Worship Mythbusters is a series on my blog that is designed to dispel myths we Christians have about our worship expression in our churches each weekend. The conversation sometimes is a bit controversial, but it would not be worthy if it wasn’t.
MYTH: “Our worship expression is not about unbelievers”
It seems very clear that the purpose of a worship service is the gathering of believers and the scripture warns us about not regularly gathering as believers. Hebrews 10:24-25 exhort us that meeting together is what stirs us to live how we should as Christians. But, what about the unbeliever?
I think the unbeliever is included in some very important ways in scripture in public worship both in the Old Testament and New Testament. We miss the heart of God when we come to a worship gathering and do not think outward as well as upward. Here are three examples:
BUILDINGS: Worship services should provide, plan and invite a space for those on the “outside” of our faith.
Even with God’s chosen people, the idea of following after God to those not even born into being a Jew was that you could join. The Old Testament temple had a Gentile court where “foreigners” (1 Kings 8:41-43 OT) “God-fearers” (Acts 13:26 NT) could be near the worship of God.
PROGRAMMING: Worship services need to recognize that there is a process to following Jesus–not all are at the same point on their journey.
Jesus had people following Him as He taught that were at all levels of engagement–from the very committed twelve to the entertained masses. The Sermon on The Mount included a wide-spread audience. So, our church services to some degree are “public” and speak to both the believers and those on their way just like Jesus did in his public ministry.
LANGUAGE: Worship services planned for the believer need to be intelligible to the unbeliever.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:23 mentions clearly the fact that “unbelievers” are present or may be in worship gatherings. So, the word there instructs us to order or plan worship with the unbeliever in mind. At my church we often mention the use of “insider language” being a bad thing. Nothing is watered down, we simply packaged things to be “intelligible” to the person new to Christianity or the unbeliever investigating Christianity.
Ultimately, we are evangelizing by inviting people to worship or follow Jesus. So, it makes sense that in our public expressions, we would not just allow them to come but design buildings, programs and language with the unchurched and unbeliever in mind.