Saturday, August 15, 2009

Getting it Wrong: Part 1

In the previous blog, I asserted that the AG got it right in a vote at this month's General Council.

This blog asserts that another vote got it wrong. A resolution called for the AG to reorder its priorities to reflect a more biblical order. Presently, the order is 1. Evangelism and 2. Worship. The resolution argued that 1. Worship and 2. Evangelism would reflect a more biblical order of priorities.

The General Council voted this down. But the resolution was spot on and its rejection is clearly misguided.

I'll make my argument in subsequent blog postings.


  1. Hmm...I would have to dissagree on a corporate level, but on a personal level I would agree worship is 1st - while loving your neighbor as your self is second.

    As a corporation, our fellowship of churches was created to team together to reach the lost. Changing that would change why our fellowship exists.

    Maybe a simple somewhat uneducated argument suggests that we (the church) are left on the earth (not raptured immediately after salvation) to reach those who are still lost. Spread God's love. Share the good news. You can say it many ways, but it is the same.

    - Luke

  2. OK, first of all, I just lost about a page of work that I was doing on this comment... that was annoying. Maybe the second edit will be better!

    I want to distinguish between what Christians should be doing and why a fellowship -- like the Assemblies of God -- exists. The AG wants to encourage the worship of God in the local church or in individual Christians. It is absolutely central, though, to the life of Christians and Christ's Body. However, this could occur without the AG. No, a fellowship's primary reason for being is to insure honest and orderly growth of Christ's Body, both numerically and qualitatively.

    Global Evangelism requires corporate stewardship. Without it, clever liars would go from congregation to congregation, fleecing people with sad stories about dying sinners in far-off places. With oversight provided by the AG, honesty and sound use of finances and talent are insured, at least as much as is humanly possible.

    The AG must encourage worship as a part of discipleship. However, worship is more grass-roots work, the lifeblood of the individuals and the Body of Christ. Evangelism still should be the primary reason for fellowship as a denomination/movement. You disagree... can you explain your thoughts?

  3. Luke and Eric: You both distinguish between the individual believer's priorities and those of the corporate body. I'm not certain how to go about even arguing that, because it seems to be an artificial distinction that has no biblical basis. (1) The Old Testament put worship first, a priority that Jesus ratified (Matt 22:36-39; quoting Deut 6:5 for the great commandment and Lev 19:18) for the "second" commandment). See the Ten Commandments dealing with the Great Commandment (commands 1-4) and then with the second commandment (commands 5-10). And note that Jesus was talking to an individual inquirer, and the Ten Commandments were given to corporate Israel, with one command including the promise that if the people kept it, the nation would live long in the land rather than face exile (Exod 20:12).

    Luke posted "on a personal level... worship is 1st," when the general tenor of Scripture is that worship is a corporate activity of the gathered people of God.

    Luke: Why not be left on earth to do our original job, to rule and subdue the earth as vice-regents reigning on behalf of the one in whose image and likeness we're created? It's our original job, and our eternal job, which doesn't cease but finds fulfillment in the new earth, where we worship in God's presence forever.

    Eric: If we find out what the primary responsibility of the people of God is, we find out what the primary responsibility of the Assemblies of God is. And of course, this reprioritization doesn't imply at all that evangelism is taken off the table as a high priority function of the people of God, just that something else is primary, and indeed, that something else drives evangelism. To quote John Piper, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate not missions, because God is ultimate, not man."

  4. See John Piper, LET THE NATIONS BE GLAD -

  5. Mark, you had better be following this, since you're the one that goaded me to get back to business with my blog. Are you just going to lurk there, or are you going to contribute ;o)

  6. A couple of things - can't really flesh them out at the moment, but I will bring them up.

    Worship is both corporate and personal.

    I guess, I am drawing a distinction between the General Council as a fellowship of churches - a corporation - and the Church proper. They are different even though they are similar.

    As far as staying on earth -would it not be better to worship in God's immediate presence? Is there not a reason why the Holy Spirit was sent? The emphasis of the end of Christ's presense on earth seems to be focused on building the church.

    It could be argued that worship is everything we do - both attitude and action. Not just a scheduled event. I think the symantics of "worship" need to be clearly defined and somewhat agreed on before a proper debate could be had on this topic.

  7. Is the issue really the sequence of the two - Worship and evangelism? Are we arguing an either/or consideration when we should be projecting and acting upon the both/and? If it is the latter, then one must naturally include the other. Doing one wihtout the other is to be found lacking and falling short of the glory of God (thus a sin).

  8. Luke: Are you REALLY going to argue that the "General Council as a fellowship of churches" is to be distinguished from "the Church proper," in that it can have a different purpose than the Church proper? Whew! Can't go there at all. Think of the implications of that. We'd be just a Christian NGO, not the church.

  9. Raymond: I think it's more than sequence, although that's an important feature of the case. Worship really is absolute and eternal, and evanelism really is derivative and temporal.

  10. (typing these as I have breaks at work - sorry if they are not as fluid as I would like)

    I think we could argue that the purpose of the Assemblies of God is ultimately to aide The Church in Its mission - the AG is not THE Church. Therefore, yes, I believe they are different, related, and the AG should fall within The Church.

    i.e. My church may have a distinct reason for existance that is different from your church and ultimately aides The Church in Its mission. The AG as a group of churches must have a mission and it must coincide with the Church, but it can be more specific.

    If the goal of THE Church (whole body of believers) is worship (and I am not ready to say that it is just yet) but for the sake of argument lets say it is. The AG should align itself with that in its priorities and yet we exist/have grouped ourselves for a specific purpose. There is nothing wrong with that being for the purpose of evangelism. It would in fact be quite biblical to form a group of people to focus on one aspect of THE Church.

