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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
KingdomTide and the Confluence of Worship and Mission

I keep trying to get this tractor in gear. It's time for a new stream of conversation on FARMStrong. I am going to begin a series of posts on the relationship between worship and mission. It's an issue we've pondered here before. Given we are a bit past the midterm of the season of worship we call KingdomTide, it would be a good moment to reflect on what I consider the very essence of this worshipping movement: the relationship between worship and mission.

For instance, consider John Piper's popular saying: "Mission exists because worship does not," or something to that effect. This clearly inspired Matt Redman's song a few years back called Mission's Flame, some of the key lyrics of which go as follows:

Let worship be the fuel for mission's flame. . . . . Let worship be the heart of mission's aim.

Though I like the song very much, something about it does not resonate in my thinking. I even wrote Matt a bit of a critique of these lyrics a few years back.

So for starters, I welcome some commentary from your own perspective. How do you describe this relationship between worship and mission? Is it a chicken and egg thing? Does one lead to the other? Is it a cyclical reality or something else? I promise not to publicly critique your comment and for the purposes of this post ask you all not to critique each other. That time will come later. I'm simply trying to help us get a sense of the varying perspectives out there, to get the lay of the land so to speak.

This should be fun.


posted by John David Walt | at 10/22/2008 06:02:00 AM



Blogger chad said...

The correlation between mission and worship was all the rage in the nineties. But some of the involved parties have really been changing their thoughts, even Sally Morgenthaler has somewhat recanted.

To place worship as a "fire-starter" or a way to get people hyped up really confuses the nature of what worship is. Lately, I have noticed that I have started using the term devotion to describe the broader aspect of worship, especially when I am not talking about singing, and if I am right, John Piper refers to music worship most of the time when he is writing about worship.

I have been part of events where worship did fuel mission, and fueled it well, but they were understood to be integral components within each other. I wonder how much of Piper's comment regarding the secondary nature of mission exists because of his soteriology?

Great gear starting JD, looking forward to seeing what happens.

8:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Rob said...

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength...love your neighbor as yourself."

Very briefly, I believe that neither worship nor mission are kindling for the other, they are God's-grace-enabled obedient responses to the love we have received. They are the natural (in the supernatural sense) response to the love we have received.

Love, the kind that is overflow from God's love, is the best kindling for any worship or mission fire. (see 1 Corinthians 13)

9:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Rob said...

oh, and one other thing, either i misunderstood piper or i am mis-applying his quote when i speak to others. i thought the intent of his quote was that if every knee was bowed in worship, the mission of making disciples would be unnecessary.

9:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Ross said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:53 AM EDT  
Blogger Markio said...

I -along with Rob- am of the opinion that neither should worship be a place of kindling for mission, nor vice versa.

I think the two are connected but not in a causative fashion, rather, both act towards similar ends, that is to say the growth of an obedient relationship with God.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength...love your neighbor as yourself."

What better way to love God than to worship Him, what better way to love our neighbour than to tell them their sins are forgiven.

11:01 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chad said, "if I am right, John Piper refers to music worship most of the time when he is writing about worship." I would respectfully disagree. I believe that the majority of the time Piper is thinking about worship he does not have the focus of music worship primarily, but music worship would just be a minority subset of the idea of worship. Look here to see the titles of sermons under the Desiring God resource topic of "Worship": http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/60_Worship/

Here is an example of a quote of Piper, "true worship which delights God is the drawing near of the heart to God, or, to put it another way, the quickening of the heart with genuine feelings in response to God's glory." This is from a sermon called "Worship is an End in Itself" (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/60_Worship/309_Worship_Is_an_End_in_Itself/) which doesn't even include the word "music". In it "singing" occurs twice but each time as part of a non-exhaustive list of six things that are seen as externally worship.

I am not sure if someone is suggesting this idea, but I do not believe worship serves as the fuel of missions by the act of worshiping God somehow mysteriously making people feel like doing missions.

I believe Piper would (rightfully) say at least a couple of things about the relationship between worship and missions: 1) that as we see the glory of God and enjoy that beholding as attractive and beautiful, we will want to increasingly share that joy with others as the Spirit indwells us. It's like if you find something great and it's free and a bountiful supply, you would want to share it with your spouse, family, neighbors, etc.
2) As we see the purpose of man is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (a way of describing "worship"), and we see the dissonance between that and what unbelievers do, we are motivated as well as commanded to share in God's purpose of making worshipers of God from every people and tribe and language, i.e., do missions.

