It may seem off-base to worship God for the sake of the world. We might be more inclined to think that we worship God for God’s sake or at least for our sake. But for the sake of the world? Without denying the other options I want to suggest that we really should consider what it means to worship God for the sake of the world; especially as we work to reconcile what seem to be opposite impulses in the life of the church: worship and mission. First let’s review what we have discussed over the last seven weeks about mission ...

God’s Mission and the Christ
Christ is Lord over all creation. There is one kingdom.
There are not multiple kingdoms with rulers other than Christ. The contest is over. Jesus is exalted as Lord or as Peter said, "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:36). All the earth and all creation may submit to this rule or resist it.
Christ’s people live by that rule – everywhere in the world. Our allegiance to Christ is not determined by political, national, or cultural boundaries. We are not any more or less Christian based on where we live. Whether or not America is considered a "Christian" nation does not determine our allegiance to the rule of Christ. Whether or not the south remains the "Bible belt" does not determine our allegiance to Christ. Those who call on the Christ and submerge their lives into live by the rule of the savior and are citizens of his emerging kingdom.
We are defined by his rule and his mission. So ultimately, our character and the character of the church is shaped by the common Lord and the common mission that gathers up the people of Christ and sends them out into creation. We are shaped by the character of our king (When you think of a kingdom, the kings image and name are printed on all the money and legal documents and seals and his own person becomes the standard of measurement – a foot, a span, a yard).

God’s Mission and the Church
God’s Mission is to the world
– Now we see how this defines the church. The church is not an institution or organization to keep Christians busy. The church is not a place to get together and do stuff or go to worship. The church is a collection, a community, an assembly of people called out by the King. We represent his rule in the world. How do we do that? We are like the Jesus who was sent into the world to represent God. We are being gathered and also sent out. Our calling out has purpose. We are not different just to be different. We are different for the sake of the world so it too may turn to the King.
Mission is the character of the church – It is God’s mission and we are involved in mission to the world because we follow God and our Lord to give witness to what he is doing. Not a program of the church – We are not independent contractors. God did not give us the evangelism concession for this planet. God is operating in the world and we are recipients of that mission and witness to what he has done, is doing and will do. Sent by God for sake of the world – Thus mission is not simply limited to "missions" or "local outreach." Those activities are part of mission in the same way the college ministry, the youth ministry, small groups, benevolence, education and all other activities are part of the mission. This is because mission is part of who we are in Christ and not just what we do. So everything is mission – even worship? Ah yes, here’s where the reality of all this starts to rub against the grain of our ingrained concepts ... By compartmentalizing and departmentalizing the activities of the church we have begun to think too rigidly about what is for "insider" and what is for "outsiders." It has created an "us and them" way of thinking that hampers our participation in God’s mission efforts in the world. This rigid "us and them" way of thinking is seen most vividly in the typical misconceptions about worship and mission and their relationship with one another.

The first, and probably the most prominent, view is a traditional one that for the purpose of discussion we will call the "Inside and Outside" view. The concept of insider and outsider or "us and them" separates worship and mission. Worship is for those inside the church. Mission takes place outside. The inside and outside approach views worship as the activity for those inside the church which equips them or refreshes them for the task of mission which is limited to work "outside" the church. Worship is reduced to motivation of the church for its mission to outsiders. Worst of all, worship and mission are distinct activities in the church’s life.

That’s why some have tried the next approach ... The "Outside In" approach responds to the Inside and Outside approach by bringing the mission activity of the church inside to the worship assembly. (Bring the "outside" activity directly into the context of worship for a presentation of the gospel.) In this approach the worship is regarded as either a presentation of the gospel for a captive audience of outsiders. This approach may be an attempt to unite worship and mission, but in the end we can never be sure if what we come up with is worship or mission. Bringing the outside in to the inside is sometimes called worship evangelism. But attempts at worship evangelism do not consider the unity of the two. Instead, they attempt to re-orient the focus of worship on the outsider. (And though rarely admitted, sometimes the attempt is to bring some of that good stuff we’ve been dispensing on outsiders back in here on the inside.) The "us and them" thinking is still in effect. What remains is the false choice that worship is strictly for insiders and evangelism is strictly for outsiders. The concepts of mission and worship are both warped. Mission becomes nothing more than outreach or getting folks into the worship. Worship becomes an evangelistic presentation that admits to being of little use to the so-called "insider." Worship is reshaped to accomplish the tasks of the church’s mission. The tasks of mission become the purpose of worship and the result is that neither worship nor mission really happens.

