Now for a weird verse to start a blog post:
Amos 5: 21 - 24 (NLT)
“I hate all your show and pretense - the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.
It doesn’t make comfortable reading does it? And it certainly would not make it onto the fridge, held in place with a ‘footprints’ fridge magnet!!
But it’s a passage that keeps coming back to haunt me.
I remember it being preached on when I was in my 20’s - quite a brave move on the part of our then minister.
It haunted me then too, but not as much as it does now.
It’s got nothing to do with any of the festivals/conferences I go to or work with, and nothing to do with my enjoyment of worship. I love worship and hearing a huge congregation singing God's praises - it can be spine tingling! It's not got anything to do with the worship leaders I work with either - they are wonderful people.
What I am about to comment on is a trend - not any specific individuals.
What bothers me is that ‘Sung Worship’ is becoming the ‘be all and end all’ of worship when actually - justice and care is also a large and vital part of our worship. As is living a righteous life.
It bothers me that more and more folk are going to conferences on worship, and less and less are going to conferences about reaching out to our communities.
It bothers me that our young people are being conditioned into thinking worship only means singing and having a good boogie to Christian music.
It also bothers me that more people want to be worship leaders than Sunday school leaders, preachers and coffee servers.
I have found that the aspiration of most Christian young people today is to be a worship leader.
And yet, conversely, having stood at the back of a youth worship event, where the leaders felt the young people wanted the worship loud, with mainly darkness and sweeping lights - not many of the young people seemed engaged with this worship experience, that was supposedly designed around them.
It bothers me that many, MANY reams of writing and blogs are given over to how we do our worship better and with more glitz, and stuff written on how to feed hungry children goes mostly unread.
It bothers me that often, the need for some church based worship leaders to do things their way, in the name of “enhancing the worship experience” (Yes, I've heard that said) often means the vulnerable in our churches are excluded and unable to worship, because “the mood” is more important than making sure ALL can worship - inclusively. It also bothers me that this lack of inclusive worship is often blamed on the Holy Spirit’s ‘leading’…..
I must admit that I often see big worship events on TV, watch the trendy light displays, the darkened room with people jumping up and down…… and I feel sick - both physically and emotionally.
This is because I believe with all the concentration on worship, we are selling our children and teenagers short.
We are not teaching them that living a righteous life is worship
We are not teaching them that Justice is worship
We are not teaching them to care.
We are not leading by example in other types of practical worship in the form of Justice. And by that I don’t mean the trendy things that we jump on the band wagon with - the ones that will be forgotten in a couple of months, but rather, a long term passion for justice in our world and righteousness in our own lives.
Last night I visited a youth group who asked for a consultancy appointment. The adults and some of the young people who run this group feel God is leading them to reach out to other young people with additional needs. They already have a few, and as a team they want to reach out to the vulnerable in their community. They are a small and unknown group. They don’t sing - but God LOVES their worship.