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Worship &/vs. Evangelism

Posted by thethousandmarch on September 11, 2012 at 8:00 PM

In my last post I referenced a White Horse Inn podcast in which they discussed the shift in the American church from the Sunday morning service being a time in which the disciples of Jesus are ministered to, to a time in which seekers are evangelized. I had two thoughts related to this topic. First - yes Christians are supposed to be served in the church service. Second – an evangelistic meeting, though valuable, cannot serve those needs.

Many pastors complain about congregants who come to church to get their religious needs met. They are tired of doing all the work and they want the congregants to grow up and get involved. They lament that 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. However, we have “religious” (I do not use that word in a derogatory sense) needs. The minister (servant) is there as a representative of God, the under-shepherds to the Great Shepherd. And, it is their role to serve the Church. We need to hear the good news about the work Jesus has done. We need to be assured of God’s love and that he has forgiven us of our sins; we need to participate in worship; hear God’s word; be encouraged; equipped for service; and be spiritually fed by communing with God and others by partaking in the Lord’s supper.

Certainly all Christians have roles to play in the kingdom of God, which means there is service to be done by all of us, but that doesn’t mean we are supposed to all be working on Sunday morning, or have to volunteer for programs or events at our local church. Too many pastors confuse a lack of that sort of participation with a lack of service. However, many Christians serve family, friends, co-workers and strangers in obscure, immeasurable ways. Pastors need to accept that serving Jesus and God’s Kingdom is not necessarily the same as serving their particular institution. What pastors especially must remember is that it is their job to serve their congregation, not their congregation’s job to serve them.

Unfortunately many church services are not designed to serve the spiritual needs of Christ’s followers, because they are designed to evangelize seekers. It’s not that I have a problem with evangelism, but it has a purpose and that purpose is not the spiritual development of Christians. For a moment let’s be a bit crass and compare evangelism to marketing and sales, as at least some seeker sensitive churches do. If marketing is the means by which we attract potential customers and sales the means by which we convert them into customers we must actually have a product to deliver. Good marketers and salespeople agitate a need and then meet that need. If we are continually marketing Christianity, even if we successfully convince people to become followers of Christ, but then never deliver upon the promise of teaching, equipping, discipling and administering the sacraments to those converts we have not met the need institutional churches exist to meet. That’s bad business. Of course many people think the needs churches exist to meet are the felt needs of daily life and if that’s the case than many are at least trying to deliver on those promises.

Christianity is not a product to be sold, but I think we can draw a few lessons from this metaphor. If we think that Christianity is mainly just about proselytizing – converting non-Christians than we will shape our churches accordingly. If we think it’s just about getting people to identify themselves with our sub-culture than we are going to make church simply about entertainment and the meeting of felt needs to attract as many people as we can. But, we should ask ourselves if people are being attracted to meaningless trappings, or Jesus. If all we are interested in is evangelism we will never get on to the work of discipleship and as ministers and institutional churches we will never get around to doing a very important part of our job.

Categories: Liturgy, Evangelism