Missions in the Context of Worship

Acts 13:2              “Missions in the Context of Worship”

 Last year, at our Saturday evening missions banquet, one of our visiting missionaries spoke of the trials of serving overseas.  Many of our hearts were touched as she shared about how they missed worshipping with the people of God in a home church, and how meaningful it would be for someone to just come and visit them, and encourage them, and worship with them.  I think it is neat that one of the mission teams we are commissioning tonight is going to the Middle East to do that very thing.  But I also think that we need to understand there is a strong connection between missions, and worship, which many of us have failed to grasp. 

     In a few minutes, we are going to spend some time praying for our mission teams, but before we do that, I want us to turn to Acts 13, where the Bible describes the beginning of a great mission movement: the call of Paul & Barnabas on their mission to the Gentile world.  We see there that mission comes in the context of worship:  missions is born in worship, and missions will end in worship.   

I. Missions is born in worship

:2 “And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting”

     I think it is very instructive to us that the mission in Acts 13 came in the context of worship.  It says “they were ministering to the Lord and fasting” when the commission from the Holy Spirit came.  This is so important.  Their mission came while they were just worshipping.  They were not just all about “mission” in the early church; they were all about worship!  But it was in their worship, that they got the call to mission.  This is important, because genuine, godly mission will begin and end in worship.  Paul & Barnabas’ call to mission came while they were worshipping God.  Missions is born in worship. 

     We see that in Isaiah.  In chapter 6 He had a great vision of God on His throne:

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

      Isaiah got a magnificent vision of the glory of God.  And what was the next thing that happened?  God said in :8 “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  And Isaiah responds: “Here am I, send me!”  Out of his worship experience came his call to mission. 

     And the same thing will be true for us.  If you and I are really worshipping God, just like Isaiah, just like the apostles in Acts, the next thing we know, we are going to find ourselves called on mission, because worship on this earth leads to mission. 

     I would submit to you that if your worship here in this church does not lead you on mission, you are not really worshipping.  You cannot possibly worship God: truly love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and submit to Him with all your will – know His greatness and glory and love — and not want to share Him with others.  If you are not drawn to mission from your worship, you cannot possibly be truly worshipping.  You may “go to church”; you may be very religious; you may like to sing; you may have a good “routine” down; I don’t know what you are doing, but if what you are doing does not lead you to mission, you are  not worshipping.  Because genuine worship leads to mission. 

     In fact, it is my personal opinion that this is the heart of what many consider to be the “evangelism problem” in so many of our churches today.  Baptisms are down all across our country, people are not being reached; so many Christians are not sharing their faith.  And many are trying to do things to address what they consider to be an “evangelism” problem.  But I do think that it is just an evangelism problem.  I think at heart it is a worship problem.  Over and over in scripture you see the people of God who have worshipped Him, go out and share the glories of the God with whom their hearts have been captivated.  When your heart has been captivated by something, it is not hard to share it; you WANT to talk about it; you have to restrain yourself NOT to speak about it.  You share about that with which your heart is full.  Which tells us that if we are not telling people about the Lord, our basic problem is that our hearts are not full of Him. Our so-called “evangelism problem” is at heart a worship problem, because mission is born from worship.   

     And because mission is born from worship, there are a couple of important applications for those of you who are going on mission the next few days:

1) the best thing you can do to prepare yourself for mission is to worship.  If what you share on mission is an overflow of your personal worship, the best thing you can do to get ready for mission is to get your heart filled in the worship of God.  In all the busy-ness of getting clothes and parcels and itineraries ready for your trip, don’t shortchange your worship time; you will be short-circuiting the very thing that is the source of your power.  If anything, you need extra time in worship these next days, so that you can minister even more effectively on mission, from the overflow of your heart. 

2) the most important thing you can do ON the mission field is to continue to walk with God in worship.  Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I am him, HE bears much fruit.  But without Me, you can do nothing.”  Jesus reminds us in that verse that we can accomplish nothing without Him, so it is vital for you to walk with Him every day – even and especially while you are on mission.  Jesus Himself modeled that in Mark 1, when He was “on mission” and people were lined up from early to late at the door of the place where He was staying.  So Jesus got up while it was still dark and went out to a lonely place to pray.  He needed time with His Father while He was on mission – and you do too.  You need God’s blessing and power on your life; your heart needs to be full of Him while you are on mission; so make it a priority to have good personal worship times even while you are away serving.  One of the things that I will pray for each of you as you go on mission is that you will not neglect your daily worship time, which empower you for His work. 

