God Showed Up
Leading up to Grace Church's 25th Anniversary, we are counting down the days by posting 25 blog posts in 25 days by 25 authors (well, 24... Dave wrote twice)! The post below is one of these posts. Need tickets to the 25th Anniversary celebration at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on September 11, 2016? Get tickets here: gracechurch.us/25. Want more 25th Anniversary blog posts by awesome authors? Check this out!
BY JEFF UNRUH, PASTOR OF WORSHIP ARTS AND COMMUNICATIONS
In 1991 a new church was born on the north side of Indianapolis. It was a decade into the Seeker Movement, an approach to reaching the unchurched through relevant teaching and popular music. Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago and Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA, were setting attendance records and giving definition to the term megachurch. A generation of youth pastors were coming into their own as senior leaders and importing their methodology of connecting with adolescents into the “grown up” service. Traditional churches that hadn’t seen a format change for 50 years were now being led by Baby Boomers who took their cues for excellence not from church but secular culture and found the gap between the norms of Sunday morning and the rest of the week to be alienating and inauthentic. Musicians within the church began experimenting with “blended” worship—some going as far as ditching hymnbooks and organs entirely for overhead projectors and rock bands. Contemporary Christian artists such as Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were making it big in secular markets, bands such as U2 and Creed were making it big in church, and the early signs of what would become a huge swell of praise and worship music were being recorded by Twila Paris, Rich Mullins, and Andre Crouch. The use of drama, original video, clips from feature films, dance, and other fine arts was popping up in weekend services, youth group gatherings, and cutting edge children’s ministry programming all over the country.
With all of these influences swirling around in the background, a group of us sat around Dave Rod’s kitchen table and began dreaming about what a new kind of church could look like. This first iteration of the design team approached planning for each Sunday’s service with a Big Idea and a blank piece of paper. After brainstorming more ideas than could possibly be contained within an hour and fifteen minutes, we sought the Spirit’s direction as to what would best connect people to God and communicate the truth of His word in compelling ways with concrete applications. From the get-go it was understood that engaging the whole person—mind, will, and heart—would serve to provide the most transcendent and transformative worship experiences, so in addition to excellent teaching, various art forms—and eventually entire teams—were utilized to capture the beauty, love, and holiness of God, the joys and angst of being human, and the inherent tensions of following Jesus in a fallen world.
And God showed up—first at the warehouse at the intersection of Greyhound Pass and US 31, and then in 1997, at 5504 146th Street. Many who came to Grace shared how they would involuntarily cry week after week in their first several months because they’d never experienced the presence of God so palpably. Others found themselves selling all their stuff and moving to the former Soviet Union as missionaries for a year or sharing their lives and brokenness for the first time in true, authentic community. And hundreds surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.
As the 2000s dawned, God began speaking to His people not only here at Grace but throughout the Church worldwide concerning the nature of the whole gospel—that the good news is more than just salvation from sin for eternal life. As we studied the Kingdom of God in depth, it became increasingly clear that God has called His followers to address the 6 Broken Places in the world resulting from the fall, to bring hope and healing to bear in Jesus’ name here and now, on earth as it is in heaven. Not only did this shape worship outside the walls of the church as new efforts in evangelism and social justice were engaged in both locally and around the world, but it impacted worship inside the walls as well—introducing new language, new lyrics, and new themes to explore, discuss, and sing about.
In the past few years, we have sensed God stretching our community once again. He has called us to extend our reach through campusing and church planting. He has challenged us to model today the future reality of His people gathered from every tribe and nation as depicted in Revelation by addressing issues of hatred and racism head-on and diversifying our sound and style to better represent the colors and cultures of all God’s people. He has reminded us that His house is a house of prayer and that God responds when His people pray corporately. He has captured our imaginations and invited us to exercise bold faith. He is allowing us a taste of the work of the Holy Spirit which is creating a hunger and thirst for more of His power and presence and stirring within us a more passionate, spontaneous and responsive posture in our worship gatherings.
I have had the privilege of journeying with God at Grace for the past 25 years. I can’t think of a season of “status quo,” when God was not revealing something about Himself or awakening something in our midst. And while it’s been a wild ride at times, I am so grateful to be a part of a vibrant community in which God continues to show up in fresh ways, drawing us into deeper intimacy with Him while expanding our hearts for the world.
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I remember churches struggling in the 90's to adapt to a new means of worship and communication - many believing that by 'incorporating' contemporary trappings they might be able to hold onto the safe & comfortable traditions. I found myself frustrated by the obvious lack of a 'Big Idea', by the obvious incongruity between the periods of worship, the elements of worship, and especially the leaders of worship. What a blessing to finally find this approach to church, to congregation, to worship, and more important to obedience to God.
Posted by Jack Jones on September 5, 2016 @ 11:44 am