This brief post could have been entitled, “You Can’t Have Missions without Worship.” But considering my ministry background and current area of doctoral studies, as well as what I estimate to be the primary readership of this blog, I choose to speak to the “worship crowd” about worship without missions.
Missions and worship are inseparable. A person engaging in worship studies that are truly biblically-based is by default a student of missions studies. Worship and music ministers in the local church should be ever-diligent about helping their worship teams and musicians remain mindful of God’s program for the nations. The art of music in the church is not an end unto itself; psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are a means to a greater end.
When considering the topic of missions and worship, it may be helpful to also consider the mission if the church. Worship is an important part of the church’s mission; likewise, missions is an important part of the church’s mission. DeYoung and Gilbert provide a definition for the mission of the church that brings together mission, worship, and missions: “The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.”
Scripture Passages about Worship and Missions
Here are several key passages of Scripture that synthesize worship and missions:
- Psalm 96 – When it comes to missions and worship, the Psalmist can’t imagine one without the other—God’s people are being called to sing praises of God’s glory among the nations. The nations are invited to join in this song of praise. In worship, we sing of his glory; in missions, we tell of his glory.
- Isaiah 6:1-13 – Perhaps no place in Scripture is the interplay of worship and missions resulting in a mission demonstrated more clearly than Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on his throne encircled by the seraphim who, with antiphonal praise, cry out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” This song is important for our understanding of God’s desire for all of His creation—the emanation of His holiness results in the going forth of His glory. The process of becoming a holy people will result in God’s glory going forth in all the earth (6:1-3). This vision of God in his perfect glory led Isaiah to true worship. The prophet recognized and declared God’s supreme worth—my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!—while recognizing and confessing his sinfulness—Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips—and recognizing the corporate sinfulness of the congregation—and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips (6:4-5). In submission to the holy God, Isaiah is made clean (6:6-7), and he is commissioned to go forth to the nations to proclaim God’s message.
- John 4:22-26 – Jesus told the women at the well that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him (John 4:23). Here we see mission, missions, and worship! The church goes forth in obedience to God, who is seeking worshipers, to those who do not worship the one true God; when the church proclaims the message of Christ, the Spirit draws these non-worshippers to the Father and by the grace of Christ, through faith, they become worshippers of God. These worshippers then assemble—and all the more as they see the day of Lord approaching—in obedience to the Father who is seeking more worshippers, to teach and equip other worshippers.
- Acts 2:41-47 – In this passage, we see thousands of people coming to Christ, and all the while the beleivers are devoting “themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Furthermore, as they carry out these means of grace as prasie unto God on a daily basis, we see that they ae “having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
- Revelation 7:9-12 – The culmination of God’s program of redemption ends with worship and missions. In this passage, we see a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb! They are worship with a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Books about Missions for Worshippers
The books are on philosophy and theology of missions. For a great list of missionary biographies, check here.
- Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, 2014.
- John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 2010.
- Andreas Kostenberger and Peter O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Missions, 2021.
- Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, 2011.
- Andy Johnson, Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global, 2017
- John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 2003.
- Baker Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, 2000.
I plan to publish more on missions here at ATWD, but in the meantime an very interesting place where missions and art collide is culture. Here is an article entittled, Seek Truth, Beauty, and Goodness . . . but Avoid Cultural Snobbery, where I touch on the importance of seeing beauty in underdeveloped cultures.