Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the 46th Assembly of the American Baptist Churches (ABC) of the Great Rivers Region. A few hundred folk gathered at the Holiday Inn in Mount Vernon, IL for a spirit-filled time of fellowship, discipleship, and worship. When all was said and done, we were refreshed and renewed for another season of ministry.
I had the privilege of leading a “Teaching Session” on worship. The audience graciously received my words as I described some exciting biblical trends within the corporate worship of God’s people. After my session, Marilyn Turner, Director of the American Baptist Home Missionary Societies. spoke and challenged us to embrace the “passionary movement” at work in the ABC; this movement, as she noted, calls us to discipleship, community, and biblical justice. In the evening, Al Tizon, Associate Professor of Evangelism and Wholistic Ministries at Eastern Seminary, preached a message on Revelation 19 during which he described the link between mission and worship. He observed that, before the scene in Revelation 19 becomes a reality, the church today must be about evangelism, justice, and reconciliation.
After Al’s message, the three of us hung out a little bit. After exchanging pleasantries, we noted that the three of us,not only addressed similar themes, but did so in sequence. That is, one message logically followed the one that preceded it. Here’s how Dwight Stinnett, Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region, described that phenomenon:
What are the chances of three speakers (Dutch American man, African American woman, and Filipino American man), from three different locales, who don’t know each other saying something that reinforces one another? That happened at the Great Rivers Region annual meeting gathered around the theme Worthy Worship. In unscripted sessions, all the speakers affirmed that Worthy Worship is “ruthlessly riveted on God.” It inspires and informs life on Monday (“Don’t expect someone to do on Monday what they have not done on Sunday”); that it undergirds “discipleship, community, and biblical justice;” and that “if the church does not engage in mission, then it cannot truly worship; and, conversely, if the church does not worship, it cannot truly do mission.” This truly was a series of Holy Spirit controlled moments. The Triune God is calling us beyond the worship wars over mechanics and accoutrement, to lay down our swords, and to truly worship in a more profound way that embraces our entire life and its relationship to God, our neighbors, God’s creation, and even ourselves.
To that I say, “Amen.”