Our great object of glorifying God is to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls.
As discussed in the introduction, the concept of this book was born out of the tension that exists between the call to be a worshipper of Christ and how that expression is lived out as a participant of the Great Commission. In most cases, Christians will admit their need to worship, but they will do so to the exclusion of becoming radical and passionate followers of Christ. They are not willing to bypass their fears and share their faith with a family member, neighbor, or friend who is a nonbeliever.
Based on the rapid decline in evangelism statistics, the sad part is that so-called believers appear to be content with this disconnect in reference to their faith, thus allowing for outward expressions of worship with little regard to what it means to be a multiplying disciple of Christ. After generations of allowing this anemic expression of worship to exist with little or no challenge from Christian leaders, the result has been the normalizing of an impotent faith that ignores the Great Commission in favor of reducing worship to an emotional act of personal expression.
If you doubt this statement, then attend a Christian concert and watch how believers respond to the show. Regardless of the musical style, you will see many Christians boldly stand with their hands raised high or possibly laughing and clapping with great approval. In some cases, there will be jumping, running, or lying prostrate on the ground. There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of freedom in worship. Christians should (after all) enjoy their faith, but it remains to be seen whether this same boldness is transferred to daily living out one's faith with unbelievers as "fishers of men" (Matt 14:19).
Based on more than 30 years of observing the church as a university and seminary professor, pastor, and evangelist, to me it is obvious there is a huge disconnect between the biblical understandings of worship and evangelism. If not addressed in an honest manner, this false dichotomy will continue to stifle the influence of the church in a world that is seeking spiritual answers.
The purpose of this book is to address this most basic issue of interpretation in reference to worship and evangelism and how they impact our obedience to the Great Commission. Should they be treated as two separate concepts or should they be lived out as unified expressions of obedience as we seek to multiply the kingdom of God?
A few years ago I was invited to submit two chapters for the book Innovate Church. The first chapter was titled, "Back to Basics in Strategic Planning." I freely admit that my bias as a professor of evangelism was to reestablish evangelism as the main priority of the church without apology or confusion. In my passion to prove a point, I may have overstated the issue. Here is a brief snapshot of what was printed:
Another misunderstanding is that evangelism is only one of several tasks that the church must complete. Narrowly understood, that could be a true statement. However, when evangelism is properly and intricately understood in terms of worship, discipleship, prayer, missions, fellowship, and ministry, it is no longer defined in such narrow expressions. For instance, proper discipleship is never complete until the person being discipled multiplies their witness consistently into those who do not know Christ.
In addition, evangelism is usually thought of in the narrowest of terms as simply sharing the right information. However, while it is important to verify the proper information, that is only half of the message and ignores consideration of the relational and social expressions. In other words, it is impossible to divorce Jesus' message from the Person He represented. Therefore, true evangelism must always embrace the whole being in both words and deeds. Anything less will normally result in dry and lifeless orthodoxy or liberalism
The challenge is that most church leaders are unwilling to admit that evangelism should be the main priority of the body. Could it be that they are simply intimidated by the task, or maybe they do not understand the holistic connection of evangelism with every other responsibility of the Church? The problem is that we tend to ignore those things for which we do not attach intentionality. Quite simply, it is easier and less intimidating to maintain the organizational assignments of the church, than it is to embrace the call of Christ who Himself "came to seek and to save those who are lost."
In addition, most people never consider that the Bible is primarily a book about evangelism. You may be asking how this can be? Let's think about it: if you take the message of redemption out of Scripture, what is left? A proper understanding of evangelism must include both the act of sharing redemption, as well as being the message itself. Therefore, assuming that Jesus' main purpose in coming to the world was to provide redemption, is it not logical to assume that His church should also prioritize the sharing of that same redemptive message.
As long as Satan is allowed to minimize evangelism in the eyes of the body and to divorce it from the call of the church, the Great Commission will continue to suffer. For the sake of biblical multiplication, it is imperative that the Church understands evangelism in the broadest sense. Evangelism, properly understood, must be reestablished as the main purpose of the Church, not merely as one of numerous functions.
While I still believe that evangelism is being seriously overlooked as a responsibility in many congregations and the "church" in general, I now realize that a large part of living out our faith "incarnationally" is to be interpreted through the lens of worship. This is not to say, however, that evangelism should be minimized. To the contrary, it must be the catalyst that ignites a holistic lifestyle of worship.