11:40 AM EDT  
Blogger Joshua Andrew Smith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Joshua Andrew Smith said...

Anonymous and I usually do not agree, but today at least, it seems we're on the same page.

We ought to be thinking about this teleologically. That is, we should ask ourselves, "What is the end or final purpose of this thing I am considering?"

"Fire-starter" has been misinterpreted here. It's not a means, it is an end. It's not the fuel before a race, it's the finish line which inspires one to begin running in the first place.

Worship will be the activity of all righteous creatures for all of eternity. It's the finish line. Mission, however, is temporary, as is even suggested in its name. It will end when the mission is completed; missions are terminal by nature. What is the mission? To bring saints from "ta ethnae," all peoples, to worship the Living God through Christ our Lord. Worship being, of course, the appropriate response to divine revelation in any given moment, whether in song or in deed.

There is absolutely and unequivocally a necessary relationship between mission and worship, mission being the means and worship being the end.

Eternal perspective, people.

1:08 PM EDT  
Blogger drew said...

I think about missions as worship...but maybe that's an oversimplification of the issue this discussion centers around.

The idea that worship fuels the flame of mission (to paraphrase Matt's lyrics) could make more sense if we viewed all action as rooted within the context of offering one's life as a living sacrifice, as Paul suggests in Romans 12. Worship doesn't just spring from the offered life, but it is the offering of one's life. This would then make all action an extension of that offered life, and therefore both missional and worship-filled. Worship would not then be the fuel for mission, but worship would instead be expressed though mission.

The fuel in the Romans 12 analogy, then, would be the life of the believer, being consumed by the fire of God.

But all of this depends on how we define our terms; maybe you can give us some of your definitions, JD, so we can more clearly follow and add to the conversation.

This should be fun...thanks for beginning the conversation again.

6:29 PM EDT  
Blogger liturgy said...

I appreciate your focus on worship
There is a badge to encourage the importance of worship that you might like to place on your site:
Let us also pray for each other and this online mission and ministry.

7:21 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope I can articulate what I'm trying to say...

My first initial response:

I guess in terms of "worship" - we were created to worship.... we all worship something whether we realize it or not... I'm sure that's a pretty simplistic statement to most. But, the deciding factor is what/who we choose to worship... not just in terms of religion, but what gets our devotion/affections/seeking throughout the day? As believers, we want others to see what means the most to us - our relationship to Christ - our worship of the one, true, living God. But, how are we doing with our "worship"?

I think "mission" is related to worship also on an individual level - not just the "send us out" mode, but the refiner's fire mode - so that anything that takes away from our "worship" is removed from us for the sake of others seeing the light of the gospel and His amazing love...

I want to make my life count for His Kingdom purposes. Before I go to the other side of the world on mission, though, I think it begins right where I am - going through the fire to be made more like Christ so that the "mission" is everyday right where I am... Have you ever noticed that it sometimes seems easier to go on a mission trip to share the gospel instead of doing it in your own neighborhood??

I love this Matt Redman song. I think it speaks very much to my missional heart. At the same time thanks for challenging us to think about what it is we believe we're singing about...

Looking forward to learning some more...
- Sandra

11:55 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny thing, this song just came to mind... I think it helps to bring a little more clarity to what I'm trying to say...

As a candle is consumed by the passion of the flame
Spilling light unsparingly throughout a darkened room
Let us burn to know Him deeper
Then our service flaming bright
Will radiate his passions
And blaze with holy light

To love the Lord our God
Is the heartbeat of our mission
The spring from which our service overflows
Across the street
Or around the world
The mission's still the same
Proclaim and live the Truth
In Jesus' name

From "The Mission" by Steve Green (and I'm sure we can dissect these lyrics, too...) ;-)


12:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Marcus G said...

"Mission being the means and worship being the end."

Thank you JAS for putting very well something that has made me stop and think and pause and pray and try something new.

You see, here's my revolutionary thought (forgive me): if worship is the "end", perhaps the means should reflect that?

