Worship and Apologetics

I have been interested for some time in the relationship between a healthy worship gathering and a setting that is primarily used for evangelistic purposes. My tendency is to say–by the way I am not the originator of this thought–that a worship gathering that is being used for evangelistic purposes is not really corporate worship, with the recognition that God is honored as lost souls are saved. In this article I examine possible apologetic approaches in a corporate worship setting. After reviewing the categories regarding how apologetics can be integrated into a corporate worship setting, some suggestions are made for presenting an informed apologetic approach.

The article attached was presented in the spring of 2011 at Southwest Regional Evangelical Theological Society Meeting in Dallas and now appears in The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry (journal link): Worship and Apologetics (direct link to article).

59 responses to this post.

  1. In reading the article and also just recently finishing the course on Church Evangelism, I have come to the conclusion that worship is evangelistic in nature due to if the worship is genuine and Christ is edified in the worship then the Bible says that many men would be drawn unto Him (Christ). No better way to express our joy and completeness in Christ then through individual and corporate worship and as a witness unto Christ our life of worship should be a life of witness. If a stranger were to enter into a worship service, they should see a celebration and expression of life that they would have a desire to have.

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  2. Posted by Russell Ward on December 7, 2012 at 5:26 am

    This paper presents a very solid perspective on apologetics and evangelism in worship. The unbeliever cannot worship God.The only response that a sinner can make to God’s revelation is repentance and surrender. After the new birth, the new convert can then worship God in spirit and in truth. The implication of this is that corporate worship is a function of the redeemed body of Christ. Piper’s sermon on the Word in worship details out the mutually interconnected nature of the worship dialogue. Worship is a beautiful dance between the body of Christ and the Triune Godhead. For sure, the gospel is presented in our worship but this is not necessarily an “evangelistic” presentation. Often we sing and rejoice in already established truth because is concretizes or enables us to embody the truth revealed. This is that all-encompassing incarnation of worship. The embodiment of this truth through worship can be evangelistic as a secondary aim or consequence. But, this is not the primary intent. As the famous spiritual song says” we have come into this house, gathered in His name to worship Him”. The sinner does not do this. This is a believers marvelous and exclusive privilege. I believe that our lifestyle apologetic approach is the most effective way to point people to Christ. As Dr. Duncan stated: “real worship is from postlude to prelude”.

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    • Posted by Nathan Webb on December 4, 2013 at 12:07 am

      Apologetically I feel both sides could be defended. To the seeker the gospel is life raft, a saving device. To a saint, a believer in Christ the gospel is a love letter, and encouraging, exhorting, challenge to a high level of love and devotion. Worship is a change to express worth ship out of personal believer, and also a chance to be ushered into the presence of God there by promoting worship. You can not worship that which you do no know, or rather you can not do so effectively. So I believer worship on Sunday morning to be a double sides sword designed to cut worldly ties and defend against falling back into the world.

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  3. Posted by william allen on December 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    This is one of those discussions for which, in my view, a good argument can be made either way, largely based upon definitions and semantics.. A previous responder, Russell, made the excellent point that an unbeliever cannot worship God. Therefore, by my definition, a worship service is believers magnifying and extolling God for Who He is and what He has done. Because we know that there will usually be unbelievers in a worship service, certainly we should have an evangelistic presentation. That however, in my view is not the primary thing we are doing. When we worship God and lift Him up, Jesus said “I will draw all men unto Me”. I do not think this has to be necessarily an evangelistic service. I believe that when the Church begins to magnify and extol the Lord and He is lifted up, the Holy Spirit begins to inhabit the praises of His people. Unbelievers will be affected by simply the presence of the Lord. Many will come under conviction. In essence, my view is that a worship service’s main purpose is to emulate what the angels do in heaven..worship the Lord God Almighty. When that happens, people will be drawn unto Him.

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    • Posted by David Anderson on December 7, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      I agree that the argument can really go either way depending on how you want to define things. I do believe though that every sermon we preach or lesson we teach should have a lead in to the gospel therefore every lesson is evangelistic in nature. With that being said if everything I do has an evangelistic purpose and is always focused on sharing the gospel then am I unable to facilitate or participate in corporate worship? I dont think so which then means that I would have to disagree with the idea being presented that evangelistic worship is not corporate worship.

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      • Posted by Kendyl Hall on December 9, 2012 at 3:29 am

        I disagree as well with the idea that evangelistic worship is not corporate worship. I think that corporate worship is a great evangelistic tool and if an unbeliever were to sit in on the body of Christ worshiping then they should be able to see Christ through it all. If we are truly worshiping God then we should look different to the outside world and therefore be a witness.

