A denominational leader said pastors, teachers and liturgists need to address the issue of suffering in the world and among those sitting in the pews as they plan worship services.
Christians need to be aware of suffering in the world and seek justice for those who are hurting, said the Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), at the Calvin Symposium on Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich. earlier this month.
Suffering and finding solutions to it should be a central part of prayers, sermons and songs that occur in churches every week, he contended.
"We are called to be instruments of God in situations of suffering," Nyomi said. "God gives us the miracle of us being inspired to do his will by paying attention to those who are in suffering situations."
Nyomi listed various types of suffering that Christians need to consider, including the pain caused by wars in such places as Iraq, Darfur, and Gaza, and poverty in countries such as Zimbabwe and Guatemala.
Also, many sitting in the pews are likely to be suffering from the current economic crisis, the Evangelical Presbyterian pastor noted.
Other causes of suffering include deaths in the family, global warming, struggles facing illegal immigrants, the battle against HIV/AIDS, and violence among street gangs in inner cities.
"This list is not exhaustive, but we need to talk about suffering in the context of worship," he said. "The God who hears the cries of those who suffer is our God and we are called to experience in that suffering."
"We need to feel responsible for our brothers and sisters," he noted, citing several passages from the Bible in which God calls for his people to help others, especially the poor and the orphans, the sick and the dying.
He added, "God calls us to do something more than just giving to charity. We are asked to help free the prisoners, clothe the naked, share food with the hungry, and to treat others fairly."
The WARC head was one of dozens of speakers at the Symposium on Worship, which ended on Jan. 31. It attracted more than 1,400 attendees, many from the Christian Reformed Church, as well as more than 30 other denominations across the United States and Canada. Countries represented this year included Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt and Indonesia.
Other topics addressed at the included exploring aspects of the emerging church, leadership, use of music in worship, and the use of multi-media in preaching.
The WARC will merge with the Reformed Ecumenical Council next year to form the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The merger, which will result in the groups representing more than 80 million Reformed Christians, will take place at Calvin College.