It is like being back in elementary school. I remember building elaborate volcanoes out of modeling clay. We used baking soda and vinegar to signify a volcanic eruption. After placing several tablespoons of baking soda into the volcano, you simply added a small amount of vinegar and the fun was soon to follow!
It is the same with evangelism as it relates to the other functions of the church (fellowship, ministry, etc.), as we attempt to live out a lifestyle of worship. Evangelism is like the vinegar that ignites the dormant baking soda. While the soda has the potential of sustaining a great eruption, it is powerless without the vinegar. The same is true if we interpret evangelism as a mere task of the church.
This is a key issue. For instance, I spoke at a conference recently where I presented the idea that "evangelism is the purpose of the church" by placing it on a power point slide and strategically offered no explanation. Admittedly, I did this in hopes of soliciting a response from the crowd of church leaders. Trust me. It worked!
Before I could get settled into my teaching position, hands were raised and objections flew like large hailstones in West Texas! How could this be? After all, in their strong opinion, worship was the "main" purpose of the church! To them, evangelism, while important, was merely one of many tasks such as discipleship and ministry. What I thought would be a ten-minute discussion lasted more than an hour!
In response, I asked the leaders a simple question that must always be considered when approaching this subject: "Can a person be a true worshipper in a biblical sense if they are not redeemed?" Of course the answer was "no." I explained, therefore, that a person must be "evangelized" before they can become a biblical "worshipper."
Thus evangelism and worship have a unique relationship. I also pointed out that many times in Scripture it appears that while God is always our object of worship, the concept of obtaining salvation (evangelism) appears to be the motivation. As it says in Ps 3:8 (NKJV), "Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people!"
Consider what Abraham states in Gen 22:5 (NKJV):
And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you."
The context of this passage occurred after Abraham was called by God to surrender up Isaac as an offering on Mount Moriah. This statement was the culmination of a three-day journey where Abraham explained his actions by using the concept of worship.
Outside of the biblical arena, Abraham's actions would appear to be that of a lunatic or a mad man. After all, how could anyone rationalize even thinking about killing their child and call it worship?
Nevertheless, this is the term that was used. Why? It is because worship is not an event or something we do for God. Rather it is an act of unbridled obedience even when rational explanations are hard to find!
Think about it. Abraham did not possess a guitar, piano, or any type of musical instrument that we might associate with the idea of worship. All he had to give to God was his full obedience, even if it meant taking the life of his most precious earthly possession—Isaac.
Maybe that is what Jesus means by what He states in Matt 10:34-39 (NKJV):
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
Therefore, understanding the concept of worship as living an obedient life is essential to grasping the connection between worship and its relationship to evangelism and the Great Commission. If the heartbeat of worship is obedience, then it is impossible to be a true worshipper without being directly involved in the command of evangelism as expressed in Acts 1:8.
I have to admit that since my earlier writings in the Innovate Church book, I have come to the conclusion that it may be an overstatement to declare that evangelism is the "purpose" of the church. Actually, the eternal "purpose" of the church is to glorify God in all we do as we live out our daily lives. Since the Christian life is meant to be an open invitation to join Christ "on mission" as obedient multiplying believers, evangelism and worship are both hatched from the same egg. Ultimately, it is impossible to claim one without the other.
If the concepts of evangelism and worship have been misinterpreted and misapplied over time, one of the best ways to correct this is to address several common misconceptions related to evangelism and worship.
1. Evangelism is a choice. It is generally accepted in Christian circles that the majority of believers rarely share their faith with another unsaved person. I have noticed this in my graduate-level evangelism classes. By a simple show of hands, well over half of the students will admit that they rarely share their faith with an unsaved person. One of the contributing factors is that evangelism is taught as an individual choice rather than a biblical command. This is misleading and dangerous in reference to the Great Commission. Consider what Jesus says in Acts 1:8 (NKJV): "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." The phrase "you shall be witnesses" is written as a direct command of Christ. The aim is to mobilize His disciples into the world to fulfill His earlier promise as recorded in Mark 1:17 (NKJV): "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
2. Just passing on information. There are hundreds of ways to share Christ effectively with an unbeliever. In doing so, one must remember that evangelism is not just sharing the right biblical information. As I always tell my classes, "You cannot divorce Jesus' message from the life He lived." This simply means that Jesus not only shared the truth in word; He also embodied that same truth through a consistent lifestyle. While it is very important to share the correct biblical knowledge related to salvation, always remember that the knowledge you share is validated to the world through a consistent testimony of a changed life.
