Consider role of worship in evangelism
I was in Atlanta recently for the summer state leadership meeting at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and there was a story circulating about the recent visit to Atlanta by the mayor of New Orleans.
It seems that one of the premier Atlanta tailors was enlisted to make a sport coat for him. The New Orleans mayor was measured for the coat and the best material was provided. However, an emergency called the mayor back to New Orleans before the sport coat could be finished. So, the tailor gave the material to the mayor, knowing that he could have the coat finished in New Orleans.
The New Orleans tailor made not only a coat, but had enough material to make suit pants and a vest. The New Orleans mayor was amazed and expressed there had been only enough material for the coat. His tailor insightfully solved the dilemma saying, “Mayor, don’t forget you are a lot bigger in Atlanta than you are in New Orleans.” That humorous, and no doubt fabricated story, led me to pray for Jesus to become bigger in Missouri, than anywhere else, for our Lord to become bigger in our communities than industry or technology, for Him to be bigger in our churches than our organizations and traditions.
I have shared in this column some bridge events being used by our churches to make Christ known in our communities. Another question our leaders have pondered is the counterpart to the bridge events question: what ongoing things are you doing that are effectively reaching people for Christ? Thankfully, God has looked with favor upon block parties, English as a second language, horse whispering events, etc. However, the ongoing every week ministries have the greatest impact.
One of the leaders hit the nail on the head when he responded, “the Sunday services.” Whoa! I hadn’t thought of that answer. Indeed, Sunday services provide the venue to make the greatest difference for our Lord on a weekly (hopefully not weakly) basis.
Ed Stetzer, in his newest book Comeback Churches, reveals that worship was one of the top five factors in the revitalization for comeback congregations. Other factors such as small groups, facilities, and marketing were not as important or influential. “If worship in a church cannot be described as “celebrative,” and “orderly,” then that church might want to consider exploring some ways to gradually introduce some new energy, enthusiasm, and contemporary flavor into its worship experience,” (page 212).
Thom Rainer echoed Stetzer’s findings in Effective Evangelistic Churches and listed Surprise No. 1 being “few effective evangelistic churches use event evangelism.” Instead, “preaching is one of the most effective means of reaching people for Christ” (pages 14 and 29).
We only have one opportunity to make a first impression. Arguably, newcomers tend to attend the worship service before Sunday School or most any other ministry. Take a realistic look at your worship services. Are they visitor friendly? Do people remain after worship to fellowship? Is there life in the worship service?
I have been in worship services when we sang “Day Is Dying in the West,” and I thought to myself “that is not all that is dying!” Pastor Ken Hamm led Valley View Church in Louisville, Ky., from a declining church of 300 to a vibrant congregation of more than 2,000. He explained the turnaround this way: “We worked from the premise that worship is the front door of church. So we spent the whole year looking at our worship service without expending energy trying to draw in visitors. After that first year, we had our worship settled and we started to reach out to the community.”
Unfortunately, some think that “jazzing up” the worship is a quick fix. It is not. The solution lies in seeking God’s heart while finding worship that helps others to connect with God. Such worship influences unbelievers and draws them to the one, true, living God.
Worship is the ongoing event in our Missouri Baptist churches. Let us pray, plan, organize and carry out worship as the biggest thing happening in our church. When it is all said and done (and more is usually said than done), worship is the ongoing ministry that is most effective in reaching people for Christ. May the mood of our worship services be celebrative and orderly with a significant emphasis on being informative, contemporary and expressive. Resolve to make the biggest opportunity for reaching people, the best.