Tuesday, October 20, 2009

mission or worship: the condrum of the chicken and egg revisited

funny-3.jpg image by tahtimbo"Missions exist because worship does not" ~John Piper

"The chief end of man is to glorify God" ~Westminster Catechism
Recently Derek Webster has taken on that first statement. {follow up post, exegesis 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9}  It is a good series of articles.  Webster challenges Piper's statement on many levels.  I have no desire to recreate that here.  I do want to challenge the logic of the first statement on two levels.

First, many who take the glory argument promote their belief with this logic: when we think about what is ultimate, what is ultimate must be that which we can do forever and never cease from doing.  This means, that since missions and all other facets of church will cease when we reach heaven but worship will not, that worship is the ultimate goal of man.  The problem is that we do not live life in an ultimate sense.  We live life in time and space; we live in the here and now.  What makes up our lives ultimately is the accumulation of a series of smaller parts.  These smaller parts make up life as we know it. 

While this all appears a bit metaphysical, Jesus put this in practical terms.  In John 12, when Mary used the extravagant ointment, Judas chided her for her lack of stewardship citing the need of the poor.  Jesus' response is telling.  He tells him that the poor will always be there with them, but He would only be there for a short time.  The point: perhaps we should shift away from the "ultimate" view of life to a temporal view of life.  That is to say, that which can only be done in the here and now SHOULD be done with priority over things that will always be around.  Jesus instructed them to put their concern for the poor {a good and biblical concern} on the back burner on the basis that it was more important to be with Him since he was only going to be there a little while.  

The opportunity to partake in missions is a temporal pursuit.  It can only be done for a short while.  This does not mean that it is less important, rather, it is more important.  

The second challenge I want to bring is against the shallow view of worship and glory which typifies modern evangelicalism.  Ask someone what worship is and they will typically reduce it to music.  1 Corinthians 10:31, however, expands worship to every facet of our lives regardless of how menial it many appear.  Our view of Jesus is typically so "porcelain" that he only invokes our worship {where worship equals music or some other kind of worship experience} but not our obedience and followship.  The problem with our understanding of "Glory" and "Worship" is that we often view these as exclusive terms unto themselves.  That is, worship and glory exclude mission, service, etc.  This is a false dichotomy.  When we ask which comes first, When Paul instructs his readers in Romans 12 as to their "reasonable worship" he calls them to transformation.  Paul takes the next several chapters to flesh out what that transformation looks like in the here and now.

I believe we move into dangerous territory to posit worship against mission in an either or because it simply reduces worship to a Sunday experience.  We only truly experience worship when we follow Jesus, do the things he does, and love the people he loves.  It is possible, in a shallow view, to worship without missions, it is impossible to do missions without worship.

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