Beyond Liturgy and Song

As a worship pastor in the 2000’s I loved leading the congregation in anthem praise of the Creator and Sustainer. We’d turn out the lights, light some candles, pack the room and sing at the top of our lungs. It was amazing, but it was missing something. I was missing something. God led me to the minor prophets where He declares, “take away the noise of your songs… let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23a-24 CEB). God doesn’t care about our worship on Sunday if we are not living a life of justice on Monday. This was particularly convicting for me as I was the one leading these worship songs, yet I had little engagement in God’s Kingdom justice in the world. Now don’t get me wrong, God loves us no matter what. But He doesn’t love all our activities, and if we are not in right relationship with other humans (justice), then we cannot expect to have right relationship with God and express that through worship. God drove home this revelation deep into my heart through Matthew 25, 1 John, Isaiah 58, Micah 6:8 and more.

I have a lot to learn about the intersection of worship and justice, and I’ve been on an investigative, experiential path ever since that moment. I’ve had my eyes open to issues of extreme poverty, sex trafficking, lack of fresh water and more. It’s been overwhelming. But it’s also led to a series of justice experiments including increasing awareness about human trafficking issues and sex slavery, giving money to provide fresh water wells to 294 people in Ethiopia, raising money for slaves to be rescued in India, going on a trip to India to encourage 64 local pastors, starting a nonprofit focused on basic human needs, and eventually shifting my vocational path to be more involved with God’s work in India and Nepal. Through these justice experiments I found theologian Frederick Buechner’s quote coming alive for me, “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger coincide.”

Thank you for modeling a life of God’s justice, grace and love by investing in His Kingdom come. Through your support, partnership and leadership, pastors are being trained to start churches in villages where there is no church. Children are now able to get a solid education. Families are starting small businesses and experiencing hope for the first time. Your investment is having a ripple effect and lives are being transformed every day.

May we continue to grow in our worship beyond liturgy and song, and truly “offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is our true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1b NIV).