Since there is a bit of baggage and even confusion on the term “social justice,” we at Worship Leader tend to prefer the term “worship integrity.” Basically having our lives match what we know to be true of God. It is a matter of spirit and truth worship, if we are worshiping a God of justice, and our actions don’t match up, then our worship integrity is at risk. As well in an evangelistic sense, it is hard to argue with Christian compassion and acts of mercy. In fact it is almost universally an attractive quality. So here are 10 ways you can keep justice on the lips of worshipers so that they will also remember to maintain worship integrity throughout the week.
1. Sing justice and redemption songs:
Examples (feel free to add your suggestions to this list in the comments below):
“God of Justice,” Tim Hughes
“Days of Elijah,” Robin Mark
“If We Are the Body,” Casting Crowns
“Fade With Our Voices,” Jason Gray
“All Who Are Thirsty,” Brenton Brown
“God of This City,” Bluetree
“My Soul Longs,” The Neverclaim
“We Are,” Kari Jobe
“From the Inside Out,” Hillsong United
“In the Ruins” Daniel Bashta
“The Church” Elevation Worship
2. Don’t sing justice songs: Sometimes our songs can be about God’s victory and love for the poor, or a lament for the state of the world, without being literal. Use visuals to help bring this deeper reality about. For example this weekend a lament song such as All Sons and Daughters’ “All the Poor and Powerless” will take on new meaning with tasteful pictures of the Boston marathon tragedy on the screen. Even the word “hallelujah” will display a deeper nuance and beauty and connect your congregation with those affected.
3. Change the lyrics: Throughput the history of the Church, hymns have been adapted to fit circumstances. At the National Worship Leader Conference a couple of years back, Matt Redman led with “Everlasting God.” After singing the chorus of “You’re the defender of the weak / You comfort those in need / You lift us up on wings like eagles” he led us all to sing “And so we must defend the weak / And comfort those in need / And lift them up on wings like eagles.”
4. Invite the “least” in your church to be on the platform. People with disabilities, children, minorities, the elderly—think of those who may feel marginalized in your church’s culture, and tell them that they are precious in the sight of God in a very concrete way.
5. Pray for God’s justice: In your prayers remember that you are praying to a God who is on the side of the oppressed. He raises the humble, he cares for the widow, he heals the leper, is the friend of sinners, hears the cry of the orphan, he is good news to the poor.
6. Incorporate global music and a global understanding in your services. Let it be a reminder that At least 80% of humanity lives in poverty.
7. Read the Psalms that are focused on justice, so that your worshiping community knows God’s heart on the matter. Examples: 11:7, 35:10, 140:12
“You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” Psalm 10:17-18
8. Read the Beatitudes from Luke and/or Jesus’ declaration from Luke 4 to know the heart of Christ on the matter:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
9. Lead living worship in the streets: It’s easy to get heavy handed with justice issues, as well it is not always helpful to overwhelm people with stats and even worse to not offer a concrete way to make a difference. So lead worship that extends beyond music. Ideas: start an after school music program for local kids, serve breakfast once a week to anyone hungry, set up a mission trip, find people who are homebound and bring them to church.
10. Pray for God’s kingdom to come. Worship integrity and acts of compassion are acts of longing. They are acts of celebrating Advent—the second Advent when Christ will return and restore all broken things.
Jeremy Armstrong is managing editor of Worship Leader magazine.