As John Piper says, mission exists because worship doesn’t.1 It is not difficult to understand the meaning behind this phrase: if proclamation of the gospel is necessary in a certain context, this means that it has not been heard in this context. If it has not been heard, no knowledge of the gospel is preexistent. In that case, worship of God is not possible, and proclamation makes itself necessary.
What Does It Mean to Worship to the Fullest?
But what do we do with this knowledge? For the average Christian, what does “worship” mean? Sunday morning hymns? Saturday evening youth concerts? Personal devotions? Worship means much to us, and many times it means different things. It is as multiple as the infinite facets of the God we worship! An infinite God deserves infinite worship. We, as finite beings, worship in many different ways because we perceive fragments of the infinite character of God and respond to them. God has created us with a desire—no, more than that—a need, for wholesome, rich, daily worship.
One question which always hangs in the air is, “How well have we, as sons and daughters invited by the Lord himself, seized the invitation he gives us to its fullest?” The banquet of worship is laid before us every day, renewed and fresh, and we have the opportunity to partake of the feast. But many of us only grab a glass of water, a quick sandwich and a toothpick from the banquet table, and march on to our daily affairs. Few of us sit down, wrap a napkin around our necks and feast throughout the day. In order to shout the gospel from the rooftops, we must be well fed. To declare satisfaction for eternity, we must not be seen as a portrait of spiritual starvation. To evangelize through worship, we must first worship ourselves, as fully as possible.
Worshipping to Be Light in the Darkness
The Lord says we are to be as light in the darkness, illuminating a fallen world and directing it to the reality of the kingdom. We often ask God, “How, Lord, would you have us light this scene? From the top left? From the bottom right? Do you want a spotlight or diffused back lighting?” And we never get around to shining! A light does not shine as an action—it shines as a way of being. It shines because it is a light. We cannot shine at will—we must live believing we are light, and therefore shine because this is creation at its best and original intention!
To worship in the midst of darkness: that is evangelization.
In other words, we must worship as a way of life. If all of our time is taken in strategy and statistic flowcharts, when do we go out and shine in the darkness? How many of us have the courage to be light where it is needed? To worship in the midst of darkness: that is evangelization.
Therefore, we cannot speak of wholesome worship in any context but the context of the Great Commission: to go out and make disciples. Redeem from darkness into the light. Teach how to worship. Show how good it is. Demonstrate what it is like to be in an intimate relationship with our creator.
Never have we seen such a surge of “worship culture” as we do today: CDs, bands, planning programs, concerts, mostly, Christian entertainment designed especially for Christians in the snugness of their Christian nests. So to whom are we demonstrating our worship? Fellow worshippers, who already know the Lord? Are we admiring each other’s new moves before the altar and doing nothing more? The commission is clear: “Go out!” Worship outside the walls of the temple! Worship in the places where worship is needed, and in the places where it will bother darkness! God has given us creativity, talent, gifts, resources and the command. He asks us to come and follow him into the darks nooks and crannies of a world wrought by suffering, disaster and injustice. He calls us to worship in the face of injustice and, in so doing, proclaim hope where there is none and joy where it has been forgotten.
God asks us to come and follow him into the dark nooks and crannies of a world wrought by suffering, disaster and injustice.
And he asks us to do this in many ways, not only through song and dance, but through arms that deliver help where it is needed, through minds that think godly solutions to ungodly situations and through souls which feel pain in situations and places from which compassion has been expelled. To worship is to feel both God’s pain and God’s love. To worship is to be vulnerable. It is easier to talk strategy.
It is more difficult to speak of transformation from the inside and of the reality of the Kingdom of God. Yet, to worship truly, this is what we are called to do. We are called to follow Jesus and worship through our lives into the lives of others. May God give us the courage to do this during this Christmas season.
1. Piper, John. 2005. Let the Nations Be Glad! Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: Baker Books.