Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kingdom Mentality - Lesson Learned Series

The more I read my Bible and follow the steps of Jesus, the more I realize that His ministry was all about restoration and expansion. Everywhere He went He preached a similar message, a message of hope and repentance to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

I also see that He didn’t settle down in one spot. He moved around and left instructions for His followers to spread the message as well. He was about building His Kingdom, but the only difference was that His Kingdom was meant to be in the hearts of His people, and His people are all around the world.

He truly had a Kingdom mentality that was meant to be expanded, not focused on one people group, in one city, one country or even one continent. I also notice that Jesus used various means, and methods in His delivery, yet His message remained the same.

I mean have you ever wondered why He went with Jairus to heal His daughter when he could have just thought it and accomplished the same outcome. Or how about when He healed the dangling paralyzed guy in the middle of a newly roofless house. Why did he forgive his sins first, and then heal His infirmity? And I’ll tell you what, one of the first things I want to know when I get to Heaven is “why mud in the eye for the blind guy?”

Jesus has a repertoire, and a very creative one at that, He is open to new methods to deliver His message. He modeled it for us in the very way He lived His life on this earth, and He is definitely all about expansion of His Kingdom. So why does it seem that we His children get so caught up with our little “kingdoms” and lose sight of the big picture?

The more I’m around Pastors and missionaries and just about anyone in ministry, the more I see that many times our focus is on buildings and numbers and bank accounts instead of life change that comes through Jesus, whether it be in Rochester, NY or Kathmandu Nepal, life change is life change and that needs to be what our ministries are all about.

The whole method vs. message debate basically is a belief that is lived out when we consciously or subconsciously say something like this…”well, we never did it that way before”, and many times is at the heart of why churches and Christians stagnate and in the process bring the Kingdom expansion progress that Jesus wants, to a stand still. I’ve seen this lived out, I’ve heard those words directly spoken, and if I’m honest with myself, I’ve often thought them as well.

Why is it that our assumption is that “if it worked a certain way in the past, it will deliver the same results now and in the future? Music is one of those things that can either unite or divide. It’s the number one thing that causes churches to split and is also one of the main reasons why people subconsciously sing “should I stay or I should go?”

As I think about this whole idea of Kingdom expansion utilizing the creative gifts and abilities that God Himself gave to us in the first place, my mind goes back ten years to one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in ministry. It took place at a Christian music festival in Lincoln, NH.

Now to fully understand the illustration you need to remember that at that time in 1998, Christian rock was pretty much just that…rock. You had groups like Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Petra and DC Talk roaming the scene.

These groups were great in what they delivered to the listeners, a message of hope and truth about the one who desires a relationship with His people. For the most part the beat was snappy, catchy, toe-tapping and clearly understandable vocally. These guys were good at what they did and the delivery system had become pretty much standardized.

The only difference between Christian music and secular music was the lyrics, musically they were just as good, if not better than many of their secular counterparts, and sitting atop the Christian music pedestal at the time was none other than “Mr. Friends” himself, Michael W Smith. Smitty had been doing Christian music for decades and was one of the most sought after, respected and extremely revered musicians ever. He was exactly the guy who needed to do what he did that fateful night in 1998.

You see at that music festival on that particular night Smitty was the headlining act. He had been tapped to close out an incredible week of music, fun and life change. So as the time creeped closer for Michael and his band to take the stage, the crowd kept pouring in, and taking their places along the naturally gorgeous landscape of the bottom portion of the Loon mountain ski resort.

The place was packed and buzzing, which was really nothing new for a Michael W. Smith concert, but interestingly enough, this was a different kind of buzz, and as I scanned the audience there were also many people from different kinds of cultures and backgrounds in the audience as well.

As I looked around, I noticed that mingled in with the long time Smitty fans were a new breed of music fan. These guys were hard looking, sported tattoos, dreadlocks, goatees and muscle shirts; they definitely stood out from the rest of the crowd who had gathered to hear the Christian music legend himself.

Come to find out, these fans weren’t there to hear Smitty at all, in fact most of them didn’t even know who He was. They were there to hear an up and coming band that was tearing up the charts and reaching a different target audience all together.

They were there to hear none other than POD. Now, why the concert producers planned an event where, a hardcore, mosh pit, scream your lungs out band like POD was the opening act for “And, friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them”, Michael W. Smith I will never know. But as the buzz kept building in the crowd the more I kept thinking that this was either a stroke of genius or absolute stupidity.

