Over the course of many years, one church tradition I have always delighted in is singing the Doxology as a congregation. It brings into sharp focus the purpose for which we unite, whom we worship and the call to all creation (here on earth and all creatures below and in the heavens) to worship the one true and living God. It touches not just the rational part of the human
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
mind, but engages the human spirit. Here we have in miniature the whole of the gospel and the raison d’etre of Christian mission which exists to bring all nations to worship the greatness and glory of God.
All mission must start with worship and a desire to bring others into the great joy of worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ. In our worship of God, we encounter his glory, and from the overflow of our worship comes a burgeoning desire to share his glory with others. As John Piper reminds us in Let the Nations Be Glad1, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In our worship of God, we naturally become missional; worship is not only the goal of missions, but the very fuel which makes missions possible. Missions is not our duty, but our joy and delight to share with others his great gift of grace.
According to Piper, “Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can't commend what you don't cherish. Missionaries will never call out, ‘Let the nations be glad!’ who cannot say from the heart, ‘I rejoice in the Lord…I will be glad and exult in thee. I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High.’”
Doxological evangelism does three key things:
It reminds us that our message entwined with our worship must first be focused on the right object. It is to make first things first. With so many competing voices and relativistic ideologies in this world that vie for our attention, in our worship we become explicitly centralized and exclusive in declaring the uniqueness of Christ.
- It requires us to be humble and acknowledge who is in control of the work of evangelism. In worship, we must lay down the self, and by laying down the self, we become freed from the entanglements of the world. As Marva Dawn expresses in A Royal Waste of Time2, genuine worship frees us from our preoccupation with consumerism, our addictive behaviors and our anxieties. It takes the focus off of ourselves. In worship, we give ourselves fully to God who is already at work in his mission.
- It calls us to work together as a body and reminds us of the vision toward which we engage in this work. In worship, we join our voices as a single community. It unites us, solidifies us and emboldens us. Unlike some who have used worship as a means to entertain and draw church congregants into the pews, true worship holds Philippians 2:10 and Revelation 7:9-10 in full view. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth. On that great day before the throne of God, a great multitude from all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues will stand before the throne and the Lamb, clothed with white robes, worshipping the Lord.
In this issue of Lausanne World Pulse, I am delighted to present several perspectives on doxological evangelism. Where else would be a better place to start talking about doxological evangelism than with prayer? John Godson reports on the UN Prayer Summit. From there we have perspectives on evangelism and worship from Latin America, North America and the Middle East.
It is my prayer that as we engage further in thought and action on doxological evangelism, we will be inspired and encouraged to keep our eyes on the prize and to bring the hope of the gospel as experienced in worship to the whole world. God’s best to you this Christmas season.
1. Piper, John. 2003. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: Baker Publishing Group.
2. Dawn, Marva. 1999. A Royal “Waste” of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: William B. Eerdmans.