  11. Luke: I can't go one step with you on the idea that the Assemblies of God is free to define itself differently than the Scriptures define the church. This such a basic difference in our opinion that it pretty much eliminates the basis for any dialogue on the larger issue.

    To the degree that any particular organization calling itself a church fails to align itself with the church's priorities, it drifts from being a church in obedience to its Lord and drifts toward something that at best might be defined as a parachurch organization or a religiously oriented NGO.

  12. Interesting line of thought:

  13. You got it right, Doc. The AG got it wrong. In fact, I am a bit disturbed that churches are moving towards making the Sunday morning worship time an evangelistic event as music is chosen not for its inherit value as an expression of worship, but for it aesthetic elements and its ability to attract unbelievers. Worship is for the people of God and ... Read Moreshould be designed with that in mind. It should not be used to cater to the unbeliever. They are drawn by the Holy Spirit as he performs a regnerative work on the heart in response to the preaced Word of God, not because of our methods or techniques. Didn't Paul mention something called a "scandalon"?

    Evangelism is important, but it should be done right. Biblical worship leads to Biblical evangelism.

    Perhaps the AG should go back and read Leviticus 10.

  14. You raise a secondary issue (not to say peripheral), which I might address when we've worked over this worship-evangelism priority pretty thoroughly. When I assert the primacy of worship I don't defend everything that flies under the flag of worship.

    If I fail to raise enough hackles with this topic, maybe I'll start a thread on worship ;o)

    Seriously, in any of these discussions, let's keep a kindly attitude toward each other. And I'm pleased to see that such a tone has prevailed throughout this blog thread. Thank you all for that.

  15. The unsaved are not going to worship without having come to know Jesus first. How can we effectively evangelize without being true worshippers?

    The very act of evangelism is geared towards helping others become worshippers. So then it would follow that worship has to come first. (Cart before horse).

  16. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Fallen mankind lives under a broken relationship with the Creator and must be evangelized before they can worship. God sent His Son to redeem us (if I may carry that thought as "evangelize" us) so we could worship and have a restored love relationship with God our Father. You wrote "worship really is absolute and eternal, and evangelism really is derivative and temporal." I think God's purpose in sending His Son was more evangelistic and thus shows that evangelism is absolute and eternal from God's perspective and worship becomes an outflow of people being restored to right relationship with "Abba, Father."

  17. Raymond: On "which comes first," the answer is worship, since evangelism follows only after sin breaks the relation. And the answer is the same for which is ultimate, since worship continues through eternity, though evangelism isn't needed through eternity.

  18. Most of the comments are still from the personal side. It is my biblical mandate to offer my body as a living sacrifice of worship. Everything I do is worship.
    Instead of worship being at the top or the front it should be at the center. Worship is more like the axle that runs the wheel. Out of worship comes the mission.
    I would hold that the reason why the church exists (Jesus life, the patterns shown in Acts, the reason Paul wrote letters) is not becuase of a life of worship but of a mission for evangelism. We can worship both together and individually. We will be more effective if we join together and evanglize. It is appropriate than to have a mission of purposed evangelism that comes before a mission for purposed worship when talking about a corporate body.

  19. Luke: I like your shift of the locational metaphor from "top" to "center"; but then you appear to end up saying just what I've been arguing all along: "Out of worship comes the mission." Have I made a convert? ;o)

    No I guess not, because you you distinguish between the purpose of individual believers and the corporate body, and actually between the entire corporate body and on individual organism (e.g., the AoG).

  20. Me? a convert? not quite :)

    i think we are just starting to define a few items. But yes, I still believe corporate and individuals are distinct.

  21. So you are suggesting that the fallen nature of lost man has influenced God to change? He wants worship but since man is lost and sinful, evangelism becomes God's priority mission so He can restore what this resolution says is the "first priority," that God restores the worship of Himself. Something is amiss in this picture.

    Without evangelism, eternity is not restored with the lost man and no worship takes place (unless we speak of idol worship or self-worship or satanic worship). Once evangelism has invaded time with God's love and grace then worship can begin in Spirit and in truth. Without evangelism worship will not exist as eternal for those who walk into the flames of hell.

    God is not lacking anything that He needs our worship. Worship is for our love relationship with the God who has rescued us and provided for us and helped us with all things that pertain to life and Godliness. Worship is one provision for us to thank God and adore Him for who He is and for what He does.

    The moment of evangelism may be but a mere speck in time and space but the effects of evangelism impact time and eternity and become someone's eternal reality that produces proper worship in life and eternity. Failure to evangelize leads to loss: lost mankind, lost relationships and lost worship - thus worship that can not be eternal.

    The Lost sheep, the lost coin and the Prodigal and had to be rescued first before celebration and worship could take place with them and over them. I am sure the shepherd could have gone one living without the one sheep, but He was not willing to do so. And the coin was clueless as to it's lost condition, but the master saw the value in it and swept the house clean until He found it and then the celebration began. The prodigal and the pouting son both neeeded to be restored so celebration and worship could ensue. The concern for each of these was that they were lost and not "are they worshipping." When Adam and Eve fell, God did not come to the garden asking Adam "are you worshipping." God came asking "where are you Adam?" It was evangelism that restores and enables worship to begin and continue.

  22. Raymond: You may be hinting at something that I'm going to discuss after this point runs its course. Something that I think is an even higher purpose for being for the church. (Stay tuned.)