Worship and Mission: The Great Paradox

If you have lead worship anytime within the last ten years, you can probably relate to my experiences.

You are planning for the coming Sunday’s worship, and the pastor says, “We need to make this Sunday missional.”

Wait, what?
You are in a job interview for a worship leader position and the lead pastor says, “We are all about mission.”

So you are hiring a worship leader because…?

We have all been there. And quite frankly, these circumstances can be difficult to navigate. You beg
in to wonder, what am I doing? What is my purpose? I am a worship leader trying to serve in missional churches. Can I reconcile worship and mission?

But maybe worship and mission are not as paradoxical as we think they are. I would argue that worship and mission are not in opposition to one another, but rather, together they fulfill Christ’s command for His Church. If you are thinking that we gather to be sent, you are correct. I would like, however, to expound on this one liner. What is the nature of our gathering, what is the relationship between gathering and sending, and what is the nature of our sending?

The Gathering

The author of the Book of Hebrews encourages their readers to not forsake the assembly, as some had begun to practice. This exhortation comes after the command to “stir one another up to love and good works”. This is the human relationship dynamic of our gathering. We gather to inspire one another!

Through the act of gathering
, singing, Scripture reading, preaching, praying, and partaking of Christ’s Table, we persevere in the faith.

We do not gather solely for our sake, however. That is secondary to gathering for the sake of Christ. It is when we assemble in His name that He is able to speak to His brothers and sisters and invite them to His Table (Eucharist, Communion). After all, it is when we gather in His name that He is with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. We gather around the person of Christ.

Our gathering also takes place when God calls us gather. He is in the business of bringing all of creation back to Himself, and literally. God calls us to gather and we assemble. Christ meets us there, speaks to us, eats with us, and sends us back out.

It is when Christ speaks and when we eat at His Table that we are transformed. And this is key to understanding the relationship between worship and mission. When we truly encounter Christ, which is evident through obedience, we are transformed and it is then do we have the opportunity to shine our light in dark places and proclaim the resurrected Christ. How can we shine if we have not been in the Light’s presence and how can we proclaim if we have not experienced Life Himself?

Now that we have encountered Christ and His Word and Table, He sends us back out. Why would he do that? Why would He not command us to stay in His presence to worship Him?

We must go back to Christ’s Ascension and the Day of Pentecost. Christ left to return to the Father and also to send us the Spirit. By sending us the Spirit, all believers may be empowered to live a Christ-like life from the inside to the out. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He keeps us connected to our Head, who is Christ. Christ is the Head, and we are His Body. Thereby we are Christ’s extension on earth. And as Christians, we all have His resurrection power within us, God the Spirit.

The Church gathers to meet and encounter Christ, to be transformed by the Spirit into Christ’s likeness, only to go out into the world to be Christ.

The Sending

So what does this mission look like?

Well, the summary of the New Covenant gives us a pretty good idea of our mission. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, love your neighbor as yourself, and love one another as Christ as loved you.

If you need more specific examples, turn to Micah 6:8. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. Mission, or rather, Christ’s redemptive mission, is to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, take care of the orphan and the widow. This is Christ’s mission; therefore this is the Church’s mission.

Our worship and mission are centered on encountering Christ and being Christ. What paradox lies here now? What opposition exists between worship and mission? No paradox or opposition is to be found here. Simply be the Church.

JP#4Jason Palmer is the Editor of TalkingWorship.com. Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry with a Worship Arts Major and Music Minor. He has lead worship for evangelical churches for 7 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.

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