‘UNFILTERED: Good questions with some decent answers...’ Pt I
We get questions at Hillsong Church New York City... many, many questions. I thought it may be helpful to do a semi-regular blog-esque response format to answer as many as possible and have had the idea for a long time, without the time to actually do it. And the mistress of destruction, Hurricane Irene, offered me just enough free headspace to finally get around to doing the first installment... The title of this blog is exactly what it's intended to be... Answering anything "unfiltered" is sometimes the most fun and also the most dangerous way to answer questions of any type... and since both fun and danger are both on the endangered species list of way too many Christians life choices, I figured this could be helpful. As it stands now, by the sheer grace of God alone, our new church is seeing close to 3,000 people attend our services and over 1500 people have made decisions to surrender their lives to Jesus. This is heavenly news...brought down immediately to EARTH when you realize there are approximately 9 MILLION PEOPLE living in the city we are here to serve. We have work to do…
Questions to me are the spice of life and the sign of people shunning intellectually lazy Christianity and challenging the status quo... A famed Brooklyn author once said "Bring em out." Some bring what you have and we are honored you care... We love to give some clarity to our constructed chaos…
* Disclaimer: I tend to write with a sarcastic sense of humor. This is NEVER meant to offend but in a paradoxical twist, that tends to happen "from time to time." Let's all work from the premise that 'love is patient, love is kind'!!
*I will limit this to 6 questions a blog...to ensure a somewhat thoughtful response... these will always be real questions too! You wouldn't believe the stuff that drops in our inbox...the number is also symbolic of Le Bron James' number with the Heat. My writing tends to start strong and focused but ends vague and mysterious somewhere around the start of the last part of a particular entry...
*Names will be withheld to protect people and not promote Christian cyber-bullying. Locations, origins, and how we received the question will be accurate.
*Send your question to email@example.com twitter your question to @hillsongnyc... it can be about our church, about Jesus or just about life in general...
*This idea format is inspired by my favorite writer Bill Simmons, who any prospective writer should check out for ideas and general knowledge of "things that are funny." All his mailbags are available on grantland.com and are much better than mine will ever be!
*Special thanks to Charles Park, my lifelong best friend who will never allow me to be a casualty of moderate, casual Christianity and encourages me to be creative and not common. (Two up, two down...)
QUESTIONS THAT ALMOST MADE THE CUT:
Q: Hey Ps. Carl. My quest. - Is getting tattoos okay? I'm a worship leader in FL & ppl ask & I dnt know what's the right answer?
- Mike from Florida via twitter.
>>>>... too easy.
Q: Curious about ancient alien theory. Could it be Jesus is an extra terrestrial/dementional (sic) being? Saw a show on that recently.
- Alex from Delaware via email.
>>>>... too funny.
Q: Maybe the 4 minutes of forced fellowship in your services can be renamed. Because it sounds like false fellowship whenever I hear it.
- Mia from NYC via twitter.
>>>>... too "my boss would kill me if I answered this honestly."
:: I received an angelic visitation in which I was told I would lead worship with Joel Houston, which would then spiral into a passionate relationship leading us into Holy Matrimony...
- Lauren from Texas via email.
>>>>...too "I don't want my house to be set on fire by a jilted Joel Houston idolizer.."
THE ONES THAT DID....
Q: "Why would a faith filled church not believe God for the best and cancel services for a whole Sunday?"
- Tim from California via twitter.
A: What a fun question! Short answer would be that we didn't want to follow our church services with funeral services for those who went to be with Jesus too soon BECAUSE THEY TRIED TO COME TO CHURCH DURING A HURRICANE... We have faith that our God will help us promote life and not take it. I won't regret not having services because we played it safe with the wellbeing of people, even though I’m pretty sure this Hurricane is more hyperbole than accuracy (kinda like some people's twitter content). I can imagine regretting the opposite choice. It is what it is, church will resume next week!
In meteorology circles, this is known as a
'don't have Hillsong NYC services' cloud.
Q: “@hillsongNYC Wish I lived in NYC to come to ur (sic) church! Pray for me as I'm 6 months pregnant with my first baby, nervous & exciting!”
-Jaime from Indiana via twitter.
