Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Hauerwas on Worship and Evangelism

I came across an excellent article by Stanley Hauerwas on the interesting position that has emerged within 'evangelical' churches that assumes there is a difference in worship and evangelism. Basing his assumption in the methods and practices currently used by a large portion of the Church, Hauerwas commented,

'Currently some Methodists are even suggesting, in the interest of church growth (which has become synonymous in some circles with evangelism), that worship must be made more "user-friendly". They thus assume a tension exists between worship and evangelism.'

Upon reflection, Hauerwas concluded that the 'tension' that seems to exist between worship and evangelism is actually a misrepresentation of true worship.
Possibly resulting from the infamous 19th century holiness movement/tent revival movement, Hauerwas noted that for whatever reason, evangelism has become something that was to be done OUTSIDE the church (outside regular Sunday morning worship), think Billy Graham crusade. Unfortunately, the recent reaction to this has been to bring the 'evangelistic' tools used in tent revivals INTO the church, think Willow Creek/seeker-sensitive services/worship.

Hauerwas lamented that the most devastating result of bringing the 'tent' inside the church has been the emergence of forms of worship that do not reflect true Christianity. More to the point, the Eucharist has suffered most. He said,

'The Eucharist is usually not considered an essential aspect of Christian worship by those concerned with church growth. Evangelism means getting people to church, because unless we go to church, it is assumed, our lives are without moral compass. Thus the assumption that lack of attendance at church and our society's "moral decay" go hand in hand. What such people fail to see is that such decay begins with the assumption that worship is about "my" finding meaning for my life rather than glorification of God. Such evangelism is but another name for narcissism. Christian worship requires that our bodies submit to a training otherwise unavailable so that we can become capable of discerning those who use the name of Jesus to tempt us to worship foreign gods. Without the Eucharist we lose the resource to discover how these gods rule our lives.'

Can we relate to this sentiment?

Is there a tension between worship and evangelism?

How can we be evangelistic and remain truthful/faithful worshippers?



SusanU said...

The best part for me was this - "Hauerwas lamented that the most devastating result of bringing the 'tent' inside the church has been the emergence of forms of worship that do not reflect true Christianity. More to the point, the Eucharist has suffered most. "

Now to convince others who don't read Hauerwas about this. That would be about 99.9% of my Naz congregation.

Joseph said...

Weirdest thing happened. As soon as (literally minutes) after I posted this blog entry, a buddy of mine who ministers in the Methodist church told me of an experience that is precisely what Hauerwas was talking about.

He said last Sunday the pastor and worship team at his church decided to have a 'Doobie Brothers Sunday' in which they performed a number of Doobie Brothers songs during the worship service.

As scheduled, the service was to end in Holy Communion, but in the midst of the service the worship team and pastor decided to AXE COMMUNION(!) from the service so that they would have time to play another Doobie Brothers song.

No words...

Jeremy D. Scott said...

[Strapping on rubber suit for the forthcoming stones.]

Hauerwas is right, and he's my most-influential theologian.

But...yawn...seems only to present the flipside of the argument...which is still an argument, and not a solution.

I think we who value intentional liturgy can actually be part of the problem (part of the tension). In my situation, what I've learned in a very short five years in pastoral ministry is that when I stress the importance of intentionality in worship through the things of the Eucharist, the creeds, the fourfold pattern, etc., it still places the complete focus of the church community on worship alone. Worship and intentionality are important, but when I stress it as "the thing," I'm missing out on what the Church is called to do in the totality of the Body of Christ.

This is especially in relationship to the worship-evangelism tension. Bryan Stone's book, Evangelism After Christendom (which I've gone through twice and highly recommend to any and all), has greatly influenced me in this kind of discussion. While worship is formational and of importance in the fruition of the Church, there is so much more to that fruition than the hour and a half on Sunday mornings.

Do I have hope that those I worship with will continue to draw nearer to being intentional in their worship as formative and normative for their week? You bet. But I only have so much pastoral "coin" and energy, and I'm directing more and more to discipleship, preaching, and the various ways of actual pastoring.

(Disclaimer: This thinking is not meant to sound prescriptive for all, and is surely in great part unique to my situation, especially since mine has changed quite a bit with the bringing on of a part-time Minister of Worship, who, now that I have asked her to study the Church year, etc., is quite on board with all of it. Amazing what being intentional about these things can do to someone.)

Grace & Peace,

Eric + said...

Joseph, do you have a link to the article -- or even the biblio info?

Maybe I was out too late and up too early, but I'm a little slow on the take this morning and reading more would help me nail down a good response.

Two thoughts off the cuff --

1) Worship and Evangelism are essentially different. Worship is what the people of God do at God. When we are worshiping we are loving God with all that we area. We are ascribing God the worth God is due. We are offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Etc. Evangelism is what the people of God do at the world. When we are evangelizing we are loving our neighbor with all that we are. We are serving our neighbor. We are binding the broken, freeing the enslaved, comforting the grieving. We are proclaiming/announcing the year of the Lord's favor. We are "bearing faithful witness to the peacable reign of God."

2) On the other hand, worship is evangelism and evangelism is worship. Our witness is most profound at the Table, and there is no better way to love (worship) God than to obey his command to be people of compassion, justice,and mercy - making disciples as we go, baptizing them, and teaching them to also obey...

Joseph said...

Thanks for the comments. Keep 'em coming. Eric requested bibliographic info. The essay is in a collection of essays titled, 'The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church', edited by Paul Chilcote and Laceye C. Warner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).

OR, you may read the entire article on Google books:


Eric, thank you for seeking to inquire further. I wanted to give more from the article, but I chose what I did give so as to not have a huge blog that no one would read.

