“OUTTA HERE” – SENDING AS WORSHIP
The hand motions involved interlocking knuckles of your fisted hands. When you said, “here is the steeple,” you pointed your two index fingers such that they leaned on one another forming a steeple on your fist church. When you said “open the door,” you folded the back of your hands back toward each other, exposing fingers that are criss-crossed and sticking up in the air displaying your gathered worshiping finger people. As a five or six year old getting the knuckles part was hard. Sometimes we tried to repeat the exercise and could easily repeat the words, but messed up because instead of starting out by folding our fingers under in making our fists and interlocking knuckles, we interlaced them through the other hand’s fingers, leaving the fingers overlapping on the outside. This was a much more natural and comfortable feeling for our hands, and we could still go as far as “Here’s the steeple” part. But – when we opened the door there were no people. Eventually we figured out that the problem was the people (fingers) were now on the outside. Hmmm….perhaps that is not a problem after all. Gathered worship in fact leads to “Sent” worship in which the people who have committed to follow Christ indeed are on the outside, living out their worship in mission and ministry to the world.
The fourth “load-bearing wall” in Constance Cherry’s analogy of the architectural structure of worship, or the fourth “fold” of Robert Webber’s description upon which the former is built is what I would like to address in this post. In the past three posts we have addressed the three load-bearing walls of worship structure in order which preclude this fourth wall I would like to address in this post. As a reminder, we began with the Gathering of worship in which we come together before, and with the God Who has called us to worship. We then moved to the Service of the Word in which we hear from God as He speaks through Holy Scripture and through His people. Then we moved into the Service of the Table or time of Response in which we respond to what God has spoken to our hearts in worship as we come to the Table, offering a commitment of our lives, and covenanting as a community to continue in the way of Jesus. This structure of worship reflects the historically practiced, biblically sound, and theologically rich liturgy of Christian Worship. Today we look at this fourth load-bearing wall, which is the Sending.
Cautioning again against the distracting practices of “Program Worship” I would point out that when worship takes on the program or platform performance mentality, then the final acts tend to simply be signals that worship is done. Just as we started, perhaps with a video countdown to get ready for the show, we are now done since there is no more performance on stage to see now. Grab your coat and go home, cause we’re done. Lord, help us break free from this all-too-popular form of programmed worship that may make for better TV, but distracts from faithful participatory worship engaging in Christian community.
Just as I have posited along with Constance Cherry and Robert Webber for a participatory practice in the Gathering, Word, and Table or Response portions of worship, we likewise certainly would argue that the act of Sending is one in which all worshipers are to be involved. There are numerous fresh, creative means of enacting the sending portion of worship, just as there are many traditional practices. Before determining specific components of a service’s sending, it is good to be reminded of some reasons why sending is an important aspect of our worship. Here are a few that Dr. Cherry points out in her book:
- God sends us. Just as it was God that called us to gather and worship, it is God who sends us to be salt and light in the world.
- Sending is the oldest tradition of biblical worship, found in both Old and New Testaments. The term “Mass” comes from the Latin, mitto miss, meaning “you are sent.”
- Because God is sending us, within the sending act there is blessing pronounced as well as commission
- Sending serves as lasting reminder that we are worshiping creatures sent to live out our worship as acting “Christians” or little Christs reflecting Him to those around us.
- Sending presents opportunity for accountability reminder in our shared covenant
- Sending can serve as a lasting reminder of what God has spoken to worshipers in the service from which dismissal occurs
- Sending can offer moments of final hospitality to fellow worshipers in commitments of prayer and reminders of our charge
If we are to help worshipers understand Christian worship as a lifestyle (Rom 12:1) that continues 24/7, then the Sending offers just such an opportunity for such a reminder. Engaging in community strengthening acts seem every bit as appropriate in these final moments of the gathered state as do the ones during the early gathering stages of the worship. Consider these practical worship elements appropriate for sending;
- Scriptural benediction
- Open sharing of what worshipers heard from God in the worship
- Passing of the peace
- Congregational hymn
- Brief chorus or refrain
- Announcements of ministry opportunities
 Constance Cherry The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and biblically Faithful Services, 117.