A: Good news about that baby, bad news about your upcoming loss of sleep when the baby arrives! Definitely a worthwhile trade though…And the additional good news is that wherever you are, there is a church just like Hillsong NYC, so you don't have to wish you lived here!! We sing songs, we preach about Jesus and we serve the people in our city. Brian and Bobbie's ministry has worldwide acclaim and our music is good, but sometimes people can mistake that for being things you can only get at a church "like ours." Our church has NOW reached a place of positive impact...BUT what you don't hear a lot about are all the young moms in the early days just like you who began to serve at a church like ours, when it probably looked "less spectacular." Wherever you are, throw yourself into serving a local church that has the essentials: a soul winning mindset, preaching that only focuses on and leads to Jesus, community action endeavors that ensure your church happens on a Monday and not just a Sunday and music that doesn't make you wonder if God is punishing you.
That's all it takes...God loves His church and Hillsong Church is simply a giant example of ordinary people attached to a supernatural God…and get that baby plugged into serving from day one! Newborn ministry is essential, most of those babies have no idea what their purpose is, they rarely give in the offering and most of them sleep all day. Your child can raise the bar for a new generation!
Q: @hillsongNYC buzzer beater....why is it so hard to get in contact with people over there?
- Drew from Houston via twitter
A:: Hey, it's actually really easy to contact us. In a crazy turn of events, I'm contacting YOU right now! If you email firstname.lastname@example.org , it goes to our communications team, and I actually see every email that comes into our church! It's why I'm often not on speaking terms with my inbox and I would physically assault it if it were human. We do our absolute best to return each and every email with a thoughtful response and continually ask for grace as we are a brand new church and our volunteers spend countless hours doing exactly that. Every inquiry of any nature that comes to us is important, and we will continually strive to get better in this area. Thanks for your understanding! If you try to contact Joel or myself via twitter, unfortunately we are currently unable to get back to all twitter questions! Our apologies. (Side note…Repeatedly sending the same question via twitter with increasing animosity will not help! It may get you a DM however, that will be emphaticaly loving and kind as we remind you of this). Email us anytime and I guarantee a response no later than January 2020...
- Our Hillsong NYC email response team hard at work.
Q:: @hillsongNYC how early should a first time visitor come before service? Visiting from Seattle so I was wondering. Heard there (sic) always lines...
- Lisa from Seattle via twitter
A:: So glad you’re visiting! We love it when visitors from other states, assuming they know Jesus and are active in their faith, go to the back of the line and then stand in the back of our venue and enjoy the service from there so we can ensure the people of NYC, who we are here for, can get a seat. Other than that Lisa, I would suggest getting there really early and renting perhaps a pit-bull type dog as you stand in line, dress in Gothic type clothing and make up (Christians are normally really scared of anything remotely 'goth'...) and often these variables can get you to the front quicker. I do hope that you always "hear that there are lines..." because that means we are on the road to serving more people. Make sure you email our office and I will save you a seat in the front row because I sincerely appreciate your enquiry. Go Sonics! I love SEATTLE! JUDAH SMITH FOR PRESIDENT!!!!!!
- What is an inconvenience to some is an answered prayer to others.
Q: @hillsongNYC. Love Hillsong but there's so many other places dat needs a church like hillsong much more. So my question Is why NYC???
- Eve from Chicago via twitter
A:: This is actually a common question, believe it or not! Also, I appreciate how you switched "that" with "dat." I say it's time to completely disregard proper spelling and grammar all together!! (Jk..lol..smh..ttyl bout dat..) Regular grammar is too confining and I enjoy having to spend 20 minutes trying to figure out a text mesaage form anybody in our church under age 23 as every word is now an 'initial' It's like cracking ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics code. It's making me better... But i digress! In regards to your question...
