Evangelism Professor Mark Teasdale says that an essential function of worship is to undergird a congregation’s missional identity. In worship, God consecrates us to carry forth God’s holiness as we serve in God’s mission of making disciples.
Worship and mission go hand in hand, each supporting each other. Worship is essential if we are to be missional.
I confess that I have not always seen worship as so important. I thought worship was boring when I was a kid (and as an adult I don’t always have a better opinion of it!) This is because worship is so often disconnected from mission. Aside from a possible announcement about mission activities the congregation supports, worship is often treated as the opposite of going into mission. It is more a consumer activity. A worship service is something someone else does for you, like a full-service gas station where the attendants pump your gas and clean your windows. Likewise, many of us experience worship as a service performed by professionals who pray, read the Bible, and sing praises for us. We do not know it as an invitation into the presence of God and God’s mission.
Every time we gather to worship we should come prepared to be consecrated for our ongoing preparation in God’s mission.
Congregations that fret over whether their worship service is seeker-friendly or contemporary enough miss the point. If worship is not more than a service, and if a service is just something professionals provide for people, then people will find worship lacking regardless of its style. This may not happen right away if a congregation has high production values for their worship services, but if the primary work people are asked to do in worship is simply to consume the service, a congregation will need to make their services bigger, better, and more exciting to keep people coming. This is the opposite of the call of God for congregations to be missional. Consumer logic and missional logic do not mix.
The primary reason that worship becomes unhinged from mission is because congregations forget that God is present when God’s people worship. Jesus make it clear that God shows up every time disciples are together: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt18:20). This includes worship. When we ignore God’s active presence, worship becomes just a repetition of rituals and words that have little connection to the outside worlds. This makes it easy to segment worship away as a chore we do once a week rather that to see it as something that influences how we live.
If God is with us when we worship, that should change everything. Our worship opens the door for us to enter God’s holiness as a congregation. We praise God together for that holiness, and we allow God to consecrate us to be carriers of that holiness as we serve in God’s mission of making disciples. Jesus consecrates us for the holy work of mission when we gather in his presence. Baptism, commissioning, and ordination are unique moments when we as a people of God acknowledge and celebrate God’s consecrating power for specific individuals or for specific acts of worship.
All of us can seek and celebrate God’s consecration during our regular times of worship. This is important because consecration is not a one-time event. We sometimes need to be re-consecrated. God understands this.
Remember, the Great Commission in Matthew tells us to serve as witness “as we are going” throughout our daily lives. The missional tactic of being consecrated regularly through worship is important for us to avoid losing our focus on carrying God’s holy gift of discipleship to others. Every time we gather to worship we should come prepared to be consecrated for our ongoing preparation in God’s mission.
This article is excerpted from Go! How to Become a Great Commission Church (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2017) by Mark Teasdale. Used by permission. The book is available at Cokesbury and Amazon.
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