Had the amazing privilege of sharing an afternoon with my good Nepali friends. This was one of the high points
Because Jesus was a man who knew labor as a carpenter, He understood the value of a cup of water offered.
A cup of cold water means: I have been watching you work and see your value as well as your need.
A cup of cold water means, I have spent the time and effort to draw fresh water from the well, not just what has been sitting in a jar.
A cup of cold water is something clean and pure in the midst of a world that is dusty and polluted.
A cup of cold water is a moment of hope that will carry you through.
Our heart can be given in a cup of cold water and the Lord will repay because He treasures every life!
Our Bhutanese friend is so proud of the sunflowers that surround their home. Our city is rapidly filling with refugee people coming to find a new life here. All our lives we have been told that the mission field begins just outside the doors of the church. How true it has become!
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”[ Romans 10:14-15
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in Matthew 25:25
The church that ceases to welcome the outcasts – ceases to be the church!
For those of you may be following this series I would love to hear feedback. Our experience is a work in progress, and we are always stretching to grow, minister to needs more effectively and just become closer friends. So here you have the best I can give on the area of worship.
To begin we worship in both English and Portuguese. There is also at our church a group of Bhutanese for whom English is their second (or third) language. Choosing a set of worship songs each week is a journey into a strange new land! When we are serving in the way the Holy Spirit wants, the praise and worship is wonderfully fulfilling! We get to see just a tiny bit of John’s vision of from Revelation:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb Revelation 7:9
The Holy Spirit not only loves unity: He also loves diversity. But in order to be able to flow as one in our time of worship we need to be able to also sing with understanding. Not every great new worship song that works in a single language congregation works for us. Here are three things we have learned through several years of struggle, blessing and learning from one another.
A) Keep it simple! Yes you knew that already, but at our church if we forget this rule for any reason the result is instantaneous. The teens will usually still be happy (they know all the new songs and speak the best English) but anyone above the age of forty begins to tune out. There is no purpose in trying it again , in singing louder or in closing our eyes. As worship leaders we are in fact worship shepherds. If a shepherd is running ahead while yelling at his sheep to hurry faster he will soon find his flock scattered. Some will be lost and left behind the last hill. Some will be doing their best to keep up, but are weary rather than blessed. The goal of our praise is to come into God’s presence as a family. Simply because I like a song won’t make it work. The language needs to be simple, passionate and repetitive. Simple happy songs that everyone can sing and enjoy can be a great encouragement at the beginning of our praise time.
B) Learning is a process. Not all of our lives are the same when it comes to hearing and learning new songs. The vast majority of our people listen when they can to a little music, but few will have the leisure during the week to hear the latest Christian songs or to plan on checking out the cool you-tube videos that are produced by the thousands. For us to get a hold of a new song that works it is a lot of work. We all have had to work to discover new songs from both our languages. Americans need to learn to sing in Portuguese but just with our Brazilian brothers and sisters their first songs will need to be simple. It helps to have a rotation that brings us back around to the same songs again and again until people begin to have confidence. The extra repetition may feel strange to the worship team members but it will not seem strange at all to the people. They will appreciate the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Most of all God will not mind a bit! He delights in hearing songs a thousand times if it is coming from our hearts. Worship time as His family is not about producing a professional quality live concert. It is about patiently tarrying for one another in love so that together we enter into the throne room of God.
C) Changed Expectations As Jesus was seated at the table in Bethany for the dinner, His friends and followers had a lot of different types of expectations. Martha wanted to honor Him with a banquet. Lazarus was just delighted to sit next to Jesus and listen. John and the other disciples were still struggling to come to grips with the magnitude of the last miracle. But Mary did one simple thing that focused all of them on the worth of Jesus. She went into her room, took the alabaster jar and broke it open pouring it over Jesus hair and His feet and then she stooped to the floor and wiped His feet with her hair. The entire room was for that moment experiencing the depth of the worship that flowed from Mary’s heart. She had a changed expectation of Jesus. She had no more to say and no more requests of Him. She longed only to give to Jesus her very best while He was near. In our worship time together the amazing honor and glory of Jesus needs to be our focus. We do not need to imitate something we imagine our worship time should be, or try to duplicate what we thought was pretty cool at the last Christian concert. Worship in our blended congregation can be amazingly deep and powerful when we expect only that Jesus will be pleased. Jesus will be honored. Jesus will really be at our center. Then we can discover that in our worship ,we are one thread in a woven garment of believers from every nation tribe and people!
I previously advertised that this post would be about worship leading, but in recalling the many steps we have gone through up till now I realized that it is too big of a leap. To those of you facing similar situations or for some who long for a greater diversity at your church it might be of great value to recognize the unique challenges and battles that come with the territory!
Yesterday someone was talking with me about how to find a church that would take on the burden for reaching some of the Bhutanese refugees in our city. We have labored more than two years doing what we can in outreach even including a missions trip to the camps located in Nepal. It is not an easy work. We have one small Nepali church which has reached some people but there is such a large majority of them who are entirely untouched by the message of Jesus. They are hearing the words but are not receiving a living demonstration of the love of Christ from the church at large. People prefer to drop off bags of clothes or furniture, but the willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to build long-term relationships is of far greater usefulness. There are many social organizations out there and we work together with them to meet needs. But to reach a heart will cost a heart. Souls are won over to Jesus one at a time. No one will come running to our church doors simply because we put out a welcome mat. We must be willing to become the welcome mat! People will know if we genuinely are ready to become a part of their lives. Though the story told by Greg Mortenson in his best-selling book, “Three Cups of Tea”, may not be entirely accurate in some details, the ideas behind the book are absolutely true. Until we are willing to sit on the floor and drink tea together we will never truly reach people for the cause of Christ. The Apostle Paul said it this way:
1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
We must become like a bridge. On one side stands the love of Jesus Christ and on the other a people He longs to reach. Until we are willing to stretch ourselves across the divide they will never have the chance to receive Him. Daily the problems and the opportunities stretch before us. Time is short and we are not the only voices calling out to them. There is only today that God gives us to reach others. Tomorrow they may be so caught up in the pursuit of material things that the voice of God will begin to fade. Tomorrow circumstances and difficulties may suddenly sweep away today’s chance to reach someone with the love of God.
Today we face barriers of culture, barriers of language, barriers of crazy hot food! But when we think of how small the cost, and how great the value of a single person we must begin to trust God for a way through. Those mountains that seem to be insurmountable are the exact path our Savior leads. He has promised he will make the way. It is not only making a way for us, but also making a way for those whom we are desperately trying to lead into His arms! For those who are working or planning to work in the cross cultural church of today we must face the reality that there is a battle ahead, But then there is also the reality that we can rejoice in the fact that the Lord of Heaven’s armies is on our side. The church was His idea! He will be with us through it all!