James Hart: Worship and Mission/Evangelism

Worship and Mission/Evangelism

By Dr. James R. Hart, President
The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies

Worship is not for the unbeliever, but for the believer.

Dr. James HartWorship exists for the Church, and the Church exists for the world. Is worship, therefore, evangelistic? Is it for the unbeliever? This past November I was invited to do a day and a half lecture series at a Baptist seminary in Dallas. On the first day of my lectures, I stated, “Worship is not for the unbeliever, but for the believer.” In the next morning’s Q&A, one of the senior professors pushed back on that comment. He mentioned that in his Baptist tradition, that perspective goes against one of their primary sensibilities, the importance of the altar call for conversion after the sermon. He said, “The high point of our services is to see people come forward to receive Jesus. You can’t do that if unbelievers aren’t present.” That’s a good question. Here is a rough equivalence of my response. “I stand by my statement that worship is for the believer, not the unbeliever. However, the Apostle Paul made it clear in his letters that there would be unbelievers present. Given that the early church was innately sacramental and celebrated the Eucharist weekly, and that Eucharist is only for believers, what did they do?”

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[Click here for the audio version of this article presented by Jim Hart in the June 2019 Presidential Address. You will also find streaming audio of Robert Webber’s addresses on the topic as well as additional resources.]