“But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24
In his historic “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr. declared: “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” This line is actually a Bible verse found in the book of Amos. It comes after a series of verses where God outlines for Amos and the people. of Israel a litany of things that He is decidedly uninterested in. The Message Bible translates it this way:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
I don’t know if that “hits” you the same way it did me, but I am struck by the language. Phrases like “can’t stand” and “sick of” are very strong messages that leave little room for the imagination in what God is thinking (and if you aren’t a fan of the Message version, I promise you, other translations read just as strongly).
Today is the day that we set aside to commemorate the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and sometimes I worry that because the celebration is centered around him, an imperfect man, we forget that it is supposed to draw our attention to the work that he started and the dream that he had that “little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” Yesterday during our Sunday morning gathering, our pastor reminded us to look around the room where a group of all races and cultures had gathered to worship, and to recognize without the work of Dr. King and those who joined him, this would not have been possible.
But as I looked around the room, I saw more. I saw people of all different ages and stages of life gathered to worship together. I saw different socioeconomic statuses and educational levels are standing on equal ground in community. I saw those who were fully able-bodied and those with physical and mental impairments sharing together in the communion table and worship service as one body in Christ.
And I could not help but reflect back on this verse and how justice rolls.
This past week I had the opportunity to attended a workshop with Dr. Harrison Litzell of the Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership. His workshop was focused on practices we could use to include all generations in worship together. But he began his breakout session with these thoughts:
He went on to share that once you begin to recognize the accommodations needed to include all ages in worship, you will begin to see the needs of other groups who may not be able to join the worshiping community such as those with physical limitations or transportation issues or mental health needs. Justice is not something that remains confined to one area or one group or one issue – it rolls. It widens its boundary to include even more people and possibilities. Like rushing water. Like oceans. Like streams.
Today, as you take a moment to reflect on the work of Dr. King and the many other civil rights proponents, consider how their work has expanded into so many other arenas – how justice has rolled. As we consider how we might break down barriers between generations and open up our worship services, our Sunday schools, our faith formation events, our gatherings to younger generations, we should not be surprised to find our hearts stirred to do even more than we originally started out to do.
As our communities connect to one another and form meaningful relationships that lead to lifelong discipleship, we are going to see even more spaces and places that we can grow. It’s not a one-and-done approach to church. It’s so much bigger than that. Justice rolls. And there the Lord commands a blessing!
How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers and sisters live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting. (Psalm 133 NLT)
REFOCUS ROUNDTABLE: A Virtual Group Discussion
Welcoming all ages into worship spaces together can be an incredible blessing but not without challenges. One concern is that including younger generations simply means including them in the space but without including them in actively participating with the worship experience and larger church community.
What are some ways that we can help all ages to actively engage in worship together, in community sharing, and corporate gatherings?
ReFocus is hosting this online roundtable discussion for anyone interested in exploring how to cultivate an intergenerational actively-engaged church and how active participation vs. passive observation can inform our approaches to intergenerational faith community.
Reserve your seat at the table here
REFOCUS MINISTRY COHORTS 2024
Are you interested in going deeper into your understanding of generational discipleship, lifelong faith formation, and intentional discipling community? ReFocus Ministry Cohorts provide ministry leaders with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience.
Facilitated by Christina, a cohort group of 4-6 individuals from multiple faith organizations meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition.
About the Author
Christina Embree is the founder and director of ReFocus Ministry. She holds a masters in ministry focused on Children, Youth, and Family Ministry and a doctorate in spiritual formation with a focus on age segregation and intergenerational ministry. In addition to coaching churches of multiple denominations and traditions all around the globe, Christina serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship for the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ and as a pastor at Plowshares Brethren in Christ in Lexington, Kentucky. She is widely recognized as a speaker and author in the areas of generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and family ministry. As the mother of three children, she is familiar with the challenges of faith at home and pastoral ministry. She along with her husband Luke share a love for the church, their community, and the global work of peace and restoration through Jesus.
Interested in having Christina visit your church, speak at your conference, or coach your team? Christina speaks on a wide range of topics related to children, youth, and family ministry with a unique focus on connecting generations for discipleship within your church. Her personalized approach allows you to pinpoint the needs of your community and gain the insight that you are looking for. Whether this is a volunteer team training and pastoral staff meeting or a ministerial conference, her experience and knowledge will help you determine the next step forward in creating lifelong disciples.