38 The Mission of Worship

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38 The Mission of Worship
to slow down, fast and pray. For four days in the hot Egyptian sun I did just
that, and I experienced a centeredness, an attentiveness to God’s presence
and a joy that I had not experienced before. Worship and work of justice
and mercy go hand in hand.
WorshiP can Mobilize PeoPle For Mission
Worship can be an instrument of transformation and catalyst for works of
justice. Leaders can create space to inform people of God’s will and form
their heart to ways of caring for the poor. An essential motivation for
worship, offered by theologian Marva Dawn, is to “form believers to be
disciples, following Jesus and committed to God’s purposes of peace,
justice and salvation in the world.”21 Richard Johnson of Spark Ventures
confirms this in his study on churches that do justice. He writes,
Churches need communal worship that is conversion-oriented:
worship that weekly renews and realigns hearts and minds to the
integral mission of the Christian faith they profess. That is what is
happening in the communal worship of the churches in this study.
Through a justice-infused liturgy and the opportunity for transformational, intimate encounters with God, these churches have
created a weekly conversion-oriented worship experience for their
Our worship communities need songs that speak of God’s heart for the
lost and marginalized. We need prayers that allow us to stand in solidarity
with the prayers of our brothers and sisters around the world. We need to
hear Scripture that develops in us a prophetic imagination that addresses
the structural and systemic issues of injustice.22 We need to confess our
own complicity with injustice. When I hope to help people enter into
God’s compassion for the poor, I try to link people with the stories and
experiences of the poor and broken by leading them in songs they know
that have the same theme and words. I want to bridge them from what
they know to experiences of worship that are not about themselves.
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The Mission of Worship 39
Worship thus becomes a multifaceted bridge into broader expressions
of praise and deeper experiences of God’s grace and unlimited faithfulness. How do we serve as both prophetic voice and interpretive guide
to our congregations? Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the author of transformation, but those of us who are worship leaders have a pastoral responsibility to lead our communities to places they have not been.
We must create immersion experiences that allow people to enter into
space to embrace God’s mission. These experiences are intentionally
planned to provide the catalyst for change. Those planning worship must
answer two vital questions:
1. What do we want people to understand (cognitive)?
2. What do we want people to feel (affective)?
Practically speaking, we should include the reading of Scripture, visual
elements such as symbols and media, and storytelling or testimonies. We
should also have response times that include moments for self-examination and confession. Sometimes using a structure such as Psalm
139:23-24 may help. We may invite people to write down blessings they’ve
received or prayer concerns, while other times we simply sit in silence
before the Lord.
Our worship is to be missional. It needs to take people where they
want to go as well as where they need to go.
While I listened to a popular song, which paints a picture of Revelation 7:9-12, I realized that the song could be enhanced by mirroring
the actual text. As I prayed about how to bring the song to Urbana, I
received an image of the people of God walking into the throne room of
God. This image helped us to create an arrangement of the song, which
included both changes in instrumentation and a multilingual layering.23
In the months leading up to the conference we led this song in fear and
trembling because it contained four languages that were hard to learn.
God surprised us by making it our most powerful pastoral moment in
any venue in which we sang it. Whether an older white church in WisEBSCOhost – printed on 8/7/2021 3:30 AM via UNIVERSITY OF DIVINITY. All use subject to https://www.ebsco.com/terms-of-use

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