Worship: Missional or Manipulation


Last week I had the opportunity to lead a session at The Roots Seminar at the University of Jamestown.  Roots is a student led ministry organization that plans Worship Services, Lock-ins, and other community events.  I was asked to speak on how to plan Worship Services.  We looked at several different aspects of a service, and how to use different forms of media to communicate a particular message.  We looked at several different things that will influence the direction of the service such as audience, environment, media, message, and application.  After the conference, I began to think about one major aspect of a Worship Service that I totally forgot to mention.  Over the past few years, I have started looking at Worship Services from a Missional Focus.  What does it mean for a Worship Service to be Missional?  We need to answer this question for ourselves and really wrestle with the implications this can have on those that we lead in our congregations.  If we fail to consider the Missional aspect of our Worship Services, we run the risk of using tools of emotional manipulation to produce the response we want from our people rather than using worship to further the Missional purpose God intends to accomplish through the act of corporate worship.

So what makes a Worship Service Missional?  To answer that question, we need to define Worship.  Dictionary.com defines worship as a reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.  Another way to define worship is a lifestyle that honors God.  Worship is not a one-time event.  Worship is a lifestyle.  As Christ Followers, we are to honor God with our lives.  Everything that we do, say, think or feel should bring honor and glory to God.  When we honor God, we are fulfilling His overall mission of restoring creation and mankind to a right relationship with the creator.  Worship helps us to focus on the attributes and characteristics of God, and in doing so we realize that this life is not about us.  God becomes the focus of all we do.  Once our focus is on the right thing, then and only then are we able to complete the mission of God.  We will be able to live an “on mission” lifestyle because we are in tune with the “Mission Giver”.  So it is important for us to keep this aspect in mind when we plan our Worship Services.  If we loose this main focus, we can begin to make worship about us.  It becomes reduced to worship styles and personal preferences.  The Worship Wars of the past decade are proof of what happens when we lose site of the Missional component of Worship.  We tend to become masters of emotional manipulation rather than masters of Missional Magnification.

Churches have gotten very good at manipulating peoples emotions.  I have been in several Worship Service Planning Meetings and the emphasis was placed on which songs, videos, dramas, etc. could be used to elicit an emotion response.  We feel that if we can manipulate someone into repentance or challenge them to action that we are justified in using these tactics.  The ends justify the means.  We have to be very careful not to put the emphasis on people’s response to us and our “perceived” message.  We MUST point people to Jesus and the Cross.  The mission of God’s redemptive work of salvation and sanctification is the ultimate goal.  We must create an environment that allows people to have a personal, intimate encounter with God.  We must create space for the Holy Spirit to work.  We need to get out of the way and let God show up and show out.  Mission is the fuel that feeds the fire of our worship,

Worship and praising God is the fuel as well the goal of missions.  The redemptive value of worship energizes our acts of mercy towards others.  As nations see the dignity of worshiping God, it becomes the greatest blessing that He can bestow on us.  It becomes the most sharable message in the world.  God had specific ways He wanted His people to fulfill the missionary mandate.  He wanted them to go and tell of His glory to other nations.  He also wanted them to live their lives in such a way that other nations would be attracted to God and worship Him.

In order to fulfill God’s missionary purpose we need to join Him where He is working.  It should not be a sense of duty, but a passion for those who are lost.  We should have such a passion for God’s glory to be revealed that we are willing to go to great lengths to share with others.  We should have the purist of motives and work together to accomplish this task.  We should integrate evangelism and social interaction into every event we plan.  Our passion should be like a wild fire that spreads when fanned by the wind of the Holy Spirit.

The Message of the Gospel declares the victory that Jesus had over death, Satan, and sin.  They were each defeated by His first coming, and will be destroyed at His final coming.  Our mission as Christians is to share the Gospel with the entire world.  We make up God’s Kingdom on earth, and we have been given the mission to enlarge the borders by bringing others to a saving knowledge of Him.  Prayer is our weapon against Satan, and through prayer we can undo Satan’s work in the lives of believers.  Prayer will help us to know where God is working, and we can join Him there in Kingdom work.

In order for God’s Kingdom to continue to grow, we need to be in a state of constant prayer.  Our prayers need to be specific and strategic.  We need to pray for people to be delivered from idolatry and strongholds in their lives.  Prayer is not some mystical magic, but it a source of communication with God.  It allows us to be in tune with His Kingdom purpose, and become equipped for every good work.  We also need to pray for those who have never heard the Gospel.  Our prayers will prepare the way for the gospel to be shared and received.

Jesus came to provide grace and mercy for mankind.  He came to establish His kingdom in the hearts of men.  He taught that His mercy and forgiveness was for all nations.  Because He did not come in with an iron fist, He was killed.  The people misunderstood how the kingdom of God would be established.  They knew when the Messiah came, he would establish His kingdom, and it would have no end.  They assumed it would be by force and not by grace and mercy.

By looking at how God has moved throughout history, we can see that He works in the supernatural realm as well as the earthly realm.  Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and is constantly interceding on our behalf.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be victorious over satanic and demonic forces.

The first, second, and third century Christians were about this kind of transformational mission.  They preached and practiced a Christ-like life in the communities where they lived.  Being a follower of Jesus wasn’t a separate church function of their lives in which they participated once a week; it was their life in community with one another. This is what defined them.  When new believers were added to the church, scripture states, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NIV).  These early Christians had a mindset vastly different from our western twenty-first century world. They saw prayer, walking in the Spirit, working at their jobs, caring for their families, ministering to those in need, and the rest of their lives not in compartmentalized facets, but as a whole—integrated and continuous. This is true of the mission field today.  We really need to get back to a holistic approach of the Christian life.

So the emerging church in the first century tended to see prayer and faith and worship and loving others as Christ loved as an integrated whole.  Church wasn’t a weekly event, separate from their daily living. They were the church. That is what defined them.  The concept of Missional Worship implies that we not just think and talk about Christ one day of the week in a building somewhere. We cannot think in terms of participating in a church program or just attending a series of events. We must help those we lead to want to experience the totality of what Jesus is all about and model it daily before their children and within their community.  We must understand the mission Jesus gave us as a journey, a relational pilgrimage of becoming more and more like Christ, a mission that is to be lived out in every aspect of our lives within their community locally.  It is an experiential relationship with Jesus that transforms attitudes and actions.  Corporate prayer and worship in a fellowship is born out in the attending to the physical and emotional needs of people by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and befriending the outcasts and rejects of society. Our mission is to raise up transformed followers of Jesus by seeing people in the community redeemed spiritually as well as restored physically, relationally, economically, etc. This is a Missional approach to Worship.  We must begin to view Worship through this Missional Lens or our Worship Services will become archaic, outdated, and irrelevant to a world that we are so desperately trying to reach.  Take some time this week and discover what Worship really is, and how it can be used to accomplish the mission that God intended it to accomplish.

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