Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reformed and Missional, Part Three

Corporate Worship, Evangelism and Missional Church

One thing the Truly Reformed critics of missional church and the Reformissional can agree upon is that evangelicalism is facing some serious challenges. One of the major problem areas concerns the nature of our corporate worship. Attractional models of church which tend to be non-doctrinal, entertainment-driven, reliant upon marketing tricks, focused upon outreach as a primary purpose of corporate worship, and/or have reduced preaching to therapeutic spirituality sessions have had a detrimental effect upon our worship. Efforts to minimize or lay aside doctrine, tradition, and liturgy for the purpose of attracting newcomers or making church more relevant have left the church hollow, disconnected from our tradition and dumbed down.

Change is needed at a fundamental level in our approach to worship. In her book A Royal Waste of Time, Marva Dawn exclaims,

"Only those who believe in God can worship God! Since the term worship has to do with the worthiness of the One who is worshipped, certainly only those who know and acknowledge that worth can genuinely ascribe it and proclaim it. That is why the misunderstanding concerning the difference between worship and evangelism that is so prevalent in present-day conflicts concerning worship is so dangerous."[pg.120]
The congregation's weekly corporate worship is not the time for outreach. Outreach and evangelism happen throughout the rest of the week when the church is being the church all the time in everything we do. Drifting with the tide of entertainment and consumerism in order to meet the needs of the culture has turned many churches into, as George Hunsberger has said, “vendors of religious services and goods” rather than "a body of people sent on a mission."[Dawn, 121] I realize that I do not need to push this point much further because I am probably preaching to the choir here at CRM. However, in order to make the point even more explicit, let me share Allen P. Ross's excellent, comprehensive definition of worship. Ross explains,

"Worship is the celebration of being in covenant fellowship with the sovereign and holy Lord God by means of the expressed commitment of trust and obedience to the covenantal responsibilities, the spontaneous praise and adoration of His person and work, the memorial re-enactment of entering into covenant through sacrificial atonement with the confident anticipation of the fulfillment of His covenant promises."[Recalling the Hope of Glory]
This definition captures the necessity of the covenant relationship in order to worship the triune God as well as the commitment, affections, and aim of the covenant community’s worship. Worship requires a covenant relationship between the triune God and the worshipper. It assumes a heartfelt submission and obedience to God is His covenant.

We agree that worship is for believers. The key question is not, how do we change our worship in order to attract but, what does it mean to be the church for the sake of the world when we worship and during the rest of the week? Here is the point of this post: those of us who are most critical of the degradation of evangelical worship and have resisted the temptation to make man, rather than God, the primary focus of corporate worship in the form of outreach and seeker-sensitivity must make great efforts to be on mission the other six days of the week. If we are saying that our time of corporate worship is not the time for outreach and evangelism, we must make time for it elsewhere (I am not reducing "missional" to outreach and evangelism but focusing on these aspects of missional church in connection to corporate worship). We need to leave our time of corporate worship renewed and committed to serve God in the world yet again. If we are not telling the world to come to us, we must go to them and be engaged in the non-Christian society we find ourselves in.

One other related point - we need to become more distinctively Christian, not less. Being missional is not about trying to mask who we are. We need to be distinctively Christian and thoroughly engaged. If we compromise who we are on a fundamental level in order engage, we might as well forget it because we will have nothing to offer the world. We continue to live according to the values of the kingdom as a distinctively Christian community otherwise we will be co-opted by the idolatries of our non-Christian society and be weakened in our abilities to offer truth, peace, hope and love.

To be continued...

[Originally posted at Conservative Reformed Mafia]

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