Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Unleashing the Power of Worship

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Unleashing the Power of Worship

Article excerpt

Lutheran liturgical scholar Thomas Schattauer proposes that "the liturgical assembly of God's people in the midst of the world enacts and signifies the outward movement of God for the life of the world." Drawing upon this understanding of liturgy as a locus of God's mission, I propose several theses on leadership for such liturgy, considering not only liturgical celebrations but also the design and preparation of liturgy as well as the community's reflection on their patterns and experiences of worship. Fostering missional liturgy in a congregation is an adaptive challenge that requires both attention to context and knowledge and appreciation of the riches of Christian tradition.

A new understanding of mission is percolating through churches today. Increasingly, Christians are coming to understand mission in light of missio Dei, the mission of God. South African missioiogist David Bosch explains this perspective:

Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. . . . Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. ... To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God's love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love. . . . The missio Dei is God's activity, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church may be privileged to participate.1

Over the past decade and a half, the term "missional" has come into widespread use as an expression of this approach to mission. But there is no clear agreement about the meaning of the term. Some appear to use it as a way to reassert the priority of mission activity, without fully grasping the underlying dieological reorientation to the mission of God.2

Turning to liturgical studies, questions of mission have been addressed in discussions of inculturation of the liturgy in contexts that received the gospel from European and North American missionaries. In western countries that are rapidly becoming post-Christian, practitioners and scholars have explored what forms of worship are needed in this changing context, although rarely has this been framed in terms of "mission." Some recent literature does address the relationship between liturgy and mission, and some of this literature views mission from the perspective of the mission of God, but the phrase "missional liturgy" is not widely used.3

In this essay, I explore leadership for missional liturgy by introducing several theses, each describing some aspect of such leadership as well as pointing to the nature of missional liturgy.

Liturgy as a Locus of God's Mission

In a 1999 essay, Lutheran liturgical scholar Thomas Schattauer proposes three approaches to the relationship between liturgy and mission: inside and out, outside in, and inside out. In the first, "inside and out," liturgy is an activity for those inside the church community, who are nourished and sustained by the liturgy in order to go out to enact the church's mission. Worship serves the purpose of mission while remaining distinct from it. This approach thus makes a sharp distinction between worship, which takes place inside the church for the members of the church, and mission, which occurs outside.4

Schattauer goes on to identify two contemporary efforts to bring worship and mission together. In the church growth movement, worship becomes a primary means for the church to proclaim the gospel and reach those outside the church. A different approach uses worship to serve particular political and social goals, so that worship takes up the task of mission by promoting social transformation. In both of these "outside-in" strategies, "the tasks of mission become the principal purpose of the church's worship."5

A third way to view the relationship between liturgy and mission, Schattauer suggests, is "inside out." In this perspective, liturgy itself is a locus of God's mission. …

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