What sort of things does the word “worship” make you think of? Singing, preaching, prayer, sacraments, offerings, and confessions might come to mind. What things come to mind when we talk about “poverty”? Unemployment, homelessness, hunger, lack of access to resources, lack of education, lack of opportunity, lack of power are a few things that I think of. When I think about “poverty alleviation”, by which I mean the work we do as disciples of Jesus to pursue doing justice and mercy for the oppressed, how does that connect with my job as a worship leader?
This question has bothered me for a few years. When I think about my fellow staff members who are working in job training, acts of service, tutoring, education, health, or sex trafficking ministries, it’s easy to see the connection with what they are doing and poverty alleviation. But what about me and my guitar? If I want to make a difference in the fight against poverty, shouldn’t I put down the guitar and do something that actually meets physical needs? In response to this question, people usually give me the “cheerleader” illustration which is something like this, “Kirk, we need you to give us the encouragement and motivation to go out there and do what needs to get done.” Honestly, that response is not good enough. Who would want to do that? I don’t want to be a cheerleader; I want to be on the field in the game.
This past year, I read a book called “When Helping Hurts”. That book has completely changed my mind about what my job is and how necessary worship is in the process of poverty alleviation. My whole understanding of poverty has been clarified so that I can see a direct connection between the problem of poverty and how worship is a major part of the solution. Instead of being a cheerleader on the sideline, I can see that worship is a necessary part of the process of community development and the restoration of humanity to the glory that God originally created us to possess. So, I want to take my time to flesh this out by writing a series of posts about this subject.
Part 3 – Not all poverty is alike
Part 4 – Worship as development