I pastor a congregation that is moving from a very traditional model of church to something else altogether, and there are times when on this journey I find myself doing things because they are there to be done.

Mission. Evangelism.

So we got in a speaker, and we held meetings in pubs and sports clubs and in church too, and it was fine. But something in me was troubled. Our lives here make worship our first priority; but our evangelism had nothing to do with it - or made sung worship the warm-up act for proclamation, thereby clearly stating that proclamation was more important.


And I began to dislike that model and search for a new one - a model of evangelism that used worship integrally, because mission is the means and worship of Jesus the end. So the means should reflect the end. Or (again, forgive the crassness) what we are selling is not what we are selling!

"Fire-starter" - no. Worship is the fire, our life with Jesus. So telling people about this life with God in the power of his Spirit should somehow reflect the life.

"Worship is for insiders!" No. Worship is our call. If we don't think it works, or it is too embarrassing for outsiders to see - we need to work at it some more, or calling others is seriously impeded.

I'm with JD. Worship the fuel to mission's flame? Again, no, sorry, that won't do: worship has to be mission's flame, because it is mission's aim.

6:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Jamey said...

I see the relationship between worship and mission more cyclical or organic rather than cause and effect. One of the big things we do in worship is to corporately celebrate what God is doing amongst us. Many of us are living out the mission to make disciples and we come together with other disciple-makers to celebrate what God has done throughout the week and what He has been doing throughout history. Sometimes we get isolated in our mission and sometimes our mission is not bearing fruit. Yet we come together in the name of Christ and give glory to God together. In some ways worship is a firestarter. It is encouraging to remember that God has been at work changing lives for thousands of years even if He didn't change a life through me this week. And I really liked what Josh said, "It's not the fuel before a race, it's the finish line which inspires one to begin running in the first place." I think it's both fuel and finish line and it motivates me to keep going and even increase the mission that I am taking part in. Yet worship is certainly not primarily for this purpose.

It seems to me that worship is primarily a response to what God has done in our personal lives, in our mission efforts, in Christ on the cross, etc.

So we worship because of what God has done in mission and we are inspired to do more mission after we have worshipped.

9:51 AM EDT  
Anonymous John D. Palmer said...

I believe that worship is a mission.

I think if we are looking for causality or interconnectedness then we make cases for any of the cyclical idea's that we want. However if I'm looking for causality I have to go back to creation.

God created us. It was good. Humanity did the one thing that we were instructed not to do. Sin entered in. It was bad. Death entered into our existence.

From that point on we worked through living as community holding to the values that supported and strengthened the community and finding ourselves continually at a loss for being able to save ourselves, hence God's intercession time and time again even when we broke covenant, whined for a earthly king, and began to forget who and whose we were, we then took on the values of people who had dominated us. Its in these latter settings of exile where the certainity of worship as mission became the centrality of the prophets message. In worship we remember whose we are and who we are. The importance of song was no less important then that it was later on for our communities. The songs words were not the worship. The songs words gave instruction and recollection about the mission. The musical melodies and harmonies gave the us the code we needed to remember the instruction for mission. It wasn't enough and we had been told as much.

The Messiah coming? The mission of God to redeem a fallen world. Our response, Worship of the one who has redeemed us. Mission, share this good news with those who don't know it. Our mission is to tell people the Good News of Jesus Christ. That Good News, if taught correctly will inhabit Worship. Worship is our Mission.

11:23 AM EDT  
Anonymous D.G.Hollums said...

Could it be possible that Worship is a lifestyle and that thee two would not have to be separated? That it is while we live missionally and are being sent out that it is our response to be sent that we find ourselves worshiping?

11:24 AM EDT  
Blogger JAy. said...

Let me run a bit of an analogy here:

Christian life is worship and mission.

A chicken sandwich is chicken and bread.

The bread doesn't make the chicken, nor vice versa. But the sandwich isn't a sandwich without both.

A complete Christian life is both worship and mission. Both are needed. They work together to make US whole.

That said, I also like Marcus G's conclusion that worship is the flame that makes mission happen, assuming that "worship" is fully life encompassing, and "mission" is Christ-centered.

As described by the preacher at the service I attended last night, you can be God-centered and not accomplish anything, or you can be service-centered and forget God, but to do great things for God, you have to balance God-centered (worship) and service-centered (mission).

