by Andrew Cartwright
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” –James 1:27 NLT
What is true worship? Is it a song? Is it spending hours on your knees, praying? The original meaning of the word translated as “religion” in this verse from the book of James is actually “worship”. God says genuine worship is when we help others in need.
Let’s consider the example of Matthew Barnett, co-founder of the Dream Center in Los Angeles, as a case of true worship. In his bestselling book, The Church That Never Sleeps, Matthew relates the story of how the Dream Center was founded. Matthew was ambitious – he wanted to be successful and even had motivational posters on the walls of his room. But when he began pastoring a small church in a rough neighbourhood of downtown Los Angeles, the church just wasn’t growing. He preached his heart out every week to the tiny congregation, but attendance began declining. Then one day, the Lord spoke to him about giving up his dreams of “success”.
So Matthew took down the posters and began preaching in an entirely different way. He placed his office desk outside on the pavement and worked there every day where he could meet people as they walked by. He knocked on the doors of the nearby apartments to enquire if anyone needed any help with anything – even taking out the trash. Matthew began learning Spanish so he could speak to the people in their language and understand them better. He began handing out food to families in need. He visited and prayed for families who had lost family members due to gang-related violence.
And it wasn’t long before his small church had grown so full they had to move to a larger premises. They also acquired the Dream Center and began filling it with families, recovering drug addicts and prostitutes and whoever desperately needed to experience a touch of “true religion.” The ministry continues to grow in size, influence and effectiveness in changing lives. It is clearly blessed by God. Why? Because the ministry is based on true worship – helping those in need.
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