Worship, I contend, is essential in the church’s mission – whatever your denomination.
Parish and other Christian community mission statements regularly highlight this centrality. Worship, liturgy, especially the Eucharist is understood by most to be “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11). St Ignatius Loyola understood “The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God” (The Principle and Foundation).
Sometimes, however, and most surprisingly, worship does not feature in significant church and denominational mission statements. An example from Anglicanism: The Anglican five-fold mission statement from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) has:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
(Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)
The Anglican Consultative Council has discussed adding worship into this Anglican mission statement, but has not come to an agreement about this. I would argue there has been a loss of the pivotal place of worship and liturgy, Along with this loss of worship’s primacy has been the loss of the unifying power of common prayer, of common worship. In the (even recent) past a variety of interpretations could be held around common spiritual practice.
“Worship First” is a call to restore the central and unifying aspect of our Christian life and mission – whatever our denomination.
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The Bible places worship and prayer FIRST (Revelation 5:9-14; 2 Samuel 6:12-14; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:18b-19a; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13; etc.)
Whenever there is a significant decision or turning point in Jesus’ life, the Bible shows Jesus turns to God in prayer (at his baptism Luke 3:21; after his baptism Matthew 4:1-11; all night before choosing his apostles Luke 6:12-13; before suffering on the cross Luke 22:42; …)
Are we, as individuals, as communities, following the biblical examples and teachings to place prayer and worship first?