“Imagine what Heaven’s gonna be like. There won’t be 15,000—there will be millions upon millions upon millions who are going to spontaneously get another glimpse of Jesus and spontaneously erupt in praise. It’s the only response when you see Jesus.”
Having spent quite a few years as a worship leader and having attended several conferences, I’ve seen quite a few powerful moments in worship. But throughout the years, there are two moments that tend to really stand out. These moments qualified as a special kind of worship:
They were worship explosions.
Enter the dance barn. It’s a decent sized area to throw a party and break a move. The sounds of techno and trance boom throughout the surrounding acres and more and more people make their way to the building to see what’s up. By the end of the night it’s crammed full of hot and sweaty worshippers.
“Worshippers?” you say. “What are you talking about Jamin?”
“Ah yes,” I reply. “It’s not something we’re super familiar with in the states, but believe-you-me, super powerful worship can be led from behind turntables.”
And this particular night, our worship leader was Andy Hunter. I had never heard anyone lead worship the way he had. The microphone never left his hand as he pushed people deeper and deeper into the presence of God. He’d repeat different expressions over the song playing, often times preaching over the breaks in the song and getting the place to erupt in dance when the snare roll finished (those of you familiar with trance music know exactly what I mean).
It was one of the most meaningful and powerful worship experiences I had had up to that day. I found myself living out a quote from Eugene Peterson:
Song and dance are the result of excess energy. When we are normal we talk. When we are dying we whisper. But when there is more in us than we can contain, we sing. When we are healthy we walk. When we are decrepit we shuffle. But when we are beyond ourselves in vitality, we dance.
In that moment I was beyond myself. In that moment, everyone was beyond themselves.
How could you tell? Because the worship exploded even more so when the music died.
I don’t remember if we blew a fuse or if someone just tripped a cord, but at one point during Hunter’s set, we lost power in the dance barn. And so people moved into dancing and cheering; clapping and shouting. They made their own beat and continued the worship time. It was the least awkward “Uh… we just lost power” moments ever. Worship continued out of the overflow of people’s hearts even with the absence of music.
And recently, something similar happened on a much, much larger scale.
Jesus Culture Awakening 2011
Sadly I wasn’t at this event, but I was watching quite a bit of it on the live webcast. During one night of this conference, Banning Liebscher got on stage after Jesus Culture was done playing and asked people to give a shout to Jesus. It was a moment unlike anything I have ever seen.
In many churches today, when you tell people to “give the Lord a hand” or “a shout of praise,” the congregation responds with a quiet and slow handclap. Several other hands join the praise late and the throne of God is overwhelmed with… whatever you call that.
But this event was different. What was expected to be maybe a minute of shouting went on for 9 minutes and 20 seconds before the band started playing along with a little tune the crowd made up during their cheering. And then 5 minutes and 40 seconds later the band stopped playing. This wasn’t intentional—it was totally spontaneous. You could tell because Banning tried to speak just a minute or two into the cheering and couldn’t.
It wasn’t pushed. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t completely authentic. It was the biggest explosions of unbridled worship I had ever seen. It was that analogy that we’ve all heard a bajillion times come true: “When you go to a football game you cheer like crazy. Why don’t we do that for God.”
Well booyah football. This cheer was even beyond you.
Of course I didn’t see it at the time. The webcast faded out after about two minutes. But it was so spectacular that they put the footage on the new release of Jesus Culture’s Awakening album. I just watched the footage and nearly cried several times (I probably would have but I was trying to look manly around my wife. You know how it is). The only thing that helped me hold the tears back was my frustration with a small group of people sitting in the stadium with their fingers in their ears.
This is footage you have to see. Go buy it and watch it for yourself.
The quote from Banning is taken from the end of the spontaneous praise video on their new album.
The quote from Eugene Peterson is quoted by Matt Redman in his book Mirrorball. Unfortunately, since I only have the audiobook of Mirrorball, I do not know where the source of Eugene Peterson’s quote comes from.