(We'll be going in reverse order . . . or something close to it)
I'm not sure if it's the humidity, the combination sweat/hair spray smell, the red clay, the Sunday night service, or the "dressing up", but there's something about the South that takes me back. There's something about visiting churches in the south that seems very familiar to me. I didn't realize it when I was younger, but there's a part of that culture that was stamped on me at a pretty young age, and still seems very close. The minute I stepped out of the airport, it hit me. It was very similar in Texas as well, I'll get to that in a later post. But, there's a vast difference between the South, the East Coast, the Midwest, and the Progressive Rocky Mountains. . . maybe that's why we give the names out.
I was privledged enough to visit Passion City Church, the church plant started by Louie Giglio and Chris Tomin, they of the Passion conferences and worship music awesomeness. It's a struggling little plant, they had to start meeting at the Cobb Energy Center :), 3k people were there, and it was a pretty engaging environment. One of the cool things, to me, was to see Chris, Louie and the gang (I've seen them quite a bit) really feeling "home" and feeling close to family, etc. . . .They were loving each other, and their church. . . .much different than a tour or other environments where you usually see these guys.
Of course, this was different than any other church I saw this summer, . . there was no kids ministry, there were no classes. . . just organization to get folks where they needed to go, info. on the next gathering, and info. on the building they're renovating for a permanent spot in downtown Atlanta.
It was pretty simple. . Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockels (one of the most sought after singers in Nashville) sing, Louie preaches, we sing some more, and we go home. They do this very, very well. Louie was highlighting some Compassion International work in Kenya, and he interviewed some Kenyan nationals during the service as well.
They did take an offering, it was nice to hear Louie explain that he's not taking a salary from the church until they are in their new building (a while), there's no "bigger kingdom" kind of stuff with these guys, they are here for the good of the City, and everyone knows that they're dominating whatever is left of the Christian music industry, . . .so humility is appreciated, and these guys really come across that way.
Their vision is: for God, for people, for the City, for the World; For me, you could really tell that all of those goals were guiding them. Louie is passionate (he he) that our glorifying of God not just be with voice, heart, and mind, but also with strength. He's always pushing everyone to live out what we believe and impact the World for Christ.
I wanted to hear more about the word "sin". Louie talked about how God has rescued us "from the depths" and raised us up. . . (great gospel truth) and so we should go likewise and lift up others and spread the gospel, and spread Christian love. However, I think it's important we say why we needed rescuing, and what the Cross did for us, specifically. There's many ways to say it, I know, but the word, "sin" doesn't take alot of time to explain in Atlanta, and it could've been a richer time, and, frankly, a more compelling call to mission, if Louie would've talked more about the depths from which we came.
I don't want to drudge through the muck, stare at my navel, and feel bad about myself for an hour on Sunday. But, one of the things that really hit me this summer was how important it is to constantly remind folks of the gospel, in an explicit way (not in vagarities like "from the depths" "lifted up" "rescue" etc. . .. we need to experience some of the explicit, hard to hear words. )
That would be my one wish for this church. . . is that Louie spends time maturing his people in God's word and reminding the deep south, churched, prim and proper folk how much they need a savior. You don't skip that and just celebrate that you do have a savior. . . .there's a place for that. . . but you don't start there.
I think this will be a great church, . . .they're obviously going to make Christ very well known in their city and the World as they work for the Kingdom. I just think that Louie needs to not treat his church-goers like conference attendees and take the long view of maturing a people in God's Word, and in the deep truths of the gospel. There's no hurry to "move on" to other things,(as if there ever is), they'll mostly be back next week :)
It was a great time, for me, to be there. . . .these guys got me started leading worship, and it's great to see them leading folks to exalting God from the get go (no showy/shallowness even though these are the best musicians/producers in the area), going hard after Him, and being passionate about missions. That's my heritage, that's where I came from, and I'm grateful for it. I have some critiques that I shared. . . .but I love these guys and love what God is doing through them. There are alot of guys from Louie's generation/school/method that do all of the missions stuff and forget to exalt God and forget to challenge people in their small view of God. I've always appreciated that about Louie. There isn't that tilt towards theological minimization that is so characteristic of the 80's, campus crusade, YFC, large youth conference crowd.
ps. oh, and Christy Nockels can sing the phone book, her husband, Nathan, (producer of all the Passion albums, some country albums, and many other artists) was on keys, and Daniel Carson banged out the Coldplay all night. I was in the sixth row, . . . they're all very short people. . . curious. . . . Good times.