Historically, we tend to emphasize one extreme or the other in the church. Occasionally, however, the two extremes, as if they represent the swing a pendulum, find a place of balance. I believe the Moravian movement of the early 1700’s is a remarkable example of a group of people whose mission efforts were fueled by the proper motivation of wanting Christ to get the glory He deserves. This movement included trained and laymen alike, because it was well recognized that missions is a call for all in response to their passionate love for Christ. “The Moravian church was the first among Protestant churches to treat missions work as a responsibility of the church as a whole, instead of leaving it to societies or specially interested people.” (Grant: 209) Although their movement was small in terms of numbers of the whole, they stilled managed to send out 2,158 of its members overseas within its first 150 years as a community. (Grant: 206) Count Zinzendorf, who was the leader of this movement said, “I have one passion, and it is Him, only Him.” He was obviously a worshipper, which was not only reflected in the 2,000 hymns he wrote but in the fact that His worship overflowed into the natural obedience of the spread of Christ’s Kingdom all over the world.
Great is the example we have in Charles Wesley, also the author of several wonderful hymns, who founded the Methodist movement. He and his brother started a group at Oxford known as the “Holy Club” birthed out of a desire to know God more. “In addition to worship and the study, the group translated their piety into an outreach to the poor, the hungry and the imprisoned….In October, 1735, the two brothers began their fruitful careers as overseas missionaries to American Indians.” (Howard: 212) Obviously, their ministry and missional call was birthed out of times spent reflecting on the goodness of God. Worship is a response to His character. As Charles Wesley worshipped, obedience to God’s mission became his aim. However, there have also been moments in church history where the chasm between the two concepts of worship and mission has been far too wide. Part of what made the “Dark Ages” prior to the Reformation so dark was the fact that no layman was ever encouraged to have a personally contextualized experience with God. Not only was the Christianity of the era in a foreign tongue (Latin), a personal pursuit of truth in scripture was considered heretical. The very idea that a soul could encounter God or worship Him of one’s own volition and experience (without the aid of the priest) would have been met with certain persecution. It is no wonder then, that the Dark Ages are not marked by significant missional endeavors. It is not until the beginning of the Reformation when the idea the God was personal and could be adored (rather than feared) that we see a marked season of missional intent.
In the most recent years of the modern era, much of the church has grown in its experience and understanding of corporate worship and collective experiences of God’s presence. However, some of the marks of the modern era include an emphasis toward the measurement of church growth in purely numerical terms. “In fact, quantifiable results became the obsession, especially during this century in America. Donald A. Mc Gavran, the founder of what is now known as church growth theory, contends that numerical growth is the ‘chief and irreplaceable goal of world mission.’” (Engel & Dyrness, pg. 71) What this kind of emphasis has produced in our churches is a desire to be “seeker-sensitive” in an effort to draw more unbelievers. We design our services and programs around the perceived or felt needs of the people. Perhaps in making their needs our goal, we’ve created a sense that our services and worship times are about us. Even though we’ve had an era marked with powerful experiences of corporate worship, those times have often ended selfishly where we continue to cry out for more of God’s presence for ourselves. We wonder with painful curiosity why our thirst for more is not quenched. When worship ends with us, we fail to respond in maturity to the love bestowed upon us. We are called to empty ourselves of the blessing we have received and deliver the blessing to the nations. When missions becomes the natural overflow of being exposed to the surpassing beauty of our King, I suspect that we will begin to experience more of His presence then ever before. God has allowed us in this last era to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” As this truth takes root in our lives, we will naturally fall more in love with Him. This will then result in a deep desire to see the object of our affections adored by all.
I recognize that my role within YWAM and my vocation has exposed me to the blessing of studying and discussing this topic. As I’ve immersed myself in the theme of God’s glory throughout the whole earth, I find that my life, conversations, relationships and ministry have been shaped by an intensifying passion to see God receive the worship He deserves. My hope for all believers is that we would come to a place where our obsession with comfort in this world would fade in the light of His glory. It is our inability to see the bigger picture of life in the context of eternity that causes us to be narrowly focused on the small window of the eighty or so years on this planet rather than the truth that this world is not our home. We have a home with Christ for eternity in heaven and I want to live in such a way that I take as many people home with me as possible.
In order to do this, I need to embrace the truth of missional worship. I am called, along with the rest of the church, to live for His glory. Missional worship is the act of glorifying God and intentionally inviting others to that lifestyle. As one who would be labeled a “full-time missionary,” I desire to set goals that are consistent with the heart of God. The temptation to be consumed with mere numbers of converts is great, and while I will gladly preach the gospel to all nations, I do not ever want to take glory away from our King by accepting congratulations for our success in terms of numbers. More important than raised hands in public prayers to receive Christ is a heart that is fully set on adoring and glorifying Jesus. I need to be willing to accept the displeasure of men in order to ensure that God receives the reward for His suffering.
I have a strong conviction that when the church at large begins to embrace the concept of missional worship and lives for that aim, we will see revival on the face of the earth like never before. True missional worship will always produce in the souls of men a heart that reflects our Father’s. We will long for what He longs for because we have had a taste of his goodness and are convinced that nothing surpasses His glory. May the will of God as expressed in Ps. 46:10 be known in our day: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Engel, James F. & Dyrness, William A., Changing the Mind of Missions, Intervarsity Press, 2000
Grant, Colin, Europe’s Moravians: A Pioneer Missionary Church, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, pgs. 206-209, 1981
Howard, David, Student Power In World Missions, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, pgs. 210-221, 1981
Lockyer, Herbert, All The Doctrines of the Bible, Zondervan, 1964
Neill, Stephen, Creative Tension, Edinburgh House, 1959 (pg. 81)
Piper, John, Let the Nations Be Glad, Baker, 1993
Zodhiates, Spiros, The Complete Word Study Dictionary¸AMG Publishers, 1992
Lewis, Jeff, God’s Heart for the Nations, Caleb Project, 2002