When Christians think about the Great Commission, we consider where we should go. But when we think of worshiping, we don’t necessarily think about going anywhere. Instead, we often focus on “staying put” for times of prayer, singing, and preaching from the Bible.
But what would our worship services look like if they more intentionally reflected the Great Commission? How might we gather to worship in ways that encourage going?
How worship precedes the Great Commission in Matthew 28
Consider the pattern in Matthew 28.
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus’ disciples obediently returned to Galilee, they saw the resurrected Lord and responded appropriately – with worship (Matthew 28:17). It was this attitude and posture that preceded the giving of the Great Commission. They worshiped, then they were sent out by Christ “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Likewise, we should come worshiping at the feet of Jesus in our worship services; then we should be sent out to go.
How worship follows the Great Commission
But actually, it’s not all about the going. My colleagues that teach Greek here at Southeastern will point out that the main verb in the Commission is to “make disciples” (Matt 28:19). This is the imperative! Jesus instructs his followers to “make disciples” by going, baptizing, and teaching them to observe everything he has commanded them (v. 20).
So what should we teach them?
Why not start with the Greatest Commandment? In answer to a Jewish scribe’s question recorded in Mark 12 – “Which commandment is the most important of all?” – Jesus declares: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
We are to love God, and, as we are going, teach others to do so! This means that worship follows the Great Commission. If we are obedient to the Commission, it will result in more worship of the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ.
How our worship services can follow the Great Commission
But what does this look like when we’re worshiping together? How can we connect the Great Commission to our weekly worship services? Consider these suggestions for more missional worship services:
- Emphasize the Gather/Send pattern in your worship gatherings. As Ruth Meyers puts it: seek “missional worship,” defined as “worship that engages worshipers in the mission of God, drawing them into God’s self-offering of redemptive love through Christ and in the power of the Spirit” (Missional Worship, Worshipful Mission, p. 12). Gather to rehearse the Gospel, then go to share His love.
- Call “All Creatures” to worship, proclaiming the Kingdom Diversity apparent in scripture. As in Psalm 148 and Revelation 7, encourage the young and the old from every tribe and every tongue to praise the name of the Lord.
- Sing missional songs like the new hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend titled “For the Cause.” Its inspiring chorus declares “Christ we proclaim, the Name above every name: For all creation, ev’ry nation, God’s salvation through the Son!”
- Pray God-glorifying missional prayers modeled on the Psalmist’s words from Psalm 67:4 (“Let the nations rejoice and shout for joy…”) or the Apostle Paul’s thanksgiving for those who “heard the message of truth … [and] believed” (Ephesians 1:13).
- Connect a new believer’s baptism with the outward ministry that brought him or her to faith (such as campus ministry, a small group, ESL class, or VBS). Emphasize how obedience to Jesus’ Great Commission resulted in another worshiper of Christ.
- Preach sermons that remind the church of Jesus’ desire “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), while recognizing that unbelievers may be present who will “worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you’” (1 Corinthians 14:25).
- Observe Lord’s Suppers that intentionally display the Gospel and call others to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Consider carefully the words, music, and elements used in the service.
- Craft missional benedictions that serve as the final words of a service. For example, a church here in North Carolina concludes by telling the congregation: “You are sent!”
Dr. Joshua A. Waggener serves as Assistant Professor of Music and Christian Worship at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He represented LifeWay in 2008 as a trainer for the launch of www.LifewayWorship.com and Baptist Hymnal (2008). He looks forward to attending the 2016 WorshipLife event in Gatlinburg. Come by the Southeastern booth to learn more about undergraduate, graduate, and advanced degrees in worship and to discuss how to worship as you GO.
This blog post was written by our WorshipLife Event 2016 partner, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We are so very appreciative of their sponsorship and belief in our mission of helping Worship Leaders live out God’s greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your HEART, all your SOUL, and all your MIND.” If you’re attending WorshipLife Event 2016 in Gatlinburg, TN, we hope you will stop by their booth and see how SEBTS can help you with your worship ministry.