      • David, just so I can keep track–who said evangelestically focused worship could not be corporate worship? To clarify, the article argues the opposite, while suggesting that many services that seek to be evangelistic are not thoughtful apologetic approaches.

  4. Posted by rob oglesby on December 7, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Charles Finney came about the time of the camp meetings. Confession and revival were taking place, music became a draw. Finney would say that there is no biblical model on how worship should be done. Finney said we should do it in a way that draws people in. I agree with Finney. As long as something is not immoral, illegal, unethical, or unspiritual, we should do what ever it takes to draw people to Jesus.
    I would agree with the writer of the worship and apologetic article in his statement, “Although most evangelicals likely recognize personal evangelism as the most effective approach within an apologetic framework, relational evangelism that leads the lost soul to a corporate worship setting should result in the realization that these strange new friends are indeed worshipping Jesus.” It seems to me that the goal of evangelism is to bring more people to worship the Risen Lord. The goal of evangelism is not to count numbers or boast of conversions made, but if we truly have the heart of Jesus our heart should be that of the psalmist when he said, “Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.”

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  5. Posted by Stephen McAliley on December 8, 2012 at 5:02 am

    This is an excellent article that gives critical thought to the role of apologetics in worship. Being a part of a large church that whole heatedly believes in the concept of seeker friendly, I sometimes struggle with our model for the weekend services. First let me say I get what the goal is, people come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. We are one hundred percent geared up for the weekend and inviting people to church, in fact that is our evangelism strategy. Get them to church and let God do the rest. Now if we go solely by the numbers the success of this strategy is undeniable but can we judge success on numbers alone. The rub for me is that our service can at times appear to be less about worship and more about entertainment. In other words sometimes the worship feels shallow. Sure the words and songs for the most part are worship songs and many in the congregation appear to be genuinely worshiping God but the reverence and awe of God seems to be lost in the performance. Then there are the creative element that often fit the theme of the sermon or sermon series, and are very entertaining but have little value in regards to worship. Still people do get saved and I believe them to be sincere in accepting Christ, the church is growing in a time when many churches are in decline. My problem is that we are giving up too much in regards to what worship is, in order to pack the house, that is why I like the personal evangelism strategy where people are invited to worship where they see something that is different from society. Worship needs to be done with excellence, worship should be fun, worship can be entertaining, but worship needs to exalt God. I guess the question is what is the weekend service for, worship or apologetics, can it be about both effectively? I am sure there is a balance.

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  6. Posted by Jon-Michael LeBlanc on December 10, 2012 at 3:56 am

    As some have already stated, this is a topic that could easily be debated from both side and be relatively well supported. Does an evangelistic gathering truly constitute a corporate worship gathering? This falls awfully close to the question of whether or not an unbeliever can engage in worship? The question requires further clarification. The article does do a good job covering the content and presenting the information well. Personally, I have attended many Sunday morning worship services that were designed to be more focused on winning the lost as that church offered other opportunities or services for the already committed believers to grow deeper in; however, in many of those services, the presence of the Holy Spirit was evident and the people who were regular attenders at that church worshiped God there. While this may be a bit to the left or right for some, I have always held the idea that as a believer, I go to church, to my Father’s house, to bring Him the offering of my praise, not to receive another blessing. He blesses me every day and I love meeting with my brothers and sisters in the Lord to offer thanksgiving for his many blessings. As a result, as long as my family in the Lord is present and we are gathered in praise to our Father, it is corporate worship, even if the focus of the message/sermon is reaching the lost.

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    • Posted by Andrew Baker on November 26, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      I agree with what you have said. It is always a blessing when the people of God come together for worship. I do think that some Sunday morning services should possibly be more evangelistic in nature, but they should be kept to a minimum. Obviously, all Sunday Services, Music, and Sermons should herald the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is evangelistic, they should also be geared toward the edification of the Saints as church is supposed to be. Good Post.

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  7. Good dialogue on this topic

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    • Posted by Andrew B. (Orlando) on December 10, 2012 at 5:32 am

      This article stumped me from the beginning. Here’s why. My passion is evangelism, coupled with the fact that I’m not musically inclinded. I have always, up to this point, viewed worship (music and message) as an time to present the Gospel and sound theology for a lost person to readily see their need for a savior. I do recongnize that I lean too heavy on evangelism and less on worship “to” our heavenly Father in a corporate worship setting. Reading this article quickly caused me to think from a different perspective for the purpose of worship. Is it for the lost person, the saved person, both? From what I gather with all the different worship approaches in this article, I now see that there is a difference between worship and evangelism, though I still struggle with the distinction. In other words, at least for me, I should see the value of corporate worship as a time to celebrate and honor my Lord, and it doesn’t always have to be a Gospel message. Perhaps the message should containt the element of evangelism. But I do wonder on this point – if the message is weak, will the lost person at least hear the Gospel in the worship aspect? This is not for me to worry, but let God handle. In my heart I desire everyone at every opporutinity to hear the message of saving grace. I will contemplate this article and approach my next worship service with this article in mind. Thank you. Andrew B. (Orlando)

