Thursday, October 21, 2010

Should a church feel like a night club opening?

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


Matthew said...

I think one lesson we can learn from Matthew 11 is that people are fickle and don't accept the Kingdom of God (or its messengers) no matter what form they come in. John came as a crazy guy in the desert, and Jesus came looking "worldly" and excessive, yet both represented the kingdom, and BOTH were rejected.

It doesn't matter if the church is liturgical, contemporary, evangelical, postmodern, etc.

Truth is we are not called "to judge another man's servant," at least not based on method.

Their method is fine. All the Younger Evangelicals who want to go back to liturgy are fine. "What matters is that you're called" (Erwin McManus) and that you're faithful.

kiddrev said...

To be fair, all of the preaching and messaging in this service pointed people back to God. Consistently, we were told, "all of this human energy and resource is nothing (lightweight) if not backed up by God's glory (heavyweight). The analogy to a night club is not a reflection on the moral stance of the endeavor, but on the surprising and unparalleled level of energy generated by the event. People on the street asked us, "What is this, the opening of a new club?"