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Transforming worship leads us to the poor

Guest blogger Tim Hughes is the Director of Worship at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, and co-founder of Worship Central.
A few years ago I met a retired Anglican Bishop, from South Africa. As we talked he told me about his retirement plans. He’d been unsure for months as to what the future would hold, but he kept on praying, “Lord show me what it is that I can do, that You will bless?” For months he prayed this prayer but felt God was silent. And then one day he realised that all this time he’d been praying the wrong prayer. He felt God tell him what he needed to pray, “Lord what is it that You are doing that I can bless?” The two prayers seem so similar, but they are significantly different.

Our journey as worshippers should always be to find out what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10). In essence to find out what God is blessing and get involved with that. Rather than a ‘me-centred’ faith, we need to pursue a ‘Him-centred’ faith. At the heart of worship, we as God’s creation, choose to centre ourselves around Him; our Creator. We live to bless Him. We live to bring pleasure and enjoyment to Him.

When I read the Bible, one thing seems abundantly clear; God is passionate about the poor. Jesus made it so clear:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor (Luke 4:18)

In Amos 5, God’s heart burns with anger as He rebukes a people who offer up songs of worship and other choice offerings, but trample and deprive the poor for their own selfish gain. We can’t escape the truth – God’s heart breaks for the last, the least and the lost. If I want to glorify God in all that I do, then issues of justice and the poor need to be at the core of who I am.

With my job I get to travel all over the world leading worship at different churches and conferences. I get to work with some amazing people, I hear inspiring speakers, and I get to see God move in remarkable ways. Recently I went on a ministry trip to South Africa with some friends from Soul Survivor.

Compared to most trips this one was fairly low-key. We led at a couple of relatively small evening meetings but for the rest of our trip we spent time visiting different townships and projects throughout Durban. We spent a day in a township called Amaoti, where we spent the afternoon playing football with HIV/AIDS orphans. We spent a morning serving breakfast to homeless men on the streets. We spent another day at a school in a township called Mayville, where poverty is rife. We visited people’s homes, we chatted, and at times we laughed and cried together.

During the week my heart was so stirred. I felt devastated at the injustice. But do you know what? I fell more in love with Jesus. In the lives of the people I met I encountered Christ. I can honestly say it was one of the best trips I’ve been on. There were no big meetings; we didn’t see hundreds of lives changed. On the contrary; the people whose lives were changed the most, were ours.

As we worship we will change. Beholding is becoming. The more we look to Jesus and spend time adoring Him; the more we unpack the Scriptures to ponder upon His character and nature, the more we will share His heart and obey His commands. Genuine worship will not only lead to our lives, but also our society, being transformed.

Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends with holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship.
- Richard Foster

I love the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. Intrigued to see who Jesus was, he climbed up a tree to see what all the fuss was about. Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus and said, “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus was overcome with joy and gladly welcomed Jesus into his home. It’s fascinating to read what he then does. Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8) Zacchaeus encountered Jesus and fell in love. His response was to give to the poor – to act justly. We don’t read that Jesus had told Zacchaeus to do this; it was an impromptu, heart-felt response.

Worship is the total alignment of our heart, soul, mind and strength with the will of God. When we worship we will find we are led to the poor, and if we love Jesus we will gladly follow.


Tim Hughes is the Director of Worship at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, and co-founder of Worship Central. He has 3 studio albums, and has authored popular Christian worship songs such as ‘Here I am to Worship (Light of the world)’ and ‘Happy Day’.  Blog courtesy of EdgeOfTheInside 

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