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      • Andrew, thank you for the candid response. I will readily admit that there was a time relatively not that long ago that I had not really considered the differentiation. I continue to struggle with the balance on a personal level. For example, my brother is a very effective worship leader in a setting on the MS Gulfcoast that is very evangelistic in their approach. I don’t think we can review what has occured since Finney by evangelicals as anything other than positive in many respects. But Tozer asked evangelicals about 50 years ago to consider if there was a missing jewel in the evangelical experience, and he called that missing jewel, worship. Since that time there has been an explosion of thought and reflection on this possiblity. The phrase originally appeared in a sermon by Tozer.

  8. This article truly shows that we have much to consider in choosing our focus in worship. Like many responses mentioned before this argument can take on any direction, however it would be safe to acknowledge that preparing worship with evangelism in mind also brings us closer to the heart of God. Luther is referenced throughout this article and one thing is true of his life, and it is that he spent a great deal of it looking to exemplify the majesty of Christ. Your finger may be on the pulse of what creates a great worship experience in having the mind of a theologian/worship leader/pastor. Mainly because each of these mindsets should intertwine in such a way that evangelism, exaltation, and proclamation are at the forefront. In seeking a way to marry apologetics to worship we can see the reformed emphasis on liturgy as a systematic tool and the Fideists ethics and how they can create an atmosphere for sinners to come to Christ. This course and article show me that worship is so much larger then our own preferences. We can choose to stay in our own comfort or allow divine interruptions with more knowledge about our blessed redeemer. I pray I choose the latter.

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  9. Worshipping God with all our being is most certainly the goal of scripture and the goal of believers meeting together. The gospel is the essence of Christianity, because worship is ultimately impossible without it. Christ came, was crucified bearing the wrath of God, and rose again because God loves creation and deserves creations love in return. Christ himself spoke the ultimate goal, that we would love God with all our heart soul mind and strength, namely worship God. Worship is the ultimate goal, but the gospel is the means and perhaps the supreme motivation for worship.
    How to bring these two together in a service is complicated but of the utmost importance? Dr. Woodward explores this task beautifully and provides us with a number of useful concepts to retain as we attempt to communicate and celebrate the gospel as we worship our God corporately.
    My favorite quote follows; “the primary concern is a thoughtful approach toward choosing materials for a given worship service and a thoughtful approach toward presenting worship materials over a season or year.” I look forward to being more intentional about selecting artistic elements (music, responsive readings, drama, video, and visual arts) that will prepare and begin building a solid foundation for the gospel message that is to come in the sermon. If the sermon is going to explore depravity and our desperate need for redemption, perhaps I’ll use a montage of news clippings and current events with Ronnie Freeman’s “THE ONLY THING THATS GOOD IN ME” in the background. This visual illustration will help the congregation as an evidentialist approach to human depravity that will communicate and convince both emotionally and logically.

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  10. Posted by Nate Travis on December 11, 2012 at 1:19 am

    One thing keeps jumping out at me. Your statement “a worship gathering that is being used for evangelistic purposes is not really corporate worship.” Throughout our readings and study, I understand where your heart is on the subject. My thought is that does it matter. Can a corporate worship environment be evangelistic? I feel it can be if it is developed to give glory to God. I can appreciate that we construct services to reach the lost with proper persuasion and direction, however, I feel some churches take it to extremes. Like a pendulum swing, they feel the service is to far to one extreme, in correction they inevitably swing to far the other way. If someone who doesn’t know Christ simply walks through the door of corporate worship, the effects of evangelism, because of the testimony of authentic worship, can be used by God to bring people to Him.

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  11. Posted by Sarah LeBlanc on December 11, 2012 at 4:33 am

    I was intrigued by this discussion and was challenged to begin thinking through worship in terms of apologetics. it seems to me that although musical worship should not be the primary and only place within a service were evangelism occurs and the gospel is presented, it should play a role in the process. I appreciated the statment on page seven of this article which says, “After all, we would hope that most of the Christians attending our services do not have to be convinced again and again that the Resurrection did indeed happen. But, I have observed that a powerful aesthetic is often involved in a clear presentation of evidentialist arguments for the existence of God and the Resurrection.” In congunction with this statment, it should not be the musical worship whoudl not be the reason why people believe in Christ, but a theologically rich and powerful time of worship should absolutely play a role in enhancing ones conviction about the gospel or aid in the process of evangelism. Worship cannot be seperated completely from apologetics and evangelism, however, it should not be the only means through which the gospel is presented within a service.