Enjoy, especially the footnotes :-)


SusanU said...

Joseph, when you said "no words", what I came up with was "disgusting". My CotN hasn't done that but the EC that I also attend has done a Beatles Mass. The rector knows my opinion on that cuz I couldn't control my grimace.

Todd Stepp said...

I agree, somewhat. - Worship is not everything. However, it is the big thing that is missing in much of the CotN.

It is also the foundational aspect of the Church. That is, we are the worshipping community of faith. It is at the essence of who we are (or should be).

I have long pressed for a full Wesleyanism which, as I see it, inculdes evangelism, being holiness oriented, committed to some sort of small group (or S.S.) discipleship, commited to compassionate ministries, and commited to liturgical/sacramental worship (regardless of musical style).

I do not believe that it is an either or kind of thing. Nevertheless, I do believe that worship is the fundamental task of the Church and that, as we go forth from corporate worship, everything else that we do flows forth from worship and becomes a further expression of our worship.

Much of my issues with much of the so called evangelism efforts is that it is so gimmicky or entertainment driven. We have to come up with all of these programs and events. Why aren't we doing like the NT, early church & Wesley: going out and sharing faith in word, deed and sign?

In the CotN, our mindset (my experience) is toward evangelism and holiness. That is not to say that we are actually doing evangelism, but it is still apart of the assumptions that we make. (This is, or can be, different than what one encounters in some mainline congregations.) We also may not always do it well, but we have a mindset that assumes some sort of discipleship or the importance of S.S.

My experience is that we are weak on compassionate ministries IN OUR OWN COMMUNITIES. That is, we do well OVERSEAS, but not so well in our back yard. (Your experience may be different.)

My experience is also that we are completely (of the most part) off the map when it comes to being "Wesleyan" in our worship.

I want to (and do) emphasize all of those aspects. I try to make that clear. However, my greatest passion is in the area of worship.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the link to the complete essay, Joseph. I wasn’t able to read every page via Google Reader, but I was able to read most of it.

My initial reaction:

I think Hauerwas posits a very convincing archaeology of the worship problem ravaging Protestant churches today, but I do not think it is complete. Worship has always been understood as something of a double movement/procession. It is something given to God, but it is also, and simultaneously, a gift from God to us. This can be seen in the Eucharist. On the one hand, we offer up our gifts (the elements) to God during the offertory, and this with the recognition that we have received them from God, only to have God give them back to us . . . this food for immortality.

I haven’t met a Nazarene yet who would say that their worship isn’t given to God . . . even the seeker-sensitive type, and I think Hauerwas may be a little off base to charge camp-meeting liturgies with narcissism. The real question, I think, has to do with the procession of God to humanity in the worship service. That is: What does God give to us? For Catholics, this is obvious, the substantive Body and Blood and our Lord which saves us. As Augustine said, we become that which we eat. In a soteriology stressing deification, there appears to be no dichotomy between conversion and discipleship, and worship is understood as undergirding both; that is, worship is evangelism. Thus, God gives us salvation itself in worship.

Anonymous said...

part II . . .

In Protestantism, however, deification has more-or-less collapsed and substitutionary theories of atonement predominate. When this happens, conversion and salvation are understood as instantaneous happenings, and, more importantly, discipleship (maturing) occurs as a post-salvific and completely separate process. The debate in Protestant churches, then, I think, hovers around the question (What does God give to us in worship?) differently. Some argue for ‘discipleship’ while others argue for ‘conversion’, usually understood as evangelism. The camp meeting liturgies (those utilized by Billy Graham in football stadiums) were celebrated to “win the lost”. As such, during these worship services, it was understood that God gave us salvation understood within the traditional Protestant substitutionary atonement mantra. Discipleship on the other hand, which was still understood as something completely different than salvation, was understood as God’s gift to us in the traditional Sunday Morning worship service. One sees the same motif being historically perpetuated with the institution of Sunday night worship services designed primarily for ‘evangelism’ vis-a-vis Sunday morning worship services designed primarily for discipleship. Of course, none of this denied that worship was something we gave to God. Nor was there a denial that God gave us salvation during worship. Rather, it was merely a completely different understanding of salvation altogether. Regardless, with the fracturing of discipleship and evangelism came the fracturing of the worship liturgy: one liturgy (camp-meeting / Sunday night) for evangelism and one liturgy (Sunday morning) for discipleship.

Of course, now that both the Sunday morning and the Sunday night services are practically the same and use the same liturgy, there is again confusion and dispute as to what God actually gives to us in worship: discipleship or evangelism. I think this lies at the heart of the contemporary Protestant debate. I think Hauerwas is correct in that he reaches back to Catholicism at this point and blurs the lines between the two. Worship accomplishes, simply put, both. And this is because both constitute salvation which God freely gives us through the Church and her sacraments during worship. In other words, there is no distinction between evangelism and discipleship, and this is a return to Hauerwas’s endorsement of a virtue ethic (a.k.a., a deifying soteriology).

On a tangential note, I think what’s most interesting about Hauerwas’s argument is that he arrives at it at a very Protestant way via Wesley. ‘Holiness’ remains the theological ingredient which draws us back to Catholicism. Interesting.

Todd Stepp said...

I went to leave a comment on your blog, but all of your comments are closed. - Whatsup with that?!


Anonymous said...


I guess I don't want someone doing what I do: going onto a blog (i.e., this one) and then posting a comment that's so long, it has to be broken up into two comments (haha).

But seriously, I've had trouble in the past with too many people posting comments and not being able to moderate/respond to them all. Disallowing them is just easier . . . especially since my blog is more of a private space for me.