Many years ago I served as a special projects musician for International Ministries of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. At that time the director of international ministries was a man named Bob Williams. He was truly a hero of faith to me, and his passion for bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people overrode the serious lung disease he struggled with for many years.

I remember one conference where Bob told church leaders from across the globe that we cannot effectively preach the gospel to people who are so hungry or thirsty that they cannot physically take it in. He reminded us that we must first attend to their basic physical needs, and then bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Worship isn’t just an ethereal state of being. True worship is also about being available to stand in the gap for hungry, thirsty, oppressed, and enslaved people so that they will experience the freedom of God’s grace. When people are fed, clothed, and freed from physical abuse we can authentically give them the reason for our hope: Jesus Christ, who came to set captives free and fill the deepest hunger and thirst of our souls.

Today I am prompted to bring to light the ugly, rotten blight of human oppression that exists not only across the world but also right under our noses here in the upper Midwest of the United States: human sex trafficking. This evil stench has been around for centuries, and is prolifically offensive to God. The prophet Amos, God’s spokesperson to the nation of Israel so long ago, spoke these words on God’s behalf:

[You] sell the innocent for silver,

and the needy for a pair of sandals.

[You] trample on the heads of the poor

as on the dust of the ground

and deny justice to the oppressed.

Father and son use the same girl

and so profane my holy name. (Amos 2:6-8)

I wonder what God, who was utterly appalled by the actions of people who claimed to worship Him, wants to say to us today in light of the millions of innocent girls, boys, women, and men who are sold each day in the human sexual trafficking industry?

There is a dark reality right under our noses. Here are some statistics from my friend Steph Page:

“The FBI has ranked Minnesota as one of the top 13 most troubled states in America in relation to human trafficking. There are many factors that play into this, many trafficking “hot points” exist in the land of 10,000 lakes. Minnesota shares a international border with Canada. We also have many rural and farming communities as well as a high Native American population. The Duluth Harbor is a breeding ground for trafficking along with the Mall of America. Highway 35 running through our state as well as our International Airport means that human trafficking through Minnesota is an issue.  The FBI also has ranked Minneapolis as #2 in the nation in online solicitation of children. And Minnesota has an 8 billion dollar annual cost related to sexual violence.”

We cannot compartmentalize our worship of God by blindly ignoring the plight of people around us even as we come before God with our own needs.

Jesus was and is in the business of setting people free.

  • In his earthly ministry he set many men and women free, and then gave them God’s power to live in new freedom.
  • Jesus empowered the apostle Paul to set an enslaved woman free both from her spiritual bondage and from the men who were trafficking her for their own gain.
  • In parables and direct teaching Jesus called His followers to clothe people who are in need, feed the hungry, and set captives free.

It doesn’t stop with simply doing acts of kindness and justice. The ultimate goal, as my friend Bob Williams taught. Is to help people so that they can hear and receive the good news of Jesus Christ, who offers freedom and fellowship with God not only for eternity but also right now.

Fighting and preventing human trafficking really begins with each one of us becoming aware of the issue and what it looks like in our neighborhoods, schools and communities. Then, once we know the signs of trafficking we step into people’s lives and love them well. You can also look for what people are doing to fight trafficking locally and abroad and join them by volunteering and donating.

Worship is a whole-life encounter with God that fuels us to focus our entire being on Him and His kingdom work.

We are called to worship God with our very lives, including joining Jesus as He continues in the work of setting captives free.

61Bjn75JHLL._SS280(I invite you to listen to a song I wrote and recorded with my friend Kaleb Williams of the band “Harbor and Home” a couple years ago.  It’s called “Setting the Captives Free” and you can find it on i-tunes, Amazon, and other fine online music sources.)

Listen Below:



Blessings to you!