What do you think of when you read those words? Both words, sadly, have become cliché in so many ways, and yet they remain as vital as ever in our lives and in our churches.
We can’t afford to disengage from either of these words. We must be willing to consider how the two can coexist harmoniously as both intellectual concepts and as definitive, intentional practices. God is worthy of worship. God has a mission that He is inviting us to participate in. We need both.
Worship and Mission aren’t mutually exclusive, nor do they truly oppose each other in any way (despite what you may have heard.) Neither is more important than the other. They are equally essential for every individual Christian and for every church to engage with wholeheartedly.
How can we maintain a healthy and fruitful tension that upholds the value and importance of both Worship and Mission in our lives and in our churches? How can we worship God well without neglecting the important issues of justice and faithful obedience, which are near to the heart of God? How can we engage in God’s mission without minimising the value of corporate worship, which helps us to regularly remember and realign our lives with His plans and purposes?
In one sense, there is really no distinction between our Christian worship and our Christian mission at all. They are really different expressions of the same thing – two sides of the same coin. Broadly speaking, our mission as the Church is to worship, and our worship is expressed as partnership and participation with God in His mission. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you” (John 14:15 MSG).
Doing what Jesus tells us includes aligning our goals, dreams and activities with His. Then all of our actions and affections become a natural expression of our love for God and our participation in His mission. Caring about the same things that God cares about and shaping our lives accordingly (by cooperating with the sanctifying and empowering work of the Holy Spirit) is both the process and the result of genuine worship. As Louie Giglio summarises, “True worship glorifies God. True worship changes us.”
Our worship of God can be expressed in how we approach all of life’s activities and situations. Obviously, worship is not merely limited to what happens in a church on Sunday – it is far more expansive. It relates to and is relevant to how we think, feel and act in even the most mundane of life’s activities.
Without minimising this truth – that worship encompasses all facets of our life in God wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing – let us now specifically consider the role of the worship gathering and its “chemical reaction” with mission. How can the two act as co-catalysts for one another?
When the people of God gather together to articulate praise and dedicate a specific time each week to focus the attention of their head, heart and hands in the act of worship, there is an incredible opportunity for the faith of those believers to be shaped by God, the Word, and the gathered community of believers. The character, content and culture of the worship gathering should help to clarify the co-dependence of worship and mission as key characteristics of a healthy and fruitful Christian life. In effect, worship and mission act as co-catalysts: actively participating with God in mission fuels our worship, while engaging with God and responding to Him in worship with gratitude, love and surrender fuels our availability and commitment to mission.
How might this understanding of the catalytic action-and-reaction between worship and mission actually influence the ways in which we engage in worship on Sunday?
A helpful perspective is to understand corporate worship as both a ‘Gathering of Sent People’ and as a ‘Sending of Gathered People’.
When we worship together as Christians, whatever the format or style that may take in your particular church context, we gather as the sent people of God. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts and transforms our minds through the Word, as well as through the spiritual gifts administered lovingly in the community of faith. The goal of the Spirit’s work is to conform us to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29 NIV), and as He does this we more deeply understand and reflect His sentness. Jesus is, of course, our finest example of what it means to be “missional.” The more we know Him, the more we see the world (and our own lives) through His eyes. As we come to know Him and offer our lives to Him as “living sacrifices”, the more we make ourselves available to participate with Him in His plans and purposes. As God’s people, we are continually sent by Him and compelled by His love (2 Cor 5:14 NIV) to share Him with the world. In this way, worshiping Christians are a gathering of sent people.
But our worship gatherings should be more than just a holy pep talk. We must move beyond just making “church” a comfortable experience that fills our minds with more spiritual ideas but doesn’t translate into Christlike living. While the task of building a close-knit community of love and trust is an important part of being a Christian Church, there is a bigger purpose even for this – that we might be a more effective witness for Christ (John 13:35). All of the components of our worship gatherings must empower Christians for mission, for without a God-given mission we have no reason to gather.
The worship gathering is a weekly rallying-point for the Body of Christ through which we are loved, supported and sustained by God and the community of faith that we are a part of. This is a routine – a corporate spiritual discipline – that helps to re-centre and empower us in our commitment to our ongoing partnership with God in the Missio Dei. Hence, our worship gatherings are a sending of gathered people. As we leave Church on Sunday, we are sent out again to continue to cooperate with God – through the Spirit’s leadership and empowerment – that all of our lives may reflect the glory of God, and that we might see His “kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
Worship and Mission: two essential aspects of the whole picture of Christian faith. They are completely indispensable and inseparable from each other, like two sides of the same coin. May our worship gatherings remind us of our Mission and empower us for service. May our Mission lead us to worship more deeply as we realise our great need for God, through whom transformation, grace and redemption truly come.
May Worship fuel our Mission and may Mission fuel our Worship.