I have a book sitting on my shelf. It’s been sitting there since 2003. It’s been opened…never. It is called “Worship as Pastoral Care.”
I have nothing against worship or pastoral care. It’s just that the idea of combining the two takes “boring” to a level with which I cannot cope. That is, until yesterday.
I stood in a worship service where most people were approximately 43% engaged in what was going on. Small children were coloring on each other; Angry Birds was on more than one smart phone, and several hearing aids were buzzing around me.
The music began without the presence of the normal worship band, and the organist, pianist, and vocalist presented songs that everyone knew from the hymnal. There was also a special presentation of the song, Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Me. And the sermon was an exposition of John 14 and Jesus’ comforting words to his disciples. The pastor explained that his original sermon had been thrown out because God had led him to preach this passage because there were people present who needed it.
I left worship with my slightly more colorful child, (see above), hearing comments from all around me on the “enjoyable,” “touching,” and “needed” worship service. Later, I caught myself humming and treasuring Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Me as I folded laundry.
I and many people around me had been cared for in worship. However unintentionally by the worship leadership, there were holes that were filled, spiritual needs met, and reminders of God’s presence given.
Now, I know my theology of worship would be greatly flawed if I thought that care was all worship was about. But, as I’ve committed all my laundry-folding time to contemplating this issue, I’ve come to a pretty solid conclusion that pastoral care is an essential part of worship for our North American society.
We are a society that lusts after independence. We value being uniquely beautiful, self-made, free-spirited, and different from our previous generations so much that the essential elements of care and nurture in our lives are unconsciously discarded. The absence of those elements manifests itself when we have an opportunity to be cared for in places like corporate worship.
We hunger for someone to understand us. We desire to hear lyrics that whisper familiarity to our lonely, hardened hearts. We thirst for some Word to remind us we’re not actually alone, no matter how many people we’ve pushed away.
This is different from other cultures where family and community are all people have to depend upon. They don’t have the money, opportunity, or structures in place to discard the care that comes from group life. Therefore, venues like corporate worship are more fully (though maybe not entirely) devoted to praise and honor of God, rather than of concern for self.
Could we and should we combine worship and pastoral care? Can we do it in a way that honors what worship is actually supposed to be?
And most importantly, is this topic exciting enough for me to take my “Worship as Pastoral Care” book off my shelf?
Yes. But, I’ll do it tomorrow…maybe.