Worshipping God for Removing Shame
I spent last weekend with ethnic pastors worshipping God for His salvation for shame. It was an amazing time!
We gathered church leaders from 8 different ethnic congregations (including Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, and multi-ethnic English) to discuss the biblical theology of how God saves us from shame to honor. I wanted to feature some highlights of the weekend, hoping it will spark ideas for your ministry.
1- Dr. Edward Wimberly
(president of Interdenominational Theological Center
) lectured about overcoming shame. His books on shame in pastoral ministry (Moving from Shame to Self-Worth
and Claiming God, Reclaiming Dignity
) are geared more towards African-American ministers, but applicable for all contexts. Some quotes from him:
- “Idolatry is giving others ultimate authority to determine our worth. They don’t take it, we give it to others.”
- “Paul’s major sin [before encountering Christ] was trying to raise his status in his religious fraternity. Persecution of Christians was a means of ancient status.”
- “Shame comes when we worship the wrong thing.”
- “We give our identity up to God, and he gives it back to us. But in a completely different way.”
2- In the evening, we had an extended session of corporate worship
, which included:
- Songs specifically praising God for overcoming our shame.
- Reading and meditating on Ephesians 2:11-22.
- A devotion about Moses feeling too inadequate to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 4:1-13), and the various reasons we feel inadequate as Christian leaders and ministers.
- An interactive time of expressing both our false shame and diving honor (pictured below).
3- During the final session, I introduced this diagram (below) as simple tool for interpreting the plot of biblical stories
. Then we discussed 10+ biblical stories and characters that follow this narrative structure.
For me personally, these were main highlights of the weekend:
- Honor and shame were not just theological or missiological, but doxological. The end goal of addressing shame is worship of God. We experienced that together.
- As with all conferences, discussions around meals are the best part. It was great to hear many international stories about honor and shame. (I learned one of the greatest sources of shame for immigrants is encounters with law enforcement. Ironically, and sadly, the law is used to humiliate and disgrace ‘outsiders,’ not just to enforce justice.)
- These lines from the refugee pastors themselves demonstrate their thoughtfulness:
- “This is why people in America can have everything and still not be happy—the shame remains within.”
- “The first thing that we need to be thankful for is God took our shame.”
- “If our only message is that God punishes and forgives transgressions, we make God sound legalistic.”
Now they will each preach one sermon on the topic, then invite their congregation to create an indigenous expression of worship testifying to their own exodus from shame. God willing, in February all eight churches will gather to share those expressions of worship (and eat a meal, of course!).
Again, I share this praying it would spark ideas for your local ministry. Are there Christians in your life you could gather for a similar purpose, of training and worship? Could you incorporate some of these elements into a Sunday morning time?
The retreat was made possible by a generous grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.