I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to leading worship in an entirely different culture and context. We came prepared with 5 popular songs in Romanian which were: “Here I am To Worship”, “How Great is Our God”, “I Love You Lord”, “Oceans”, “Nothing but the Blood”. Here we are, an alternative ROCK band brought to lead worship in a conservative context where most are used to boy choirs and pipe organs. Dwight must have seen something in us to have asked a rock band to come out Romania to lead worship through music. They are 25 years out of communism and are just getting hip to Chris Tomlin. That means that people 25 years and younger are just getting hip to new contemporary Christian music outside there hymnals. So throw out the gospel music, the shredding guitar lines, and the bumping bass, we had to throw ourselves back about 10 years in the song books to when Michael W. Smith, Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin were the headliners!
Danni and Chippi
To put things into context, withLove was working with 2 relatively young church leaders named “Danni” and “Chippi”. Danni was recently ordained as an evangelism pastor for a new church plant in Timisoara which is part of a big church in the area call the “The Vox” or “The Voice”. Chippi is Danni’s disciple who he has been discipling for years. Danni has been doing ministry for 20 years and has an incredible life story of how he came to Christ and doing the work he is doing today. (His story will come up in a later blog, so stay tuned!) Let’s just say that he came to know Christ while being a part of the Communist revolution….
So Danni and Chippi have a huge heart and vision of revival and evangelism in Romania and have mainly been doing that through youth rallies throughout the years. For the first time, they gathered about 10-12 different churches with their prominent and rising church leaders from all over Romania at Bradatel to receive evangelism and discipleship training and then apply what they’ve learned by strategically sharing the gospel in local cities. These churches ranged from young charismatic denominations to older conservative denominations varying from different styles of worship on both extremes. A majority of this crowd were young ranging from 16-25 years old. And 25% of them were older. So as a band that has to lead worship with all these denominations in 1 room, you can begin to see the challenge that was before us…
Worship in little steps….
We get to Bratadel on a Friday evening and spent the rest of the evening tirelessly setting up the sound system in the cafeteria. We’re jet lagged and little flustered because we kept flipping the fuse box switches because of the power of the sound system we were setting up. We had to pray over the fuse box to let us have the power we need for the sound system. And sure enough, we did! The local church gave us some great sound equipment that was suited for an outside concert of about 750 people if we wanted! So when we got this equipment we initially assumed, let’s rock out!
We were scheduled to lead morning and evening worship sets for the next 7 days. So when Saturday morning came, we started with a simple song to sing called “Fill Me Up” by Jesus Culture….. Talk about a tough crowd. You could see excitement in some people’s faces just because we were an American band, but many were not feeling our music because they said it was “too loud, too repetitive, and too free”. Free? They called our worship “Free Worship” because we didn’t sing from a hymnal or have any structure to our music on a project screen or paper – which they are not used to and made them uncomfortable. So in response, we turned down the volume of the sound system. When evening worship happened, we sang our songs in Romanian and they were highly impressed that we sang songs in their language! They began to warm up to us more. But it was still too loud. So we turned it down some more. This happened over and over again until the volume of the sound system was as close to 0 dB as possible.
Danni began to worry that the “loudness” of our music would turn off the conservative churches and ruin his reputation as a new pastor. Personally, he loved our music and said that he would love to have us play at his church playing as loud as we want, but for this context, he has been carefully playing a fine balancing game between appeasing the conservative and charismatic church. My response? I said, “withLove is here to serve you and work with you as 1 team. Our only agenda is to help propel your ministry to the next level and not slow you down! We want to honor how you do ministry in your country! This is about Jesus and reaching souls for His kingdom. Let’s embrace this challenge together!” From there on, there was a feeling of unity, despite our cultural and language barriers, and were able to move forward with a mutual understanding of the challenge that lied before us!
Chipping at the Ol’ Ice Block
By the 2nd morning worship set, we decided not to shock everyone with our “loud” music and do an acoustic set. Piano, acoustic guitar, cajon, and a quieter bass. This worked out well with the crowd as the older folk decided to not run out the cafeteria. As the band and I were sitting in our rooms between sets strategizing and praying over our worship sets, I painted this picture of chipping away at this ice block that has something special from God in the middle. Each time we’re on that stage, we’re chipping away at their ice block of life circumstances, their questions about God, and about themselves – and warming them up to be free to worship Christ with a renewed sense of faith, hope, and love! In this context, the first night was an introduction to withLove. We welcomed them to be comfortable in worship as we loved on them, but at the same time challenged them to step out their comfort zones to go to the next level with Christ as they worship! And so the second night, they were more comfortable with our sound and style of worship and we challenged them to begin to surrender to God and to indicate that by standing up and raising their hands! And so many did, from young to old! Again, Danni, Chippi, and many other church leaders were surprised to see this happening!
The 3rd Night….
The third night, the chains fell off. I challenged anyone that was willing to step out of their comfort zones and step into the next level, that they would symbolically come to the front and worship with us! And practically the whole crowd packed the front of the stage! They were singing their hearts out to “Here I Am To Worship”, raising their hands in surrender in tearful joy, and some were even bowing down on their knees to God. On other songs we did, they were dancing in circles and clapping their hands, it was a beautiful rare sight! Dwight and many other church leaders were in tears of the revival that was taking place. There was a realization that no matter the music, or the method, that this camp was about bringing people closer to Christ and that’s when we worshipped as 1 church.
After witnessing the “free worship” that his Romanian counterparts were now capable of, Danni decided to move worship in the evening to the end of the session to allow more time for “free worship” and to allow the old heads that absolutely don’t like the music to leave and go back to their rooms! Like I said, we were chipping at the ol’ ice block and after 3 nights out of the 7, God opened up hearts and minds to His love through our music and message! This continued for the rest of the camp!
It’s amazing to see people worship the same God we worship in their own culture, language, and style! It paints the beauty of who God is and what He sees in all of us as His own sons and daughters. The most translated words in any language are “Hello”, “How are You?”, “Thank You”, and “I Love You”. And when you can create an environment and atmosphere of worship with those gestures in mind, especially in a multicultural context, it allows a platform for people to want to step up and draw closer to Christ with a renewed, faith, hope, and love.
“To be a diverse group that creates music that REVEALS the truth of who Jesus Is by reflecting God’s love world-wide”
That is our vision and mission. And this was a glimpse of what withLove did at this camp. Revealing the truth of Christ in our lives through His perfect love….