We need to recover our worship services and return them to being God-centered. The worship service on the Lord’s day is not for the lost. It is for God’s saints to publicly worship their Savior and be taught through the teaching of God’s Word. The entire focus of a worship service is God and only those who are regenerated by the Spirit and have been justified by God’s grace have the capacity to exercise the faith needed to worship in Spirit and in truth.
If an unsaved person attends, we certainly want to call them to repentance but that is not our main focus and we need to stop acting like it should be. Evangelism is far more relational and done by saints out in the world as they live their daily lives. This incorrect thinking finds its roots in an incorrect understanding of the Great Commission. The Great Commission is to make disciples, not converts. Jesus said that we would be His witnesses and that is true, and as Christians, we should evangelize the lost. However, in the context of a worship service, one is not there to evangelize but worship.
By far, the greatest injection of bad theology into worship services is the introduction of and a hyper-focus on altar calls that far too many American churches have. There are no altars in the New Testament. There are no longer any sacrifices being made in the New Covenant. Christ is the ultimate sacrifice and we are to make our bodies living sacrifices on a daily basis. Nobody living today that is saved has any responsibility to go to any alter for the forgiveness of sins. The imagery alone is a good enough reason to end the practice. Having altar calls is a waste of time especially if there is no change in the heart. Since altar calls are not scripturally prescribed and they are a recent thing in the history of the church primarily instituted and focused on by the IFB, they have no priority in a worship service.
What many specifically in the Reformed community have learned to do is follow the message with a song that gives people time to reflect on the sermon and then there will be a prayer to close the service. Some may even have Pastors available after a service to sit and pray or discuss anything with a saint if needed. The issue is that we have been brainwashed into thinking that if people respond and walk an aisle then “God” must be in it and if nobody responds then “God” is not moving.
This obsessive need to have instant gratification laid out in front of us in a worship service is a huge crutch and tradition that needs to die so that we can focus far more on real God-centered discipleship. Instead of focusing on whether anyone “walked an aisle,” we need to be finding new ways to grow in the Word and our understanding of it. We need to be developing Christians in their spiritual gifts and their obedience to Christ so that they can be better witnesses for Christ in their daily lives.
Andy Cain is a biblically qualified and ordained Elder/Pastor in Christ’s church. He preached his first sermon on January 4, 2009, and has pastored one church, and is currently seeking where God will lead him next. Andy currently resides in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina with his family.