Monday, August 27, 2007

Worship and Justice

We, at our church, just entered into a new series in our weekend worship gatherings entitled:

Justice: movement beyond emotion


This week Jeff did an incredible job walking through the scriptures and pointing us towards God's heart for Justice. I believe this is so important because if we don't pay close attention to this (God's heart) then we could end up involving ourselves in things because of guilt, because of emotions, or even because it is a trendy thing to do (not the gospel or what's best for our lives). In the end we are created by God and in His image. If we are truly becoming more like Him then our heart should be aligning with His and these things should end up as our concern.

Jeff's teaching Sunday went to a few other places and you can find the podcast here soon - but his message is not my entire thought right now.

My thought is regarding "worship music" in this setting. Part of my calling to serve Visio Dei is creating an environment for our community to reflect on, celebrate, and worship God while we are together. Within this series I have noticed it is going to be incredibly hard to choose songs that speak to where we are going.

2 reasons:

1) there simply aren't alot of songs that speak to this in the "christian worship" setting. Most songs seem to say - God we love you and/or thank you for what you have done for me. This seems to make the gospel fairly one dimensional. There is not a huge cry to see justice, not a big plea for God's Kingdom to come, or even a "God help us to care about the things you care about". I am not blaming anyone, only making an observation and asking a question... "I wonder what God thinks about that?"

2) It's also difficult cause there are places in the Bible where God seems to say, "enough with your songs... i am tired of your incense... Seek Justice..." almost like... "quit singing and go and do something... i have heard that you love me... has it really changed your life? has it really moved you to move? has it really healed you? Quiet already... do something."

So, yeah... as a "worship leader" - this is gonna be tough. I don't want to lead people into singing songs that God is tired of hearing. I also dont want to sing songs where people can just tell God they love Him for (only) what he has done for them. That doesn't seem to be God's only desire for our life. This is causing me to refocus a bit and really think through what we sing.

As a band/team/musicians we are committing ourselves to writing at least one new song for our church out of each series we enter into this year. I pray these songs would be honoring to God, his church, and put words on our lips that help move our soul.

Sometimes - I wish it were easier... but at the same time I am thankful we are being challenged to moving where God is leading us.

Thanks for listening to (reading) the ramblings...

peace,

-J

ps - if anyone is looking for any songs that do move in this direction let me know as I am stumbling on a few.

10 comments:

kaelius said...

Where has God said that he doesn't desire honest worship, including singing and praising? It seems to me that the verses that Jeff mentioned are chastising those who think that simply -because- they are doodling with incense, making sacrifices, or banging a tambourine, that they are therefore righteous, and they leave it at that.

James teaches clearly that true faith necessarily results in good works. And we see elsewhere that true faith produces a desire for worship, which I'll argue includes what we do on Sunday morning.

I don't think it's about worshipping (and that includes singing) -- it's about what constitutes faith and what simply constitutes action.

jason said...

I hear you loud and clear. I just think it's possible we are "just banging a tambourine" more than we think we are. My thinking is that it's prolly not bad to be sensitive to it. I am not so certain those being "chastised" agreeed that they were merely "doodling".

This post/thought was about both what constitutes action and worship (and faith) and how they go hand and hand - it would be hard to have one without the other (as you mentioned in James)

great thoughts... thanks!

BFrancese said...

lover of your world

glorious my friend

agrainger said...

In the end God doesn't want us to do anything out of guilt or compulsion, even seeking justice, but to do everything out of love (think 1 Cor 13).
Praise and worship is for our benefit not God's. It reminds us of who we are, who He is and His love for us. Songs like "Salvation is here","Friend of God" "Indescribible" and others may not point at a particular act of service, but they serve to energize and motivate the singer and the listener.

I may do something you demand everytime you beat me, but I'll jump to do it before you ask if you love on me and tell me this is what you want just one time.

God does not call us to do everything with a downcast face, sad that we've been chastised into obedience but to dance and sing of His power and His grace. The walls of Jerico were felled by the sound of music and the shout of triumph. Yes the situations we face are disheartening but by focusing completely on that we lose sight of God and sink like Peter walking in the stormy seas. We serve a mighty God and that should be the focus of "praise and worship" but we could change the title of music portion of the service to "dispair and complain" ;-)

jason said...

thanks for your thoughts bro...

regarding this statement - In the end God doesn't want us to do anything out of guilt or compulsion, even seeking justice, but to do everything out of love (think 1 Cor 13).

