Some friends took us to a 'concert' last night. It was really a worship service....one of the most powerful ones I've been to. It was held in a very large concert auditorium....pictures of famous rock stars lined the lobby, along with autographed guitars in glass cases. The auditorium holds 5,000 people and it was almost full. Chris Tomlin was the worship leader for the night, along with Matt Redman. And the speaker was Louie Giglio. I looked out at one point and saw a sea of pink faces, beaming with the joy of the Lord.
I don't know why my mindset was ready for a calm, sedate concert. But I was wrong! These guys were energetic!! I don't know if you've ever seen Chris Tomlin live, but he bounces. It's kind of a jumping/moshing kind of bouncing and it gets you excited and pumped up. By the last few songs, my husband and a friend who was with us were bouncing too. ;) For two hours we rocked out, praising God loudly to worship songs and inspired by Bible verses and testimony from the singers. I don't know if it was the set up of the auditorium or just their sound system, but you could literally feel the drums beating inside your chest. It wasn't too loud though. The sound was just right and you could hear every word the singers said. Tomlin kept thanking us all for being there, as if we were doing him a huge favor.....so humble and refreshing. In fact, they had sold so many tickets that last night's performance was sold out and they scheduled an extra concert the night before for the 'late' ticket buyers. Well, it was worth it. The speaker was captivating and dynamic. I have written a blog entry about his talk already, but I will post it tomorrow. He had everyone's full attention through multimedia and professional, yet very real (not forced) sermon delivery. The night absolutely drew us into joyful, exuberant worship of the Almighty Creator.
It reminded me of another worship service we went to last Saturday night. A group of people from our church went to a ministry we are going to help sponsor to attend their Saturday night service. They didn't exactly rock out, but it was true worship. The building would have only held 100 at best, although it was in no way close to being full. The hallways were dingy and the old floors creaked, but the grounds and the buildings were clean and well kept. The building was a church whose original congregation had moved out of the downtrodden neighborhood long ago. As I looked over the assembly there, I saw a gathering of black, brown and pink faces and some shaved heads with tattoos scrawled across them. Some of the people were shaking, all of them looked tired, some looked sick, their faces showed the signs of a hard lived life. When the music began, everyone sang to their own beat, key or 'melody'. There was an elderly man on an electric piano...it had the sound of a '70's rock song electric piano....and a guitar, but they did not play 'together'. It was a little chaotic, no one was on key (even the worship leader) until I nudged my husband with my elbow and said, "Sing! Loud!" My husband has a great voice and a loud, joyful one, so we all got on track and could sing after that. And even though they didn't sound pleasing to our ears, I know it was a beautiful sound to God. The speaker for the evening was not polished, he simply stood in front with his Bible, no powerpoint or videos to show us. But he held our attention, captured our imagination and drew us to God's Word through his testimony and love for the Word. A former biker who rode with a very notorious gang, he is now free from addictions and shame. He is called to lead there at this ministry and God is using him powerfully. This was one of his very first sermons.
Set Free is a ministry to drug addicts, alcoholics, bikers, and skin heads. It began in San Diego, California and this chapter in Phoenix has been up and running for years now. The church grounds have housing for the men in their program. The program involves Christian based substance abuse recovery, anger management, counseling, intense Bible study, and street witnessing for those who have been in the program a while. They also have low income housing apartments for people who want 'clean' living. (no substances allowed and they are strict about it) The people do not have to be Christians to stay there, but it is a very strongly Christian atmosphere, so I'm sure it draws the people to God. They are quite a presence there in south Phoenix. The neighborhood they are in has finally come to accept them and to be glad they are there and some of the neighbors have even started attending the Saturday night services. On Sunday mornings a Spanish speaking church meets there and the Set Free men load up onto a bus and visit various churches around the city. This is how our church got to know this ministry, as they come to our church about once every 6-8 weeks.
You can't miss the Set Free guys when they come to church either! They come filing in to our adult Sunday School classes and into our worship services, smiling and greeting everyone they see. They all open their Bibles, give imput on the Bible studies, offer to pray aloud during prayer request times, praying with fervor and passion, and they LOVE the Lord. In worship, they sing, sway, clap, raise their hands. It inspires and draws the people around them into a more sincere worship as well. And that is how they were worshipping last Saturday night too at their old, small, run down church building, as if God had made them princes......and indeed He has. I had tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat when they began singing I Am Free!
Because they are....and somehow it shows so much more on their faces than on the people of most of the churches I've been in....because they know, literally, what being a slave to sin is and they know the deliverance and fresh hope that life in Jesus brings.
Luke 7:46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."