After I posted my last reflection on worship and theology, Steve Hamilton (Verve and Verse) offered to let us repost his excellent series on missional-orientation in worship. Even though I know Steve follows this blog, I wanted to direct you back to his original posts so that any responses can include the community that follow his blog already. However, I also wanted to riff off of one of his posts - Towards Integrity in Worship. I remember watching the videos on this post when Steve originally put it up. This post highlights the fact that theology is the underlying constant in all we do as Christians. Theology shapes our worship and theology shapes our actions in this world. This is one of the reasons that the theology in our worship music is so important to me (and why I am pretty picky with what songs I'll include in a worship set). In short - theology matters.
The videos feature a conversation with David Ruis. David is the first song writer I think of for songs that convey our God's heart of justice. Many of David's songs simply ooze justice. But David's songs also root those themes of justice in our own longing for God; especially our longings for God to be made present through the inbreaking of the Kingdom.
From a worship perspective, I am convinced that the primary role of our worship music (especially in the form that God has blessed the Vineyard) is about creating a space where we can encounter God. From a theological perspective this means that what we sing actually shapes the character of that potential encounter with God. For example, when we sing of God's holiness - we long for and often encounter the holiness of God. I think of the many holiness songs that were part of the Pentecostal churches where I came to Christ. The atmosphere those songs encouraged was often one where when God showed up it was in an awe inspiring sense. When God would show up often all I could do was crawl under your chair and worship. I remember those days fondly. When I first came to the Vineyard the songs that were popular were themed heavily on the Father's love. This idea of God's Fatherly love broke me; I was encouraged to encounter the God who is my Father and who is like no father I've ever known. It was through these worship times that I learned intimacy with God.
So what about justice? Can we foster, in worship, the encounter of the God of justice? Can we sing of our desire to see God's righteous Kingdom come and then see that Kingdom come? This is exactly what I think David's songs can help us do.
It is important that we do not use worship songs to treat justice apart from intimacy, holiness, or even relationship. Doing so does not make it clear what our task is - in fact the big problem with justice is when justice becomes all about something we build instead of something we see the Father doing and join in. That of course is a theological stance. But it is exactly that kind of theology that I think needs to be woven into our worship. If we can weave this theology into our songs, as David does so well, then I am convinced that we will foster the encounter of the God of justice. And hopefully we will encourage our worshiping community to join in all that we see God doing in our world.
What have been your experiences and concerns about justice and worship?
Frank Emanuel - Freedom Vineyard, Ontario.