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When most Christians think of worship and liturgy, mission is not the first thing that comes to mind. Worship is central to the Christian life, but there is often a disconnect between worship and its role in connection with mission. Many contemporary Christians view liturgy with suspicion, seeing it as irrelevant to the church’s mission. On the other hand, liturgical Christians may be suspicious of evangelical Christians, seeing them as compromising the historic Christian faith for the sake of mission. However, there is a vital connection between liturgy and mission, and understanding this connection can lead to renewal in the church’s worship and witness.
The Missiological Orientation of the Liturgy
The word “liturgy” comes from the Greek word “leitourgia,” which means “the work of the people.” It originally referred to “public service” or a service rendered. In the context of worship, liturgy refers to the corporate act of worship by the people of God. Every church has its own liturgy, whether formal or informal. The purpose of liturgy is to prepare the church for its work and witness in the world. The liturgy gathers the people of God to worship and sends them back out into the world on God’s redemptive mission.
The rhythms of the liturgy form the church for mission. Liturgical worship calls the church out of the world and then sends them back into the world with the Word of God on their lips. The liturgy of the Word and Table prepares the church for this mission. The order of the service calls the church out of the world, forms them through the proclamation of the Word and the receiving of Communion, and then sends them back into the world to bear witness to Christ. The liturgy reminds the church that they are called to extend Christ’s mission in the world.
Liturgy and Justice
Liturgy can also help form the church for its mission in the world by reminding the church of its responsibility to embrace a biblical view of justice. Justice is grounded in the love of a Triune God who shows compassion for the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. The Scriptures mandate justice as a fundamental expression of Christian discipleship, worship, and mission. Liturgy can form the church for justice and mission by encouraging a holistic approach that integrates the spiritual and the social. Liturgy reminds the church of its social responsibility to be agents of God’s justice in the world. The words and prayers of the liturgy form the church for mission the other six days of the week.
Liturgy plays a significant role in faith formation and mission. It reminds the church of its identity and purpose as God’s people sent on mission. The liturgy shapes the church through its words, prayers, and sacred rhythms. It binds the church together on the journey of faith and forms them for God’s mission. Liturgy is not an end in itself but a means to prepare the church to fulfill God’s mission in the world. By understanding the vital connection between liturgy and mission, the church can experience renewal and a deeper sense of unity and diversity. Liturgy is the work of the people for the sake of the Word, and it contributes to the formation of faith and the mission of the church.