…Do Your Duty First…
Well if the title didn’t grab your attention , please stop inviting the lost to worship. I am deadly serious right now. I could not muster any more severity regarding this topic than I am already feeling.
“But Todd,” you ask, “How on earth can you say that?”
I know it seems counter intuitive and certainly counter-cultural to modern evangelicalism. The apparent end all and be all of Relationship Evangelism is to penultimately invite someone to “church”. If you don’t invite them to “church” how will they ever hear the Gospel?
This topic is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. A conversation I had with several folks on Facebook proved to me just how bad this problem is. I wrote on this topic once before for a different blog; but I felt it necessary to write about it again after that conversation. My desire is to bring my experiences to bear on the topic. I want to convince you to stop inviting people to worship if you know they are lost. I want you to do your part first.
What is it I mean by “your part”?
I mean that your part is evangelizing the lost. I know this sounds so straight forward and simple, but I am often surprised by those who complicate it. Inviting the lost to worship isn’t preaching the Gospel to them.
You can argue this point all you want. I have heard every objection and justification…
“I don’t know how to answer their questions…”
“What if the person points out contradictions and I can’t explain it?”
“I can’t share the Gospel with my co-workers while I am working. I have to invite them to come to church with me.”
“If I share the Gospel with my neighbors they may get mad and never talk to me again. It’s just easier to invite them to church.”
I could give other excuses that I have heard from many different people in many different congregations. I will give my all-time favorite. “Well we aren’t all called to be evangelists, that’s not my gift, but my pastor sure is gifted that way.”
The reality, as I stated in my first article Evangelical Compromise, is that most Christians have never shared the Gospel with anyone. They are too afraid to do it. Truthfully, it is terrifying. Yet aren’t we called to do hard things that we don’t feel equipped to do.
C.H. Spurgeon, maybe the greatest of all evangelists, called it an irksome task. Ray Comfort of Living Waters calls it “As exciting as root canal.”
This is the crux of the matter. At the end of His earthly ministry Christ leaves the few reaming disciples with a command. His command was to go and preach the Gospel to all creatures.
…What Have We Lost…
Somehow this has been lost to most Christians in the west today. They beg-off by claiming that they preach the Gospel in the context of relationships. They consider this the fulfillment of the great commission. Most often they aren’t preaching the Gospel, the relationship has become paramount. Yet they genuinely desire to see their friends, co-workers, and family members saved.
In that desire they sink their claws into the idea of inviting the lost to worship. They think that inviting a lost person to “church” they would hear the Gospel and believe. This places the burden on the elders to preach evangelistically in any given corporate worship setting.
Yes, the Gospel should be present in the content of any sermon. Every sermon should have Christ as its focus. The Reformers called this the Scopus. It is focusing on Christ and His accomplishments that the Church needs to hear every worship service.
However, it is that completed work, that elders need to focus on in every worship service; not the lsot. They need to teach what is in accord with sound doctrine every week. (see Titus 2 for more on this) Elders should strive to prepare and preach sermons that are geared toward believers. These sermons are meant to draw believers into a deeper understanding of God. Believers should be compelled to in-depth worship of the God-head.
Unbelieving can’t comprehend true worship. These types of sermons are profoundly spiritual, and therefore spiritually discerned. The Gospel must be interwoven throughout such a sermon creating a beautiful redemptive tapestry for the believer to be blanketed with. Yet, the unbeliever will only behold such a work the same way I look at modern art today, with utter and complete confusion.
…Please Stop Inviting the Lost to Worship…
Therefore, when we settle for by-passing the preaching of the Gospel to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers; we are doing them a great disservice. Frankly it is quite disobedient to the Great Commission. As a dear brother recently said to me (and as a side note he is not personally inclined toward my missions work, very supportive just not inclined), “I finally recognize that we need to actually be about the work of going and preaching the Gospel as we go.”
Romans 10 lays out the formula for what this looks like for us quite succinctly. Please allow me to paraphrase Paul here:
“How can the lost person believe if they have not heard the Gospel?
And how can they hear if you do not preach the Gospel?
But how can you preach if you have not been sent?”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is the SOP (standard operating procedure) for evangelistic work. Sheep make sheep!
This may look different for each person. All of us had better be preaching the Gospel in the context of the relationships we have. Whether at work, in our neighborhoods, in our friendships, or in our families. Still others of us, like me, feel compelled to localized missions work. For me this is on top of preaching the Gospel in the context of relationships.
The narrowly defined point of the Great Commission is that we are to all be about the work of Christ. Don’t you recognize the urgency of the command? Your elders are to send you. So, please stop inviting the lost to worship. That is until you faithfully proclaim the Gospel to them first.
Missions Exist Because Worship Doesn’t
If God is drawing that person to Himself through Christ, they will respond to the Gospel call in God’s timing. Yet how sweet that moment would be if as you preached the Gospel, God would save them. Then they will join you in singing praise to the One Who purchased them. It is blasphemous for the lost to lift-up their voice to sing songs of praise that fall on deaf ears. It is wrong for them to think that going to “church”, puts them in good standing with God.
No, my beloved Christian reader, please stop and think on this. Please do not invite lost people to worship. As John Piper so sweetly said, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.”
Soli Deo Gloria!