I did some research and found that there are several websites and blogs that promote the idea that Mission comes before Church. According to the dates, this way of thinking has been going on for some time. Many of these Missional Church sites promote the idea that the main purpose for the body of Christ is to go forth and fulfill the Great Commission rather than stand in corporate gatherings of worship unto God. They feel an urgency and there are many of them. They believe the Mission comes first and the gathering of the Church comes second.
I think that they have become disgusted with doing “church as usual”. They know that something isn’t right. I empathize with them. I agree that “church as usual” is messed up. So, should our response be to place the Mission before the Church? Is this putting the cart
before the horse? Or should we reconsider how we are doing Church to empower Mission? Let’s think about that…
Why were you and I created? Why was mankind created? What’s the primary reason? Were we created to feed the poor? Were we created to be missionaries? First and foremost we were created to worship Him. We were created to be connected to Him, for it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.
We were were created to fellowship, commune, and be worshipers of God. We were created for His pleasure and He delights in the praises of His people.
What Came First?
Long before there were missionaries, there were worshipers. Long before Jesus came with the mission, there was worship. Worship enables communion with God, and worship is a weapon that is used before, during, and after spiritual encounters. Throughout history, God has had a remnant of people who worshiped Him. Miriam gathered with the ladies to sing and worship Him after being delivered. All the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. King David danced before the Lord. Hezekiah sang. Hannah worshiped, and Samuel came. Worship brings deliverance and victory. God’s people worshiped Him before battle. Judah (Praise) went first into battle. The Levites worshiped and went forth. (Even in the N.T, Jesus employed worship through communion and singing before Gethsemane/the Cross. Paul & Silas sang and the jail was opened). God established worship first. Understand this, He is not displeased with that arrangement. He hasn’t replaced worship as our first priority. He hasn’t changed His mind on that.
Jesus was greeted into this world by worshipers of God. Worshipers greeted Jesus. The Bible says the Shepherds were glorifying and praising God. The Wise Men came to worship Him. There was a prophet named Anna who gave thanks unto God when she saw the baby Jesus. Anna never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying (some evangelicals would scourge her today saying that a biblical prophet shouldn’t be holed up. I can hear, “She is too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good.” They would yell that a woman can’t be a prophet! They would also say this is not “worship”, but that it is mystical fanaticism and a waste of time.) Simeon worshiped the baby Jesus. Before His birth, Jesus’ own Mother was recorded as being a God-worshiper. In the Bible, EVERY SINGLE PERSON who greeted the baby Jesus was a worshiper…There are no exceptions. It was worship that preceded and greeted the Missionary Jesus.
Who was Jesus? Before He was a Missionary, He was a Worshiper. When did His ministry begin? Somewhere around the age of 30. Before He started His ministry, what was He? He was a worshiper of the Father. He was the greatest worshiper of the Father who ever lived. He is the one who taught His disciples that the very first thing you do when praying is to worship the Father together (Our Father, Hallowed be thy name). Before He went on His mission ministry, he spent 30 years worshiping the Father. He was the Son in whom the Father was well pleased. As a boy, He declared His affinity for being in His Father’s house and He grew in favor with the Father. We know from Scripture that it was His custom (habit) to be in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Even when He began His ministry, He never broke from spending time with the Father. He also continued to go to the synagogues on the Sabbath. Even when He got kicked out of one synagogue, He continued to go to others (Lk.4). The Bible says that it was His custom. He was first and foremost a Worshiper of the Father. It was from worship, prayer, and communing with the Father that He was able to accomplish any mission. He said, “I only do that which I see my Father doing”. Think about that last statement: Before He “did” anything, He had to “see” it first. “Doing” did not outweigh “seeing”. How did He see? My hunch is that during His time of ministry, he spent a bit more time praying first than preaching. Isn’t it interesting that His disciples followed that same pattern (Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Where do you think they got the idea of praying/worshiping first, and then the ministry of the word? Do you think they were following an example that they had both seen in action and were taught? Prayer came before preaching and it looks like they did it TOGETHER.” Praying together. Hmm…Sounds like what Church is supposed to be.
