Last month, I told you about the “Jesus of the Tortilla,” the sad but true tale of just how far our society has drifted in its understanding of worship. Just as superstitious as was the homemaker who “found” the image of Jesus in the burn marks on her frying tortilla is the modern Reformed Christian who has lost sight of the godly motive of worship in his/her zeal to preserve “the way we’ve always done it.” Instead, worship must arise out or our hearty delight in God: in His awe-inspiring being, in His awesome works and because of His gracious and loving Word to us.
In these few paragraphs I want to draw your attention to another dimension of the church’s attitude toward worship. That dimension is EVANGELISM.
Strange, you might think. After all WE who are believers worship, but the unbeliever does not and does not want to. We all know how difficult it is to get an acquaintance who does not know the lord to join us in church for Sunday morning services. What could possibly be the connection between right worship and evangelism?
In a word, everything! Let me say it this way: a local church that does not rightly commit itself to and involve itself in evangelizing the lost will not bring right worship unto the Lord.
SHORT, BUT SWEET
Open your Bibles to Psalm 117, please. (Yes, go get the Bible. I’ll wait.)
You probably learned as a young~ ster that this is the shortest Psalm in the Bible. What also probably happened is that you paid little attention to the words of the Psalm. Too bad because, though short, it is sweet!
Look at the Psalm. It begins by calling all the nations to praise the LORD. This is God’s covenant name, the name by which He is known among Israel, the people of His salvation, the folk He has saved. (Capitalization of this word in the NIV means that the word in the Hebrew is the word for “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.”)You might remember Rahab who told the spies, sent by Joshua, that the people of Jericho had heard of the mighty deed the LORD had done when He brought His people out of Egypt. It is that sort of wonder that the Psalmist speaks of. The people of God are to herald that message as they speak, as they live, as their lives are lived “on the witness stand” before the watching eyes of the world. They are to proclaim what the Psalmist does: God is to be praised by all nations, by every people because His love and covenant faithfulness to His own is so great and so enduring. What He has done for us, consistently and lovingly, provides every reason for all people to praise Him and worship Him.
“People,” we must say, “you must come to praise God. You must worship.” He deserves your praise; He is worthy of your honor, your adoration, your time, your money, your love. Why? Well, look at what He has done for us! He who has shown such power, such might. such love to sinners like me is a God worthy of your love, honor and service! Allow me to introduce you to Him through His Word!
EVANGELISM SPAWNS WORSHIP
By now, I trust you have come to understand that evangelism spawns worship. When someone is brought to understand the majesty, power, and yet faithful and gracious love of God to sinners who turn to Him in faith, they may well be brought to their knees. You cannot properly comprehend God’s grace without being moved to tears, to joy, to exultation. How often haven’t you heard of new Christians being filled with dynamism, with enthusiasm, with a joy for the faith that just isn’t often seen in people who have walked with the lord for many years!? Well. the same is true of worship! New believers, those just transformed by the power of the “evangel,” the good news, bring a dynamic spirit of joy and excitement into worship that makes the worship more meaningful for all.
I would go so far as to say that a worship service where there are not many (any?) new believers present and active in bringing praise, will probably be a distinctly different and more than likely a less joyful time of worship and praise than one where there are many new believers in Christ. full of joy in Him.
Does such joyful worship require liturgical anarchy? Does this demand a less traditional style of service? or course not. But we must be careful not to evaluate the orthodoxy of worship merely by looking at the order of worship. Much more appropriate to the purposes of God is the soft heart of the worshiper. and much more delightful to the Lord is worship that is properly focused upon Him instead of upon the ritualistic recital of traditionaI liturgies—even typical Reformed ones! Remember how it is said in 1 Peter 2:9?
…you area chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
WORSHIP DEMANDS EVANGELISM
That passage lays before us the unavoidable corollary of the previous point. If evangelism spawns worship, right worship demands evangelism.
This is so for two related reasons. First, no one can be moved by the grace of God in his/her life without wanting others lost in sin to know that grace—the forgiveness. the joy, and the peace that only Christ can give. It is no coincidence that the Heidelberg Catechism (a venerable Reformation instructional catechism) summarizes the whole of Christian experience as “comfort” that comes from knowing the Savior. Those saved by grace eagerly desire others to know that grace for themselves! Those who have been brought to their knees in worship have their joy made complete when loved ones, friends or acquaintances who have been lost in their sin finally are brought to the Sovereign Lord’s throne of grace.
And secondly, those who are in adoration and awe of the Sovereign Lord because of His Word, His works and His being become righteously indignant at any lack of honor or worship of the only One Who is worthy.
God’s children become incensed at the dishonor shown their Father in much the same way as a young child is angry when someone makes fun of his mom or dad. This provides yet another motivation for evangelism: a righteous fear of allowing the name of the Lord to be dishonored. How awful it would be if you heard someone cursing and swearing and taking God’s name in vain and did nothing! Similarly, it is just as fearful to watch a person make a mockery of God’s image, honor, will and ways by a life lived in total disregard of His Lordship. Such sensitivity to the worthiness of God demands evangelism not only for the salvation of the lost soul himself/herself, but even more for the glory and honor due unto the Lord.
Bill Hybels once wrote that. after studying about prayer for months, he decided todo something radical—he began to pray! It is not my desire to write more words about worship. It is my hope instead, that you and I will begin to worship-and to do it more and better!
Please use what has been written in these articles to spur you to take a worship inventory. What standard do you use to evaluate the worship services in church? Have you sunk as low as one lady who recently said to me, “A good day in church is one in which I’m not embarrassed by the pastor’s ineptitude or put to sleep by his boring style. A bad day is when both of these things happen. A normal day is one or the other.”
I almost cried when I heard that. The sad thing is that such depressing words are heard altogether too often. The sadder thing is that real worship. the delight and praise your heart expresses in response to God, His works, His being and His Word is absent in such a church setting and in such a person’s life. What emptiness!
I hope and pray you will not be so sad in your evaluation of worship either in the church or in life. I hope and pray you will find in a good church the hearty joy, awe, humility and praise that characterize all true worship. And I pray your delight in God will be so infectious that the nations, represented by your next-door neighbor, will be moved to praise the Lord (“Hallelujah”) for His mercy and faithfulness to you! As the angels sing it: He is worthy!
Dr. Slttema is the pastor of the Bethel CRC in Dallas. TX.