Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Mission and Worship

Over the last couple of years I have been on a significant journey in terms of my understanding of what the church is and what the church does. I've been studying these questions at college and sought to do much reading on it (still nowhere near enough mind you) and tried to observe churches in their various streams. I have spoken to many different people from many different theological and cultural backgrounds and tried to come to a place where I feel I can stand. Now I'm not sure I'm really in a place where I can stand, more in a place where I'm kneeling, but then maybe that is actually the best place to be.

One of the things I have been trying to understand is how the church exists week to week within the UK. Church in the UK continues to decline and in a small way I've been trying to figure out why that might be. I don't think there is one answer. I don't think there are simple answers. One thing I would say however is that maybe one of the reasons is because of where our understanding of worship is.

So often the church in the West organises itself around what happens on a Sunday. So everything is geared up around this time when everyone meets together to worship God together. Now meeting together is a good thing and something Scripture tells us we must continue in. But I wonder whether our understanding of what that worship consists of is one of the issues.

I do not believe worship is something that purely happens on Sunday morning, but that it is a way of life. Worship is what we should do with our whole being at all times in all situations.

I believe that mission is a means through which we worship God. It is not merely a fruit of worship, but a means through which we worship. It is an expression of our love for God and our love for others. Mission is a continuation in the ministry of Christ. 'As the Father sent me so I send you'. Mission is worship.

The church should be committed to preaching the Gospel as a way thorough which it declares its love for God. So when we meet together, our worship needs to reflect God's heart to see that 'none should perish.'

And surely Communion is at its very heart a meal of mission? 'For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.' As we share in this meal we are worshipping God and participating in Christ. And surely, if we are participating in Christ we are participating with him in his ministry to reconcile all things?

So much of the church in the West is more concerned with what happens in the four walls of our buildings rather than being concerned about the people outside of it. The Incarnation reveals to us a God who is deeply concerned about all that he has created and therefore became a part of that creation in order to redeem it. We therefore should have equal concern (if that were possible). As soon as mission comes of our radar and is merely something that we hope will happen as a result of worship then we're in trouble. But when mission is realised to be a part of our worship then I believe the church will be in a better place before God.


BanksyBoy said...

An amazing quote:

The problem is that a large massive group of people who have gathered for an hour a week can easily deceive themselves into thinking that's 'Church'. But Church is a sort of revolutionary movement of people who have the body and blood at their centre who see themselves as we are here to break OUR bodies and to pour out OUR blood for the healing of the world. And what can easily happen is the 'show', the hour on Sunday, the big exciting thing, can easily become a surrogate for actual community...

An excerpt from Rob Bell answering a question on Mega Churches at Greenbelt 2009.

Full version downloadable from GB website.


Sam Norton said...

Joe - is there anything worth doing as a Christian that doesn't count as worship for you?
My worry is that whenever something else is placed higher than worship (whatever that something else might be - mission, service, proclamation, whatever) that our roots in God get undermined and eventually vanish.
Which I think is one of the reasons why the church is in such a sorry state these days - it's like a man in a boat frantically bailing out the rising water (with all manner of worthy initiatives) whilst not paying attention to putting a bung back in the hole where the water is coming in. I think that God will continue to chastise the church - ultimately reducing its present forms to nothing - until we get our priorities right.

BTW I find it interesting that much of the critique of my series has ended up focusing on things that I never mentioned ;)

Joe said...

'BTW I find it interesting that much of the critique of my series has ended up focusing on things that I never mentioned ;)' - Words are slippery aren't they! ;0)

I believe God is especially present in certain acts of worship (the Sacraments). But I also believe that worship is something so much more than what happens when Christians meet together. Our lives should be worship. Now I recognise that the reality is much of my life is not worship, but my desire is that God will enable me to be a better life worshipper.

Again, I really don't think worship and mission are separate things. I believe they are intrinsically linked. Something that struck me in India is that a love and passion for Jesus goes hand in hand with mission. And the church is growing at a phenomenal rate there. God's Spirit is transforming thousands of lives every week. Mission is vital to them. When you become a Christian in India you go and tell someone straight away. And that comes with great risk. We spoke to so many people who's lives had been in danger, would been beaten and who had friends killed because of their faith in Jesus. Yet they will not stop telling people about him.

I agree with you, I think the church in the West is being chastised. I agree with you that our worship has not been worshipful. I also want to say its because our love hasn't been lovely.

Sam Norton said...

"Contemplation begins with allowing God to love us. It begins in gift. We cannot give what we ourselves are not receiving."
From here: http://diggingalot.org/diggingalot/?p=2214

Joe said...

I really like that article. I enjoy just 'being' with God and allowing him to love me. What a beautiful thing that is!
Before the fulness of the Kingdom comes though we cannot 'just' contemplate, but our contemplation and recognition of God's love for us should compel us to share with our community God's love for them. Not through fear and anxiety, but through love. Perfect love casts out fear. We implore people on Christ's behalf to be reconciled to God.

I really am not seeking to be a 'busy evangelist'! I want to learn more and more what it means to live a life of balance where I take myslef off in the middle of the night and spend time with my God, but where I also go and do the work of a evangelist.

Sam Norton said...

And nothing wrong with that! All I'm insisting on is that contemplation must have a priority - and true contemplation always - always - bears fruit in right action.

Joe said...

I suppose I would want to say that true contemplation means that mission is not merely a fruit, but a part of it.

I think what we're seeing is what God has called us to. You are called to be a carer of souls, whereas I am called to be a evangelist...