The Lord’s Prayer
The disciples came to Jesus and asked Him to teach them how to pray. So, how are we supposed to both pray and live out the “Lord’s prayer”? Hint: It cannot be lived out alone. There is no “I”, “me”, or “my” in the Lord’s prayer. Instead, you find “our”, “us”, “we”. It is to be lived out together, corporately. What is specifically the first thing listed that we should do together? Go on mission? Feed the poor? Preach? He says, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name!” Why is this first and plural? Because we are called to worship Him first and foremost together. ” Oops! There is that idea again of praying and worshiping together first. It just won’t go away..Sounds like church. Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength; this is the First and greatest commandment.” How is this best accomplished? Jesus just told us…together, gathered. What is the second greatest commandment? Love one another. How is this accomplished? Is there an order of preference? Yes. Scripture says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”. The family of believers comes first, even before the lost. The two greatest commandments are ranked ahead of loving your enemies. Although we love the lost, the Bible is clear that we are marked as His disciples by our love for our fellow believers (John 13:35). Is anyone having trouble with this? Then you are having trouble with the Truth, not me. Read Galatians 6:10 and take up your problem with Him.
Let me say something more about the Lord’s Prayer. If the Mission comes before Church, then why isn’t Mission enumerated and spelled out more graphically at this most opportune teaching moment? Let it be said: If you are not prioritizing gathering together first to worship His name (OUR Father, Hallowed be thy name) then you will be weak for the mission. If you are not spending time first in faith-filled prayer together for His will to be done on earth as heaven, then your mission will be like using a shovel to move a mountain. If you are not receiving bread together (Give US) then the mission will be famished. If you have unforgiveness and are not praying together (It’s hard to forgive all by yourself, you need others to help pray you through! “Forgive US as We forgive), the mission will be grounded. If you are not praying together against temptation (Deliver US), you risk falling into deceit. Last of all, worship Him some more TOGETHER. Worshiping Him together, praying together, feeding together, forgiving together sounds like Church to me. If you get Church right, mission will follow and be empowered. Jesus had His priorities right in the way He taught us to pray and live.
“Wait” first…then “Go”
We are called to worship Him together, and to love one another with believers as the priority. How is this accomplished? Church. Let me say it again…Church. Church comes before Mission. Where do we connect with God? Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. God dwells in the midst of the praises of His people. This is where God dwells…not the streets. We take Him to the streets with us. We the Church are the carriers of His presence. We are the temple of the Holy Ghost. We must do Church. It is vitally important that we do this first and foremost as Christ has ordered.
It is from the gathering of worshiping, praying believers that mission comes. Before Peter preached on Pentecost, Peter gathered and prayed first with the family of believers. As they waited, then they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and then he preached. You see, before they could do the Great Commission and “GO”, they FIRST had to obey the command to “WAIT” (Lk. 24:49) and do church in the Upper Room.
What happened when he preached? Three thousands souls were saved! Here’s a question for you: Were the three thousand souls added to the mission? Or were they added to the Church? The following verse tells us exactly what happened next: So then, those who had received his word were baptized ; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Teaching, fellowship, prayer! That fits the description of Church! Verse 47 nails it down: And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Does this mean they stopped witnessing? NO! NO! NO! This means that they became the very thing that they were birthed from. Birds beget birds and the Church begets the Church. How? Birds beget birds through the process of eggs. The Church begets the Church through the seed of the Gospel going forth. God is the Father, The Church is the Bride, the Gospel is the seed, and the act of doing mission is the carrying system. The Church is the Bride, and Brides give birth. Do not place the act of mission before the worshiping, praying Bride. I would be afraid to try and place anything between Christ and the first priority of His Bride.
What happened to the most traveled missionary in scripture after his conversion? What does scripture tell us came first for Paul? Did he do mission first, or did he congregate with the body of believers? He went to see a believer so that he could be delivered from the scaly things that blinded him. You can be dramatically saved by a first-hand encounter with God, and yet, you still need the immediate contact with other saints so that you don’t run into walls. What happened next? Acts 9: 19-20: “Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God”. He gathered with even more saints and began to testify in the synagogue. However, the order shows us that he went to be with the believers first. It is in this context that he immediately begins to proclaim Christ in the synagogues. Paul preached from the context of being among the believers at Damascus. Mission comes from the Church. Church first, mission after.
Continued in Mission before Church??? Part 2.