Labor et Orare

Posted on 01 April 2008

Evangel 16:1 (Spring 1998)

Labor et Orare

Evangel 16:1 (Spring 1998)

The present issue of Evangel owes its origins to attendance at two conferences during the past twelve months. The first was the GROW Conference, organized by the ‘Grove’ Worship group. There, amid the gathered evangelical Anglican ‘hordes’, the Baptist editor found fellowship and stimulus and discovered a healthy respect for those who were evidently giving careful thought to contemporary issues in the realm of worship. Such thinking deserved a further outlet. . . . hence the bulk of the present issue of Evangel.

The other gathering was the conference of British Missiologists. Discussion took place there as to how some of the thinking taking place in missiology might find a wider audience. The review of Tom Wright’s most recent book ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’, undertaken by John Proctor, is the first of a projected series of collaborations between the Evangelical Missionary Alliance and Evangel with a view to stimulating awareness and interest in mission through engagement with some of the most recent thinking in the field.
That over-ruling providence has brought these two subjects to the fore in the present issue is surely significant since worship and mission are the complementary poles of a true and biblical spirituality. David Peterson has reminded us that worship is to ‘engage with God’ in a two-way relationship with God which embraces within it the corporate element which is both vertical (together we offer worship to God and hear him address us) and horizontal (through mutual edification we both receive from God and give to him). Yet such ‘engagement’ is no mere end in itself; just as the delighted fellowship of the Triune God overflows (of necessity lest it become self-absorbed and thus degenerate into self-love) to the human race, so our experience of being drawn into the fellowship of the three persons is evidenced in the desire to draw others into that same fellowship.

The evangelical church in Britain urgently needs to rediscover this! The Great Commission was uttered by Jesus not as a call to the select few interested in ‘mission’ and prepared to man the ‘Missionary Prayer Group’ amid widespread apathy. The Commission was not given to those (always few!) ‘called’ up through whom the rest of the church can absolve their consciences by reluctantly giving the meagre surplus left over after the local church has met its own (apparently bottomless) needs. Each individual believer receives the call of the resurrected Jesus to reach the nations. If mission agencies have sometimes been their own worst-enemies in seeking to press this call of Jesus and if ‘working it out’ individually and corporately requires thought and prayer, the call remains.

Yet there is the danger (especially in a ‘driven’ world) that actively doing God’s will can lead to a neglect of the heart; to the failure to engage with God. Even lively worship can sometimes do this! Equally worship can become (as it had at Corinth) a conventicle for individual experience; a danger from which neither Reformed nor Charismatic are exempt. Such self-serving worship is a far cry from the sacrifice of praise which overflows into loving service.

    The title of this editorial is drawn from the Benedictine tradition. It expresses the conviction that followers of Benedict have sought to incarnate in their own lives; that prayer issues in work and work is the context from which prayer issues forth. Thus the two are reverse and obverse of the same coin. It is not self-evident that British evangelicalism has yet learnt the lesson. It is, however, to be hoped that the present issue of Evangel will, in small part, bring a living and biblical balance to the twenty-first century church as it seeks to offer God his due; in worship and mission.

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