There is silence. Everyone's mouths are closed and a single vocalist steps up to the microphone. She takes a deep breath and releases an effortless stream of pure tone. This audio-joy fills the room and the beauty cleans you from the inside out.
This is a picture of what the Church is like. She gets to sing a beautiful message to the world about Jesus. That message is that the God of Israel is the King of the world. This is a fact that is true because of the life, death, resurrection, and enthronement of Jesus Messiah.
When we gather on a weekend, we are "stepping up to the mic" in a way to sing about Jesus in front of the world. Unfortunately, most of us do not think like that. Let's face it: we are so out of sync with the believers who were closest to God in the Bible. For example, the psalms are full of instances where David promised to "sing of you (Israel’s God) among the peoples" (Psalm 57:9). In fact, David reminded us that our gathered singing is actually a proclamation to "the nations."
In a book titled "Best Kept Secret," the author describes how Jews saw their corporate worship as a public event. He helps us get a sense of how David felt when he wrote various songs and prayers,
It may surprise you to know that many Jews in the period between the Old and New Testaments took seriously the idea of public worship as an act of mission (Dickson, 158).
Dickson’s description of the Jews is the same type of perspective David had. Like a great-great-great grandfather, he passed it on down to them. But, has it been passed down to us? Do we think of public worship as "an act of mission?" David saw his own singing as an invitation to all the other nations to take up the new song about his God’s rescuing love. He has quite literally been rescued to 'sing God’s praises.' The Psalter (which is a book that takes the psalms and rewrites them so that they rhyme) captured David’s heart well from Psalm 51 with the following words:
Sinners then shall learn from me
And return, O God, to Thee;
Saviour, all my guilt remove,
And my tongue shall sing Thy love;
Touch my silent lips, O Lord,
And my mouth shall praise accord.
David showed us that the heart that has known forgiveness is a heart that likes to sing praise. He showed us that praise was meant to be public. But worship services for the Christians there, it’s also for non-Christians and visitors who to see what "church" is all about.
Author Christopher Wright gave a great example of how public worship can be "an act of mission." He wrote about the story from Acts 16:25 (The Mission of God’s People, 253). This story is mind blowing. These two guys have been thrown in jail for preaching in the name of Jesus. Imagine them: Paul and Silas are imprisoned, whipped, bruised, and still singing for the other prisoners to hear. These are the the types of songs that shake the earth and cause non-christians to say, "God must really be with you" (1 Corinthians 14:25). With Paul and Silas, they were able to minister to a Roman jailer because of the earthquake that resulted from their faith and praise. Luke tells us that, "And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family." (Acts 16:33) Can you believe that? This whole family became Christians, because of Paul and Silas singing to Jesus in the middle of their pain.
What if we, the Missio Dei family, came to weekend services with a bigger perspective? What if our children could feel this perspective from us on the drive there? What if our media intake changed on Saturday night for the sake of our focus of Sunday morning? What if we planned events with non-believing neighbors on Saturday in such a way that we had a natural segue to talk about going to the Saturday night service?
I challenge us to gather for singing, preaching, communion, exhortation, and encouragement with our neighbors in mind. I challenge us to think of how sinful our children are and how clueless they are to their need. I challenge us to think of how the businesses, schools, and neighborhoods around our campuses need to change for the better because we are down the street from them. Psalm 97 says, "The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!" (Psalm 97:1) It’s our hope that because the worshipping community of Missio Dei Church gathers this weekend that the distant shores rejoice. But also, that the not so distant neighbors will rejoice too, as we declare in Jesus that, "The LORD reigns!"
Here are some practical steps to take towards gathering to worship with rest of the world in mind:
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