Crowd-surfing to the Cross

One thing that I’ve come to understand about Jesus is that to follow him, really follow him, you have to be open to letting him changing your understanding of things. You think you’re headed in one direction, then he turns you in another. You see certain things in your life as important bolsters of your faith, then he shows you that you no longer need them.

He surprises you. He certainly has me these past couple of months.

Out of the blue, he started whispering to me about visiting other churches. Not necessarily to switch to another church, but just to visit, to explore. Nevertheless, this was surprising. I love my church. And with good reason. Our pastor and our worship music are awesome. They’re known across the world for how powerfully they point to Jesus. And they’re not the only ones there pointing to Jesus. Everyone in the building seems to glow from inside. When I went there for the first time and saw the enthusiasm and devotion of everyone there, three words came to mind: “This is home.”

The church is huge, but I have found my people there. I love to serve, love to say “good morning” as people pour in the doors, love to help people feel welcomed, love to be a part of the sea of people worshiping their hearts out.

So why the whisper, God?

It didn’t take long for him to reveal the reason — or at least, one reason.

The first church I visited is a tiny one, just up the street from me. The style of music and preaching are similar to my church, but it’s all just on a much smaller scale, like maybe 10% the size of my regular church. When the music started, I felt something I didn’t expect: annoyed. Yep. I said “annoyed.” Annoyed at the Jesus-loving worship singers. So Christian of me, I know. Here’s a snapshot of the monologue in my head: “Ugh. I don’t know this song. These other people to seem to like it, but ugh. Where’s the POWER?? Maybe they should turn it up. Maybe it’s the lyrics. Ugh. I want to really FEEL it. I want MY church’s music, MY church’s worship. This is not giving me what I need.”

That’s about the time the “record scratch” sound effect went off in my head. I felt like I could hear the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “So this is all about you getting what you need? This is about you?” My heart was convicted. I started singing a little differently then. To be honest, I was still annoyed, I still wasn’t enjoying it, but I was leaning into the discomfort and annoyance, almost to further acknowledge the conviction I felt — and maybe hoping that Jesus would show me how he wanted me to handle it.

I spent the rest of the service in a posture of humility, knowing that I needed to be there, that God was in the process of setting my heart right.

As I reflected on the experience at that little church, I realized something. Ever since I met Jesus six years ago, I’ve been at mega-churches — not just mega-churches, but two of the most influential churches in America, with preaching so masterful and worship music so powerful that coming into contact with the Holy Spirit in those settings feels almost effortless. It’s like the whole experience crowd-surfs you up to the throne.

And I needed that. I needed to be carried to the cross — again and again and again. I needed the enthusiasm and energy to lift me up because I was so broken that I wasn’t so sure I could get there on my own. And then, even when I could get there on my own, it just felt good. You know how people talk about the “high” of those “mountaintop experiences”? Well, I had that every Sunday. Every. Sunday. Who wouldn’t love that?

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with those types of experiences or those types of churches, or even my own church. And I’m not sure — at all — that I won’t be part of that experience again. Maybe soon, even. I just don’t know.

But what I do know is this: I’m enjoying the break from crowd-surfing.

I’m enjoying worshiping Jesus in less polished, less powerful places right now. I’m meeting him in ways that I haven’t before.

And he has reminded me: It’s not about where I worship — not at all. It is only, ONLY, about who I worship.

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