Over the past 7 days, I have experienced 5 formal worship settings (not as a speaker, but as one in the audience). Attendance at the events were 20, 300, 2000, 5000 and 10000. I was in a small country church, a suburban church in a retail center, a mega-church campus, a conference center and a sports arena. Each was unrelated to the other.
Each place had a distinct feel. The music we sang ranged in age from 1978 to 2018; singers/musicians on stage ranged from two to 100; accompaniment included a cappella songs and bands pumping through mega sound systems with 15 subs; lighting included everything from ambient to dozens of intelligent lights and multi video screens; attendees were made up of both single denominations and multi-denominations. There were people from every race and multiple ethnicities both on the stages and in the crowds.
I thoroughly enjoyed every one. Each had its distinct feel and level of spirituality. The unifying factor was our voices collectively raised to honor and praise our God. I witnessed people kneel quietly in worship and others scream wildly at the top of their lungs. There was clapping, jumping, crying and raising of hands.
Three things stood out to me:
- Entering God’s presence is up to me, not my environment.
- We are ONE church, not people from churches.
- People outside our walls are desperate for what we experience.
Every location had people experiencing God’s incredible presence, enraptured moments of spiritually-based, mental ecstasy for our physical bodies. It was the closest thing to experiencing heaven here on earth. For many, it was an incredible time of refreshing. For a portion of people, it was life-defining.
There were times for me at each place where I was disengaged, thinking about work or something on my to do list, anything but joining what was happening in the building.
More importantly, there were times at every place that I was deeply connecting with my God. It didn’t matter the sound level, the number of people, the lights or the song. It depended on my heart and my focus. Different things work for different people. Our heart is the key.
We have to stop wearing the labels of the local church we attend. That building is not the church. That community is not the church.
In our city, research says we have 500,000 practicing, evangelical followers of Christ in 1500+ local churches.
It’s time for us to stop letting denominational differences divide us. It’s time for us to stop competing with other congregation in and across our city. It’s time to stop thinking our way is the only way. It’s time to share what we know with those that don’t.
Outside the Walls
In several of the settings, there was a push to help people in other countries. All I could think of was the people on the same street as the building, those just a handful of miles away in urban desperation, and the millions in our own metro area.
At times I almost felt nauseous at the sound of the crowd lifting their voices, reciting powerful lyrics of incredible actions they would be willing to take for Jesus. Yet I knew most was unintentionally hollow repetition. Few would walk away and impact someone’s life the following day or following week. Within a month, it would be archived as some photos on a social media server, only to resurface as an annual event reminder.
I was one of those. Tormented, I tried to process what and how I could make this time different. How could I sing, shout and marinate in His presence as fuel for something later and not have it just the experience be about the now?
Here’s to bringing Jesus to everyone in our city! “Here I am, send me!”
I want to share life changing information with everyone. I want everyone to experience what I did. I desperately desire people to feel the God of the universe wrap his arms of love around them. Problems can be solved, futures can be defined, and hope is in major supply. They will only know if I do something with what I know, if I take my experience and expand the circle of those who can do the same.