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    • Posted by Chase on November 25, 2013 at 2:06 am

      The songs we uses in our worship service can definitely be apologetic. One song that comes to mind is “In Christ Alone.” This song clearly teaches the gospel message. It is essential that a worship leader is thinking about the lost visitor when he picks his worship set for the week.

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  12. Dr. Woodward, I thought this was a great article. I have to say that you’ve opened my eyes in thinking more about how a worship leader could be an apologist. I’ve never really considederd being that. I think that as worship leaders have opportunity to tell the story of God throughout their gatherings is very important. I think that most worship leaders are picking songs because its what’s hot and the people really like it, or they may be choosing songs based on a theme, and as you relayed in the Fideist section, that even in doing that, all is not lost! I think the important issue at hand is that worship leaders are intentional in the songs they choose, and I think that you make a great point that our intentionality should come from an apologetic standpoint. Whatever we do we must teach our people through it all. I agree that the basis for corporate worship is for the believer, and I’m thankful that when believers gather to worship, unbelievers will join, and as a result will come to faith in Christ. I don’t you ever said it is either or, but more a both and. And as worship leaders we are a part of telling that story.

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    • I’m not sure if I gathered this right from the article, but I think one of the points the author was making about corporate worship is that often the focus is on “us.” In other words, the service is conceived and constructed to lead the already-believers into worshipping God. The aim of the article, I think, is to balance our concept of worship so that in our “corporate” worship we have as our aim bringing the lost to worship Him through our already-worshipping as believers.

      I don’t know, I kind of put that into my own words.

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      • Darrin, you make a good point. I do believe that often worship is all about us and our “holy huddles,” and not everyone else. Sometimes worship has to “outside of the box,” and new direction must be taken to help balance the corporate worship.
        Jim

      • Posted by Marie on December 7, 2013 at 3:26 am

        It is sometimes difficult to lead individuals in genuine worship. Nonetheless, worship is to be God-centered, as you stated. It is his Spirit who grows the church. Thus, the key to worship is the Spirit.

  13. Our worship should be one of the most intriguing and enticing aspects of the Christian life to the lost world. A non-believer should come to a worship service and experience a sort of deja vu because they’ve been worshipping their whole lives, just not like this. There has always been worship, but no worthy object. There has always been adoration, but not always in reasonable words of truth. There has always been passion, but not pure unadulterated passion. The article explains all of this in apologetic terms, expressing various modes of in the apologetic school, exploring how worship music achieves each of these. In this article, the reader is granted the terminology and research to back up something we all should know: that true worship should be attractive. We are made to worship. There is no greater joy found than that joy found in savoring the Creator. Our souls truly are restless until we find our rest in God. I especially the love the emphasis in the article on propositional truth in worship. Music is not merely an accent to that truth, but the music is certainly not the main point. The point that pop culture is a mode of philosophy illustrates the effectiveness of music in forming the way people think. From the earliest points of human history, it seems that music, or at least rhythm, were used to convey and pass down truth in a memorable way. That function of music is still effective today. In our worship, if it is to be used as a apologetic, ought to be employed fully in both subjective and objective realms. The objective truths of God’s person and redemption in Christ are the most subjectively satisfying things in the universe.

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  14. Posted by Chase on November 25, 2013 at 2:01 am

    This was an intriguing thought provoking article on the relation of apologetics and worship. I am in full agreement that a worship service should communicate the gospel when the church worship’s God. Practicing the Lord’s Supper is the remembrance of Christ offering his body for the church and the individual’s entrance into the new covenant. This picture will definitely commutate the gospel to the lost visitor. It is a false dichotomy to believe that a worship service dedicated to worshiping God cannot have the ability to lead others to Christ. In Romans 1:19 we learn that humanity is without excuse to be ignorant of God’s power and divinity because it clearly seen in nature. If the natural world proclaims God’ glory how much more she he be evidently seen and proclaimed in the church’s worship service.

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  15. Posted by Meredith Stuart on November 26, 2013 at 3:18 am

    Great article Dr. Woodward. I especially appreciated your last lines: “Certainly, new converts should be overwhelmed with the thoughtful presentation of the Word through various worship mediums both on a Sunday to Sunday basis and from a cyclical manner. Furthermore, new converts should be overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of poetry that tells the story that they have come to love in a manner that is beyond artistic; it resonates with Divine glory.” Evangelism should lead to worship, both for those evangelizing and for the newly converted. Authentic worship that edifies Christ builds up the Body. Authentic worship fills in gaps that cannot be explained by words, but are instead experienced through the movement of the Spirit; therefore, authentic worship is not only a tool for evangelism, but also a necessity.

