I really appreciate the way Mark you raised this question, can the local church strike a balance between worship (defined in traditional Reformed terms as sacraments and preaching) and missional activity? I find it very awkward that we have divided these two from one another in our consciences, part of the heritage baggage we are working through is the labor of redefining ourselves after the break with Mother and unfortunately how we understand worship expresses that baggage. As Art noted worship is both mission and discipleship, its both outward labor and inward labor. Imagine a church without mission or worship? In the past we’ve at times relegated mission to the private labor of professional individuals and/or the shared duty of all Christians in light of their evangelical piety, we evangelize because that’s what good Christians do, so we said…
But I think things are beginning to be different today and the presence of Postmodernity with its focus on narrative and community is encouraging the Church to re-raise this question with a second one attached, imagine a church without mission or worship, where’s the tension? This second question is being raised because the Church is again doing the labor of ‘theology proper’, defining God particularly as a ‘social-trinitarian’ I am and for timely cultural reasons. I don’t want to say that the ‘social-trinitarianism’ of theologians like Miroslav Volf or John Franke or Wolfhart Pannenberg is only due to the spirit of the time, but its due in part and perhaps for good reason to that. Its not enough in my opinion to say well they’re just breathing the air of postmodernism because we could change the terms for each age of the Churches reflections and argue that same point, the Reformers were just breathing the air of Enlightenment, something we wouldn’t want to easily grant.
With this redefinition of God’s nature or we might say futher filling out of God’s character as its been revealed in scripture is the secondary work of filling out the character of the Church as a community and its missional task as containing a communitarian shape with a Divinely ordained end in mind (missiology, ecclesiology, and eschatology in trialogue). In my mind there can’t be tension between mission and worship because worship is not just sacraments and preaching which both presuppose a community, but also worship is the missional living of a community, not just individuals. We need to raise afresh the question of what it means to reach people as the new people of God, and not as individuals with private faiths and solitary journeys. If we religate missional living and labor to the terms of individuality, then the tension between worship – which is obviously communitarian in shape - and mission that has in some social conceptions in the past had idividualism for its shape, the tension will remain. But if we allow mission to be concieved in primary terms as a communal labor, which is both biblicaly credible and culturally timely then the question imagine a church without mission or worship, where’s the tension?; becomes entirely appropriate to voice… By welcoming the world into our communal worship (its sacraments and preaching) we are saying listen this is the body of Christ, we are his witnesses and, this is / we are, who(m) he is calling you unto. We can be both come structures or go structures in this (to use the old church growth language). Worship and Mission without tension!(?)
- Tony Stiff