A few posts ago I included worship as part of our new church’s definition of mission. I included it because it seems possible for a church’s missional definition to focus only on the evangelistic part of our purpose, or perhaps to attempt a balanced purpose statement including community and outreach. But worship must not be an assumed part of our corporate identity, or an afterthought of our mission. Worship is at the core of our purpose. Indeed we might say that worship is the river out of which all other missional tributaries flow. We preach the gospel to unbelievers because we first love the God of the gospel. We build community with each other out of love for our Triune God. Proselytizing is not unique to Christians, nor is the building of community. Every religion seeks to gain converts and almost all organizations seek to cultivate community. But Christians do all that they do out of love for and obedience to God.
Worship has both a corporate and private dimension. It is corporate when we gather together as a church to worship God in song and in prayer, to worship God by sitting in submission under his Word, to worship God by encouraging one another, to worship God by remembering His gospel in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Our Sunday morning gathering certainly builds community and certainly shares the good news with unbelievers, but underneath these goals is the purpose of bringing God glory–of worshiping God.
Worship is also our purpose when we “scatter” as a church to worship God throughout the week. Our daily lives are to be a sacrificial offering to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2) and we are to do every activity for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). And certainly as we live on God’s Word as our spiritual bread, and drink of His Spirit as living water, and live out our gospel calling by loving the Lord with all that we are (Luke 10:27), we are worshiping God.
All can certainly affirm John Piper’s clarion sentence: “Missions exist because worship does not.”–We are missional so that others may become worshipers of God.
The reverse is also the case: True missions exist because worship exists. We preach the gospel, and build community, out of love for God.
And one more clarifying point is worth making. We want to be neither ‘pietists’ or ‘pragmatists’ in our worship of God–neither claiming that God is only worshiped through song, prayer, and “devotional” activities, nor claiming that God is only worshiped in activities like evangelism or practical service. The Bible defines both as worship and so should we.
What we must insure is that in all that we do, our affections are set on the Lord of glory, that our motive would be to know Him more deeply and serve Him more fully. We do this because, “he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:15)