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Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Worship and Mission: Part 3

One of the challenges we face in making the connection between worship and mission is our own quickness to settle for what I call the "should-must" motive. The rationale goes like this, "God did this, therefore we must do that." Said another way: "Jesus came all the way from Heaven to Earth therefore we should get out of these cozy pews and take the Gospel to the nations. While this is certainly true, it stops short of a real theological rationale, settling for a moral-ethical motive. The "should-must" motive feeds into the classic "indicative to imperative" play. It works to a certain extent because it puts the imperative on our shoulders. The imperative quickly gets mixed in with the urgent. "Time is running out, we must do something now." This leads to all sorts of inadequate strategies and structures of getting God's mission done.

The primary problem is this approach subtly throws the responsibility back on us to "get-er-done-for-God." We turn to a hierarchy of strategies ranging from nobility to altruism to philanthropy to duty to guilt and finally shame. (I once read a statistic that said the number one givers to missionaries are other missionaries. Go figure.) Sure God will help us and that's where prayer comes in play. There are those who go and those who give and those who pray and those who take an occasional vacation break mission trip and then there are the indifferent masses who give a salute and don't get involved. This leads to a representative structure wherein those who are serious about the mission represent the rest of us who know we should be serious about it too.

Not only does this moral-ethical approach hopelessly bifurcate worship and mission, it goes further to endlessly atomize the work of mission into multiple departments and even compartments. Worship and Mission. . . . . I want to say, "What God has joined together let noone put asunder."

Our task is to recognize that while the mission of God has deep moral and ethical dimensions, there is a deeper rationale for this work; a reason dwelling in the very heart of the Godhead. Anybody want to take a crack at it? How do we get past the thin motives and into the deeper realities?


posted by John David Walt | at 11/25/2008 08:11:00 AM



Blogger Jamey said...

I disagree. Although there are other great motives for being involved in mission, I think a "should-must" motive is just fine. I also think that the lectionary gospel reading for the 1st Sun of Advent (Mark 13) addresses this. In a way, Jesus says, "Time is running out, we must do something now." Because no one knows the day or the hour, Mark urges us to stay awake and prepare for His coming. Matthew in his gospel goes further to describe the work we are to be doing is mission amongst the least and the lost (gospel reading for Christ the King).

I think Jesus utilizes these motives to get us on board. Then, as we are on mission, we encounter Christ in the poor (again Matt 25), and we discover what the Missio Dei is all about.

It may appear that in worship we receive a moral/ethical conviction that sends us out on mission, but in fact the deeper theological rationale of the connection o f worship and mission can only be grasped when we are doing both. Christ uses a moral-ethical motive in order to get us out on the mission field where He teaches us His theological rationale through the poor.

4:47 PM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

jamey-- you raise some good arguments. i particularly like your point about the deeper theological rationale of the connection between worship and mission only being grasped when we are doing both. I also like your thinking about God teaching us on the mission field itself-- the place where we learn this theological rationale through the poor and that it is in the poor that we encounter Christ and discover what the Missio Dei is all about. Good arguments. Thanks for pushing me in this dialogue.

I maintain my point about this indicative to imperative movement being shallow and ultimately a substitute for real Christian mission. It seems to me that Jesus says, "Time is running out, therefore I must do something now. I will send my Spirit and my Spirit will do my mission through my Church.

The real mission is the mission of God not our mission for God. This bifurcation, in my judgment is the problem. God and us. After Pentecost, the story is union-- God in us. The real issue is our weak pneumatology. We have to drum up should and must motivation for our self-satisfying sense of mission because we are unwilling to patiently wait on the Spirit's direction and we are unwilling to obediently make the living sacrificial offering of everything. In other words, we search for significance in doing mission while the Spirit is looking for an absolute abandonment of our lives to the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit.

Instead of forming holy ones (i.e. saints set apart on divine mission exalting the name of God) we settle for busy ones. (i.e. servants scrambling to accomplish a mission in God's name exalting the name of the Church. The former is transcendent functionalism. The latter is functional transcendence. One is surrender, the other striving. While striving can get a lot of good things done. It will never accomplish the mission of God in the World.

I concede that this is a journey; that one doesn't begin with abandonment and perhaps the moral-ethical motivation is a necessary stage through which we must pass.

Now let me tip my hand. You say, "in fact the deeper theological rationale of the connection of worship and mission can only be grasped when we are doing both." I assert that this place of doing both is in the Eucharist. This is the place where worship and mission become like the reversible jacket referred to in an earlier post. to worship in this fashion is to simultaneously become the mission.

that's a mystery and if anyone understands what i'm struggling to say it will be a miracle.

