By John Paculabo
(This article was originally published in the Worship Leader magazine March/April 2011)
“God has a word for you.” The words hung in the hall on a pregnant silence. Then things got worse; I went numb as the preacher pointed toward me, as this Anglican boy, though worshiping in a charismatic church, did not expect to be the subject of a “word of knowledge” in the middle of a sermon. Still all eyes were fixed on me, and I was quite embarrassed. Then he delivered the “word” … “It’s time to release worship to the poor.”
My thought at this? Great, what does that mean?
For most of my life I had believed 50 percent of modern day prophets were just nuts, and the other 49 percent deluded, a pretty slim margin for legitimate “words from God.” However on this particular occasion I had come into the presence of a real prophet and his words were to change my life.
“It’s time to release worship to the poor.” What the heck was that supposed to mean, I was the head of a record label with some of the finest worship writers in the world so maybe it was about giving CDs away. I tried hard to figure it out but in the end just parked the prophesy in my back pocket and forgot about it.
It was six months later standing inside a small hut in the middle of a village in the Amazon rain forest that I understood the significance of these words. My wife and I were financially supporting the only teacher of this village (it’s another long story), and having asked to see the school, I was ushered into this small hut. Inside were crammed 60 kids; the heat was like an inferno. It was during that moment that the phrase I had forgotten, came back: “It’s time to release worship to the poor.” In an instant, I got it. With excitement I proclaimed that we would build a school in the village as an act of worship and so began my adventures in releasing worship to the poor that go on to this day.
All of this time, in fact for most of my life I had missed what God was trying to tell me, worship is a real action word, it’s about loving what God loves, and caring for what God cares for, and from time to time it’s about the sound that comes from our lips on a Sunday. I had been listening with my head and trying to figure things out, instead of listening with my heart and responding to the promptings of God. It was 2003 and I was 57 years old and for most of my Christian life I did not really ‘get’ what God’s concern and love for the poor was really all about.
The poor have always been close to the heart of God, Jesus references them as he declares his ministry, and He repeats that reference when John’s disciples challenge him as to who he is. “Go back and tell john what you see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the blind see and the good news is preached to the poor.” Jesus spends time with the poor, eats with them, heals them, feeds them, and lives life with them. And they are the subject of some of his most passionate and direct sermons (see Matt 25:31-46). Plainly said, worship that is Christ-centered is worship that has an awareness of the poor and the marginalized.
How He Loves
In the Bible, the book that gives us a blueprint upon which we base our lives, there are over 2,000 references to the poor and how we as believers should respond to their needs (this information comes from Compassion International’s website, a ministry to children living in poverty). We read them and perhaps while we may understand with our minds, our hearts just don’t get it.
I was struck this past Christmas when I realized that, all over the world, Christians gathered to sing “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” and we did it with such style and panache that our hearts soared. But truly, if we really understood what we were singing, then our adoration would extend to loving what Jesus loves, and caring for what he cares for. It is a matter of worship integrity, where our actions follow our words.
We who love God, we who worship Him, we who lead others in worship have a responsibility to show our worship through our actions. For if we do not care for the poor and stand against injustice in our communities, in our towns, in our country, and in our world, how will God’s will be done?
Our God is an awesome God, and He empowers ordinary men and women to do great things through his power. Now it’s time for action. It’s time to make a stand; it’s time to make a difference. Injustice and poverty are all around and it’s time to lead Christ-centered worship, to love what he loves, and to care for what He cares for. It’s time for the church to release worship to the poor!
John Paculabo, known as John Pac, was the Managing Director/President of Kingsway Music, a UK Christian Music Publisher with such well-known writers as Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Brenton Brown, Stuart Townend, and many others. Kingsway is the originator of many of today’s most popular modern worship songs. He passed away in January, 2013, but his passion for worship and justice lives on.