At one of the churches where we served, there was a gem of a couple, good as gold. They were wise, discerning, and very generous. The husband was a very successful CFO of a global corporation, very highly regarded for his good sense, both business and common. Their family loved to travel, and on a trip to Africa, had the opportunity to visit a “local church.” It was an extended vacation over several weeks that included guided safaris and various degrees of roughing and not roughing it.
During their stay, they asked a guide about any possibility of worship. There was a Christian church in a small village, but it was a considerable distance from where they were. Sunday was coming, and plans were made to drive this family into an even more remote area to fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Many, many miles driven over the bumpiest roads and offroads brought them to what could not even be called a building. It was three walls with no doors, no floors, and the most primitive of anything else. The family sat and watched villagers arrive. Most were barefoot, barely clothed, and started out as specks on the horizon, walking and walking until they too arrived at “church.”
When the leader of this glorious little gathering arrived, worship began. My friends said it was the loudest most joyful singing, shouting, clapping, and dancing they had ever experienced. On and on it went, well past the mandated twenty-eight to thirty-five minutes most churches generously allow the Lord for the worship of the Creator of the heavens and earth.
Over an hour of rejoicing and praising and finally the man quieted his congregation for prayer. His prayer was simple and sincere, “Glorious God, thank you for all you have given us. Help us to be humble in the riches you have provided. Help us be generous to others and not proud because we are so blessed.” And then they continued to worship because the Lord had just not been given enough glory yet.
Are you kidding me?! Can you even imagine a sight more lovely? Friend, the Lord doesn’t just want you provided for. He wants you blessed and encouraged. When hearts and lives are transformed by the reality of a God who meets every need and is sovereign over everything, and the Spirit moves among them, generosity breaks out. And it changes people worlds away and years later.
I heard my friend’s story over ten years ago. They didn’t bring a souvenir back for me. I never saw a picture of the church they visited or felt any tangible benefit of these rich poor people. But it pierced my heart so that I have related that story in some form or another countless times over the years.
The perspective of worshippers in a mud hut has guided my family ever since as we consider the true value of things. It has guided us in ministry as we consider what is truly needed for worship. Numerous times, when someone has told us what must or mustn’t be present to “have church,” my litmus test is always whether or not a remote church in Africa or a secret church in China requires it. If they do not need it, neither do we.
Air conditioning is great, running water is great, multimillion-dollar sound systems are great, game rooms and coffee bars are all fine. But the only thing necessary for worship is seeing God rightly, seeing ourselves rightly, and responding rightly.
If the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, how dare we act like the absence of LED walls, green rooms, or wardrobing closets for our platform people will. Satan does not tremble before our amassed arsenal of stuff. But he cowers at even the mention of the name of Jesus. The Church requires Holy Spirit Power and Presence. Not power strips and presents, peasants.