May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise, O God; let all the peoples praise you! (Psalm 67:1-3)
A number of years ago, I was part of a small team that visited a para-church missions ministry based out of a major city in the south. We were there to hear from the leader of the organization about its vision, values, and strategy for global impact. When we arrived, he introduced himself and proceeded to play a short video, outlining the purpose of the ministry he led.
To be honest, I found the video to be somewhat troubling. It began with footage of different churches gathering to worship God–people dancing, singing, raising their hands, and displaying their joy in the Lord. Then the screen went black just before it played ominously scored footage of fighter jets dropping bombs on villages, children with swollen bellies, refugee camps, and abortion clinics. In other words, the message of the video was one of contrast. While the church is busy gathering in its four-walled, air-conditioned sanctuaries, the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Or so it was suggested.
But does this contrast really need to be made? Does the church need to choose between gathering to worship God and being sent on His mission? Based on what we find in Scripture, the answer, I believe, is no. In fact, worship and mission aren’t only non-contradictory, they are complimentary. Thus any dichotomy between worshiping God with the church and living on mission as the church is unnecessary and unbiblical.
A Living Broadcast of God’s Saving Power
Psalm 67 (see above) unfolds as a sung-prayer. It’s a missional song, which petitions God to bless His church for a global purpose. The world needs larger-than-life hope and God offers it through us, of all people. That should quickly humble us because we aren’t fit for the task. But our sovereign God most certainly is. Thus our first order of business when considering the missionary impulse of true worship should be to abandon ourselves and seek God for fresh favor, which is exactly what the psalmist invites us to do.
With the full force of biblical inspiration, Psalm 67 convinces our fidgety, self-protecting hearts that God is more than sufficient to carry out His mission, with or without us. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t exclude us based on our incompetence. Instead He lets us in on the ground floor of His blessing to show off the Good News that He rescues us and offers us a dramatic role in His campaign of cosmic redemption.
Therefore the church–whether gathered or scattered–dwells among the nations as a living broadcast of God’s saving power. Do you get that? Is your Christianity portraying this to make His way known on the earth? Or is church attendance merely a “spiritual” garnish on the side of your American Dream? These kinds of questions, when considered with a take-no-prisoners honesty, may ruin you to the status quo by unleashing the endless possibilities of missionary impulse.
How Worship Fuels Mission
When this reality lands on us as Psalm 67 intends for it to, it is incredibly freeing. We can stop feeling embarrassed and reluctant about God’s saving power, exchanging our quietism for the apostolic battle cry, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). People who have come fully alive to God’s saving power have an unashamed ambition to make Jesus known. Why? Because they’ve been gripped by His glory. And they want as many people as possible to come and experience the joy of knowing Him. John Piper helps us to see this relationship more clearly:
“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 countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before throne of God, missions will be no more. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God. But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.” (Let The Nations Be Glad, p. 17)
So this Lord’s Day, as we gather, will we cherish God for all He’s worth? Will we express a passion for His glory on a level that commends His saving work to a lost and dying world? If we’re called to invite the nations to be glad in the Lord, shouldn’t that gladness begin with us?
The only reasonable answer to such questions is to stop drawing contrasts between the worthwhileness of Sunday and the world’s need for real salvation. We don’t have to settle for worship-less mission, nor for mission-less worship, because a faithful church doesn’t abandon one for the other. Rather, God cultivates our missionary impulse in worship by turning us away from ourselves and our small-mindedness toward His great global purpose, which is the glory of Christ in the joy of the nations. That’s the only thing that matters. And it will matter forever. So let the psalmist’s plea be ours as well: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”
Liturgy for Sunday, April 19, 2015:
Call to Worship:
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:1, 4)
Confession & Assurance:
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:10-14)
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. (Psalm 67:1-2)
You may also follow our Spotify playlist for this Sunday.