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Missions or Worship, Which Comes First?

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Missions or Worship, Which Comes First?

Is the church’s primary responsibility to win the lost or to worship God? Have believers, as we have been told repeatedly, been left on this earth to simply spread the gospel? Should believers who are more concerned with worship get to work for Jesus? Or, should Christians who are evangelizing stop and worship? Who is right? Which group has the heart of God? How can the church decide? 

A better question is: should the church decide? Which wing of the airplane should the mechanic sever, the left or the right? Which element of water should be left out, hydrogen or oxygen? The discussion of worship versus evangelism is much the same. These questions arise from a compartmental approach to the subject. Morgenthaler in Worship Evangelism attempts to liberate our thinking from this segmented way addressing the subject.

Does the Bible teach that either of these is first in importance? Are they mutually exclusive? Should they be dealt with as separate tasks? The Bible answers these questions quite definitively. The Psalms provide clarity about it:

  • Psalm 33:1,2,8 “Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise benefits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make a melody to him with the harp of ten strings. . . . (8) Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
  • Psalm 47:1-2 “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.” 
  • Psalm 66:1-3 “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come crying to you…” 
  • Psalm 95:1-3 “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord [Yahweh] is a great God, a great King above all gods.”
  • Psalm 96:1 “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!”
  • Psalm 97:1 “The Lord reigns [Yahweh malak], let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!”
  • Psalm 100:1-3 “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God!”

It is evident from the above texts that worship is first in an order of priority. John Piper makes this distinction when he writes, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Will Metzger summarizes the relation of worship to evangelism well: “Changing worshipers of false gods into worshipers of the true God is the purpose of evangelism. We aren’t seeking just ‘decisions for Jesus’ but awe-inspired worshipers…”  This being noted, there is no reason to take evangelism off of the table. Consider the psalmist’s words in each of these passages. In every case, he approaches God worshipfully which leads to evangelism. The psalmist begins with the language of worship (sing, shout, praise, give thanks) to recognize God’s worthiness then progresses to the language of evangelism (all the earth, coastlands, enemies, come, other gods) to assert that everyone should worship God. Evangelism is not a decision to receive something. Evangelism is a decision to submit to Someone in grateful worship. Even evangelism has its fulfillment in worship. Worship is the impetus for evangelism. Let’s continue our study of worship over the next couple of months. Let’s agree together to grow in our knowledge of and passion for worship. 

Love In Christ, 

Pastor Scott

@ Adapted from “Worship and Evangelism, How Do They Relate?” SES, 2008

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