Worship to the Ends of the Earth
- Saturday, March 24, 2007
NASHVILLE -- What comes to mind when you think about worship? Do you think about something that occurs on Sunday morning, or do you think about the total context of your life? Do you “hear” worship in terms of Southern Gospel melodies, contemporary choruses, or a multiplicity of tongues with strange melodies?
Worship has, in some quarters, become an issue of controversy related to various styles of music. These debates about worship styles are simply another symptom of our spiritual myopia, which evaluates most church events or experiences in terms of what pleases or appeals to us. Worship is not about us! We are not the audience. God is both object and audience, and we are those who participate in worship through the offering of ourselves to the King.
Our myopic thinking, which judges worship on whether or not it pleases us, may indicate how little we think about the world and the global church. I have been in international settings when people from a large number of nations sang the same hymn in their own national language. It was a glorious moment of worship which made the participants wonder about the beauty of worship in heaven when God gathers people from every tribe, tongue and language group to praise Him. Is it possible that our worship here could begin to reflect the glory of Kingdom worship?
Worship is central to the Kingdom-centered church because it flows out of devotion to the King and provides the passion and power that prompts the church to extend the ministry to the ends of the earth. Authentic worship should keep the church passionate about the world, with the singular desire that all peoples and all nations would know the King and worship Him. Thus, missional activity will be the natural outgrowth of worship.
Worship in the Early Church
In past columns we have consistently looked to the early church for our model of the Kingdom-centered church. I would encourage you to pause a moment and read Acts 2:41-47. Listen to these descriptive statements about the early church: “They devoted themselves to… the breaking of bread, and to prayers” (2:42), and “every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” (2:46-47a).
When you read that text what commands your attention? Worship was not something that was practiced for a short time on Sunday morning; it was part and parcel of life for the early church. It literally permeated their existence. We often forget that many early Jewish Christians would have been abandoned by their families and, thus, fellow believers became their family. The practice of taking their meals together was more than a soup kitchen line for the needy; it was the passionate desire for fellowship and worship that compelled the early believers to gather daily for food and worship.
We have lost something of the power and majesty of worship because we have relegated it to a fixed hour on Sunday morning rather than making it the focus of our existence. If worship permeated our daily life, we would live daily in the anticipation of the moment that we could assemble with our church family in corporate worship. Thus, our attendance pattern would never be an issue of convenience but one of necessity. When we do attend, we would judge the value of worship based on whether it pleased God and changed us rather than whether it entertained or pleased me.
I have long been drawn to the church at Antioch, which was a church with a global vision. They dared to believe that they had been empowered to reach the world with the Gospel. How does a church develop such vision and courage? The key is found in Acts 13:2: “As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said....” The Greek words translated “ministering” is leitergeo, from which we get the word liturgy. This church was worshipping when the Lord gave them the passion and strategy to reach the known world by sending Paul and Barnabas on a church-planting missionary journey. Authentic worship will cause our hearts to be in tune with the heart of God and will thus result in meaningful service and intentional mission.
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