(Must be getting close to lunch time!)

11:46 AM EDT  
Blogger liturgy said...

I appreciate John Palmer's comment "I believe that worship is a mission."
The omission of worship from the mission statements of some communities, churches and denominations I think is a loss not a gain:



4:42 PM EDT  
Blogger Kendra said...

In the books of Chronicles, David introduced song as a specific service in the Temple. Instruments and praise were added to the list of service of utensils, gatekeepers, sacrifices, song and instruments, opening the Temple, charge over furniture, and possibly other roles. Prior to 1 Chronicles, I haven't remembered the Lord assigning this role within the Tabernacle, though it was part of the culture to sing (Song of Moses, Song of Miriam, Psalms). The specific addition of music and praise caught me off guard as I read recently. I've done a lot of pondering as to why this was added. Does this addition within the Temple change the definition of worship that was used prior to the Davidic monarchy?

I guess it forces me to think of worship less in terms of music - not the brightest or newest insight, but a good one for a former blonde.

Since worship and mission are both contemporarily used and defined terms, I struggle relating them back to Biblical text because they can have altered meanings today. The best connection I can make is thinking of the NT church in Acts & epistles, as well as the "cultivate and keep" language used in the service of the Tabernacle that stemmed from the command of God for man at creation. They mirror each other in the action of their worship. The vertical and horizontal relationships were not quite as separated (I think) as they are today. The worship, or more vertically oriented times, integrated with the mission, or doing - horizontal.

Like Ananias and Saphira. The consequences of their dishonest giving were treated as a vertical offense. God did not separate out their offense to him and thier missional act of giving. They were wrapped up together.

And like Job - he was extremely missional (Ch. 31), living out his relationship with God, but when doing ceased because of severe affliction, God still held him accountable in the place of his heart. The two are not separated into "seasons" or "worship vs. mission" when God comes to Job. He is confronted for his place of questioning before God. Both the former goodness and the present confusion are answered with, "I AM!" Maybe not a strong thought, but Job is a good example of mission and worship together.

The letters to the churches in Revelation are interesting to go to when considering worship and mission, too. I think they give strong evidence for the connectedness between the two.

So, I agree with many of the other posts in that worship and mission are bound together. Yet, Christ did emphasize times of having emphasis on vertical worship - prayer, Passover, separation, Sabbath. Both alone and coorporate times outside of missional work.

4:08 PM EDT  
Blogger Dean Ober said...

Hello JD,

I appreciate your blog, and great topics such as this one that you bring up. This is my first time commenting, my apologies if I jump in out of turn. I'm not familiar with the crowd, but it appears to be an open environment, so here are my thoughts.

In using the cup/vessel/lamp analogy of our lives on earth, lets clarify a few things to help us gain perspective on the topics of worship and mission.
To me, worship would be the presentation of our cup/vessel/lamp to God. and mission would be the overflow of God's bleessings from our cup/vessel, or simply the flame itself of our lamps.

So, I'm a holiness guy, and believe whole-heartedly that because of our sinful nature, we're leaking. The tough part though, is recognizing the leaks, and going through the healing process (but man is it a whole lot easier the healthier we are). Until we are able to retain God's blessings (until the leaks are flowing slower than God's outpouring) and our cup/vessel overflows, any effort we give personally to inentionally pour ourselves, weakens us. It becomes very evident that we have taken on our own mission, and not let God continue in blessing His.

On the more positive note: when we are able to retain God's blessings (my favorite being life itself) and life flows abundantly beyond our control, God's mission simply happens, and is fulfilled at the same time. And how worship (the presentation of our cup/vessel/lamp to God) is imperative here, is that we simply can't have God's life without offering ourselves, and allowing Him to "fill'er up".

If we live holy lives by God's grace, mission is no longer an effort on our part, but a problem (one of those good problems we love having to solve). The sad part about that though, is that we can't be a part of God's mission, unless we worship Him. In this sense, my heart echoes with Matt's, knowing that God's mission through us is fully dependent upon our worship. His mission will always be fulfilled (even without us, His children) as demonstrated in the Luke account of the Triumphal Entry "as the rocks cry out". So to me, for us to be invitedto be a part of His work is a blessing in itself.

2:23 PM EDT  

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