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The Influence of the Missional Church on Worship

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series

"Missional Worship"

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Most church leaders readily recognize that God has tasked the church with several different purposes, yet how those purposes work together has equally mystified them. One of the most potentially difficult ministry relationships to reconcile has been of that between worship and evangelism. The church growth movement answered the question by insisting that the church’s primary service should be an evangelistic meeting designed to attract and meet the needs of “seekers.” This perspective drew fire from some who argued that this ignores worship altogether, others who complained that believers were not discipled, and still others who claimed that this “attractional” model of evangelism just didn’t work.

Yet in the past twenty years a new movement has emerged in evangelical Christianity that has reshaped the conversation in subtle yet profound ways by suggesting that these two priorities of the church are not separate but in fact essentially connected, subsumed under the umbrella of the mission of God. This missional church movement has significantly influenced discourse about both evangelism and worship, injecting the evangelical church with both a new posture toward culture in general and a new vocabulary regarding every aspect of its existence. Instead of wrestling with how different aspects of the church’s ministry relate to one another, missional church advocates explore how each ministry relates to the overarching idea of “mission.”

The use of the term missional, as opposed to missions or missionary, is growing quickly across various evangelical groups. Ed Stetzer reports,

Southern Baptists have become frequent users of the word.

The Wesleyan Church Evangelism and Church Growth Team explains: “The E&CG Dept. exists to equip & empower The Wesleyan Church to become a missional movement through multiplying believers, leaders & churches.”

Randy Pope, pastor of Perimeter Church in Atlanta, preached a message at last summer’s Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly entitled, “The PCA: A Missional Church” from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

The Assemblies of God Department of U.S. Missions includes “missional” as one of their 4 values.

The Evangelical Free Church is planning a “Missional Summit” for their leaders in 2007 and they have renamed their church planting leadership: “Missional Church Planting Team.”

The Nazarene Church’s denomination has adopted “Missional” as their denominational goal. They describe themselves as Christian, Holiness, and Missional.

Increasing numbers of churches, denominations, seminaries, and mission agencies are beginning to use the term and explicitly adopt its core ideas.

These missional ideas impact a number of aspects of church life and ministry, not the least of which is worship. Many church leaders today advocate allowing a missional impulse to drive all aspects of the church’s worship including goals, structure, format, and musical style. In an attempt to squelch the fires of the worship wars, evangelical worship leaders are calling for worship rooted in the mission of God to the world. Part of the fuel for the wars is the constantly changing culture and a relentless tension between allowing the Bible to govern a church’s worship and the church’s calling to reach the increasingly pagan world for Christ. Recognizing the post-modern, post-Christian nature of the North American context, worship leaders are asking, “What worship forms will best accomplish God’s mission in our culture?”

The purpose of this series is to survey the history, literature, and theology of the missional church movement in order to evaluate its impact upon evangelical worship in North America. After ascertaining common principles guiding missional worship today, this series will assess the strengths of this worship development and offer suggestions of points that require further discussion.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.