Enter to Serve, Depart to Worship
“We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with the irresponsible, amusement-mad paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing unscriptural methods to achieve their end.” – A. W. Tozer
A popular church sign reads, “Enter to Worship, Depart to Serve.” It is a well-known saying, but it is unscriptural. It might better read, “Enter to Serve, Depart to Worship.”
We live in a day when many Christians have their priorities backwards. The church has been disgraced by the multitude of its membership that marches all week long in step with the world and shows up on Sunday to pay God a vain token of respect. Most of us neither worship nor serve. We need a refresher course in ecclesiology to straighten out our warped thinking.
In the first place, the New Testament teaches that we should “Depart to Worship.” New Testament worship is a way of life. It is not a Sunday morning religious exercise. The New Testament never describes a gathering of Christians as a “worship service.” The reason is simple. According to Scripture, worship cannot be confined to a particular time or place (see John 4:23-24). God designed worship to happen at all times and in every place. Everything in our life should be an act of worship (Rom. 12:1).
In the second place, the New Testament teaches that we should “Enter to Serve.” One of the marks of the early church was its highly participatory nature. Whereas our Sunday morning services tend to focus on one man (the “pastor”), the New Testament focuses on “one another” in the building-up process. Hebrews 10:24-25 indicates that “assembling ourselves together” means much more than sitting still and being entertained for 60 minutes (and God help the preacher who goes past 12:00 noon!). The Old Covenant priesthood involved only a relative few saints, but the New Covenant priesthood included all the saints (1 Peter 2:5, 9). All members of Christ’s Body are to function as priests when the church gathers (Rom. 12:1-8).
If the New Testament makes a distinction between the people and their leaders (1 Thess. 5:12-13), it nowhere creates the false idea that only “ordained ministers” are qualified or responsible for ministry. All of us have some “ministry” through the exercise of spiritual gifts. According to 1 Corinthians 12, ministry in the church should never focus on one or two members, but on the “many.” Each member of the body has a vital function. This means that pastor-teachers are not to bear the entire burden of the edification process. They are to equip the saints so that they can minister also (see Eph. 4:11-12).
Elders minister within the context of the general ministry of all believers. Elders serve as a vitally important element in the building-up process, but they do not constitute the sole sources of edification. 1 Corinthians 14 indicates that when the entire church gathered the service was open to anyone who had something from the Lord to contribute. Nowhere can you find a pulpit centrality that focuses on one man. Edification was not limited to the instruction provided by the leaders. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, others spoke unto edification – “admonishing one another” (Rom. 15:14), “comforting one another” (1 Thess. 4:18), and even “exhorting one another” to live more godly lives (Heb. 3:13).
In light of the New Testament emphasis on mutual ministry, should we not return to the “one another” ministry in our gatherings as a church? How much longer will we squelch the priesthood of all believers? Elders who try to “do it all” or even attempt to do most of the ministry are failing in their responsibility to the Body of Christ. The real “ministers” in the church are the individual members of the family of believers.
Remember, it is God who has determined that His church should function in this manner. It was He who said, “When you assemble...let all things be done for edification.” It is an immature and disobedient church today that fails in its priesthood responsibility.
Blessed is the man who “enters to serve and departs to worship”!
December 24, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. He is the author of Why I Stopped Listening to Rush and numerous other books.