• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Passion for God is One

Knowing that fundamentally the church is the community of all those God has brought into His family, His body, then how do we describe what the church does, in other words, what are its functions, markers or expressions.

I think we would be hard pressed to not say that worship is a central expression or marker of the community of believers.  John Piper writes: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church.  Worship is.  Missions exists because worship doesn’t.  Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.  When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.  It is a temporary necessity.   But worship abides forever.”  

When the community gathers, passion for God must be a central expression of that gathering.  Worship, then, cannot be confined to just one part or one “activity” of the community; it is to infuse the life of the gathered community.  But, passion for God is meant to also inflame our daily lives as the community scattered, for “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

So, how then does the community work out this central expression, this critical function?  Through allowing grateful hearts, passionate hearts to find substantive outward expression.  Let me try to give an example.  People will often cite ‘singing’ as a key element of worship.  Certainly, singing can be a means of worship.  But if the ‘form’ is mistaken for the substance, then singing becomes an activity in the program, rather than a true expression of grateful hearts, passionate for the God they love.

This is certainly not an easy conversation, but remember that we are looking at “what we mean by “church” so that it provides a common base for all from which to work and which allows the functions of the church to take appropriate cultural forms where the church is established.

3 Responses

  1. I have never been completely comfortable with Piper’s statement that worship is the ultimate goal of missions. Of course, it depends on what you mean by “worship”.
    Romans 12 suggests that giving our bodies as “a living sacrifice” (note the singular sacrifice by the plural subject). In Ephesians 5, thanksgiving is the counterpart of idolatry. (And it is interesting to note that the kinds of things identified as idolatry would be quite mundane in our western cultures: sexual immorality, all kinds of impurity, greed, obscenity etc.).
    So, yes, “worship” is important, but I think Paul has something in mind which is a far cry from what happens under the name of worship in church services.
    In this brief space, it is not possible to do this issue justice; but it seems to me that God’s goal in the mission of the church is people whom he is making holy in conformity to the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. I’d like to put the focus on the priority of what God is doing. In the OT his call to his people was “Be holy, for I am Holy”; but this was followed by his promise: “I the LORD make you holy”.
    That in mind, how do we answer your question: “How then does the community work out this central expression…?” In other words, what is our part in cooperating with God in his goal and purposes?
    The answer is perhaps in part what Paul writes about in Romans 12 and in the passages around Eph 5:4. I would sum that up as “discipleship”, and I would define discipleship in terms of growing in conformity to Christ, or growing up “into him who is the head, that is Christ, from whom the whole body grows and builds itself up in love…”.
    And by discipleship I mean both our individual personal growth in Christlikeness and our corporate growth through the act of making disciples to this same end.

  2. I have never been completely comfortable with Piper’s statement that worship is the ultimate goal of missions. Of course, it depends on what you mean by “worship”.
    Romans 12 suggests that giving our bodies as “a living sacrifice” (note the singular sacrifice by the plural subject) is worship.
    In Ephesians 5, thanksgiving is the counterpart of idolatry. (And it is interesting to note that the kinds of things identified as idolatry would be quite mundane in our western cultures: sexual immorality, all kinds of impurity, greed, obscenity etc.).
    So, yes, “worship” is important, but I think Paul has something in mind which is a far cry from what happens under the name of worship in church services.
    In this brief space, it is not possible to do this issue justice; but it seems to me that God’s goal in the mission of the church is people whom he is making holy in conformity to the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. I’d like to put the focus on the priority of what God is doing. In the OT his call to his people was “Be holy, for I am Holy”; but this was followed by his promise: “I the LORD make you holy”.
    That in mind, how do we answer your question: “How then does the community work out this central expression…?” In other words, what is our part in cooperating with God in his goal and purposes?
    The answer is perhaps in part what Paul writes about in Romans 12 and in the passages around Eph 5:4. I would sum that up as “discipleship”, and I would define discipleship in terms of growing in conformity to Christ, or growing up “into him who is the head, that is Christ, from whom the whole body grows and builds itself up in love…”.
    And by discipleship I mean both our individual personal growth in Christlikeness and our corporate growth through the act of making disciples to this same end.

    • Several thoughts come to mind in light of your insightful comments. One is that worship has been narrowly defined within the Western church context to something that happens only on a given day and usually involves singing. This is in part why I used the term “passion for God”. However, I have found that when people underline the fact that “worship is all of life”, it often issues in a loss of expressions of “thankfulness”. It is hard for me to get around other texts such as Colossians 3:16 and Revelation 5:12-14 without drawing the inference that God-centered thankfulness is part of what the community “does” together.

      Another thought is the critical importance of the idea of individual and corporate growth. Workers coming from the West often struggle to understand what that corporate growth looks as they are focused on more of the individual growth (given our individual centered view of discipleship). What will lead people to understand and experience more fully this corporate nature of growth?

      And finally, I wonder if the idea of “discipleship” or growing in conformity to Christ as the central expression of the community might not be the full picture. What I mean is that if the focus is on “what we do” rather than on “what we do in response to what God has done”, the central expression of the community could turn out to center around us rather than the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. “Discipleship”, seeking to become holy, flow from the foundation of His work on our behalf.

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