Church music and hardcore don’t mix do they? Everywhere I looked I saw Argyle sweaters and muscle shirts, comb overs and dread locks, Lord’s Gym t-shirts and tattoos, WWJD bracelets and POD stickers, I was either in heaven or Christian bizzaro world!

I thought for sure the church worship leader and pianist were going to get trampled as they got there early to “sit through” the opening act so they could be “near the spout where the glory comes out” with Michael, only to find out that the opening act incorporated a little known phenomenon to Christian music at the time called a mosh pit!

So, as I stood there and observed all of this starting to take place, I began to pray for Michael W. Smith and I began to pray for the guys of POD, and I began to pray for the people who were either going to absolutely love the music or absolutely despise it.

We had a potential cataclysmic event on our hands, as the old and the new were about to converge and the Kingdom was either going to be expanded in a new way that night or come to a dead stop!

I had a great vantage point for the whole thing because I was backstage, peering out on the thousands who had gathered. You see my job that week at the festival was a really cool one. I was the “limo” driver for the bands (actually it was a 15 passenger van)…anyway, my job was to drive to the airport and pick up the arriving bands and drive them to the festival, hang out with them and after the show take them to their hotel or whatever.

I made many trips that week, and drove many bands but the one I will never forget was picking up and driving POD to and from the show. I remember getting my as
signment and asking “uh, who is POD? How will I know who they are? I’ve never heard of them,” which was a new concept for me as I picked up Newsboys, Petra and Supertones with no trouble at all.

The festival director said “oh you’ll be able to pick them out”, and sure enough he was right.

As we drove to the festival I was amazed at how engaging they were, they were excited to play in NH, and were excited to play in front of thousands of Christians. That was kind of surprising to me as I just assumed they played in front of Christians all the time. So I asked, “If you’re excited to play in front of Christians who do you usually play for?”

I was driving so I didn’t see their reactions but sitting next to me was Traa the bass player, and he kindly and politely said, “we usually play secular venues, where the kids that are there need to know Jesus more than anything, in fact after the show is done in NH we’re flying out to join up with the bands that are rocking at OZZFEST!” Whoa, talk about a wide open mission field.

Then they started asking me questions about the venue, about NH and about what I do. I said “I’m a Youth Pastor”, Traa immediately said “really, wow that’s cool….so is Sonny!” Sonny, the lead singer, the voice of POD, the one with the most dread locks and tattoos…is a Youth Pastor, just like me!

I almost drove off the road, that was such interesting news for me to hear. Well, we arrived at the hotel, grabbed some food and went to the venue for a sound check, and for the next several minutes Loon Mountain was literally shaking as the guys tuned up. It was going to be an interesting evening for sure.

Fast forward back to the present, here I am watching from backstage, half scared out of my mind and half excited to see what my new Youth Pastor Buddy and his band were going to do and who they were going to reach.

Then just before POD took the stage, out came Michael W Smith and took the mic to address the crowd. The place went nuts, and for the next several minutes he introduced Sonny, Traa, Marcos and Wuv and basically said “the guys that are going to take the stage now are a new band to Christian circles, they don’t look like what you may be used to and they don’t sound like what you may be used to, but let me assure you they are the real deal. They love Jesus, and are being used of God to impact a generation that I will never be able to reach. When they are done tonight, they are flying out to take the stage at probably the single biggest music mission field that there is…Ozzfest! We need to get behind POD, we need to appreciate POD, and more than anything we need to pray for POD. We need a Kingdom mentality!”

He prayed for them, hugged them and turned the mic over to them, and quietly exited the stage. What happened next was an amazing sight to behold as long time Smitty fans, not only stayed for the concert, they prayed for the kids in the audience, they embraced many of the fans and when it was all said and done, a Kingdom mentality was modeled right before our eyes.

I learned a very important lesson that night, a lesson that has been etched in my mind ever since. God is creative; He has a repertoire that is always adapting based on the audience.

His message never changes, but His methods and His messengers do. We need a Kingdom mentality that is not halted by “we’ve never done it that way before!”

Lesson Learned

1 comment:

  1. That's so true Brent. i remember you telling me that u drove P.O.D but i forgot you took Newsboys and Supertones as well. that must have been so koooool. i would love to do that. P.O.D has a great ministry going with there music. when i was in high school a lot of kids never knew that they were Christian and i would tell them just listen to the lyrics and they were really surprised.