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Worship: Fuel for Mission

There is that old saying that talks about not putting the “…cart before the horse.” I understand that idiom to mean that before we go running off doing something we had better make sure we have other things in order first. So when it comes to the mission of your local church, could it be that something else needs to be in place prior to setting out to win the world to Christ?

I believe so and this quote from John Piper is what got me thinking about it recently, he says: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. 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.”

Now before you dismiss me altogether, assuming that I am about to promote a particular style of worship, let me tell you that this has nothing to do with style. It has everything to do with our motivation to fulfill God’s purposes in the world. In other words, the first question any church should be asking is, “Who are we here for?” not “What do we need to do?” Again Piper asserts, “If the pursuit of God’s glory is not ordered above the pursuit of man’s good in the affection of the heart and the priorities of the church, man will not be well served and God will not be duly honored.”

What Are We Here For?

The tendency is to assume that everyone in our churches, on leadership teams, and serving on church boards is there for the same reason (to honor, serve, and worship Jesus). That simply isn’t the case. Because we are sinful, fallen, and broken our worship can get misdirected and we can mistake our own priorities and preferences for God’s.

To put it bluntly, some can be involved in church but motivated only by a desire for power and control rather than worship of God and the fulfilling of His mission in the world. It is the reason we often have church splitting “worship wars” because people worship their preferences, priorities, and ambitions rather than Jesus.

How often have we heard a member comment, “I didn’t get anything out of that worship service!” Clearly, the personal needs of that member have trumped the priority of worshiping, serving, and reaching others for the kingdom. The obvious answer to the question of who are we here for is, we are here for Jesus, to worship, adore and give Him glory (Rev. 14:7). It means that we are not simply here for ourselves, our subculture, or even our own denomination.

Worship Style: Who Are We Pleasing?

With worship of Jesus clearly in focus, congregations can then clearly identify their special calling in the world (mission). So when it comes to style of worship, it doesn’t really matter as long as it is motivated by authentic worship and based upon your church’s mission, vision, and strategy. You may decide that to fulfill God’s unique calling where you are that your service should be more traditional or perhaps more contemporary or even a blended approach.

Sadly, what often happens is that churches are more concerned with keeping certain people happy or preserving a particular style because it has always been done that way, not in order to please God or fulfill His mission. With this approach, long-time members with influence or subculture expectations become the object of worship rather than God. In a day and age where anything (people, money, religion, food) can win over our affections and become an object of worship, I believe that this is the most critical question members have to answer.

Here’s a simple outline for churches to either evaluate their current mission or begin a new process of answering the question of why they are doing what they are doing, and is it really what God wants them to do:

Worship – Who are we here for?

Answer: God (Ex. 20:3-4) as presented in the pages of the Bible as the Trinity God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Mission – What has Jesus called us to do?

Answer: Share the gospel (Rev. 14:6, Rom. 1:16-17) The second most vital question your church has to answer. Take a look around at where you are. What are the obvious needs? How is God impressing and moving among your congregation to share the gospel?

Vision – Where has Jesus called us to go?

Answer: Into the world (John 17:15-18, Matt. 28:19-20) Your church is not an accident. You are where you are for a reason. There is a unique direction God wants you to take where you will do the most significant kingdom work based upon your “sweet spot” or how your church can be used most effectively considering its unique gifts, resources, and volunteers.

Strategy – How does Jesus want us to get there?

Answer: Through faith and the Spirit (Jn. 14:12, Zech. 4:6) Through faith and under the power of the spirit of God with an understanding your unique context, determine how you can best enter the world or draw the world to you. In this day and age your church can’t wait for the masses to find you, you must strategically (“missionally”) enter the world in an effort to infect them with your faith. Expect challenges because some strategies (methods) are more comfortable than others.

I’m praying that every church will take the time to carefully consider it’s God-given, unique, calling in the world, first to the glory of God through authentic worship and then to the salvation of others through the spreading of the gospel through mission.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy How We Worship 

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About Bernie Anderson and Rich DuBose

Bernie Anderson

writes from Orlando, Florida, where he serves as the Collegiate/Young Adult Pastor of the Forest Lake Adventist Church.

Rich DuBose

writes from Northern California

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