I think we are saying the same thing on this idea - see 2nd paragraph - I believe this is so important because if we don't pay close attention to this (God's heart) then we could end up involving ourselves in things because of guilt, because of emotions, or even because it is a trendy thing to do (not the gospel or what's best for our lives).

I appreciate the thoughts - that God doesn't ask us to do everything with a down cast face... I couldn't agree more. but i think you're missing the point... it's not that we should feel downcasted... I believe we should passionately and wholeheartedly (with excitement) be asking for God's will to be done (Jesus taught us to pray this way.) - not just think about myself (which is prolly more a tendency than we realize)

this statement - I may do something you demand everytime you beat me, but I'll jump to do it before you ask if you love on me and tell me this is what you want just one time. - I agree with you...

so yeah... i think you read into this something that wasn't there. Has nothing to do with being in dispair or complaining... has more to do with - let's make sure our prayers, worship, and songs are filled with celebrating all aspects of God's character and our calling... not just sing songs that make us "feel good"

I will say there is something dangerous in saying worship is for our benefit. I am not saying God benefits from it or needs it. But saying it is purely for our benefit puts you down going down a dangerous road. - perhaps a later conversation ;)

coffee?

Corey Paxton said...

bro,

thanks for processing this out in the open. Two thoughts-

First, I love that you want to write new songs that reflect God's passion beyond me, me, me. The contemporary christian pop-culture often makes it seem like worship is a n-sync concert to God, and that's why I worship God through song when I listen to U2 rather than most "praise" songs. I pray God would inspire you with creativity from the depths of your soul to connect others with His heart for putting things right in the world.

Second,the major revivals and reformations in theology of the church have always been accompanied by new songs that capture the passion of the movement. For example, while John Wesley became the famous one by his speaking, Charles Wesley created an experience for people to respond in music. Music helps people move out at its best.

Ok, 3- I am glad you are thinking about our lives as worship. Maybe we will find more outside the box ways to do this....we'll see what the future holds....To encourage you though right now, I think you are fostering an environment that is more than a song. I remember you said that if we didn't sing again, "but moved out into the community and world to serve those in need and be the light of the world so God is glorified," then you would be happy. I've always wanted to hear a "worship leader" say something like that.

Thanks for doing what you are doing and for your passion to move us out! From what I see is going on at Visio Dei, I think people are getting it-

much love homey

Aaron said...

I think Corey is on to something here... I'm reminiscent of the movie Field of Dreams where they say "if you build it...they will come..."

If the heart of our community is justice, then naturally that will pour out into our art, music, writings, photography, etc. So to that end, our prayer should be to align our hearts with this issue...and the rest will follow. The solution isn't to "write more songs" or "paint more pictures". Passion is the answer. If we are passionate about these issues, the songs and paintings will simply follow to suit.

On the topic of being "chastised into obedience...": This is a tough call because if we look through the old testament, we'll see prophets who are very aggressive about God's message. I think we can all agree that we should be concerned with the same things that Jesus was concerned with. There's no debate that caring for the poor was pretty high on Jesus' list of priorities. So how can we be angry when people within the church take an aggressive stance on this? People might feel that they are being "chastised" but maybe that's what the Church needs. Maybe the "mr. niceguy" approach just isn't hammering the issue home? The gospel is certainly a message of Love, but that doesn't always mean that we will always be "comfortable" in our faith.

I think ultimately the key to everything Jason is talking about is balance. We certainly need to spend time praising/honoring our God for who He is to us...and who He is to the world. I think Jason's main point is that we should also take time to shift the focus from our personal relationships with Christ...and direct our thoughts to God's purpose for society as a whole.

...incorporating a more balanced approach to our worship.

kaelius said...

"I think Jason's main point is that we should also take time to shift the focus from our personal relationships with Christ...and direct our thoughts to God's purpose for society as a whole."

Wow ... WAS this your point? I thought it was more along the lines of not engaging in acts that were devoid of meaning, for mere tradition's or ritual's sake.

jason said...

I would suggest I was saying abit of both... and probably less making a specific point than sharing some struggles/challenges as I am actively seeking how to more closely follow Christ and lead a community of people in worship and in life.

Wayne Cagle said...

Hey, Jason...it's funny that you would blog about (in part) the difficulty of finding worship songs to focus on God's justice. I have been wracking my brain trying to decide how to approach leading people in worship along this aspect of God's character. You said you have stumbled on a few songs in your search...care to share what they are?