Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Glitz, Glam, & Jesus

Last night hundreds, probably almost thousands, paid $22 (that's like 5 Starbucks' drinks, man) to sing, dance, and witness the world wide, (church proclaimed), phenomenon known as HILLSONG UNITED. A group of people who love God and want to serve him in the world (AKA: a church) through music, media, and messages. So, I must mention that this church (a called out people), also happens to be made up of extremely good looking, trendy dressed, twenty somethings with cool accents, who dance and sweat around the stage strategically striking awesome guitar strumming poses. What better way to get people to follow Jesus, right? (hmm..Shane Claiborne has a great quote in Irresistible Revolution about being "cool for Jesus," and how Jesus might even have been considered UGLY. Yikes. I'm convicted).

Can I say if I've coveted anything--besides being a hand and foot model-it's to be a sweaty Rock Star.

So there we were just a small group of youth groupies, tweens, twenty (and thirty plus-me) somethings all crammed into a building in San Jose to experience the music that has filled the lips of worshippers all around the world. I was excited to go because I love music and experiencing God in and through these types of venues. And I love the story of the Hillsong band which emerged from the youth group of passionate followers of Christ. But here's my thoughts on my experience...

First off, when we arrived at Jubilee Christian Center, no joke we (Shoe and Rocky carpooled with me) were at the end of this line at 6:30pm. The last will be first, right? I couldn't fathom so many people lining up for a gathering like this--and made me wish this were the norm--the typical case for most of our worship gatherings--maybe that's what it felt like for the guys in Mark 2.

But thanks to friends who arrived earlier-we DID get to be first---cause....WE CUT in with them. Did I feel bad? Yes. Yes, I did, but because everyone around loved God, too, I absorbed the love and grace that permeated that place--and didn't get punched in the face, nor feel bad afterward--like what would have a happened if we were entering any other different concert. So continuing, we entered the huge building--which some people mislabel a church-(more ranting on that in a post later this week) that I admit I admired!

It was ginormous, with it's high tech, swarming, strobe lights and feature film-like video equipment! Again, I tried not to covet. But then I started getting all philosophical and theological. Maybe it's because I'm the 30plus guy now. But I was thinking about how we as the church complicate the gospel, mislead people, and get carried away by the hype--which, come on, I love a good smoke machine, once in a while, just like the rest--but sometimes it's these experiences that American Christians compare as they "church-shop" and then don't commit to a family of believers because they "don't feel" the worship, don't "get fed" by the messages, and don't like what they see. Oops, I digress, I said I would rant later this week. So, last night, I couldn't help think of the worldwide in Africa. How our brothers and sisters there simply worship by the dust of the ground and with only the sounds they can make from their own mouths. Humbling. Humbling, Humble pie! They aren't complaining about their worship venue, that's for sure.

So by this time I pull my scattered brain back into the moment. As the night goes on they gave away FREE STUFF like CDs and T-shirts (with their cool logo) by throwing out their products to us blood-thirsty American consumers--sorry-more sarcasm-(I ALMOST bought a t-shirt for $25 but bought instead a sticker for $2). Cool Logo, huh? A picture is worth a 1000 words.

They also had a competition. Below is our very own Carla, who went up for the "Australian accent impressions." Every one thought she did great! And that's because she's a native Australian. Way to go CAAHR-LA!

So then..
Out comes their (very non-geeky) Hillsong United front man for the Band. He really wasn't your typical sweaty rock star, even though he looks like it. He's got heart. He really challenged us. As all these philosophical thoughts were going on in my head and I was seeing all these people raising hands and singing out to God--myself being one of them...

I found myself really doing some mental work, wanting my heart to be right with God as I sang. I didn't expect this experience to be "work" at all. At one point I heard another one of my (non Hillsong) favorite songs playing in my head. Jon Foreman's INSTEAD OF A SHOW which has amazing lyrics from Isaiah. I've fallen in love with the song while at the same time feeling completely uncomfortable and disturbed. Watch and listen here. And it was a perfect anthem for the night. So as I am singing these great Hillsongs--I'm thinking about how easy this is to worship God in this way (feeling conviction and enjoyment at the same time) and how good it feels as I dance around with the colored lights swirling all around me (Seriously at one point I imagined Heaven and the excited of worshipping at God's throne). Is there anything wrong with that? Comments? I don't think so, unless--like Mr. Non-geeky guitar man said last night--that's all we do. I was so struck, appreciative, and impressed that this glam band for Jesus really GETS IT. In fact, that's what he said last night. At one point he stopped, and looked at the crowd. Almost prophetically, in the quiet- between songs, with some gut of frustration and compassion--he said, "I wish we could all just get it {the gospel}." And he went on to talk about the Church's need to GO, to serve, and to live out God's love in the world by loving others-AS WORSHIP! And check this--they had videos of serving and going--TO AFRICA.


They really seemed to be challenging and warning a generation of people from getting emotionally wrapped up in feeling good about singing and walking out the door and doing nothing- ignoring the real needs of the world. And maybe he was also warning us NOT to pigeon hole our worship to just singing--but that it also includes feeding the hungry, taking in orphans, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and visiting the imprisoned. This gutsy Australian also called us out as the American Church saying we are a SLEEPING GIANT! And he's right, we have SO MUCH and we have so much potential that we really could help lower the pain and evil in the world (some being 27 million in human trafficking, 63 million orphans, 1 in 5 in San Francisco hungry to name a few) but we're tired, blind, busy, lazy, and too comfortable.

I walked out of that building last night breathing deep, breathing deep the breath of God and the mission of his church. Now, that was a sweet time of worship for me. It "felt" good and not so good. And I like that.

As I made my way to be with our Street Church, I was encourage and filled.

Here's the crew who came together last night and gave up 5 Starbucks drinks. Way to suffer for Jesus everyone!


jgw8 said...

I love the way you think about and process the various happenings in your life and then share those ponderings with us. I'm checking out the bands you reference. I always learn or am challenged by you. Just one of the reasons I love you, nephew.

Jenni said...

A couple of comments:
1) I cut too...I felt bad at first, but then once I was with our church, I felt like I belonged. ;)
2) Way to go giving us a definition for "ginormous"
3) I was struggling mentally that night too to really praise God, with all the hype and lights and people and screaming. I was really appreciative of what they said about the church and the sleeping giant. It was bold. Thanks for this blog, Tony. Good thoughts.

Jenni said...

PS--I think Shane Claiborne has made an imprint in our thinking forever, or at least he speaks the words of Jesus in a very profound way, for our culture in America today.

Autumn said...

Hmmm. . .I am so with you Tony. I really felt like I had to check my heart again and again. I wanted to experience God is big ways, and yet, was so frustrated at the glitz and the glam. I kept praying out over the crowd for people to have a revelation of who God is through the words, and not all this show business. And again and again, the front man kept bringing up (like you said) almost prophetically, what was on my heart.
I thought, maybe I'm just getting too old for this stuff. But, I think it was more than that. It was wanting this "sleeping giant" to wake up in boldness. To not just stand on their feet and jump around to songs, but to proclaim it in the everyday world we live in.
And then to see the videos from Africa, I couldn't help but cry, remembering my own experiences, and so longing for the church to rise up here in the states to reach out to the nations.
I left knowing that I'd heard from God, thanking him for Hillsong's bold words, and praying for the next generation to rise up and begin to walk in boldness and a revelation of a loving God who is full of justice.
Thanks for your blog. . .looks like a few of us were feeling it that night!