When evangelism exists because worship doesn’t
“All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name,” Psalms 66:4.
Why does evangelism exist? Plain and simple, evangelism exists because worship doesn’t. Someday, evangelism will cease to exist – and worship will exist forever for those who will trust Him. The Lord hungers for the nations to sing to Him, the earth to bow to him. Can worship be evangelistic? Absolutely. Is it a tool for evangelism? Careful . . .
Sally Morgenthaler is quite a lady. In the nineties, Sally saw the new worship movement and authored the powerful and persuasive book, Worship Evangelism. I have a beat-up copy that is dog-eared and scribbled in. But what makes Sally noble is that after she watched this book become a best-seller to worship leaders, she realized that her premise was wrong.
The concept of the Morgenthaler doctrine was to present worship, polished and contemporary (and nothing wrong with that by the way), and allow worship itself to be the evangelism tool of the 21st century. Sally is a lady who loves to deal with facts and figures, trends and statistics, and as she looked at them she realized that this pattern was not working, and it was sending a message to churches that if you play the right music, they will come. They weren’t coming. Sally took down her worship website Sacrementis and has hit the speaking circuit decrying her own work.
I still use Sally’s book. It is excellent source material, and has great advice for planning contagious worship. In fact, the book is worth the Morgenthaler PASS method to music selection. (Sorry, you have to read the book.) However, Sally pushed her ego aside when she realized something greater was at risk – the worship of the nations.
You see, despite billions of dollars spent on everything from Gaither concerts to contemporary Christian mega-productions, we have seen no real numeric gain in Christianity; in fact, in America the numbers are slipping backwards, not forwards.
This article isn’t against a style of music. Those of you who know me know that I like it all. I also think that the contemporary Christian music wave has been so needed, and is a breath of fresh air in the world. However, changing worship for the sole reason of evangelism is a lot like putting a new air filter on my car. As crucial and good as that clean air pouring into my engine may be, it won’t keep my thread-bare tires from going flat. As important as it is to our churches to pump in new and vital music, and to encourage a new and younger set of songwriters and musicians – that alone won’t miraculously fix and revamp the church.
In this post-modern era where up is down and left is right, people are searching for relevance. But the seekers find that authenticity is the most relevant substance out there. Though well-intentioned, most see past the pictures of older people trying to be hip to manipulate the masses to come to Him. This is the very thing that many people are running from, someone else trying to coerce them. What this new generation seems to want is to be part of something that is so much bigger and greater than they are.
I have waited long to write this article because of my concern about it being used to manipulate an argument about worship style. We don’t want to go there again, trust me. This is far from what the discussion is about. There are plenty of churches who have made all sorts of switches and changes, and they are working. I know churches who have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars revamping sound systems. This has greatly affected the worship service in positive ways. But these are also the churches that open their buildings to the needy, become hubs for disaster relief, have active evangelism happening outside their walls, teach adult reading classes and host Narcotics Anonymous in their buildings on Thursday nights.
This is truly about evangelism. Playing their music will not reach the lost. Sorry, I don’t have to go to church to hear MY MUSIC. The best way to reach them is the old-fashioned Jesus way. Get out there and love them. Be the shepherds to the community.
We will win people one at a time with real relationships. When we go out of our way to be like Jesus to them, they will want more – who wouldn’t? Then we come together arm in arm to worship the Creator in vibrant passionate worship that seems natural after a long journey – two strangers becoming friends, then becoming brothers.
At the very beginning, I said that evangelism exists because worship does not. That’s the order of things set forth by Jesus Himself (Matthew 22:37-40); we can’t change it. (John Francis is the worship specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention and produces MoWorship, a monthly worship podcast available at www.mobaptist.org/worship.)