I see them on a late afternoon jog, a group of local villagers sitting on an embankment outside their church building.
It’s hot. And it’s humid. I can see the sweat glistening on their brows. As the breeze hits my face as I run, I can’t imagine sitting motionless in their midst under the sweltering sun.
They’re Seventh Day Adventists who are holding their service outside that Saturday. I have no idea why they aren’t inside the sanctuary– a building made out of sticks and stones just four feet away– but nevertheless, the image they create is striking; over thirty people perched on boulders in the dirt, crowded around two preachers with Bibles.
The scene takes me back to the previous Sunday, when I attended another local Musanze church service at the Evangelical Friends Church. Inside a one-room mud-and-sticks building, we sat on small wooden benches with our feet in the dirt and praised Jesus for four straight hours. Four choirs had rotated up in the front, and it seemed like they were there more to accompany us rather than lead. At two points in the service, the congregation even got called out by one of the women in the choir for not having enough passion.
That memory flashes in my mind as I jog past those Seventh Day Adventists on the hill, and as the images of the two congregations collide, I can’t help but think…
Would we be willing to endure as much in America?
Take away all of the lights and the special effects and the doughnuts in between services. Take away the padded seats and the pretty decorations and the fancy PowerPoint so that we all know the lyrics during worship.
Or further, take away our air-conditioned buildings and gigantic parking lots. Replace them with a mud-and-sticks building with a dirt floor that smells of the animals outside and a woman who calls you out for not singing loud enough that takes two hours to walk to barefoot every single Sunday.
Where would our hearts lie then?
In our services, we sing “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus,” and it reverberates through microphones off the back wall as the video feed scans over the congregation, but is it what we truly believe?
We get frustrated if services go over the two-hour mark or if we get stuck in the overflow. We spend thousands of dollars on technical equipment only to make a fuss if they’re not working correctly, and we make it a point to make sure we get to sit in the pews where the air conditioner doesn’t blow.
We are called to offer up a sacrifice of praise, and yet sometimes it seems like it’s hard to offer up a sacrifice period. We’re content to drop $20 in the offering bowl and spend the rest of our Sunday at the golf course instead of giving a thought to the thousands of ways we could be giving of ourselves and our time. We find it difficult to lift up holy hands or bow down on our knees in worship simply because others will look at us funny.
Do we want Jesus? Or simply the commercialized image of His church that we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking is “enough?”
In Rwanda, I’ve seen people passionately pursue Jesus in humble adoration and worship, to the point where they walk two hours just to do it. To the point where they sit on hard, wooden benches for half the day. To the point where they circle up under the blazing sun just to hear His word.
I want to be that desperate. I want my worship to look like my fellow Rwandans’ because my heart is so deeply in love with the One who created it. I want to make a joyful noise to the Lord, with no thought to what it might sound like to human ears. I want my worship to be stripped of everything but pure joy, fearlessly abandoned to His will and His love. I want to make the daily choice to have life and have it to the full, and I want to be so wrecked by the grace of Jesus that it pours out of me like a fragrant perfume…
Dean– one of my new friends from the MOC and one of the most humble men of God I have ever met– says it like this:
“No one can praise God for you.”
No one and no thing. No choir, no lights, no doughnuts.
Would we really believe that a choir’s song or another person’s prayers over us are enough adoration for our Bridegroom King? We are called into a matrimony of agape love with Yahweh, the Creator of the universe. Surely we wouldn’t cut corners in that relationship for our own convenience and comfort.
The marriages that I have always been so in awe of are those in which husbands and wives place the other above themselves. Marriages where broken things are fixed and love does not necessarily mean romance, but sacrifice. Marriages that– for decades– have pressed on in humility and submission, even when doing so felt uncomfortable.
Oh, that our marriage to Christ as the church might be the same. That being apart of His body meant being surrounded and encouraged by others choosing to follow Him in uncomfortable submission. Pressing on together and drawing strength from the One who is enough, instead from the state-of-the-art building we gather in to do so.
I pray that I never forget what I’ve seen in the churches here. I pray it would forever change my soul in the way I worship the Lord, with others and on my own.
And I pray that the cry of my heart might truly be the song that has been echoing off the hills of Rwanda ever since I arrived five weeks ago…
…You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.
“God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him, we live and move and have our being.” -Acts 17:27-28