Inside Out
The trouble with both of the previous approaches is that they are flat, two-dimensional and they do not account for God’s missional activity in the world and our participation in that activity. If we consider how God is the outreaching creator who sends his son and sends his people then we will understand how worshipping God turns us inside out to serve the world he loves and how his love gathers us up to worship him.

Warping and War
If we do not bring worship and mission together again, then worship and mission are both going to be warped – which leads to misunderstandings that get us into worship wars with one another and those on the outside. False Choices about worship: Traditional or Contemporary? Reflective or Emotional? Seeker or Founder? Meditative or Enthusiastic? Spontaneous or Ordered? These false choices are the result of separating and reducing worship and mission. The result will be distortions, or warping worship. And it leads to questions like "Which is more important – worship or mission? Which does God care about most?" It is difficult to find biblical answers to unbiblical questions.

A Royal Priesthood
The biblical images always balance worship and mission. The connection between God and his mission to the world and the worship of his people who are gathered up in that mission is always clear. We will look at some others, but for now consider 1 Peter 2:9-12. Our connection with the world is clear: We share in the brokenness and suffering of the world. Once we were not a people but now we are the people of God! We are now a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation – but not to shun the world but to invite the entire world to our nation. We witness to the world and bring the world before God (we are representative of the world). Like the breastplate of the high priest that brought the names of Israel’s tribes before God we too bring the names of the world and its woes before our creator. In our worship we proclaim God’s power and grace for all to hear, and in our participation in his mission we bear witness to God before the entire world.

How do we worship God for the sake of the world?

  1. Focus on God. True worship encounters the living God who is real and present. In worship, we respond to the call of God.
  2. Enact the Gospel. Worship must be rooted in the gospel event as it is being re-experienced Our worship must be a response to the good news of God’s action rather than our self-interests. Worship that enacts the good news creates a people who share God’s mission. Worship that celebrates our church agenda is at best merely satisfying and at worst vulnerable to forces of a consumer market.
  3. Structure worship to embody the gospel. Worship is an incarnational experience. Worship is more than mere talk or thought. It is a living event. The language and form are the body or outer shell in which the living event, the celebration of the risen Christ, is re-enacted and renewed.

Discussion Guide
  1. How are we defined by the Lordship of Christ? Is Christ Lord even if we don't receive him as Lord? If not, what does that say about His rule? What does that say about His kingdom? If so, what does it say about each?
  2. If Christ's kingdom is not of this earth (i.e., a place or territory), then how do we understand it? What do the words reign, rule, authority, and sovereignty have to do with a word like kingdom? Is an earthly kingdom more than just political terrain? If so, then how does that help us understand the kingdom of God?
  3. How is our concept of mission improved if we understand mission to be a characteristic of the church and not just a program of the church?
  4. What does it mean to participate in God's mission?
  5. Two limited views of the relationship (or lack of relationship) between worship and mission were discussed in this sermon - Inside and Outside, Outside In. Which of these are you most familiar with? Why? How have you/do you understand the relationship between worship and mission?
  6. How does the Inside Out concept of worship and mission demonstrate the unity of worship and mission? What advantages does it have over the other views? How does it help us understand the relationship between God, the world, and the church?
  7. Do you think we have to make a choice between worship or mission? Why or why not?
  8. What happens when we focus on worship to the exclusion of mission? What happens to the church when we focus on mission to the exclusion of worship? How do these contribute to "worship wars"?
  9. Read 1 Peter 2:9-12. What does it mean to be a royal priesthood? A priest is one who intercedes; for whom do we intercede? A priest serves God in worship; how do we serve God in worship? What does 1 Peter say? Is Peter describing worship or mission?
  10. Read Genesis 12:1-9. Is Abraham being called to worship God or to enter into God's mission to the world? How do verses 7 and 8 help answer this?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 20 February 2005

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