Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Let Worship be Worship and Evangelism be Evangelsim

     How do we distinguish between worship and evangelism? Marva Dawn provides a helpful analogy in her book A Royal “Waste” of Time The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World. She writes about how she would tell a group of people all about what a wonderful person her husband, Melvin, is. She would tell them that he is a gifted and compassionate elementary school teacher, a wonderful gardener, and a patient listener. She would tell that that she loves him very much and how her love for him and his love for her has changed her life; how the relationship she shares with him has transformed her life and fills her with joy and hope.

Such an interaction is very different from the conversation and time she spends with Melvin when she returns to their home. In those times Marva tells Melvin all about her day and listens to him as he tells her about his day. She is in awe of him. She shares her life’s stories with him and immerses herself in his life and his love. They also share times of loving silence. Marva simply enjoying being in the presence of her beloved.

The first example, of Marva telling others about her husband and her love for him, is an example of evangelism. This is the work of the whole people of God, sharing their experience of God as they have come to know him in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Evangelism is primarily introducing Christ to people who do not know him in a way that he is good news to them and to their lives. This work is not unlike how Marva would introduce Melvin to a crowd who has never met him.

The second example, of Marva enjoying time and sharing herself with Melvin when they are together, is an example of the dynamic of worship. Worship is for the whole people of God, the baptized disciples, who know Christ and are seeking to live lives that are faithful reflections of his good news for the world and the coming reign of God. It is the people of God coming into God’s presence as a community to offer themselves completely to the service of God in praise, confession, word, prayer, and sacraments.

While evangelism and worship certainly overlap one another, neither should be overly burdened with the other. They each have their own integrity. The church would be much better off if we understood this and became faithful practitioners of both.

People who are not regularly fed on the word and table of Christ cannot be expected to live in the world as faithful evangelists. In like manner, seekers who respond to the good news will not receive the nurture they need if they are not formed by regular participation in worshipping God through word and table.


Blogger PASTOR TROY D. BOHN said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:04 AM

Blogger Mike Mather said...

Marva Dawn's comments (as always) are thought provoking. Still...I think that all the discussions that there are about worship often seem far away from the prophets complaints about worship (some time, not all the time) including Jesus' own comment that he desire mercy not sacrifice. This seems to me at the heart of many of the prophets comments who complain about worship that seems very far away from the realities of what is happening in the life of the community.

Also...from my perspective evangelism is not the same thing as what Marva Dawn is arguing it is (though I certainly admire her argument and think that it is much more in line with the contemporary understanding of evangelism than my own). my mind evangelism is a witness to the power and presence of God -- to the love of God -- around us. Much evangelism as Dawn describes it, so it seems, is witnessing to our experience of God, within our relationship. The church these days is so inward focused that I think that is exactly the problem. It is more to the point to witness to the love of God in the lives of the people and in the life of the world -- outside the walls of our home (or church building). We witness all the time to our love for God in our relationship -- as if God isn't present in the life of the stranger, the alien, the enemy. We need the stranger...we need the stranger's gifts, the stranger's calling, the stranger's calling in the Word of God. Evangelism is to make that witness and worship needs to find ways to make it somehow as well.'s late and I'm probably rambling.

9:21 PM

Blogger Ken Carter said...


thank you for this distinction, which is a part of our lived reality, and ongoing discussion here in Charlotte.


ken carter

7:47 PM


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