Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: The impact of a personal encounter with God always leads to worship. While worship is a personal response of the believer’s heart to God for who He is, it is never practiced nor expressed in a vacuum or in isolation from other created beings or community of people.
Worship like stewardship is personal and communal. While worship is a personal response of the believer’s heart to God for who He is, it is never practiced nor expressed in a vacuum or in isolation from other created beings or community of people. Take for example my grandmother, Gagau Uelese, who was a member of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa formerly known as the London Missionary Society (LMS) in the Samoan Islands. She was a pious Christian, and while she was blind (when I grew up) she never failed when she was alive to offer her morning prayers to God daily. In the context of her open home without walls (Samoan fale) where other family members live and sleep, she would simply sit up (a sign of reverence) inside her mosquito net at the appropriate time according to her body clock and start to sing and then pray.
What always fascinated me as a child at that time was the fact that other family members would follow suit. They would sit up inside their mosquito nets, join the singing and prayer which started off as a personal exercise but now has taken on a communal function. In this case, the personal (the believer interacting with God) and communal (the community and God relationship) aspect of worship were very much intertwined and affirmed. My grandmother’s personal expression of worship impacted my family community’s response to God, and the family community validated my grandmother’s personal interaction with her God. I must admit that my worship and prayer life was influenced and continues to be challenged by the wonderful example of my grandmother and her worship of God.
Worship and witness - two sides of discipleship
The Samaritan woman was seeking for the Messiah, and Jesus acknowledges her sincerity by commending her. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” Jn 4:23-24 (NKJV). Worship for the woman was initiated in her in a personal journey of discovery with Jesus at the well, but one that she became willing to share with her village people. While the discovery was made in a private encounter with Christ, for her this new experience belonged to the public domain of the village life thus she became committed to make it known to all who would listen to her. “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Jn 4:29.
This excitement and joy in meeting the Messiah in person, and her personal testimony to the community were part and parcels of her new life as a disciple. More importantly for us, this story clearly demonstrates the personal impact of worship (being found in the presence of Jesus) in the life of a community. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, He told me all that I ever did. So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word” Jn 4:39-41 (NKJV). This account of worship, conversion, and personal witness suggests for me that as Christians, we could not experience the God of community personally without making positive ripples around us in the lives of people that we live with and meet daily.
Worship leads to disciple making
The impact of a personal encounter with God always leads to worship, and this spiritual experience was certainly true of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection. “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” Mt 28:17-20 (NIV). Worship for the disciples was a natural response to the self-revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord of Life. Not only was He raised from the grave and the grip of death by the power of God, but now because of His resurrection He ruled supremely as the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.
Of great significance in this post-resurrection account is the fact that the disciples’ worship experience did not end with worship per se; but rather it provided the motivation and impetus for the next important phase in their lives as followers of Jesus – to witness and make new disciples for Him. This dual emphasis of worship and witness is fundamental to the church being the community of God. The personal yearning to know Him intimately as a personal Saviour and Lord must lead to a life that is committed to sharing Him with the world. Personal worship and community witness that focuses on making disciples are the two sides of the same coin, and Jesus calls for His church to commit to both. These are expressions of Christian stewardship.