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    • Definitely agree that worship is a necessity for evangelism. Especially in our culture that is so saturated with music and media, the power of music is as effective as ever to reach the lost. People memorize songs regularly just because the tune is catchy, and with most secular songs the message is not too great. However, when applied to evangelism and worship, the power of music proves to be so crucial in reaching the lost of this generation.

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    • Posted by Tim Bass on December 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Very good analysis Meredith. I totally agree with you that worship is instrumental for evangelism. It is a good opportunity for us to help new converts truly grow in their worship experience as well as possibly reach the lost that may be attending the worship service. The whole point is to lift up Christ and He said, “that if I be lifted up, I will draw men unto me.” I know this is talking about the cross but If He is the focus of our worship, lives will definitely be changed.

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  16. Posted by Andrew Baker on November 26, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    I think that it is obvious that an unbeliever cannot truly worship God because they do not know God. Without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God through salvation, no one can truly worship God for who He is because there is not knowledge or understanding of who God is. So, worship is generally for the saints to take part in as they offer praise to God for the great work that He has done in so many. But, worship can be evangelistic although I do not think that it is intended to be. I think that we could all agree that there are unbelievers in every church service on Sunday mornings. With this being the case, they are going to see and hear true born-again believers worshiping. They are going to observe them singing whole-heartily to God, but they are also going to be exposed to song lyrics that, hopefully, are communicating the truths of the gospel. Through this worship, unbelievers can for sure be exposed to the truths of God and the truths of the gospel to a point where they could be born-again. So I think that although worship is should not be designed to be evangelistic, it can be used as a tool of evangelism indirectly. As they church consists for the edification of the saints, we also do an alter-call at the end of the service because there are unbelievers in the midst that may wish to respond to what they have heard and be saved.

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    • Posted by Robert Klotz on December 7, 2013 at 2:52 am

      I completely agree with your position that a biblical worship service will accomplish evangelism in an almost “secondary” sense – for lack of a better term. It is impossible, as you have noted, for nonbelievers to worship God in spirit and in truth, for they are spiritually dead in sin and in rebellion against the truth. Unbelievers who attend a worship service should be impacted as “outsiders.” They should be able to recognize that there is something going on that they are not a part of: the exaltation of God by the redeemed of God. Then, if the Spirit so moves, they will be prepared to hear the gospel through the faithful proclamation of God’s Word.

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  17. Dr. Woodward, I really agreed with this article. This semester you have taught us a lot about true incarnational worship. I agree we should not emphasize a theme throughout the service or just pick songs that appeal to everyone.
    The Sunday morning service should primarily be of worship. Yes, I agree the service is not centered around evangelism but worship of God. True worship will lead to evangelism.
    Fidelism is not the best way to go in the services. Music should not be chosen for only its cultural appeal. The service should have some relevant art, but it is not the main focus.
    I agree that “relational evangelism that leads the lost soul to a corporate worship setting should result in the realization that these strange new friends are indeed worshipping Jesus.”
    “Various worship mediums” should be accomplished to lead new believers in worship for Christ. The blends of worship do show the glory of God.
    Thanks for this wonderful article.
    James Riley
    Fall/2013/WL

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    • I would disagree with the premise ‘fidelism is about cultural appeal’. Fidelism has to do with teaching through art, or reflecting on societal/spiritual/theological truths through art. I have to admit some bias as an art teacher, but many churches would see a drastic shift in the mood and effectiveness of their services if they paid more attention to the cultural aesthetics around them.

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      • Justin, I actually don’t think we are in disagreement, but keep in mind that the philosophical foundations of fideism are broader than art and potentially dangerous if reason is totally rejected.

    • The thing that’s always gripped me about worship is that by nature it is expressive. Worshippers will take on whatever style or “skin” that is native to themselves, but extol the name of Christ. Even though these things will doubtlessly be artistic, they are completely reflective of Him, to Him, for Him and through Him. In this setting, then, it will be clear to the lost that these “strange new friends” are indeed worshipping Jesus.

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  18. Rather than comment on my own preferences, I’d like to point out that each type of apologetics is related to the different personality and learning types that exist among people. For example, the Reformed and Evidentialists approaches would work favorably for the left-brained, thinker, or Type A (depending on which psychologist you ask). Although previous commenters have bashed Fidiesm, Art teaches far more effectively in today’s culture than most pastors would like to admit. Just as quoted in the paper, most people will not pick up a book from Socrates, Plato or the like. Most will not even pick up a nonfiction from someone still alive. But ask them about society in the eyes of The Hunger Games, American Idol or some other Pop phenomenon, and you’ll realize people have strong convictions in philosophy.
    Rather than separating worship and evangelism, why not meld them together? Many decades ago, the church made the mistake of separating evangelism and discipleship. The two work harmoniously and worship can evangelize just as harmoniously.

