I came of age during the 80's-90's worship renewal era within Churches of Christ. While sometimes filled with debate, in general, people in those times seem to realize that the church needed spiritual renewal, and that worship was a good place to start. New worship music was composed and arranged at breakneck speed. Entire conferences were devoted to nothing but praising God and growing closer to him. Articles and books were also coming off the presses briskly. 1995's In Search of Wonder was a little book I remember devouring as a young Worship Minister. I read chapters by many of the influential voices in Churches of Christ nudge and sometimes shove us toward spirituality. I needed that nudge and still do. I also read books like Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline around the same time, as well as the entire Henri Nouwen library.
Those years were absolutely essential to providing me with the spiritual foundation to say in my better moments, "Master, the Tempest is Raging," rather than becoming another disgusted Jonah to Nineveh. The world and the Church can be a tough neighborhood. Our response to the realities around us should be to turn to Him for the strength, resources and answers we seek. It's easier said than done, sometimes.
I so appreciate the emphasis on "incarnational" and missional theology that has identified the last 15 years or so (less than that within Churches of Christ). It's vital we focus on living out the Gospel–not simply studying it, talking about it, or mulling it over. The theological nail we've hammered for the last 15 years or so has really helped wake us up to the plight of the poor, a broader understanding of Kingdom, the importance of hospitality, and helped us learn to be more "civil" servants of Christ. It has been just the right medicine at a pivotal time in our history.
I feel as though some are mistaking worship these days for idleness or apathy toward what's going on in the world. That's not possible for genuine worship. They may be recognizing idleness and apathy dressed up in Sunday clothes, but that's not what genuine worship is. We need to remember the inner life as the wellspring of our deeds. The church is neither "holy huddle" or secular charity. The church is also not activistic first. It is centered and grounded in God first. Not instead, but first. Whether it's Mary commended over her busy sister Martha, or the early church told to "Wait and Pray" before the tackle the world with the Gospel–we're told by Scripture that being precedes and fuels our doing. We don't go tackle the world and then hope God likes what we're doing. We don't put even very real human concern over Divine prerogative and concern. It isn't either or, but the order is vitally important. The good news is that God is concerned about what happens down here. That's why we do what we do. This may sound rather simple…even cliche, but it isn't.
He's the beginning and end of everything. He's where we start, where we stay, and where we end. Ministry begins and ends with Him. We do good in the world by His power and in His Name. We do these things because we want to please Him. To keep this perspective (and it's more than a meer perspective) will take replenishment and a permanent place for the inner life at the core of Christianity. People who are actually close to God will value what He values, and will engage in ministry as He desires, with the passion, direction, and vigor He supplies. They will be Amos for the cause of the poor, not Jonah despising for their shortcomings the very people he's sent to preach to.
Just as one can't be a worshipper unconcerned with God's concerns, one isn't a prophet if God is an afterthought. God's Spirit is enough for us…to do what's right, for the right reasons, with the right heart. Then, justice will be an act of worship, not the humanistic crusade of frustrated and angry "prophets."