For about a year now, my church has not had any live praise and worship. Our pastor was led to put a pause on the live music and a disgruntled musician* took issue and left. Already being short on instrumentalists, we were forced by circumstance to put a longer hold on the live music than we originally anticipated. Instead, we have used videos from Bethel Church, Gateway Church, and lyrics to music from Hillsong Church. And God still moved in our church. His presence still descends every Sunday and we worship Him with our hearts just like we did when we had our own people on the stage. When we made the decision to worship God for who He is despite our lack, we found that who He is is enough. In fact, in doing so, we have discovered some truly anointed and powerful songs, such as the one below.
I said all that to say this: Worship is a blessed and beautiful and simply indescribably precious thing. It’s the most intimate experience of our lives. It’s our connection to the God of all creation. Of course worship is more than just singing songs. But when we set aside time to join together in lifting our hearts and hands and voices to the One who enabled us to do so, it’s possibly the greatest experience in the world. I don’t even know how to convey it in words now.
In Beijing, there is Shouwang Church, a persecuted group of believers who a year ago were forced out of their building by government officials. So they took to gathering outdoors to worship the Father. Ever since, they have been continually harassed, detained, and the locations of their members’ homes have been posted online with maps so that non-believing citizens can join in their mistreatment. Still they gather, because they have set worship in their hearts as a priority, not to make a statement of defiance to their government, but to make one of obedience to their God.
To our God.
In a newsletter detailing the experience, their pastor begins with the phrase “Peace in the Lord,” which I imagine means a lot more to these people than just the opening line of several New Testament epistles. Throughout the bulletin, the pastor does not express resentment or anger or frustration. Only joy and love and peace. I think that’s probably a result of faith, hope, and love. I want to include an excerpt from his writing.
We give thanks to our God who strengthens us, so that we would not bow to the powers trying to control the church. This is truly a spiritual warfare, and our church needs to fight the battle to stand firm in this generation, so each of us need to join this battle. May the whole church pray in unity, that the LORD pour out his Spirit, revive us, give us faith and strength to fight this battle in unity, and continue to guide us!
The chorus in song above says “I’ve finally found where I belong, I’ve finally found where I belong: in Your presence.” These people seek His presence, and they suffer for it. Have we ever stepped out to seek His presence in a way that might cause us to suffer for it? I can’t think of when I have. I’m so safe wrapped up in my Bill of Rights and my American entitlement, that I consider it a risk to raise my hand in class when my teacher asked if anyone takes offense at obscene language.
Later in the song, they cry out, “Delight in me!” Are we living in such a way that God can answer that request for us? Please pray the bold words for the believers of Shouwang Church, and pray that we in our Western cocoon might receive the privilege of suffering for Him and relying on His sufficient grace.
*I would like to note that neither I nor anyone at my church hold any ill feelings towards the person who switched to a different church. We are all still part of the same Body of believers and all still working towards the same goal of bringing glory to God. We are still friends and are eagerly awaiting what God has in store for us next.