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    • Justin good point. We do not need to leave evangelism out of the service. I believe that if we worship God, then evangelism will take place. “Melding” them together is good.
      Jim

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    • Posted by Leigh Rogers on December 2, 2013 at 4:53 am

      I would be cautious in attempting to meld the two together. The concern would be that in doing so the focus would become solely on evangelism and not worship. However, when worship is done properly I believe evangelism naturally grows out of it.

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    • Posted by Lydia Williams on December 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Justin, I agree with your idea of melding evangelism and worship. I think a typical way that we Westerners think is very compartmentalized, but I think that we ought to look at God and the things of God from a more holistic perspective.

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    • Justin great point on the need to meld together worship and evangelism. I especially liked your emphasis on the art’s in our current culture. There are many different things in our culture that people latch onto and it would be a shame to not redeem the things that work to capture the world’s attention to direct it towards Christ.

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  19. Posted by Mike Slaughter on November 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I agree with the principle. A worship service should be for those who worship the Lord in an appropriate manner. Without people worshiping or worshiping in an inappropriate manner, it is not a worship service. The central issue of worship in the New Testament era is being in a right relationship with Jesus. Without that, it is not really worship. When asked what a person must do… Jesus said to believe on the one whom the Lord had sent. Now, having said all of that, there is nothing more honoring to God than a person coming from death to life by believing the Gospel. So, do we craft our worship services for this single event or do we craft them with the assumption that people are already saved? If we craft them with the intention of seeing lost persons saved, that is really an evangelistic service. It might be considered a sub-sub-category of the worship service but it is pretty far removed. On the other hand, a worship service should frequently reflect on the Gospel. After all, the Gospel is the reason why we are worshiping. As such, there is room for nonbelievers to be saved while not crafting every service to be an evangelistic service. This seems to be what Paul was speaking of in 1 Corinthians when he contrasted prophecy and speaking in tongues. When people rely on worship services for evangelistic purposes, they get lax in their personal evangelism and the church tends to suffer.

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    • Posted by Matt Harman on December 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      I agree with you, Mike. Worship should be for those who are IN CHRIST and know whom they are worshipping. You definition of worship is accurate, for if you do not know the ONE to whom you sing, what is it really? Inherent in that is our continual exposition of the gospel. Believers need to hear that as well, and certainly it provides an evangelistic outlet. I would just take issue with those who center every week’s service to “go after the lost” among us…for that is not biblical worship in its truest sense. Thank for your insight Mike.

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  20. This is a very interesting article, and presents something that I haven’t thought much about. I agree with your assessment about many up-and-coming reformed churches, especially with younger pastors. It seems that using art in worship is becoming more and more accepted, yet at the same time it seems that these uses of art are not laser-focused on gospel presentation. Rather, they may demonstrate a theme or attribute of God.

    Also thought-provoking as a concept was your point of using every part of the liturgy as gospel-presentation. It’s interesting to think that no part of the Christian liturgy escapes the responsibility of presenting the gospel. I’ve always felt a bit of a conflict with “for the Christian only” parts of service, meaning that it serves no other purpose than to edify Christians. If worship is the highest ethic, and we are God’s agent for bringing worship to the lost, it seems our worship gathering should be to that end.

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    • Posted by Frank Mons on December 1, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      I too enjoyed the comments about art. I know this is not the same, however, I am mentoring a young man who uses magic to share the gospel. I have seen this before, and not done well. He has won a few of his friends to Christ this way and has had to chance to speak a an FCA. I know one may not think of magic as art, but it is one of those things if done well does capture attention and creates interest. I think God can use it as an act of worship.

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  21. Posted by Frank Mons on December 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    I found this to be a very interesting paper, especially at the end of such an exhaustive look into the area of worship. I think it is true that how one is in their apologetics will most likely form their attitude towards worship, evangelism, and even theology. One’s culture and up bringing will also play a large part in this fact as well. For example, I am a co children’s pastor. I handle the preaching and my side kick handles the music. We have a kids praise team. My partner has no issues in taking the praise team out of Bible teaching in order to rehearse. And the justification will always be, they have to practice to be their best and present their music in a well-rehearsed way for kids worship on Sunday morning. I think they need Bible study more. We both want our kids to share Jesus and know the Bible through our ministry. We both, at times see it differently. Who is right? As the end of the paper suggests, if other kids here the gospel message in song over and over again, will they have a better chance in wanting to know more about Christ? If yes, then that practice time produces fruit. The act of corporate worship plays a huge role in the spreading of the gospel. And as the paper also suggest there is not just one way to share in worship. It is important for everyone to be ready to sing a song, or share a word to bring the gospel to the world.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Leigh Rogers on December 2, 2013 at 4:43 am

