Singing Worship and Mission – A Personal Testimony

World  I grew up on the second pew of Baptist churches where my dear dad was pastor. He was preacher, too, of course, but I choose the term pastor to reference Dad as a term of endearment because he was first and foremost a shepherding pastor of the people he served. His preaching was clearly an aspect of pastoring, shepherding God’s people through the Word of God. It was a normal and regular occurrence to hear prayers for specific church members by name voiced in our home before meals or bedtime. It was not unusual to sense Dad’s desire for spiritual renewal to take hold in the congregation, or for the church to have courage in their witness. We prayed for missionaries by name, and purposefully learned about them, including hosting them in our church and home at times. I am sure that kind of home environment fueled my grasp of missions giving, missions praying, and missions worship. As good Southern Baptists our churches sang the militant hymns associated with “doing missions,” Send the Light, We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations, O Zion Haste, and We Have Heard the Joyful Sound. Stacked atop the Southern Baptist Convention’s unrelenting emphasis of missions giving and missions education through Girls’ Auxiliary (G.A.’s) and Royal Ambassadors (R.A.’s), I never doubted but what missions were integral to life as church, life as a Christian.

I know that the sentences above testify only to my own experiences as child, Baptist, believer, and novice worshiper. Fellow Baptists, however, will recognize the terminology, the hymns, and the ethos and piety associated with my lame descriptions. Even in the midst of those years of growing up a P.K. (preacher’s kid) I knew that not everyone lived and breathed these passions of church life the same as we did as pastor’s family. Likewise, I was pretty sure that not all my fellow church members felt the same conviction related to what was taking place on the mission fields. I trusted, however, that the preaching and singing that kept calling us to hear the Macedonian call would convict and draw them as it often did me. Even the high seasons of Christmas and Easter included bold emphasis on giving to special missions offerings to spread Gospel around the world. This was all part and parcel of worship in my childhood and teen years. As I grew I came to better understand that mission and evangelism had to do with much more than a compartmentalized notion of something that happens overseas, or in places foreign to my routines. Growing as a Christian disciple and worshiper meant embracing my own place in sharing Christ in the world.

Fast forward to a more specific study and interest in worship liturgy. Growing past a strictly thematic approach to worship planning, whereby the service revolves around a sermon topic, I have found my missional roots grew even deeper through an understanding of fourfold liturgy’s form. The fourfold structure fully embraces and fosters missional living. Worship is both event and lifestyle, and the worship event ,whereby we rehearse the Gospel pattern and message in song, Word, and actions, effectually draws the faithful into the pattern and affections that include sending us into worshiping lifestyle. I am convinced through experience, learning, and observation that effective gathered worship can transform the way we treat the clerk at the market, the waitress at the restaurant, and even other drivers in traffic, as well as ways we treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  When our worship helps us to gaze upon Jesus, how can we but see Him in the world around us, and reflect His image through our own living. Of course, this Christo-centric focus is what we pray and sing often when worship includes healthy substance rooted in biblical truth. It is also why worship leadership must caution against self-focus in worship that seeks personal experience above Christlikeness. This does not mean in any way that worship will not be emotive, or that it is not experiential at its core. Seems to me at constant issue is the question of controlling point – surrender.  

It sounds counterintuitive to be overwhelmed by the singing of songs of sending, songs of surrender and humility. It can certainly be, however, a powerful worship moment to offer self with hopefulness that the Lord might work through us that His will would be done on earth “as it is in heaven.” I sometimes struggle to sing Daniel Schutte’s reflection of Isiah 6:8 in his song, Here I Am, Lord. Likewise, it can be particularly powerful as we sing the effectual work of the Victorious Christ in songs like the modern hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, Across the Lands. When sung with head and heart, such hymns serve as a a kind of battle anthem that strengthens our resolve as we faith the work of Jesus in the world through what He has done and is doing in bringing the nations and peoples to Himself.

What are songs of sending and mission that help you express worship?

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

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