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March 21, 2013
March 15, 2023

Worship Leader Development: Social Justice (Part 3)

(Austin Stone Worship note: part 1 of this post can be found here. Part 2 is here.)

In part 1, we looked at what it means to be broken by injustice. In part 2, we looked at what the gospels tell us our place in the world is. Now we’re going to take a look at some application steps for demonstrating Gospel Justice.

Step 2: Mirror The Redemption and Justice We've Been Given

Worship and arts pastors cannot simply be satisfied with crafting songs and asking people to sing them. We have a much higher calling on our lives – a calling to reflect the mission and way of Jesus  to our families, neighbors, and those we’ve been entrusted to lead.

Thomas Merton once said “The role of art is to stir the heart of man towards God — and anything that does not do that is not worthy of the label ‘art.’”

Mirroring and reflecting the redemption and mercy we’ve been given in Christ should be one of the most natural things we do as artists.  It should be as fluid and organic as inhaling fresh wind in our lungs. We have been shown mercy, therefore we show mercy.

Children understand the concept of mirroring very well! My daughter Story has this down (although it usually gets her and I both in trouble), but the point is simply this: children mimic their fathers. Are you?

Our worship cannot be contained by songs, but must be expressed through serving, giving, being merciful.  And with this responsibility comes a great warning if we fail to center our lives in this truth. Let’s remember this harsh warning:

“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
(Amos 5:21-24 ESV)

God is rejecting their worship! Why? They “trampled the poor” “overlooked justice” “turned aside the needy” and “forsook justice and righteousness.” God is telling them their worship isn’t real unless justice and righteousness are at the center.

Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century French abbot, once said “Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a sceptor, but a hoe.” Too many of us want to be the prophet with the sceptor, but forget that being a prophet includes washing people’s feet, asking people to put down stones, and feeding the hungry crowds.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will… Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” –Romans 12:1-2, 9

These are the actions – the marks – of service of a worship leader.

Our songs are just silly melodies and catchy rhymes if they are not infused with the Gospel, and mirrored in our actions.

Step 3: Teach Redemption and Justice

As those who realize the redemption and mercy we’ve been given, and as those who are mirroring that redemption and mercy, we must also teach this redemption and mercy. Our role as worship pastors is to use the platform we’ve been given, the songs we write, and influence we have to steward others towards being people of redemption and mercy. We cannot teach what we’re not living, but the opposite is also true — What we are living, we will naturally teach.

Jesus was constantly surrounded by the broken, the destructive, the brusied, and the weary. And when he served and healed and freed them, he was teaching every onlooker that His Way was different. His Way was better. And His Way was the example. And He was teaching us that to be a good shepherd means we must teach by example what it means to be a people who infuse Gospel Justice.

Final Application

I would love to make this simple and just tell you about the next 5 big social justice causes you should sign up for. Or show you a video of a mission organization and say “here go talk about this one.” Or inspire you to care deeply about something I care about. But that is not the way of Jesus. Jesus says “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God…and blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Because you’ve been shown peace, be a peacemaker.
Because you’ve been freed, fight for those that are in slavery.
Because you’ve been given a Father, pursue the fatherless.
Because you’ve been rescued, be a rescuer.
Because you’ve been fed and held, go feed and hold.

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Aaron Ivey
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