3. A spiritual gift. Contrary to what many people believe in the church, evangelism is not listed as a spiritual gift in Scripture. While some people may have talents that aid in becoming more natural at evangelism, the call to evangelize is meant for the entire church. It is not reserved for a selected few soldiers. Think about it: the word for evangelism literally means "good news" or the "message." The problem is that most people define evangelism as merely sharing the good news (a verb), when actually evangelism is the good news (a noun). Our problem with evangelism is that we define it by the action, not the nature or essence of the action. At its core, evangelism is the "good news" of Christ and therefore must be embraced as a lifestyle by every Christ-follower.
4. Just something you do. Evangelism must never be minimized to something you perform as a duty to God. Rather, like breathing, it should be an involuntary response to naturally share Christ whenever possible. In short, evangelism is the essence of who you are as you walk through daily life. It is the consistent and natural overflow of a deep and abiding relationship with Christ.
5. In competition with discipleship. I often hear people espousing the tenets of discipleship over the call to evangelize. They often minimize evangelism and use phrases such as "I am a disciple maker, not an evangelist." This may sound good, but it is biblically incorrect. The truth is that evangelism and discipleship are dependent on each other. While intentional evangelism that leads to a spiritual conversion always precedes the process of discipleship, neither process is complete until the one who is being discipled learns to multiply his witness through sharing Christ with unsaved people. Possessing a genuine passion for biblical multiplication through evangelism is a key indicator when evaluating spiritual maturity.
6. Based on your personality. Some people believe that evangelism is only reserved for "type A" personalities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Evangelism is a biblical mandate to be fulfilled through all types of people. Whether you are shy or outgoing, remember that every Christian is responsible to the call of evangelism.
7. The same as "missions." The word evangelism has lost its distinctiveness and importance to the church over the past 25 years as many people have replaced it with the concept of "missions." The essential nature and expression of evangelism is the passionate proclamation of the message of the gospel to the end that people will be redeemed as they trust Christ and His saving work at the cross to receive forgiveness and eternal life. On the other hand, missions is a transcultural enterprise in which the gospel message is taken into another culture at home or overseas (Acts 1:8). It always has evangelism at its heart. If the pursuit of missions drives evangelism to the point that sharing the gospel message is secondary, then both expressions lose their biblical focus. Evangelism must be the purpose and driving force of all missions. It is impossible to do authentic missions without intentionally doing evangelism.
8. Acting arrogant or superior. First Peter 5:6 says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (NIV). The key to effective evangelism is a well-prepared, obedient, loving, and humble heart for God. A "know it all" and "cocky" attitude will always hinder the effectiveness of evangelism.
9. Meant to be silenced by fear. In 2 Tim 1:7-8, the apostle Paul states, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity [fear], but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord" (NIV). According to Scripture, appropriate fear is rational in certain situations, but this should not apply to the task of evangelism.
10. A theological dilemma. Some people try to use theological constructs to ignore the Great Commission. Because of unbiblical inferences related to the doctrine of election, many contemporary ministers are ignoring their responsibility to be active in evangelism. The same is true when liberal theologians compromise the authority of Scripture. In many cases humility and obedience are replaced by theological superiority and a critical spirit that is detrimental to evangelism. In short, theology without evangelism is not Christian theology at all. At the same time, evangelism without proper theology is equally as dangerous to the Great Commission.
11. Prayer by itself. It is a misconception to equate prayer alone as an act of evangelism. Does this mean that prayer is not essential to the process of evangelism? Absolutely not! There is no way that a person could ever be effective in evangelism without possessing a deep and abiding relationship to God in prayer. However, to assume that prayer by itself equals evangelism stops short of the desired target. Actually, it has been my experience that when people begin to pray earnestly for their unsaved friends and family, their burden is increased and the usual result is to be propelled into the field to boldly share Christ with those in need.
