Evangelism, Liturgy, and Culture War

What is evangelism? Evangelism is the process, designed by God, in which the old humanity in Adam is supplanted by the new humanity in Christ. This does not conflict with our more familiar (and narrow) definition of of evangelism, but it most certainly goes far beyond it. “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13).

Evangelism of individuals as such is glorious and necessary, but at some point, the results of such evangelism will bring you to the point of critical mass, and you find that, like it or not, you have engaged the surrounding culture. This is God’s design.

At the center of every culture is a cultus, a form of worship. Suffice it to say that the Great Commission requires us to disciple, baptize, and teach obedience to all the ethnoi, all the nations of men. This means that robust evangelism cannot be done without challenging the gods of the system.

While we must not despise the day of small beginnings, and must labor faithfully in the little things, we must not be distracted from the ultimate mission and goal, getting diverted into picking off the devil’s stragglers, and going off with them to build an isolated evangelical ghetto.

Evangelism is combat between the gods, that is, between the living and triune God of the Bible and the idols of the age. Evangelism is therefore religious war at the highest level.

Evangelism is right at the heart of what are called the culture wars. But Christians have a problem here. Culture wars presupposes that we have a culture. You cannot have tank warfare without tanks. You cannot have naval warfare without ships. You cannot have a culture war without a culture. And by culture, I do not mean some sanitized G-rated version of whatever it is that the unbelievers are doing. The development of Christian culture must include (and not be limited to) sabbath celebration, music, literature, poetry, architecture, scholarship, and with liturgy at the center driving it all.

But culture wars in this sense presupposes conflict. Such conflict is not a sign that something has gone terribly wrong. The two sides do not just have opposing weapons, but also have opposing views on the nature of the conflict and whose fault it is. Conflict is messy, not tidy. Confusion abounds. We can expect sin to manifest itself on our side. And we are to rejoice in the tumult (Luke 6:22-23).

This means that the courage required for evangelism is more than overcoming stage fright, or fear of strangers. Jesus is Lord of more than Genesis to Revelation. He is Lord of more than John 3:16, or of heaven alone. He is Lord over all, the Christ of all, the Savior of the world.

This is why our worship of Him is evangelistically potent. Evangelism is not primarily talking to men about God; it is about worshipping God for the sake of mankind.

In worship, we ascend into the heavenly places (Heb. 12:22-29). We gather there to glorify and worship the Lamb that was slain. Then we may ask (with boldness) for the name of Jesus to be glorified on earth in just the way that it was in heaven (Matt. 6:10). We pray “thy kingdom come,” not “thy kingdom go.”

Throughout the book of Revelation, we see the same thing. The worship service conducted in heaven drives all the events on earth. And Abraham’s response to God’s promises to him (besides faith) was to build an altar (Gen. 12:7). In other words, he showed his faith that God would give him the land by establishing a place in that land for worship.

Before going any further, it must be noted that worship is not praise and it does not consist of “feeling worshipful.” In both Hebrew and Greek, worship means service. When Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, he said that he was going to worship. He did not mean that they were going to go to Moriah, break out the guitars and overhead project for a little P & W. He meant that he was going to serve God, by doing what was commanded. When Isaiah said, “Here am I, Lord, send me,” that was worship. And this helps make sense of Romans 12:1-2 — the presentation of our bodies to God is our spiritual worship.

We also must beware of reading individualism into the text. “The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Ps. 87:2). God values the worship of the great congregation over private devotions. O come let us worship and bow down.

As we worship, we become more and more like the God we worship. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:17-18). Notice that we all.

The same thing happens to unbelievers. They become more and more like the gods they worship — blind, deaf, dumb and stupid. “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them” (Ps. 115:4-8).

Our transformation is into the triune likeness — form and freedom, giving and receiving, unity and diversity. Their transformation veers into a unitarian oppression or polytheistic anarchy.

This is why our liturgy needs to be deployed as though it were a battering ram — because it is. We ought to pray in this way. We worship with this intent. “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). And as we beseige their gates, worshipping God in this way, we should not be surprised when they, from time to time, pour boiling oil on our heads