“We had no interest in starting little copies of Redeemer because we knew that every city – indeed, every neighborhood – was different. We believed a city needed all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. And we knew that church planters need to create ministry, not replicate it.” Tim Keller
One of the things that Lauren and I were really looking forward to was worshiping at Hillsong London in the Dominion Theater on our trip. It was the last thing we did before we went back to Oxford. I am really grateful for how God is using that movement out of Sydney, Australia. A lot of people asked me what we thought about the service at Hillsong and someone even told me that for the “first time” in their life they were actually jealous of me. Coming from a guy like Jeff Reed, that made my day.
What I thought I would do in this blog post is talk about what I loved and what I would have liked to see more of there. In writing this I in no way think I am an expert on how to run a church. These are just my observations. Recently I have been reading a book called Center Church: Doing Balanced,Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Dr. Tim Keller and in it he does a great job in the opening chapter talking about how the only way you are going to reach a city is if you have many different expressions of churches that love Jesus but have different philosophies of ministry. What this means is a city NEEDS churches that do things differently but still preach the same gospel in order to make an impact on that city.
In short, other churches are not the enemy. This was really pointed out to me when I had the privilege to intern with Apostles Church NYC last year. Every Wednesday for one hour there was a citywide prayer service with different pastors from different churches to encourage one another and pray for one another. I pray we see this more and more in the future.
What I loved:
1) Hillsong London declared the biblical gospel.
The one thing you knew as you walked out of that service is Jesus is God. From the very beginning until the end the leaders on stage constantly reminded us through the songs and snippets they did that the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is why we come together to worship. This is by far the most important thing to me. If you get anything right, make sure you get Jesus right.
2) Hillsong London had a loving atmosphere.
Don’t believe the myth that all megachurches are too big for personal connection or that they aren’t friendly. I know plenty of small churches that are unfriendly. It rarely has anything to do with the size of the church; I believe it’s the people of the church. Hillsong London is blessed with a great group of volunteers. A man named William came up to us and just started talking to us. He genuinely wanted to know who we were. This man was a servant too. He was going through each row and picking up all the garbage and putting pamphlets on each seat. He stopped to talk to us for a good five minutes. I can’t wait to spend time with that brother in eternity.
3) Hillsong London was serious about soul snatching.
This church was filled with a bunch of soul winners. They specifically challenged the church to share the gospel with their unbelieving friends. They even had an altar call and some people accepted Christ for the first time. They walked these people through Romans 10:9. I wish more churches would give unbelievers an opportunity to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus more often. For some reason it seems like pastors have stopped doing this. My parents authentically came to Christ because Rick Blackwood explained the gospel and then gave them an opportunity to trust in Him. Romans 10:14 says, “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Thank you Pastor Rick Blackwood for still giving altar calls and walking people through the process.
What I would have liked to see more of:
Even though Hillsong London kept mentioning the gospel they didn’t really open the Bible and preach the Word. The service was about two hours long and they kept saying “we will hear from the speaker soon” and basically sung most of the time. At one moment the pastor came out and ranted for about ten minutes about how we need to be wise with our money. It wasn’t bad advice at all but there was no opening of the Bible and preaching. Finally the time came and no lie the message was five minutes (Lauren wanted to time it lol). I’m not opposed to singing in service but the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 to “Preach the Word…For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” In the Middle Ages, at the center of the churches were the sacraments (as most people falsely believed taking the sacraments was the key to getting to heaven). When the Reformation came around, some leaders like Martin Luther & John Calvin started preaching the Bible for most of the service so as to teach the people the whole counsel of God. By all means, lets sing our hearts out and lift up our hands but let us do it as a response to the preached Word! In other words, pastors teach the sheep the Word of God. I ranted a bit here, I am sorry. Sola Scriptura, not Sola Singura. I know that was corny.
2) Hymns & no Nicki Minaj, Taio Cruz, or Psy please
Now I can’t open the Bible and show you were you have to sing more hymns in your church service or can't play secular songs at your service. I understand that there are people who will disagree with me on this. All I’m saying here is that the church has been around for a really long time (about 2,000 years) and we have a long history of gospel-centered, rich hymns that saints have produced through the ages. When we sing these songs we are reminded of the fact that our generation isn’t the golden age and we can actually learn from past saints. Sing a new song to the Lord and sing an old one while you’re at. And to the point about playing Nicki Minaj, Taio Cruz, & Psy at the end of the service, it just feels weird to be doing all this when we come together for the purpose of worshiping the resurrected Jesus. No I’m not against all secular music (where would the world be without U2 or Coldplay), but I would caution churches to consider if this is the right forum for that. Also, pyrotechnics! Really?!
3) Older people
I think it’s beautiful that so many young people in their twenties are coming to church on their own. Their parents aren’t forcing them to come; I know because most weren’t there. But where are the older saints in the church that are there to build relationships with the younger generation who so desperately need it. I can’t imagine where my life would be without relationships with people like my dad, my father-in-law, Joe Oliver, Don Robson, Frank Hopkins, and even Eric Geiger & David Lopez (I hate to break it to you two but you’re getting old baby). This generation needs older godly men and women filled in the churches with the younger generations. Not sure why there was a huge divide in numbers between the older and younger people there but this generation needs help from older saints.
I know it may sound like I didn’t enjoy the experience but Lauren and I loved worshiping with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Overall it is a great church. I am grateful for Hillsong London. I do have my reservations on some things I would like to see more of but they love Jesus, unashamedly preach Jesus, and want to see people come to know Him. Thank you Hillsong London for the privilege to worship with you.