How worship aligns and propels us
Getting specific about worship
Let’s start with three distinctions before talking about why worship is vital in missions.
First, it is important to understand the distinct ways worship functions in a missions context. The local church is the foundation of Christian community. Although it includes a focus on reaching those who are not a part of the church, it exists primarily for the discipleship and growth of those who are a part of it. For missions organisations like YWAM, we exist primarily for those who are not yet a part of the Church. This is why worship functions differently in a missions context than in a local church context. The local church will always be the most important institution in Christianity, and it is important to understand the difference between local church and missionary organisations.
Second, worship in a “corporate” setting functions differently than in a private or personal setting. The goals are similar – blessing God and communing with Him – but how we “get there” looks different. It’s similar to the difference between corporate and private prayer. Private prayer may be done silently, but in corporate prayer, we generally pray aloud, which allows us to build on each other’s prayers. Similarly, corporate worship is not primarily a time for personal reflection and contemplation, but rather for us joining together to respond to God in a united way.
Third, it is important to recognise what worship is Biblically. In English we use the word worship in a huge variety of ways – worship as a lifestyle, worship as church services, worship as singing – but when we dig into Scripture, we discover that worship is something specific and special. In the Bible worship is an action of honour and submission in response to the “now” presence of God. Whenever worship happens in the Bible it is in response to something special that God has done: He has appeared, He has answered prayer, He has intervened in some way. This is quite different to the phrase the “lifestyle of worship”. What we mean by that is what the Bible calls the “fear of the Lord” which is an attitude of respect for God that so permeates your life that you love what He loves and hate what He hates. But worship is something special, and specific. We see worship in scripture happens in a special moment, a set aside time, as focused response to God.
Worship and Missions
So why is worship so important in missions? There are at least four main reasons. First of all, we recognise that it is an appropriate response to the worthiness of God. We see in Revelation 4 that the 24 elders fall down in worship, casting their crowns before Him, as they are in His presence. God’s worthiness is our central motivator for missions.
Furthermore, worship unifies us. Declaring the same thing together, responding to God together, unites us in focus and purpose. As Revelation 4 continues into chapter 5, the 24 elders are joined in worship by innumerable angels and every creature in heaven and earth. Before God, before His throne, we are all on level ground. There is no one elevated above another. This humble, united commitment to God is key to our effectiveness in serving together in missions.
Worship also serves to align us. As we see Him for who He is, we also see who we are not. Isaiah’s response to seeing God on His throne in Isaiah 6 is a powerful example of this. As Isaiah sees God’s glory and majesty, he is immediately aware of his own lack of holiness, the ways he himself falls short. And in that, he powerfully encounters God’s mercy and aligning. In missions, as people focused on communicating God to others, we must embrace that alignment to demonstrate Him rightly and clearly.
Finally, we see too in Isaiah’s story that worship, responding to who God is, sends us on mission. It’s so often in worship that, as we respond to God’s glory and goodness, that He gives vision. There have been countless times for us as YWAM, when, in worship, God has laid a nation on someone’s heart to pray for, only for them to find that God invites them to be a part of seeing their own prayer for that nation answered. One day, missions will end – all the earth will be filled with the glory of God. But worship will never end!
Giving Our All
So, wherever we find ourselves, there is an invitation to be like Mary in John 12. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing the cross was ahead of Him. At dinner, Mary broke a jar of expensive perfume on his feet, weeping as she wiped His feet with her hair. The perfume would have been worth tens of thousands of dollars. It could have served as an inheritance it was so valuable – meant to be used drop by drop. But instead, Mary looked at the worth of Jesus. Unlike so many others in the gospels, she didn’t come to Jesus to receive, or to spectate, but she came to give. And the perfume she poured out would have permeated the house for a long time afterward. The smell would have lingered on Jesus as He made His way to Jerusalem and to the cross – a sweet smelling aroma in the midst of the hardest time. The fragrance would have lingered as He was sweating blood in Gethsemane, as He was whipped and beaten, perhaps even as He drew His last breath.
We too can worship from this place – the place of tenderly, wholeheartedly giving our all, beyond anything we have already given.
This article is based on a teaching given by Chris Adams in our YWAM Perth volunteer staff meeting in September 2022.