    Presently I would consider the corporate gathering of the church as a time of worship. The article points out the need for there to be a purpose and direction for the order of the worship. People tend to learn better when things are ordered and follow a logical pattern. Unfortunately worship service are often “putt together” with out considering the direction they are going, music minister and pastor never talking about the direction, sermon topic, and flow of the worship service. The ideas in the article about developing worship services from apologetic perspectives makes sense, at least to me. The entire worship service from the first song to the sermon would communicate God’s worthiness to be worshiped.

    Reply

    • Posted by Dewayne Slusher on December 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Leigh,
      THank you for you comments. I also appreciated the articles points regarding the need for a purpose and direction in worship. The services do tend to often just whatever sounds good and not telling the story of the gospel so the church will be reminded of the God they serve. As a result the lost also will see the gospel as well if a service is well put together with purpose and direction. Thanks again for you comments.

      Reply

  23. Posted by Lydia Williams on December 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    I thought this was a very informative article and appreciated the different apologetic approaches it addressed in regards to worship. The presuppositionalist, fideist, and evidentialist apologetics are crucial to being effective in contextualization in worship. These approaches really have a lot to do with different people’s personalities and ways of thinking, and worship leaders ought to take these into consideration a part of their responsibility in leading people to worship the One True God. In this is much of the formal evangelistic responsibility of worship leaders. One of the things that I most appreciated in Dr. Woodward’s paper was “…worship leaders are often limited in their apologetic approach because of a narrow minded commitment to a particular worship format, limited reading on the subject, or limited experience in various forms of worship. The primary admonition for these leaders is: ‘Be more thoughtful in your approach to worship content.'” By being more thoughtful, worship leaders can be more effective in evangelism and worship.

    Reply

  24. Posted by Dewayne Slusher on December 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    This article is very intriguing and has given me a lot to think about concerning this issue of worship. The worship service in
    my opinions previously and still even after reading this article is that worship is primarily for the edification of the church being involved in giving Glory to God. However, through that worship whether in a service or by life example unbelievers should still be able to see the picture of the gospel and thus having questions they have about God visibly seen. So, worship in this since is still evangelistic and apologtic. however, to approach the worship in such a way that it is primarily evangelistic or apologetic I think would be a mistake. I am still pondering this article but those are my thoughts to this point.

    Reply

  25. Posted by Nathan Webb on December 3, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Personally I believe Worship services to be a time strictly devoted to believers. We praise God for what he does we worship Him for who he is. If, as would be the case of a non-believer, you do not have knowledge of God and their by nothing to either praise nor worship attending a service would serve and fulfill not purpose. I think Sunday morning worship service are designed to encourage and exhort believer so that during the week they can effectively evangelize to their friends and family. Now conferences, retreats, are different they are designed to inform to introduce to alter calls should take place and there by allow the presenter the ability to know if the contented was well received. That is why I an not 100% against non-believer attending a Sunday morning worship/sermon because the design in a hybrid suiting both the spiritual needs of the believer and the intellectual informative need of seekers and saved.

    Reply

  26. Posted by Matt Harman on December 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    I believe strongly that the corporate worship gathering (typically in a Sunday morning context) should be intended for worship of believers rather than evangelism of the lost. I would maintain that the best evangelistic tool available is for unbelievers to observe whole-hearted, self-less, Christ-centered worship and therefore experience what the presence of God is all about. In the article, I agreed with the positive contribution of Luther, who introduced artistically compelling music to theological words in a way that was accessible to the “common man”. I think his contribution can not be overstated, as he fought an uphill battle in this regard and laid the groundwork for so much of what we have today in terms of worship. I would also agree with the article that far too many church leaders view the music portion of the service as the key hook, and see it as emotional but void of rational thought. I believe we are called to worship with our emotion and our mind (Spirit and Truth you may say). As such, the music should be compelling instrumentally but also theologically sound and engage a person’s rational mind as well as their spirit. This cannot be left solely for the sermon, for we are then claiming you can worship for half of the service without knowing what you are worshipping. This also would object the idea of Fideism, preferring faith over reason. While I agree one can come to faith apart from head knowledge of certain details, we do a great disservice to the Christian faith if we sideline reason for emotion or a temporal response made to song.

