Tag Archives: Worship

Worship, Service, and Mission

9:06 AM My good friend Craig Bennett is back from a transforming retreat. He tells all in his latest post called Stripped away. Craig notes:

I have to say that at this point in time, I am ruined for the lifestyle of traditional church. Our modern churches are too safe. They are too “ME” centered. While its true, most churches proclaim Christ and him crucified – it seems to me that most neglect the important part of living out Christ and him resurrected within the midst of our communities. There is little sense of the importance of mission in the midst of our community.  There is little sense of the importance of those who we walk on by.

This is so right on! In recent years I have come to view church in a vastly different way than I used to view it when I was a younger teacher. I have, in fact, adopted a new set of theological assumptions that color my theological world and the way in which I view church and missions. My former worldview was deeply shaped by twentieth-century evangelicalism. In my experience, to be an evangelical Christian was to be a good church goer. Christianity was fundamentally about us. What was lost in this view was both the missional dimension of the church and the cruciform nature of Christianity. Today my definition of discipleship has shifted considerably from that of being “a good church goer.” Discipleship means following Christ in obedience. It means participating in God’s mission in the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. Discipleship is exercised primarily in the broader culture rather than within the church. Missional theology, understood through the framework of the book of Acts, invites us to express our discipleship not only in doctrinal formulations (though these are vitally important) but also in missional practices and concrete acts of service.

For this reason, like Craig, I can’t be content any longer to talk about a missional theology without at least exploring its implications for its transformation potential. God’s concerns are much bigger than the typical church’s concerns. Take worship for example. Understood biblically, worship is not a gathering of individual Christians seeking an intimate experience with God. Rather, worship is the offering of our lives sacrificially to Him daily (see Rom. 12:1-2). Worship is not merely an occasional activity of the believer. Instead, it defines the core of Christian discipleship: We are called to be worshippers in every sphere of life by participating in the Triune God’s mission in the world. This can take place only through intentional “neighboring” practices and in relationship with non-Christians. The key is for ordinary Christians (like you and me) to develop their capacity to serve their neighbors in love. The work of the Spirit is crucial to this renewed participation in society. Christians are to embody the ethics of Jesus before a watching world, providing it with a limited but powerful glimpse of what it means to be a bearer of God’s image. The Gospels clearly present Jesus as constantly moving into unfamiliar territory across cultural barriers and social lines. And at the heart of it all is the cross – the profound need for reconciliation through Jesus Christ, in whom God has acted to overcome the enmity of human sin. True Christian discipleship always means taking part in Christ’s ministry in the world in a dynamic yet concrete fashion.

Thus, when we speak of worship today, a much wider definition is needed. The church does not gather in order to worship. Believers gather as worshippers who have found their vocation in sharing in the community of Christ as He sends them like sheep among wolves to minister to the needs of others. This, as I said, represents a major paradigm shift in my own understanding of Christian worship. As I see it, too much of what passes as Christian worship today is unaffected by the world. It stands aloof, isolated, and ingrown. The incarnation and crucifixion are sung about but the realties behind these truths are rarely put into practice. Rather than participating deeply in the life of the world, the church holds itself apart from the world. This leads, in turn, to a highly individualistic conception of discipleship – a kind of anthropocentricism focused solely on an individual relationship with Jesus that fails to take into account the wider fabric of the Christian community, not to mention the Triune God’s life and activity with all creation. What remains is a watered-down, emasculated version of worship in which the vocation of the church as a missional, worshiping Body is severely diminished.

One of the key trends in the world of seminary training today is the struggle to understand what a “missional” church looks like. I would suggest that a good place to start might be our understanding of New Testament worship. Such an understanding may well open up new possibilities of thought in matters such as congregational polity, leadership, and even missional theology.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

The Doctrine of the Church: 8 Points

4:48 AM Looking forward to our study of the doctrine of the church on Sunday mornings. Much of what we call “church” today originated, not in the New Testament, but in post-apostolic times.

  • The Lord’s Supper has changed from a celebration to a ceremony.

  • Worship has changed from participation to observation.

  • Witness has changed from relationship to salesmanship.

  • Leadership has changed from servanthood to professionalism.

  • Mission has changed from being missionaries to supporting missionaries.

  • Body life has changed from edification to entertainment.

  • Buildings have changed from functional to sacred.

  • Child care has changed from the hands of parents to the hands of strangers.

The New Testament shows us that the need great of modern Christianity is to return to biblical faithfulness and the profound simplicity of the New Testament.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

What to Do Each Sunday

From Dave Black Online:

5:22 PM While running my errands today I happened upon our local Christian radio station that was airing what appears to be a new series on the church by Chuck Swindoll. Chuck had us looking at Christ’s promise to build His church and then he requested his audience to turn to Acts 2 for a look at the birth of the church. Focusing on Acts 2:42, he emphasized that there are four marks of a local church. There will always be these four marks, he claimed. There may be more but never less. The four marks, as recorded by Luke, are teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and prayers. Ironically, and sadly in my view, Chuck reinterpreted the third mark to refer to “worship.” Is this, perhaps by metonymy, what doctor Luke meant? I suppose it is possible. Of course, he may have also meant for us to take him quite literally — that when the early church met it observed the Lord’s Supper. I happen to think he meant the latter. The early church was focused on Christ. It fellowshipped around Him. His body and blood were commemorated regularly. Just because many of us no longer do so today is no reason for us to take the breaking of the bread and transform it into what today we call “worship services.” (True worship, of course, is not what we do on Sunday but what we do 24/7. See Rom. 12:1-2. I have commented on this subject in my essay Enter to Serve, Depart to Worship.) Continue reading What to Do Each Sunday