The Relationship between Worship and Missions
"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church.† Worship is.† Missions exists because worship doesn't.† Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.† When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.† It is a temporary necessity.† But worship abides forever." Ė John Piper
It was Shakespeare who said, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." Only a fool plays his parts without seeking to please the One who called him out onto the stage of life and handed him the script, so to speak - 2 Timothy 2:4.
Now, Jesus said that the Father seeks true worshippers to bring Him glory - John 4:23 - so I suppose if God is to be pleased with our performance, it better be a worshipful one. The question is, "Of what does true worship consist?" I like William Temple's definition: "Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.† It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of mind by His truth, the purifying of imagination by His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, and the submission of will to His purpose. And all of this gathered up in adoration is the greatest expression of which we are capable." Jesus Himself exemplified this kind of worship; He glorified the Father by finishing the work He was given to do - John 17:4. So we see that worship is much more than feeling good feelings, thinking happy thoughts, and saying nice things about Jesus during the Lord's Supper. After all, life happens at the level of events, not of words - cf. 1 Corinthians 4:20. When we break bread on Sunday morning, itís the cusp of a new week; it's meant to be the crescendo of one week of worshipful submission to God and the beginning of another, not mere lip-service that belies our passivity in keeping His commandments during the week - Matthew 15:7-9 and John 14:15.†
Now, we know that one of His commandments is the Great Commission - Matthew 28:18-20 - so true worshippers will be actively engaged in evangelism and discipleship during the week. However, we also know that outward doing always springs from inward being. In Romans 2:28-29 we see three contrasts: inward versus outward, heart versus flesh, and Spirit versus letter. If any man hopes to receive praise from God, then, he must focus on inward change, not outward conformity; be driven by heart-felt conviction, not habit-forming ritual; and be found in the strength of the Spirit, not the weakness of his flesh. Since God is the One who examines the heart - 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 - we do well to cultivate a heart that beats in rhythm with His; eventually, what's inside will naturally flow out - John 7:37-38.
So now, instead of focusing on the doing, we want to feel the rhythm of God's heart so we can get in synch with Him. Clearly, God's heart in this dispensation of grace is wrapped up in missions, as defined by Count Zinzendorf: every heart with Christ is a missionary, every heart without Christ is a mission field. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost - Luke 19:10 - and so should we. Itís interesting to note that the Lord's post-resurrection ministry focuses solely on His children, not on the lost. He is currently preoccupied with interceding on our behalf - Romans 8:34 - because He's left the matter of reaching out to the lost in our hands. When He was here they heard Him, their eyes saw Him, they looked at Him and touched Him with their hands to see what God was like up close - 1 John 1:1. Now He's committed to us that ministry of reconciliation - 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 - which means the Church is the only game in town when it comes to showcasing the divine nature to the lost in any tangible way - i.e., in word and in deed.
Now, anyone can go through the motions of evangelistic fervor - just look at Philippians 1:15-18. If your motives aren't right, however, if your actions aren't prompted from the overflow of a worshipful heart, you lose your reward; for God doesn't judge by outward appearances, but looks at the heart - 1 Samuel 16:7. By the same token, however, true worship always leads to meaningful actions, inward being always has its outward manifestation - Matthew 7:17-18. So if we claim to be true worshippers, and yet we're not stirred to fervent evangelism and discipleship - both personally and corporately - we deceive only ourselves; for God's heart is fully invested in building His Church - Matthew 16:18. I think the sooner we "get" this as Assemblies, the sooner we'll see the kind of spiritual fruitfulness that characterized the first-century Church, and indeed the early days of the Brethren movement as well.
Psalm 2:8 says, "Ask of me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance...." Although this was spoken prophetically of the Christ, Colossians 1:12 says we've been qualified to share in that inheritance as saints in light. And James 4:2 says we do not have because we do not ask. We know that the course of history can be changed when righteous men pray - James 5:16-18. In fact, one of the main reasons God saved Lot out of Sodom was because Abraham prayed - Genesis 19:29! So I challenge myself: Am I a true worshipper of the Father? How fervently do I pray for the unsaved souls that God has placed around me? Do I feel what He feels about their impending doom? Do I really do all things for the sake of the gospel? What about you?
v Stephen T. Kia, 4/15/02