I am inspired by the topic of this month's blog entry: the place of worship, service, and reflection in youth ministry. About a year and a half ago, I was introduced to a book entitled, ReJesus: A Wild Messiah For A Missional Church (Hendrickson Publishers, December 2008) by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. Near the beginning of the book, they made the claim that the Church has often been good about worshiping Christ, but not so good at actually following Him. Wow! That concept blew my mind! And although I tried to find some way to critique this idea as any good theologian should, I think I mostly agree with them.
I say this because, I think that in many churches that I have experienced, we work so hard at worship services. We plan, make rules, and enforce rules as it relates to worship. We decide what is appropriate and what is not. We have debates about contemporary versus traditional forms or contemplative versus so-called "charismatic" styles. In the Church, we will go rounds about our beloved worship. In some instances, disagreements about worship have led to dissension, members leaving, and, in worse cases, even church splits. Now, don't get me wrong, I love to worship. I love to sing and give thanks like any other Christian. Yet, I often wonder why we don't seem to get into as many heated debates about service, that is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick, (Matthew 25:31-46) etc. While we're stuck within our 4 walls (or 8 or 24 walls) debating worship, we are often neglecting the very thing we are here to do: be LIKE JESUS!!! People are dying of AIDS, hunger, and worse, but our most important issue is worship???
I think this issue has strong implications for youth ministry because whether we know it or not, we are constantly teaching our kids what is important. When the only thing we are worried about is how we do worship, or where we have worship, or how big is the place in which we worship, while not responding to the needs in our own community we are making a BIG STATEMENT about what it means to be Christian. We are telling them that the community's needs can be pushed off to another time, or handled by someone else (the government and non-profit agencies). Meanwhile, we continue to worship Christ and talk about how good God is to us, or how we were "filled" by last week's rousing sermon without the slightest bit of movement towards being God's real presence for people who need it most. Perhaps if we took more time for reflection this problem would be more apparent to us.
I am certainly not suggesting that worship is not important; it certainly is. But it is not of sole importance. As a matter of fact, it should send us out to serve. Service and reflection have their rightful place in the life of the Christian, and we should not neglect that. To do so is it leave out a huge chunk of Christian life.
So I think it is important that we not only worship Christ, but truly follow Him. This has to be a Church-wide effort, not simply the work of youth ministry. This has to become ingrained in us as essential to our Christian identity. Our mission to witness to the salvation, healing, power, and hope brought to the world through Christ has to be the core of our identity. This way our service, that is, following Christ, is lived out in real life in ways that make a difference for others. Let us then be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) into true followers of Christ who demonstrate love for God and for neighbor (Matthew 22:38-39)!
Minister to Youth and Families
Metropolitan AMEZ, Kansas City, MO
Deputy Chair youTheology Advisory Board
Loving God, Loving Neighbor