And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
— HEBREWS 4:24,25
By Timothy J. Hammons:
There is a revival and the first generation of those saved have a strong commitment to God’s word and are even willing to die for the privilege of standing on that word. Then comes the next generation. They did not have to fight for the faith. It was graciously handed to them. In the transfer of power, they become less committed to the very thing that brought about the revival in the first place, the preaching of God’s word, and they start looking for “new” methods in reaching the lost because they feel a need to be more sophisticated than their fathers were. And the missional creep begins.
By Dominic Aquila:
Aquila defines the missional as “a combination of classical Liberalism, which promotes a social gospel; Neo-Orthodoxy, with its existential interpretations of Scripture; and the hermeneutics popularized in the New Perspective on Paul. These influences are so deeply rooted in the term ‘missional’ that it makes it counterproductive to use it in churches that do not affirm these views; it has the effect of creating cognitive and theological dissonance…I am convinced that missional thinking, with the roots I have mentioned, is a philosophy and model of ministry that will in time have a deteriorating effect on the historic definition and application of the gospel. That is, the gospel will be stripped of its power, leaving the church, the people of God, impotent to be effective in a lost world… (I Cor. 1:18-2:16).”
IT IS THE POSITION of the Firm Foundation Partnership that Missional-ism diminishes the temporal priority of worship. How does it do that? Most conservative Reformed theologians have considered proper worship to come before proper edification and witness. Plotting a time line it would look like this: Worship > Edification > Witness. Consequently, proper witness is a byproduct, dependent on proper worship and proper edification.
In support of those traditional functional priorities, John Piper writes, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn’t. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever…worship is also the fuel of missions.”
Describing Missional-ism, Dominic Aquila writes that “the Missional blends all ministries [or functional priorities] of the church, removing distinctions. For example, worship is a distinct stance of the church that looks upward to God and his glory, not man and his needs. Edification is a distinct stance that focuses on the inward need of developing, equipping and bringing believers to maturity in Christ. Evangelism is a distinct stance with an outward focus, going into the world with the gospel, reasoning and persuading within culture, using biblical truth to declare that our real problem is sin, original and actual, and the absolute need of a Savior.”
Edmund Clowney: The church is called to serve God in three ways: to serve him directly in worship; to serve the saints in nurture; and to serve the world in witness.
Missions ought to be a distinct byproduct of proper worship. There should be no “blend” of upward-looking worship and outward-looking mission. Where the church has no distinct and proper worship, there is no distinct and proper mission. These distinct emphases have long been the functional priorities of conservative churches. But in Missional-ism, there is no temporal priority, no functional order for these priorities. Mission and worship are combined, out of order, collapsed into the same event, occupying the same time and space. Consequently, Dr. Keller writes about “Evangelistic Worship” and worship services are designed to attract unbelievers, effectively diminishing proper “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” Corporate worship designed to attract unbelievers cannot be “acceptable worship” (Hebrews 12:28). Worship is for believers meeting with their God. Worship is not for unbelievers who deny their God.
Edmund Clowney: Reverent corporate worship, then, is not optional for the church of God…[r]ather, it brings to expression the very being of the church. It manifests on earth the reality of the heavenly assembly.
By David McWilliams:
The first Biblical principle of worship is that worship is for God offered by believers. To put it bluntly, worship is not for unbelievers. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that unbelievers should be ignored in the worship context nor am I saying that worship has no evangelistic impact. Quite the contrary. I myself passionately call sinners to Christ in virtually every sermon and our services have significant numbers of unbelievers present almost every week. Paul tells us in I Cor. 14 that an unbeliever in the midst of God’s people may well be converted. But he does not suggest that the service be determined by the presence of unbelievers among us. This is basic Pauline theology; men dead in trespasses and sins cannot worship God. Therefore, to begin there is to become God oriented but man centered rather than God centered and man oriented.
Dominic Aquila: [The Missional] accommodates to culture, believing enculturation is a major goal. This neglects the biblical notion of Christians being aliens and strangers on the earth and in this age. That is, we are contra mundum, with our agenda being set by Scripture not the current cultural ideas and practices.
By Tim Keller:
Referencing Christendom, Dr. Keller states that, “the church in the West had not become completely missional—adapting and reformulating absolutely everything it did in worship, discipleship, community, and service so as to be engaged with the non-Christian society around it. It had not developed a missiology of Western culture, the way it had done with other nonbelieving cultures.”
Note that Dr. Keller is giving us his definition of “missional.” It’s the “adapting and reformulating absolutely everything it did in worship, discipleship, community, and service so as to be engaged with the non-Christian society around it.” And the motive for Dr. Keller’s Missional-ism, seems the same as the PCA Strategic Plan: church growth. Dr. Keller states in his 2001 Missional paper, “this is a shrinking market, and eventually evangelical churches ensconced in the declining, remaining enclaves of Christendom will have to learn how to become missional. If they do not, they will decline or die.” This 2001 paper gave impetus to the PCA Strategic Plan presented by Chapell in 2010. It connects Missional-ism and the PCA Strategic Plan. And it connects Dr. Keller and Dr. Chapell.
By Dominic Aquila:
Justice is promoted as a high virtue and mark of holiness, but justice is loosely defined. What does this justice really mean and look like? The priority of justice appears to be to make all things equitable and missional thinking is intended to create a level playing field. However, seeking justice without a biblical soteriology is vain and fruitless. Can there be true justice if there isn’t justice first from God that was displayed on the cross in the propitiatory death of Christ, and the declaratory justice that comes individually in justification? Justice cannot be sought or declared apart from the atonement. The cross is central to salvation and ultimate justice. Without a clear doctrine of the atonement, then Richard Niebuhr’s summary statement of the social gospel will become true: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
Joel Beeke: For those who find the preaching of “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) too simple a remedy to be effective against the ills of the world, Christ insists that, like the mustard seed, such preaching will produce a result far out of proportion to the means employed. It will work in the world, in the church, and in the believer as a potent spiritual force, just as hidden leaven works in meal or flour.
The Priority of Worship
By Sinclair Ferguson
The Preaching of God’s Word
by David McWilliams