The past two Lord’s Days, a few of our members shared with me how they wept through portions of our worship service. These emotions are not uncommon as believers bask in God’s glory with understanding of what is going on in His presence. The sense of holy awe before the throne moves our whole being. When we leave we are different people.
In order to have a good defense of the faith, we need to have a good offense. That’s what worship is. Worship is the fountainhead from which all of life springs. But worship is for the believer, not the unbeliever. Only the redeemed can glorify God willingly, and only the saved can shout His praises worthily, for all worship must be mediated by Christ, and the cross is an offense to the unbeliever.
Worship & Evangelism
Christian book stores have lined their shelves for the past thirty years with books about marketing the church. They instruct us how to make worship more palatable to potential consumers in order to win converts for Jesus Christ. While I applaud the desire to win souls, the corporate worship of God’s people is not the primary sphere where evangelism takes place.
While times have changed, the problem of worship confusion continues to exist in the Church. The principal issue arises when we shift the emphasis away from God and onto man. Paul addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians 14 as he speaks to the church’s worship practice and its effect on unbelievers who might be visiting. In the passage from v. 18-25 we see two responses of unbelievers who might be visiting church on a given Sunday as they behold the church worshiping. The first response is one of scorn, mocking the church. This response is prompted by the church’s foolish behavior. In verse 23, Paul chastens the congregation, “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” The other response is one of uncomfortable fear and conviction when God’s people worship correctly. Verses 24-25 state, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.”
The main difference between the first response and the second is the unbeliever’s awareness of the presence of God in the Church’s worship. In the first case, the unbeliever is unchanged. In the second, he is exposed. The teaching of this passage, however, is not to instruct us on how to convert a soul in our worship service, but to correct the errant behavior of the Church’s worship practices that cater to man and lose the awareness of God’s presence. Worship should be intelligible and done for the glory of God, rather than man-centered, palatable to pagans, and focused on what we like. This is the problem with many churches today.
The Offensiveness of Worship
The marketing department informs us that we need to replace exclusive Communion with inclusive cafes, the singing of Psalms with hip praise bands, liturgies with lattes, and the spoken Word with relevant video clips. Comfortable worship for unbelievers does not a true conversion make, and I highly question if it’s true worship at all. When we rid our worship of the offenses to accommodate the lost, believers cease worshiping God, and we are left with no offense.
In order to win the lost, and defend the faith, the enemies must be defeated, and castrating our good offense makes our defense ineffective. Making our worship palatable to unbelievers shouldn’t be on our minds. Don’t get me wrong here. Unbelievers are always welcome to attend our worship services, but I dare say they will not be comfortable. They will only be onlookers, not participants.
The realm where we are basking in the radiance of our holy God will never be comfortable for unbelievers. The cross held high will be foolishness to them. Informing them that they have no seat at Christ’s Table will not sit well in their proud souls. But as they watch, and if they perceive the presence of God among us, perhaps God will move them with holy fear and heavenly conviction and make true worshipers out of former enemies. Worship, after all, is a good offense.
This article was first published in Every Thought Captive magazine, September 2013.
Lift Up Your Hearts, Sound Teaching audio Bible study with Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr.
What is corporate worship and why does it matter to us? Worship is the one thing that all Christians are supposed to have in common both now and forever. Praising God is what we were created for. Join Dr. Sproul as he opens Scripture to discuss those things which should unite us and which will bring glory to God and fulfillment to men. Available in CD and MP3 format.