12. Church planting by itself. Because there will probably be numerous church planters who will read this book, it needs to be stated that church planting alone is not necessarily an act of evangelism. In fact, after years of working with church planters, I am sometimes alarmed by the overemphasis on worship and discipleship to the exclusion of evangelism that leads to biblical multiplication among the church body. Biblical church planting is always born out of intentional evangelism. That was the model of the apostle Paul and the early church. According to Scripture, they first evangelized communities and then created congregations with the intention of training the new disciples to become reproducing Great Commission Worshippers. Biblical evangelism must always be the heartbeat of church planting!
1. Worship is when we come together at church on Sundays. The problem here is that we have confused the idea of corporate worship with "doing" church rather than "being" the church. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the heartbeat of worship is the daily response of obedience to the commands of Christ that result in our joining Him on mission. Unfortunately, if worship becomes something that only occurs at a specific time and location each week, we lose the holistic call to be worshippers as we journey through daily life. It is this type of thinking that produces the ridiculous commitment to a meeting place rather than to the person of Christ.
2. Worshippers do not "do" evangelism. The common misconception here is that worship somehow precludes any responsibility to evangelize, disciple new believers, or otherwise focus on other Christian disciplines. If worship is the fully obedient response to the commands of God for every believer, then every valid expression of worship should be done with the aim of multiplying the kingdom of God through evangelism. After all, Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10 NKJV).
3. Leading worship in public has little or no relationship to private worship. This misconception can have a dangerous impact on the kingdom of God. It is the heartbeat of hypocrisy. What resides in the heart of man will ultimately reveal itself by way of a man's sinful actions and attitudes in daily life.
4. Private worship and public (corporate) worship are essentially the same. This concept builds off of the previous misconception. It is a huge mistake to assume that you can substitute your times of private devotions with sporadic times of public worship. In the end, without regular times of private worship, one's public worship will become perverted and shallow. It is like building a house. Whereas public worship is like seeing the finished product, one's habits related to private worship are similar to the foundation being poured and the walls being framed.
5. Worship is all about the music. This is probably the greatest misconception as worship and music in the modern church have become synonymous. When someone says, "That was a great time of worship," it usually means that they enjoyed the time of singing and music. As mentioned earlier in reference to Abraham and Isaac, worship is about total obedience, not music. Unfortunately, it seems that "worship" is now synonymous with being entertained by talented musicians more than it is surrendering to a holy God!
6. Worship does not include preaching. Some believe worship only occurs when music is present. While music is an important aspect of worship in Scripture, it is the proclamation of God's Word that transforms people's lives and brings them to repentance. This is why the preacher and the person leading music need to work together in order to create a unified message for the worship service. If this is done correctly, then both the music and the message will serve to convict the worshippers and send them back to their mission fields recharged and ready to be become "fishers of men."
7. Worshippers should focus more on building a relationship with God than on developing or nurturing relationships with people. Again, this is a misconception that serves to draw worshippers away from impacting the world for Christ. Those who buy into this approach generally see themselves creating a "deeper life" with God that cannot be interrupted by anything—even taking the gospel to an unsaved friend or neighbor. While it is very important to build a deeper relationship with Christ through prayer and Bible study, if taken to the extreme it can become something akin to spiritual narcissism. The solution is to model the life of Christ, who always had time to build relationships with hurting people.
8. There is no relationship between worship and obedience. This misconception fosters the idea that one can worship without striving to live a holy life, and one's life does not impact the way he worships. As mentioned earlier, the heartbeat of worship is obedience to Christ and His commands. Without obedience worship may occur, but it will not be edifying in the biblical sense.
9. Worship is primarily a young people's phenomenon. This comes from the idea that worship and music are synonymous. Because younger believers are often more energetic and emotional in their responses, it can be easy to assume that worship is reserved for a younger crowd. Do not be fooled! Since worship is about obedience rather than emotional responses, the proof of real worship is found in the consistent lifestyle of individual believers regardless of their age.
10. Worship is primarily based on my own personal experience. The danger of this misconception is that it deifies one's preferences. The belief is, "If I don't have the right feeling, then I haven't worshipped." Nothing could be further from the truth. What if a person is convicted of sin during worship? That is usually not a positive experience. Are we to assume that real worship did not occur based on negative feelings? Absolutely not! Keep in mind that "real" worship will bring about "real" change, and that may not be "real" fun! Emotions are destined to change, while the truth always remains the same.
