Emanuel from Sweden asks: “How evangelistic for nonbelievers should the Sunday gathering be?”
First Things First
When I hear the term Sunday gathering, I take it to refer to the people of God gathered for worship. There is nothing wrong with having evangelistic services designed totally for unbelievers on Sunday. There is nothing in the Bible that says not to evangelize on Sundays with meetings. But that would not be the stated purpose of the gathering of God’s people for worship.
I know that not all Christians believe that the New Testament even calls us to have corporate worship services once a week. I have talked with people in this category, who think the only thing Christians should get together for is edification, not worship. I think that’s a mistake, but I won’t try to defend it here. I think we are called to corporate worship as the people of God. Then the question becomes this: What place does evangelism have in that service? That is the real question.
“We are called to corporate worship as the people of God.”
I want to say that the service should be wonderfully and gloriously vertical in its focus. We should focus on God. There are a lot of people who think that because there are many good things in the Christian life, all of those should be dumped into that one service. We need a place for a ministry to children. We need a place for community communication. We need a place for art of drama and painting, and we need evangelism. We need concerts and we need political activism. And when you are done, week after week, something becomes very man-centered. The vertical focus is blunted and it weakens, and a power goes out of the church even while you are trying to empower all of those things.
So the implication I think this has for direct evangelism is to say that it is always secondary in the corporate worship gatherings of God’s people. We should gather in order to commune corporately with our Father and with our Lord Jesus Christ, and to magnify him in the enjoyment that we take in him through singing and praying and confession and thanksgiving and preaching and the sacraments. Evangelism happens the way it does in 1 Corinthians 14.
If people prophesy in the service, that is, if people speak with remarkable, penetrating insight from God, then an unbeliever is convicted and called to account and “the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). So I believe evangelism happens when people meet God authentically because the word of God is being spoken. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
The same gospel that builds people up saves people. The unbeliever who is sitting there while feeling out of place at first (which is inevitable) might come to have his heart opened, his eyes made keen to see the beauty of Christ. He falls down on his face, his taste buds are awakened for the beauty of Christ, and he loves and trusts Jesus. And then he can say, “These are my people. I am not a foreigner anymore here.” I think that happens while evangelism is in secondary position and vertical, radical, hard pursuit of God is in first position.