The Regent University Mission team was in New York City this week to serve on the streets and in the hospitals to give care and compassion in the name of Christ. To be fair, there is great debate as to what if anything a short term team can accomplish that adds to the work going on long term in a location. For that reason, I work to always come alongside existing ministries like NYSUM or The Bowery.
But once the students get out on those streets, they discover the truth that ministry is draining. Jesus knew it... when the woman with a 12 year medical problem touched him, the Bible records Jesus' words "Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me." That's why our groups always visit not one but several great, bible-believing churches to recharge spiritually. This trip, it just so happened that Hillsong NYC was launching as a new church. We joined nearly 4000 other young people in making this first service a can't-miss event. In fact, for the first time I can remember, we stood in line for church for over an hour and a half!
Going to a church service that felt like the opening of a new club was a novel experience. People walking down the street would stop and ask, "What's happening here?" The answer would come, "It's the launch of a new church," to which there was an inevitable quizzical rejoinder, "What kind of church?" Answer: One unlike I've ever seen!
Couple of observations about this new church from a former church planter:
1. Almost no money was spent on advertising/marketing. The push was through Twitter @HillsongNYC btw. (yes I follow) as well as Facebook. The result? A huge crowd of young, hip church goers.
2. The pastor/spiritual rock star @CarlLentz was on the scene giving a very distinctive flavor for the evening. Virginia Beach residents will know him as the hip Pied Piper of Soul Central at Wave Church. Others of us know him as the once-errant son of Steve and Kathy Lentz (also in attendance) and the result of much prayer over the years. God got hold of this guy in a unique way that connects with young adults like very few people I've ever seen. High energy for sure.
3. Big guns @BrianHouston and @BobbiHouston, the dynamic duo co-pastors of the Hillsong Sydney "mother ship" were on hand, as well as their son @JoelHouston, the creative mind behind Hillsong United. Added into the mix was @JudahSmith from City Church in Seattle to give the service the feel of an All-star game of young, hip evangelical leaders in the US and Australia.
4. The young people who were there made it clear, however, that the unifying factor was not the pastor, nor the preaching, nor the "namebrand" church Hillsong, but the music. From the first chord, the crowd hopped, reached, sang and shouted in a familiar sway, demonstrating that it was the experience that mattered, not so much the personalities. Over three thousand people waited in a queue for hours to experience the chance to feel freedom and liberty.
So hop and sway and shout we did, drawing on the spiritual hunger and energy in the Salvation Army theater near Union Square. It replenished us, encouraged us, and sent us out to do more work for others. Do you think a church should feel like the opening of a night club? Let me know.
Pastor Judah Smith meeting Crystal from our team.