What is the central purpose of the church and the Christian life? Over the years, I’ve found that while some people want the church mainly focused on our worship of God, others prioritize our mission to reach the world. And there are good reasons for both.
We’re created to worship. Both gathering for corporate worship and living in obedience are acts of worship. Our Sunday gatherings should feed a lifestyle of worship throughout the week—and living in active worship should drive us to Sunday gatherings.
Yet missional living is central to the Christian life. We’ll have all eternity to worship God, but reaching the lost is one thing we can’t do in heaven. It’s vital to know how to prioritize both worship and mission in the local church. And if we don’t answer this question, others will. There will always be someone pulling for a certain emphasis in the church. This often comes to a head while planning our worship services, prioritizing ministries, and casting vision. The practical implications are endless.
Worship and mission are not opposing concepts; they are intertwined. After all, we can’t faithfully do one without the other.
How Worship and Mission Work Together
Worship and mission often collide in our gatherings. We planted 15 years ago in our local YMCA. What began as a temporary place to get started became a strategic partnership to reach the community. While it’s challenging not having our own facility, we’re grateful to regularly have visitors because of our location.
One week, the YMCA director asked us to make adjustments so they could host a high school swim meet during our worship service. The school that was supposed to hold the meet closed due to a bomb threat. Our community was upset and afraid, but our church’s leaders knew this was a great opportunity to serve them.
We made extra coffee, baked lots of muffins, and preached about God as our refuge from Psalm 46. The building was filled with hundreds of parents and swimmers. They all saw the body of Christ at work as we prayed for and welcomed them into our gathering. That morning, our worship and our mission were combined in a unique way. It’s vital to know how to prioritize both worship and mission in the local church. And if we don’t answer this question, others will. Click To Tweet
Worship and Mission As Our New Identity
Worship and mission should always intertwine and feed into each other. Scripture gives us this vision in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
As God’s chosen people, we have this beautiful new identity as a royal priesthood. This echoes the way God describes Israel in the Old Testament (Ex. 19:5–6). Unlike modern-day royal families, we’re not sitting around in our posh mansions waiting for the next photo op. The royal priests of God have a role. We’re actively worshiping and working on mission, ministering to those in need.
Overflowing Worship and Mission
God has called you to himself so that, “you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” But we must ask, are we declaring these praises up to God in worship or out to the world in mission? If we’re proclaiming excellent things about God, it’s definitely an act of worship. But Peter certainly also has mission in mind. How do we live before an unbelieving world that is watching our witness? Witness is not disconnected from worship; witness is an overflow of worship (1 Pet. 2:11–12).
As we share the gospel with people, we’re not giving a stale theology lesson. We’re not reciting a list of precepts so they can give their intellectual assent. We’re praising God, gushing about his amazing grace, and calling others to a life of obedience and worship. The good news of redemption is true and should be believed. But the good news of our Redeemer is also excellent and should be loved. Witness is not disconnected from worship; witness is an overflow of worship. Click To Tweet
God redeemed us so we would glorify him by living out his glory before the world and declaring it to the world. Worship is offering praise to God, and it overflows into telling the world about God. So let’s live and lead our churches as a people for God’s own possession, who overflow with praise and ministry to a hurting world.