Gospel Mission in Worship – Lifting Up Jesus

As noted previously and often, many if not most of our evangelical worship controversies center around style before substance.  Our obsession tends to show more interest in mood than form.  These are reversed priorities.  While such inverted priorities are usually argued by virtue of contextual evangelism (“People like this kind of music better and listen to it on the radio” vs. “This music sounds like a church and that’s what people expect and need to hear in church worship”), such discussions are often just smokescreen for personal preference or lack of creative application on the part of leaders and/or a reaction to strong personalities in the church demanding their way.  Until Pastors and Worship Ministers engage church leadership in the priority discussions of Christ-centered, Gospel-proclaiming worship, we will likely continue to observe worship steeped in strategic efforts of humans that otherwise lacks the inbreathed power of the Holy Spirit.

Our gathered worship must reflect our mission! “God calls us to minister the gospel.  Worship is to be an intentional expression of this biblical purpose.”[1]  Lest we misunderstand, Christ-centered worship does not mean “evangelistic” as some would think yet again of evangelistic as indicating a particular style.  It is crucial for leaders and believers to begin to more fully understand that nothing is ever as powerfully intentional in Gospel mission as lifting up Christ, and this is to be the central purpose in our worship.  The controlling point of worship begs questions such as, “Does this act, word, or song honor and reflect the character of Christ?”  “Are we telling the God-story through our worship?”  It also behooves us to remember that God’s provision of grace is as vital for daily Christian living as it is for conversion.  A clear aspect of this grace provision involves our (believers) awareness of serving those in need outside and inside our fellowship through our given ministry of reconciliation.  “As our worship resonates with the message of his love for us, our hearts resonate with love for him and his purposes.”[2]  The Gospel-shape of such worship sends us out with an awareness of God’s mission to make known his Son to the world.

Here are some helpful quotes from Bryan Chapell in his book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice:

Concern to see the power of God among his people will require that we abandon no essential of worship that declares his glory.  If we do not understand his glory, then we cannot give him proper praise nor rightly humble ourselves before him.

The truths of the progress of the gospel form the essential framework of our worship so that they shape the lives of the worshipers.

We fail when we make our preferences rather than the Gospel our worship guide.

We are moving through Lent toward Holy Week and celebration of Resurrection Day.  Rather than trying to find the coolest new song for these special days, why not pray fervently and often that the Spirit would help us so re-present the Gospel in our worship, in song, word, and action, that those gathered with us, believers and unbelievers, would be unable to miss the Christ who said, “As for me, I if I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to me.” (John 12:32)


[1] James B. Torrence, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 41.

[2] Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008)

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Shared Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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