11:15 PM EST  
Blogger Jamey said...

The miracle is that I have continued to study Mark 13 and have come to a similar conclusion apart from your entry! As I see Mark is seeing the "signs of the times" being lived out in the suffering missional church of the 1st century as he writes his gospel. It is as if he has traveled through the moral imperative and found his works of ministry wanting to provide real relief the broken world in which he lives. It is at that point that Mark realized that Jesus wasn't saying, "Time is running out--do something," but rather "Time is running out I am doing something and will do something." So Mark says like Princess Leah said to Obi Wan Kenobi, "Jesus, You are our ONLY hope." What better time to really grasp this than Advent, when we hope in Christ on the clouds and Emmanuel, "God with us." And what better place to really grasp this than in the Eucharist when we corporately say, "CHrist has died - CHrist has risen - CHrist will come again!" and pray that God would break us open and pour us out to offer healing to our world as He has done in the elements.

Pray that I can communicate this Sunday. . .

1:34 PM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

wow jamey. good stuff. my word for Sunday: use the force! jd

1:57 PM EST  
Blogger Rob said...

strong post and follow up comment, jd. i agree whole-heartedly on this one. at the core, the only imperative is jesus saying "follow me." and you are right on about the pneumatology comment, because jesus didn't ascend and then say, "um, about that follow me thing...disregard and go out and lead for me." no, he basically said, "don't even think about going and doing until you have the new (pneu?) way of following me." so the call is still to "do what the father is doing." blackaby through-and-through.

8:47 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am poor. I drown in debt daily. I am unable to be fiscally responsible due to a series of poor financial decisions in my past. I am in contact with my financial institutions, but seemed to have stretched my bridges with them to the limit. Tension rises each and every day as less and less of my payments go towards principal. As I have been given victory over sin and death by our savior, my eternal debt to God has been paid. However, my debtors here on earth are a bit less forgiving.

If I may challenge you, my challenge is this:

Does my own personal fiscal responsibility permit me to not financially support mission work?

Think about it. If I am the poor, there is a thin line between those I should help, and those I clearly shouldn't. I believe whole heartedly that my story is evidence of the topic at hand.

I packed up all I owned, and relocated to a domestic mission front. Children and youth were able to see and experince the Gospel (and some learned to believe it). However, during that time, I made poor financial decisions that have crippled so much ministry that could be happening today. Don't get me wrong, I followed Christ to that work, but sometime while I was there, I stopped. Even if it was but for just a moment. The good news though, is that when God began calling me elsewhere, He blessed that ministry to the point that my mission was completed. The local church now has several established and locally supported childrens and youth programs.

Bottom line: we can live in the shoulds, or we can live in the present. And in my mind, living in the shoulds is kinda like my children and youth mission, but I failed to live in the present, thus acquiring 10k in credit card and various other debts.
As long as we live in the present, following Christ, He will take us on whatever mission He wants. But to circumvent His authority as King of our lives, that's just plain not cool.

11:56 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It may seem a paradox to say that a man may be transported with joy to discover that he is in debt. But this is only because in commercial cases the creditor does not generally share the transports of joy; especially when the debt is by hypothesis infinite and therefore unrecoverable.

...debt and dependence do become pleasure in the presence of unspoilt love... it is the highest and holiest of the paradoxes that the man who really knows he cannot pay his debt will be forever paying it. He will be forever giving back what he cannot give back, and cannot be expected to give back. He will always be throwing things away into a bottomless pit of unfathomable thanks.

The truth is in that riddle; that the whole world has, or is, only one good thing; and it is a bad debt."

G.K. Chesterton in his Biography of
St. Francis of Assisi. ch. 5

12:43 AM EST  
Blogger Marilyn said...

"This leads to a representative structure wherein those who are serious about the mission represent the rest of us who know we should be serious about it too."

You say the truth here. It is my own experience, even though I am often one of the engaged ones. Sometimes I just (almost consciously) let others do it.

And I couldn't agree with you more about the should-must motive. It is adolescent ... immature, and doesn't hold you for the long haul. It drives us into a way of life that is heavily obliged and not lifegiving. "Doing the work of God destroys the work of God in us."

Really, the should-must is about our own competancy, our own resources and abilities. It feeds into pride. And we can do a lot on our own.

I have too much experience in this. Sadly.

12:09 PM EST  

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