People Of Freedom is already one year into existence. I’m sitting here in my apartment jamming out to a new Circuit Riders tune, “Driven By Love” and spending the morning contemplating the season we are currently in. Our first year was characterized by exploring and trying to understand what God had even put on our hearts. The year was an effort to understand the picture we saw of community. There were countless coffee hangs, phone calls, and late night talks about this concept of living in community around the presence of God.
I think back to that first month of 2018 when I was bursting with this revelation of community. I remember our first few concerts where we gathered our friends and worshiped our hearts out. Each time we experienced a different vantage point to the presence of God and the vision he had for us. Throughout the summer I took a dozen trips across the midwest, often alone, gathering perspective about the different cultures and understandings of worship in the church.
I engaged with both traditional and charismatic communities. I spent time with grandpas in Kentucky and I served with Jr. High kids in Pennsylvania. I watched high school student leaders pour their hearts out in Kansas City and I watched Nazarene church leaders gather around community in Eastern Michigan. I led in literally every worship experience from raw and unplanned with 70 students in a garage to an eight piece band at a youth conference.
We learned a lot in such a short time. Looking back I see two things that really shaped the most powerful worship moments.
Each space was completely different, but the Holy Spirit was the same. Each place had a different understanding of worship, but there was one King Jesus to be praised. Each place had different thoughts about the gifts of the Spirit, but they were the same gifts. Their doctrinal statements and traditions could not be in greater contrast, but their love for God was the same.
No one place had the market on presentation and style of worship, yet wherever there was hunger God uncompromisingly showed up. It didn’t matter what the occasion was, when the people called out His presence was illuminated.
I’ll never forget Tuesday Night in Kansas City. This was a youth leadership conference named “The Call” where about 50 young leaders gathered for intensive training. Those kids could worship. Their hunger was off the charts. We had powerful worship throughout the whole night! The students were dismissed to their breakout groups, but as the room slowly emptied out the band kept playing. Katie Rose wouldn't stop singing about our desperation for God’s presence. None of the band members moved. The sponsors for the trip stayed and leaned in. About 45 minutes in one of the leaders got up and began to pray and bless the Lord for his presence. The four leaders and I took turns singing out the promises of God. Our hunger increased. An hour and a half later we were left speechless, kneeling in worship in the presence of the King. Our hunger for the Lord was matched with a visitation of grace and love.
Hunger releases far more in the spirit than preparation or excellence ever could.
Later in the summer we were gathering in a tiny garage-like ministry center in the roughest part of Butler, PA. The place was filled with about 70 hungry Jr. High students sitting on metal folding chairs in a semi-circle around me and my sister Lauren. One night our speaker Adrian turned all the lights off in the middle of worship. It was half-way through the missions trip and our culture was already shifting. I remember that it seemed the students couldn’t stay in their seats, they were so hungry to sing together and pray over one-another. So here we were in the pitch black worshiping to the sound of my out of tune guitar under the background of dozens of prayers and cries of reconciliation. Through this cacophony of praise one Jr. High girl to my right exclaimed “FEAR IS A LIAR!!” To which all of us began to celebrate and rejoice! Little did she know she was prophesying over the entire city with a single shout of truth.
I find that worship often seems to grow in power or intimacy as a camp, event, or conference progresses. Increased sense of family leads to unity and sets us up to receive corporately the word of the Lord.. The people that leaned into family saw greater measure of presence and power than those that kept each other at a distance.
No matter what we are singing we need to sing it together. I remember one service at Camp Cotubic in Ohio. I brought all the students to the front of the room. We sat on the edge of the stage with an acoustic guitar while the students sat on the floor tightly packed together. We sang about our “Living Hope” and our true freedom in Christ. I watched as their faith increased together. Some had closed eyes, some were holding the hands of their friends, others shed tears. We could have sat their for hours. The unity was palpable in the room. Jay the speaker came right up to sit at the edge of the stage with us and spoke face to face with the students the rest of the service.
We need unity in our worship and nothing accomplishes this like family.
I can’t overstate the power of family. So much of what many people may find lacking in their experience of worship is simply community. I’m all about worshiping with the lights low and the music loud. But there is a different expression when we worship in a circle in my living room. Something pure surfaces.
Here we are in 2019 with a charge from the Lord. Instead of spending all of our energy trying to create a product or market a message, we are looking for hungry hearts to join us in family. It’s an open invitation to anyone who is ready for more in their freedom and faith. We may experience moments of breakthrough but the freedom of life in Christ is best sustained in community.
This year we’ve decided to set aside our aspirations and visions of success. We have dedicated a year of our time to simply gather together and grow in our love for Jesus. He is the man we are here for. He already wants to pour out more love and blessing than we could know.
This doesn’t mean that we are unplugging for 365 days… quite the opposite. Instead of leaning into programing, recordings, and likes, we are leaning into each other. We are leaning into a deeper revelation of Jesus. Together we are a culture-moving community dedicated to the expansion of freedom in the body of Christ.