. In what sense are new believers “our” fruit after “our” kind? We are children of God, not of each other. (In your scheme, perhaps we should refer to Noble as the Godfather. Don’t like that? How about Pope?)
      3. The GC doesn’t say we should be converting; it says we should be discipling. The difference is that God is the one who is doing the converting, and we are given the responsibility to teach his Word to his family. Remember Jesus’ statement before the GC: “All authority is given to me.” Not us, him.
      4. Related to the last point, discipleship, which requires teaching and learning, is not conversion. If I recall, we recently had a conversation around these parts about the insufficiency of head knowledge for regeneration.
      5. God isn’t going to be regretting that he (and especially not we) didn’t save more people when he calls us all home. From the foundations of the world, etc.

      It is just amazing how easily and quickly the catechism answers are being overturned (i.e. what is the purpose of man?). The implications are very great and disturbing.

      God can wait until we’re ready for him.

      Amazing.

  5. KeithO Aug 14, 2009 10:19 pm

    Josh,

    Interesting point about bearing fruit. I have heard the same logic for many years that fruit=people you bring to christ. But as Jesus used very simple, real life analogies to describe the kingdom, I assume he spoke to people that understood an apple tree bears apples, not other apple trees. I am thinking this is where the idea of fruit=saved souls breaks down somewhat. The question is what is the fruit that Jesus is talking about? I think the answer may be fundamentally different than saved souls you bring to Christ.

    Also, regarding Adam, I think his primary responsibility was to take care of the creation that God provided. I draw significance in the thought that Adam named the animals, suggesting that because Adam, created in God’s image, would be a partner in a close relationship with God and caring for God’s creation. I see Adam’s purpose to be more far reaching than to just reproduce. Actually, Adam and Eve’s primary commandment was to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Afer all, I don’t thing humans need a commandment from God to reproduce, do you think?

  6. JT Aug 15, 2009 9:20 am

    James,

    You said, “The GC doesn’t say we should be converting; it says we should be discipling. The difference is that God is the one who is doing the converting, and we are given the responsibility to teach his Word to his family.”

    Actually, the great commission includes three commands (Matthew 28:18-20):

    1) Make disciples.
    2) Baptize them.
    3) Teach them to observe Jesus’ commands.

    In this context, it’s pretty clear that making someone a disciple in these verses means conversion, which is then logically followed by baptism and continued growth in their knowledge of God.

  7. James Duncan Aug 15, 2009 12:09 pm

    JT, my point is that it’s God who’s responsible for the converting; we’re responsible for declaring the Gospel, which is the same as discipling. Look at Mark 16:15-16. Our responsibility is to go into all the world and preach. Then two things can happen. 1) Whoever believes and is baptized is saved, or 2) whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned.

    Who controls which of those two options is the outcome of our preaching? It’s God. We preach, God converts. That’s also consistent with the language in Acts 2:41 and Acts 2:47. “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

    A related point is that the Great Commission doesn’t exclude or demote worship from its required activities. You and I agree that the preaching of the Word is a part of worship. The Luke version of the GC tells us to preach. The Matthew version tells us to preach, baptize (btw, a function that can only happen at the hands of a priest within the context of church, so surely an act of worship as well), and teach. All of those are parts of worship and activities that, dare one say, can be of primary benefit to believers.

    Bottom line, focusing on worship does not mean that we’re ignoring the Great Commission.

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