Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Missional Worship, 4

Beginnings and endings matter. The first movement in worship should do more than simply gather the attention of talkative members. A call to worship should invite those gathered into the unique world created by the gospel. And part of that call should be a recognition that the gospel story is public, for the benefit of all, in the presence of all, for the sake of all.

Many of our worship spaces suggest that we not only do not worship for the sake of the world, but precisely to escape the world. Many church buildings in my tradition do not have windows. This closed environment is matched by our language in worship. Often, we are asked to leave the cares of this world aside so that we can focus on God, as if God cannot be found in the world or in the midst of the cares of the world. I understand that often what is being indicated by "world," is a way of seeing that is contrary to the way God views things. But our worship should not lead us to escape from the world, but to honor God's place in it and lament those places where God's presence seems less than fully present.

Worship should be framed by this public horizon. The call to worship is essential to establishing this frame.

Endings are important as well. George Hunsberger tells of a congregation that has above its doors the word "Welcome" as you enter. Above the door as you leave are the words, "Servant's Entrance." I love that. There should be some notion of sending. The church doesn't exist for its own sake, but for the sake of the world. It's helpful to be reminded of that at the end of worship. A sending or a charge is more appropriate here than a benediction or closing prayer.

My experience with congregations in the free church tradition is that this kind of practice has to be taught. It's not part of our current muscle memory. Intention and focus are required for developing new worship muscles.

No comments: