It’s been ten years since we’ve seen anything like last night in Ukraine. 10k mostly youth gathered from many denominations, areas of Kiev and even neighboring countries gathered to worship Jesus.
Well, worship Jesus, and see Jeremy Riddle. For those that don’t know Jeremy, he’s part of the Bethel Music crew, written such songs as Sweetly Broken, and Fall Afresh. The Ukrainian culture, and Christian sub-culture is still very hungry, and I’d say increasingly so since Maiden, for western culture. A fairly limited amount of foreign music groups tour through Ukraine these days, so when someone comes in, it tends to make a splash.
This is something that is both useful, and troubling. If the incoming group pushes an obvious cultural colored agenda, it’s troubling. If the incoming group recognizes it’s limitations and respects the indigenous context, they can use their ‘attractiveness’ for larger kingdom purposes. It’s a balance, it’s hard to judge last night as either good or bad, but a mix of both – in my opinion.
Flashy stages, rocketing choreographed smoke, and all the boom a million dollar sound system can project does not guarantee anything of spiritual significance. In fact, I would argue those things, in the hands of proud or shallow Christianity only assures an emotional ‘only’ experience. I’ve lived the charistmatic fun, danced with the best of them and used to consider loud preaching a sign of spiritual ‘anointing.’ Being in a crowd of 10k that hoop’d and holl’rd on cue as the many preachy voices from the stage instructed, brought back many fond memories. It also left me saddened that for many, they will return home empty, when the gospel is so incredibly jammed packed with everything they need to flourish without the emotionalism.
I was sad that a vast majority last night, I believe, were not interested in yet another western hyped up ‘church service’. They were hungry to wait on the Lord, to focus and give a solid 2-3hrs to declaring Christ as King. The depth of spiritual hunger here is real, it needs a steak, not a cupcake. Passion, with Louie G. ten years ago did a much better job of exploring the meaning of life, and the revelation of Christ with lasting depth – I still remember his message ten years later – I doubt anyone could remember anything from last night among the 60 minutes of random sermonizing. Last night, for me, was a dazzling display of missing the mark. Of youthful, immature leadership under the spell that crowds mean success, that huge shouts mean Jesus is super happy. This is the world of charismatic, Pentecostalism that is sweeping nations. We need to create spaces where hungry hearts can go deeper, and not become mesmerized by well meaning, but superficial Christianity.
Yet, along with the hyper emotionalism, is an innocent expression among the Ukrainians, they will do, say, and believe what folks say about God. Hunger is hunger. As we left the evening, taking around 20 with us, I was curious how many of our own uncultured ‘in Christianity’ would and will respond. I don’t know yet – we love our crew, and excited to keep journeying with them in the depths of the gospel, which is not only compelling to the deepest depths in the heart, but changes lives, not just excites for moments.
Can we have both? Can we worship in masses and celebrate the King with added technology – I think so. It’s a challenge, it’s something we must do with spiritual sensitivity to the existing work of the holy spirit in our nations. To swoop in as foreigners, to assume the people are both expecting and desire an American style worship gathering is unwise. There have been times in our worship gatherings where I’ve been super uncomfortable as an American, lengthy pauses, intermittent talking and discussion – it’s been healthy for me to learn that worship is not only beyond ‘music’ , but beyond our forms, and is found in the mundane discussions of friendship, of being transparent and vulnerable – and waiting on the Lord for more than 5 minutes.
A night of the holy spirit should, I think be primarily about waiting, like the disciples revealed to us. Not anticipating any specific outcome, but to avail ourselves afresh, to lift up Christ, our nation, our friends that don’t know the King. It’s about being, resting, and tasting a piece of heaven in a variety of settings.