     Now, for those of us who are NOT going on this mission, there is application here as well: 

— First of all, those of us who are going to remain at home are still on mission.  We have a mission right here this week: Friend Day!  Be sure that you walk with God in worship every day this week; be sensitive to what God leads you to do this week – in inviting someone to come with you next Sunday; something special you will do in your class — whatever He lays on your heart  But let your mission for next Sunday begin with your daily worship time.

— Secondly, some of you here tonight may never have been out “on mission” at all.  If so, I would suggest to you that what you need is NOT to try to just “guilt” yourself into going on mission.  If mission is born in worship, and you are not compelled to go on mission, what this indicates is that what you really need is a revival in your personal worship of God.  Confess your lack of being enamored and captivated by His glory.  Take steps to draw nearer to Him in worship every day.  Recommit yourself to plunge into the depths of the glories of God in worship – and when you do, you will soon enough find yourself on mission.   Because missions is born in worship.

II.  Missions ends in worship.

     WHY were all of those people in the church inAntioch“ministering to the Lord and fasting”?  Because the gospel had come to them from those who had been on mission!  They had been reached by the mission ministry of the church which had started at Jerusalem!  Acts 11:20 says “Some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who [had been reached by the church at Jerusalem] came to Antioch, and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.”  So in Acts chapter 11, people were reached at Antioch by those who were on mission – and now when we turn the page and come to Acts 13, what are the people who were reached now doing?  They are “ministering to the Lord” – worshipping!  The mission to the church at Antioch led the new church at Antioch to worship.  Because that is where mission leads: it leads to worship.  Missions is not an end in itself.  Missions is a means to the greatest end: which is worship. 

     John Piper has famously said: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church, worship is.  Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”  You and I were not created to be “on mission”; we were created to worship – and so was everyone else here in this world.  We were made to worship God.  But all over the world, there are people who are NOT worshipping Him; they don’t even know Him.  And so we go on mission, that they may know the One True God and worship Him.  We go on mission because there are people who are not worshipping.

— there are people in Africa and the Middle East today who do not worship; they fear.  Brought up in Islam, they fear the “scales”, which all Muslims are taught about from their youth.  They think that one day, we will all face judgment consisting of great scales in the sky, which will weigh their good deeds against their bad, and which will determine their eternal destiny.  So they try to pray 5 times a day, and give to the poor, and go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and do all of the prescribed works of the “pillars” of Islam.  But they do not “worship” in the truest sense.  They do not know God – not the one true God, who exists eternally as Father, Son & Holy Spirit.  They do not have a personal love relationship with Him.  They don’t know that He not only created the heavens and the earth; He not only rules over all in His sovereignty, but that He is a God of a love which is of such a height, and depth, and length and breadth, as to send His only begotten Son to die on a cross to pay for the sins of the world, that we might be reconciled to Him.  They aren’t worshipping our incomparable God – and that is why you are going to Africa and the Middle East– because worship is the goal.

— there are men and women and children in Suriname today who are not worshipping the true God.  Oh, like those in the Middle East, they have a “worship” of sorts; a worship of appeasement – they try to please the spirits that they fear will cripple them if they don’t perform their sacrifices and rituals.  I have heard several testimonies from our people who have been down there, about how so many of the people of Suriname are afraid of the spirits; afraid of what will happen to them if they do not perform the prescribed rituals.  But they don’t worship the One true God, “in spirit & in truth.”  They do not love God, and do not find themselves wrapped in His love.  And that is why you are going toSuriname– because worship is our goal. 

      Missions comes in the context of worship.  It begins in worship – those who truly worship Him are called out to go.  And it ends in worship – those who are reached, are reached that they may worship the same glorious God whom we serve.  And the very end of mission will be the worship in heaven around the throne of God – just as Revelation 7 predicts: 

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

     Missions begins in worship, when God’s people are caught up in His glory and majesty, and are compelled to go out and share Him with others.  And missions will all end in worship – when some from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, will one day stand before the throne of God and praise Him for all eternity.  Our great privilege – and YOUR specific privilege these next days, mission teams – is to be able to go and share; that the end result will be that people from some of those tribes and tongues and peoples and nations you visit may join us in worship in heaven. 

     Samuel Rutherford, the exiled Scottish pastor, wrote to one of his parishioners, who was experiencing some difficult trials, of the glories of heaven.  He said: “Your soul shall feast and banquet forever and ever, upon a glorious sight of the incomparable Trinity.”  That is what is awaiting us: a never-ending feast on the glorious presence of God in heaven.  That same feast is there for all who will call on the name of Jesus to save them.  We go on mission – these 3 teams are going on mission in these next few days — to invite others to join us in that eternal banquet in heaven.  Missions begins in worship – and it will all end in worship as well!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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