Words Matter - EVANGELISM
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22b, 23
One of the big conversations that happens behind the scenes of many churches when it comes to the topic of worship “style” is just who worship is actually for. Logically, if you do not have a relationship with Jesus, then you cannot actually praise God for what he has done. The bible is full of passages that talk about the babble of pagans, even if they are of a religious type when they do not acknowledge the one true God. The logic goes that worship is for people who know Jesus and when we stretch to make our worship comfortable for people who don’t know Jesus, we may have a tendency to be lax in our doctrine and our teaching. After all, there are many real world examples of churches who have thrown out good doctrine in an attempt at using worship to reach the lost. In my experiences traveling around the country and talking to many people and church leaders, one of the drawbacks that can happen is that we can develop a tendency to show suspicion or coldness to people outside of the church. Even though we say anyone is invited to worship, what do we really mean by that invitation?
So I’ve been really stepping back to consider this question, can or should our worship service be considered a form of “outreach” or evangelism? After all, when we talk to our congregation we encourage the members to “invite a friend” to church, to special services and to special events. One of the most interesting Sundays of the year are what Churches tend to call “Friendship Sunday”. Often times it is a worship service that is different from what is done most Sundays and a real effort is made to make people who are not regular church goers comfortable with coming to church. We do special music, special orders of service, we might be a bit more casual… why? Because deep down we really want people to hear about Jesus and we often feel that the formal worship of the church is one of the best places for people to hear about their need for Jesus and what he has done.
When I talk to people about worship, one of the frustrations with certain worship styles/environments/languages, whatever way you want to describe it, is that our own people are often not very comfortable inviting people to the Sunday service. This is worth an honest conversation in every church because it is one of the sentiments that often leave people in more “traditional” settings on the defensive and where “contemporary” minded churches can come off as arrogant or pietistic. I think it is an important question to ask at the local level, because what you may find is that what we do in our worship, is not actually communicating our hope for people who are far away from Jesus. Are we embarrassed about our church worship? Do we believe the whole of the morning is effective? Are there valid criticisms and affirmations to consider when it comes to our Sunday environment and how it relates to guests and the larger community? Is Sunday worship really a good place for us to get to know our neighbors who may not believe what we do yet?
From my perspective, I believe that we should never compromise the truth of God’s word, that sinners need a Savior from Sin. That the means of grace are the only faith builders and that the church is a vessel and vehicle to bring the healing message of the Gospel hope to the world. We need each other and sinners need the Bride of Christ (the church) to be available to them. We need a front door to our church families, whether that is a school, a small group, a basketball program or Sunday morning worship, people need to know we care about them and will be available as they come against questions regarding life to the full in Jesus. To that end, I really do believe that our worship is a place where someone can possibly come in broken with little to no faith and actually leave as a person with saving faith. Having heard the faithful preaching of the law and Gospel, the word works and the Holy Spirit is already working on the people who come. I believe it is possible that someone can come into church with a two fisted middle finger salute to Jesus and leave being wrecked having heard what the Gospel is really about. That God loves them, no matter how far they’ve run. That God forgives them, no matter how great the sin. That there is a future that can begin again, by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ allowing the frustrated person to fall to their knees and finally sing from the heart “In Christ Alone, my hope is found…”
An easy question this is not and it comes loaded with emotion. I am finding that this is one of the under currents of frustration that we don’t deal with very well, but with wise and patient conversation, we may really help our churches blossom when it comes to evangelism. And that includes reaching the lost in the conversation of well communicated worship centered squarely on Jesus saving Grace.