11. Worship is a musical style. Worship can often be minimized into a man-made box or particular style. We use terms like blended, contemporary, or even traditional worship. Worship is much more than the type of music that is played. In fact, worship is not a "service" to be attended. It is a surrendered approach to life that is to be lived out in all we do.
12. Worship is a required task. This misconception thinks of worship as a "task" on some to-do list that one is required to accomplish. But if worship is truly an act of obedience, it is much more than something to be merely checked off of a list. It is an expression of one's lifestyle that consistently reflects the character of Christ. After all, He alone is the object of our worship. The only proper response is unhindered obedience.
Now that we understand the basic connection between worship and evangelism, as well as a few misconceptions of each, it is time to examine some biblical models. Consider the following:
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom 11:36-12:8 NKJV)
Beginning with Rom 11:36, we are reminded that while "all things" belong to God, the ultimate purpose for His people is that He might receive "glory forever." This is why we live and worship: that God might be eternally exalted among the nations through the surrendered and obedient lives of His children.
It does not end here. We are implored to present our "bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [worship]." In other words, our greatest act of worship is not merely responding to God as an act of blind compliance to a set of rules and standards. To the contrary, God requires that if His children are to be genuine worshippers, they must "be transformed by the renewing of your mind," in order to reveal to the unredeemed world the "good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
How is this to be accomplished in reference to evangelism and living out the Great Commission? First of all, biblical worship is never dormant, but should always drive the individual to unite with Christ in ministry. Real disciples are called to join Christ as He goes on mission to bring the world to Himself.
Therefore, after sacrificially worshipping God with a heart that is "transformed," the natural progression is to utilize one's gifts as an expression of worship in action. Note again how Paul explains our call:
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom 12:6-8 NKJV)
Keep in mind that in this context the church is also referred to as being "one body." It should be traveling in the same direction with a common vision. As a result, while the gifts might differ in expression, they are the same in purpose: to glorify Christ in true worship that not only entices the soul to develop a deeper relationship with God but also electrifies the believer's heart to action that multiplies God's kingdom. In the end, this passage serves to balance the biblical concept of worship with the call of the Great Commission!
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matt 22:36-40 NKJV)
This passage is affectionately known as the Great Commandment. When Jesus was asked by the religious leaders "which is the great commandment in the law?" he thoughtfully responded by first pointing them to the need of loving "the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." He then expanded it to include loving "your neighbor as yourself."
Within these brief and impactful words, we find the heart of both worship and evangelism. There is the obvious call to glorify God with unyielding allegiance, but it is not complete unless that message grows beyond the immediate circle of self to include loving one's neighbor.
The assumption is that if an individual falls in love with Christ and seeks to glorify His name, he or she will in turn express that same love for people (neighbors) who invade their lives on a daily basis. In addition, it must be noted that for either command to be fulfilled, it is required that "self" must fall to the bottom of the list when it comes to daily priorities. Worship, therefore, is not an impotent act or staged event. Rather it is a passionate response to the heart cry of God that includes active participation in the Great Commission.
As further evidence of this call to yield up one's life in service to Christ and others, consider these words of Jesus:
"The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor." (John 12:23-26 NKJV)
The bottom line is that true biblical worship requires a life that is totally sold out and obedient to the Master. In order for this concept to be complete, Christians have to be willing to die to self and to join Christ on mission every day. As Jesus states above, "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me." Conversely, if you do not "follow" Him by adopting His passion in becoming "fishers of men," can you be called a true worshipper of God?
As you can see from what has already been discussed, there is much confusion when it comes to clarifying the roles of worship and evangelism. All too often, well-meaning Christians attempt to separate the biblical concepts by defining them in the narrowest of terms.
Ultimately, the result has been a generation of misguided and anemic Christians who are clueless in reference to the idea of worship and how that concept translates into a lifestyle that multiplies the kingdom of God. The following chapters will build upon this dichotomy in order to restore the integrity of the Great Commission as a goal for discipling future generations of passionate believers.
With this in mind, you will want to pay special attention to the next chapter. It is based on Matt 28:16-20. Before the disciples receive from Jesus the Great Commission, they spend time in worship of Him as their risen Lord. It is only after they worship that He shares His credentials and gives them the power to do what they are called to do. It is only after they worship that they receive the promise of His presence as they accomplish what He has appointed them to do as ministers of the gospel.