After witnessing half a million Christians dancing, celebrating and worshipping in Lagos, Nigeria, Tim Hughes says the worldwide body of Christ is more glorious, diverse and far reaching than we could ever dare comprehend
Over the years I’ve had the joy of leading worship in some wild and special places. But last week I was a part of something in Lagos, Nigeria, that was completely extraordinary.
Over 500,000 people gathered together from all over Nigeria to worship and pray through the night at an event called ‘The Experience’.
It’s hard to get your head and heart around the sheer size and scale of the gathering, which was organised by Pastor Paul Adefarasin, Senior Pastor of House on the Rock Church.
In Psalms 35:18, David writes, “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.”
This felt like a ‘great assembly.’ Hundreds of thousands of people gathering together united in the sole purpose of bringing glory to God.
A number of things struck me. Firstly the joy. All through the night people were dancing, celebrating and shouting out in thanksgiving. In a nation where there is much challenge and complexity, people seemed to have a deep perspective and confidence in the riches they had in Christ. Here was a ‘blessed’ people gathering together to celebrate.
It’s hard to get your head and heart around the sheer size and scale of the gathering
Secondly this gathering involved sacrifice. The logistical and financial implications involved in such an event were colossal and every person in attendance had sacrificed to be there. But people were glad to do this in order to honour the Lord and to make a statement nationally that the church of God is alive and advancing.
It challenged me on how easy it can be to become self-protected; to view worship and prayer gatherings through the lens of ‘what’s in it for me.’ But actually I believe there is power in the ‘great assembly.’ The people of God coming together in one voice to declare that ‘Jesus is alive’.
The day before I flew out to Lagos the British national media was reporting on the latest census figures that revealed a sharp decline in the number of people who identified as Christians. While in the UK many discussions were being had on the place and future of the church, it was wonderful to spend a few days in Nigeria where perhaps one of the largest gatherings in the world was taking place.
It was such an encouragement to remember that we are part of the ‘Global Church’, the worldwide body of Christ, which is more glorious, diverse and far reaching than we could ever dare comprehend or imagine.
How easy it is to get swept up in our immediate church context, but we are part of something so much more. In Habakkuk 1:5 it says, “Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Spending a few days in Nigeria left me utterly amazed! To be honest it blew my mind. I learned so much.
I’m aware in the UK that we often are quick to look to the USA in terms of inspiration and learning. And of course we have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters across the pond. But do we look to America more readily because they have better things to say, or because they are better resourced to influence?
I have been learning so much from other nations of late. In our church, Gas St Birmingham, we have a community of about 80 people from Iran and Afghanistan. A few weeks ago I sat with twelve people who shared their remarkable conversion experiences. They spoke of persecution and time spent in prison. They shared their passion to reach new people with the gospel despite the dangers. Once again it blew my mind. Here was a radical expression of faith that confronted me with the ease with which I embrace comfort in my faith.
Where are we looking? From whom are we learning and being challenged?
Three days in Lagos put a vision and dream in my heart. A longing to see hundreds of thousands gathering in the UK, full of joy and delight worshipping the name above every other name. The precious name of Jesus.