I remember a time when our church went to a park for Sunday service. I felt like there was something freeing and missional about being outside. We did what we normally do inside of the church building, but this time we were outside, in the local park. We were not weird, or fanatical. We were regular, everyday people singing songs to our maker as we gathered in his cathedral, the great outdoors. Yet to many gathered, worship in the park felt unnatural. Still others stayed home thinking it was not real church.
Today, we think of worship as something for believers to offer God. Worship becomes a private act between Christians and the Almighty. Sometimes we even bring it down to a personal, personal level as we turn on our favorite worship music in the privacy of our car or bedroom. Do we ever consider that worship was intended for something different? Could worship be more public?
We have heard the common mantra in mission circles, “Mission exists where worship does not” as an oversimplification as to the necessity of mission.
I want to begin a short series over the next weeks in which we flip that statement upside down. I will unpack the idea of worship as mission with its implications as seen through the whole of scripture. .
As I reflect on some of my favorite innovations in church, they often are hinged on worship. The reformation was deeply rooted in music and hymnaty. Luther wrote songs to the tunes of popular bar melodies. The singing of the Anabaptists and others pushed their movement forward. Jack Hayford and Roy Hicks Jr. pressed the edges with choruses in the 1970s as church moved from traditional forms of worship to newer ways of connecting with God. I remember one time at the Cornerstone Music Festival Martin Smith from Delirious told stories of how their music (keep in mind this was the late 90s) drove revivals in the UK.
As I consider motifs of mission that weave through scripture threading together a tapestry of God’s action with God’s people to draw all nations to know him, I think of worship as a picture we have narrowly left as something inside the church with little thought to missiological implications. In this series I will show how worship reflects God and our relationship with him to outside observers. I will look at three case studies from scripture with modern illustrations. These case studies will draw from the life of Abraham, Paul and Jesus to illustrate how worship plays a role in revealing God to all nations. For the purpose of this series I will confine worship to the acts of worship seen in the life of God’s people without wading through the broad definitions of worship in the Old Testament and New Testament, nor the understanding of worship as a lifestyle.