    Reply

  27. Posted by Tim Bass on December 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with us Dr. Woodward. I first like to say I appreciate your honesty concerning the struggle with worship and evangelism, although struggle may be to strong. I too at times struggle with what is the most important part of our worship concerning the music and praise part of the service. However, I know that we are supposed to be lifting our praise to God, it is important that we understand that if our worship is genuine people will sense something special in our worship services. Additionally, worship is a great opportunity to teach about the deep things concerning the Lord. Our music can be drenched in apologetics, theology and evangelism. I know we com together to worship corporately about a mighty God, but isn’t the whole service about worshiping a Great, Mighty, and Saving God. We have a great opportunity to show all why we worship the King. Thanks again for sharing.

    Reply

  28. Posted by Robert Klotz on December 7, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Worship services, if they are biblical and genuine worship services, should be focussed on believers glorifying God. A service that focuses on drawing the lost to God cannot be a worship service in its most true sense, for the nonbeliever cannot truly worship God – it may be an evangelistic service and God is certainly glorified when sinners are brought by the grace of God to repentance and faith, but it is not a worship service. Worship services should be carefully designed with the believer in mind. This paper provided some helpful insight into designing worship services with that apologetic in mind: believers ascribing glory to God. I really appreciate the thorough approach the author took by examining various philosophies and traditions of worship design and gleaning from them the best possible tools for designing worship services. The casual observer can see a sense of tribalism being played out among proponents of various worship styles today, but this paper united the various philosophies around a common apologetic and thus offered helpful suggestions for planning a worship service that incorporates the strengths of various stylistic philosophies.

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  29. Posted by Marie on December 7, 2013 at 3:24 am

    The roots of music used for evangelistic purposes go back to the Evangelical Awakening. Also, the Second Great Awakening’s camp meetings were characterized by evangelistic appeals. Later there were youth musicals, which served as a great medium for attracting young people to the gospel. The contemporary music was effective in evangelism. Thus, worship styles changed with the expansion of the church. In the same way we cannot leave evangelism out of the worship service. In a worship service the main focus should be on God. The corporate worship of local churches affects their evangelistic growth.

    Reply

  30. This was a very interesting article and does a great job presenting both sides of the argument over whether worship should be primarily for edification of the church or evangelism of the unbeliever. I believe that it can be both and trying to pigeon hole worship into a certain set of ideals or limitations takes away from the movement of the Holy Spirit around the entire environment. As such I believe that a worship service should be structured so that both (saved an not) are in mind. The worship setting itself can be a very attractive environment to those that have not been saved. In the same way it is fun to watch someone who is truly skilled and loves a certain craft. Even though you may not love the same thing they do you can appreciate and enjoy the pleasure they get out of truly enriching experience. I believe worship can function in the same way.

    Brandon Cullum

    Reply

  31. Posted by Brandon Kelly on December 6, 2014 at 2:07 am

    This article certainly brings up a great discussion. I would agree with the comment at the top of this article. I think that worship that is evangelistic is not really worship. I would like to add this to the discussion. Lets be real, most of the decisions that are made on Sunday morning were made some other time during the week. The decision may of been made in Sunday School, at a friends home, at school, at work, or wherever. On Sunday morning we are simply presenting a decision that was previously made. I think when the pastor is “seeker friendly” he is also being “maturity dwarfing.” If the pastor was truly preaching to encourage and teach those in attendance to be actively engaged in evangelism/ apologetics then the congregation is maturing and the lost are being witnessed to. I call it the Billy Graham hay days. Those days when lives were dramatically changed through preaching and 1000’s were saved. When we take an honest look at history we find it was in fact Billy Grahams team that went before him witnessing to the thousands. This is to diminish him but rather point out that he had it right! There is nothing wrong with a good old fashioned evangelical message, but its my opinion it has no spot in the reoccurring weekly worship. Evangelism is best done one on one. Go to the local evangelism section of your bookstore and you will find tons of books on that very topic. The best way to reach the lost is not through Sunday morning but through one on one testimony and evangelical encounters.

    be encouraged,

    Brandon Kelly

    Reply

  32. Posted by Brandon Kelly on December 6, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Robert,
    I enjoyed reading your post. “Worship services, if they are biblical and genuine worship services, should be focussed on believers glorifying God.” This really sums things up. I do not feel there is anymore need for discussion. I can respect the other view but just don’t see it as being biblical.

    Reply

  33. Posted by Caleb Farrow on December 11, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    This article was very well presented and did a great job of presenting several viewpoints as well as some strengths and weaknesses to go along with it. Intentionally incorporating Apologetics in the music portion of worship is not something that I have considered before, but can definitely see the benefit of doing so. The constant reminder of the truths of scripture playing in ones head is definitely a great way to instill doctrine in our hearts.
    Caleb Farrow

    Reply

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