Last Sunday I had the pleasure of participating in a video call with the youth group of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Fairhope, Alabama. The topic was discussing how we connect our worship life with our lives of Christian service. I very much enjoyed the chat, and it led to some great conversation among the Youth Mission Co staff. The result of this inspiration is a short blog series where we will break down a worship service into its various parts, and then discuss how each part of worship relates to Christian mission. We will also give some examples of how we can “mission our worship” through some simple acts of service.
But before we jump into our first element of worship, here are a few words from us about our own understanding of Christian Mission in today’s context.
Early in the life of the church, a lot of “mission” was synonymous with evangelism. After all, the Jesus Movement was in its infancy, and so the task at hand was preaching the good news and getting folks on board. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
Over time, a lot of the work of Christians doing mission out in the world was also related to helping others with their immediate needs and welfare: providing food, healthcare, shelter, education, etc. Sometimes this was done as a “hook” to then guide the recipient into “right beliefs.” Sometimes it was offered with no strings attached, simply putting into action the compassion that Jesus himself showed and that our faith inspires. “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill” and yet you don’t supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith, by istelf, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)
At Youth Mission Co, we keep our baseline theology of mission pretty simple. When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, he responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and … and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) Christian mission is about knowing your neighbors, and then acting/living in ways that are loving to them. In fact, loving our neighbors is a way of loving and glorifying God… which is the task of our worship.
With that said, let’s jump into it!!
For many of us, our worship services begin with a Call to Worship. A crucial thing to understand here is WHO is doing the calling. In a literal sense, during our services there is often a pastor or some other worship leader standing at the front leading this part of worship. They say a line that’s printed in the bulletin, and then we repsond back with another line. But what’s really happening here is much more than just some call-response ritual that calls us to order. We believe it is GOD that is calling us together. It is GOD who gathers us in and who desires this community assembly. It is God’s own invitation, God’s call that is the first part of our worship.
How can we “mission” that part of worship? One idea is simply to be more intentional about hearing God’s call to us in our daily lives. If you read the newspaper each morning, read it considering the ways God is calling you to take some action with the things that are covered. For instance, I read an artcile that a local family here in Asheville was recently in a car crash. Is God calling me to offer to bring them food? or maybe contribute to a trust fund for those children? How about when you listen to the news on the radio? Or read a news article online? Or even when you hear announcements each morning at school?
After all, God doesn’t just call us in the first five minutes of a worship service. God is calling us throughout our day, and throughout our whole lives. What are the ways that God is calling you to take action in your community? When God calls, how will you respond?
Bill Buchanan is a pastor, father, spouce, and the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co. He lives in Asheville, NC.