Almost all the time this question comes from a non-New York resident and NEVER comes from somebody who has a loved one in NYC yet to meet Jesus. Food for thought… I will give my abridged answer as I'm saving my "What I REALLY think of this question " answer for something down the road. Why NYC??:
1.) WE FEEL THAT GOD CALLED US TO BE HERE! I could stop right here, but the red-bull will not allow that. The Molotov Cocktail of reasons we believe we are called to New York include but are not limited to: it is a "relatively influential place" full of people who base themselves from this city and then in turn, impact the rest of the planet we call earth. This is an irrefutable fact. So let's say our world is a giant classroom full of students you want to influence. Option #1 to influence these people: go to each neighborhood, each street, each HOUSE and speak to the students. Option 2: Go talk to the teachers who create the curriculum that each student then builds their entire worldview and learning comprehension from. Follow this incomplete but perfectly suitable metaphor down its logical path and come to your own conclusion about what option you think has the potential to be extremely effective. We feel the way we "do church" is unique, we feel that if we live in our grace zone and do what we know how to do well, we can impact New York City.
2.) God is the only one who has the grounds to judge "where a church is truly needed" and heaven will be the only true scoreboard for us to see who actually won anything. But the need alone in NYC should simply silence this question forever. Somebody once said "There are SO MANY churches in NYC, why be another one?" This in my opinion is preposterous logic. That's like saying "There are SO MANY RESTAURANTS in NYC! Why open another one?" Obviously, people have different tastes. Factor in that many people in this city HAVE NEVER been to church but are actively open and searching, to stick with our restaurant parallel "PEOPLE ARE STARVING." Why in the world would we think that the presence of many restaurants negates people's hunger OR justifies never opening any new ones? People will eat food! And often people tire of searching for what they need and settle for what's available. It's why truck stops stay in business selling cheetos and beef jerky. Nobody wakes up and says, "I'm hungry for some BEEF JERKY!" (Well…yeah...some college students who have been partaking in illegal activities, maybe…but that’s it!) What happens is you start a trip, you get hungry, and you simply can't wait for the exit with the good food. So you hit the truck stop. Therein lies the reason you have women with abusive men, young adults living completely recklessly and many people by their own admission, searching for something more. Hillsong NYC, like many other churches in this city, feel like we have food to offer and our restaurant is open. I can't stress enough how much we don't care if speculative Christians don't get it, because we don't answer to them. Once in awhile somebody will genuinely ask that question, but often you can tell it's a backhanded shot with an agenda and an axe to grind.
I recently heard "Why not India? Why is it all about the bright lights of the big cities?" Simply put, it’s not about bright lights. It's about common sense wisdom, revelation of purpose, and calling from the Holy Spirit. Because Hillsong Sydney is in such a position of strength, we are able to fully fund and support Biju Thampy and his amazing work ALL THROUGHOUT INDIA. One does not work without the other. Sometimes to get to Hawaii, you have to go through North Dakota. (No offense North Dakota! Just works due to the imagery..) I’m confident that our work here in NYC will enable us to have a hand in helping places that we never dreamed possible. We are excited about the options we have chosen...
All I know personally, is that the clock of this lifetime is ticking. When you bury friends who have overdosed on heroin and officiate funerals of young heroines who fought cancer only to win the fight in heaven at 22 years of age, you tend to ignore the spectators in the stands and focus on the game. In NYC, every day is Game 7 of the finals, 4th quarter and the ball is in our hands. Please believe we are scoring, come hell or high water…we need to get as many people as possible exposed to Jesus.
HillsongNYC simply isn't going to reach everybody. Thank God for the church down the road that may reach somebody who didn't connect with us. Tim Keller ar Redeemer. Jon Tyson and Trinity Grace, which is seemingly EVERYWHERE in our city, to this cities BENEFIT. Countless churches who we are yet to have the privilige of knowing and partnering with. We do our part; they do their part, now we are on to something. We love this city… If NYC were a girl, we would be its stalker who wouldn't take a restraining order seriously. Why NYC? Because like every city in the world, people need Jesus. Check please…
Q:: @hillsongNYC How many single guys do you have in the church? Just a curious girl/blogger;-) God bless NYC
...And with this question, I bid farewell…
See you next time...I think I'll start with this question:
“Why would a supposed "ambassador for Jesus" where (sic) a shirt that has the violent, explicit lyric rapper Biggie Smalls on it and think its okay?"
Should be fun…Until then…
"Spread love, its the Brooklyn way.." - Biggie Smalls
Lead Pastor Hillsong NYC